Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Christmas Puppy

December 17th
I came to town today to meet with the local counselor and head of Quthing’s Land Use Planning Dept. I found out that if the organizations in my village can mobilize and register themselves with the government, the groups may qualify for financial assistance. Good news. We’ll see what pans out. Other than that, today I spent time with my supervisor at her house. I’ve been making her family banana bread every time I come over and they love it.
December 16th
Last night a puppy was stranded outside of my house. It kept whining and whining and it was just so cold last night. So of course, I had to do something. I wanted to ignore the dog because I really didn’t want to get a dog while I was in Lesotho. However, I couldn’t leave it to die and it looked so weak. I emptied a cardboard box and put one of my towels in the box. I was going to bring the dog inside but there were bugs crawling all over it so I left the puppy outside. Then this morning my host father asked me what was in the box. I showed him the dog. He asked if it was mine and I said “I guess it is now”.  He told me that he will have my host brother build the dog a house. Luckily, my host father is the district’s animal husbandry employee for the Ministry of Agriculture. He had some medicine for the bugs and bathed the dog with the medicine. Within about 10 minutes, all the bugs were dead. They were still stuck all over the fur so when the dog’s fur dried, I brushed her for an hour to get the dead bugs out.
She’s cute, though. She is all white with one big brown spot on her back. I’m going to wait a week to name her because I really don’t want to get attached to her until I’m sure she will survive long enough. My host father said she can sleep in my house just for tonight. He promised that the bugs are all dead. They better be, because I will leave Lesotho if I get bedbugs again (jk). Tomorrow I’m going to town for the day for a meeting with the local counselor and district officials, so my host brother will take care of the dog until I’m back. My host family promised me that they wouldn’t kick the dog and they even taught me how to say “don’t kick my dog” in Sesotho. I had to learn how to say that because Basotho don’t like dogs. They think of them as the lowest of the low in terms of animals. Plus, they typically beat or whip the crap out of dogs…and any other animal for that matter. In Lesotho, dogs are meant to be guard dogs, not friends.
December 13th
Yesterday, the World Food Program (WFP) came to our village to conduct a pitso (village meeting).  People came from all of the villages in the area.  Some people walked over five miles to attend the pitso. At first, I didn’t know what the pitso was about. I just kept asking people walking by what was the purpose of the meeting. I had gathered that WFP was handing out food because of the drought. So I decided I would attend the meeting too because I’ve been running low on food (totally jk).  When I arrived, the chief immediately had me sit on a chair in the middle of the entire crowd. It made me uncomfortable because I really don’t want to be associated with handouts. Apparently, WFP is giving a 1 month supply of maize meal, oil, and beans to 50% of the families in need in each village.  The donations are coming from some other country…probably the U.S. After the meeting, I spent the rest of the day debating the pros and cons of foreign aid with myself. 
The poor crop production is very serious, though.  The soil in Lesotho is sandy and doesn’t retain moisture very well.  Then on top of that, it rarely rains, but when it does…it pours. So then the water just runs off of the mountains and ruins the crops. Or it rains and hails too much and destroys the vegetables. The gardens that my organization has planted are failing, as are most of the gardens I see. People are hungry because they live off of maize meal and porridge and the corn/sorghum yield is so low this year. Life is hard here in Ha Makoae.
December 10th
So a lot has happened since the last blog post. Thanksgiving and World AIDs day has come and gone and I’ve also finished Phase III training. Thanksgiving was nice at my village, but I’ve realized that holidays make me a little too homesick, so I may try to refrain from celebrating or figure out some new traditions to keep me from thinking of my mom’s mashed potatoes or my father’s gravy. What it came down to is that I just can’t cook very well…especially with a two-burner stove.
But, World AIDs Day was a hit and I’m very proud of how the event turned out.  I was able to coordinate for the District Administrator of Quthing to bring a tent and a PLWA (Person Living With Aids) speaker…ALL the way to my rural village. I think his staff was a little surprised when they drove over 3 hours to show up to an event in the middle of nowhere. We were able to reach out to the entire community through AIDs dramas, songs, dance, and speakers. Testers from the clinic came to the event to test for HIV and also brought male and female condoms to pass out. I was extremely impressed with the amount of women requesting female condoms and the instruction sheet for their use.
Two PCVs came to support me and also our PC Country Director came to see the event. Our Country Director helped me immensely by driving me around the villages to collect important items like the PA system, HIV testing equipment, and the petrol and generator for the sound system. I’m still amazed at how open the community was to the information presented.  At one point, there was a toddler holding condoms during a skit…I know that may sound shocking, but unfortunately, HIV/AIDs messages need to be presented all day-every day in Lesotho.  Also, a highlight was our village police rode in on horses at the end of the ceremony and did an act where one mad stood on a horse, whispered in its ear, and the horse immediately laid down on his side with the man still standing on him. Awwmazin.  
Phase III Training was really cool because we were able to ask PC staff all the questions that we’ve been wondering for the past 3 months. Of course, we could have just called them at any point during this past 3 months, but this training made us all come together to talk about our similar successes and challenges.  We gained more knowledge about establishing Income Generating Activities (IGAs), teaching computer skills, teaching Life Skills, Safety training, cross-culture integration, Sesotho language, etc. 
The best part of training was seeing my awesome CHED 11 PCV-mates and catching up on our past 3 months where we were separated from each other.  We spent many hours after school chillin on my host-family’s lawn and laughing together.
Just a quick nag: Ugh, my clumsy-self lost my backup cell phone on the taxi today. Not the end of the world because it was my crappy one that doesn’t have internet, but still…I had 100 R of air time on it and it got better signal at my site. Oh well, my great supervisor told me she’s going to get me a new SIM card and airtime.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

