Monday, March 25, 2013

Our Life in Peace Corps - update


Dancer from Moshoeshoe Day - March 11th

Dear Lovely Friends and Family,


Whew! 5 months and counting left of our service and we’ve both been in a whirlwind. Things are starting to feel more and more bittersweet as we experience the final portion of our service whizzing by.


It is harvest season in Lesotho, hot days with cool nights in the highlands. Basotho are starting to talk about winter and they are cursing the Cosmos (flowers) as they take over the fields. We’ve had good heat and rain this year, but the storms have also brought several hail storms, yet again reducing yield for the subsistence farmers, not-even eking out a living on the rocky, terraced fields of the highlands. Actually, during one of the storms, lightening killed a welder here in town whose shop is near the bakery. Another volunteer lost her host brother to a lightening strike! It is a scarily common occurrence and the Basotho say that they can harness the lightening, so the deaths are said to be black magic/muti done by one to another, they laugh at us though, and say that we can’t because we’re not Basotho.


Otherwise we’ve been quite busy, mostly pushing forward the projects that we’ve had ongoing. Shane finally got his (his group’s) martial arts mats – it was still an ordeal, after 7 months and them going from Cape Town, to Jo’Berg to Durban and finally getting dropped at the town across the border, they even encountered challenges bringing such a big shipment across the border. Nevertheless the mats are here and they are all very excited/triumphant – one downside is that they didn’t work out a secure storage place, so we now have about 50 mats of 1 square meter each, taking over our 1 roomed house.

What they have been training on....
His and Hers excercise mats

Shane is also in the thick of implementing the building of an energy efficient conference center at Snake Park with Ntate Nkhooa, they just got their funds from their Global Environmental Fund proposal and that has been pretty exciting.

He also spent quite a bit of last week in Maseru with the Face Your Fear Self-Defense Academy group at the National Gender Links Summit, they got to present and were nominated for an award based on their Fight Like a Girl Rape Escape training work, but the judges selected another candidate instead, in large part because she was female. His massage students have hit a benchmark as well, they now know how to give a full body Swedish massage (being a seasoned massage-receiving veteran, I have enjoyed being a part of their training as well!)
Gender Summit
The Lovely Massage Ladies... and "Ntate David" the anatomical man - handmade with markers and clear tape by Shane

As for me, I had to go to Maseru a few weeks back for another, medical issue – joy! As much as I dislike going to the capital city, it was a nice opportunity to have lunch with a couple neat gals in Maseru, use faster internet and wander aimlessly around the mall for a while – and have a chocolate espresso milkshake! Last week was a busy one, with another successful Nutrition Corner – one of my neighbors taught me how to cook one version of traditional Basotho bread that normally uses cornmeal, but we substituted the fortified Corn-Soya blend that is distributed as food aid by WFP, so that is what we cooked last week for Nutrition Corner. It was well received by both mothers and babies (over 6 months, of course!) because they often look at this unfamiliar food and don’t know what to do with it. ‘M’e MaTumelo at the bakery now has her own business cards that we made together, she was able to print and laminate them and she’s really excited about them. We are also starting to do the steps of a feasibility study, which is a great learning experience for both of us. Last Friday, we had our 5th market day, this month was a success because we had more of a balance of vendors and customers and one of my local counterpart’s colleagues from the Basotho Enterprises Development Corporation came to check out our market and report back to the national office. It was also great to see all of the fresh vegetable and especially peaches both dried and fresh. I actually have had a chance to can 11 jars of peach sauce this year! We have also really been enjoying spending time with our Welsh neighbors – all teachers who arrived in January. They are also enjoying my yoga class and we, along with my committed Basotho students, had 3 yoga classes last week. Visiting with ‘M’e Magdelena this weekend, I discovered that the stone water tank we started last year around this time has finally been completely constructed! I am hoping that this will increase the water security of the Infirmary and its agricultural projects for years to come. One of the recent joys that I’ve adopted, is going and reading books, with one of the Welsh teachers to our local Preschool, the kids are really adorable and get really excited when we show up, it is a blast sharing simple classics with them, like Dr Suess. The Saturday, kids library program is still going and last Saturday, we read The Land Before Time and made drawings from the book and then I cut the drawings into puzzles for the kids to put back together. I hope that I’m successfully able to impart my love of reading to at least a few young people with these activities. The beekeeping group is at a bit of a standstill, after writing their constitution, and a business plan, they are waiting to get the registration certificate – its been a bit of a wait because, apparently the Cooperative office in Maseru is out of the paper to print the certificates on. We also got a proposal submitted to World Vision to see if they are willing to give them some booster capital for more equipment, so we are waiting to hear about that as well. So, we are currently re-grouping and rethinking the action plan.


