Wednesday, July 23, 2014

My Trip to Mozambique Part 1

Shortly after school ended, I spent a chic week in the African tropical paradise that is Mozambique!!!

   I recently got a chance to visit the southern African country of Mozambique, a melting pot of many different cultures.
   It's a tropical paradise, consisting of 16 main ethnic groups.
   Fishing is a huge source of income, and about 80 percent of the population relies on subsidized farming (maize, cassava) to get by.
   Portuguese is the official language, as the country was colonized by Portugal. I had to pick up a few phrases such as Bom dia (Good morning) and Obrigado (Thank you!).
Mozambique gained its independence in 1975.
   I had a great time during my stay there back in June.
   Take a peek at my chic week that wasn't weak in Mozambique!

I went with several Peace Corps buddies. We first stopped in the capital, Maputo, for a night.

Crafts were everywhere! I bought only three of these necklaces. Only three!

Then we hit up Tofo Beach. I saw these ladies along the way. I loved the lady in the middle's fabric.

These were my PCV friends I went with. Dominick (on my right), Amanda, Mary Beth and Will. Dominick spent his summer break with Will and Amanda.

This was the view from the hotel. I'm a beach girl so I really appreciated waking up to this type of heaven:)

The fellows were going crazy at the craft market because it wasn't peak tourist season. I tried to limit my exposure there but couldn't.

The currency is called Meticals. The exchange rate was 3 Meticals to 1 South African Rand/Lesotho Loti. So 200 Rand ($20 USD) was equivalent to 600 Meticals.

It was nice to see greenery and palm trees!

I had to go to Inhambane, the next town out, to go to the ATM. The buildings were painted in bright, cold colors, which I loved!

Fishermen fetch their catches of the day in these dhow boats.

I liked the way the women there wrapped their babies around them with their bold fabrics.

I spent more money on fabric than food. No lie.

I spent many days like this!

   Overall, I had a really good time in Mozambique. I stayed at Nordin's Lodge, which was right on the beach and farely reasonably priced.
  Tomorrow, I'll talk about the food I ate in Moz. Stay tuned!

Source: Lonely Planet guide

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Traditional Basotho Names

These are my host brothers, Tsepiso and Katleho. Their names mean promise and success, respectively.

    Lerato rato borato. Banana fana borato. My, my borato. Lerato!
   OK, that was corny but names are really important here in Lesotho. (BTW, Lerato means love in Sesotho.)
   Basotho tend to give their children positive names like Mpho (gift), Palesa (flower) and Thabo (joy/happiness).
   They believe that a bad name is an omen. But if a family has a child after one that has died, that child can be given a bad name. The "bad name" is given to get the child to survive, according to my Peace Corps Sesotho Language Book.
   A bad name can be ntja (dog), Mosela (tail), Nthofeela (thing) or Tsoene Motho (one who looks like a monkey).
   "Good names" can also be given to children who succeed those who died. Some examples are Tseliso (consolation), Malefane (one who pays) and Puseletso (reimbursement).
   Here are some other tidbits about names in Basotho culture:

-Many children are given Christian names at Baptism, since many Basotho are Christian.

-When a woman marries, her first and last names completely change. She will likely be "Ma," or "Mother of someone." For example, MaPalesa means mother of Palesa, and MaThabo means mother of Thabo.

-Other Basotho will give their children the name of one of their ancestor to honor the family heritage.

-Some families give their sons the same first names as their last names to honor the family name. For example, my host family's last name is Tsiane. So one member of the family's name is Tsiane Tsiane.

   I use the names to help me learn Sesotho. I've picked up many words in school and around the village just from asking the kids what their names are.
   They've taught be Banolo (soft), Neo (gift), Likotse (dangerous) and one of my faves Lehohohnolo (lucky).

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Winter in Lesotho

You know it's winter when you see the little kids wrapped up in blankets!

