On the big-picture side The Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) is a massive Government program resulting from a treaty signed in 1986 which was an agreement to sell water from the Lesotho mountain areas to South Africa. Visit their website at http://www.lhwa.org for project details. In addition to financial and hydroelectric power benefits the LHWP has been instrumental in the formation of the beautiful Ts’ehlanyane National Park. From the LHWP website:
After more than two years, in two weeks I’m going back home, but in many ways I am starting over, leaving my home. My life back in the U.S. is such an extreme contrast to my life here, it’s difficult to imagine them blending at all, being able to retain any aspect of my life here. I’m leaving my thatched hut that has been my home for the past two years, leaving my host family, friends and neighbours, my community, to jump back into a world that they can’t even imagine. …
It’s orange season again. I’ve waited for it for 8 months, and man was that first orange good. It comes right after peach season. After stuffing myself everyday with peaches that grow in every yard here, and I was ready for an orange. We’re also getting into cabbage season. I never would have thought I’d ever get excited about cabbage, but cooked with a little oil and spice—yum.
One of the things I love (and can also sometimes get frustrated with) living in rural Lesotho is that I eat according by the season. It’s just what is available, what things grow here (and in neighboring South Africa, such as oranges) and when it is ready to be picked. There is something really satisfying about knowing exactly where my food comes from, and often the exact person who grew it. It makes me the food taste better, and it probably does have more flavor since it doesn’t have to be shipped far.
One of the most difficult and frustrating aspects of living in rural Lesotho is taking the public transportation. It shows how much a person can adapt, something that used to drive me crazy now seems perfectly normal and OK. But I’m lucky, being on a nice paved road, I don’t have the bumpy, often nauseating mountainous dirt roads that many other volunteers do.
What took the most getting use to was the speed. The driver usually drives leaning out of the window searching the hills for possible customers. Often a woman will be across the river or up a hill and we all sit and wait for her to take her sweet time to get to the car. Some people do rush, but it sure does not feel like the average. Even when we are off, on our way, we usually don’t go any faster than 20 kilometres an hour (12.5 mph) for the first 30 km. I’ve been passed by maize-laden donkeys, old men walking with canes, and one time a toddler, toddling down the road without pants on. For an American use to efficient, quick cars and buses, this was very hard to get used to. But as I’ve come to see, in Lesotho what’s the rush? …
When teaching about preventing HIV, probably the main issue we volunteers come up against is multiple concurrent partners. Many people I’ve talked to here say it’s just part of the culture, which sounds like an excuse to me. But the longer I’m here the more I believe it. The Basotho were traditionally a polygamist society, and some men in my village still have multiple wives, though it’s not very common any more. The society is built around the community, most men and women spend the majority of their days socializing. Most work, such as women washing laundry in the river or men building a house together, are still very social activities. Rather than focusing on the individuals or immediate family members, life centers around neighbours and extended family as well. It’s more about the unit, which includes extended family and close neighbours, more than any of the constantly changing individuals in it. And in Sesotho men are called ntate, which translates to ‘father’ and ‘mme is used for women, meaning ‘mother’. To great someone in Sesotho, you always address people, even strangers, as family. I think that says a lot about the culture. …
I have not written in a while because I’ve been on a wonderful vacation with my parents around Southern Africa. So this is a post I’ve been meaning to do for a while, my favourite moments from the past year, some of the reasons why I have fallen in love with my village and the people.
One of the orphans that lives alone with her 2 younger brothers and very small sister, once came up to my house with some peaches from her fruit tree to give me, very happy to share with me one of the very few things she has.
After months of delay we finally got our layer chickens. The gardens of the community centre have also really started to grow. The chickens are going to provide eggs for the orphans and needy of the village, along with vegetables from the gardens.
We wanted to have free-range chickens and demonstrate how you can raise chickens without building an expensive concrete building. We built chicken tractors instead, enclosed chicken runs that are portable. After the chickens have eaten all the grubs and weed seeds on one spot we move the tractor/run to another spot and the previous one is fertilized and ready to be planted.
Although the tractors/runs are pretty simple, it’s taken many, many hours to build six, we still have one to go. We got layer chickens from South Africa. The chickens are a couple of months old and have lived in cages their whole lives. They had never seen sun or had the freedom of running around, and apparently don’t know what to do with it. One mme (woman/mother) from the support group that we work with joked that the chickens were like us Americans here, since after four days they are all still clustered in the shaded ends of the runs, apparently afraid of the sun, rain, and not being in a tight pack.
Last week we had the new community center opening, and it was a big success! After a very busy couple weeks of preparation and postponements, we finally were able to open the center and introduce its current and potential activities to the community. We had about 200 people of all different ages come to the opening. We didn’t run out of popcorn or fruit, and the drink mix was a surprisingly big hit and seemed to make up for the fact that there wasn’t any meat, which apparently is standard big event fare.