Sunday, December 21, 2008

Merry Christmas


Its 4 days before Christmas, and it doesn't feel like it. Its pretty hot. Somewhere in the upper 90's. Christmas is a big deal out in the villages. For many, this is the big feast day. Kids get new outfits, people bake bread, there might even be meat. They are excited.No santa.. (which is sort of good)no Christmas carols. And from what Ive been told, a lot of drinking on Christmas and on Boxer day the next day which is a Lesotho holiday. Because of the drinking, the advice is: dont be alone in your village on Christmas if you can help it. So, I wont be. I will be traveling out of country for the first time and going to Bloemfontein for a few days. And then on New Years eve, I will be going for a week in Cape Town, returning to Lesotho in time for Peace Corps 2 day "all volunteer" conference in Maseru. And then, hopefully back to my site in Ha Mohatlane.

I just finished a week training with my youth group at with my ngo (Lesotho Durham Link) at their facility in Maseru. Its a nice place on a lake and we stayed at a local backpackers type facility. LDL did a great job on the training which was to teach the youth to be Peer Promotors back at Ha Mohatlane and the surrounding villages. The youth worked hard and did well. They are taking this very seriously. We also had a lot of fun with games, activities.... most nights we were up till at least midnight, and then they woke every morning with the sun... at about 4:45am... Im whipped, but it was worth it. I have to thank David Holcomb... cause now the dum, dum song is known in Africa! They have gone back to the village and for now I am in Maseru. Hopefully after the new year, the next part of the plan to teach in the villages will begin. I also look forward to starting the new year off teaching english at the local secondary school. The last few months there have been a blast.

I have gotten my camera back (thanks everyone who helped with that)but have not taken any pictures yet as my camera lenses are at my site. But I will get them back tomorrow or tuesday, so my next blog will have photos up.

I hope that all of you have a wonderful holiday season. I really miss you all!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Yes We Can!


Normally I wouldn’t even consider blogging about politics. But this blog is about my journey as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Lesotho. And this election (whether or not you like the results) was very historic and it has been fascinating to experience it here in Lesotho. Part of me would like to remain objective in this blog, but Im not going to hide my feelings as this is the first time in 26 years of being able to vote that I’ve voted for someone I believe in, vs voting for the lesser of 2 evils. I realize this could have more to do with my heart and the condition it was in and the life I was leading vs the lack of a good candidate. But Im not feeling too introspective at the moment. So at this point, you may want to stop reading and come back to this blog in December.

I was able to travel to the town of Peka and watch the election at Kaye’s house. She lives at a clinic run by nuns and they have electricity. We had a little election party. There were 4 PCV’s, a Canadian, a Basotho and the wonderful South African nun who is in charge of the clinic. The nun has a rather large sitting room with a huge sectional couch and a large TV with cable. Kaye paid for a month of some extra stations and we stayed up all night watching election coverage on CNN, BBC and Al Jazeera. It was interesting for me to watch election results with coverage from around the world. BBC and Al Jazeera did interview with people from different countries to get their reaction. Im sure most in America saw coverage of the village in Kena where Obama’s father was born. Some of the interviews were positive and full of hope. Some were apathetic and some were negative. But it was good to see how many people around the world were paying attention. And it was nice to see (at least for now) countries waving American flags rather than burning them.

Many Basotho questioned me previous to the election as to whether or not America would actually allow a black man (or woman) to be president. Several Basotho have asked if we allowed blacks and whites to marry. When I told them its legal, they questioned the willingness of any white to marry a black. This election brought up many good cultural discussions of life in America vs Lesotho… especially in regard to race. Strangely enough, the Basotho seem to believe that there is much racial strife in America. I wonder where they got that idea?

As the evening continued and we all talked/dozed through the night, excitement built as Obama won key states. The Basotho, Canadian and S. African spoke quite a bit of the need to be out of Iraq… which we all agreed. The nun (who is probably in her 60’s) reminisced about being born in apartheid S. Africa. She has spent the last 30 years in Lesotho. She spoke of going back to S. Africa for a few months and casting her first vote ever for Nelson Mandella. And she spoke of the hope and joy that came with his victory (On a side note, I just finished reading Mandella’s autobiography “A Long Walk to Freedom” Its an amazing book and I highly recommend it)

When California closed, about 6am our time, it was announced that Obama had gotten enough electoral votes to win. The nun went to her morning prayer with the other nuns and reported that they prayed for America, Obama and his family,, for peace and reconciliation for Americans. We watched McCain’s concession speech (which I thought was really gracious and well done and added to the hope of the future_ and then we all watched Obama’s speech in tears. Whether or not you voted for him, this is a defining moment in the history of our country.

On the way back to my site Wednesday morning, Kombi drivers and passengers asked me if I had heard. They offered me congratulations. One Basotho said to me “now maybe the world will accept the fact that blacks can lead without being corrupt like Mugabe or Mbeki.” When I saw my supervisor later in the day, he was talking about the future of Ha Mohatlane in regards to Aids and poverty. Looking me in the eye, he said “If America can make a big change like this, maybe Lesotho can change too.”

I don’t believe that most elections in America are as closely watched as this one was. I don’t believe that most American elections have brought as much hope to as many around the world. I started voting as soon as I turned 18. I have always felt that it is a privilege to vote. You know the old saying: “if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” But I have to admit to having a certain amount of cynicism about America and the government as long as I can remember. (and again this could be more about the life I was leading vs the gov and it’s policies) I have always felt a little guilty for feeling critical of the government. After ll, no matter who is running the country, it’s a tough and stressful joy. You can’t please everyone, and I have never (nor will I ) taken a crack at being a civil servant on any level. In my heart, I have been critical, but I have always appreciated the knowledge that I can be critical without being oppressed or arrested. Even if others don’t agree with or even listen to my views, I still have the freedom to express them.

Since I have come to Lesotho, I have been feeling increasingly more… for want of a better work… “patriotic.” During training, every morning for 9 weeks we started the day off by singing the national anthem of Lesotho and the American national anthem. I felt much pride singing both. Even amidst the criticism (and there’s a lot of it in Africa) right or wrong, of Americas growing military presence around the world. And I found that I did not mind this criticism because it doesn’t matter whether or not I agree with it… if I want the freedom to speak my thoughts and be listened to when I disagree with my government, I better be willing to listen to others disagree with me. And, not just listening and waiting for them to be finished so I can make my next brilliant point, but listening with an open mind and an open heart and be willing to consider others thoughts which are different than my own and be open to change.

In a June 30th, 2008 speech, Barack Obama talks about what (in his opinion) the word “patriotism” means. He quotes Mark Twain as saying, “Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.” He goes on to say,
“We may hope that our leaders and our government stand up for our ideals, and there are many times in our history when that’s occurred. But when our laws, our leaders or our government are out of alignment with our ideals, then the dissent of ordinary Americans may prove to be one of the truest expressions of patriotism. The young preacher from Georgia, Martin Luther King, Jr., who led a movement to help America confront our tragic history of racial injustice and live up to the meaning of our creed- he was a patriot. The young soldier who first spoke about he prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib- he is a patriot. Recognizing a wrong being committed in this country’s name; insisting that we deliver on the promise of our Constitution- these are the acts of patriots, men and women who are defending that which is best in America. And we should never forget that-especially when we disagree with them; especially when they make us uncomfortable with their words.”