   If hell is experiencing a winter with no central heating, then I guess I’m there.
   It’s winter here and it’s not pretty.
  It’s so cold that schools close during June and July because teaching and learning are impossible in frigid conditions. So cold that I have to put on about five layers to keep warm. So cold that all I can eat is soup and drink tea. So cold that sometimes, washing my ass with baby wipes only is sufficient enough by me (My standards for cleanliness have changed drastically since joining the Peace Corps.) So cold that I paint my nails way less than I do during warmer months. 
   Thankfully, I do have a heater that I light up at night, when temps can go below zero. And my big brother did send me a sleeping bag that keeps me pretty toasty.
   Honestly, I shouldn't be complaining because I’m in the lowlands, the mini mountains. My fellow volunteers in the monstrous mountains are the ones who are really suffering. It snows and is much colder out in those parts of the country. Well, actually, it snowed in my district (a rare occurrence) in May and it freaked me out but I survived.  
   Ever the optimist, I have decided to find the warmth, good things, about this frigid winter. Read on:

-Dairy lasts longer: I eat way more dairy during winter months because my house will get so cold that it will act as a refrigerator. Pretty cool, eh? No? Lol.

-More reading: It’s too cold to do anything else but curl up with a book and get lost in it.

-Less bathing: OK, there was a volunteer who didn’t wash her ass for like, five months. That’s not me and that’s not what I’m advocating here. But during the wintertime, and especially when I’m not at school, I do get a little lax because it’s way too cold to care. I bath every 2-3 days, OK?! I do. No lie. 

-Winter break: Lord knows I love the kiddies and all but it’s nice to have some time off, sleep in and spend my time doing whatever I want with it. Being a human being truly is underrated.

-Hibernation: I don’t visit many volunteers much during the winter. Too cold to be social and traveling and shit like that. I gladly turn in to Winnie the Pooh and keep my ass at home. Ya dig?

   So yeah. Winter here is cold. Very cold. 
   They don’t call Lesotho the “Switzerland of Africa” for no reason.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Moshoeshoe’s Day (World Wise post)

This blog post is part of a series of activities that I'm doing for the Peace Corps' World Wise program. The program links Basotho and American schools through various activities such as blogs like this one and friendly letters.

  Hi boys and girls! How are you? I hope it’s starting to feel like spring in America. I know you have had a very snowy winter.
   This month’s blog post is about the most important cultural event in Lesotho, Moshoeshoe’s Day. Say it with me…Moh-Shway-shway’s Day!!
   This special day honors King Moshoeshoe I, the founder of Basotho nation. He was a great warrior and was strong allies with the world famous Shaka Zulu.
   My school hosted the Moshoeshoe’s Day ceremony this year, which was held on March 11. Six other schools attended. This is how the day went down:

Early in the morning, it started raining like bats and frogs:

Rain never stops the show in Lesotho, though, because the element is saluted in the national anthem and is vital for this agricultural society.

But the sun later came out and the school choirs sang very beautifully

This school had a beautiful choir!

Teachers and I wore our new traditional seshoeshoes (se-shway-shway).

This is the latest design and is all the rage in Lesotho! But don't we look like pumpkins? LOL. 

After singing, we climbed the mountain for sports
The school is on a mountain and located next to a mountain that we use to train our athletes.

This big green field is our track!

This is what it looks like on top of the mountain.

This was the crowd. They are the best cheerleaders!
They kept the onlookers entertained and runners motivated. Yeah! Here's video of the crowd cheering the runners on:

Here are the runners. All of them worked very hard!

You better believe that Tsoaing Primary School students ran their bums off!

Tsoaing Primary School took top honors! We’re No. 1! Yeah!
The school had a very good showing on Moshoeshoe's Day! We sang well and ran fast! Yeah!

It was really a beautiful day! Teachers and students at my school worked very hard to put on an amazing cultural event. All of their hard work and preparation paid off. 

Is there anything more specific you'd like to know? Please let me know. I'd be happy to answer your questions.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Things I've learned in Lesotho (Part 2)

Life is a classroom and these children have been my biggest teachers. What are you learning?

   Here is Part 2 of things I've learned in Lesotho land. Read part 1 here.

