Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Highlights from a walk home...

Hello Dear Readers,

We haven't had too much in the way of extraordinary news lately, so I'm a little bit devoid of qualtiy material at this time... but, I've got a few photos for you guys and I'll give you a nickle tour of my/our walk home.

First the basics:
Weather - spring, with lovely late afternoons, some overcast days and even a few scattered rain showers. The warmer  weather is making all of the peach trees bloom, I love seeing the trees everywhere covered in beautiful pink blossoms!

Garden - a few things are starting to come up, like peas, carrots (yay!), leafy greens and onions. Our tomato and pepper starts are taking off in our window sill. We are trying not to go overboard on planting in case we have another several month dry spell where we are watering by hand. Sister Magdalena has also asked me to help her revitalize the Sisters' greenhouse - so, that should be fun

Cooking and baking - Sunday baking included baked doughnuts from 101cookbooks (favorites!), cinnamon raisin scones, banana oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and rosemary/carmelized onion focaccia bread. We just bought 1/2 a broiler chicken from a local farmer and will roast that tonight, which will be a treat. There really isn't a lot of produce options lately, we've been able to buy fairly expensive tomatoes, so I've made several dishes based on those with chard and onions. I also made mixed brown rice and quinoa and used it as the base for brown rice and sesame pancakes (also from 101cookbooks) and put the tomato, spinach, onion topping on them - that was pretty delicious and I am always happy to stumble upon a new recipe where I can use quinoa. Right now, oranges are pretty much the only fruit that is available, and it has been the main available fruit for several months now... we are a bit "over" them. So, we've been able to find the occasional banana which is nice (and goes with all of the peanut butter) and a truck was in town yesterday evening selling tangerines out of the back. They aren't that different from oranges, but it is some variety, so we were happy. Unfortunately, Lesotho doesn't seem to be big on Farmer's Markets that you can find in  a lot of countries. We picked up another cabbage at the shop last week and we got it all prepared and are attempting to make sauerkraut. This is not something people are familiar with here, though they are used to a salad that is very much like pickled beets. Shane was excited about the idea of sauerkraut when he read somewhere that it helps with muscle recovery. He has really been training hard lately and wants any help he can get!

Shane is reading -  Pathologies of Power by Paul Farmer and just finished A Stroke of Insight (which he really enjoyed). Carol is reading - Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (serious details about Chinease footbinding included!), and just finished Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and Running a B & B, For Dummies (think about that title, really...)

Projects - are still going, no major recent developments. Shane is really looking forward to the mats finally arriving for his academy. Also, he just started his Jiu Jit Su instructor training program and he's excited about that. I am making plans to go to a school tomorrow and talk to the primary school kids (mainly grades 5,6 & 7) about integrated pest management - I've tried to make some nice, colorful posters that are appropriate for this age group in a non-native English speaking classroom in rural Lesotho... wish me luck. It is a sythesis of a lot of things that I learned in my undergrad, that was fun. One of our fellow volunteers wrote a text message describing some of the things he's seen in his village involving Ag chemicals - including one woman spraying a peach tree with Atrazine to kill the aphids! (Atrazine is a pretty hardcore broadleaf herbicide...) I'm also sure that she wasn't wearing any kind of personal protective equiptment either! I was only planning to touch on pesticides with the kids, but I have been rethinking that since I heard that story.

So, now for a little tour of my walk home from the other day:

Below is the building that is the primary/only supplier of agricultural inputs for the district. As you can see the building is not in good shape any more after the roof collapsed from the snow a couple of weeks ago. There are still a few small shops that sell seeds for gardens, but the bigger bags of seed, fertilizer etc... were only available here. I speculate that their inventory didn't hold up well either, but I haven't heard details.


