Sunday, January 9, 2011

Cricket: Lesotho vs. India

There is a strong historical British influence on Basotho culture, hence English as one of the two official languages. One of the unexpected consequences of this historical link is that the Basotho play cricket. Cricket is a match about which I knew nothing other than the humorous references made to it by Douglas Addams. (I suspect I am not alone in that.)

As fate would have it, there is a large Indian population in Lesotho. Indians also play cricket. In fact, according to an Indian friend of ours here, star cricket players in India are treated much like rock stars in the United States. During the week leading up to India's Independence Day (August 15), there was a booth set up at the mall (there is only one mall in Lesotho) with information on India and cultural events going on around town. One of these events was a cricket match between an Indian team and a Basotho team.

As it turns out, the match was to be played at Machabeng College, which is only a few blocks from where we live. So, one sunny Sunday in August, my wife and I wandered over to Machabeng College to try to learn a little about cricket. Because it was still winter, the field was rather brown; however, it was not cold at all that day.

Team Lesotho (I believe this is Lesotho's national team):

Team India (I understand this to be one of the teams comprised of local residents of Indian heritage):

The match began with each team singing its national anthem:

Then, play commenced. Thankfully, our aforementioned friend was there to talk us through the basics of the match. Once we understood, or at least thought we understood, a little about the match, it was quite enjoyable to watch.

The crowd that day was small, and I suspect that Kathy and I were the only people there who were neither Basotho nor Indian. Nonetheless, what few spectators there were seemed quite enthusiastic. (As it turns out, we were told later that we were on the news.)

Watching the young fans was yet another opportunity to see cultural traditions being passed on from one generation to the next - a particular type of experience I am coming to appreciate more and more.

As much as we enjoyed watching, when we left we had been there for almost two hours and it was only half time. And this, we had been informed, was the short version of cricket. Next time - and I would like to go to another match - we will simply pack a picnic basket and make a day of it.

Now, I have been thinking about this. Here, we have a sporting event that lasts all day, provides ample opportunity for fans to camp out, eat and drink in excess, and spend an entire day watching activities that those who are not fans: 1) cannot even begin to understand; and 2) find so uninteresting that they immediately assume that those who do enjoy it are also uninteresting. To me, this seems like the British Empire's answer to NASCAR...

Dressed To Swear

So the final stage of getting a new group of volunteers into the field is their swearing in. I did not get to attend this event, but Kathy looked so stunning in her traditional African dress that I just had to share this photo:

And not to be outdone, of course, one of her APCDs (APCD = Associate Peace Corps Director), Charles, also looked stunning in his traditional African Garb:

I do not yet have any such garments, but Kathy keeps promising...

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Village Feast

When Peace Corps volunteers first arrive in a country, they are not sent immediately out to their posts. They go through three months of fairly intense training first. This new group, CHED 10, stayed in "training villages", where they could grow accustomed to village life in a more controlled environment. At the end of this training period, Kathy and I were invited to a feast being hosted by one of the villages for its newly "graduated" volunteers.

Keep in mind, that while this was a "training village", it was still very much a village:

When we arrived, the volunteers who trained in this village were all just relaxing in some shirts the village had had made for them:

Well, they were not all relaxing, exactly...

Nonetheless, there was most definitely a feast on the way, and the bo-'m'e were busy getting it ready:

Meanwhile, I admired the view:

And my wife, in her traditional Basotho blanket (nkobo ea Basotho, pronounced "nh-KOH-boh yah buh-SOO-too"), chatted with the volunteers:

And the volunteers played with some of the local children:

I am not certain who was having more fun, those kids or the volunteers! But a good time was definitely had by all. And as the formal graduation ceremony began, the children gathered around:

My wife, as Country Director, took her seat in a place of honor:

'M'e Malineo (pronounced "may mah-DEE-nay-oh"), one of the language instructors (and our Sesotho tutor when we first arrived, as well as a super-nice person), made an opening speech to the gathered bo-'m'e in their traditional garb:

A village elder who apparently took the proceedings quite seriously:

A pensive gentleman in blue who, as it turns out, was the village chief (I think I have this right - morena ma motse, pronounced "moh-RAY-nuh mah moh-TSAY"):

And of course the volunteers (who apparently could not be completely separated from their new-found young friends):

We were treated to traditional songs:

And a to a traditional dance:

The dance appeared to hold the attention of the village children as well as it held mine. I quite enjoyed this, as it felt as if cultural traditions were being passed down through the generations right before my eyes.

The chief even made a speech:

After which he was presented with a blanket by my wife and the volunteers, with translations provided by 'M'e Malineo:

Then, the volunteers treated the chief, the bo-'m'e, the gathered villagers, assorted Peace Corps trainers, their Country Director and myself, to a song:

Then one particularly courageous new volunteer (who was apparently more aware of my photographic documentation of the event than I might have hoped) made a speech entirely in Sesotho:

More traditional singing followed:

Then we all went to the feast. I must say that there was more for me, as a vegan, to eat than I had feared. The morojo (a very Basotho vegetable dish, pronounced "muh-ROH-ho") was delicious! I have been told the secret is Aromat.

The volunteers, despite having eaten this kind of food for most of the preceding three moths, appeared to enjoy it as much as I:

As did the villagers:

Some of whom also seemed intent on proving that I will never master the art of discretion when it comes to my photography:

No, really, everyone seemed to know what I was up to:

I have to say, this was easily one of my favorite events thus far. It gave me a peak into what it looks like when the volunteers begin to integrate into local communities, and how much joy and learning can come out of the experience for everyone - including me!