End of Phase III

December 10th
So a lot has happened since the last blog post. Thanksgiving and World AIDs day has come and gone and I’ve also finished Phase III training. Thanksgiving was nice at my village, but I’ve realized that holidays make me a little too homesick, so I may try to refrain from celebrating or figure out some new traditions to keep me from thinking of my mom’s mashed potatoes or my father’s gravy. What it came down to is that I just can’t cook very well…especially with a two-burner stove.
But, World AIDs Day was a hit and I’m very proud of how the event turned out.  I was able to coordinate for the District Administrator of Quthing to bring a tent and a PLWA (Person Living With Aids) speaker…ALL the way to my rural village. I think his staff was a little surprised when they drove over 3 hours to show up to an event in the middle of nowhere. We were able to reach out to the entire community through AIDs dramas, songs, dance, and speakers. Testers from the clinic came to the event to test for HIV and also brought male and female condoms to pass out. I was extremely impressed with the amount of women requesting female condoms and the instruction sheet for their use.
Two PCVs came to support me and also our PC Country Director came to see the event. Our Country Director helped me immensely by driving me around the villages to collect important items like the PA system, HIV testing equipment, and the petrol and generator for the sound system. I’m still amazed at how open the community was to the information presented.  At one point, there was a toddler holding condoms during a skit…I know that may sound shocking, but unfortunately, HIV/AIDs messages need to be presented all day-every day in Lesotho.  Also, a highlight was our village police rode in on horses at the end of the ceremony and did an act where one mad stood on a horse, whispered in its ear, and the horse immediately laid down on his side with the man still standing on him. Awwmazin.  
Phase III Training was really cool because we were able to ask PC staff all the questions that we’ve been wondering for the past 3 months. Of course, we could have just called them at any point during this past 3 months, but this training made us all come together to talk about our similar successes and challenges.  We gained more knowledge about establishing Income Generating Activities (IGAs), teaching computer skills, teaching Life Skills, Safety training, cross-culture integration, Sesotho language, etc.  
The best part of training was seeing my awesome CHED 11 PCV-mates and catching up on our past 3 months where we were separated from each other.  We spent many hours after school chillin on my host-family’s lawn and laughing together.
Just a quick nag: Ugh, my clumsy-self lost my backup cell phone on the taxi today. Not the end of the world because it was my crappy one that doesn’t have internet, but still…I had 100 R of air time on it and it got better signal at my site. Oh well, my great supervisor told me she’s going to buy me more airtime to make me feel better.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thankful for Life

November 16
I somehow, some way made it back to my village yesterday. I went to Maseru for a doctor’s appointment this past weekend and did some much needed grocery shopping. I had left last Friday and on Saturday woke up with severe stomach pains. This happens to me almost every time I leave my village…I get intestinal problems when I leave because I start eating junk food and eat random stuff that’s sold out of the taxis. I’ve learned my lesson at this point and will be much choosier when I leave the next time.
I lucked out on my way home because I got a taxi-bus that was completely empty so I was able to lie down on the seats instead of being cramped in a stuffy taxi. The driver also knew I was sick so he stopped for me two times along the way.
Yesterday after I arrived at home, all the teachers and the principal were worried about me so they came and hung out with me…even though I had tons of work to do and severe stomach pains, I tried my hardest to sit and talk to them. Then the funniest thing happened, a bat flew in my house and two of the teachers jumped up and tried to hit the bat with brooms. The other two teachers ran out the door and ran home because they’re scared of bats. I was just laughing and laughing…while holding my stomach. Then I took the broom and hit the bat to the ground. Of course I didn’t want to kill him (even though everybody was telling me to) so I scooped him up in an empty jar and threw him outside.
Today my counterpart and I had a business workshop in Ha Machesetsa. This workshop was the reason I was so determined to get home yesterday. We planned it a month ago and the women in the village woke up at 4am to prepare food for the workshop lunch. Needless to say, it was really important that I made it today…however I felt.  We went over the importance of scheduling daily, weekly and monthly tasks and goals and also basic Income Generating Activity (IGA) steps. Overall it was a great success. But I just prepared the materials…it was my counterpart that made the workshop amazing. He has a talent for entertaining people while teaching about dry topics. I honestly don’t know what I’d do without him. He translates for me, but makes what I’m saying so much better. He’ll start giving analogies and stories to help people understand the subjects presented. I usually just stare at him in aw when we do these types of trainings. It’s funny because even a woman in the village will tease me in Sesotho about how I can’t live without my counterpart..and it’s true, when I can’t find him, I’ll ask everybody in the village where he is until I find him.

November 17
A good good day. Peace Corps came for a site visit today to check out my projects and living conditions. The visit went well and the community members were excited to tell PC staff all that they’ve learned from the trainings I’ve done thus far. They re-capped our various meetings and workshops so PC could understand what they’ve been working on. It was neat because it meant they’ve really gotten a lot out of the information I’ve presented to them.
Peace Corps also brought me a new bike since the first one I got was broken. The new bike can actually change gears, which means I can ride it back and forth between the villages I work in. Of course I’ll have to deal with people asking to ride it all the time, but hopefully that will stop after the community gets used to seeing me ride it.  I’m sure it will be just like the first month here when people constantly asked me for candy and money and I continuously told them I don’t have any until they eventually stopped.
Aside from meeting with all the people I work with, PC checked out my new housing situation and made sure I have everything that PC requires (burglar bars, pit latrine, smoke detector, water filter, access to water, etc.).  I have it all and now I’m comfortably settled into my house and community.

November 18
It’s Friday and I plan to stay in my village this weekend. This will be the first weekend I stay in my new village – Ha Makoae. I’m actually happy about staying here because I have a lot of things to do. Like attempting to fish and riding my bike around. I think I’m going to ride my bike to find better cell signal so I can call my family. We’ll see if any of my plans work out. I try not to make plans in Lesotho because I find that most of the time I’ll just end up waiting around for people most of my day and I don’t accomplish my personal goals for the day.
Today was good. My organization met with the nutritionist to talk about family management today. My organization really doesn’t get much work done, but we’ve been having a lot of meetings to help build their confidence and in my opinion, these meetings are worthwhile for them.  The meetings we have are always fun and we usually start by praying and singing and end by praying and singing. After our meeting today, I brought some paper and we made signs for World AIDs Day. The women were afraid to write and draw on the paper, but after my counterpart and I did about five flyers, the women caught on and started being creative with their flyers.
When I got back to the village I live in, I visited a couple of the teachers and they were making me laugh so hard. We talked about staying a weekend in the village instead of leaving. One of the teachers told me he thinks living in this village will make me always appreciate anywhere I go because I can always compare it to life here. He said “this place is the worst worst worst worst place EVER! And I know this because I’m from Lesotho and I’ve been throughout the country. If we can all live here, we can live anywhere.” We just laughed and laughed at his statement. It’s really not too bad, but yes, life is hard here. Especially for the teachers because they all have families in the towns in Lesotho and they commute for the weekends. Sometimes it takes them 10 hours to get home, but they go home almost every weekend.
I got an awesome package from my mother the other day. The package has all the things that I could ever want. Some Aveda shampoo and conditioner, socks, oreos, etc. etc. I especially loved the letters that my sister and my step-dad sent. I know it’s not appropriate to share, but the last paragraph in my step-dad’s letter is so hilarious that I keep reading it over and over. It says, “Lori is asking me if I want to put anything in the “box”. It would be inappropriate to send you any porn even though if I were in your shoes that’s probably what I’d want. In lieu of that I’ve enclosed a nice little knife. If you cut your wrists with it Lori will leave me so please be careful. I plan to rummage around to see if I can find anything else. Take care Jenny, hope the bedbugs don’t bite.”
Oh, I love my family…as crazy as they are.