On Nov 4, 2008, America changed forever. Yes Barack Obama is so much more than a black man. He is a man who, I believe, really cares about the people of America and wants to be a true civil servant. He believes change is possible. (and if you want to know more about him and get past the media sound bites, I recommend his autobiography, “the dreams of my father”) Whether or not you voted for him, whether or not you respect him, whether or not you agree with him about Iraq, Iran, Israel, the economy, free trade, civil rights, gay rights… hopefully we can put aside our differences and work together over the next 4 years.

In 1963 Martin Luther King said, “I have a dream that one day people will be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” I did not think I would live to see the day that this would happen. I was wrong. On Nov 4, a record number of people voted for the next president. I know Republicans who have never ever voted for a democrat… who with some small amount of fear and hope cast their vote for Obama. A popular majority of voting Americans for the first time have gotten past centuries of prejudice and have judged a man by the content of his character. I don’t know what the future holds, but as far as the content of America’s character goes, there is nothing but hope.

My apologies for a babbling blog. I hope I haven’t offended anyone. Ive been feeling like I would burst if I couldn’t share what I was thinking. If you have actually read this far, thanks for your patience. Im so proud of America, and so proud to be an American. I will end with the end of President Obama’s acceptance speech, which to my happy surprise was printed in its entirety in the Lesotho times. At the end of the speech, Obama tells a story about Anne Nixon Cooper, a 106 year old woman who voted. He talks about all of the changes in America that she has seen in her 100 plus years, what changes the country has gone through, the obstacles America has overcome. And then he asks the question, if our children lived for 100 years, what changes would they witness. He says, “This is our moment. This is our time to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids, to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace, to reclaim the American dream and to reaffirm the fundamental truth- that out of many, we are one. That while we breath, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism and doubt, and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people. Yes we can. Thank you, and may God bless the United States of America.”

Salang Hantle! (stay well)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Pula ea na!!!!

Pula ea na!! It’s raining. We had rain and hail 4 days in a row. The storms here are sudden and furious. Not a cloud in the sky, and then quickly the sky turns dark and the lighting comes every 5 seconds the thunder quickly following afterwards… sometimes so loud I can see my tin roof shaking. There were a couple of times I thought that the house was hit. Is this what it’s like in the Midwest? And then it pours rain… and it hails. At one point, I sat in my house watching the hail and I watched a herd boy with his cattle walk by, wrapped in a blanket looking wet and miserable. Ya gotta feel for the herd boys. Hopefully it will keep raining. As I walked through the village this week, I saw people planting their fields. Lets hope!

Its beginning to get hot here in Lesotho. And the tin roof definitely hold the heat in. it cold down at night, but to take advantage, you have to open the window, which have no screens- so all the bugs come in and of course are attracted to the candle light. I know many of you know how I am about bugs, so stop laughing. I’ve started using my mosquito netting while I sleep which should keep the bugs spiders and scorpions off me… I hope.

In a couple of weeks, 5 of my students and I will be training for 5 days at the LDL facility in Maseru. When we come back, we will start going into the villages to teach and look for other Peer Educators. The youth are great to work with. I love their enthusiasm. I’m really proud of them. Lesotho can change and the young people will be the ones to make it happen.

Besides learning about HIV/Aids, we also are having a little fun, sharing Basotho and American culture. I am teaching them about photography. A friend sent me a film camera and a bunch of film. I am teaching them photography 101 and letting them use the camera to take pictures of things that mean something to them. They are getting into it, and Im interested to see their pictures when the film gets developed. Thanks Denise. They have decided to teach me how to play soccer. It tried to explain to them that: 1. Im only good with sports that use hands. 2. Im old. But they insist I can learn, so Im doing my best. If my feel would only follow alongJ

When I was at another PCV’s house recently, he had these 2 quotes hanging on his wall. They made for interesting conversation. I thought I’d post them and would love to hear your thoughts.
Salang Hantle (stay well)

The belief that there was nothing and nothing happened to nothing and then nothing magically exploded for no reason, creating everything and then a bunch of everything magically rearranged itself for no reason whatsoever into self replicating bits which then turned into dinosaurs…Makes perfect sense!

The belief that some cosmic Jewish Zombie can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him that you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your sould that is present in humanity because a vile-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree…Makes perfect sense!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

We are dancing!!

Guest Blogging from Oscar:

It was great to have Merrill and Karrin here for the weekend. My site at Bobete is, as the video says, very remote, and being able to show other volunteers where I live and what I do is a treat. Even more than that, Merrill was my neighbor during training, and one of the closest friends I have in Country. It's been a privledge getting to know her, and working with her this weekend were awesome.

Of course, regualr readers of this blog probably already know how awesome Merrill is, so I'll just go ahead and post the video. One last comment though-- Sex Ed is hillarious in this country. I've never turned so red in my life.

Huh... So Blogger doesn't appear to have a way to embed youtube videos, and directly uploading it is painfully slow. You can watch it either on my blog or youtube (though I would beat my own drum and suggest my blog has interesting Lesotho Peace Corps stuff).

All the best,
Oscar Sinclair,
Peace Corps Bobete

Im in the village of Bobete near the camp town of Thaba Tseka. Another PCV (Karrin) and I took the long trip from Maseru to Bobete to visit another PCV (Oscar) We were able to go with Oscar and his NGO (Catholic Relief Services) on an outreach to the only secondary school around to help teach about HIV/Aids. It was a really good day. Catholic Relief Services is an international org, and has done some great work out in the really, really remote areas of Lesotho. And Bobete is remote. Its at about 10,000 feet and the only way to get to it is by plane or 4 wheel drive. But back to that in a minute.
It was great to work with the students (probably age range of about 14-20) They were so excited and asked so many great questions. Some seemed really interested in being a part of change for Lesotho. It was very encouraging and made me feel like there was hope for lasting, sustainable change. The outreach was friday. Yesterday, we hiked to a nearby mountain and sat on the top and just looked out over lesotho.... beautiful mountains, a few rondavels and basically nothing else. Bobete is a very humbling place to be.
Even though Catholic Relief Services is in the middle of nowhere, they have internet. I don't know how, but its good to be able to post. Karrin and I go home tomorrow. Either tomorrow or tuesday Oscar will post on this blog a little video of us that we will make tonight. So if you want to see how ratty Ive become....
The trip between Maseru and Thaba Tseka was crazy. You travel on one old bus that's made for about 50 people and had about 80 on it. People in the aisles, using your head as leaning posts, armpits in the face.... hot and everytime Id reach up and open a window, a Basotho would close it. They dont like open windows on transport here because of evil spirits coming in... The road is starting from 5000 ft going up to 10000. Little 2 way roads, with the huge bus going way to fast, being way too crowed... There's one pass thats called "God help me pass." Its acurately named, as I was pretty sure that we were going to die several times. We got off (finally and happily) in Thaba Tseka, where Oscar and Ntate Mphufi picked us up in a nice 4 wheel truck for the 1 1/2 hour trip to Bobete. I should tell you that Ive never been 4 wheeling before. Up and up this one lane mountain road with the biggest rocks Ive ever seen, cliffs on one side, lighting and thunder, mud and the back wheels slipping constantly... and Ntate Mphufi laughing and saying over and over... "we are dancing, we are dancing." Ah, Lesotho:) Ntate Mphufi is actually a wonderful Basotho man who works with PIH (Partners in health) and was in charge of the outreach. Good guy. The outreach was an hour away at an even more remote place... with scarier 4 wheeling which I got to do backwards... 9 people in a 5 seater. Scared the crap out of me. Almost literally. But, I do love it up here.
So, tomorrow I go home. Ive been told the trip will be shorter, but scarier... going down hill and all. Cant wait.
Hope you are all well. I miss all of you!
Salang Hantle

