Thursday, March 25, 2010

Mohale Dam


I had read about Mohale Dam in the guide books before ever setting foot on the continent of Africa. And we had seen the road signs, starting at the edge of Maseru, pointing the way. So we went. What the guide books and signs did not tell us was that the journey was the destination, though the dam itself was worth a look.

We were reminded that over 80% of Lesotho's people rely on agriculture for their existence:

And we witnessed the rugged rural splendor that is so much of Lesotho's countryside:

We found constant reminders that this is the Mountain Kingdom:

We saw the famous 'herd boys', a sub-population so much a part of Basotho culture that they have their own name, balisana (the singular is molisana):

And just as the sky here seems bigger, so I suspect is our perspective - there are moments when I swear we can see forever:

Did I mention the mountains? They were so green:

Mohale Dam itself was, and presumably still is, a significant public investment. While it was being constructed, a village was established just to support the workers. That village is still there, though perhaps not thriving as it did at the time:

It is difficult to get close enough to the dam to get a really good sense of its enormity, and even more difficult to get that to come across in a photograph on a web page. Please take my word for it, though, when I tell you that it is impressive:

As is the valley behind the dam:

While we were exploring the area, I even got a chance to practice some of my very limited Sesotho language skills with a guard (I call what I was speaking 'Sesenglish'):

Even knowing a few words of Sesotho makes a tremendous difference in my interactions. The Basotho people, a as rule, really warm up to me whenever I pull out my few words and phrases. That I am simply trying pleases them. Kathy and I are both learning, and we are having fun with it. (She is much better with languages than I am - she already speaks three.)

And what is a journey such as this without church people? Incomplete, it seems. Just prior to reaching the gate where I engaged the guard in a cross-cultural experience, we passed two cars parked on the side of the road, surrounded by white people (not a common sight here). They waved as we passed, and we waved back. By the time we passed them on our return, their friendly waves had taken on a frantic edge. We stopped. They were having trouble with one of their cars - a rental - and we were able to help them get the phone number they needed.

But that is not the interesting part. You see, the woman who was leading this group of about a half dozen folks from Oklahoma had had a dream. In that dream, she had seen the letters L-E-S-O-T-H-O. (She had never heard of the country before that. She looked it up online later.) Also in that dream, she had seen a woman, surrounded by children, crying and saying "Help me". So she put together a group from her church and traveled to Lesotho, where she was trying to figure out what she could do to fight human trafficking there. I swear I am not making this up. Everyone else who hears this story thinks of her as the crazy church lady, but I am impressed. It takes a lot of courage to do what she did. It may take a lot of crazy, too, but she means well. I think that matters.

When we left, they seemed set to get out of there safely - and indeed we passed a tow truck going the other way. Before heading home, we stopped for lunch at Mohale Lodge:

The scenery on the way back just reminded us again and again how breath-taking this country is:

Of course, these are only a small selection of the photographs I took on this trip. Many more of them are in my Mohale Dam Picasa web album.

And I also shot some simple video to provide a different sense of what the journey was like. The valley road video captures what driving through the lower elevations was like, including the occasional livestock in the road and something I have not seen much in the U.S. - people walking long distances. In Lesotho, we have seen lone individuals and groups out walking along the roadside miles (or rather kilometers) from anywhere. Cars are just not universal here the way they are in the States.

Finally, the mountain road video gives a really good sense of what the views are like on high. The children who occasionally flash into view are actually gathered in groups along the road - again miles from anywhere - and often selling produce or crafts. (Kathy purchased a woven purse that now adorns our living room wall.)

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