Wednesday, November 7, 2012

I came out of my village for my mid-service doctor appointment and for the Volunteer Advocate Committee meeting. It takes a lot for me to get out of my village because the trip up to the capital can take me 10 hours-2 days. Needless to say, I'm a 'site rat' in Peace Corps jargon. But since I was out, when I got invited to a week-long working meeting with PSI (an HIV prevention organization), I knew I just had to attend. I'm always down for opportunities to discuss HIV prevention and gain strategies to help out my community. We've been creating materials for condom use instructions and HIV testing information.

Several weeks ago, I actually asked PSI to come to my site and test my students and the community. 117 people came out to test for HIV. I was really pleased with the outcome and my students and community members were proud of themselves for testing. Of course there were those that were still hesitant and scared, but at least they had the opportunity to test since currently there is an HIV test shortage in Lesotho...resulting in our village clinic to be completely out of tests. It's pretty difficult for me to encourage people to get tested since it is almost impossible for them to access a testing kit. Well, luckily for PSI, my community got this opportunity.

Aside from the testing event, I was busy visiting with a missionary group that came through to the orphanage close to my site. The missionaries gave me all kinds of donations to give to my community and they also donated to me! I got hooked up with shampoo, sugar, and soap. I take any free stuff I can get because after all, I'm a volunteer. They left behind a missionary from Durban and him and I chilled during the month of October. We did some fishing, made good food, and spoke a lot of english together.

All in all, I've been great. I wish all my friends and family a happy month of Thanks, and know that I'm always thinking of ya'll.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Blog Slacker

Winter Break

It's been a long while since my last post. I'll just say I've been hibernating in my village. Now spring is here in Lesotho, school has started again, and my projects are slowly coming back together. Today I'm in Maseru, Lesotho's capital, to attend a mid-service Peace Corps training with the group of PCVs I arrived in Lesotho with. MID-SERVICE...and there were times in this past 15 months where I really didn't believe I would be able to make it this far!

After my mother left in April, I was givin a new perspective on my life in Lesotho. She was able to get me to laugh about the things that don't make sense to an American in Africa. Her sense of humor allowed me to ease up on myself and people around me. I stopped becoming depressed when I heard about sad stories of HIV, death, and orphans. I realized that I couldn't be a successful volunteer if I let the weight of the village problems overcome me. Now I know when I can help, and when issues are beyond my control. Since then, I spend my days lauging and joking with my host family, community members, friends, and my students. I am a more successful volunteer when I focus on cultural integration and acceptance.


August was a blur for me. I visited the US for two weeks to see my best friend get married. I saw almost all of my friends and family and had a great time. Before arriving in the US, I was worried that my friends and family would think I've gone crazy because I've changed so much...but once I landed on US soil and reunited with my everybody, I realized that they are equally as crazy and silly as I am.

My sister came back to Lesotho with me and stayed at my site for a week. I introduced her to all of my Basotho friends and family and she was treated very well. Basotho love it when I have visitors and they welcomed her by baking her bread, giving her canned peaches, and even sharing their traditional beer with her. My sister loved the community and really loved chasing around babies. Every child she saw, she wanted to hold and kiss. The kids loved it and we got some good pictures. My sis adapted well to my living conditions and by the second day she was cooking and cleaning like a Mosotho woman. I told her she could easily be a PC volunteer because she was flexible and patient and cared about the people in the village.

I've had a week alone to adjust back to a Lesotho lifestyle. The adjustment is challenging because I'm finding myself homesick all over again. My cure for homesickness...or really my cure for anything is exercise, but I've still been to lazy to put on my running shoes or do my workout videos. Once I return to my site next week, I'll get back into the swing of things and be just fine.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