November 19
This morning I woke up early to go down to the river. I need to start working on getting a little color on my white skin so when I go to Durban, South Africa for Christmas, I won’t burn like crazy. My arms and feet are super tan and the rest of me is never exposed to the sun. I went down and sunbathed near the orphanage because people in that area are used to seeing white people swimming in the river (because of all the missionaries who visit).  Plus it was safe because a whole group of children just stared at me the whole time…so if any strange men came around they would be sure to help me out. Kids are really helpful in Africa and are always looking out for me. Then I went fishing with some fishing line and a lure my dad sent me for my birthday. I wasn’t successful, but I’m going to try again next week with worms. I just need to find the right spot.
After my river adventure, I helped two people who live in separate villages with proposals to get funding for chicken coops. One of the people will be requesting funds to start a coop of 100 egg-laying chickens and the other person already has a coop of 50 chickens and will be requesting 200 more chickens and three months of feed. I explained what the various parts of the proposal were asking for and what they would be expected to present (Executive Summary, Marketing Plan, Financials, etc.). I left them to write the first draft and gave them a tight deadline of Monday to present the draft to me. They better do a good job because we need eggs in these villages. I’d say 4 out of the 7 days a week the shops are out of eggs. The shops buy their eggs in Mt Moorosi (2 hour drive)…it makes absolutely no sense as to why there aren’t more people with chickens, but these two guys are lucky because they have no competition!
Other than that, I just visited one of the primary school teachers and she taught me Sesotho and baked me bread and gave me canned peaches. I think if I just hung out with people all day long, I’d never have to buy or make my own food. People are always giving me food in this village. I feel bad accepting food because I honestly don’t have enough money to share my food with others. I share as much as I can, but I’ve just realized that I have to get better at accepting help and food from people. I think it’s just an American thing for me to want to take care of myself without anybody’s help.

November 20
Today was the first day I’ve had completely by myself to do what I wanted to do. I rode my bike 10K  to a village with a shop that has things like AAA batteries, popcorn, and yogurt. It was a fun adventure. The fruit and vegetable guy found me there and gave me a ride back to my village. Then I went down to the river and layed in the sun to read a book. One of the herdboys just stared at me the whole time, so I eventually left. Then I ran 10k on the road. For the first 2K I was on my own and it was nice, but then a herdman ran with me for about 3K. He ran in rainboots and a wool blanket and I was disappointed that he could keep up with me…that’s how out of shape I am. On the way back, some kids ran with me and then one of my students joined us for my run back to the village.
It was a good day alone, but I do have to say, when I saw the teachers and principal arrive in the taxi, I was so happy to see them and ran down to the stop to of course…accompany them home.

November 21
Did some more World AIDs Day planning with my group in Ha Machesetsa. It’s been really fun planning with them. It’s interesting to hear about their strategies to get money together for the food for the event. They are requesting 2 Rand (about 30 cents) from everybody in the community. They are even planning a special meal for my guests – a few PCVs and staff members. They are very concerned about getting good vegetables into our meals. I told them they mustn’t worry about PCVs because we are used to eating whatever, but they just insisted on me telling them what we would like to eat. I told them rice, chakalaka (tomato gravy), and chicken would be more than fine.
The women are trying to get a tent or tarps together so we can have a makeshift stage for their drama and the poetry readings. Tomorrow, my counterpart and I will be hitting up the clinic, orphanage, and church for assistance..mostly help with finding a PA system and generator. We’ll see what comes out of it. And, after I contacted Peace Corps today, they assured me that they will try to get us a speaker who is open about their status to come and speak to the communities. I’m super excited about that and I hope it all pans out smoothly.
I’m also trying to get Thanksgiving dinner together so I can have the holiday at my place with the teachers. One of the teachers brought me real butter, a green pumpkin, and cheese from Maseru last weekend. I was counting on the fruit and vegetable truck to bring potatoes, apples and carrots last Sunday, but he only had a truckload of cabbage. He assured me that he’ll have potatoes on Wednesday, but I’m not holding my breath. If he doesn’t have potatoes, I may have to go to Mt Moorosi on Thursday to get them, or have the taxi driver bring some back for me. Other than that, I have no idea how I’m actually going to cook a Thanksgiving meal on a two-burner stove and paraffin heater. Obviously, finding a turkey was impossible, so a member of my organization is going to give me a chicken. My organization wants to teach me how to slaughter it, but I really don’t think I’m ready for that task.

November 22

November 24
HAPPY THANKSGIVING! Going shopping in town for potatoes, carrots, apples, and chicken since I couldn't manage to find those things in village! It's alright, I got a ride out at 4am this morning, so at least I didn't have to take a taxi and listen to gospel for the whole ride out.
To all my friends and family - Enjoy your turkey and know that I'm thankful to have all of your support and love.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Random update