Dennis, I hear Megan is doing some great stuff!!!

Friday, October 3, 2008



At the end of the Lesotho national anthem, everyone says “Khotso, Pula, Nala.: (Peace, Rain, Prosperity) I think in the end, here in Lesotho you can’[t have peace and prosperity without rain. It’s October and it hasn’t rained yet. It usually starts raining (so I hear) mid
September. After a very, very dry winter, Lesotho gets almost all of its rain from the end of September through December. I’ve heard it comes every afternoon, very heavy. There can even be flash floods… Pula ea na! (Its raining!)But so far, no rain. All of the numerous fields are plowed, but they must wait for the rain to plant. People are getting worried. I’ve heard the word “draught” being mentioned many times. And of course, the rivers are very low and I'm sure at some point the wells (some of them) will dry up. No water for planting, not enough for washing, maybe even drinking… I’m not sure what will happen. I heard that a few weeks ago, the King of Lesotho asked churches to start praying for rain. I think that’s an excellent idea! Did you know that the number one export from Lesotho is water? Hmmm….

I received an email from someone a couple of weeks ago. The largest diamond in the world was recently found in a diamond mine in Lesotho. I wonder how the proceeds are divided up?

I’ve been working with the youth at the vocational school in Ha Mohatlane for about 7 weeks now. There’s a core group of about 6 with a few more who come and go. Good kids! (Sorry, young adults) There is a lot of cultural stuff to fight through though, so at times its slow going- i.e. witch craft, severe stigma against people with HIV, the status, power and decision capabilities of women in this society… so much! Slowly but surely, it seems like the students are starting to accept (I think) that you can’t get HIV by touching someone or by being in the same room with them, or by having a witch cast a spell on you. And, some are staring to accept (I think) that women have the right to say “no” and to insist on using condoms if they want to. We’ll see. On October 8th, my we meet with 10 of the local chiefs from the surrounding villages to ask permission for us to go and teach in the villages, and to get help from them to identify other young people who will also become peer educators. If all goes well, then the core group of youth and I will go to Lesotho Durham Link’s facility in Maseru for a 5 day training and then we will start doing outreach. A time line I'm trying not to hold my breath, but I’m excited.

I found a couple of youth who have said they will volunteer to keep the library open several days a week! And a couple of teachers are actually showing a bit of interest. So, I’m going to be working on the library quite a bit over the next few months. To get it organized and open. Plus, I’m working on a “Books for Africa application to hopefully get reference books that are less than 45 years old, kid’s fiction, picture books, etc… They teach a little bit of English from grad 1 on. After grade 7, it’s all English. They love to read when they can get a hold of books. So some good books at the appropriate age level would be great. If anyone out there would be interested (or several people) in being in charge of a book drive, that would be awesome. What you would do is gather books from people, schools, and churches… by February. $ would also need to be raised for shipping. There is a contact person who’s in charge of the project who helps with whatever is needed, guides us through the process and answers all questions. I supply a list of the genre of books needed and appropriate age levels. ($500 is the estimated cost of shipping about 1000 books, However I'm thinking that since we have some books, and limited room, I’m looking for somewhere in between 300 and 400). I know this is a huge task, but if anyone out there is even remotely interested, please send me an email…

I started teaching English a couple of weeks ago. The students and teachers approached me as I was walking through the village. So far, I love it, but it’s a bit intimidating because… I’m not a teacher and am scared that I don’t have a clue about what Im doing. But the students are real eager for help with an English speaker. There have been a couple of times when students have walked me home, with a million questions about America and have helped me a bit with my Sesotho J So, here’s my next request. If any of you have any suggestions on how to teach English and not be boring to a bunch of 10th graders, I would welcome them!! I’m just there a couple of mornings a week. The students have (most of them) the basics… any hints?

An update on Willard. (My name for the rat(s)) So I haven’t seen one since last time, but I still sweep the droppings out of the pit latrine daily. Last week, I was in there and Willard squeezed under the door, ran up my leg, (RAN UP MY LEG!!!) and up the side, out of the roof. I ran out, with my pants around my hips and had to stifle a huge scream. I walked around the compound for about 15 mins, having quite a melt down, and then went into my house where I just about vowed to never come out and not to eat so I wouldn’t have to use the pit latrine. I thought, “Ok, there is death, poverty, huge differences in culture, every kind of conceivable stressor… am I really going to let a rat running up my leg push me into despair?” YES! I felt like a huge baby but I sent a text to my boss Maria (who’s awesome) and she called me back to confirm that rats running on me was “unacceptable” and greatly encouraged me. (This woman has the patience of a saint!) I’ve already tried to borrow a cat here. I’ve been told the smell of a cat will keep rats away… I’ve asked and been told “no” several times. It was finally explained to me that people don’t loan out their cats because of witchcraft. I might put a spell on it and then when I give it back…. I’m not a cat lover and I’ve resisted, but enough is enough. My students are on the lookout for a kitten or cat for sale. Ill buy food in town this week in preparation. This cat will be my new best friend. Ahh,,, Lesotho.

Lastly, a couple of weekends ago, I visited a fellow PCV who came with my group. Her name is Kaye, she’s from Sacramento and she works at St Rose’s clinic in Peka. I can’t get her blog linked to mine for some reason, but it’s worth checking out. She has some great pictures. She’s at On the Sunday I was there, they had a big celebratory mass for their bishop. Singing, dancing with sticks with horse hair on them, and a huge feast. I got to talk with a bunch of the sisters who live there who are quite wonderful. This clinic does great work with HIV/Aids outreach plus they have a maternity clinic there (not common) And, Kaye has electricity, running water and an indoor flush toilet (no rats) It was like a vacation. I got to charge my laptop. I even got to take a bath… with hot water. At one point, my whole body was submerged in hot water. I’m sure this is what heaven will be like. Here’s a couple of pictures that Kaye took. Thanks Kaye!!

