Wednesday, November 28, 2012


"A leader must also tend his garden; he too plants seeds and then watches, cultivates and harvests the results."

"Courage is not the absence of fear but the triumph over it."

Both of these I took from Nelson Mandela's autobiography The Long Walk to Freedom.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Re tla bua Sesotho hamonate...

Lumelang Bakhotsi (Hello Friends),

I've been promising an entry on Sesotho for awhile now. Maybe I should have done it sooner. We, but especially I, have undergone some interesting transitions in learning the language of Lesotho. For starters, yes, English is one of the official languages here, but it's usefulness in the way of communication can vary widely! Sesotho is the language that most children grow up speaking in their homes, in some areas of Lesotho there is also the Xhosa language - but that is a lot more prominent in RSA. When the British and the Missionaries came they instituted mandatory instruction exclusively in English begining in the 4th grade. Some teachers still beat the children if they hear them speaking Sesotho during lunch. Regardless, this can look really different depending on where you are. In remote places, you can usually find someone in a village who you can have very basic communication with in English, but it is mostly Sesotho feela(only). Basotho are also extremely self-conscious about grammar (I can't imagine how they feel listening to our Sesotho!) so, even if they know English somewhat, they will try to get out of speaking it, if they aren't cofident in their grammar. In the camptowns and especially in Maseru, English is really common and most of the ex-pats living in Maseru don't worry about knowing very much Sesotho (though they really emphasize its importance to us...) At the same time, there is the component of the British English influnce, this can range from pronounciation differences to the trunk of a car being the "boot" and they go to "bath" and other little things that I'm sure we don't even notice anymore! Many people have a hard time getting used to our somewhat harsh and aparently "nasal" American English.

Then, there is us learning Sesotho... during our 10 weeks of training when we first arrived, we dove into several hours of language class every day. That in itself was a lot, and believe me - there were tears shed on more than one occasion, just in language class. Many of the volunteers' host families didn't speak any English either - that was overwhelming. It can be extremely frustrating to not be able to communicate with another human right in front of you, and alienating, and disempowering and so many other feelings! But then, we try and hanyane ka hanyane (little by little) we learn. First we learn how to greet, lumela or if there is more than one person you add an ng to the command for lumelang (u and i following the l make it sound like a d). Confusingly, you can also add ng for a locative as in: I am coming from the beer-ng and this is done with anything mosebetsi(work)-ng or sefateng (the place of the trees) and it is often funny when it is appended to something that has been stolen from English. Another way to denote someone's place is to add Ha as in Ha McFarland, many villages are named in this way... Ha and then the chief's name. Lastly, the ng can be added to make something relative as in the fat one (a motenyang). Those aren't so bad, except maybe the relative clause. A lot of people find the clicking and other pronounciations to be challenging, in Sesotho the clicks are on Qs such as the district names of Qacha's Nek and Quthing, and the word for gossip which is qoqa and you have to click twice in a row and make vowel sounds in between - that is a bit tricky! However, the sounds and clicks in Sesotho are nothing compared to Xhosa! I don't even know what I would do if we had to learn that. In Sesotho alone we have had to learn some unique and sometimes awkward sounds. Like when a word has kh you have to make that sound at the back of your throat like you are trying to hawk a loogie! That one has been hard to get used to. When we learned the name for cow which is khomo, it was a bit funny because we all really just heard it as an h at the begining! There are also tl and hl which make different sounds somehow using your cheeks. Words I will not understand while we are here are the ones which are the same word but with slightly different empahsis, such as the word litopho which can be rubber boots, seedlings or corpses depending on the emphasis - which I can never hear....

Names for and understanding family relationships are a bit complicated like the seperate word for my mother's oldest brother and my father's youngest sister and whatnot, and because this is Africa, cousins and siblings aren't easily distinguished!