November 8th
I went to a pitso (community meeting) in my new village, Ha Makoae. The pitso was about me moving here and the chief explained to the community my role in the village and he was sure to tell everybody I had no money. He also told them to never ask me for food either because he told the community that PC only brings me rations of food at the end of the month (which isn’t true).  But, it was a good meeting.  I even made a small speech in Sesotho and wore a long skirt and scarf on my head to be respectful to the chief and the community.
November 9th
Today was quite the success with my organization and at my old village, Ha Machesetsa.  I still go to Ha Machesestsa every day for community development and return to Ha Makoae to teach at the school in the afternoon. We had three meetings in Ha Machesetsa today. First I met with my organization and the new Ministry of Agriculture nutritionist. The nutritionist came to introduce herself and offer help for workshops that we are interested. My group requested a family management workshop that we will hold next month.
We also had our umbrella group meeting (reps from every support group and organization) in the village. My counterpart and I started this community rep meeting three weeks ago and we meet once a week to hear about the progress the groups in the village are making. Last week we started planning an event for World AIDs day and it’s amazing to see how motivated the village is about this day. World AIDs Day is on December 1st. It’s less than a month away, but my village is determined to make it one of the biggest events the village has ever had. We are inviting all the surrounding villages to come celebrate awareness with us. We will hold an AIDs walk from village to village and apparently even have the village police ride horses to lead our walk. There are also plans for poetry readings, songs, and speakers. Our goal is to find somebody who is open about their HIV status to come and speak at the event. Unfortunately, this isn’t an easy task…because even though Lesotho has a 23% HIV infection rate, people keep their status to themselves. Most people keep their status locked away and often times don’t even tell their families. So, this event will hopefully encourage people to support those with HIV and be a good day to remember how HIV affects the community.
My last meeting for the day was on nutrition for the woman’s group I started last month. Since I love nutrition and fitness, I picked nutrition as the safest and easiest topic for today.  The first meeting I had with the women last month scared the crap out of me when they opened up their secrets to me and asked me for advice. Their questions and concerns were far beyond anything I could comprehend at this point so I told them we can start with healthy eating, and then we will get to the more difficult topics in the future. They were really excited to hear about new healthy eating tips and they promised to start drinking more water and using less salt. Next month I’ll be presenting on contraceptives and family planning.
Overall, I’m extremely pleased with the turnout I’ve seen in this village. When I first arrived three months ago, people were flaky and were sometimes over 2 hours late (which is typical Basotho time). But now I see people showing up on time for meetings and participating in discussions. I’m not going to take credit for this though, because it is most definitely my awesome counterpart who keeps everybody in check. He makes learning and working fun for our community members and to be honest, he makes my day too.
November 12th
Last Thursday, the Form C class had their Farewell Party which is like a graduation party before they go to high school. Of course, only a minority of the Form Cs will pass their exam (they’ve already taken it and it has to be formally graded by outside teachers), but they still had a party. During the preparation I kept comparing the differences of a party for these kids and what we would have had in America. The main difference was that the students (girls) did most of the cooking and cleaning for their own party. Whereas us American students would have been spoiled and our parents would have done it or it would be a catered event. But these students are used to working and they wouldn’t know any different.
The teachers had bought most of the food from South Africa or from Maseru because we can’t get the variety of food in our village. We ate carrot coleslaw, cabbage coleslaw, fried chicken, rice, and beetroot. The students sat with their parents in a room where we set the tables with table clothes, dishes, and forks and knives. I watched the students trying to hold their forks and knives properly – some would give up and just start eating with their hands. Then we had music (powered by a generator) and the kids just danced and danced.
Thanksgiving -  I’m super excited about it because it will be the first American holiday I've celebrated here. I’m going to have a Thanksgiving dinner at my house. I’d really - like to be with some PCVs for the day…but they are all too far for me to see since I have to stay around my site to prepare for World AIDs Day. I’m having my dinner with my Basotho friends and they’re going to help me cook. It’s going to be a huge challenge because we don’t have the things that make this type of turkey, electricity, running water, cranberry sauce, butter.  But I’m planning substitutions like maybe 3 – 4 chickens (I’ll have somebody else kill them for me), we’ll use a 2-burner stove with gas, we’ll carry water in buckets, and maybe I can pick up cran sauce and butter this weekend while I’m in Maseru (they have a grocery store that caters to westerners).
I even plan to sew my own skirt out of red sheshoeshoe material (a traditional fabric) for T-day and World AIDs Day. I can’t make any promises with this, though.. because I have to borrow a hand crank sewing machine to make this possible.  We’ll see.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Happy in Lesotho

October 23rd

My birthday was last week and I received so many packages from my friends and family. THANK YOU EVERYBODY for making my birthday so special.  I got candy, toiletries, magazines, books, etc. everything I could ever need to be happy! Some amazing PCVs also threw me a birthday party with a chocolate cake that we dove into with our hands...good times.
I'm headed back to my site today and am excited about my projects that are beginning. My organization is growing vegetables to sell and building a veggie stand for the side of the road. I'm teaching Life Skills at the secondary school this week and also developing plans for a school library.  The Ministry of Agriculture has challenged our village to build key hole gardens, so I'm also teaching people in the village to construct their gardens.  Overall, things are moving forward and going well.
Oh, and the other day I was invited to a Basotho feast where I ate mutton, papa and beet root.  Then I danced and sang with all the members in the village while they drank 'joala' - a traditional brew.  It felt nice to be so connected with my village. 
However, my enemies are back -  BEDBUGS! So, when I get back to my house, I'm going to need to implement some strategies to get rid of them. That, or I'll just sleep on my table again because I hate them so much.
I'll end on a positive note though. I plan to run in a half marathon in Cape Town in April.  Since my site is at such a high elevation and I walk so much, I'll be able to get back into shape "no problem".

October 24th, 2011
Today I held a planning meeting with my organization and they were brainstorming about ways to generate income for the organization. I typically take a stand-back approach and just ask the group questions. So far, I've tried my hardest to let them come up with their own ideas for projects. I was very impressed with their idea today because they told me they would like to hold a party called "Stockfest" (dunno bout the spelling, but apparently its Afrikaans) where they will charge money for joala and food. With the money they earn, they will buy materials to make jewelry.
The group is trying hard and I'm very proud of them. Since I've been here, we've made over 30 garden plots and we were hoping to sell the veggies. However, there is so little rain and most of the time the pumps are dry so the vegetables are struggling. Pests are also eating the plants in full-force so tomorrow we plan to make a pesticide out of aloe plants.  When I see the gardens looking so pathetic it makes me sad, because I was the one who showed them how to make the gardens. If we can't harvest any vegetables, than we would have worked too hard for nothing.
After meeting with the organization and working in the gardens, I went over to the Secondary school where I taught my Life Skills class. The Ministry of Education had given our school some Life Skills books and the kids couldn't stop admiring the books. They were holding them close to their hearts and didn't want to give them back at the end of class. It seems so funny from my perspective, because personally I think the books suck. Primarily because they are just these flimsy books with typos and silly activities. But these kids barely get to touch books, so they were in heaven. They requested for me to teach them about page 9 - where there was an activity on "saying no" to sex. I told them OF FRICKIN course I'll teach them that section. Their reaction to the books really made me understand that these kids need a library before I leave.