I miss you all, I’m grateful for you all. I love you all.
Salang Hantle!

These 3 pictures were at the Mass in Peka. The 3 girls do a traditional Basotho dance at the beginning of the service. I want one of the skirts!

Saturday, September 6, 2008


I have been at my site at Ha Mohatlane for about 1 month now. It was great to get to acutally unpack. I live in a little 2 room stone house with a tin roof, no electricity or water, and Im happy to be home. Ive been hanging out with some of the vocational students and have actually clicked with a couple of them. One of them has begun tutoring me in sesotho which is good, because in order to be effective, I have to get better with the language.

Im 12 km from the camp town of TY- one combi ride away. This ride can take anywhere from 20 mins to 1 1/2 hours depending on stops, breaking down.... and so far, Im always quite amused by how many people can be crowded into one, 15 passenger combi. The highest was 27 one morning... kids on laps, all kinds of contortions to get more people in. It is rather amazing. A couple of weeks ago, I spent a few days in TY at the home of a third year PCV. The first night was a welcome party for all of the new PCVs in the district of Berea. It was great. We had a Braii (B-B-Cue) Meat is such a treat!! They had little welcome bags for all of the newbies with stuff like crystal light, protein bars, pixie stix... all stuff to make us feel a little bit of home. On monday and tuesday, 6 of us helped out at Becky's school (she teaches at a high school) teaching about stigma with regards to HIV/AIDS. Some of the volunteers had done this before, so it was great for me... good experiance and learning new stuff. Plus, many of the kids were really receptive, had great questions and answered some of my questions which helped me to understand some of the stigma here. I asked on young man if people believed that you could not ge HIV after drinkin from the same glass or by hugging them... He said people don't believe it, even when told by teachers or doctors. This is a huge problem to overcome, because ARVs are free here, but people are too afraid to be tested, so they go unused. Sometimes, I wonder if there's hope, but after talking with some of these students, I believe that things can change here
The NGO Im working with wants to train Peer Educators to go out into the surrounding villages to teach HIV/AIDS, have testing days, etc... and identify others in each village who will also train.... hopefully making the whole thing sustainable. There are a few kids already who seem excited by being trainers and making a difference. It definitely gives me hope.

The cultural differences have at times been difficult for me to adjust to. Time here (as in many developing countries) has a different meaning. If you set up a time to meet with someone, if it happens a 1/2 hour later, thats pretty good. Sometimes its an hour or not at all. Sometimes I can just accept it... it is was it is. Sometimes it drives me crazy. If my door is umnlocked, people will walk in without waiting to be told to come in. Its so different than america. 98 percent of the kids I meet tell me to "give them candy or money" within the first sentence or two. And there is absolutley nothing here for people with mental illness. You're just "crazy" and on your own. At times, this seems rather harsh
And yet, these are a people who for the most part, are very poor, hungry, dont have the proper clothing, many, many people to one or 2 room house, dying off at the average age of 37... there is much suffering, yet there is joy to be found. Children playing, adults laughing and singing and loving one another. Some times Im not sure what kind of a difference (if any) I can make here, but Im glad to be here and try. (I know, Yoda fans are saying "there is no try") but sometimes, putting forth your best effort can make a difference. I recently read a Mother Theresa quote that went something like this: "It may just be a drop of water in an ocean, but its a drop of water which would be missed if it wasn't there"

Last story, i was in my pit latrine the other day, and the biggest rat I ever saw slipped under the crack, ran up next to my leg, looked at me and let me know who was boss, ran up the wall and out a crack at the top. Think "Willard." I stifled a scream, ran out of the latrine and could hear rustling in the weeds. Welcome to Lesotho!!
Salang Hantle!!!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Swearing in

"I, Merrill Nosler, do solemly swear that I will support and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same, that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will faithfully discharge my duties in the Peace Corps.
So help me God."

This was administered by Ambassador Robert B Nollan, His excellency to the embassy of the United States, Lesotho.

WOO HOO!!!!!

Tomorrow, I move to my site. It begins. And I know that I have all of you to thank. When I get a new address, I will post it on this blog.

Pictures again borrowed by Tara. Thanks Tara.
This is the Peace Corps country director Ted Mooney. He rocks!!!
These are all of the wonderful women trainees. While we're all ready to go to our sites tomorrow, I will miss them very much.
Salang hantle!!!!
Dennis, Check out the picture on Megans blog of her site. She's going to do great work there.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Some fun pictures

First of all, Id like to thank Tara... these are her pictures and she was kind enough to let me post them on my blog. So thanks, Tara, you rock!

This is our last day in the our training village at Ha Soole. They pinned the traditional blankets on us (men and woman wear these instead of jackets) Unfortunately, we didn't get to keep the blankets... they are a nice, warm, heavy wool. But they were cool to wear for a while. And an honor.
From left to right... Oscar, me, Barbara, Lorian, Megan, Kelly and Tara. We all lived in Ha Soole, while the rest of the trainees were split up in 2 other villages.
This is my 'M' e (Mampolokeng) and my abuti Tlotliso. Tlotliso is 6, and easily the coolest kid in the village. Possibly in Lesotho!!!! (My 'M'e rocks too!)
For the last week in the village, we brought some of our stuff to the school every day to go back to Maseru. This is Tom in my basin that I use to wash my clothes. He wanted to demonstrate that he uses his to take a full on bath....
Well, went this last week with our country counterparts to visit our sites. Im in Ha Mohatlane, in the Berea district. Its a cool rural village, with lots of hiking nearby. Yet there is a road where you can easily catch a combi to the local camptown which is only 12 km away. In the camptown there is access to fruits and vegetables... and internet. The best of both worlds. My 3 day visit was fairly uneventful. There was no access to my pit latrine of water for a day, but my counterpart fixed that, so all is well. I have a house with 2 rooms, a tin roof, no electricity, no running water, a bed, a 2 burner gas stove, a gas heater, 2 tables and 2 chairs. Its always cold (and I suspect will be always hot in the summer) Its built of stone, you can see the gaps between the wall and the ceilings.... and I love it!!!!
The NGO Im working for is Lesotho Durham Link. (I think they have a web site) This is a British Based organization with an office in Maseru, and in my village, the goal is youth outreach not only in my village, but going into the other villages. My little home is on a school compound with a primary school, a vocational school (a woman teaches welding... very unusual for Lesotho) permaculture, a church (the organization is part of the Anglican church) and a clinic which is no longer open... but England is trying to raise money to open it up again... and it's needed. After the 3 day visit (for one combi ride there were 23 people in a 15 passenger combi... I had a beautiful 2 yr old on my lap for a while) we came back to the Peace Corps training center in Maseru.
Our language trainers worked with us for a day, and then we had the dreaded language assesment tests... done by people whom we have never met. It was about 15 minutes, tape recorded, and then they went over them one by one to determine if we could speak well enough to get around. I was so nervous.. as were many people, nerves were very taut with many... and, I passed!!!!!! Woo hoo. I get to swear in on Wednesday with everyone else. Whew!!! Today and tomorrow are interviews with the country director and the apcd and her assistant to make sure every thing is all right and we are committed... (hmmm, what should I do) and then wednesday we swear in. Thursday morning, I travel to the Maseru office to meet the rest of the staff for Lesotho Durham Link, and then I make my way back to the village for the next 2 years. Thanks for all the prayers and support. If I can borrow a camera, I'll try to post pictures of my village.
I'll try and post again after swearing in. I hope all is well at home

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Ahe Karohano!

