Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Gender-Equality on a Taxi in Lesotho

Last month, I made sure to arrive in Mt Moorosi as early as possible so I could claim the front seat of the taxi to Ha Makoae. I always want the front seat because then I'm able to roll down the window and my legs don't go numb during my 2 1/2 hour taxi ride to site. I arrived at 11am for the taxi that leaves anywhere from 1pm -5pm. I was the first person there so I put my bag in the passenger seat. An hour later, a man put his bag in the middle-front seat next to me. Then the taxi continued filling up. My host mother even boarded the taxi! At 3pm, we were ready to go. So the man who put his bag next to mine told me in Sesotho that I must move to the middle. In Sesotho, I asked him why. He told me that 'women sit in the middle and men sit by the window'. I told him that I didn't understand this because I am taller than him and I arrived an hour earlier. We began a friendly argument in Sesotho where I was trying (and failing) to talk to him about gender-equality. Luckily, my host mother, who is used to my broken Sesotho, jumped in the conversation and explained my reasoning to him. He laughed loudly and got in the middle-front seat of the taxi. During the taxi ride, the man's friend kept asking people why I was in the front seat. People responded by saying "'M'e Palesa understands you so you can't talk about her". We were all laughing; including the man who I made sit in the middle.

An hour into our drive we saw a monitor lizard. The taxi driver stopped and all the men in the taxi got out to catch and kill the lizard. They failed. When they boarded the taxi, they asked me if I was scared of the lizard. I accidentally said 'ha e tsotsi' (it is not a criminal) instead of 'ha e kotsi' (it is not dangerous). Everybody agreed with me and after replaying my response in my head, I laughed at myself for mixing up my Sesotho words.

This ride to Ha Makoae confirmed how integrated I've become since first arriving in Lesotho. Two years ago, I was an American stranger on the taxis to Ha Makoae and now I can laugh and communicate with my community members. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

I'm Lucky to Have Three Fathers

It is my host father, Ntate Thembisili (Ntate Thembi is his nickname), who keeps me positive when life as a PCV gets tough. Ntate Thembi knows how to speak to me in Sesotho (slowly and by using simple words); we can speak in Sesotho for hours and understand each other. A conversation with Ntate Thembi will never fail to put me in a good mood.

I do feel fortunate to have and African father in addition to my 'real' father and my step-father. Because all three of the fathers in my life are good, honest, hard-working men, that support me and are proud of me. All three fathers encourage me to 'keep my head up', loan me money when I get short, brag about me to their friends, and are ultimately good role-models for people they know.

Ntate Thembi owns a shop in Ha Makoae, is the community livestock veterinary, and is an active member of the church and is also on the board of directors for the Secondary School. He mediates when people have issues and he always makes people around him feel comfortable. He is a giant  Xhosa man and has a kind wife and 6 children including me. He lets his children do whatever they want, leaving them to get into trouble and then he beats them as discipline. Luckily, I stay out of trouble and remain the spoiled child.

Ntate Thembi cares about people around him. I used to think it was just me who he handed cans of fish for free from his shop, but I also see him giving bags of maize meal and oil to people in need. When my house was leaking, Ntate Thembi ordered men to repair my roof in a thunderstorm. When my dog was repeatedly sick, he would inject and give medicine to my dog. He would always tell me "Don't worry, Paly (my nickname in Sesotho), if this dog dies, I will buy you a big beautiful one". When my dog did eventually die from being poisoned, he gave me his dog. Unfortunatly, the dog he gave me got poisoned 3 weeks later. However, Ntate Thembi still didn't get down on the community for poisoning my dogs over jealousy. Instead he invited me to a community meeting where he re-explained my purpose as a volunteer so people understood that I was truly here to be a part of the community. He also added that I had been sewing jewelry and clothes by hand, resulting in all the women from the community meeting asking to see my work and requesting a hand-sewing club. Currently, our Ha Makoae Sewing Club is thriving.

Ntate Thembi and his wife 'M'e Nosi are truly kind people and throughout the two years I've been in Lesotho, they have always supported me. When times have been hard for me, I go to their shop and chat. When I think about my time in Lesotho coming to an end, I think of my family here and I know it is going to be difficult to say goodbye. Having African parents in Peace Corps is proof that people can live together peacefully in a foreign environment and love each other like family dispite any language or cultural barriers.

Wrote this in October but am posting it now

 September 21st

Cultural Day

Last Friday I went to the district’s cultural day with my students. All of the secondary schools in the district attended the event and participated in traditional Basotho dances. Some schools did traditional Xhosa dances (another African language and culture) too. Two of our students qualified for the national cultural competition that will take place next week. One of these students recited a poem/rap and another student made a guitar out of a metal container and string.  Another Peace Corps vol was there and so I was able to meet her students and the teachers she works with.

Spring is here…finally!

The weather is starting to warm up and I no longer need to use heat or heavy blankets. The grass is turning green and the sun is staying out longer. Now that I’ve been in Lesotho for over a year, I’ve realized that I better appreciate this spring in its entirety, because it will be my last spring in Lesotho. I’ve planted carrots and swiss chard in my keyhole garden as well as lavender and basil in the dirt in front of my house. Now it’s up to my little host brother to keep the sheep away from eating my vegetables. I’m excited to see if I’ll be able to keep up with my gardens. I’ll need to carry an extra bucket of water each day in order to maintain my gardens. I don’t really mind carrying water, but it’s still not my favorite thing to do. I time how long it takes me to get my water. I try to go to the pump and back in 8 minutes. My neighbors make fun of me because they say I’ll never be able to balance the bucket on my head with no hands since I walk too fast. But that’s okay, when I time my neighbors; they take at least 20 minutes to get a bucket of water. It shows the difference between an American and a Mosotho. I try to get my water as efficiently as possible without stopping to chit chat with people and they walk as slow as possible and stop to chat with every person they see. My patience for visiting people is still very good compared to my life in the US, however, it is still hard for me to spend a whole day just saying “hi” to people.


All has been well. Summer in Lesotho is dry and hot and some nights we have huge lightning storms. My roof is made of tin so even if it’s 80 degrees outside, it feels about 100 degrees in my house. I try to do all of my cleaning early in the day so I can spend my time outside in the shade. The schools are closed for the holiday break and won’t re-open until Jan 28th. This leaves me a lot of time to work on random projects. I’ve been doing a lot of hand sewing and making earrings. Sometimes I teach kids who are interested how to sew, but fabric can’t be found in the village. Typically, people buy their fabric in town and have dressmakers take their measurements and sew their dresses. We have one dressmaker in the village and she sews with a hand-crank machine. I choose to sew by hand instead of asking to borrow the machine. That way, I can take my sewing projects wherever I go.

Other than my personal projects, I’ve been helping out at the orphanage that is in the village below mine. I’ve gardened, sewed, and spoke about nutrition with the kids at the orphanage. The English woman that runs the orphanage is my friend and we get together about 3 times a week for lunch. She is always sharing her good food with me…like feta cheese, oregano from Portugal, chocolate waffles from Amsterdam and vegetables from the capitol. The only thing I can share with her is my lettuce that I’ve grown in my keyhole garden. We do a lot of talking about life in Africa and life in general.