-How to bake bread: Before going to site, every volunteer gets a cookbook to help them get their Rachael Ray on. My cookbook collected dust for a while until I read it out of sheer boredom one day. The recipe on page 46 really piqued my interest. Peanut Butter loaf. I've since made it a dozen times, mainly without peanut butter. It's now one of my fave things to make and eat.

-How to run a small business: I was a journalism major in college so it's a surprise that I initiated a highly profitable income-generating arts and craft project. It happened very naturally and organically and quickly grew into a "small business." I had to do lots of research on economic development, financial literacy and business management. I then had to teach 14 teachers about these topics! I was a journalist before joining Peace Corps! I did not expect to come to Lesotho and do this because I'm afraid of numbers. But now that I have this small business experience, I'm confident that I can run my own small business one day.

-How to let go of control: I have a confession: I'm a control freak. There I said it. But Africa's been great for my controlling tendencies because the reality is that I'm not really in control. My God, my creator, is. This has helped me to let go. Not give up, but surrender. I've learned to prepare (because nothing goes according to plan!), to do the best I that I can with what I have at the moment and to just let go; leave it up to the Universe to see fit with the outcome.

-How to live on less with little: Long before I joined the Peace Corps, I'd been moving towards living a minimalist lifestyle. I was done with conspicuous consumption and wanted to live with less. Then, I joined the Peace Corps! I live in a hut the size of a matchbox with no electricity, running water or fridge. I live within my $200 monthly stipend, wear the same clothes over and over and read for pleasure. And guess what? I have a pretty good (and simple) life. And for the most part, I'm happy:)

-To know when to let go: I''ve learned when to let go, or when to simply say, "No." For example,
I seriously considered extending my Peace Corps service. In fact, I knew I'd extend. Then, I changed my mind after the ninth month of my service. I was severely homesick, and I knew I couldn't do another year without seeing my family. I couldn't afford to see them visit my family in America because I had bills to pay. So, I decided 27 months is enough time for me to serve, and to "get" all that I'm supposed to "get" on this journey. Not extending my service has taught me to know when I'm supposed to go.

-How to shuffle a deck of cards:  I've always marveled at people who knew how to shuffle cards. Thought they were cool. A PCV who visited taught me how to shuffle. Now I'm the main shuffler during nightly UNO games with my host family. Now, I'm cool:)

Anything you can agree or disagree with? Anything you can relate to? What else have you learned in your life?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Bonding with my host family with UNO!

Playing UNO with these little jokers is always the highlight of my day!
   Every night, I spend quality time with my host family. Of course, we’ll talk about the day’s events. And we might also share a treat like a plate of homemade oatmeal cookies.
   But the one thing that we always do is play a few rounds of UNO, the popular American family card game.
   Playing UNO has created a real bond with me and my host family. It’s our chance to come together as a unit to learn, love and most importantly, to laugh.
   This is the most important part of my day as a Peace Corps Volunteer because it simply brightens my spirits.
   There are other UNO benefits, too.
   Four-year-old Katleho has picked up new English words and phrases while playing the game. When someone puts down a Wild card and names a color, Katleho will play the correct card because he knows his hues and numbers. And when he catches his big brother, Tsepiso, peeping at his hand, he’ll scream in English, “You’re looking at my cards!” (He learned that phrase from yours truly because that’s exactly what I say when I peep him looking at my cards.)
   Another benefit of playing UNO with my host family that the kids have learned strengthened their strategy.
   Tsepiso, ten-years-old, has learn how to be strategic when playing UNO. In the beginning, he’d quickly put down his beloved Draw 4 card. But now, after observing the master (me!) he’s learned to wait until the right moment to play his strongest cards. When someone excitedly announces “UNO!” Tsepiso will then put down his Draw 4.  Smart boy. He wins most of our games now.
   My host mom has also used UNO as a creative form of punishment.
When the boys act up, they sit out games. They try to give my host mom the sad puppy face but it never works. It’s the perfect punishment.
   I really love when the kids win, though. They’ll lift my portable light bulb high above their heads and scream, “Tsejana! Ke hlotse!” (Trophy. I’m the winner!)
   Winners they are.
   Winners, indeed.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The ABCs of Lesotho! (World Wise Post!)

