Linda in Lesotho

August 16, 2013 in Linda in Lesotho

Linda in Lesotho.

Wednesday, August 14

On Saturday, Nkonelo, Shawna and I met with the grandmother who makes the rugs out of strips of plastic bags that Shawna had bought.   They really are interesting rugs/mats.  She makes them in rectangles and circles and she creatively uses the different colored bags to make stripes. We would like to start our craft group making these rugs because we think they will sell and they have so little overhead to make that we could get a lot of people involved.  Besides, plastic bags are EVERYWHERE here.  At any moment I can look out and see a plastic bag floating in the wind or caught on a fence or tree.

Nkonelo did a great job of helping us communicate our idea to Me Mpumpo and she agreed to to come and teach other women how to make the rugs.  When we came back to the house, the three of us met with Sr. J to talk more about finding some women to train.  Our idea is to offer an incentive of cash on the spot for each finished rug.  She is very enthusiastic about the idea, she has been wanting to get the women involved in a craft project that could be sold.

We met on Monday with 7 women who came to learn how to crochet the mats.  The day was a cold one and Shawna said that the women probably wouldn’t come in the cold.  We were happily surprised that 7 showed!  However, M’Me Mpumpo did not come. Shawna and I drove over to her house to see if she needed a ride as she is elderly but found out she had left to go to a church meeting in Maseru for the day.  Oh well, Sr. Juliana was able to teach crocheting and we passed out crochet hooks, and yarn for them to learn and practice.  Some of them already knew but needed a refresher course.  Most of them stayed into the afternoon and were crocheting up a storm by the time they left.

Seems like I have finally gotten sick.  Just a sore throat and nagging cough.  A couple days ago I really felt like I must be getting the flu with chills, muscle aches and a little fever but that lasted only one day and now just the sore throat and a nagging cough.  It was truly just a matter of time before I caught something.  Seems like all my kids have very runny noses and somebody is always coughing.

Today Nkonelo and I washed a large bunch of plastic bags that the kids had gathered from heaven only knows where.  Most were filthy and gross but cleaned up pretty well.  It was not fun to be washing outside in cold water so I heated a couple kettles and it wasn’t too bad..  when we finished we decide to go to town and buy the fabric for Limpho’s uniform that Nkonelo will sew.  We had a nice time shopping together and we got lunch at a little place that she recommended. I got a “Long Russian” and chips.  A Long Russian is a hotdog.  It comes with no bun, you just eat it as is.  The chips are homemade french fries and were hot, fresh and really good.

When we came home I worked on more mending projects.  Mostly kids school uniforms.  Also, I got two Birthday cards in the mail, one from Paula and one from Sue.  I’m not sure when Sue sent hers but Paula’s was sent on July 18th so it took just under 4 weeks to get here.  There is no mail delivery in Lesotho.  You have to go to the local post office to pick up your mail and since my mail goes to the Bishop’s house someone from his office goes everyday, for which I am grateful because the Post Office is always a very crowded and busy place.   The local PCV’s dread going in there, so yes, I feel very spoiled having the Bishop deliver my mail.

Friday, August 9

On Monday, I went over to St. Elizabeth’s Training Institute to see about the internet.  I found Sr. Virginia and she took me to the computer lab room which was full of students (about 40) sitting at computers with a teacher lecturing..  she didn’t say anything to anybody, just showed me a corner to sit and left.  I don’t think she understood that I don’t need to be in the computer room to use the WiFi that they have there.  It was a little awkward, all the students staring at me.  I hadn’t gotten the password so I figured I’d just sit and look at my computer a little while then politely leave.  To my surprise, I found there was an unsecured WiFi available!  I guess it has just a small network area.  So, I went online and started researching agricultural grants which we could use to apply for updating the chicken project.  I didn’t have much luck.  The Ambassador’s grant that was used for the original project seems like the only one we would qualify for and that one has a deadline of May 1st, long after I am gone back to the States.  At some point, the teacher of the class came over and introduced himself, Ntate Mpitso.  I apologized profusely for interrupting his class and explained I had just asked for a place to work and be online.  He said I was fine and to just stay and work as long as I’d like.  A little later he excused his class, after harranging them about internet use, how it can be used for looking at bad things and that anyone caught looking at inappropriate sites would be excused from school.  He then went into how to type and where to put your fingers on the keyboard.  We had a nice talk after his class left.  I asked him if he could give me the password for the SETI (St. Elizabeth’s Training Institute) WiFi.  He said he didn’t know it and that this was his first day of teaching so he had lots to learn about St. E’s.  I told him had made websites and would be willing to help if he had advanced students that were making sites.  He became very interested in that and said he is suppose to be making a sit for SETI.  I said I could help him and that I also want to make a site for St. Camillus Center.  We agreed to meet the next day.  I continued to work at the desk in his classroom alone looking for Grants.  I could have stayed longer but after an hour or two I was so cold I couldn’t stand it any longer.  The classrooms do not have heat and even though the sun was shining outside the concrete block classroom is like sitting in a freezer.