April 20th

My mom spent the last two weeks with me at my site in my village. She lived my life with me for a couple weeks and never complained about anything. She carried water on her head, did a lot of hiking, and cooked me good food on my two burner stove. We had an amazing time together and it went by all too fast. It was nice to share my life with her and now she’ll know that I’m safe and sound in my village. My mom met all my friends and even learned a little Sesotho.  I want to keep her with me, but I guess she must return back to her husband and to her job.
Cape Town Vacation
I just returned from a vacation in Cape Town. Wow, the vacation was absolutely perfect. I’ll remember it forever. My vacation went a little like this.  On April 4th I got a ride from my nearest town to Bloemfontein and took a flight to Cape Town.  On that flight there were 3 other PCVs who were also visiting Cape Town for the Easter holiday and the Two Oceans Half Marathon.  We all had our catching up time and were extremely excited to be re-introduced to the little things in life that matter…electricity, running water, good food, coffee. I stayed in a backpackers (hostel) that night and went out to Mexican food with another volunteer. The following day I picked up my mom from the airport. I don’t think I had ever been so nervous. I was just waiting in the airport pacing around until my mom came through the departure gate.  We then went to a super cute B & B called La Rose B & B and relaxed for a little bit. Since last Thursday was so beautiful we knew we had to go up Table Mountain that day because the weather is so unpredictable. We went up to the top on a gondola and took lots of amazing pictures.  The weather was crap the next day, so we spent Friday at the Two Oceans Expo and picked up our race packets. The Expo was a really good one and they gave VIP service to the international participants. We were able to skip the big crowd, get our packets, and then sit in the international room and eat cookies and get free drinks.
Last Saturday was the big race day. My mom and I were goofing off the night before and were eating tons of chocolate and laughing instead of sleeping. We decided that since we really didn’t train for the race, we were just going to have fun instead. We called a cab to pick us up at 5:45 for the race at 6. Of course we knew we were going to be late..I just didn’t know if I could tolerate the start line crowd. Typically that is the worst part of a race for me and since I live such an isolated life I knew I was going to get overwhelmed by the crowd. We ended up being over 20 minutes late and when we got to the start line the half marathon runners were long gone and the ultra marathon runners were just starting. I got lost in the crowd and after about 30 minutes I realized that I had missed the turn for the half marathon route. I decided I would continue to run with the ultra runners until I got tired. I just kept going and going and ended up finishing the ultra marathon – 56 Km (around 35 miles). I had promised myself I wouldn’t run another marathon..but I guess I lied to myself and completed an ultra somewhat on accident. I’m thinking next year I could run it again and if I train the next time around, I’ll be able to run it faster.

The next day, I got a massage and then we moved to a nice hotel at the waterfront. The waterfront in Cape Town is really swanky and there is a huge mall, lots of small cruise ships, and good restaurants. My mom and I took a little day cruise with a bottle of wine and did a lot of shopping. Overall, the trip was amazing.

March 2nd

I love being back at my village. Especially because I know I’m not going to leave for a while. The transportation out of my village is so hectic that it’s nice to know I won’t be spending a ton of money and several hours in an organ-jumbling taxi ride. The ride is so bumpy, that sometimes I have bruises on my arms or legs after my journey. I’ll tell you why I like my village so much. First of all, I can get everything I need here. I have a vegetable guy that delivers all types of produce to my door. I can get tons of spinach, potatoes, onions, and mushrooms all for under 5 dollars.  Also, I go to Sesotho tutoring about 4 times a week and I love my teacher. We typically joke about my dog and talk about my life in Sesotho. We always talk about this mythical dwarf called a tokalosi and I tell my tutor about how my tokalosi cooks and cleans for me. Learning Sesotho keeps me sane and really has helped me adapt to Lesotho.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Time for an update

Feb 26th
I’m in town for a PC committee meeting. I plan to withdraw my allowance and go shopping for some groceries that I can’t find in my village and then hopefully go back to my site and stay there for several weeks – including weekends. I miss my home when I’m away in town and I really have a lot of work that needs to be done before Easter break. Next week I’ll be working with the local nutritionist to help the women in my communities with healthy eating habits and even sewing. The nutritionist is my friend and the goals in her job description align well with mine. I look forward to working with her. Also, next week my other counterpart and I will be conducting some HIV related activities at the herd-boy school. It’s important for herd-boys to receive HIV information, because most of them will not go to formal school which makes it impossible to learn about HIV facts. You may be thinking, “what is a herd-boy”? Well I’ll tell you. It is a man or boy that looks after livestock for their family. Typically goats, sheep, and cows. Boys can begin herding as soon as they can walk. My host brother herds sheep and he is 7. The boys take the animals to fields so they can graze and they sit and watch them all day long. Because this job can be so boring, the boys may try to make their lives more entertaining by drinking, doing drugs, or smoking. It’s a tough life for the boys here, but they don’t know any other life. In Lesotho, there are more educated women than men because of herding. At the school where I work, there are 100 students and only around 20 students are boys. Sometimes there are informal night schools for herd-boys where they can learn some basics. Since we have one in our area, this is the school my counterpart and I are going to target. We will play simple games having to do with HIV and it should be a good way for these boys to be entertained while learning something.
Mom, will you please look up a picture of a Lesotho herd-boy and post it? Yes, these boys/men do look scary because they were big blankets, carry sticks, and where facemasks, but all of these herd-boys that I pass on a daily basis are very friendly and will even help me out if I ever needed anything.  
     Jenny....I have posted a herd boy photo although not one with a ski mask on.  Could not find one of those.  Mom.

