Tuesday, November 24, 2009

TOGETHER WE CAN, or... better than slice bread

Hi everyone,

Its almost Thanksgiving... that's hard to remember for me cause it's getting so hot. So the big HIV/Aids outreach event happened... It was Nov. 7th. There was soccer,an art and drama competition. Hundreds of kids showed up, 7 other pcv's came to help,a bunch of people from my NGO Lesotho Durham Link came and helped...it was crazy... in a good way!!!! Will post pics within a few weeks (i hope)Here's how it went:

10:00am: I met my Peer promoters in TY for the final shopping of food and supplies. One business didn't come through on the soccer balls we promised to schools. They did have the pumps, but with no needles. The Peer promoters dealt with most of it and kept me from screaming... or something worse.

2pm: Ntate Martin, a trainer from LDL came in a truck, helping us to transport everything to Ha Mohtlane, including stopping to pick up the tents we rented. Martin is an angel

3pm:Meeting supposed to start with 20 Peer educators who are volunteering to help. No one here.

3:30 ....no one here

3:45. 12 peer educators here. Peer promoters run the meeting, assign jobs, reimburse transport.... Peer promoters rock!!!

4:30. Youth walk down to the soccer pitch to line it and divide it up into 4 fields. Peer promoters and educators rock!!!

4:30-6. PCV's come and start helping to prep for next day. 590 loaves of bread were delivered to Ha Mohatlane for lunch for the kids at the event. Their were clear directions (in sesotho) to bring sliced loaves of bread. 200 loaves are unsliced.

7:00: Spaghetti dinner served to peer promoters and PCV's. The pasta got forgotten while cooking and was one lump.. (...Oscar...) But, sauce that Oz made was so good, and we were so hungry, it all go eaten

8-12:30 Lunches for kids prepped. Hours and hours spent slicing 200 loaves of bread.. only one bread knife

12:30. All PCV's plead exhaustion and go to bed. Bread not finished being sliced. Everyone still joking... for now

11/07/09 4:30 am. I lay in my sleeping bag listening to a torrential downpour. REALLY? Give me a break... thinking about crying and hiding in my sleeping bag. Maybe no one will see me

5:30. Serve breakfast to all. Everyone says "don't worry, the rain will stop" Im not sure. I stand outside in the rain looking. The sky is one solid mass of grey/black.

6:00 Rain stops.

7:00 Martin shows up and we move tables chairs, tents, art supplies.... out to the pitch. Everything sets up quickly...

8:00 All schools supposed to be here to register...

815 First school shows up

8:45 Rest of the schools show up. Registration is a nightmare. Kids coming from every direction. If it weren't for Oscar, Elizabeth and Teboho.... trying to decide if I can still hide in my sleeping bag

9:00 Event supposed to start

10:00 Event starts. We have a dj (thanks Martin) sound equipment... people pouring in.
10:15-1. Soccer tournament (5 on 5) and art competition get under ways. Kids play really hard (barefooted, hurts my feet to watch) Art competition going well... kids love to do art

10:30: A bunch of people go back to the house to finish lunch and slicing the damn bread. Thank goodness it wasn't me. Thanks Teboho!!

11:00 Face painting breaks out near the art tent. I was sat down and an elaborate, multicolored "disco" is painted on my face. Appropriate, cause anyone who knows me knows my passion for dancing!!!!

1230-130 Lunch. We fed the participants. They loved that. A lot of little primary school kids lined up looking sad, skinny and hungry hoping we had extras. This was the worst moment for me Ive had in many months. If it had been up to me, I would've given them all the food, and the participants who hadn't eaten yet would have found nothing. Thanks Teboho

2:00 The wonderful Masotho man who was conducting the free testing and counseling left. He ran out of supplies. The response for people getting tested was unusually overwhelming. Sometimes, people are afraid of being seen going into the tents..It was wonderful that so many tested.

2:00 Drama competition supposed to start.

3-430: Drama competition. Everyone stayed. The drama and art were all around the theme of how Hiv/Aids effects your community. The kids were all prepared and did a great job. So many people learned so much!

5:00 Event supposed to end

5:00-6: Awards given out (the kids were so excited over hearing their names and receiving certificates)Thank you's said from Lesotho Durham Link and the man representing the chief of the village.

6:00 PCV's with trash bags picked up all the trash on the field. Little kids running up to all of us with their little fists full of trash wanting to help

6-7:15 Tents broken down, everything moved back to the house

8:00 BRAII (b-b-que) Peer promoters and PCVs demolished 6 kilograms of chicken. Thanks Vic for cooking!!! (everyone knows that b-b-que is a guys job:))

9:00 All receipts collected from peer promoters

915: Taking advantage of a generator... watching John Grisham film

9:30 Everyone asleep in chairs, on the floor


8:00 People stagger up.. French toast and fruit for breakfast

11:00 Everyone goes home!!!

It was a good day, with some good (and I hope sustainable) results. A special thanks to PCV's Brice,Jackie, Andre, Karolina, Oscar, Vic and Sejake... thanks you guys, couldn't have done it without you!!. Thanks to David and Elizabeth, missionaries from England who came and worked so hard and kept me laughing. Thanks to Ntate Martin for....everything!!! Thanks to Oak Hills church for all of the art supplies. The kids were so happy!!!Thanks to Ntate Stephen and Lesotho Durham Link for all of their help and support. And especially, thanks to Polo, Masontaha, Teboho and Lebuse.... you guys did it!!! You planned it, ran it... it was beautiful and so are you!!!!.

