September 4, 2013 in Linda in Lesotho

I have dropped the journaling ball lately.  Not from lack of activities.  Last Saturday we had the much planned and anticipated Mokete (Feast Day) for 7 Sisters of the Holy Cross that were celebrating their 50 year anniversary.  The morning started with a procession from the Convent to the church with singing and clapping.  The honorees stood in the parking lot being greeted and sung to while we all waited for the Bishop to arrive.  He was probably an hour late and the crowd got a little restless.  I did not go into the church with them as Sr.. J said the ceremonies would be hours long and I should just attend the feast part in the afternoon.  She also invited Shawna and Nancy since Nancy is visiting for a few days. In the middle of the morning Sr. J called and told me to come to the convent to see a wedding.  It was really cool.  The family came in dancing and singing to a band with tuba and drums.  The Bride and groom also came in dancing and swaying.  The little I stayed for the ceremony, it was fairly traditional except the bride and groom don’t stand up front.  They sit in the front row and everyone comes to them.  I only stayed a short time then went to find Sister and said I felt uncomfortable attending a wedding I wasn’t invited too.  She said “don’t worry about that, many of the people there were not invited, they just hear about a wedding and will come.” Eventually, the mokete started, later than anticipated of course, but Nancy, Shawna and I all became part of the procession back to the Convent for the feast.  We were pulled to the front of the very long line of people to be served with the many Sisters who were visiting from all over southern Africa for the occasion.  I spoke to Sister Cecilia as we walked and she asked me to walk with her as she is very frail and elderly and was worried about falling.  She is originally from Germany but worked as a nun at St. Elizabeth’s for 32 years.  She is now in a Sister’s retirement home in South Africa.  Her English was great and she like to talk. We had a really good feast of chicken, pork, beef, rice, mashed potatoes, potato salad, beet salad, carrot salad and a dessert of bread pudding.  Nancy, Shawna and I were able to slide away after eating with minimal visiting along the way.  Being white people, we are celebrities and everyone wants to say something to us.  They always compliment our Shoeshoeshe skirts, and our trying to use Sesotho.  They are also usually say something about thanking us for working in Lesotho. After the party we went to the Hotel to meet up with a little meeting of MH PCV’s for a planned Media Exchange party.  Volunteer’s trade TV shows, movies and photos from their flash drives to each other’s computers.  We also ordered drinks, I was introduced to another hard cider that is good called Savanna.   Nice evening with everyone. Busy week working with our craft group on Monday.  They all came with products they made.  Not all were great but for their first ones I think they did well.  We had to have some heart to hearts about being consistent in size and quality.  I made very definite patterns so each lady can hopefully make placemats that will all match, or sort of match. On Tuesday I went with Nkonela that visit her family in a village about 1 hour from here.  Her mother is leaving to take a job in Soweto doing laundry.  Her sister lives with her Mom in the village and when she became pregnant and added a baby to the household her Mom needed to leave to make some money to support them all.  Nkonelo’s father died in 1990 in a mining accident in SA so I think there might have been some money for a time but now there is nothing. Her Mom is a warm and generous person.  She was thrilled that I came out to the village to meet her and bring Nkonelo home to see her before she leaves.  She made me a wonderful meal that included meat so that is a pretty big deal. After I dropped off Nkonelo at her village, which took about 45 minutes on a very rough road to reach, I drove across the valley to where Nancy lives.  I stayed overnight at her village in her rondaval.  She is getting ready for COS (Completion of Service) in November. We walked around her village and school then settled in for the night.  It was such a nice break with her. Everything went smoothly picking up Nkonelo closer to the road the next day and we drove home.  Arriving at the house I found a very stressed out Sr. Juliana.  Seems she had been talked into taking 2 more boys into our already packed house.  The local orphanages are really maxed out and the options are few.  Sr. J had initially refused saying we don’t have room but she eventually caved and now we have a 14 year old and 8 year old boys sleeping on our kitchen floor.  I know we’ll make it work.  Would be nice if the children came with some kind of monetary help but that is not the case.  We will stretch what we have but having the new building is becoming more and more important.  The back-stories on these two boys are so sad.  They have been shuffled around and have been begging for the past couple months on the streets and at the local bars.  They are a little rough around the edges and I can tell our girls at the house are not happy about this development but are trying to be positive.  They have all been in similar situations and know that they need step up. Stay tuned for how this will all work out.

