Sunday, March 27, 2011

Two Nice Guys - Two Farewells

Also at the end of August, Lesotho bid farewell to two of the genuinely nicest guys I have ever met...

Ambassador Nolan (U.S. Ambassador to Lesotho):

and Rich (Peace Corps' Administrative Officer):

I enjoyed every conversation I ever had with either of these gentlemen. And each, from the unique perspective of his own position in Lesotho, was deeply committed to supporting Peace Corps and its volunteers. In fact, during his farewell speech Ambassador Nolan referred to Peace Corps as the "jewel in the crown" of America's presence in Lesotho. I hope they are both happy and as well appreciated as they ought to be in their new pursuits.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Hashing Again

Though the Hash happens almost every week, Kathy and I participate only intermittently. Weekend time is just too precious, and too often spent elsewhere. But when we do go, we are reminded of Lesotho's spellbinding landscapes...

and its agrarian roots.

Here, the slightly more colorful Hashers set out on their weekly trek:

This hike, in late August, traversed some spectacular farmland:

Crossed paths with balisana (bah-DEE-sah-nah), or herd boys, who were quite friendly - and curious.

This home, which we passed shortly before completing the morning's journey, actually had some solar panels set up in a small hillside array:

The hike finished at Ha Baroana, which is being developed as an historical site.

We hiked down into the nearby gorge, pausing on this bridge to pose:

And to admire the water below:

Then, we continued a bit further down into the gorge, to admire the San cave paintings preserved there:

Truly, a beautiful spot, and worth preserving in its own right:

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Before a PCV Heads Home

Before heading home, one volunteer hosted a lunch at the Blue Mountain Inn. Friends and colleagues were invited to enjoy good food and sunshine. My wife was amongst those invited. I tagged along. Occasions like this, along with being enjoyable in their own right, are wonderful reminders of the diverse groups of people that Peace Corps brings together. Very cool.

As an aside, I must confess that the background music being provided by local musicians was not what I would have expected:

Nonetheless, partygoers of all ages seemed to find an enjoyable groove:

In the end, a good time was had by all, and a good friend will be missed as she has since returned to life Stateside. Actually, all but one of the volunteers pictured here have gone home since I took this. And they are all missed sorely! (And I am so behind on this blog!)

Batteries Not Included

Just in case I needed a reminder that security concerns create many markets...

Tsakholo High School Poetry Night 2010

As noted in my last post, I received permission to share some of the poetry written by one of the PCV's students and performed at a poetry night event she hosted in her home (which was on the school campus). The event was called "Tsakholo High School Poetry Night 2010" and featured poetry and creative writings from the Healthy Living Club of Tsakholo High School. (Students' names have been withheld to protect their privacy.) The words, I think, speak for themselves:

- - - - -

A Love of Life

It’s in my blood, I flow with it.
It’s in my lungs, I breathe it.
It’s in my heart, I feel it.
It fills every cell, I thrive on it.
It’s all around me, I see it, I hear it, love it and truly need it.
It fills the world with wonder and touches everything.
I’ll fight for it, cherish it, share it and treat it like a king.

It IS life!
A love of life has made me content to the core.
This Love of Life has brought good things to my door.
There are those who choose to run from life, hide from it or waste it.
I choose to embrace life, love it and make the most of it.

In return, my world is one of peace, happiness, and contentment.
Age has rewarded me with smile lines, not frown lines
And a life more precious than all the world’s gold mines.
My taste of life is so delicious that I am always hungry for more.
More to see, more to do, more to feel!
There is always more to life if you have A LOVE OF LIFE.

- - - - -

“A Joke”

A woman was once sitting in the living room with her son when she asked him to go and get the mop outside.

It was dark and so the son said, “No, mother, I am afraid of the dark.”

“You don’t have to be afraid, Jesus is there to protect you,” said the mother.

“Are you sure?” the boy asked. “Yes,” the mother said.

The boy hesitated for a second and went towards the door and opened it slowly and slightly called out:

“Hey Jesus, if you’re out there ,will you please pass me the mop?”

- - - - -


Trees grow
They grow so high
Their leaves are so green and healthy
Representing the symbol of peace

There is a question I have always been wanting to ask
To ask the world, for ages
It gets to me and swims through my capillaries

Is it fair that I have to suffer?
Do I have to suffer because of my parents’ mistakes?