The 3 photos below are all pretty much from the same spot, but I was writing an email to a friend and realized how different it is to look at the ground here. I know I've talked about how much we walk, but I wanted to give you guys a sense of what we see when we are walking if we look at the ground. I am remiss though, because I should have taken a better photo of the footpaths and the soil compaction and erosion - maybe another day. Below you can see horse manure (all kinds of manure is everywhere - we really don't even "see" it any more - I'm suprised I remembered to take a photo of it), some grass and some bare stone. Along with some of the shops including the one that is just a black plastic canopy - it sells things like earings, hats and scarves. The second photo was just on the other side of the first one, you can see how much plastic garbage is embedded in the grass, including a lid for "Chicken Livers" which people actually enjoy eating...
The last and bigger one is my favorite. It shows not only the steep downhill and the path, the  empty "kraal" (corral) where livestock spend nights and the exposed water line - but you can really see a typical patch of ground and it is right on the path. Let's play I spy... broken glass in three colors, Coke can, bones, used Colgate tube, used condom (actually that one is not there this time, but they are extremely common to spot among the other things - at least people are using them... right?)



When we arrive home from work, it is at about the same time when the kids are sent to collect water from the public tap. The first photo below is of two girls actually at the tap. I really love the one below it though - how cute are those kids... really look at their smiles! The girl is pretty "traditional Basotho" looking carrying the bucket of water back home on her head and wearing the blanket. Just FYI, the back left side of the boy's shorts is almost completely torn out...

There you go, I hope you enjoyed the highlights of my spring walk home.
Also, we both think of you all often and hope you are doing well, and still enjoying my ramblings and photos of Lesotho.


Carol and Shane

PS - a shout out to my Mommy for her upcoming birthday, we both hope it is all that you dreamed of and more!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Spring in the highlands...

Happy Lesotho-Spring to all our lovely readers,

The snow has melted (slowly, and beautifully off the mountains) and left us with very nice temperatures in the mid-70's during the day! We didn't even need to wear our jackets when eating dinner last night! The pepper and tomato starts are really coming along and we are really enjoying that light and fresh feeling of spring. I went to the garden on Monday, planted a few more "spring things" such as carrots, peas and spinach and even gambled with throwing in a few sweet corn seeds! I saw the fruit trees blooming and thought it would be a fun picture to share with you all, as you enjoy the harvest season, heat and smoke "up there." I also took another photo that is a little gross, so I appologize, but Shane and I agreed that it is quite reflective of life here and something we have seen many times - though usually not so close to home! On Saturday, a horse died very close to our garden, it stayed there through Sunday and on Monday, local residents of the squatter camp came to butcher it - below is a photo of the results... This is a tough time of year for livestock, all of the dry grass from the previous summer has already been grazed/burned and the new grass isn't up yet. Also, as I mentioned previously, the snow was pretty hard on them as well. Here are the consequences and how they are dealt with...

Also, at WFP we were just informed that the new Prime Minister of Lesotho has declared a state of food security emergency, stating that almost 730,000 people are forecasted to need humanitarian aid this year!

The kids enjoyed their snow days off from school - we saw them walking around town, playing. One "toy" that I've been seeing a lot lately is VHS tape which is tied to a can or a stick and then thrown or waved around. Our projects are starting to get back in gear after the snow too. At the library last Saturday we read a book about snow and then we made those paper cut out snowflakes... remember those? Shane has been a rockstar in getting the grant project implemented but has really been facing some unexpected challenges, which is a struggle because of how hard they worked to meticulously plan things out and account for as many things as possible - we often use this quote that we saved from a Good Earth teabag as a good reminder:

Success is not measured by what a man accomplishes, but by the opposition he has encountered and the courage with which he has maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds.
Charles Lindbergh

So, there you have it - Peace Corps Service... However, yesterday was a great day for me because I got to hug orphans and play tag to my neighbor kids and it counted as "my job."