The next day, when I went at 1:30, our agreed upon time, Ntate Mpitso who was no where to be found. Oh well, I ran into ‘Me Masolo, our neighbor who teaches home sciences.  She was telling me that she would be gone the next two weekends as she was burying a daughter-in-law this weekend and her sister the following weekend.  I don’t know the circumstances of the daughter-in-law but her sister died after being hit by a taxi while walking near Maseru.

On Wednesday, my birthday, we had a workshop scheduled at the Storage Building.  It was again to pass on information to the Home Based Care Volunteers.  We had it catered, which means we hired a woman to come and make papa and moroho (cornmeal mush and cooked cabbage) over a fire in the yard.  The day was extremely windy and cold and the workshop turnout was low, probably about 30 people when we were expecting around 50.  The Social Development people spoke about the need to identify special needs children and what services are available.  Apparently there is money to get kids wheelchairs and also a school in Maseru for learning disabled kids.

Since it was my birthday, Shawna and I met at the Hotel to have dinner together.  For us, dinner has to be early, like 3:30 or 4:00 as we need to have time to visit, eat, be on our laptops and still be home by sunset which is about 5:30ish.  It is just too dangerous to drive after dark around here and most PCV’s agree that it’s not worth the risk to be out after dark.  So, we had a wonderful dinner of pizza, some dish that came with kabobs hanging from a little meat hook on a stand and beer.  For me, that meant a Hunter’s Gold Hard Cider, in fact two of them which was really too much, I felt a little tippsy and still had to drive home.  Shawna gave me a gift of a Dark Chocolate KitKat bar which was really great.

At dinner I brought up the subject of the chicken grant and how I’ll be gone by the time it needs to be submitted and asked if she would help.  She was reluctant based on her belief that it isn’t a sustainable project and we began discussing how St. Camillus could make money without so much overhead.  We talked about craft making and how we could sell items easily in the States with help from all of  TLC, our families and other contacts.  Shawna became very excited about exploring this possibility and by the next morning she had written a business proposal and suggested we get Jacqueline involved as she has business development skills.  The three of us met at the hotel on Thursday afternoon and came to the idea of making items that are crocheted out of plastic grocery bags as our first project because it would have almost no overhead.

Coincidentally, Sr. J had just introduced Shawna and me to Ausi Nkonelo.  She is a student at St. E’s

that knows how to sew, knit and crocheted and is interested in getting women involved in money making projects.  She is going to be great to work with for this project.

Later in the afternoon when the kids got home from school, Sr. J and I took Bakoena, Lereng, Limpho and Mookho to town to buy them school clothes and shoes.  It was fun picking out items for the kids.  We couldn’t however find shoes or a uniform small enough for Limpho.  She is so tiny.  I did let her pick out a cute backpack and her smile was huge just for that.  We will have to look for smaller sizes for her in Mafeteng and the proper fabric and then Nkonelo  can make her a uniform.  We went all over town trying to find the blue and gold fabric for St. Patrick’s primary school but it wasn’t to be found anywhere.

Tuesday, August 6

On Friday, I helped Sister look for her passport.  We looked high and low through the office, down at the project building and over at the Bishop’s office all without luck.  Without her passport she is unable to do many things here.  The most urgent is to get into the St. Camillus bank account.  Anyway, we didn’t find it but I got a email from Adam that I had $500 waiting for me at Standard Bank.  I had be scrimping along, waiting for my new credit card to come in the mail because I was under the impression that the Mohale’s Hoek Standard Bank couldn’t cash a MoneyGram.  Miraculously, after some drama they did cashed it and like that I had M4,800.00!  I went to Fairways, the local grocery store, and bought Kamo his formula, the kids some flour, sugar, oil, OMO, and all kinds of other stuff.  So much, I could barely carry it to the truck.

When I picked Sr. J up in the afternoon she decided she should just go home to the convent and tear her room apart to find her passport and I decided to help the kids wash the bakkie.  It turned into a very nice time with them.

Today I spent completely here at home with the kids.  Sr. J came over in the morning triumphant that she had found her passport, whew!  She then took the bakkie to Mazenod (near Maseru, about 1.5 hours from here) to visit her sick mother.  I talked to the girls about crocheting and knitting projects which they wanted to do but everyone had to do laundry and chores first.  That worked out well because I was a little fuzzy on how to crochet so I had time to follow the book I brought and I started making a simple scarf.  In the afternoon I had all sorts of interest from my girls and some of the neighbor girls. Our entire group sat on the back porch in the afternoon crocheting or knitting.  The little ones needed baths so the basins were brought to the porch and they took baths, which is entertaining to watch as they both love and hate the water.

I see now that crocheting and knitting with the kids has a huge bonus.  It gives me something to do while hanging out with them.  I can listen or join in chatting while they help me with my Sesotho and I help them with knitting/crocheting.

