Linda in Lesotho

July 23, 2013 in Linda in Lesotho

Linda in Lesotho.


Friday, July 19

The past 2 days we have had a wild windstorm.  It was overcast, cold and very dusty.  Because Lesotho is so dry and treeless it is very vulnerable to soil erosion due to both rain and wind.  On Thursday night I thought the wind was going to lift the roof right off our house!

Because yesterday was so windy and cold we were all hanging out in the house.  My bedroom is a haven of peace and quiet but just outside the door I could hear all kinds of chaos taking place.  The kids were restless as they are usually outside all day. They played school with the 2 middle girls, Thuto (10 years) and Maphoka (11 years) playing the teachers.  They had the toddlers and little kids lined up in their tiny plastic chairs and potties and made them repeat letters and words.  Seemed very idealistic and cute until I realized they were whapping anybody that didn’t do it right on the palms of their hands with a stick.  I tried to tell them that these are only babies and to not hit them but they insisted it is the only way they are going to learn.  My Sesotho was frustratingly insufficient to explain there are better ways to educate them.  I know this is a standard teaching technique around here but it is hard to actually see in action.

I successfully diverted them for awhile by putting a Bambi DVD on my computer for them to watch.  This was the first time the little ones had seen such a thing as a cartoon movie and they kept looking at my questioningly.  They finally got the hang of just watching and laughing at mostly appropriate times even though they had no idea what the heck they were watching.

Later I put on a DVD for the older girls.  It takes place in colonial Africa and is about 2 Polish kids that are kidnapped and all of their trials and tribulations.  It was all in Polish but with English subtitles.  They loved it.

In the afternoon the Bishop came over to visit the kids.  He liberally hands out candy or pieces of fruit so the kids are always very happy to see him but he also genuinely talks to them and is interested in them.  He often comes over to check on everyone here at the house.  His home is about 2 miles away next to the project we are building.

(Seems I can’t get photos to upload today…check back for pics)

July 16

Tuesday, July 16

Today I set out again to get my Immigration papers taken care of.  The office was still locked up.  I spoke to a very nice neighbor lady with great English who commiserated with me, said that “these Basutho people are so unreliable” and took my cell number and said she would call me when they opened.  Late in the afternoon she texted that they never showed up all day.  Oh well.

Today was finally Cat Day!  Trina and I captured two of her wild kittens after she was able to lure them into her house.  I am ashamed to say that between the two of us we still had a heck of a time catching them.  Kittens can climb and crawl into very inaccessible places. I took them to Sr. J at the Center and she was grateful but also wondering how we are going to keep them from running away.  We decided to lock them in a small room that she uses for an office within the big Storage Building. We left them with food and some dirt for a catbox and decided to let them rest in there for a for a day or so.  I took some pictures as we opened the box and one flew out, jumped onto the curtain and clawed it’s way to the top.  Hmmm, we’ll have to see how this little experiment is going to work out.

Sr. J then thought I needed a good lunch so she took me over to the Convent with her.  We did have a great lunch, those Sister’s have good food that they grow and can or dry.   Then we came back to the house and sat holding little ones and visiting with the kids here.  The little ones were afraid of me for the first few days but now are very willing to let me hold and rock them.

Today Liteboho fell asleep in my arms.  I asked Sr. J about her story.  Seems she and her 2 sisters, Lereng and Limpho, were left by their mother at a neighbor’s to babysit them and she just never came back.  The neighbor tried to keep them but couldn’t afford 3 more mouths.  When Sr. J got them in March they all had marasmus, a disease caused by severe undernourishment.  They are now doing okay, but all of them weigh almost nothing and are reserved and sleepy.  Lereng is about 7 years old and really tries to take care of her 2 younger sisters.  She is the one who mostly tries to make them eat and cleans them and puts their “diapers” on at night.  Diapers around here are only worn at night.  They are a single piece of cloth that is wrapped around them then a plastic grocery bag is tied and tucked all around and then they go to bed (or else the whole shebang works its way off).  During the day, all bottoms are bare and they are suppose to use their tiny potty seats.   Whenever they are wet (or I should say their legs are wet and if they are wearing shoes the shoes are full of pee) then they are scolded and sat on their potties.  This seems to be the time honored system and works okay, I guess.

