Sunday, January 20, 2013

Christmas 2012

That, in case you are wondering, is the vegan yule log I made for our Christmas 2012 dinner.  It was melt-in-your-mouth good.  Just so you know.  But I get ahead of myself.  Much of Christmas is about family and friends.  Our family, apart from each other, is a long way from Lesotho.  But we do have friends here.  A Peace Corps Volunteer here in Lesotho recently shared with me that her best friend here is a nun.  Mine is one of our guards, Ntate Marabe (n-DAH-tay muh-RAH-bay, with the "r" rolled).  One of the highlights of this past Christmas season was meeting his two sons, Mpho (m-PHOH) and Motseki (moh-TSEH-kee), when all three came to visit me at our house.

Also on my gratitude list was the a bit of an enterprise that Kathy and I undertook to help out another friend I have made here, Ntate Molefi (n-DAH-tay moh-LAY-fee).  He is a street vendor, which is a much more common occupation here than back in the States.  He set sup his "shop" (a few wooden palates piled with produce and snacks) near a foot bridge between our house and Kathy's office.  So over time, I have gotten to know him.  He is a truly hard-working guy, always out there, even when many of the other street vendors are not because of the weather or other reasons.  And he is always friendly and willing to take time to help me with my Sesotho and teach me about what life is like for him in the "real" Maseru (as opposed to the sheltered existence of ex-pats like me).  He is just a good guy.  

We talk about his business, what he dreams for it and how he is working to get there.  One of the problems he had was that his produce and other goods was subject to the elements - to the sun and the rain.  He was saving up to buy a tent to cover them.  Then I noticed that a store in our new mall sold tents like the one Ntate Molefi wanted.  So I talked with Kathy, and we decided to get him one.  We went to the store and identified two that seemed as if they would meet his needs.  One was substantially less expensive than the other, so we got it and took it to Ntate Molefi.  He was profoundly grateful, which almost made me feel guilty, as in less than a month in the U.S I can spend at Starbucks what that tent cost.  But I also felt really good about it.  

Kathy and I helped him set it up.  Unfortunately, it was in about 20 pieces with "insert section A into corner connector B" instructions and would have been really, really difficult, if not impossible, for one person to set up and take down by himself every day.  One of the things Kathy and I talk about here is that in international development work many failures come about because what is done or provided actually ends up creating more problems than it solves.  (After all, the only immutable law is the Law of Unintended Consequences.) I felt like we had just encountered a small scale example of that phenomenon..  Thankfully, my wife is both gracious and supportive, so when I suggested we go back to the store and look at the other tent, she agreed.  It turned out to be much better and easier to assemble.  So we bought that one and took it to Ntate Molefi, with whom I am standing here just after we finished erecting that tent.


I still worried that we might have made things more difficult for him, but it has been almost a month and the new tent seems to be working out well for him.  So perhaps that part of Christmas does have a happy ending...

We also prepared a Christmas feast in our home, to which we invited an eclectic mix of folks whom we knew to be around and without any place else to go for Christmas.  So I began referring to us as the Island of Misfit Toys.  But it was a grand meal and a good way to spend Christmas dinner.

After Christmas, Kathy and I decided to get away by returning to Maliba Lodge for a couple of nights.  It really is a tranquil place.  The main lodge looks out over the guest lodges where we stayed.

And the view from the deck at the main lodge just never gets old.

Even though I had to work part of that time, it was not a bad setting in which to do so.


Christmas with Kathy is always a delight, and my time with her a great and marvelous gift. 

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