One of the most challenging days of our language training was when they unveiled a chart to us containing the noun classes in Sesotho (something like 12 in all). Something that makes Sesotho unique from the latin languages (besides everything) is that each singular noun is put into one of the 6 classes, in which all of the words in that class start the same - mo (for people related nouns such as motho, the singular word for person), mo (for non-person nouns such as mokopu which is pumpkin), le, se, miscellaneaous and bo. Each of these classes has a plural that constitutes its own class in order: ba (for people, eg batho), me, ma, li, li and ma. Putting each of these words in their class, means that they each have a different pronoun, possesive pronoun etc... that really took some practice to get ahold of!

Aside from that, a word ending in a is usually a verb and then to make it a noun an o replaces it. Example being rata is the word for both like and love (I'm still unsure of the cultural ramifications there...) and the noun is lerato (in the le noun class of course). And there are so many things about Sesotho that we will not learn during our time here. The good news is, we kept trying to learn Sesotho after we left our training, with the help of Sister Magdelena, and everyone we speak to. Most people are super friendly about it, and say our Sesotho is so good, even if we just said the greetings! Then, you hear them walking away, talking to their friend Ausi (sister and the respectful way that every young woman is called) o se tseba Sesotho... Some people teach us Sesotho in the "Ugly American" style by repeating themselves and saying it more loudly - this is really un-effective as is just rambling on in Sesotho thinking that one day we'll get it... and the least helpful is the well - its about time you learned people, who we know speak perfect English and are speaking Sesotho for some motivation that is unknown. Overall though, it has been really fun to progress in learning Sesotho, it is also helpful to be able to understand what people are talking about around you, whether they are discussing politics or gossiping about you, I think it is helpful being in a strange place to be able to communicate, and as I said, Basotho are generally really happy for the effort.

Shane has been mad at me, pretty much since the begining though, I've been reasonably linguistic my whole life, and most language based things come pretty easily to me. I've heard about this from him about my vocabulary, my spelling, my writing, my reading, the fact that I shamelessly beat him in Scrabble for the first 3 years of our relationship. He almost killed me in the Spanish class that we took together at MSU, but he was happy when we were in Mexico and the extra language ability really helped us out! We faced the question during our special "couple" interview questions about how we will react if the other person learns things faster. Since we've been here though, I've definitely had an easier time picking up the language and he sometimes rants about not wanting to hear anyone else tell him that I need to teach him Sesotho... so that is our life with language here - including some of the challenges. Also, please be advised that Shane has many, many abilities that I can't even come close to comparing myself with him. This is just something that has come up in the context of language. Quick Sesotho 101:

Lumela(ng): hello
U/le phela joang: how are you(sing/plural)?
Ke/re phela hantle: I/we are fine
Le kae: where are you? Another form of greeting whose answer is ke/re teng I'm/we're here, very existential...
Haeno ke kae? Where is your home?
Haeso ke... America? My home is America
U lula kae? Where do you stay?
U ea kae? Where are you going?
Ke ea pizzang... I am going to the pizza place
U tsoa kae? Where are you coming from?
Ke tsoa Shoprite: I am from Shoprite
Khotso, Pula, Nala: Peace, Rain and Prosperity
Tsamae/Sala hantle: go/stay well

These are used as titles for everyone and the difference between saying lumela 'M'e and lumela Ausi is difficult to differentiate it is typically done on age/marital status. For men, people are often very generous with Ntate, but older women call almost everyone abuti and ausi.
'M'e (sounds like may): mother
Ntate: father
Ausi: sister
Abuti: brother

I think I'll wrap this up with that. Hopefully this was an interesting and informative post and now... le se tseba Sesotho- stay tuned for the exciting post on Soil Erosion in Lesotho...!

Khotso, Pula, Nala!

Carol and Shane

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Scenic Latrine

Weaver birds building their nests

Dear Lovely Friends and Family,

We hope you are enjoying the best of the Thanksgiving holiday! We are thinking of all of you, but especially my mom and grandma who we usually spend T-day with. We miss both them and their amazing cooking! It is full on summer here now, 85 degrees when I checked this morning, sporadic thunderstorms and our garden is enjoying both water and heat! Hopefully by December we will be eating fresh tomatoes! For now, we have been able to buy loads of shelled fresh green peas off the street for about $.75 for a generous cup sized serving!