I truly enjoy everyone in this house.  Each personality has something to offer and it is a unique family.  I can’t imagine adding or subtracting anyone.  I know that the goal is to find homes and real families for these kids but they have become a big happy family of their own.  They all spend so much time laughing together.  And they have worked it out so everyone, for the most part pulls together.   Makatiso is a really good “Mom” to them by listening, laughing, bossing and watching them.  She doesn’t do their tasks, but she does follow them around to make sure they do them.

Sunday was a beautiful day! I decided to see if Shawna would like to go for a hike so BBM’d her (BlackBerry Messenger).  She said yes so I headed to her house and we went really nice hike to the Caves that are along the bluff above us.  I took a lot of photos and will include them here.

Thursday, August 1

We are starting to get the sand and gravel we’ll need to make concrete blocks for the new orphanage building.  The men have delivered 3 loads of sand to the site so far.  Great!  Except now the truck is out of diesel and we need to come up with money for more if we want them to continue.  I don’t know where we are going to get this.  We’ll have to figure out something.  The sand and gravel comes from the local river and it is important to get it now during the dry season as the sand will be unattainable once the rainy season starts.  All of this is done by hand by men with shovels.  There isn’t a backhoe or skiploader of any kind.  It’s a major amount work.  The architect in Washington is working hard on the plans for the new building but we don’t have them finalized yet.   At this point there isn’t even a contract with our builder nor a final quote only estimates.  Things are moving though!

This afternoon we needed to stop at Convent and I visited with the sister who is in charge of the piggery.  They had just slaughtered a pig to prepare for a large conference that will be held here next week with lots of people to feed.  Fortunately, when I arrived they had already slit its throat and were preparing it by first shaving all the the hair off it and scrubbing it with soap and water.  Apparently they eat the skin by cutting and grinding it and baking it with the contents of the head.   Nothing is wasted!  Sister claimed it’s delicious and will send me over some to try.  Hmmm…

Wednesday, July 31

Because today, the 31st , was the first day of the new school year, the kids have been pretty hyped up about going back to school.  I was asked by some of the kids to mend their school uniforms so I spent time hemming, patching and re-sewing ripped seams using the sewing machine I brought from home.  Most of the uniforms must have been handed down many times.  Some are really threadbare.  I’m that Sr. J would like to get them some new ones but that is low low low on the priority list.

The past few days have been all about trying to find food for the laying hens. I have come to realize the price of laying mash is climbing every week.  I am pretty sure we are now losing money and struggle to find the mash as well as the money to buy it.  Today Sr. J and I scraped together enough to buy 10 bags at the price of M209/bag (about $20.90).  Last week I got it for M197.  They say that next week it will be M230.  I keep telling her we NEED to charge more for eggs but she is resisting that.  I found at the market they are charging almost M5 more per tray than us.

Some of the kids had scheduled check-ups the past couple days.  Yesterday it was Lesali.  She is HIV and showing a lot of really awful running sores on her head and legs.  I know she is diligent taking her ARV’s (AntiRetroViral drugs).  I see her in the evening get her bottle of pills, shake out 3 pills, expertly snap one of them in two and take her 2 ½ pills before going to bed.  She is 5 years old!

I don’t know what her life will be like as an PLWHA’s (People Living With HIV/AIDS, this acronym is everywhere in Africa).  I hear talk that because of ARV’s, infected people feel fine and go about spreading AIDS without qualm because they can have a fine life and the ARV’s are free plus sometimes there is other aid that comes with being infected and on the drugs.  People receiving ARV’s for example are given food (rarely, but sometimes) over people who are not.  It’s true that many people die from AIDS but apparently they do not take the drugs for one reason or another.  It is a weird quandary that Africa has been placed.  I am going to try and avoid making any judgments and just try to help little kids that did not choose this life and must somehow survive in it.

‘Me Makatiso took Lesali to the clinic yesterday and I drove them and dropped them off very early, 6:30AM, so she could be one of the first in line.  She still didn’t get home until late afternoon.  Today she took Ikaneng and the baby, Kamohelo.  She had a long day with them too.

Long day for Sr. J and I also.  She took all the other kids to the project where there are other kids to help look after them.  These other kids, I found out, aren’t in school because the schools are “full” and won’t take them.  I think it might be deeper than that.  These kids do not have ANY resources other than what St. Camillus Center (Sr. Juliana) can provide and we are tapped out! Primary school is “free” but you have to have a uniform and fees for books and whatever.  She told me she has heard of a school nearby where two children have died so she was going to go and try to get them signed up there.  Crazy, absolutely crazy!

I did accomplish a very important task today.  I took my letter from TLC on Tuesday to the Immigration office and waited in a line with Chinese and Zimbabweans.  The Zimbabweans were interesting.  When I asked them what brought them to Lesotho they said “Work”.  There is no work, money or food in Zimbabwe so they came here!  That was a shock, there is work, money and food here?  Really?!??  Anyway, I finally got my Volunteer Visa, Yea!