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!!