Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

I saw this yesterday on my way back from the field, the song on the radio was "As Long As You Love Me" by the Backstreet boys (which me and the driver admittedly were rocking out to and singing along) - It is what you think and I think beats the lambs from last week. Is this photo worthy of "going viral?"



Hello Dear Readers,

 Neither of us can believe October has passed already and the auspicious holiday of treats and costumes is upon us. Unfortunately, we have been doing a terrible job at recognizing holidays    while we are here, because no one celebrates here and we can't even carve pumpkins because it is Spring!


When I say that we can't believe that October is on its way out, I'm very serious. Our second year of Peace Corps has been flying by, just like they said it would. Both of us have also been feeling pretty good about things. I think we won't realize how much we've really changed and grown from this (mostly in a good way) until we get back, but I really think I'm seeing some of it already!) We are learning how to get things done, and to expect obstacles. For example, today: Shane is submitting a back-up copy by email of a grant application that was sent to Maseru by hand, he started to send this email 2 hours in advance because he wanted to make sure to give himself enough time for all of the things to go wrong, electric being out, internet being down, a long line at the net cafe... and whatever else.... All in all life is good, and I'll elaborate as the blog unfolds, but I want to say, I don't think there are too many things in life where it is actually worth it and enjoyable to actively work, often 10 hours a day 6 days a week (though according to PC we work 24/7), meeting so many challenges, let alone discomforts- for $250 a month!

We are reasonably good at, at least recognizing some celebrations - such as our 7th anniversary of dating... Since there aren't a whole lot of options of ways to celebrate, we cooked delicious food, including bruschetta made from scratch (the baguettes took two days of prep!) and we had parmesean and tomato and mushroom (they don't look so good on the photo do they?) We also had a salad, with many of the ingredients being from our garden and "homemade" lentil sprouts, and to top it off we had wine and Scrabble. We also talked about the fun memories we have together. It was a great way to acknowledge our time together. I'm sure we aren't crazy enough to actually celebrate this, but our cat is now 1 year old, which is pretty good for Lesotho. It is a happy and spoiled house cat, despite all of the trauma it has had "being taken care of" such as when we have washed it... We really enjoy playing with it, when it sits on our laps - constantly, and it just loves attention and affection. It must go to another volunteer when we leave!


The weather has been dreary lately, rainy, misty, overcast and chilly at least some part of every day. It makes walking everywhere much less plesant, and unfortunately has resulted in cancelation of some of our activities to boot. (I believe that we are still luckier than the poor people in New York who just got hit with the hurricane though!) At the same time, it is preferable to the drought we had last year, it is really great to see people out working in their gardens and fields. Last Saturday I actually had a chance to get out into our garden - all of the rain has really brought on the weeds! I had a great time out there, pulling the weeds, transplanting, adding some more successions of other veggies and just checking things out. We now have three stages of compost! Our newest pile, the one that just got turned over to really get started and the oldest one that is just on the brink of being ready to use - believe or not, that is quite exciting!  We also had a fun visitor last weekend, one of the CHED 12 group. She is a woman from San Fransico who was a practicing acupuncturist before she left. She knows a ton about healing herbs and has been really getting into garden here too. Shane really enjoyed talking to her about "the healing arts" including Chinease medicine, and of course - food and gardening. We always enjoy fun visitors! I also took her to visit the bee guys that I'm working with, who were going to take honey last Friday, but found there wasn't as much there as they hoped, but here are some photos anyways -

