Thursday, July 21, 2011

The King's 48th Birthday


This past weekend, 17 July 2011, we attended the celebration of King Letsie III's 48th birthday in Teyateyaneng (TY). King Letsie III is the current King of Lesotho and is named after the eldest son of King Meshoeshoe I, the nation's founder.

There was a marching band:

And the Lesotho Defense Forces (LDF) were all dressed in their finest:

As were thousands of Basotho:

Also in attendance were my beautiful wife and a few volunteers, mostly from the newest batch of trainees - all of whom watched with great interest:

And our friends Charles and Prince, and yours truly, all dressed up in our finest likhobo ("dee-KHOH-boh", or blankets):

The band played a bit to set the mood:

It was not too long, though, until the main event, the arrival of the guest of honor, His Majesty King Letsie II:

I am not certain which part of his entourage I enjoyed most, but it might have been the motorcycle riders with Mohawks:

The King surveyed the field:

And reviewed the troops:

Who marched in smart order for the King:

I was impressed with how many of the soldiers are women, though I must confess that I have no idea how it compares with other nations:
Perhaps the grandest spectacle of the day was the landing of some paratroopers:

Along more traditional lines, the festivities also included dancers and singers:

A good time was had by all, and I join the nation of Lesotho in wishing their King a very happy birthday!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Blanket Cultural Festival 2011


This past Sunday, Kathy and I attended the Aranda Blanket Cultural Festival here in Maseru. This is an annual event sponsored by the company, Aranda, that produces most of the Basotho blankets worn here in Lesotho. These blankets, along with the Basotho hat evident on the nation's flag, constitute symbolic clothing that is part of Basotho ethnic and national identity (the two are almost inseparable).

The festival featured traditional food, live music and local artisans selling their wares. The famo music we heard was fantastic, and it featured a female lead vocalist. While famo began as a female-dominated music form, it is now performed more by men than women, so this was a treat for us.

Along with the artwork, there were traditional blankets on sale. While I had given one to Kathy for her birthday last year, I still did not have one. So Kathy got one for me! They are generally worn a certain way, so I needed help donning mine for the first time. Our primary daytime guard, Ntate Emcily (emm-seely), came to my rescue:

At the top is a shot with me standing in the sunlight, so that the colors come through more clearly. However, I was also staring into that sunlight, so I apologize for the squint and grimace!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Closer and Closer

Every year you tell me
Every year you insist
I need do nothing special for your birthday
It really
Is no big deal

But you forget
That for me the act of living
A celebration

A celebration
Of your irresistible entrance
Into my life

A celebration
Of your brilliant capture
Of my imagination

You forget
That for me the sunlight is your laughter
The rain
Is another reason to remain
Within your arms
A lingering moment or two more

You forget
That each day I rise
So that I may begin
Being consumed by you through another day

So that I may again taste life and time
As you
As us
Married and fulfilled

As us

As us
Reuniting with each touch and glance

You forget
That celebrating you
Is simply
What I do

Yours truly,

Visiting Family in Rhode Island

In September of 2010, Kathy and I visited family in Rhode Island while we were back in the States. This, of course, included some quality time with our niece, Maisy, who has apparently gone Hollywood:

She also enjoys cooking. I like to think that in this she is simply taking after me...

She also enjoys relaxing in the sun with the paper. In this, she takes after my wife:

Perhaps not surprisingly, she can climb and slide quite proficiently:

She does, however, seem a bit young to take up driving... But who am I to say?

At one point, the three of us went for a walk around the neighborhood. The sunlight seemed a bit much...

... but the views were worth it.

And provided a lovely spot for a quick nap.

After which, the water required closer inspection - as it so often does when you are two.

Of course, most water practically begs for a splash to be created, and this was no exception!

She's apparently on the fence about something...

We also spent time with the amazing Ruth, Kathy's grandmother on her mother's side.

During this part of our visit, Maisy noticed that her dad was tired, and made sure she addressed this appropriately:

And Ruth regaled us with tales of her seafaring adventures:

And generations of amazing spirits shared precious moments:

We even got to visit one of Kathy's favorite spots in all the world, Briggs Beach.

We picnicked there with Pat (Kathy's mom), Ellen (Kathy's Aunt), and Ruth:

Pat and Kathy apparently took a moment to discuss some serious matters (or maybe they were just cold?):

Even if it was a bit chilly, the spot was still spectacular - and enjoyed by all.

Back at Ruth's, Maisy demonstrated her burgeoning athletic prowess:

And I got to capture this wonderful reminder of how fortunate I am to have so many more incredible people in my family now that I am married to Kathy. From left to right: Ruth, Pat, Karen (Kathy's sister and Maisy's mom), Maisy and Kathy.

At the risk of repetition, the one major down side to living on the other side of the world is that we are so far away from our family. We thus find our times with them to be that much more precious, and we are that much more grateful for them.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Kathy's 45th Birthday

The reason we had to leave the mural project is that July 4th is most famously and significantly know as my wife's birthday. Places to go, and all that...

We began with a stopover at the Capulet Guest House:

And we had to visit Pietermaritzburg, the capital of the South African province we were visiting, KwaZulu-Natal (usually called KZN, or "kay zed enn"). This is where Gandhi was famously ejected from the first class section of a train - an event commemorated by a statue:

It really is quite striking how much Gandhi resembled Ben Kingsley...

At Kathy's urging, we also took a quick tour through the aptly named Valley of 1,000 Hills:

This was a detour well worth taking. Our destination, though, was Seascape, along the Dolphin Coast. Here is our room, as seen from the deck:

And here is the view from our deck:

I could have spent the whole weekend at our accommodation, but we did venture into Durban, where we explored the newly renovated seaside promenade:

We also got some Indian food, which was my only real goal in visiting Durban, given the substantial size of the Indian population there.

We also took a quick look at their spiffy new stadium, used for some of the World Cup 2010 games:

And we discovered a new flavor of nut (so to speak):

If that label is accurate, I am guessing that they are decidedly non-vegan!

Going between Durban and our lodging, we drove through the small upscale coastal town of Ballito, where some of the locals looked at us askance:

And in case you were wondering where Gandhi fueled up while he was in South Africa, we also found this on the road between Ballito and Durban:

I did mention that it was Kathy's Birthday, yes? Here she is on the morning of her Day, with a candle in her birthday cupcake (baked by me, of course):

She just keeps getting more beautiful, and her smile more brilliant...

Later during our stay, the skies got a bit stormy, but that did not deter these ultralight enthusiasts:

The mists and surf rose along the coastline that day, too, with striking results:

Sadly, we had to leave the Dolphin Coast all too soon and find our way back home to Maseru. Along the way, we stopped in the Royal Natal National Park (which we intend to revisit during warmer, greener weather):

As we did last year when we took a trip for Kathy's birthday, we saw widespread burning:

As near as I can tell, this is used as a low-cost grasslands management technique. Its benefits for the soil are debatable, and its costs in terms of air quality are painfully evident.

During our return trip, we traversed the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, where I got the distinct impression we were being watched:

(Those are blesbok.) And, after dinner in Clarens, we were treated (quite appropriately, as it was the conclusion of Kathy's Birthday Weekend) to the spectacular effect of the low sun at dusk settling its light across the South African landscape:

I am looking forward to a lifetime of finding new and beautiful places to share Kathy's Birthday with her. Truly, I am a very lucky man!