October 25th, 2011
Today was the day I've been waiting for since I came to my site. Today was the day where I felt like myself in country that's not mine. I'm not going to lie, these past three months at site have been the hardest months of my life.  I've been through a lot of self-doubt, stress, loneliness, sadness, etc. and to top it off, my body is beat up with bug bites, wounds from falling, and bruises. But, as Peace Corps and Peace Corps Volunteers promised, "it gets better". So today on October 25th, I was happy...extremely happy for a WHOLE day! It was a day full of those high high moments that will keep me going strong.
Daily Highlights
·         Waking up to a goat basking in the sun at my doorway
·         The members of my organization showed up 5 minutes EARLY to work
·         My organization singing to me...even after I told them the news about my move (see next paragraph)
·         Peace Corps being on top of their game and taking care of my situation
·         Hugging a girl along the side of the road
·         The sky was beautiful in Big Sky Country!
·         My supervisor bought me peanuts
·         Fetching water for a friend who was tired
·         Dancing on garbage with my host sisters
· highlight - teaching my students what the word "litter" means and by the end of the class, they were chanting "WE WILL NOT LITTER, WE WILL NOT LITTER!"
Yes, a great great day.
About my move:
I spoke with PC and they have agreed that I should move to the neighboring village, Ha Makoae. There are several reasons why I'm moving, but the main reasons have to do with my relentless bedbugs and the unreliable water in this village. Basically, I've been debating the standards at my site and realized that even though I want to be as badass as possible, I need to communicate with PC and keep myself in check when it comes to staying safe at my site. I should be moving this weekend. My jobs won't change. I will just be doing the reverse walking commute.

October 27th
Another great day! The primary school had a party for their last day of school. The kids from my village had been practicing a play for the event and I wanted to see it. The play was supposed to start at 11 and of course, a set time in Africa means that it will happen at some point within the day. So I waited until 2:00 for the play to start, and it didn’t, so I had to walk an hour to the secondary school where I taught my Life Skills class on “caring for the environment”. I was sad to miss the play, but luckily a teacher took video footage with my camera.  I felt so good about the day because I realized that waiting for hours and missing the event would typically cause me stress…but since it didn’t, it means I’m adjusting to life in Lesotho.
After school when I was walking home, I got attacked by a dog because I went to say “hi” to his owner. It was my own fault for approaching his owner without a stick or rock in my hand. Luckily, the dog only attacked my skirt. Of course it happened to be one of my favorite skirts that he tore up! But, I still felt lucky.

October 31st   - November 1st
I didn’t celebrate Halloween by dressing up or with any candy, it started out to be an ordinary day for me until Peace Corps came to help me move. I won’t get into the details, but there was some village drama associated with my departure to the next village. It was chaotic and I was extremely worried I would lose my job in Ha Machesetsa.  Luckily, I work with some awesome teachers in my new village and they spent the evening making me feel better and helping me move into my new place. The teachers fetched water for me, unpacked my things, and made sure my laundry lady knew of my new living situation.
The next day, Peace Corps came back to my village to rescue me from any miscommunication that occurred between my move and the two villages I work in.  I was so happy that PC didn’t waste a minute when it came to saving me from my situation. PC swooped me up in their Landcruiser and the driver sped through the mountains to a community meeting to discuss my living arrangement with the chief and my two supervisors…along with 20 community members. At the end of the day, it all worked out and I was able to keep my two jobs in two separate villages. Needless to say, I’m extremely grateful with all the support Peace Corps has given me. They truly have made a huge effort to make sure I’m safe and happy in this remote area in Lesotho.

November 3rd
I’m all settled into my new place. I feel like my new home is right for me. I was even able to put pictures of my friends and family up on my walls. Until this point, I rarely have looked at pictures of my life back home because it made me miss everybody too much and would make my heart hurt. Now I feel content enough to put them all up and look at them every day! However, I still couldn’t manage to put the pictures of Pepper, those pictures will stay tucked away…maybe next year.

November 4th
The thing I love about Basotho is that they love to “accompany” you places and walk you to wherever you are going.  Since I’ve never been one of those girls that needs another girl to accompany her to the restroom at a bar, I’ve never understood the point of needing company to get to your destination. But here in Lesotho, it’s nice.  The funniest part about somebody walking you from some place, is that you have no idea how far they will walk with you. Sometimes they walk you to the road and sometimes they walk with you for miles before turning around. The other night I was with two teachers. One of the teachers and I walked the other teacher home, then I walked the remaining teacher home…and then she wanted to walk me from her house to mine. It made absolutely no sense, but it was thoughtful. I know it sounds confusing, but the jest of it is…if you walk somebody home, they will turn around and try to walk you back to your home. I just haven’t learned when the “accompanying a person home cycle” is supposed to end.

