The first thing I notice is the hats. This is not Ascot, so there are no ladies in ostrich feathers, but a ragged crowd of men wearing everything from gumboots and jeans to big patterned blankets. We’re gathered along a track curving through stubbly fields, with a hazy backdrop of blue mountains. It’s a big race day at the Morija cultural festival, so you might expect the headgear of choice to be the Basotho hat, the woven cone traditionally favoured by herders (and adapted as lampshades in tourist lodges). But I can see only one man in a 150-strong crowd wearing a Basotho hat, and I think he’s doing it ironically. It certainly doesn’t match his T-shirt and jeans.
Archive for Lesotho Stories
I recently got some pretty severe blisters on both feet. And while not a serious injury, the blisters were bad enough that I couldn’t really walk, and was reduced to hobbling around painfully. Through my “injuries” I got to see a side of my village that was really beautiful. Word that I was “sick” (the Sesotho word kula applies for skin injuries as well as normal sicknesses) got around the village remarkably fast, everyone I passed asked how I was doing and if my feet were better or cured. It was heartwarming to have so many people concerned about my well-being. The village support group is a group of women in the village that assists orphans, elderly and sick people in the village, and who I have worked a lot with. Two member of the support group came by my house to check on me and see if there was anything they could do to help. My host mother brought me water so I wouldn’t have to carry buckets from the river. She also helped bandage my feet, while it may seem a bit strange and wasn’t really unnecessary, it was truly nice to feel so cared for. It made me feel like a real part of the community, being included in their system of caring for each other. Read more
Down the slope, passing dry grass and old corn stalks, my shoes turning a brown to match the dirt. I pass a baby goat, chewing sideways, showing its small pink tongue. The wind blows at my skirt and I pass small children calling me. Where am I going, where is the candy, my name over, and over.
At the bottom, I stomp off some dust as I start down the paved road. My shoes crunching the uneven tarred gravel, dodging broken glass and manure scattered on the road. Read more
Juliana Fulton We are only a month away from opening the Ha Mali Community Center! The idea for its creation came from hearing all the different problems facing the families in my village when I went door-to-door for my household survey. My work at the schools didn’t seem to touch many of the problems the people in my village complained of: not having easy access to a clinic, not having jobs or training for them, the number of orphans living with elderly grandparent and sanitation issues. What seemed to be needed was a center for outreach and skills training within the village. World Vision recently built a pre-school, the only communally owned building in my village, and one that fit the outreach/ community center scheme perfectly. Maliba Lodge’s Community Development Trust was equally enthusiastic about the idea and agreed to help with the funding and applied for another Peace Corps volunteer to help make it a reality.
Although a small country, Lesotho boasts an assortment of fantastic attractions that tourists can visit and discover the history and heritage of both the Basotho people and the Mountain Kingdom.
1. Sehlabathebe National Park
The Sehlabathebe National Park in the south eastern region of Lesotho, although fairly inaccessible (a 4 wheel drive vehicle is required) is definitely well worth the effort. This was the first designated National park in Lesotho. This hidden gem is full of wonderful rock formations unique to this area, massive rock overhangs, small lakes, rock art, rock arches and a beautiful and unique ecosystem of plants, birds and animals.
The Prime Minister of Lesotho at the time, Chief Leabua Jonathan, loved trout fishing and, since the dams and rivers are a fisherman’s paradise, this may explain the park’s existence.
The Ts’ehlanyane National Park and Bokong Nature Reserves are both far more accessible and well worth a visit in their own right. Read more
Bearded Vulture, Lamb Vulture, Lammergeier, Lammergeyer or Lammergeir.
The name of the Lammergeier originates from German, in which language it means “lamb-vulture.” This raptor will often drop bones from a great height in order to crack them open and gain access the bone marrow inside – hence its old name of Ossifrage (or Bone Crusher). Read more
[An excerpt from my journal for these past couple weeks]
Well I’ve been super busy, with 2-4 things to do every day for these past couple weeks. Today I had a meeting about the community centre in the morning (and building a seed bed) and two life skills classes at different schools this afternoon.
The community centre is really coming along. We’ve dug beds for 10 plots, 19 out of the 30 orphans showed up last Saturday and worked so hard, digging the stiff, weedy soil. It just looks like mounds of dirt, but I’m proud of the kids. I wonder what motivates them. It’s nice to think they’re invested in this project, growing food. We’re planning on planting the seeds this Saturday. The cabbage seeds are already in the seed bed. Regular watering is going to be a challenge. And we’ll see it the schedule to fix up the building this week actually holds. Next week we’re getting the gardening tools. It will be nice not having to borrow and carry them around (my shoulders are soar from carrying all those spades yesterday). Read more
When I first signed up for my Peace Corps assignment, all that I was told was that I’d be in Lesotho, working with communities on HIV/AIDS. I was very excited about living in Lesotho, but less so about working on the AIDS pandemic. It just seemed like such a monumental and depressing task. We were told that the official prevalence rate was 24% of people in Lesotho were infected with HIV. It sounds like a lot, but it is totally different to be in the middle of it, to see all the sickness and death. It’s everywhere and it effects everyone. It has decimated such a friendly, loving people. After being here for a year and seeing its terrible pervasive effects, I wouldn’t want to focus on anything else. Even though the average family has 3-4 children, there is still negative population growth, it’s that bad.
In my village there aren’t really any good figures on how many people are infected. There is a lot of stigma and prejudice about being HIV positive, so most people won’t talk about it (which is a big part of the problem). But in my village of 204 families, there are 85 children who have lost one parent, and 33 children who have lost both parents and are still in primary/elementary school.Besides teaching about HIV in the schools, I am helping to start a community center in my village with funding from the Maliba Comunity Development Trust. Read more
In the mountain kingdom of Lesotho, boys as young as five spend months on end tending cattle in the isolation of remote highland country.
For the young, becoming a herd boy is a cultural obligation in Lesotho society, a practice which leaves many children deprived of an education.
Last week I visited a sangoma, a traditional doctor, in the neighbouring village. Traditional doctors get a lot of respect and have a lot of power in Basotho culture. Not just political power, but actual magical power.
They can see the future and talk to ancient ancestors, even the recent dead. They can cure people of bad luck and curses, as well as place curses on people. It is generally thought that only the “evil” traditional doctors, called witches, will curse people. Some curses can even kill the victims, lightning strike is a very popular method I’ve been told. Luckily, there are no evil witches by my village, but there are several sangomas that do a good business in curing curses, illnesses (often caused by curses) and getting rid of bad spirits. Read more