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.

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