Friday, August 23

On Monday our Craft group came together for training with Me Mumpo.  She didn’t show up so Nkonelo and I drove around until we finally found her waiting for us down at the project site.  Once we were all together she showed the other ladies her work and how she does it.  There was a lot of discussion and it was decided that instead of making the rugs which will take a lot of time, that we should concentrate on making place mats while learning. I bought the two rugs that Me Mumpo brought with her as examples for M80 each.  We also paid her M50 for “training” today.  The others saw her get paid for the rugs, I hope that will act as an incentive for them. I spent the rest of the day with the women just cutting up bags to make “plarn”, plastic yarn.  At one point I looked out and saw a very cute piglet run by the window with a bunch of little boys chasing it.  Apparently it escaped from the yard right behind us and the whole neighborhood of little boys were trying to help catch it.  It must have been close to an hour of the crowd chasing it in and out of my sight before I didn’t see them running by any more. On Tuesday, Sr. J came in and said “we must go to Mafeteng today”.  Okay…  I guess she met a lady at the church retreat over the weekend that wants to help the orphanage.  We drove up to Mafetang and met with the woman and her husband at their home.  Both were very sympathetic and want to help Sr. J.  The husband is a Parliament Chief in the Lesotho Senate.  I am not sure how all the politics work but I assume he has clout.  They wrote down all the info about St. Camillus Centre and gave us two bags of sorghum that we can have milled into leshelesle for the kids.  I would love to think they can help on a bigger scale but we’ll see if it comes to anything. In Mafateng, which is a city compared to Mohale’s Hoek, I took Sr. J to lunch at a little restaurant that she likes and we got mutton stew and chips (French fries).  A good but very greasy lunch.  Then we picked up some hay for our cow and a few other things that we can get cheaper in Mafeateng and drove back home. Today is Friday and there just wasn’t much to write about the past few days.  On Wednesday we had an all day duststorm that made being outside very unpleasant.  Sandy dust gets into your eyes, ears and mouth.  I took a photo of the kids at the school outside for recess through my window as I don’t want the dust to get into my camera.  Sr. Juliana, Nkonelo, Makatiso and I mostly worked on our plastic bag project inside the house.  Here, a plastic grocery bag is called a “plastic”.  My job is cutting plastics into strips of plarn.  I cut off the bottom of the bag then cut spirally to make continuous strips about 1” wide.  It gets mind numbing after a while but working with others so we can visit it’s not too bad. I am also re-dedicating myself to studying Sesotho.  I get lots of help from everyone here but it really takes dedication to write down everything, and work on sentence structure.  I know lots of words but stringing them into sentences that make sense is a whole other issue. I also wanted to say something about Tom’s Shoes.  Many of my kids, and others here, wear black Tom’s shoes.  I know from my daughter at home that she buys Tom’s Shoes because they promise to donate a pair for every pair sold in the States.  I guess earlier this year they brought tons of shoes to the Mohale’s Hoek Social Development office to have them distributed to needy people.  Sister Juliana received a good size pile of shoes that she now gives out on a as-needed basis.  I have to say I am impressed by the Tom’s Shoes corporate follow through!  Read an article, http://www.msh.org/news-events/news/no-more-bare-feet-msh-and-toms-distribute-shoes-to-children-in-lesotho

Monday, August 20

Malealea Lodge Birthday Weekend! I wish I had time to elaborate on the wonderful weekend I had with 4 PCV’s at a tourist lodge a couple hours from here.  I just captioned the photos for now.

Thursday, August 15

Had a ball today.  Sr. Juliana and I were invited to be with a group of people from South Africa called TEBA to view some their local agriculture projects.  TEBA is the part of Anglo American Mines (mostly diamonds and gold) that are “Giving Back” to Lesotho.  Many Basotho men cross the border to work in the mines so the company sponsors development projects here in Lesotho.  We toured a number of individual homes that have gardens that are so well kept they feed many people.  Raised bed gardens and Keyhole gardens are highly efficient in these areas with little rain.  We saw some tremendous examples but they are far and away the exception around here.  They are very labor intensive as water is scarce and needs to be carried from the local tap.  In these villages, animals roam free that get into the gardens and pests are abundant.   Our procession of vehicles was greeted by some men on horseback riding traditional Basotho Ponies wearing their finest blankets.  The ponies were even dressed up for the festivities.  We followed them in our cars to the different homes and gardens.  We were also joined by some young women who are part of an Ag Club.  They had horns, whistles and were ululating (very loud howling/wailing sound that is traditional for happy or sad occasions).  We eventually came to a number of tents and a Agriculture Exhibition with lots of people.  We waited quite some time for the Minister of Agriculture to arrive to speak and eventually we passed him coming in as we were leaving.