I do want to comment on some feedback that we got on the snow post about how many trees were in the photos. The compound we live on, at this time, has a lot of beautiful large, old trees. We were told it is the result of the foresight possed by the missionary priest that lived there before (we're guessing maybe 60's to 80's..) If you notice, almost all of the other photos that we've posted haven't had any trees and people that come to visit us remark on them because they are so exceptional. Deforestation is a huge environmental problem here, especially because most people burn wood (or cow dung...) for cooking and heating. This contributes hugely to the environmental problem of erosion that I often talk about. But, we love our trees, we are lucky, most of Lesotho doesn't have them, and we are really sad that people are cutting them down so much for firewood and because "thieves use them to hide behind." We are trying to encourage the current priests to work with the Ministry of Forestry to come up with a forest management plan for the mission, but have not had a lot of success yet.

I will leave you with my baking list from Sunday which was - Rustic Italian bread (that paired nicely with our cabbage, onion and Textured Vegetable Protein soup - yum!), Mango Peach Scones, Peanut Butter cookies and Apple Cider Cake.

So, there is our life from the last week - kids, challenges, garden events and baking...

Until next time, we wish you all the best and send our hugs from Lesotho!

Carol and Shane

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Hello everyone,

I know I just posted on Monday, but this really caught my eye. It is from Swaziland and it discusses how some people are dealing with some similar circumstances to those here in Lesotho. For better or worse...

Our snow has been melting off quite quickly and it is in the low 70's today! This morning we sent our CHED 12 vistors on their way to their remote mountain site that they can finally reach. They have been in limbo between training and their site for a full week now. We enjoyed two nights with them (they are also a couple, a bit older than us) and had a lot of fun just visiting and even playing pinnochle! Shane and I agreed that Grandpa Jim would have scolded me for the way I really botched one hand... despite which, us ladies still won!

Our anniversary was yesterday (thanks so much for the lovely wishes) and it was interesting for a few reasons, but the main one was that we got TRAPPED inside our house! So, every PCV house must have burglar bars on all of the doors and windows- PC is really strict about enforcing that... yesterday, the lock on our burglar bar door - broke, with all of us stuck inside! We called Peace Corps, and after a couple hours someone did come to cut us out and replace the lock, before which, some of our neighbors came to stare at us through the locked "cage" door. I was just grateful that we are lucky enough to have our indoor toilet!

So, there is our news and a newsy tidbit from the NY Times!
Enjoy and have a great week -

Carol and Shane

Monday, August 13, 2012

From Dust to SNOW!

Serurubele checking things out!

Hello everyone,
I've got a pretty fun post this week but I want to start out by saying that I saw a bumper sticker this morning that said "Drinking the blood of rhino poachers cures HIV" - we got a kick out of it, especially because there are many people that say different (sometimes really whacked and sometimes just horrible) things will cure HIV...

On another note, pretty much the only news that we have from last week is SNOW! Lots of it! So, I mentioned last time that I was supposed to go to a workshop on Tuesday right? Well, we woke up early Tuesday morning so I could catch the taxi, and after a while of getting ready, Shane looked outside and said something to the effect of "umm... I don't think you're going anywhere today" as you can see from the photo of Serurubele seeing snow for the first time, there was quite a bit on the ground already! I've been talking about the cold for a few months now, but, we haven't actually had any snow to speak of, which suprised us. There were maybe two rainy days, but otherwise not a whole lot of precipitation - so, this was actually much needed moisture. Being from Montana, we are pretty used to snow, so, it wasn't really a big deal for us - as Shane said, "If this were Bozeman, I'd still be delivering pizzas in this..." here, the world pretty much stopped... which was actually pretty awesome - below is a chronicle of our snow days:

DAY 1:

After discovering the snow, we still had electricity, so we ate breakfast, listened to some Christmas music, drank hot chocolate and played Scrabble. Then, we proceeded outside to build a snowman (it wasn't actually really cold outside and that was a great way to stay warm, because it was pretty darn cold inside).

Our garden now...