The children of Lesotho have been my rock, my light and my peace. They know how to survive and have taught me to do the same.

This blog post is part of a series of activities that I'm doing for the Peace Corps' World Wise program. The program links Basotho and American schools through various activities such as blogs like this one and friendly letters.
   Hi kids!
   I hope you're doing well! It's very cold here in Lesotho and my students and I are trying to keep warm.
   I thought it would be nice to come up with the ABC's of Lesotho for you. This will help you learn more about "The Mountain Kingdom."
   Read on:

A: Aloes. The spiral aloe is the national flower of Lesotho, and many villages are dotted with big, sprawling aloe plants and trees. The Basotho make chairs, roofs and body creams out of this versatile plant.

B: Bana. This is the Sesotho word for children. The children here always help their families by fetching water, herding animals, cooking and cleaning. They’ve truly been the brightest part of my service as a volunteer because they know so much and have taught me a lot about survival. Without them, I would’ve have made it.

C: Chiefs. The chiefs keep the peace in villages. They also act as notaries by signing official documents, and have the authority to arrest and contain a person before police arrival. As a volunteer, the chief signed on my school’s bank account and grant applications. When you live on his (or her) land with his (or her) people, you have no choice but to respect the chief.

D: Districts. There are 10 districts in Lesotho. They are Maseru, Mafeteng, Mohale’s Hoek, Quiting, Qacha’s Nek, Berea, Leribe, Butha Buthe, Mohotlong, Thaba Tseka. Volunteers are placed all over the country. I live in the lowlands, Mafeteng, which is located about 40 minutes from Maseru, the capital of Lesotho.

E: Eggs. Eggs because I couldn’t thing of anything else that started with the letter “E” that pertained specifically to Lesotho. LOL. But really, though, I do eat a lot of eggs here because it’s hard for me to prepare and store chicken with no running water and refrigerator. So I get my protein fix from eggs sold in my village.

F: Feasts. Basotho hold feasts for weddings, funerals, births or just because. They’ll usually slaughter a cow or sheep, and drink lots of joala (traditional Basotho beer).

G: Girls. Young girls here fetch the water and help mom and granny cook and clean. They are also taught how to care for baby at a very early age. Sadly, some of drop out of school and get married very young, continuing the cycle of poverty that plagues this country. One of the Peace Corps‘ goals is to empower women and young girls, especially in a patriarchal society like Lesotho. Sounds corny but I try to spread this message in my Life Skills classes, with my school’s craft project and at home, where I encourage my 15-year-old host sister to keep her grades up and stay in school. I’ve taught her how to make jewelry and scarves to earn extra money.

H: Herdboys.  Many boys, including my two host brothers, take their livestock for grazing. It is often a difficult and lonely life, especially in remote villages. But it is said that such training prepares a boy for manhood.

I: Initiation Schools. These are secret, sacred schools that are held in the mountains where young boys also train to be men. They are taught the duties and songs of manhood and, are usually circumcised. The ones that come back are widely respected, especially by their peers at school.

J: Joala. (Pronounced jwa-lah). This is very popular Basotho beer. It is made out of either sorghum or ginger and served at many a mokete (feast).

K: King Letsie III. The king of Lesotho is King Letsie III. He Is beloved by his people and admired and respected by his peers. I met him last year. Got to shake his hand but he was too hungry to take a picture with me.

L: Lesiba. This is a musical instrument played by herdboys to pass time. They attach a string to a stick and place a feather (lesiba) on the other end.

M: Mountains: Lesotho is known as “The Mountain Kingdom.” It is divided between the highlands, lowlands and foothills. I asked Peace Corps to place me in the lowlands because there was no way that I could survive the extreme winter and frigid conditions of the highlands. They listened. Smart people.

N: Nkono. (Pronounced in-kho-no) This means grandmother in Sesotho and they really are jewels here.  Many of them raise their grandchildren while their adult children work and send money from South Africa, where there are better financial opportunities. I always say that Lesotho is carried on the backs of the grandmothers here.