Diapering at night is the job of the middle girls, Maphoka (11), Thuto(10) and Lereng.  They are also responsible for getting all the little ones up and cleaned up in the morning.  The older girls, Mookho (16) and Slindi (also 16) are responsible for all the cooking which is a pretty big job.  Plus they go to school.  They make papa, steam bread, chop and cook vegetables and wash and clean everything in the kitchen….in candlelight.  A lot of the cooking takes place outside over a fire but they have a propane burner too but try not to use it as propane is expensive.

The caretaker, ‘Me Makatiso is 37 and has the job of taking care of baby Kamohelo who is a full time job.  He is probably almost a month old.  She also does all the clothes washing and cleans the house and yard.  She has only been here for a few weeks as Sr. J hired her to help when she got Kamohelo as she knew he would be too much for the girls.  These girls have been pretty much fending for themselves with Sr. J providing the food and shelter but that’s about it.  There are thousands of orphans, even living in our neighborhood that don’t even have this much.  We see them hanging out on the street near us and it’s heartbreaking.  Heaven only knows how they survive.

Tomorrow is an official holiday as it is the King’s 50th birthday.  When I was a Volunteer back in the 1980’s I worked at a high school where Prince Mohato was a student.  He was just a regular kid, no special treatment that I knew of.  Now he is King Letsie with two kids of his own.  Everyone here is assuming that I will go to Maseru for the big festivities but I don’t want the hassle and don’t plan to go.

July 15

For the most part, today was a little less busy. This morning Sr. J and I went on a mission to get quotes for items that we’ll need for the building.  We set our sights on getting all the info to submit for a grant called Beyond Our Borders in Colorado.  TLC is applying for the grant with the assistance of RPCV’s  Sherry Hellenkamp and Patricia Foley-Hinnen who were both Volunteers back in the day with me.  Sherry and her husband Joel worked at Moshoeshoe II High School with me in Matsieng and Patricia and her husband Britt worked in northern Lesotho.

The focus of the grant is for items that would benefit girls so we used the estimate that we already had for buying and installing the girls washroom fixtures but also added the cost of 8 bunkbeds and outfitting 16 beds with bedding . The rest of the day was spent getting all the quotes from local sources and then writing it up to be sent to Sherry and Patricia.

When I arrived at the Hotel to use the internet I found that there was a meeting of the “French Club” going on.  The French Club is actually one of the local PCV’s who is a teacher and wants to improve his French in his spare time but also includes anybody else that would be interested.  Besides the teacher there were 3 other people there, Trina and two Basotho men.  I said I would like to join until I found out that they really are studying French and it’s not just an excuse for a party.

The afternoon included Trina and I trying again to catch the wild kittens (without success) and a crazy evening of driving around trying to help a woman and her baby, that works at the Center.  She had forgotten her house key at the Center and needed help to get back into the building and collect her key. After lots of effort we were able to get the key and take her and her small baby home.  The scary part was that this was that it took place at night and  driving up and down terrible mountain roads in the dark.  Even in the daylight these roads are just trails going everywhere.  When one road gets too rutted another is made beside it and it is easy to get lost.  Fortunately I was able to find Sr. J at her house and she went with me so we didn’t get lost.  These roads are 4X4 only type roads with huge rocks, deep ruts and washouts.  Sr. J was moaning the whole time “my poor little bakkie, my poor little bakkie”.   I was very thankful to get home safe and sound that night.

July 13, Saturday

Today Sr. J took me to the St. Elizabeth’s Training Institute and Convent next door for lunch to introduce me to all of the other sisters and to show me all of their different projects.  I was very impressed when we stopped first to see the room where two sisters sew very detailed religious vestments and garments.  They have a sewing machine that is almost identical to my own Pfaff at home that they use to embroider beautiful, complicated liturgical stoles.  They take orders from all over Lesotho and South Africa.  When I told them I used to do the same kind of work they immediately wanted me to help.  The help they need however, is with the artwork and designs.  They know that they shouldn’t rip off the designs they see in the catalogs so they use those ideas and change them a bit.  Unfortunately, I see that they are already much better designers than I am….it’s not my strength.