Ahe Karohano. (parting is sorrowful) Yesterday was our last day of CBT (community based training) The village had a big feast. (PC threw it) It was at the chief's house. The day before we helped the bo-me peel what seemed like a million potatos, carrots, squash, pumpkin and onions. They made tons of food. We had name (meat... chicken in this case.. a real treat. I was the PCT who said thank you for the trainees in sesotho. I think they even understood me. :) We (the trainees) sang Ahe Karohano to the villagers (with harmony even) There were traditional dancing, the chief said he wanted us to stay longer, and PC presented the chief with a new wool blanket as a thank you. While Im really looking forward to going to my site, it was sad to leave. Ha kea thabile. (Im not happy... they don't really have a word for sad) The villagers went out of their way to make us feel welcome. The 8 people in our village of Ha Soole all became friends, occasionally having dinner together, huddled together for heat, eating American food and speaking english for a couple of hours. It was a hard, yet good 7 weeks.

Last week, we all had lunch at the US ambassador's home. The ambassador and his wife were wonderful. They made us a huge spread complete with meat, ice cream, electricity and flush toilets. A huge treat. A couple of hours of being in an oasis. They were very kind. After lunch, PC surprised us by giving us our site placements 3 days early. While what you actually end up doing at your placement can be totally different...(depending on community needs and motivation) Here's what my sheet says:

Trainee: Merrill Nosler

Village: Ha Mohatlane

District: Berea

Village stats: Lowlands, small- medium size (12km from TY, about 45 min from Maseru)

House: Tin roof, water tap nearby, no electricity. The house is on a compound beside the center

Previous PCV Site: Yes. There was a volunteer who left in July 2005. He assisted the school with vocational skills and agriculture.

Host organization: Lesotho Durham link Lesotho Durham Link is a local NGO that focuses on youth. You will be living near and working at a youth center which was formerly very active and which the group is seeking to revive.

work with this organization may include: (the key word is "may")- assist with the planning of training and development programs-work with the staff and provide advice where possible and appropriate on general matters relating to the revival of the center and its day to day functioning.-assist with proposal preparation, reports and training manuals for youth.-assist with determining pricing for the use of center facilities and income generating products-assist with the implementation and monitoring and evaluation of center programs for youth.-assist with the training of trainers for youth-HIV/ Aids outreach and prevention.

So now, you know what I know. I am back in Maseru, and on monday meet with my counterpart and/ or supervisor at an all day "supervisors workshop" that PC puts on. Monday night, I travel to my site and check it out until friday (make sure the housing is good..the ngo provides the housing), and then return to Maseru until August 6... preparing for the language test, passing it (hopefully) and swearing in. Im doing ok with the language when I write... but get somewhat tongue tied sometimes when I speak... Im nervous about it...and then move to site either August 6 or 7. Im excited, scared, nervous, hopefull....

Ive only been gone a couple of months. It seems like its been longer. I love Lesotho, the country, the people. There is much that I have already learned that I hope I never forget. But at the same time, there are moments that I long for home... certain food, pants... but most of all friends and community. There are moments when I am very lonely. And then moments when I am not lonely, but just alone. And sometimes it's very hard, and at other times it's very, very sweet and wonderful. This makes me appreciate all of the wonderful people in my life... all those who have loved me so well back at home. I really, really appreciate and love all of you. I am being forced to consider things that I have never before truly considered. I see some who suffer and live hard lives, and yet are kind and have joy. And I already see the way poverty and AIDS is ravaging this beautiful country, and there are times when I mourn. But there is also so much hope. All those who work for PC, both Americans and Basotho express it. The nationals here who are working towards the future express it... I can't help but feel the hope myself.

I know, its a bit mushy for me. Ke swabile (sorry) I should be able to post next week when I come back to Maseru from my site visit. I will have much to tell you about my new village, community and those i will be working with. I hope things are good in Califrnia.

Ive received a couple of letters complete with pictures of kids. THANK YOU! They were timely, made my week, and I got to show them to my fellow trainees and my Basotho trainers and show them pictures of the coolest kids in the world. They agreed!!! Someone asked me for a wish list, right now the best thing (time permitting) would be news from home. You are all in my thoughts and prayers. Thanks for your support.


Dennis, The more I get to know megan, the more I appreciate, respect and love her. She has a really compassionate heart, and is kind to all. You should be very proud.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Last Pictures

These are most of the trainees in my village. We have gotten together to watch the sunset

This is a my little "nephew"

This is my "grandmother" She's great... a force of natures

This is the little catholic church in the village...and where we had our fundraising concert

This is a hike we took when visiting a current PCV. This is close to her house. NIce

This is the top of Thabo Bosiu. (MOuntain of night)

These will be the last pictures for awhile. 2 days ago, my camera stopped working. I emailed a couple of friends who might have a clue what happened, but if anyone else might know... I have a Nikon d70s, the LCD still works, but the monitor doesnt come on. It focuses, takes pictures, but does not store them on the memory card (I tried 4 different cards, so it's not the card) On the LCD (the screen on top) you can change all of the numbers like normal...fstop etc... but where it should say how many pictures you have left, its blank. And when you take the card out, there should be an "E" there, but theres nothing. Any ideas? I would appreciate it. I already miss my camera

Friday, July 11, 2008

Hoa Bata!