That's me hold the smoker, right before I got stung...
I am also officially a "beekeeper" now: I got stung while we were doing this, just above my ankle - the darn thing flew up my pants leg! I love these guys though, they really are doing great - we've been slowly but surely working to get them registered with the government as an organization, and make a business plan and next, putting together some proposals to get a bit more start-up capital for them to really take off!
Something else that I've been really excited about is introducing yoga to a group of the professional women here. They love it! I heard from one of their bosses at a clinic that he opened up one of the exam rooms to find one of his staff members practicing her "moves"! (I think that is good...) I had nine women come last Wednesday - that is pretty darn good for this nascent club and the fact that pretty much no one had ever even heard of yoga before I started talking about it!
I really wish I could say more about what Shane is up to. He is just continuing to push the projects forward at Snake Park, Child and Gender Protection and the Martial Arts Academy. He's doing really great work supporting them, and helping them deal with all of the challenges that arise. He's written so many project proposals since he's been here! Now, some of it is really starting to pay off, Snake Park is going to be getting some support from two different sources! One of them to build a "green" building on the park for day activities, but it will include things that are novel here - like maximizing solar capture and energy efficiency and considering insulative properties. That should be really cool once it gets going. He's also doing a lot of waiting, waiting for the protective suit for the women's self-defense program and waiting (still) for the floor mats for the Academy. He's also been trying to body build again. This comes with the requirement of eating at minimum 85 grams of protein a day, which can be a bit demanding on a diet of dried green peas, peanut butter, oatmeal and eggs - really, that is a lot of peanut butter!
As you can see we are both keeping quite busy (I didn't even write all of it!) but it has been really good, and lately I've actually had a few people acknowledge the positive impact I've made on their lives and that we should change our citizenship and move to Lesotho but that at least they will remember me for a long time after I've left here. You can imagine, it is heartwarming and heartbreaking because I already see how hard of a time I'm going to have leaving these relationships behind, but knowing that we have to! In that vein, we are really working to figure out the logistics of grad school. Shane has officially decided that being a Doctor (of Osteopathy most likely) is what he really wants to be when he grows up. This means that I will (hopefully) get accepted into a program begining straight from PC next August and he will take the hard science classes that he needs as pre req, take the MCAT, and then (hopefully) get accepted into a program during the 2nd year of my Master's (prefferably, close by...) In any case, the logistics of this are a bit more complex than it would seem, but - at least we have time to think about it all and try our best to work out "the best" solution.
One last note - last week we got a lovely letter from my grandma that she had posted 2 weeks prior, the same day we finally got my cousin's high school graduation invites posted May 10th!
That's the latest from our lives here in Lesotho. As always, we hope to hear from you and we think about all our dear friends and family so often.
Hugs from Lesotho,
Carol and Shane

Friday, October 19, 2012

Time Flies When You're Having Fun!

To melt your hearts!



Hello Dear Friends and Family,

It's been awhile again - and a lot has happened in the last few weeks! As many of you know and most prominently was that I got sick (with flu?) and had some challenges with that. Including a really misearble 8 hour taxi ride to Maseru, a series of ever-enjoyable encounters with PC medical, traumatic blood draws, allergic reactions, an eye opening experience with some of the top-notch health care in Lesotho, them trying to drown me in IV fluid and so on... I have half a mind to write a bit more about the experience, talking about the quality of care here at one of the best facilities - how it compares to what I see at the government hospital locally, and of course as health care is a big issue in the U.S. right now - what it was like compared to how it likely would have been if I got something like this in America. Let me know what you guys think about that, but I don't think I'm up to it right now. So, that accounts for about 9 days of lapsed time since the last post.

When we got back from Maseru (Shane was diligently with me and amazing! I also got a lot of much appreciated support from some of the Peace Corps staff, as well as really meaningful support of family back home and even several of our Basotho friends here at site), we pretty much hit the ground running with a visit from the upper management of WFP (and even World Vision) Lesotho, it was a really great and productive visit professionally and we had some great social opportunities as well. This was followed by an invite to a WFP meeting in Maseru, so back I went - it was busy, but great! The meeting was really helpful and informative, I had a chance to not only network some more with World Vision but also with an FAO - I'm really hoping that those meetings will also be fruitful in supporting some of the projects that I've been working on. At the same time, I was really welcomed by some of my collegues at WFP and had a great time, eating great food and having great conversation with them after the meetings. The only downside is that Shane was stuck here in Qacha's Nek studying Chemistry...  I also got to meet up with one of my PCV friends who lives "up North" and we don't get to see each other very much - it was a great suprise and gave us an opportunity to start thinking about planning a backpacking trip together! She said she got to see all of the PCVs who were recruited to welcome the newest PCV trainees - the 2013 Education volunteers as they landed at the airport. That was pretty exciting news and we are looking forward to welcoming them when they get to their sites in December. On Sunday we got to return from Maseru in brand new cars (like 50km new!) from WFP - very much needed! so, that was also kinda fun. It is a switch from the Toyota Land Cruiser to Nissan Patrols, so we'll see how the Nissan performs in this rugged landscape lacking infrastructure!