The snow was pretty powdery, but we made it work

Please note that the "Motho oa lehloa" (snow-person) is holding the National Beer of Lesotho - Maluti

Our neighbors were fascinated by the fact that we even went outside in this and briefly came out to stare at the crazy white people and take pictures with their cell phones. At this time, the only people out moving, were people going to the latrines and they were making the only tracks. We had more hot chocolate, and the power was off in our house by this time, as was the water. Fortunately, we are getting used to this and had plenty of candles, extra water, food and gas for heating and cooking. Shane, the brave and dedicated soul, decided to rouse one of his counterparts to start working on one of their projects. When he returned, he said that most other people were not at work, there were no cars or public transport (the snow-preparedness infrastructure is a little bit different than what we are used to) I knew no one would be out at my job, and that anyone else to work with was hunkered down trying to stay warm, so, I read my Tony Hillerman book - start to finish, it was great because it has been awhile since I've been able to do that. Shane got back and we had dinner by candlelight and called it a night.

DAY 2:

We slept late, because we knew there was still no one going to work and there was still no power. We looked outside to find a perfect and pristine world of about 2.5 feet of snow covering everything! We were running low on hot cocoa mix, so I decided to do a little French Cafe breakfast morning, I melted Rolos and added milk for a rich chocolate-caramely, warm start to the day; then, I made crepes, some with my peach sauce, canned last summer and some with shitake mushroom egg filling, we even played French music...

Serurubele checking out the snow on Day 2

Yes, we know we are spoiled and lucky and we really appreciate all of the help we've gotten from you guys with that! Then, being cold again, we decided to go check out our snowman and build a snow cave...

You can see it snowed quite a bit more! Most people were still not really out moving around yet, just a few small basic paths, but pretty much nothing. Some of the kids were moving around a little bit and some people were collecting firewood. No one was able to graze their animals either, one of our neighbors said he had three cows die from this. Since livestock are where most of any family's weath is, it is like having several thousand bucks from your savings account - die.

We used our dish basins to make bricks to build our snow cave-

Will this be warmer than our house?

That night, we actually built a fire inside - it was great, actually a bit warmer than our house and our defunct stove, a lot cheaper and warmer than our little gas heater, and the roof was still somewhat open, so we got to enjoy the really beautiful night sky of Lesotho, and, we still had hot chocolate and hot apple cider that we drank while we were out there. Meanwhile, Shane started reading "The Tipping Point" by Malcom Gladwell and I was reading "The Paris Wife" about Earnest Hemmingway's first wife - we were both about halfway through with those by the evening. We were also happy to have our little Solio solar charger, our phone batteries were starting to go, the water was still off too - we were (slowly) melting snow to flush the toilet (don't tell anyone I told you about that downside to an indoor toilet!) but otherwise we were still ok.

DAY 3:

We woke up in the morning to the tremendous sound of A LOT of snow falling off our tin roof. By the afternoon there were some brave souls that were starting to go into town, mostly to get paraffin to heat their houses, and our neighbors were shoveling their path to the road. Also, some people were going around just to start checking things out, visit, get warm and sit in the sun. We feel that we are quite fortunate to have 2 different neighbors that checked on us and asked if we were still alive! Some of them even said they'd never seen snow like this before. Also, they were all quite suprised when we said that we had - most Basotho think of all of America in terms of upper middle class L.A. Our neighbors also could not image snow at Christmas! We also tried to tell them about the wonders of snow shoes - which we wished we had! Most people were wearing regular rubber boots (gum boots) with plastic bags over the tops as gaiters (how about that REI!).
We went down to visit the Sisters as well, and helped Sister Magdalena with feeding her animals, and we found that she had been single-handedly shoveling her paths (remember, she's like 70 years old)!

Beautiful, snow-covered Lesotho

More work on the snow cave
People were also becoming more and more fascinated by our snow cave, especially as it grew... they would pass and ask us about it - what we were going to do for the roof, if we were going to sleep in it... we even invited some people to come sit in it with us that night. One of our neighbors took us up on that. We roasted potatoes on our little fire, Shane played guitar, and we visited a bit - but it got pretty smoky and we decide that our venting and orientation technique was not as good as that of the Eskimos. We did have fun trying though. The electricity was back on that evening for a little bit, as was the water, so we frantically tried to charge some things and refill our water reserves. Also, I finished my book and started "A Buddha in the Attic."

