Thursday, February 23, 2012

Not exactly the Co-Op...

Hello Everyone,

   The last week has been pretty good. We celebrated Shane's 27th birthday with some chocolate cake and we were joined by some of our Basotho friends. Shane's counterpart helped find the perfect gift - the tradtional fighting/walking stick for Basotho men. It has been storming quite a bit. We had a very big one last Sunday night that sounded practically apocolyptic! Since we've been here we've seen roofs blown off by wind, struck by lightening and even a trees falling on houses during a storm - the tin roofs are only so resilliant. It definitely gives us something to think about during the very big storms. Shane 's Ju Jit Su classes are off to a good start, and I've been spending some time in the field helping with the weigh-ins for the beneficiaries.

I'd like to wrap up the section on how we eat here. I thought it would be fun to include pictures of one of our main grocery stores. This one is Pakastani owned, the other main one in town is owned by Chinease (pretty common for businesses in Lesotho) and looks pretty similar but a bit bigger. The pictures aren't that great - it was a little bit akward busting out my camera but hopefully they give you a feel of the place.
As far as our diet - most of you know that we pretty actively try to eat a balanced diet as a lifestyle. We try to keep up with eating our veggies, usually that is chard, carrots, cabbage, winter squash, onions, potatoes and tomatoes. I am running out of ideas with the cabbage so if anyone has anything interesting to cook with it, let me know. We've been successfully bringing a constant supply of brown rice from Maseru, we also eat regular pasta, two minute noodles - like ramen, papa (the corn grits stuff), sorghum meal, oatmeal, bread and also we've been making tortillas/chapatis and even sometimes pita bread. Also, fruits are available - mostly bananas and apples. Sometimes we get lucky and a stray red pepper will find its way into the district, or beets/peas/etc... will be available in season. Right now the fruit has been getting ripe so we've had apricots, nectarines, grapes and now peaches and apples. That's been nice but, the sharing culture really seems to apply to fruit trees too and since the custom seems to be to eat most of it before it is ripe, our waiting for the fruit to ripen isn't advantageous to our getting very much.

The weather has been a bit crazy and our soil is terrible, so our garden isn't producing much. We are enjoying green beans right now and have had a couple zucchini. The tomatoes are mostly still green but I saw the first one turning red on Monday - yay! It is always fun for me to find something that is a bit different than usual to use, it is really good inspiration.
Culturally, Basotho don’t expect that much variety in what they eat – I am not built that way, I always love to try new things from my favorite cooking blog or my new favorite cookbook it keeps me entertained. So, as you saw from the pictures we do try to make some special dishes on the weekends especially. Usually we’ve been baking on Sunday. We don’t bake much because gas is pretty expensive, so that is another thing I miss from the states is using the oven freely. The baking then, becomes a real treat and often we bake three things at once to economize. We’ve got a real gas oven, but a lot of other volunteers have had good success using a dutch oven. Regardless, it is fun to eat treats for the first half of the week, be it lemon cookies or chocolate cake, even zucchini bread.

A normal day for us can start with oatmeal, eggs or the more traditional sorghum porridge.  For lunch we usually have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (or 3 in Shane’s case) and a piece of fruit. I find myself in the bakery most days for a snack of the granola bar crunch too. Then, dinner can be anything from tuna pasta salad to red lentils with butternut squash over brown rice.  It is also amazing how many things you can make with basic wheat flour and eggs, milk, yeast whatever. I’ve made Asian dumplings filled with yellow peas, for New Year’s one of our neighboring volunteers made butternut squash ravioli with rosemary cream sauce. Not having a refrig does change things though, we really have to use things up quickly. It’s not very hot here so we can squeak by a little bit with a few things, but we usually have to commit to using most of the cabbage in one sitting or all of the squash within two days, it is interesting to see how many different ways we can reincarnate the same basic things though. Sometimes it is a struggle to come up with what we are going to eat, but for the most part it is a fun, creative challenge. As always, I enjoy looking up recipes on the internet for inspiration. We are also thinking about trying to do a bit of food preservation like sauerkraut.

That pretty much does it for our general diet  -but I might still keep posting a pic now and then if we come up with something particularly interesting.

Hope you all are doing well, staying warm and looking forward to the next post which looks like it will be mostly based on our projects.
Hugs from Lesotho,

Shane and Carol

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

More on our life in Peace Corps Lesotho -

You know you are a Peace Corps Volunteer when:

Not "showering" for 3 (or more) days doesn't bother you and you are completely comfortable talking about it

The ability to get a good radio station at your house incites jealousy (same can be said with a good cell phone/internet signal)

9pm is a late night

You are in your twenties (or older) and you aren't allowed to drive

Happy Valentines Day Everyone!
To celebrate I'd like to share a poem I wrote with you all -

We've been together for many years
We are such a good fit
I wasn't sure about you when we first met
Now time has passed and I know we'll be together until the end
Always together - always on a new adventure
With miles of road, layers of dust, even by air and water we've endured
Meeting new people and learning together
As we age, we stay together, accepting and going on
With memories behind us and possibilities before us
My friend, helper and lifeline -
My backpack

I've titled that one - Ode to my backpack
Shane liked it and was convinced it should go on the blog - and I'm sure it is appropriate for today!