Otherwise, things have been going well for both of us - but busy! Between projects, and planning for the future (and cooking!) we've only been having a little bit of time to read our books Body by Science for Shane and One Hundred Years of Solitude for me. We've also been enjoying the company of a few of our fellow volunteers and will look forward to sharing a small Thanksgiving dinner with another PCV couple on Saturday.

I've got some photos to share with you from the field work that I've been doing lately but I am saving some for when I talk about soil erosion in Lesotho in another post or two. One of the most notable trips was crossing the Orange River to take growth measurements of the preschoolers who are getting their lunches provided by WFP - since it has been raining, the water is high enough that we couldn't take the car across like we did last time. Here is me and some of my collegues crossing in the boat....

Crossing the river with my collegues and my ridiculous PC issued life jacket - check out the oars!

Other folks crossing the river, the alternative way... I wish the tractor were green though:-)

Once we got over there, we didn't have the car of course, so we walked from school to school and to the hospital for monitoring there as well - I am estimating it was more than 5 miles. It was a lovely day, sunny and hot. We also got to taste the first peaches of the season while we were there! We got back into town, just in time for me to run right into yoga and teach the class - after which, we had the pleasure of going to dinner with some of Baylor clinic's American staff who were visiting from Maseru! It was a big day...

Our transport options were pretty slim once across

Adorable preschooler!

Another adorable preschooler, with tribal scarring and a cute sweater

The next day (as you can see by my sun burn!) we had Nutrition Corner, where we had discussion groups and did a cooking demonstration of bean soup with spinach and American-style dumplings, which all of the Bo 'M'e and their children really enjoyed. The women cooked everything but the dumplings which I demonstrated how to make and they were fascinated by!

Cooking bean soup with American dumplings at Nutrition Corner

This woman is 80 and is raising her daughter's child who is one and a half
Those were the most notable events from last week for me. Yoga has been going really well, last week we even snuck in a Saturday class! I've also been working with the beekeeping project on their business plan still, we worked on their cash flow yesterday and they were so excited not only to learn about that but costing and pricing as well as how to use Microsoft Excel to do calculations using formulas! The woman at the bakery and I are currently makig business cards for her and learning how to use the internet - which she loves... especially Pinterest! 'M'e Magdelena and I are trying to move the water tank project ahead despite the somewhat shoddy labor contractor that we were working with previously - but it is really, really close to being finished. Also, her kittens are big now and adorable. At the library on Saturday we were reading a section of a book which talked about Morse Code - which the kids hadn't really even heard of a code before let alone Morse Code, so we had fun looking it up in the encyclopedia and writing their names in Morse Code and even writing messages in a code they made up. I am really looking forward to see how the market next Friday goes. We've been working for almost two months to put this together similar to an American Farmer's Market... hopefully there will be a big turn-out for the debut!

Shane has been persevering in trying to register their martial arts academy as an association, still trying to get the martial arts mats from Jo'berg to here and working with Ntate Nkhooa to plan all of the projects that are happening at Snake Park. He is also still trying to body build and has been having several requests from other men at the gym for him to help them bulk up!

Shane took this photo of our cat perched on our water bucket to stare out the window...

I'll sign off now, so this posts before I lose power to the thunderstorm! We both hope you are all doing really well and best wishes from Lesotho!


Carol and Shane

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Begin: the month of Pulungoane -

Abuti in the Mountain Kingdom

Mountaintop wild Gazanias

Hello Dear Readers,

As always, we hope you are reading this post in good health, with central heating and hot running water.

I've lately been reading a couple blog posts from other PCVs, and they strike me as so much more poetic than the tone that I've become accustomed to. I thought I'd take the opportunity to at least provide a link to a post written by another volunteer here in Lesotho that was recently published in our volunteer newsletter it is actually a blog kept up by a volunteer who used to be a journalist - so you know its got to be good! If you have the time to check out other posts, she actually does an excellent job at capturing a lot of the little things about PC that make it the way it is... and she likes to cook, so that is good by me. This story is one she did about circumcision, a big issue here.