DAY 4:

The electricity was off still in the morning, so we took our time getting going but thought it would be a good idea to go into town to check things out, as people were really starting to move around and the sun was melting things quickly. With no electricity and still a lot of snow blocking the way to places, there really wasn't anyone working, but there were quite few people in town. We stocked up again really well on food, especially as we heard rumors that there might be another big dump of snow that night!

One of the main streets was actually plowed...

Local equivalent of Kmart, operating on a generator

Best restaurant in town...

Shane, with his super-heavy backpack of food, with the beautiful snowy Drakensburg in the background

This is how firewood is collected here

When we returned we found that our snow cave days were finished
It was really interesting to see where the paths were and where they weren't. As I said before, the most important paths were the ones going to the latrines, otherwise - mainly people walked on the road, rather than on the shortcuts that are usually used. Mostly men were out, wearing their blankets, talking on the street, exclaiming how much snow there was. Children were also sent to get the bit bags of Maize Meal, Cabbage and paraffin. We saw a very few cars out, and not many that were from the villages or that were leaving our district.

DAY 4 and DAY 5:

This was the weekend anyway. It was REALLY windy, and we were sure that the rumors of the second snow were true. At the same time, the snow had been melting quickly, electric and water were still spotty. We got enough power to watch a little bit of "TV" on our laptop to mix things up a bit. We also tried our coal stove once again and it actually kind of worked - we even toasted some marshmallows (they have coconut coated ones here!) Read more in our books, played Scrabble, Shane played guitar, I baked - of course. I had to make the delicous wintery day gingerbread that I've talked about before, I also made garlic-rosemary breadsticks, "Everything cookies" and honey - raspberry biscotti. The baking really helped to warm up our house. I think with both the oven and the stove it was almost above 60 degrees in our house! We were very suprised to see that even church seemed to be canceled on Sunday, though people still came to visit the priest.

DAY 6 (today):

Things are getting back to normal. Though not quite. Kids were told to come back to school on Thursday! But public transport seems to be running, hopefully the shops will be able to restock - especially on paraffin and gas! There is still several inches of snow on the ground, except in the real sunny spots. And the second snow still hasn't come. We are actually expecting company, as a few of the new volunteers haven't been able to reach their remote site yet because of the snow! For us, it snowed exactly a year ago, right after we got here, on our first workday.

In any case. We hope you enjoyed the snow day chronicles and a taste of how a "Snowpocolypse" goes down in Africa... I think a lot of Basotho spent a lot of time in bed, sleeping. It was quite a treat for us "super-busy-lifestyle" Americans to have a pure, guilt-free, staycation, that was a bit cold, but also with that cozy feeling that so much snow outside can give you. I felt bad though, we don't make that much money here, but we do make enough to be resilient to an event like this. I am sure that this was really devastating to many people in this district that don't live in houses that are as strong as ours, and that don't have the ability to have reserves of food and water, or fuel to cook with. I also thought about the police, but more importantly medical care and how that was affected during this time. I thought about the ambulances with chains and plowed roads back home - they are definitely not here! There aren't even real  snow shovels...

We hope this post finds you all well, and helps to cool you off a bit - we hear it has been hot up there!
Hugs from Lesotho,

Carol and Shane

PS - Shane has started reading "A Stroke of Insight" and I have started "Incredibly Loud and Extremely Close"

Monday, August 6, 2012

Begin - Dust Month...

Dear Friends and Family,

Hope all is well with you guys "up there" as we move into August. August in Lesotho is know as "dust month" with a lot of wind - and topsoil in the air... but hopefully it will also start to warm up a bit. I noticed the buds on one of the plum trees is starting to turn into a flower, so that is a good sign right? It did rain a last night, so hopefully that will help with the dust, for now anyways. Another interesting thing from yesterday, is that our house was caught in the middle of a swarm of bees! The guys that I have been working with were just talking about August being the time to collect bees, and here they were swarming our house. We almost started our coal stove - thinking the smoke would make them decide our house was not ideal - but by the afternoon, they had decided to move on anyway.

