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!

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