Maybe you are wondering about the title... I recently had a Sesotho lesson with Sister Magdalena where I finally learned the names of the months in Sesotho. Usually when you learn a new language, you begin with days of the week and the months and numbers etc... but, probably for this same reason, most people here use the English names for things now. Up until now, I've not learned them, because I've been "saving my brain space" for words that I really need to use often in Sesotho - like the word for aphid (hoaba).

We did this Sesotho lesson mostly because once I started really hearing the names, why and the traditions behind the months, I couldn't stop listening to her ... they were very interesting and I'll take this opportunity to share with you because it says a lot about the traditional culture and values:

First of all the year begins with spring (selemo which also means year) -

Phato (August): for mophato which is the house used for the boys when they go to initiation school, because this is the time for circumcision at the initiation school

Loetse (September): Is when the boys go to look after the animals at the cattle camps (refer to June and July)

Mphalane (October): The boys smear their bodies with red clay, wear beads and they whistle at the initiation schools

Pulungoane (November): The Pulu is a wild animal (which is of course no longer here, because there are no wild animals left in Lesotho) that used to have their babies during this time (ngoana means baby in Sesotho)

Tsitoe (December): Is named for the insect that makes this sound during this month

Perekhong (January): She had forgotten what this month stands for (she is 70 something after all...)

Hlakola (February): Hlakola in Sesotho is the verb for "to wipe" and this is the time that the pollen from the sorghum comes off of the leaves and it looks like they have been wiped clean

Thlakubele (March): Is the month that the sorghum (mabele) begins to form grain

Mesa (April): The word is taken from the Sesotho word besa which means to roast or start a fire, because this is the month where people roast the field corn in the fire

Motshanong (May): This is the month where they say "the sorghum is laughing at the birds" (nonyana is the word for bird, hence the non at the end of the name) this is because the grain has finally gotten so hard that the birds can no longer eat it

Phutjoane and Phupu (June and July): Are the begining of winter when it is said that the men must go to the cattle posts in the mountains to take care of the animals because it is too harsh for the boys...

I wish I could say some of those names for you because they contain a lot of the unique (hard) sounds of Sesotho, but I was really fascinated by the association with the month, hopefully you all enjoy.

Otherwise, I'll limit our newsy tidbits, but I took a bunch of photos yesterday when I went with some other NGO and government partners to a community event. The objective was to talk to women about nutrition for their under 5 year old children, the rights of women and children and HIV/AIDS. We also took the measurements of the children and gave them deworming and vitamin A tablets.

The regional cheif (standing and wearing the traditional Seshoeshoe ) and welcoming the presenters (sitting in chairs) and the community, the really nice building is the Community Council building and it was built with German development funds

I really like this woman with her traditional blanket on her head to protect from the sun, the other traditional blanket for women around her waist, the bottle of traditional sour sorghum porridge (motoho) next to her and her child playing.
This was the woman talking about women's and children's rights


A father with his daughter (who just took a deworming tablet)
As you can see from the photos- it was actually sunny yesterday! So, it seems that summer has officially arrived. We are enjoying the longer days, the fresh peas and greens, and not having to go to bed at 7pm because it is so cold in our house we can't stand it any more! People are already starting to talk about peaches and the frogs have been croaking loudly throughout the nights. We've both been really busy lately, so, by the time we get home from working and walking around so much, we are exhausted and we guiltily confess that we've been watching TV (on our computer) rather than reading. We've just finished both Band of Brothers and The Pacific miniseries! This weekend we made hamburgers with fries, cinnamon rolls, empanadas with refried bean paste from U.S. and cheese slices (don't judge us! There is no free-range, organic Havarti... here!), chocolate-peanut butter cake, rhubarb scones and fennel-herb bread. So, at least we are continuing to eat relatively well, but we are really wishing our garden would grow a little faster so we can enjoy some fresh veggies:-)

I'll wrap it up with that and wish you all a happy election day, at the very least from what we hear, it will be a relief for the campaigning to stop!

All our best from Lesotho,

Carol and Shane