O: Osele. (Pronounced o-silly). This is a bad Sesotho word meaning crazy or very bad, but the Basotho will shorten it up and say “sele.”It’s a bad word to say to children, and the opposite of what Americans say to their kids when they act goofy: silly.

P: Princesses. Lesotho has two princesses: Princess Senate and Princess ‘Maseeiso. I’ve always wondered what their lives are like. I never see them running up and down with snotty noses and dirt-caked faces like the kids in my village.

Q: Queen. Queen ‘Masenate is the queen of Lesotho. Like her husband, she is a beloved figure here and like a queen, she always wears the most beautiful outfits. I often wonder what her manicures look like, and who does them.

R: Rain. This element is important to the Basotho because this is an agricultural society and many rely on their farms to support their families. The rainy season lasts from October through November.

S: Skiing. Yes, you can ski here at a place called AfriSki, which is located in the northern part of the country.

T: Twins. Back in the day, having twins here was a bad thing, one would have to be killed. Now, they’re considered a sign of good luck.

U: Umbrella. Like the Japanese, Basotho protect their skin from harsh sun rays by using an umbrella. I do this too, and always keep a mini umbrella in my pocketbook.

V: Villages. Lesotho is made up of many villages that the Basotho call home.

W: Wendy. This is the name of my Country Director. She’s been a big support to me as a volunteer and has been fairly easy to work for.

X: eXtreme. We’re going to pretend that this word starts with an “X,” OK people? LOL. This is a word that does my experience here justice. Some days I love Lesotho. Other days I loathe it. Overall, though, I really am extremely grateful for this extreme experience.

Y:You. I’d be nothing without your support. Your encouragement, letters, cards, notes, parcels and care packages have really gotten me through during my service. You have held me down while lifting me up and I’ll always be grateful for you!

Z: Zet. I always find it funny when Basotho say “from A to Zet” instead of “from A to Z.”

So there ya go! Here is Lesotho in A-Zet, er A-Z format. I hope you learned a little something about my country of service!

Is there anything more specific you'd like to know? Please let me know. I'd be happy to answer your questions.

Sources: My Culture: Just the way things are done at home by Patrick Mohlalefi Bereng, Peace Corps, my host mom and my own experience

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Things I've learned in Lesotho (Part 1)

The lines at the bank are always long. It used to bother me. Not anymore. I bring my book, a bottle of water and a snack. And wait. All I can do. Patience is a virtue.

  Whomever said life is a classroom sure didn't lie.
  Being in Lesotho has taught me lots of things, such as learning to seek meaning and not approval.
  Here are some more things I've learned here:

-Do the best I can do: I've said this before and I'll say it again: I'm no Princess Diana or Mother Theresa. I'm not going to make a huge social impact change here and I'm OK with that. I'm not trying to. I do the best I can with what I have. I work very hard in my community and at school, and help my students learn English and Life Skills as best as I can. All I can do. And I'm happy with this.

-To really savor nature: OK, I sound like a hippy here but I've really grown to be thankful for the wonders of nature here. I take daily walks, and savor the gift of sunset, as Africa is known for her splendorous skyline.

-To have patience: A Peace Corps employee once told me that after I begin my service, I'll have to "Hurry up and wait." Perfect phrase to describe my experience here. Things never start on time, and that's a hard thing to deal with when you come from a culture where time is money. I don't fret anymore. I just bring a book, a snack and my patience.

-To be in the moment: Being in the present has always been difficult for me, because I've always felt the need to control things. That's something I've worked on (A LOT! ) here. Prayer and meditation have also helped me to focus on the "now" and I do more of these things every single day. 

-What you love will follow you wherever you go: My love for nail polish and cupcakes is legendary so it's no surprise that I've managed to maintain my manicures and eat my sweet treats here in Lesotho. I think that if you're truly passionate about something, it will find a way to show up in your life--and stay.

Anything you can agree or disagree with? Anything you can relate to? What else have you learned in your life?

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Finding that Silver Lining

 I always try to look for the good in every situation, for after the rainstorm, there's always a rainbow, right?