That I have to wear torn shirts?
And walk barefoot to school?
All because I do not have the bus fare

That I have to hide during lunch time
Hiding in the toilets, waiting for the alarm to ring?
All because I have nothing to eat

That I passed my Senior Certificate exams with endorsement
But I cannot taste the world of tertiary education
The reason being no money

But, there is a word I have been taught
A word I have learned as a small girl
A word I will never forget
That word is God
That He is the one and the only responsible
Responsible for the creation of this world
And the creatures in it

There is a strong feeling, deep in my heart
That one day, just one day, my turn shall come
That no one shall stop me, that I will be successful
And the past shall be HISTORY…

Thank you all!!

- - - - -

Super Heroine

Condolences for losing the one you love
It was very sad and a very unpleasant moment
But to my enemies it was very happy
Someday, I will try to sit back and picture
My life without my Mother

Without her, I can’t see any vivid future
I know there are many people wishing her
All the best… still hoping I get condolences
From the mighty one

Trust in GOD Mom… He will give you power
Above all, strength to deal with your problems

You are the best Mom ever
You raised me from my childhood
You did everything in your reach while I was ill
You accompanied me to school
You dried my tears when I cried
I will always put myself before you

You chased all the nightmares away
Mom, you are my role model, My heroine

Why are you so wicked?
Everyone wonders
You hurt our feelings
You separate us from our beloved ones
But why? Why so wicked?

- - - - -

My Wish For You

May your journey through life be
An adventure of discovery and growth
May everyone you meet warm
Both your heart and soul
May you live long and well
And may laughter fill your every cell

Above all else,
May your life’s song be long
And sweet

L - Learn
I - Inspire
V - Value
E - Enthuse

- - - - -

Like a Bird

The sky is so high in the atmosphere
Clouds move about high
And so I want to fly like a bird
High in the sky

The colour blue, oh amazing!
The stars that glint like a luxurious diamond
What a wonderful scene
Amazing and attractive

I wish I could have massive and stunning features
Features that could take me high upon the clouds
To breathe the freshness of minty air
The air that makes us live

Birds fly high in the sky
Where there is freedom
That makes them walk on air
Freedom from predators and hungry jackals
The world where love leads
And so that is what I want
Live in peace and love
Happy and free

- - - - -

A Mistake in Life

I have seen the worst of days
I have slept without praying
I have been in all sorts of mischief
I have even mingled with thieves
And I have never made such a mistake in my entire life

I have lied several times
Even been involved in some crimes
I even refused to pay fines
I have never been so mistaken

I grieve to many
But I had no right to hurt you
I have steppe don many toes
But you did not deserve the pain
I never meant to hurt you Mum
It is the worst mistake I ever made in my whole life

- - - - -

Mother’s Day

Mum, I’m very happy to have you
as a mother, you are a priceless gift from God
I thank you for showing me the ways of life

You are the strength I used to wipe away the clouds
Of fear to fight all the problems I encountered
You brought me under difficulties
You used to carry me on your back
When you went to fetch water or wood
Through drizzling rains and hot suns
You covered me and protected me with LOVE
Your LOVE has been like food to my soul

When I was sick, you were like medicine to me
Through your loving effects

You are the holder of my happiness.

- - - - -

My Nightmare Wedding

The day rose with curiosity as I was to revamp from Miss to Mrs. A wedding is said to be the most splendid day isn’t it? But believe me, mine was a nightmare

My wedding day rose without any hesitation. I was going to live forever with a man I thought was one in a million. The one I thought I would live a red roses life with. I decided to hold the wedding at a church which I believed to be the most holy place. I was privileged to have a partner like that to marry.

I began contemplating our luxurious future, happy and full of fun. I was suddenly summoned out of my thoughts by notes of the keyboard. Bingo! I knew it was time for the bride to get into the church. The dress was phenomenal on my sculpted body and made me feel so smashing.

I took about four steps into the room and suddenly I was in a storm of anxiety. I trembled, mouth open wide. I knew I had to do what was right. It was not a good sign for a bride to feel that nervous so I turned into a run-away bride. I threw the bouquet in the air and trespassed over the lawn to my home.

I was not ready for being a wife. It is a life-long commitment we are talking about here, not a game which would end minutes later. My fiancée was so hurt that he was taken for psycho therapy. I was filled with fury but there was no turning back. And I was sorry.

- - - - -

Sunday Birthday Joke

Sunday morning, grandmother went to the church with her granddaughter. After settling, altar boys enter holding lit candles. The granddaughter asked granny if there was a birthday party. She could not wait for the answer and started to sing loudly, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU! HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!”