Sunday, October 2, 2011


Let me start by saying, I'm very sorry for not updating my blog. I thought I could be one of those people that keep a blog and journal to express their thoughts to their friends and family. But what I realized is changing who you are does not happen easily. A person can move to a different country and live a completely different life, but still not change their habits. Failing to record my life through words and pictures will be something I regret if I don't try harder.
Life in Lesotho
I've lived in Lesotho for four months now. Every day is different and has its challenges and rewards. As for right now, the challenges typically outweigh the rewards, but I'm hoping that will soon change once I get the hang of this. 
The first 9 weeks in Lesotho, I went through Pre-Service Training with 19 other volunteers in a host village. I actually loved training, but I may be one of the few volunteers to admit that. I liked it so much because we were extremely busy and there wasn't too much down time. I also loved my host family, our teachers, and the other volunteers. We learned about the culture, language, and our role requirements. I believe training definitely prepared me for life in Lesotho.
For the past six weeks, I've lived at my site in a village called Ha Machesetsa in the district of Quthing. I live on a mountain in a big rondaval (round house) with a thatched roof and a side bedroom with a tin roof. I have a big kitchen table, a 3/4 size bed, several cabinets, and a gas heater and stove. I don't have electricity or running water. The closest water pump is about a football field length down a steep hill. Every 2 or 3 days, I fill a bucket with water and attempt to carry it up the hill on my head. Half of the time, the pump is dry and I have to walk to the next pump that is about 1/4 mile away.
My daily routine consists of waking up around 8:00 and doing random shit until 10:00 when I meet with my organization. I assist the group to gather knowledge to build their skills with various projects. I've just finished teaching the group basic gardening practices and now we have over 30 plots started. Currently, we're digging over 150 holes for fruit trees that the Ministry of Agriculture is donating to us after seeing our hard work on the gardens. The goal of the organization is to learn skills like gardening, sewing, candle-making, etc., etc.  and then find a market to sell the products the members produce. The aim is to have the organization members and community be able to sustain their lives with these Income Generating Activities (IGAs).
Back to my daily routine... I work with the group from 10:00-1:00 and then I walk to the neighboring village (an hour walk) to teach Life Skills to Form A, B, and C. Life Skills is a course that focuses on HIV/AIDs awareness, life goals, and various other important topics for kids. After school, I walk home with some of the kids and we sing songs or they teach me Sesotho while I teach them English. Once I get home, I start cooking dinner which consists of the same thing every night - rice, vegetables, and eggs. Then I read, make lesson plans, attempt to clean, text message, talk to my American family on the phone, and do more random stuff. In order to use my phone, I have to prop my cell up on the window pane and search for signal. Some days I have one bar of signal, but it cuts in and out constantly. The wind makes the signal worse and some days the wind is so intense that I have no signal at all. I charge my phone with a solar panel and car battery I bought from another volunteer. The solar panel set-up was the best thing I've bought since being here.
So that's the most of my day. During the times where I'm alone...which is most of the time, I do a lot of thinking on ways I can help my organization and the Secondary school. I also think about strategies for keeping myself sane. I have a list I read every day to remind myself of my must do activities. This list includes; exercise, wear sunscreen, floss, smile, and laugh. This list may sound basic, but it's easy to stop caring about myself when I compare my life of luxury to the lives of the people in this village. And when I just can't figure out what the hell I got myself into.
My site is beautiful. I'm surrounded by huge mountains and there is a river running through the valley that I can see from my house. I hike to the closest shop (about 20 min) to purchase basic items like candles, paraffin, oil, eggs, and rice..but if I need anything special, I need to travel to Mt. Moorosi (2-3 hour bus ride) to buy it. Even then, it's difficult to find things I want, like CokeZero or oatmeal. Gum is another thing I have issues finding. Of course there is no Big Red, so my consolation is Orbits Wintergreen. When I go to a big enough town, I buy as much gum as I can. The last time I was in Maseru, I spent over $15 on gum and the cashier told me I shouldn't be buying expensive gum.
This is just a glimpse of my new simple life. However, I will be much more vigilant about my posts once I figure out how to get internet access at my site. Loving my family and friends! Hope you are all doing amazing in the wonderful US of A.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Update from Lesotho

In order to update everyone, for at least the next 6 weeks, I (Jenny's mom) will be writing on Jenny's behalf.
She does not have Internet access so cannot update this blog directly.  She does have a cell phone now so I am able to get updates...
Jenny arrived in Lesotho on Saturday, June 4th.  She traveled from Philly with a group of 22 Peace Corps volunteers.  Once in country, they split the group and she and 9 others went to live in a village named Titsa, about 15 kilometers from Lesotho's main town of Maseru.  She lives in a house with an older Basotho couple.  She loves her host family.  They do not speak any English, so communication is difficult, but there are others in the village to help translate sometimes.  Her Mme (mother) feeds her very well.  Jenny says that she cooks her huge meals.  I think that her Mme thinks that Jenny is too thin! 
There is no electricy or running water in her home.  They do have a solar "outlet" that Jenny can use to charge her cell phone. 
Jenny will be in Titsa with her host family for a total of 9 weeks.  During this time, all of the volunteers are in class most all of the day.  They are getting language and culture lessons.  Jenny says one of the hardest culture lessons to learn is that the Basotho do not have our same concept of time usage.  They do not worry about being late and in turn do not get irritated when others are late.  Jenny, being a punctual person, is struggling with the concept.
Next week the volunteers are pairing up with another person in their group and going on a field trip.  They will be spending 5 days with another PC volunteer that has been working at their job for awhile.  This will give them an idea of what it might be like once they are done with training and on their own in a new place.  Since they have to make some choices as far as what type of work they might want to do or where they might want to live, this should help out a lot.
So, for all of Jenny's friends and family, she is doing great and is really having the time of her life.  I will try to keep this blog updated as long as Jenny is not able to get to the Internet.  I will include the basic updates along with some stories that she is able to tell me.
Kgotsong (Peace)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Farewell Party

Last night I had the best going away party ever! My friends made sure to do it up big by cooking 20lbs of meat, making various side dishes, and bringing tons of alcohol to the party. Every person there made me feel very loved with all their kind words and creative gifts. We celebrated from afternoon till night with outdoor games and karaoke. Highlights included watching the boys climb a super tall tree, finishing a keg of local brew, and my friends signing a magnum size bottle from the best local winery. 

Of course, there was a little rain to deal with but we couldn't let it bring us down. People were still outside playing the games Richard made and huddling around a makeshift heater. Oh, and how can I forget how awesome the outdoor movie theater was! To top it off, I got to wake up to an amazing brunch that my dear friends slaved over! Overall, it was a great party and I cannot thank my friends enough for putting it on for me!

The hardest part was saying goodbye, and I'll have to admit that I've been tearing up all day after leaving the party. 

I'll keep in touch with all of you guys the best that I can. I don't think I'll have internet access at my training site (I'll be there for 9 weeks), but I'll try to keep you posted through letters and/or Richard. Alright, well now I'm off to do my final baggage weigh-in and get some sleep for my flight to Philadelphia for staging. 

 Richard cooking up the butt
 Nicole's spread
 Shannon surprising me with her 27 letters prepared for every month I'm gone
 Joe licking the magnum wine bottle
Richard and his party cup

Friday, May 27, 2011

How I feel about leaving for africa in a couple days.

"How do you feel about it?" That is the number one question people are asking me about my upcoming departure to Lesotho. Well, I feel mostly overwhelmed with tasks, but otherwise, excited and nervous at the same time. Over the past month, I've spent so much time with friends and family that almost every moment has been filled with fun. I feel spoiled and happy about that. 

