Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Dad with one of his new friends - Tlompo

Dad's last morning in Lesotho

Dear Friends and Family,

We both hope you are reading this post in health and happiness. We also hope that you enjoyed the last several - though a bit funny due to formatting – posts about our trip with my dad. It has been a month now since he has returned home and we returned to our normal lives as Peace Corps Volunteers – almost. As many of you know, we are soon completing our 27 months here in Lesotho. So, the last month has comprised both continuing our normal activities and also intensely looking forward in preparation for our Close of Service.

Shane has been doing a great job wrapping up his projects and shifting more and more responsibility from himself to his counterparts. At the same time, he has been heavily engrossed in the success of his women’s escape training program and the insistence by the “powers that be” here in Lesotho, that this program be upgraded from district scale, to national scale. Wow! His remaining massage student is almost ready to start offering a “clinic” so she can gain more practice, feedback and exposure – it has been fun to see her grow with these skills and she is soon ready to begin offering this service as a professional. Shane’s also been diligently studying for the MCAT and looking for jobs stateside in the town where I’ll be going back to school for my M.S. in Soil Science!

 I’ve been continuing with my usual projects; reentering the business records for the bakery with my counterpart – after the whole computer got wiped out by a virus; nutrition corner is always fun, cooking with mothers and their babies and learning interesting new Sesotho vocabulary, like self-esteem: boitsepo. The April market day was a bit different, and highly successful. Dignitaries from Maseru, within the two organizations that have been partnering to implement the market on the district level, came to see the event and give speeches, and more heavily involve key local players as well. There is some talk that, not only is the Maseru market being revitalized, but that they want to start promoting a monthly market in all of the districts and give more support to Basotho micro-enterprises.


On the same day, we had the privilege of a visit from the other couple in our CHED ’11 group. We always love visitors, as this is usually our only source of non-Basotho socialization – and they are a great couple. The man, who actually was a Peace Corps Volunteer in the 70’s with his wife and family, is also an expert beekeeper. He was willing to support my beekeepers by spending a bit of time with them talking about how he does a hive inspection. This was also really fun for me, to learn, hands on about the inside of the hive, how to handle the bees and such, not just taking the honey! My endlessly dedicated, motivated and committed counterpart is now determined to visit them at their site and learn even more from him.

As the days become quite short, significantly colder and arugula is the only thing growing in our garden, yoga classes have become much less regular. My participant base has dwindled as well and I am left with one young woman, who was actually my friend prior to the yoga classes, and we have lately been doing yoga as “workout buddies” rather than as a class. It is really great though, her enthusiasm is amazing. She was there for my first “class” and has almost never missed a session since that day. Even now, she’s holding me accountable for doing yoga every Saturday, pushing me to incorporate more challenging and active poses into our sessions, she’s been googling yoga on her own and trying to learn as much about it as she can, and I’m happy that I have had the opportunity to give her a few yoga videos to try. This is a pretty simple story, but I think it is exemplary of what Peace Corps service is to many volunteers. As we wrap up our service, it seems fairly normal to reflect and ask ourselves if it was “worth it.” Peace Corps service is different for each person, and so is this process, even Shane and I, living in the same town, same house, same program, same country – have had extraordinarily different services. For me, the story of me and my friend doing yoga, is one of several examples as a PCV, where our friendship has grown, we’ve been pushing each other to lead healthier, stronger, more balanced, “better” lives, teaching each other and crossing the cultural boundaries. Is it saving the world? – maybe, a small bit at a time. I have a dream that maybe in a few years we can come up with a way to get yoga teacher certified together and she would likely be the first Mosotho to be a yoga teacher, in any case, both our lives are better off because of being friends and “yoga buddies.”

