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!!