The past month has been delightful as we gear up to head to our permanent sites. Pre-service training has provided ample opportunity to integrate into the vibrant Basotho culture and I have been sure to take full advantage of the many prospects therein. From my Host Volunteer Visit, to traversing the nation via public transportation, to visiting my future colleagues and workplace; it has all been incredibly enriching in my pursuit of gaining the skills necessary to have a successful stay here in Lesotho.
Host Volunteer Visit
The purpose of the host volunteer visit (HVV) is to give us trainees an opportunity to travel to a site and observe the way of life of a current volunteer and the work they do. I was selected to travel to Qachas Nek- one of the most mountainous and southern points of Lesotho. Another trainee and I stayed with a CHED (Community, Health, & Economic Development) volunteer for a total of 3 days. It was an uplifting experience and really gave me the first taste of what is to come once I finish training. It took a total of 6 hours to transit by kombi from the capital of Maseru. These van-type taxis are the most common method for long distance travel and can be quite an experience within itself. As expected, we were packed in like sardines before embarking on the long and grueling trip. The time of departure was 3:30am but that did not prevent the taxi driver from blasting some Basotho jams. I was told to bring earplugs for these rides and that advice has proven to be an effective method for cancelling perhaps 1/8th of the stereo’s output. Fortunately there was a break at the 3 hour mark at which point a few of the people got off at their destination. After finally arriving to the Qachas Nek camptown taxi rank, I was able to get a true sense of the integration component and how valuable it truly is. Having yet to still travel another 2 hours to our host’s site, the volunteer immediately identified one of her friends who is a taxi driver. She negotiated for him to give up his spot so we could purchase some food in town before heading to her site. This kind gesture allowed us to pick up some meat and other foods that can’t be found outside of camptowns. The result was a delicious American staple: burgers and fries (pictured left).
The highlight of the HVV came on the first evening when we were informed of a graduation party occurring by the chief’s house in Hilltop. We approached the compound to find a joyous gathering of the entire community of Ha Rankakala. The star of the evening was Kuini Metsebo who had just graduated with a bachelors degree in education from the teaching university in Roma. At Basotho parties such as this, it is common to slaughter a sheep or cow and then serve it up in a grand feast. I was ecstatic to taste freshly grilled meat along with a side of papa (cornmeal) and carrot-slaw. Sometimes the hosts opt to serve alcohol, sometimes they don’t. This particular one chose the former and it made for a jubilant evening filled with dancing and laughter. This was the first night I felt like a real Basotho.. and was certainly treated like one. I’ve been told weeks later they still refer to me as “Lord of the Dance”. You’ll just have to use your imagination for that one.
4th of July
Independence Day was well spent here in Lesotho. This was the first of many American holidays that will be celebrated here, so I was quite curious as to what kind of events would be planned and what the atmosphere would be ultimately be like. Needless to say, I undoubtedly missed the traditional family gathering, the annual hometown parade, the golf outing, and of course, the fireworks. However, the Peace Corps staff held a top notch cookout at the Pabalong Clinic in Berea for us. The day was combined with a hands-on practical lesson about gardening and compost preparation followed by a delectable lunch filled with hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, and coleslaw. We then played American Football and Ultimate Frisbee. Hats off to them for making the day one to remember.
Last week I visited my future site and met the counterpart and supervisor with whom I’ll be working with for the next 2 years. There is much to explain and a future post will focus on the details of my specific job duties. I’ll also post pictures of my living quarters (which is the Ritz in comparison to what was expected).
Until then, sala hantle my friends!