Hoa Bata!. Its cold. Its cold..... Its really cold. Im not sure how cold, but when I was taking my bucket bath this morning in my room, I was able to see my breath. Have I mentioned before how impractical skirts are in the winter?
Ive got some awesome pictures... but Ive been having problems doing it from the internet cafes. (it takes forever. maybe my next blog will be just pictures) Im working on trying to set up a link to picasso.
Ok, enough complaining. Ke phela homonate (Im doing well) Last saturday, PC took us to a place called Thabo Busiu. (mountain of the night) We hiked to the top about 1 hour staight up. Picture the steps for the mist trail and then make them about 1/3 taller... and loose. In skirts. It was a fun hike and beautiful on the top. King Moshoeshoe (first king of Lesotho) along with about 4000 Basotho, fought to hold off the boers at this site in the 1830's. (the Boers had guns, the basotho didn't) Lesotho was born at this time. All of the royal family up to the present are buried at the top of Thabo Busiu. Moshoeshoe died in the 1860's and he turned Lesotho over to britain as a protectorate. Lesotho jsut got its independence in the 1960's. King Moshoeshoe is a big deal here.
We just finished week 5 if training. Less than a month till swearing in (aug 6) This week weve learned more about business development here, our roles in Lesotho, gender diversity and of cours... sesotho. We had a practice language eveluation (i did od) Today we went on a field trip to a province called TY. we visited a women's weaving group that started 10 plus years ago (they started because they wanted to raise money to pay their childrens' school fees) We learned about the entire process.. from buying the mohair (sheep) from the local farmers, washing it... they showed us how they take the hair and spin it into yarn and dye it and weave it. They do really beautiful work. a PCV is assigned to this group and has really been able to help with the business end of things. It seems like she's really been able to help (16 women are now employed at this business)
Next we went to see a youth center that has just opened up... with a PCV helping them. The ministry of youth (a govt organization) is behind this and is opening several centers. Thecenters are supposed to be providing outreach, HIV?aids, STI education etc... It seems hough that the Ministry of Youth is geared to opening the buildings and then not helping much with funding after that. A lot of work for the youth and community to do.
Then we were taken to a local farm The man running it jsut started by wanting to produce enough for himself. and then realized how viable it would be. He expanded and grows a lot of the "exotic" stuff...brocolli, cauliflower, spinach, etc... He sells to the local camp town and to Maseru. He employs 5 full time workers, built a dam for water shartage times, started a piggery (the biggest pigs Ive ever seen..) explained to us some of the problems he faces... very inspirtational.
Sunday we are going for 3 days to visit a place called Bethel. We will get dirty and build "key hole gardens" (if anyone is interested, google key hole gardens in Lesotho)
Tomorrow is our first saturday free, and my host family wants me to go to church with them. They are 7th day adventists.. should be interesting
I miss you all. I hope all is well for you. Someone told me California is burning. Is this true.
You are all in my prayers.

Dennis, by the way, Megan is doing really well. She did a presentation on water dehydration this week and it was great

4th of July from Lesotho

Happy 4th of July!! Yesterday afternoon Peace Corps ended our classes earlier and did a braii (bar b que) for us. We had meat ( a huge treat) and all the fixings.
A couple of weeks ago I tried to blog, but had internet cafe issues. I just finished week 4 (week 5 if you count staging) of CBT (community based training. Trainings been really structured, stressful at times, an overload of info....and really great. It will be 2 or 3 weeks until I find out what my placement will be, meet my country coubnterpart and then spend a few days at my site checking it out. Ill come back, hopefully pass the sesotho language proficiency exam and then be sworn in as a volunteer on August 6. Just one month from now.
In the meantime, all 23 of us continue to learn about a variety of subjects- permaculture, microbusiness, HIV/AIDS, differences in culture, diversity awareness... and of cours, Sesotho. Ke batla ho bua Sesotho ho mante. (I want to speak Sesotho well) Im keeping up,, but it seems like just barely. I admit to feeling rather old!
Last weekend, all of the trainees were split up and sent to visit current PCVs (peace corps volunteers) Along with 4 other trainees, I was able to see 2 different sites- one in a village (the volunteer works at a boarding school for disabled kids) and the other in a camptown. Both PCVs were extremely hospitable- besides answering lots of questions, it was a great break from the structured training.
Im going to talk a little bit about my program: C.H.E.D (communtiy health and economic development)
CHED is a relatively new program in Lesotho, and no in all PC countries. It used to be that there were separate tracts (ie health, education, agriculture etc...) and that was your primary focus. Here in Lesotho, 2 PC groups come in a year. 1 group of education volunteers (teachers) and 1 of CHED. Basically, Ched volunteers will be placed with an agency who has asked for help, but once you get to your site, besides working with that agency, you can do whatever you wont- after you spend time working to ascertain what the community needs. Teaching about HIV, small income generation, youth outreach, permaculture...whatever would really help. The key is that PC is here to capacity build. It must be sustainable. It's not for us to do- its for us to help and guide the community to do and take ownership in. Otherwise, once a volunteer leaves, the project collapses. Im interested/ excited/ nervous to see how that pans out at my site.
So far, Im quite impressed with PC as an organization. The person in charge of the CHED program is wonderful She's very involved in our trainings, in our site development, and has made sure that we know that she is available 24/7 if we have problems. I believe her. She rocks. Our country director is much the same way. Plus, he's a guitar player (from how he talks, a pretty good one I suspect) which makes him cool. Though he's making me miss my guitar a lot.
Enough for now. Although I will add that Im learning to (and surprisingly liking to) use as little water as possible to get clead, do dishes, cook, etc...
"Peace Corps has not only taught me to look at the glass as half full, but to look at it and think, hmm- I could bathe in that" PCV volunteer
I miss you all and wish you could be here to soo this beautiful country and meet some of my awesome fellow trainees. All is right with the world.
Sala Hantle!!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Lumela Bo me le Bo ntate

I can't believe Ive only been in Maseru for one week. My head is crammed with information about so many things... and there's much more to go. The training staff is very wonderful and very patient. We started our language training. 3 or 4 per group. The teachers laugh alot and their joy is infectious. I've probably had more language in the last week then in a month back when I took Spanish in school. And beginning this Sunday, we will finally have the 24/7 experiance. Sunday we are moving into our villages. There will be 7 or 8 trainees to a village, and 2 trainers. Each one of us will be with our own host familes, have our own rooms, areas to bathe (bucket baths) etc... Every day we will get together for more training/ language. At 4 pm everyday we have chores, in which we get to learn how to survive on our own in Lesotho. Our families will teach us how to cook, clean, make steamed bread etc... (good thing someone is finally teaching me this stuff!!) And then in the evening we will spend "family time" and get to practice our language, learn more stuff and have fun!! Im really excited. Pretty nervous, but more excited than nervous. During the next 7 weeks, we will also have field trips to learn about permaculture (I get to grow my own food if I want.. woo hoo!!) go to a PCV's site for a few days, and see what it's like... and then make it back on our own to Mesure. We will also go for a few days with our country counterparts to our perspective sites to check them out and check out the housing, and if, I mean when I pass my language exam, I will be sworn in on August 6 as a Peace Corps volunteer.

Among other things, we've been learning about HIV/AIDs, and here's some statistics which have been on my mind: The population in Lesotho has dropped from 2.1 million to 1.6-1.8 million over the last 20 years. Every day, 50 people die of AIDS, and 62 are newly infected/diagnosed. The average life expectancy is down from 68 yrs old to 36 yrs. And for me, here's the most disturbing... there are 180,000 AIDS orphans. That's conservatively 10 percent of the population. The Basotho are wonderful as far as extended families taking care of a lot of these kids. There are homeless AIDS orpans, and from what I was told, wonderful orphanes, but not enough of them. Something to keep in mind.

I should be able to get to the internet probably once a week through training, so hopefully i'll post after being in the village for a week... maybe with some pictures. I hope that life is good for all of you.

Kea leboha!!!!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

You're not in Kansas anymore...

Peace Corps training has begun!!! It's Sunday, 10 a.m. Lesotho time. We arrived in Lesotho last Friday morning. We took a 2 prop, 30 seater plane from Johanesburg to Maseru. There was one moment when the plane took a plunge to the left and dropped quite a bit...all of the sudden. This illicited some screams, hanging onto people. It woke me up. 2 of our team had to wait for the next flight because they said our plane was too heavy. That made me a bit nervous.