In other, non-project news, we have made quick friends with our 3 Welsh neighbors. There have also been some self-funded, non-affiliated Canadian volunteers in our neighborhood for the last month or so. We decided it was time to organize a BBQ at Snake Park for all of us PCVs, Welsh and Canadians to get together and socialize, so we brought not only meat, potato salad and beer but also the makings for S’mores –which the Welsh had never had before. Needless to say, they enjoyed them! A few Basotho joined us, and they laughed at the idea of even roasting marshmallows –until they tried them! It has been really fun to be exposed to so many other people and cultures since we’ve been here – mostly, our immersion in Basotho culture, but the chance to meet people from other places has also been a highlight of our service.

Lebohang (PCV Tara's fiancee) Alyssia and the Welsh Sharon and Canadian Sharon

Welsh Anna, first S'more bite
The Bo Ntate cooking the meat

Ntate Nkhooa and Alyssia experiencing S'mores for the first time - God Bless America:-)

We got to attend the annual Moshoeshoe Day celebration in the district on March 11. Last year, it was one of the coolest things we did, with all of the school children competing in different traditional dance categories. The boys mainly do Mohobelo and Ntlamo and the girls do Moqoqopelo and Mokhibo. It’s really quite a fun event, with a carnival-like atmosphere, lots of traditional dress, great dancing and lots of cheering and ululating.

Ice Cream and Waffles for sale
This guy said his outfit was made by his grandfather, from miscellaneous animal hides including rabbit and jackal




Waiting her turn

Ready to win!
Many of you know that as we have been looking ahead to what’s in store for us after Peace Corps, a Master’s Degree in Sustainable Agriculture has been in my sights. After applying to several schools and pestering countless scientists and program administrators at schools around the country, even starting in 2010, I got an offer that I’m really excited about at Washington State. The offer is to get an MS in Soil Science working on a very interesting sounding soil acidification project. Shane and I both really like this option, the program looks like a really good fit for me, there are some good options for Shane as well, the area looks beautiful and is in a part of the country that we love, and we will not be super-far from home – yay!


Another upcoming thing that we are really excited about is my Dad’s visit, he will be arriving on Wednesday and we will be meeting him outside of Kruger Park to kick off our 20 day, eastern South Africa and Swaziland tour, hopefully filled with the Big 5, hiking, beach/snorkeling and some great time together! We’re all excited! This means that I probably won’t be posting again for a few weeks, but when I do it will hopefully be with tons of great photos of a different, lion and elephant ridden Africa than what we get here in Lesotho. This will likely be our last holiday during Peace Corps because the last three months we are committed to spend wrapping up our projects and we aren’t allowed to take leave.


I think that pretty much wraps up our happenings here for now. I am currently reading Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott and Shane is reading Farewell My Subaru by Doug Fine. We’ve been a bit slower on our reading though since we’ve discovered the joy of watching the show Bones on our laptop – we are officially much more current on our American (and now even British TV) than we’ve ever been! Unfortunately, my cooking has been decidedly uninspired lately, though a couple of weeks ago I made chocolate, chocolate cookies with real butter that Shane brought back across the border – they were a pretty amazing treat from the Cook’s Illustrated cookbook. We are looking forward to self-catering in South Africa, going into real grocery stores and eating dairy like it is no big deal! What’s not to love about real butter and hot showers!


On that note, we send all our best to our readers from across the ocean – until next time…

Carol and Shane


  1. I read Farewell My Subaru! It was a fun book, really easy to read.

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