When I'm by myself, that's when I start getting a little nervous. I don't really think too hard about what to anticipate when I'm in Lesotho, because I know it will all be new and I will be thrown into a whole different lifestyle than what I'm used to. I'm okay with that, and luckily, I love the unknown. 

Packing for Lesotho has been the most difficult thing for me. That, and tying up all the loose ends like finishing up work, volunteer work, and canceling services and memberships. I've mostly followed the suggested packing list that the Peace Corps Lesotho desk sent me. My two bags now total 100 lbs (my limit) and I feel like I'm as set as I can be. Luckily, I'm ultra fortunate to have my parents and Richard to help me out with anything I need on the home front. 

I think the main thing I've neglected to pack is stuff to support my hobbies. I can't think of what to bring for hobbies, so I'm not bringing anything. Instead I've packed my bags with just tons of clothes. Yes, I know this might be a mistake, but my hobbies include working out, hanging out with friends, and staring at the wall. So therefore, I don't need that much. Most volunteers and the PC handbook suggested loading my computer with tons of movies and music. I have yet to do that. That's where Richard will most likely come to the rescue and put a ton of media on my tiny netbook at the last minute (probably Sunday night...I leave Monday morning).  If we don't have time, then I'll just be screwed and figure it out as I go along. 

Other than, I feel set. And, to my friends and family: I want to thank you for dedicating the last 3 weeks to me and supporting me 100%. You guys are the best!  

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Six Weeks Until Staging

Wow, now I'm down to the six week countdown to staging. This means I need to get my act together. Currently, my priorities involve spending time with friends and family. I'm typically not much of a planner, but considering the circumstances, I've planned out all the remaining weekends I have left in the US. (1. Winery 5K Run & Easter Beer Hunt, 2. Weekend in Sacramento to see Wendy and Nana, 3. Possible girls shopping trip to Portland, 4. In Montana with dad, 5. Mom visits Eugene, 6. Prepare to leave).

The next important thing I need to do is move out of my house. Richard lucked out and found a perfect rental house three houses down, so moving will be no problem. We'll move next week and it will be the perfect opportunity for me to start packing for Lesotho and giving away stuff I don't need. Then, I will quit my job on May 10th.

Currently, I'm just living for every day and enjoying every moment of my time in Eugene. I think the hardest part about leaving will be putting a hold on my perfect life here with all my amazing friends and beautiful family. If you guys think I'm crazy for doing this, then let me reassure you that I am! But at least I realize it, right?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

nextPCVs - Peace Corps Blog

Cool, I was added to PC's blog for new volunteers

Jennifer Cain of Missoula Selected for Business Assignment in Lesotho

NAME: Jennifer Cain
AGE: 26
HOMETOWN: Missoula, Mont.
HIGH SCHOOL: Homestead High School (Cupertino, Calif.)
ALMA MATER: University of Montana, Class of 2007 (Business Administration)

ASSIGNMENT: Community Health and Economic Development

WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO BECOME A PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEER? My 11th grade history teacher spoke well of his experience as a Peace Corps volunteer and encouraged his students to explore similar opportunities. Ever since then, I dreamed of volunteering for the Peace Corps and continued to attend recruiting events until I had the education and skills necessary to become a volunteer.

OTHER PERSONAL INFO: Over the past 3 years, I’ve worked in marketing and graphic design for a civil engineering firm and a contract furniture company. I’m also an avid runner, mountain biker, and hiker. I have run in five half marathons and two marathons.

In 2011, the Peace Corps celebrates 50 years of international service. More than 200,000 Americans have served as Peace Corps volunteers in 139 countries since President John F. Kennedy established the agency in 1961.

Through their service, volunteers increase awareness of America around the world and help our country gain an understanding of other cultures beyond our borders. Currently, 8,655 Peace Corps volunteers serve in 77 countries – the largest number of volunteers in 40 years.

Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment. Volunteers live and work with a community overseas to reach goals in education, health, business, agriculture, the environment, youth development and more.

Peace Corps volunteers spend their first three months of service in training, living with a host family and studying the local language and culture.

Volunteers receive many benefits, including transportation, a living stipend, medical care, graduate school opportunities, student loan deferment, $7,425 upon completion and much more. Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. citizens, at least 18-years old, and in good health. There is no upper age limit and no cost to participate. Apply online.

For more information and online applications, please visit

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Best Dentist in the World

So the Peace Corps is having me get another dental exam. Last year I got my dental exam and x-rays on May 6th and PC says that a PC applicants records need to be updated after a year. Since I leave May 31st, I'll have to get a couple new x-rays and a check-up for my records. I called the best dentist in the world, Dr. Jay Lamb, and asked if he could check out my teeth again for no charge. His assistant said "no problem" that he is glad the PC asked for another check-up since I had a couple problem areas. What a nice dentist. I'm really really hoping the problem areas haven't turned into cavities...especially since I chew excessive amounts of Big Red.

For my last free check-up, I sent my dentist and his assistant a thank you card. A thank you card was somewhat pathetic since he spent 30 minutes explaining my x-rays and telling me about his dental trips to developing countries. He also showed me a picture of him giving free check-ups to people in Central America..they were all sitting outside in plastic chairs while he pulled teeth and fixed them all up. What a good guy! This time, I'm thinking his generosity deserves a bigger thank you...maybe I'll send flowers to his staff or something.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

PC 50th Party

Last night's 50th PC party in Eugene was quite interesting. There weren't really any chances for mingling at the rally or party because of the speeches and music, so I didn't meet anybody that had been to Lesotho or any invitees at all. Most of the RPCVs were from back in the day. It was funny because they all looked the same too....everybody in their typical Eugene REI attire.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Happy Anniversary Peace Corps

Tomorrow, March 1st will be the 50th anniversary of Peace Corps. It all began with John F. Kennedy inspiring volunteers to serve overseas to promote peace. Throughout the past 50 years, Peace Corps has had significant changes that you can read about on the PC website, The history of this federal agency is very interesting and the reasons behind its establishment are more than you would think.