Again, pics in a few weeks. Thanks everyone for all the support and prayers. Have a great Thanksgiving
Salang Hantle!


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Things I thought I'd never get used to... but did (and sometimes even enjoy)

Hi everyone.

Im in town for the quarterly VAC meeting. (volunteer advisory committee) Its been a really busy last few months, which is good.. to a point. Im getting really tired and after my nov 7th event next weekend (and all the reporting that goes with it) I plan to take a break. Im not sure what exactly. Maybe a day in bed reading, or hopping over to South Africa to Ladybrand for one slow afternoon to go to an awesome coffee shop called Living Life that has wonderful food and actual customer service. In December, I may go to Swaziland for a few days. There have been some extra challanges the last month and Im feeling a big pull to get out of the country for a bit. We'll see.

When I got off the Kombi this morning for the 30 minute walk to the Peace Corps training center this morning, I was noticing things and wondering about the fact that the things that just made me stop and start 17 months ago, I don't even notice any more (at least not too much) So I thought Id bore you and share the things that I thought I'd never get used to, but did:

-The sight of my family gathering cow poop to form into patties and dry them on the hill to use for fuel (and the smell that goes along with cooking with cow patties)
-Myself using cow patties to braii with (bar-b-que)
-27 people traveling together in a 15 seater Kombi
-toddlers naked from the waist down being put on my lap in Kombis
-live chickens on kombis
-toddlers running around naked and stopping anywhere to squat and poop
-Hauling water from 20 minutes away.
-Not bathing for ____ days because Im too lazy to haul water.
-Going to bed in the winter as soon as it gets dark in order to stay warm
-jumping up and down everytime I get a letter or package
-Being anxious and looking over my shoulder everytime I come into Maseru. (recently got mugged for the second time.. no fun)
-Maseru police not caring when someone mugs you and not even wanting to open a report. (unfortunately, I am getting used to that)
-Tab... (remember Tab?)
-Sitting outside my rondavel with my family in the winter, turning the chair to stay in the sun and keeping warm
-Having the cutest Basotho children in my rondavel to draw
-Marriage proposals from under 25 year old herd boys.
-Marriage proposals from over 25 year old herd boys.
-Papa and moroho (vegies)
-Papa and nama (meat)
-just papa... and more papa
-kids asking for candy and money
-people pointing and saying "lakhooa, lakhooa" (white person)
-hot russians from street vendors covered in vinegar
-really fun basotho youth who like to talk and dont even know what email is.

Just a few random thoughts. I hope all is well in America. Ill be back to email in a few weeks. Ill try and post pics from the event. Im also updating my wish list.. several people asked for me to do this.. but remember, letters, phone calls and emails rock!!!
Salang Hantle


Next Saturday, after months of planning, my youth and I are hosting an HIV/AIDs outreach day in the village Ha Mohatlane. There are 9 primary and secondary schools who are attending. It 9-5 and will include a soccer tournament,free HIV/AIDs testing and counselling, dancing, (which my youth say I must participate in)art and drama competition all around the theme "How HIV affects me and my community." It is different planning a big event here. Here are a few of the things that have happened.. both good and not so good.

Not so good: The funding for this event is coming from an American grant. Because of the dollar dropping so much over the last 6 months, by the time the grant was approved we received 3000 rand less than was originally approved... and prices here are not going down. I have spent 13 hours in the band trying to work out getting the ATM card to work for the account the money was deposited in. No good as of today. And, since the account was on the same card as my personal account, I have not had ATM access to the grant or my own account for over a month... (and, everytime I have to come to the bank in Maseru to try to fix it costs me an entire day, between time waiting and public transport) We are giving every school participating 2 soccer balls and a pump. The business we gave the money to 6 weeks ago (we put half down) yesterday told me it would be 20 rand more per ball. 20 rand times 16 balls... with 3000 rand less budget.. and here there is no manager to talk to, no recourse... ah...

The good stuff: 4 peer promoters who are doing this for free and working harder than I've seen a volunteer work on a project. For example, walking to 8 villages, 3 times to deal with principals, teachers and students, and one day in the torrential rain that only seems to come to Lesotho to make sure that every kid has a chance to participate. Oak Hills Church in California sent us a ton of really good art supplies that you can't get here, so that kids can learn about HIV/AIDs through art. 16 people from my NGO, Lesotho Durham Link, all volunteering to come out to help. 20 peer educators from surrounding villages and 7 other peace corps volunteers coming to help and support. It's really an amazing thing.

So like everywhere else in the world, both good things and headaches for this event. But different good and bad stuff... its been quite a learning experience.

Hopefully, all will go well and the kids will learn alot. I've said it before, but it bears repeating. Lesotho has the highest rate of AIDs in Africa, and the third highest in the world. So hopefully, the kids will have fun,learn something and grow up to be adults who can help Lesotho.

Thanks for all your support!!! Pray for no rain.

Salang Hantle (stay well)