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.

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