We arrived safe and sound. The associate director for Peace Corps, a current volunteer and several of our trainers were waiting for us. We received a very enthusiastic welcome, went through customs (it took many people several days to get all their bags) and were taken back to the Peace Corps training house in Maseru. When we got there all of our trainers sang "welcom to Lesotho" to us in Sesotho. Apparantly, Lesotho loves it's song, and their singing was beautiful. Harmony and everything. I've been told we are going to be doing much singing... and dancing. (stop laughing) For the rest of friday and saturday, we had a session that was an overview of the training time, sessions in the Peace Corps approach to development, safety and security, went for a walk around in Maseru, mapped out Lesotho and began the first of what will be a long list of innoculations. We first received yellow fever, and meningitis. We will begin a series of rabies, tb...etc.. (about 10 shots in all) All of the women also had to do pregnancy tests. (yes, mine was negative :) ) The instructors are mostly Basotho, who work for the Peace Corps and are incredibly patient. We've learned a few words of Sesotho, and begin our formal training on Monday, where they will assess us, split us into groups for language, interview us to try and determine the best fit for our site placements, etc...

For next week, (week 1) we are still at the training facility begining language, different sessions, and getting ready to be placed with our host families in week 2. Next sunday, we will go to our host families, (everyone with their own family, but the entire team divided up into 3 villages) and 2 peace corps language trainers per village. We will be taken shopping, so we will go complete with pots and pans (we will do our own cooking starting week 3) pee bucket, etc... We will have peace corps training until 4 pm everyday, and then chores with the family (they will teach us how to do the everyday things we need to know) and then "family time" every evening so that we can practice our language and complete other assignments. During this time up through August 6, we will take a few days to visit another volunteer at their site, going with them, and then getting back on our own. We will also spend a few days with our Basotho supervisor at our new site, checking it out and figuring out what we need to bring. And then we have a language test in which we need to score an "intermediate low" and then are sworn in August 6th. We will also learn during training about the agriculture here, how to plant our own foods, how to work with, teach HIV/ AIDS stuff..... and more, as Peace corps volunteers (while having one specialty..mine is health) are expected to do a little of everything.

This is all a little overywhelming for me. But I remain excited when I take it just one day at a time. The team is great, if not a little frazzled. But everyone is very kind and considerate to each other. They are easing us into the food... part American, part Lesotho, with Papa being a staple of most meals.. it's a mixture of corm meal and maize usually served with some kind of "gravy"

My internet time is running out. (Im at a cafe) I should be able to come back later on in the week and tell you more. They will be giving us money for and taking us later in the week to buy cell phones. It's expensive to call out, but texting is pretty cheap... so I hear.

I miss you all and hope things are well at home!!

Thursday, June 5, 2008 last

17 hours and 40 minutes to Johanesburg. We're in the hotel overnight, and in the morning to Mesuru. I can't believe it. The journey was long but uneventful. I miss all you guys. I'm not sure when I'll get to the internet again. I will write soon.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

1 day plus

I have been a Peace Corps trainee for 1 plus days now!!! Staging is done. The trainers did a great job with providing really good information in a really short time. Plus, structured into the training, there was the opportunity to get to know the rest of the team a little bit better. This is really a wonderful group of people.
This was about half of the group meeting tonight to go out and share our last American dinner together. (pizza and salad) My roomate is on the far right. That's Megan, and I definitely lucked out. She's very kind, helpful and has worked with special needs kids. She's been a great roomie.

It's only been 3 days since I've left Sacramento... somehow it seems longer. I miss you guys
This was the group that showed up at the airport to see me off. Im very blessed. You guys rock
Tommorow morning we leave the hotel for New York and leave from JFK for Johanesburg. We are overnight there, and then continue on to Lesotho. If I have internet access in Johanesburg, I'll post one more time. Otherwise, I may be out of contact for a bit. But I will post again as soon as I can. Take care!!!!!

Monday, June 2, 2008

It's official

At 2:00 p.m. eastern time today, I turned in all of my paperwork, basically signed my life away and went from a being a peace corps invitee to a peace corps trainee. Staging began and I met the 22 other people on my team and participated in the usual type of icebreakers. I know Im biased, but I think this team of people is a really talented, exciting and diverse group. There are 17 women and 6 men. The bulk are in their twenties. There are 4 or 5 of us over 40, and one woman in her 60's. (this amazing woman actually served 3 years in the Peace Corps in the Phillipines about 10 years ago) Many have just graduated college, several have received their masters. They come from all over the country, including one woman from St Croix, in the Virgin Islands. There are several people who have spent time in different places in Africa working/volunteering. There is one woman who was in the Peace Corps in Kenya who was evacutated and is brave enough to give it another shot. There's even a die hard Yankee's fan. (Go Cubs!!!) All in all, a really great group of people who I looked forward to getting to know better in the months to come.

Todays staging consisted of discussing safety and security as we serve, and the Peace Corp's approach to developement. This statement is how they view it:

"Go to the people.
Live with them. Learn with them. Love them.
Start with what they know.
Build with what they have.
But with the best of leaders, when the work is done, the task completed, the people will say,
'we have done it ourselves.'" Lao Tsu, 700 B.C.

The Peace Corps provides the trained people, to train the people for something that is sustainable by the people. How exciting!!! How scary. Am I up to it?

Tomorrow the staging will include managing risks, crossing cultures and policies. On wednesday, we leave Philadelphia at 9:30 a.m., take a bus to New York, take a 17hr, 40min plane to Johannesburg South Africa, stay overnight, take a 1hr plane to Mesuru, Lesotho and then the intenisive full immersion training begins. I can't wait.

Tomorrow, I'll try to post a picture of the team, so that you can see Im in good hands.
I miss you guys

Sunday, June 1, 2008

5 hours

29 months ago I began the application process on line for the Peace Corps. There were several times when I believed it wouldn't happen and I contempleated what I would do for the rest of my life. Now I am leaving in 5 hours. Exciting. Scary. Unbelievable. To have an opportunity to serve for a chunk of time in a developing country....I have been deeply blessed. Thank you for all of your support.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The face of Lesotho

9 days! It took 22 months from submitting the application to acceptance. And then 6 months of waiting. And now, all of the sudden, time is flying. I've been packing, saying goodbye to incredible friends..... I have had so much unbelievable support and I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

People have been asking me why Im going. Here's a couple of good reasons.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

17 DAYS!

17 days. I received my invitation back at the end of November. First it's more than 6 months. Now it's 17 days. A lot of "last things" are going on. My last day at work is Saturday. My last time to hang out with our Junior High youth group is coming up. The last time Im able to sit down for a cup of coffee or a chance to break bread with good friends is fast approaching. Im really excited, more than just a little scared, and ready for the next part of my story to begin.