At lunch, Sr. J formally announced and introduced me to about 25 or 30 nuns that were there.  She also brought in and introduced Kamohelo, our tiny baby boy that was found abandoned just a few weeks ago and has come to live with us.  I ate lunch at a table with a nun who specializes in midwifery, a number of nuns that teach and one that has a business making incredible cakes.  She could easily compete on Cake Boss!  I saw photos of many complicated cakes that resemble Lesotho items like large thatched huts, big cooking pots over a fire, Basotho hats and lots of traditional wedding cakes.  She brings in quite a few of Rands just doing custom cakes….who knew!?!

I also saw that they run a preschool, have a agriculture project where they have a nursery to sell grape plants, walnut trees and other seedlings that they start in tiny containers they make from sheets of black plastic.  They just made a small thatch hut where they are planning to experiment growing mushrooms to sell.  They also showed me a piggery that is profitable.

Another aspect is that it is a retirement home for Sisters of the Holy Cross but even the elderly nuns are busy doing things.  The Convent is very close to where I am living, and I have wondered what all the other sisters do and now I finally know.

July 12, Friday

The kids were up at 5:00 this morning.  Not sure why but I think they were just too cold to sleep because I could hear, then smell, that they got the propane heater out and going.  The temps are probably in the 30’s or 40’s during the night.  Don’t know exactly how cold but I sleep with 3 heavy blankets and really hate to get out of bed until the sun is shining in the window and the room warms up a bit.  The day almost immediately is warm enough for me but the Basotho constantly say how cold it is.  Like at home, most conversations are about the weather.

‘Me Maktiso, the children’s caretaker that lives with me, spent some time this morning making me understand that she wants to do my laundry but she doesn’t want my things to hang on the barbed wire fence like everybody elses’ because they will get holes in them.  I was dense and couldn’t figure out what she meant (she doesn’t speak Sehooha at all) until she showed me holes in everyone’s clothing and saying that she doesn’t want my clothes to get holes.  She asked me to get her “lipeg” which are a closespins and then she will happily do my laundry.  I told her I will get lipegs and pay her to do my laundry which makes sense since she wants/needs money and she is washing a mountain of clothes and blankets everyday anyway.

Went to the Immigration office in MH today to deal with the letter….nobody there.  I did a number of errands such as finding someplace to get a document printed from my flash drive.  This document is a long “History of St. Camillus Center for Orphaned and Vulnerable Children”.  Sr. J needs to provide this document to the Social Welfare office.  She had hand written it, in Sesotho, on paper and asked if I could type it.  I typed it on her computer then she and I sat and went through it together to get the Sesotho grammar and spellings just right (I had trouble deciphering her handwriting) and then I spent a half a day trying to get one of her two printers to print it.  No luck.   Fortunately I found a little hole in the wall Print Shop in town that downloaded it from my flashdrive and made two copies for about  $.80.  When I went back to the Immigration office it was still locked up, oh well, maybe another day.

Today, Sr. J took me to another quite large orphanage in the middle of town.  It’s really a pretty place and there are rooms full of beds, a real kitchen with women working there and a little playground full of kids.

She took me to the back where there is an office and introduced me to Jacqueline.  I had heard that there was a PCV working at an orphanage in town and I finally got to meet her.  Her project is way ahead of mine but she was so gracious and offered to help us as a secondary project.  She will be a great resource for me and Sr. J and she will be here until August of 2014.

I stopped for lunch at home and found ‘Me Makatiso shaving a couple toddler heads with a scary looking old fashioned razor.  I can’t get over how they sit so still and let her do that without moving around.  It’s amazing.

I eventually made my way over to the Hotel M to download a couple things and ran into Trina, a PCV who teaches technology at a number of schools around town.  At some point she mentioned that she is becoming a “cat lady” because a couple of cats with their kittens are living in her yard.  She thinks one of them is due again soon to add more kittens.  As it so happens, Sr. J mentioned she has been coveting (my word, not hers) the Bishop’s cats.  He has 5 of them and they work hard to keep the mice and rats away.  Whenever we see them hanging around the Bishop’s house she looks longingly and says she needs to find a cat.  I told Trina this and she immediately offered to give me two of the older kittens.  We hopped into my bakkie and drove over to her house.  As she is a teacher at a pretty nice school she has a real house in a compound with electricity and hot running water.  Very comfortable place.  The kittens immediately showed up to be fed and Trina threw them some food scraps but once they figured out we were trying to catch them they become very wild and we had to give up.  We’ll come up with a better plan to catch them next week to make them a gift to Sr. J.