Today is also my Grandma Fox's birthday, I'm so excited that she gets to celebrate another year and our thoughts are with her. Also, we just got a Valentines day card and two other treats in the mail. the card was sent at the begining of January! We've got big plans to celebrate with a bottle of bubbly Rosé wine, the movie Date Night and we are even splurging on take out pizza! This is big stuff for a Peace Corps date:-) We still aren't sure what to do for Shane's birthday which is coming up on Sunday. However, he's very happy because his Ju jit su classes are starting tomorrow.

We spent last week both at a Peace Corps training and I got to go to one of the big water project dams in Lesotho called Mohale Dam for the WFP staff retreat. I'll post a few more photos on the "Real Thing" page. We had several days of heavy rain at the end of the week so the photos at Mohale show that. We came back on Saturday via the bus. Please keep in mind that there is pretty much one road that goes through all of the districts in the north and one other that goes through all of the districts in the south -let's talk about infrastructure. We live in the highlands, as a result we have to pass through several districts to get out to ours - we are pretty much at the end of the road. There is one spot on our main road where, I think last summer, a large gully formed from eroding soil, washing out that portion of the tar road. To go around they made a dirt road going down and around and coming back up to the main road. Well, we were on the bus going along, when it stopped - and all of the people started getting off pretty much in the middle of nowhere. We were confused and of course everything was in Sesotho, so we followed people over to look at the road, and the dirt road bypass had been partly washed out from all of the rain we'd had. It was too narrow and fragile for the bus to go across, and there wasn't any way around it! - This was a bit crazy after we had been talking about Disaster Risk Reduction and preparedness at the WFP meeting! Fortunately a few men went down and started piling up stones (of course some decided to watch instead, along with all of the women) but the photo above is of them working together - Shane is standing next to the guy on top of the culvert and his superviosr is wearing black to the right of the bush. It ended up being a successful endeavor but it was another wake up call of how lucky we are in the states, even with the flooding in ND the infrastructure was there to make it possible to go around even if it was inconvinient, and how vulnerable you can be without alternatives. The WFP trucks can't pass either if the bus can't... Also, I was really glad we are here with Peace Corps because if we wouldn't have been able to get back to our house, I'm sure we would have had their support. 

Another interesting tidbit, is that Shane had his first experience with BEDBUGS! He picked them up from the place we usually stay in Maseru - he counted and had more than 45 bites on one leg! Fortunately, one of the things that was not on the packing list for Lesotho that we brought was part of our collection of homeopathic remedies - we had one for bug bites and it really helped especially when combined with the anti-itch stuff fromt he Med kit. I did ask him to always remember who still loved him when he was covered in bedbug bites.

So, I'll write a little bit about our diet here, but will do a to be continued next time (again)...
You can see from the pictures that we are enjoying the challenge presented to us by the limitations of availability. We do what we can though, finding a lot in our village and in town, but also knowing what we need to get when we go to Maseru (wine) and even from S.A. if possible. Also, we love the infusions from our care packages of things we just can't get at all here. One of our biggest challenges is protein, we aren't very comfortable eating meat here - not just because of our usual reasons (industrial animal farming is present is S.A. and most of the meat comes from there) but other, general food safety reasons - such as consistency of refrigeration and other things. So, fortunately we are accustomed to getting protein from other sources. Unfortunately, without a refrig and because, again of cost and availability we aren't able to get as much variety of protein from things like nuts and seeds, yogurt, cheese and quinoa as we did in America. So, we eat a lot of dry legumes pinto beans and peas we can get here and we found a store in Maseru that even has chickpeas, we've even been eating lentils too, but we can't buy them locally - we sometimes sprout them for extra deliciousness. We also eat a lot of eggs, like, we buy them in trays of 30 and usually finish that in a week and a half! Same goes with peanut butter, we've eaten something like 15kgs of PB since being at site. We also buy the boxed UHT milk in .5L boxes in packs of ten, again lasting about a week and a half. I liked Central America because you could get chocolate UHT milk and the chocolate would cover up the wierd UHT taste. I've thought about trying to make cheese here with the funny tasting milk, but still not sure how that would work out especially with culturing it.

I can see that this has gotten a bit long, so we'll leave off here. I promise we'll wrap up this subject in the next post, so we can talk more and show more pictures of our projects!

Lots of love and happiness to you today,
Shane and Carol

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Finished with the Cape Town pics!

We've been keeping busy now that we are back in Lesotho, but we were just able to finish posting the glut of pics from our wonderful trip to Cape Town. We hope you enjoyed seeing some of the things we found interesting while we were there, and us being able to talk about the vacation mostly in photos was fun. Just wanted to let you know that you can check out the Cape Town page now for the full story. We will not be around really next week, so we won't be doing any posts but when we get back maybe I'll finish up the food conversation. In the meantime please just click a button to vote on the poll of what we should talk about next and we'll go back to "The real thing" page to post pics of our normal life again.
As always our best to all, and we hope you enjoyed the photos.
Love from Lesotho,
Shane and Carol