No photo this week, sorry - I used them all up last week! The power was out again at the office from Wednesday last week until now, 11:30 Monday morning - so, sorry if my correspondence has still been lagging.  I'm actually taking off to a training workshop tomorrow for the brand new CHED 12's who "get their V" (official volunteer-hood) today. So, I'll be gone for most of this week. Also, next week, Shane and I will be happily celebrating our 3rd wedding anniversary - we're not sure how, because we don't have money right now to travel, but something fun and suited to our current financial status. I'll try to keep this post relatively short, not a lot of newsy tidbits, but I'm looking forward to finishing my book The Challenge for Africa and starting a "fun" book by Tony Hillerman (great recommendation, by one of my former collegues in Bozeman!) with his great descriptions of the American Southwest that rival those of Barbara Kingsolver. Yesterday, of course, was baking day - I made biscuits and gravy "hot pockets," cinnamon-raisin-swirl scones, peanut butter bread, and ciabatta bread. At the same time I was making the bread, Shane was doing this interval training excercise method called Tabata - it was interesting to watch and I thought it was great that the excercise rhymed with ciabatta... yes, we do need more entertainment!

Last time I forgot to share with you a culture experience that happened to Shane that he felt would be great to write about. Two weeks ago, he went to the village of his supervisor to do some project work. In the meantime, his supervisor decided that it was time to slaughter a goat. They proceeded to do that with a group of other guys. He noticed some differences in slaughtering techniques, but I'll spare you the details of those! One of the major differences is that Basotho like to eat the blood and the organs of the animal. So, when they had finished butchering the goat, catching the blood and whatnot; some of the offal went inside - because those were the parts that are only eaten by the women. Meanwhile, outside, the men (Bo-Ntate) cooked up the entrails that are for men only, after they were cooked up Shane was honored with a nice chunk of goat liver and a little bit of intestine. He has been a much better sport about those things than I have during our service! Most of you know that I barely eat meat anyway, and for those of you that remember my childhood, even then I grew up asking; "what kind of meat is in that?" Part of this was being semi-raised on the farm where, goat, sheep, rabbit... were not unsual dinner fare. Here, Shane has also eaten chicken feet or, "run-aways" - which are quite a delicacy. Pig's knees/feet are also big. I've got a great quote from one of my collegues (who knows more about American Pop-culture than I do) said, "I wish they would put me on Fear Factor, I would make so much money! 'Ox brain' is a feast! Intestines - bring them on!"  So, there is that story.
I want to share a little bit about some of the other people that live here in town, that are not Basotho. Most Doctors (of the less than 100 in the country, counting our PC Medical Officer and one of the PCVs who is a retired Dr) in Lesotho are not Lesotho nationals - for example, in our district there are 2 Congolese doctors and one of our closer acquaintences who is a Rwandan. When we first arrived we had the opportunity to meet a really great Zimbabwean doctor as well, before he rotatated back to Maseru. I have also met a few nurses around the district from Kenya, and there is also a Nigerian family in town. It has been really interesting to talk to them a little bit about their stories and how they came to Lesotho. Especially the Rwandan doctor shared with me some of his life story, and it really moved me! It was really inspiring too, especially how he framed it - that his previously hard times (beyond most anything most of us can imagine) and he used it as motivation to really build himself up to where he is now. I am not going to write about the details here though. However, the book As We Forgive was already on my list, but after that, it has been moved up several notches!Other international people that live here are pretty much exclusively here to run businesses. There is a small community of Chinease maybe about 20 people, that run several of the shops. They compete directly with the community of Pakistanis who are maybe about 15-ish and run a lot of the other main shops in town. We haven't had as much opportunity to talk to them, I think both communities stick to themselves a lot.

I think we'll leave it there for now. Again, how you all are doing well and we always look forward to hearing from you and news from home. Stay cool and hugs from Lesotho,

Carol and Shane