- - - - -

A Smile

It costs nothing but means a lot
It enriches those who receive it
Without impoverishing those who give it
It happens in a flash

But the memory lasts forever
None are so rich
That they can get on without it
None are so poor

But are the richest for its benefits
It is the reset to the weary
Daylight to the discouraged
Sunshine to the sad and
Nature’s best antidote in times of trouble

Yet love can’t be borrowed or stolen
For it’s something that is not earthly
Useful to only one
Useless unless given away

In the rush of business
If a man is too tired to give you one
Then leave your smile

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Teaching in Lesotho

Also back in August, I got to visit another volunteer. This one was a classroom teacher, rather than a resource teacher.

We began on a hill top, where this particular PCV was able to show us the layout of her village, and describe a bit about the school system to us. The school system in Lesotho is fairly extensive, and primary education is universal (about through 7th grade).

We then went down to her school, which was easily identified by this sign:

Thankfully, the other side was in English:

I found it interesting that the same emphasis on a drug free environment I have seen at many U.S. schools is present here, as well, albeit with a specific focus on smoking.

The PCV took us into her classroom, where I was again able to experience a Lesotho classroom first hand - including the lack of temperature controls. As you can see, the teachers all wear coats. (It is my understanding that the children are not allowed to wear coats.)

This time, the classes seemed a bit more crowded than what I had seen at the last school I visited. Nonetheless, teacher and students alike seemed really engaged with the subject matter - and far more animated than I remember classrooms being when I was that age.

PCVs all work with counter-parts in their employing organizations, who serve, at least initially, as their primary connection with the organization. From what I gather, they learn a great deal from one another: not only about their primary activity (such as teaching), but also about cultures and perspectives and life in general. On this particular site visit, I was fortunate to be able to watch the PCV's counter-part in action:

Seems like his students were having a little too much fun...

The school grounds were a bit bare, given that it was still winter, but quite nice (I thought) just the same.

During our tour of the school, we got to see the library. While in the States we may tend to take the presence of school libraries for granted (which we should not), here in Lesotho they are not so ubiquitous. I gather that those that do exist are there because of the special and dedicated efforts of individuals at the school - be they volunteers or teachers or community members or some combination thereof. Books, after all, cost money.

Because there are no indoor temperature controls, i.e., there is no heat, when not in class the students tend to try to find sunny spots on the school grounds to gather and socialize.

And the teachers tend to do their non-classroom work, such as grading, outdoors in the sun as well.

As with the last volunteer, I also got to see where this one lived. Her house was much larger than most PCVs here in Lesotho (more than two rooms), and I was particularly taken with how she had used her extra space: for the students. She had created a space for them to express themselves creatively. As a poet myself, I must say I was really pleased.

I was given permission to share some of the poetry the students presented during one of this volunteer's hosted poetry nights, and I will do so in an upcoming post. I just wish I could have been there when they read their work...

Horse-riding PCV

So, we got busy with guests and travel and work again and my endeavor to get caught up on this blog got sidelined again. My apologies. I now return to August of 2010 to resume where I left off...

While my wife, as Peace Corps' Country Director here, regularly gets to visit the sites where Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) work, I seldom do. Something about keeping my day job...

However, I was fortunate enough to get to visit two volunteers' sites this past August. The first is a Resource Teacher. That is, she is a resource to other teachers, providing them with guidance and assistance in improving their teaching. She travels from school to school in her area, helping the local teachers as needed in improving the education they provide to children such as these:

In classrooms like these:

In places like this:

Where the school houses look like this:

The children pictured directly above are actually in a pre-school, and they are called linkunyana (deen-KOON-yahn-uh), or little sheep...

The classrooms I saw were bare but clean, crowded but not too overly so. I have heard some are, though, with 50 or more students in a class. As I understand it, Lesotho suffers from a perennial teacher shortage. Hence, the need for PCVs as teachers.

The students seemed largely engaged, and occasionally even enthusiastic, despite what to me was the most salient fact of their classroom environment: no temperature controls. The teachers all tend to wear coats while teaching, though the children do not. Lesotho winters do get cold - cold enough for snow. And many of these children walk a long way just to get to school, as there are no school buses (though some take local buses).

The teachers, including resource teachers, also travel quite long distances at times. Indeed, in order to get around, as she serves several schools over a fairly broad area, this particular PCV needs some form of transportation - as walking would simply not suffice. Given the terrain, the most logical solution is a horse. This, she rents.

After meeting some of her students, and her ride, we got to see her house, with its minimal but cozy kitchen:

And, of course, we met some of the creatures who share that particular plot of land with her:

And they did, of course, feel free to stroll by any old time...

And no wonder. Who would not want to enjoy this view with her? I mean, really...