February 12th
I took a break from blogging for a little over a month. I wanted to start up again when I had the motivation and positivity. It is suggested that Peace Corps Volunteers should blog and write letters when we are happy and when we are down, it’s best to journal. I don’t keep a journal, though. It’s not like I had a terrible month, it was just a difficult month personally, culturally, and work-wise. I also forget that my quiet village life is still entertaining and interesting to those of you back home. When I look out my window and see a man driving a wheelbarrow with a pig in it, its normal here but definitely not normal if you compare it to my US life. Or when I’m sitting in my latrine and a snake keeps poking his head out of the corner to look at me, I need to remember, this is not normal! Needless to say, I’m doing great and want you all to know I’m thinking of you!
So since I’ve neglected to update you on my life…I’ll keep it short. School has started up again and I’ve been teaching Life Skills to Form A, Form B, and Form C. The school’s results were extremely poor from last year, so the teachers are being strict on the students and forcing the kids to speak English. There are a lot more students this year because the Ministry of Education has decreased the school fees. The decrease in school fees allows more children to go to school, but has resulted in the schools having to give up their free lunch program, which means the kids don’t eat lunch.
Other than that, my organization hasn’t been meeting regularly because the members have been working in their fields. I look forward to getting our projects and meetings up and running again once the members are ready.
I just got back to my village from a week at a Project Management and HIV/AIDs Training for Peace Corps. PC split our CHED 11 group of 19 into two parts: North and South. I’m in the southern part of the country, so I met up with all of the south vols and we stayed in a hotel for a week. A hotel with showers, electricity, and food! It was too much fun. All us volunteers were averaging 3-4 hours of sleep a night, but it was worth it to spend time together. Plus, we were still really productive at our training so I was extremely happy with the resources and information PC shared with us. PC invited our counterparts to the training and we all worked together on activities that we can share with our organizations and communities. I was especially impressed with the HIV/AIDS training. All of us PCVs have had days and days of HIV training, but it was important for us to share the things we’ve learned with our counterparts. It is our Basotho counterparts that will have the lasting impact in Lesotho in regards to HIV/AIDs awareness so I felt it was a smart move on PCs behalf to invite them. Now we have the skills to mobilize our organizations and present HIV information to our communities.
To top off an amazing week, I received a giant package from an old co-worker and a pile of letters…like 20 letters. I feel extremely loved. It was really nice for me to read about all the things my friends have been up to. The letters make me feel like I’m still a part of the pregnancies, holiday celebrations, struggles/successes, new houses, etc. Thank you guys!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency -Lesotho

January 10th
I’m thinking of starting a detective agency in my village. Just like the “The Number One Ladies Detective Agency” series by James Alexander Macall. I love the series. It’s about a woman in Botswana, Africa who starts a detective agency to solve mysteries. Usually the mysteries are silly, like a father will hire a detective to follow his daughter after school to see where she goes. But usually at the end of the book the detective solves a legit mystery. I think I could start a detective agency because a lot of mysteries happen in the villages. First we have my dog swap. I still don’t know how that happened in that situation. Also, my organization’s fisheries project is without fish. The members of the group think all of the fish were stolen during the holidays. This theory is interesting to me because I’ve never seen a fish in the dam since I’ve been here. The water has always been too murky and high to see what is in the water.  Now the water is so low from the heat that we are able to see in the dam and…there are no fish!  Then we have the big mystery- just the other day, my host father’s shop was broken into! The criminal stole 1000Rand, but while doing so, dropped his phone which contains all of his contact information. Now my family is trying to get a hold of the police so they can track the numbers in the cell and see if any of the contacts will tell them who the owner of the phone is. I believe they will find that thief…and he’s going to be sorry because the village is too small for a criminal to live there once he has been caught.
To keep ‘The Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency –Lesotho’ a sustainable project, maybe I can train somebody on what it takes to be a detective and then help them write a business planJ
January 8th
A couple of days ago I returned from vacation in Durban. Richard came to Lesotho two weeks ago to visit me and see my life here. We had a great time and spent several days at my site and then headed to Durban where we had such a good time. 
(To Richard: I will be writing about you in this post. Hope it’s okay ;))When we rented a car, the rental company had upgraded us to a BMW. In a typical situation I would have been excited, but it made me nervous because I was worried people in my village wouldn’t believe me anymore when I tell them I don’t have money…but it worked out fine and Richard was able to navigate the horrible road to my villages. At site, I introduced him to all my friends, my host family, and my co-workers. He seemed to enjoy seeing my life and I believe it made him understand what the hell I’ve been up to.  We did a lot of walking since that is what I do. I showed him how to take a bucket bath, carry water, and light the house. Richard carried his own water and people were laughing because it’s usually a woman’s job. But it’s really good for people in these villages to see that stereotypical gender roles can be shared.  He also got to eat all of the traditional Basotho foods like Motoho (sour porridge) and try Joala (traditional beer). I don’t think he was impressed with either, but he was a good sport.
I When we headed to South Africa, we stayed along the coast in a town called Port Shepstone. We stayed in a backpackers /hostel for several nights where we met really cool people and spent tons of time on the beach. After that, we went to Durban and stayed in a really nice B&B on the hip part of town. Everything was perfect and I’m super stoked about planning my next trip to South Africa.