In Eugene there are two events going on. There is a rally at Broadway Square at noon and a party at 7pm. From the newspaper, PC website, and postcards, it seems like there will mostly be Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs). I'm sure there won't be too many invitees, but if there are, I'm super excited to talk to them. I'm also hoping to meet some RPCVs and hear about their stories. Richard will be coming with me, and lucky for him, he gets to hear even more about PC then I tell him already! Hopefully, we will see the RPCV that we saw present at the U of O over a year ago. I don't know her name, but her stories triggered me to start my PC application. Well, it was actually the fact that she went into her service in a relationship and was still with her partner at the meeting. I would like to talk to her or other volunteers that have had a long-term relationship while serving. I hope tomorrow will give me some good insight and I can't wait to be a part of the celebration.

Here is to 50 years of the Peace Corps! I thank the US for giving me the chance to serve in Lesotho.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

More on Lesotho

The more I read about Lesotho, the more I get anxious to go. Although, I'm extremely excited about my adventure and I'm making sure to enjoy every day I have in the US before I depart May 31st. I'm lucky to have three months to spend time with the people I love and prepare for Lesotho!

I really don't know what my Peace Corps job will be like in Lesotho. I'm coming in as a business volunteer under the Community Health and Educational Development (CHED) program. Jobs can range from teaching computer and business skills, to helping people start businesses. Volunteers are also encouraged to promote HIV/AIDs awareness, which is something I'm highly interested in doing.

Addressing the issues of economic development and HIV/AIDs is ultra important in Lesotho because there is a high unemployment rate and around 30% HIV/AIDs infection rate. Almost half of Lesotho's economy is dependent on farming and animal husbandry. Their economy also consists of diamond mining, exporting water, and manufacturing. I've even read that there's a Levi's manufacturing facility in Lesotho. 

It's pretty tough to find information on Lesotho because it is so small and most guide books are on South Africa....but I'm still non-stop looking up as much as I can.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Some Research on Lesotho

Here's some information I've gathered from Lonely Planet, Peace Corps website, and various other sites.

Lesotho (pronouced Li-soo-too) is a small country within South Africa and is nicknamed 'kingdom in the sky'. Apparently, it's extremely mountainous which makes me happy because I'll be able to do some hiking. Pony trekking is quite popular there, too. I don't know if I'll be riding one of those poor little ponies. I'm sure they're much bigger than I'm imagining, but I'm a tall girl and I don't want to tip one over.  I'm sure I'll be cool with doing a lot of walking....I really hope I can get a mountain bike, but from what I've read on other blogs, you may appear well-off with a mtn bike. Peace Corps rarely allows volunteers to drive, so I won't be touching a steering wheel for over two years. I'll be quite the scary driver when I get back, but if I come back to Oregon I'll fit right in! If anybody has ever driven in Oregon you know what I'm talking about.

Anyway, more Lesotho facts.

  • Lesotho's population is approximately 2,067,00 and the capitol, Maseru has a population of around 175,000. I will most likely be living in a rural village or in a "camptown". 
  • The coldest part of the year is between May and September and temperatures can even drop below zero degrees. Lucky me, I get two winters! And everybody who knows me is laughing because I have some major circulation problems and am going to freeze my @$$ off! 
  • Which brings me to another fact about Lesotho, wearing blankets. Apparently, Basotho (people of Lesotho) wear wool blankets to display style and status. I'll surely be rockin an awesome wool blanket! 
  • It sounds like Basotho don't regularly eat meat because it is expensive and saved for special occasions. They mostly eat a cornmeal porridge with some vegetables.  Yumm!

I'll do some more studying and then report back. There are many serious facts about Lesotho, which I will most definitely touch on with future posts.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Application to Invite

Since I'm now calm and collected with my thoughts, I decided it's the time to start my blog.  From September 2009 - until a couple weeks ago when I received my invite to Lesotho, Africa, I've been all too worried that I may not be selected to carry out my dream of serving with the Peace Corps. All the waiting and wondering during the application process is quite stressful and I read blogs of other applicants to try to determine where I could go and when I would receive my invite. I really didn't think I would end up in Southern Africa, but after reading so much about Lesotho, I'm just so excited PC invited me there. The staging date for Lesotho is May 31, 2011.

For this post, I'll concentrate on my timeline thus far...and for future posts, I'll write about all the exciting things I've learned about Lesotho. 

  • September 2009 - Started Application
  • October 2009 - Submitted Application
  • December 2009 - Interview with University of Oregon recruiter and initially nominated
  • January 2010 - Interview with Seattle recruiter. She told me that there weren't any openings for business volunteers and if I wanted to join PC I would need to take french to qualify for a business program in the future. She also had me fill out a Romantic Involvement Questionnaire about my relationship.
  • January 2010 - February 2010 - Took a french class
  • March 8, 2010 - Contacted by Seattle recruiter telling me an opening for business volunteer in Africa opened up, leaving Feb 2011 (no french required)
  • March 2010 - Received Medical and Dental Kit. Found an awesome dentist that did free checkup and x-rays for future volunteers. Dental paperwork went well. Medical was more extreme since I needed over 5 vials of blood and several vaccinations. Also, since I had seen a free counselor in college when my grandpa died, I had to write several personal statements and contact the health clinic to verify that I was mentally sane and wouldn't kill myself if I became lonely in another country. Lots of faxes back and forth.
  • April 2010 - Medical/Dental packet complete and sent to PC. 
  • April 20, 2010 - Contacted for additional bloodwork (white blood count low), re-took test and count looked good. 
  • May 14, 2010 - Cleared Dental
  • August, 2010 - Cleared Medical
  • October, 2010 - Legally Cleared
  • December 20, 2010 - Told my slot was filled and would have to wait till May/June departure. I cried. A lot.
  • January 3, 2011 - Placement interview. My placement specialist asked me about my relationship status and also asked if I was willing to serve ANYWHERE (even though I had expressed a preference for Burkina Faso, Africa). I said I was still in a relationship and would still serve ANYWHERE. She said she would still try to get me into a program in Africa. 
  • January 4, 2011 - Sent off another Romanic Involvement essay
  • January 12, 2011 - Received invitation to Lesotho, Africa (staging May 31).
  • January 13, 2011 - Accepted invite
  • January 23, 2011 - Sent aspiration statement and resume
  • January 26, 2011 - Sent forms for no fee passport
  • May 2, 2011 - Received staging email with details on the orientation in Philadelphia
  • May 2, 2011 - SATO (gov travel agent) booked my flight from Eugene to Philadelphia