I just returned from a few days in Yosemite with some friends. When I got home, the Peace Corps staging packet was finally waiting for me. When exactly Im leaving, (Sunday June 1st) where Im going for staging, (Philadelphia) and the day Im actually flying to Lesotho. (June 4th) I tore open the packet, reading all the details, all of the last odds and ends I need to accomplish before I leave. There was a small little book in the packet entitled "A Few Minor Adjustments, a handbook for volunteers." As I read throught the book, I could start feeling the anxiety in the pit of my stomach. The handbook is attemping to prepare you (and scare you I think) for all of the changes that will happen and probably overwhelm you. One section was entitled: "The Loss of Language." It explains how hard it will be to communicate your needs, conduct everyday transactions that we take for granted, and to be able to figure out the needs of others. It goes on to describe the feelings and thoughts that go along with that:
"On a more existential level, if you can't communicate your views and explain yourself, how can anyone know you? And, if you can't understand others, how can you know them? Not knowing anyone and not being known by anyone can make you feel isolated and profundly alone. As returned Peace corps Bolunteer Moritz Thomsen wrote in his book, The Saddest Pleasure: A Journey on Two Rivers, 'Because I speak no Portuguese and have chosen to move through those parts of Rio De Janeiro where tourists do not go, I find after a few days of not speaking that I have begun to doubt my own existence."
At this point, I stopped reading and looked up at my friend sitting across from me and said "what am I thinking? What am I doing?" I was feeling about 97% excitement, and 3% cold, icy fear. This paragraph spoke to me, because over the last 5 or so years, I have learned that when I forget who God made me to be, the world revolves around myself and I do a very, very poor job considering, thinking about and serving others. And above all else, I want to go to Lesotho and make a difference. This little Peace Corps handbook was a great reminder/ splash of cold water for me to be aware of forgeting my identity when everything changes.

Yosemite was incredible. I am convinced that it is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Here's a few pics...

This is mirror lake.

I gave half dome a shot. I figured I hiked 19.9 miles in one day. You climb 4800 feet in elevation in 8.2 miles. The cables were down, and I made it all the way to the base and about 2/3 of the way up the cables. I didn't quite make it up to the top though. Some friends have said they will hike it with me when I get back, so thats something to look forward to in 2010!

I've met some people on my team through the wonders of internet. Kelly, Megan,'s pretty cool to already have a sense of some of the cool people who are on this Peace Corps team with me, and I have never seen face to face. But I can already tell that these people, (along with Kaye whom I met in Sacramento at a Peace Corps Bon voyage party) are going to be a priviledge to serve with. Im excited to talk to them in person.

If you've read this entire post, you're pretty patient. Thanks for reading my ramblings. Im excited to go, but I'll miss all of you so much.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


I received an email from the Peace Corps today that I will be leaving 9 days earlier. June 2nd rather than June 11th. This will be good flexibility practice for me. I hope you all had a wonderful Easter. 2 months and 6 days.

Monday, February 18, 2008

3 months and 23 days. (but who's counting?)

I always said I would never set up a blog... but as I've learned many times over the last 5 years, never say never! Thanks Martin for helping me set it up. In less than 4 months, I am privileged to begin a new journey. I have been accepted by the Peace Corps and will be moving to Lesotho, Africa in June, 2008. I began the application process January 2006, and was officially accepted in November 2007 and invited to serve in Kenya. But because of the post election violence, the Kenyan team was cancelled, and I was reissued an invitation to serve in Lesotho. (pronounced, Li-sue-too) My job title will be to serve as a Community Health and Economic Advisor. (CHED advisor) While I don't know a whole lot of what that entails, here's what my Peace Corps invite said:

"CHED Volunteers work in a variety of sectors including HIV/AIDS, small business development, agriculture and agriculture business, and youth. Each Volunteer site will focus on one or more of these sectors dependent upon the best opportunities for work at that site. Your primary duties will depend upon your particular site placement."

Yeah I know, that's probably could mean I'll be doing.... who knows. That statement encompasses alot. But I don't really have to know right now. I just want to help.

History of the Program:
"Peace Corps was invited to work in Lesotho in 1967. The Peace Corps program in Lesotho has been maintained over the years at a relatively constant number of between 90-100 Volunteers, except for a brief time following the post-election civil unrest in 1998. Education, agriculture, and health have been the principle program sectors for Peace Corps activity. The focus in placement of Volunteers has been on rural development, which mirrors the country's 85% rural population demography. However, with rapid migration of those seeking economic opportunity, Peace Corps also works with peri-urban populations in a number of districts... "

"The U.S. State Department estimates the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in Lesotho to be about 23.2%, one of the highest rates in the world. The United Nations estimates that this rate will rise to 36% within the next 15 years, resulting in a sharp drop in life expectancy." The unemployment rate is at 45% and 49% of the people live below the poverty line. So whether it's working with education, resources.... there's a lot to do.

A little bit about Lesotho. Lesotho is referred to as "The Switzerland of Africa." Lisotho is the only independent state in the world that lies entirely above 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) in elevation. Its lowest point is 1,400 metres (4,593 ft), and over 80% of the country lies above 1,800 metres (5,900 ft) Lesotho has the highest low point of any country in the world (so they say) Lesotho weather does not fit my preconceived notions of climate in Africa. While Lesotho is just south of the equator, Lesotho remains cooler throughout the year than other regions at the same latitude. The rainy season is during the summer. Mesuru, the capital and surrounding lowlands will be in the 90's in the summer. Winters can be cold with the lowlands getting down to 19 degrees F, and the highlands to 0 degrees F. It does snow in the deserts and valleys between May and September; the higher peaks can experience snowfalls year-round.

Ive always wanted to live in the snow. I think it is very funny that the first time I will, I will have no electricity and an outdoor pit latrine. Im so excited!!! (I think Im going to have to start limiting my water intake in the winter)

Lesotho is a constitutional monarchy, with the King being largely a ceremonial figurehead. I'm not sure how that all works out, but I'm looking forward to finding out. Lesotho's population is about 2.3 million, with roughly 80% of the people living in rural areas. The people in Lesotho are ethnically part of the Basotho, a Bantu speaking people. I will be learning a language called Sesotho, which among other things, utilizes some clicking sounds. One friend has remarked that I already at times click when I talk, so I will be ahead of the game.

During training I will live with a host Basotho family. I don't know exactly what type of housing I will have, but many PCV's in Lesotho live in huts like the one pictured below. They are called Rondavels

PC furnishes each house with a bed, table and chairs, a two burner gas stove, food cabinet and small gas heater. I will not have electricity or indoor plumbing. Volunteers take bucket baths and use a latrine. Likely, the house will be located in a village within a family compound to help minimize security risks. PC does require that volunteers have bars on the windows and door to lock, so that they are secure. Some volunteers also live and work with missionaries.
This is a gorge in Lesotho. Pretty beautiful, eh?

That's it for now. I'll post a new blog in a few months when it's about time to go. This is a new beginning for me, and I literally would not be going if it were not for the patience, love and support of many people who have walked with me on an incredible journey of transformation over the last 5 years. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you.

Peace be with you!