With all of that reflectivity, we had a significant event at the beginning of the month – our Peace Corps Close of Service Conference. This was a fairly emotional event at times, with superlatives on the wall – “what have you learned?” “what will you never forget?” and so on. Peace Corps staff was charged with helping to prepare us for the significant transition ahead and to help up synthesize the meaning of our time here. And so, we did everything from guided meditations to learning how to talk about our Peace Corps service on our resume and how to fill out over 30 pages of forms and checklists before we go. The Acting Director of Peace Corps was in Lesotho at the time of our conference and took some of her time to stop in and have dinner with us and tell us a few heart warming stories of Peace Corps Volunteers that have made a difference in the lives of surprising people – such as the president of Sierra Leone. It was really great to see how much she believes in the significance of Peace Corps as a program and inspiring at a time when some of us, I think, may be feeling a bit of doubt. We had the chance to see most of our fellow CHED ‘11s for the last time, talked about future plans of moving, getting jobs, going back to school, romance, reinventing our dreams and goals now that this one is drawing to a close, and we said goodbye –for now. Peace Corps treated us to a nice farewell lunch in Ladybrand, South Africa, an amazing cafĂ© that they had taken us to at the end of our Phase 3 training – and it was, as it was the last time, a great treat! Of course, Shane and I enjoyed a few luxuries in Maseru too, we went to a movie, had hot running water and bought parmesan cheese to come back with – which made its way into parmesan rosemary crackers - yum! On the way back we enjoyed stopping for an overnight layover at another volunteer – Wendy’s site again, where we enjoyed catching up with her and playing with her neighbors and enjoying the beauty of her site.

Eating with the acting director of Peace Corps


Living Life Cafe

Luxurious Maseru

It is a generally known truth that reintegrating after Peace Corps service is often more difficult than coming here – I most often have heard comments on how mind-blowing it is to go to a grocery store in America for the first time in two years. As our heads with plane tickets and how to replace virtually everything we own while carefully stewarding our relatively meager-for-the-task “resettlement allowance,” our fears abound about how far behind we will be in our fast moving culture, from movies to phones, to fluorescent skinny jeans on men – a lot has changed since we left, but most likely the biggest change will be with us. We are excited to reunite with family and old friends, and make new friends, and take hot baths, but it is a bit bittersweet to leave our lives here, in all of this reflecting we’ve come to realize just how much of a life we have carved out for ourselves while living the “highest highs and lowest lows.” As we break the news to our Basotho colleagues that our last day here is July 22nd, they get a sad look in their eye, and I for one, recognize that I will grieve as I leave this place, this life and most of all, these people.

On that note, last week we said farewell to our lovely Welsh neighbors, who have been with us for five months. As they were preparing to leave we realized how much our lives had interwoven in a relatively short time. Now that they have gone, and there is a gaping hole in the house next door, we can really see how much their presence enriched our experience here. From doing yoga together, correcting each others pronunciation and exchanging baked goods – Welsh cakes for chocolate chip cookies, we had a chance to learn about a country and culture of which we only really knew Will and Kate, and again, we are much better for it and we hope at one point to have the privilege of visiting each other, despite the huge ocean in the way.

Anna eating her first S'more

Alyssia trying Sloppy Joes for the first time

Alyssia and Sharon and their teachers at their going away party

All of the Welsh gals in traditional Basotho dress

A woman doing a traditional dance, with a not-so-traditional stick

Goodbye for now friends!

So, we are two months and counting, away from returning home for the first time in two years, and we are the senior volunteers in country. The new Healthy Youth invitees are likely preparing their lives in trepidation of getting on that plane to commit to their service, and we have had the pleasure of supporting the no-longer-“newbies” – the CHED ’12 volunteers as they come farther along the roller coaster ride that is Peace Corps service and the cycle continues.

Now, that I’ve fancied my self a bit of a philosopher, that is the summation of what has been going on for us the last several weeks. We are looking back and forward while living in the often-slow African moments. I think that the next post will be about money in Lesotho – I’ve been meaning to do that one for awhile, and after my dad came, it was reinforced to me that it may be interesting to our readers.

As always, wishing everyone the best,
Still from Lesotho,

Carol and Shane

Traditional Basotho Kitchen

The old woman is 99 years old

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