   When I was around two-years-old, my parents bravely gave me up for adoption. 
   Things at home weren't going so well and they felt like I’d have a better chance at a good life with a more stable family. 
   I commend them for their painful decision. It is one that has allowed me to take (calculated) risks and to also see the Silver Lining in every bad situation, no matter how painful it may be.
   It is this line of thought that has gotten me through some of the roughest parts of my Peace Corps service.

Here are some times when I learned to count my blessings instead of wallow through sorrow:

      1. Bedbugs: There’s absolutely nothing about bedbugs in the Peace Corps brochures so let me tell you about these little fuggers, they’re hell!!! They make you go crazy and destroy your life. The buildings here are old and are the perfect hiding places for these little bugs, who really like to show their asses in the summertime. When I first got them, I cried a  stream. And when they showed up for the fourth time, I cried an ocean. During fumigation, I had to take everything out of my house to clean and spray. It was depressing when the suckers came back AFTER fumigation! I hate them and don’t wish them on the devil, but bed bugs taught me to let go, as I had to throw away my suitcases to stop them from having a central place to breed. They also taught me to appreciate my house because, well, I have a roof over my head. And  a bed to sleep in, even if it can bare bugs!

2.      Blackberry Blues: My BlackBerry is my TV set. My magazine. My link to civilization. When it’s not working, neither am I. I’m depressed. Can’t think straight. I’m highly irritated and annoyed. Yep, all over a cell phone. The Silver Lining is that I experienced true generosity of a friend who let me borrow is old BlackBerry. This kept me connected to my loved ones in America during a time when I needed them the most.  And, I ended up getting a new BlackBerry because my cell phone company sent my old one off to Joburg for repairs and couldn't track it. So a good friend and a new phone came out of my BlackBerry blues.

3.      Diarreah: ‘Nuff said.

4.      Bedbugs, BlackBerry blues and diarrhea all in one week: Three calamities all in the same week was NOT cool. I wanted to lie down after my digestive system and phone broke down but my poor bed was sick, too! It was so horrible that I wouldn’t wish the suffering on my worst enemy. The Silver Lining? A lovely care package I received from a dear friend at the end of that terrible week.

   As you can see, I’m a half glass full kind of girl. 
   Finding the beauty in painful and difficult situations is what I specialize in. 
   Doing so has made the harder parts of my service more bearable, and made me really appreciative of this experience. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Natural Beauty in the Bush!

I thought I had a picture of green tea but I don't so I'll use this picture of the cup I drink green tea out of. OK? 

   Once upon a time, I used  to be a beauty blogger.
   I’d write about products that moved me. Lived in my beloved Sephora. And I’d always concoct my own beauty “recipes” using what I had in my kitchen pantry.
  Since I now live in the bush of Africa, my beauty routine is heavily reliant on natural and unsuspecting things. So all of that practice from back in the day has helped me a lot here.
   Read on:

-Green tea bags: I drink green tea almost every day. And when I’m done with the bag, I’ll use it to tone my face because green tea helps to shrink pores and gives my skin a nice glow.

-Honey: I put honey on everything: my tea, on my pancakes and even on my face! I live for my honey facials, which I do 2-3 times a week. Honey naturally retains water, which makes it a good skin softener and moisturizer.

-Chapstick: Yes, Chapstick! I use Chapstick to moisturize my cuticles. Read this in a beauty magazine a few years ago. The pros use this tip and so do I J.

-Brown sugar: I make my own hand and foot scrub using one cup each of brown sugar and olive oil, and 1 teaspoon each of nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla extract. The sugar acts as a natural exfoliant, gently sloughing off dead skin, while the oil moisturizes hands and feet. The spices and extract leave a pleasant scent. I sometimes use this scrub on my face, especially if I’m out of honey.

-A toothbrush: I gently brush my face with a toothbrush about 2-3 times a week. Like the sugar scrub, the bristles on the toothbrush slough off dead skin from my face. This is another cheap exfoliant that you probably have on hand or in a care package!

   When I agreed to join the Peace Corps, my beauty routine was the least of my worries. 
   I had spent several years creating, experimenting, mixing and making body concoctions with ingredients used from my kitchen. 
   It’s a skill that’s served me – and my body – very well here in Lesotho!