I’m a 23 year-old university grad student from suburban America, who has come to live in a rural village in Lesotho, southern Africa for the next two years. I’m often asked why I became a Peace Corps volunteer, giving up the comforts of home, flush toilets and electricity, and good salaried jobs, to come live in developing Africa. I still find it hard to explain, I’m here to help people who haven’t had the advantages that I’ve had. I’m here for the adventure, to experience the real world outside of my sheltered American college town. I’m also here because I want to work in international development and believe that living in a community in a developing country was the best way to really understand them. Most Peace Corps volunteers go to their sites with lofty goals, hoping to make a big difference, to build a community centre or help stop the spread of a disease. My aspirations are much simpler, to make small improvements in the lives of the people around me. I’ve been in Lesotho for three months, and they’ve already changed mine.
I spent the first ten weeks in Lesotho in a small village outside the capital Maseru, living with a host family and getting trained with other volunteers. I got assigned to a rural village near Ts’ehlanyane National Park and Maliba lodge for the next two years. My assigned job is to help the lodge and park extend their benefits and interactions into the local villages. In the three weeks I’ve been here I have started working with three of the local schools, teaching environmental conservation and life skills, and will be attending community meetings.
The challenges I anticipated, living without electricity, running water, indoor heat or television turned out to not be that difficult. Everything does take longer though, without a vacuum cleaning my carpet that would take five minutes back home takes an hour here. But I got very lucky to be placed in such a friendly culture, based on socializing and helping each other. The biggest challenge that I have faced is the language barrier. I did take Sesotho classes for ten weeks, but I was little prepared for living in a village where no one speaks English. I thought my Sesotho has been improving dramatically in these past three weeks, but now I’m pretty sure I’m just getting more fluent in hand gestures. With a lot of help from my host mother and community, I am getting to understand village life and fall into its slow paced life style of socializing, sharing and cooking.
I spent an entire day sitting with my neighbors watching a roof get re-thatched. I’m getting more attached to the people of my community and the beautiful mountains that have become covered in peach blossoms.
The contents of this article are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. Government or the Peace Corps.