Coming back late last Sunday night, I realized that the week ahead would also be busy. Having the opportunity to go to 3 schools and do various activities with the kids - I taught at one school about Integrated Pest Management, at another about HIV/AIDS and the other about Assertiveness. I really love when I have the opportunity to got to the schools! Below are some photos that I took while I was out. The weather has been really changing a lot - sometimes hot and sunny, sometimes misty, rain with SERIOUS thunderstorms, yesterday we had some small-ish hail (Shane was feeling tough because he walked home in it!) The moisture though, has been a real blessing - last year during this time, everyone was hoping for rain that didn't come until the middle of December. People have really been plowing their fields and planting now. I've even noticed that it seems there is a lot of fallow fields that look like they haven't been planted in quite a few years, that are being plowed up and planted. I look at this with a hopeful eye that the food security of Lesotho may improve - at least for this year... If you look closely at the 2nd photo you'll even see a tractor! (Not a real one because it isn't John Deere, but a tractor nonetheless) and you can see the road in the foreground of both photos- this is one of the main roads in the district.

In the meantime my other projects haven't exactly been waiting for me. We had Nutrition Corner this week for the nursing mothers, where we cooked traditional sorghum porridge but added peanut butter to increase the protein for the babies. I was also supposed to resume yoga classes this week on Wednesday but the huge storm required me to cancel it, but we're crossing our fingers that the weather will hold out so we can start on Monday. I'm also working with some local counterparts to try to put together something like a "Farmer's Market" once a month here in the district, so that has been fun, but has been a bit demanding as we start it up. Even the beekeeping project and the water tank project have been missing me, but I met last night with the beekeepers and we worked on their business plan. They got really excited when we put up the estimated annual sales on the cash flow projections!

Shane's counterpart at Snake Park has had some other committments to attend to lately, one being a workshop for grant funding that they are very excited to be recieving, so they haven't been doing a lot of work together with Snake Park. Shane has been working with his team to give several more Fight Like a Girl workshops, which are getting extremely positive responses from both the girls and the teachers. He has also decided to stop his running training program and switch back to the body building program - so, we have to figure out how to get him over 80 grams of protein per day!

So, I think this will influence my activities in the kitchen. However, all of this going to Maseru has meant that we have gotten to eat some treats - like cheese! And avocados, yogurt and mushrooms, so that has been pretty great. I made caramelized onion and mushroom parmesean calzones this week and "ghetto" mozzerella sticks. We had tuna burgers last night with avocado based spread and of course we've had- guacamole! Tonight, egg rolls and this weekend I hope to try my hand at baking German Stollen (fruit) bread, though I think you're supposed to bake it for the winter solstice... It should still be delicious regardless of the time of year.

In other news, we were able to get our cat a rabies shot - which was kind of a relief because I had heard something about a rabies outbreak and it would be really sad for us if something like that happened to Serurubele, so hopefully we are in the clear now. By the way, the vet informed me that he would only give our cat the shot if we promised to vote for Obama - we've had quite a few pro-Obama Basotho approach us here... so, there's some globalization for you! Our garden is coming along, we still have some rabbits/birds/moles eating things, but we have some kale growing up and the tomato seedlings are really taking off, and some beans and squash are starting to come up along with our potatoes. It is so funny being in this early summer mode as we're hearing all about fall up there, even if I go to look up recipes and things online, there is all this talk about pumpkin and fall fare and halloween - it is a bit confusing! Let's see, Shane has finished The Kite Runner and is primarily reading a Chemistry textbook, while I'm still working on The Long Walk to Freedom- Nelson Mandela's autobiography.

I think I'll go ahead and wrap up with that but we look forward to hearing from you and I'll try to not have such a long lapse before my next post - hope you enjoyed our news from Lesotho and we are sending all our best your way!

Carol and Shane