Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Things I’m Looking forward to in America (run Oct. 21)

I'm certainly looking forward to hot, steamy showers when I return to America!  

    A while back, my bestie asked me to name some things that I’m looking forward to seeing and doing when I return home to America next month.
   It wasn’t a hard thing to think about.
   Of course, I’m looking forward to seeing my dear friends and family, whom I haven’t seen during my entire service. They have held me down and allowed me to live out this dream that I’ve been living for the past two and a half years.
   I’m also looking forward to eating bean burritos at Chipotle, looking at the nail polish display at Sephora, browsing the clearance aisles at Target and eating tomato and mozzarella sandwiches at Panera Bread.
   Add these to the list: electricity, hot showers, unlimited internet, my car, paved roads, infrastructure and civilization.
  Although I’ll greatly miss Lesotho, I have exactly one more month before I get to indulge in all of these things that I miss dearly in America.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

My Post-Peace Corps Plan

Pretty soon, I'll be a potato. No, not the scrumptious looking one in this photo. But I'll be a couch potato. Trust me, it's a real profession and I'm going to rise to the top in this industry!

   Many of you have asked what my post-Peace Corps plan is.
   Well, I've finally figured it out.
   I'm going to be a professional couch potato.
   Yep, you read that right! A professional couch potato.
   Pretty soon, my ass will be firmly planted on my brother's sleek, brown leather couch for an unspecified amount of time.
   I will acquaint myself with mentors like Little Debbie and Twinkie, people who have not induced my blood sugar and cholesterol for the past two and a half years.
   I will exercise, as my right thumb will work thee hell out of my brother's remote control.
   And I will network--or more appropriately, neckwork, For my neck will work those big fluffy pillows that call my brother's couch home.
   Pretty soon, that couch will be my comfy abode, too.
   Not a half-baked plan, eh?

Saturday, October 11, 2014

My Peace Corps Service in Punctuation Marks

I think my host brother's expression would be best classified as an exclamation mark!

     Grammar is one of my favorite things to teach in school.
   I love breaking down the comma, examining the exclamation mark and explaining the period.
   You better believe I have a song for each one so my students can remember the function of each mark and have fun.
   Now, if my Peace Corps service could be any punctuation mark, it would be three of them.
Read on:

-The question mark: During my service, I’ve questioned a lot of things: Did this man just whip out his willy and pee in that bush right **in front** me? Did this stranger just casually plop her baby on my lap in this taxi? Did I just cuss the hell out of Border Patrol police? When was the last time I washed my ass? How old is this pot of rice? If I ask a lot of questions about my Peace Corps service, then the question mark best represents it, right?

-The exclamation mark: OMG!! Life is so extreme here! Sometimes I just want to scream! Ahhhhhhh! I just screamed!! I’m homesick! Miss my mama! I want the bean burrito at Chipotle! The taxi drivers in Lesotho suck! But yay, I got a hitch to site! This is Peace Corps life! Full of exclamation marks! Ahhh!!!!

-The comma: Peace Corps service seems to filled with many commas, or pauses, or breaks, because so many things happen, all the time, at the same time, or time after time, like Cyndi Lauper, because there’s no concept of time, but things happen a lot of the times, which is why volunteers need breaks, or pauses, like the many commas in this paragraph.

   Sentences with no punctuation marks would have no meaning.
   Same goes for Peace Corps life.
   Grammatical symbols perfectly encapsulates my experience, OK?!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Importance of the Cow in Basotho Culture

Cows are very important to the Basotho people.

   Many cultures revere the cow and the Basotho people are one of them.
   They use all parts and products of the cow, its milk, meat and skin.
   Here are some examples:

-They smear cow dung on their houses to decorate them.

-The cow's tail is often used for brooms, baskets and musical instruments.

-Naturally, the cow is used in farming, as Lesotho is an agricultural society.

-The Basotho shield on the Lesotho flag is of a cow's skin.

-The skin is used for traditional clothing.

-The cow is a vital part of marriage negotiations and arrangements. A man must pay lebola of 26 cows to the bride's family.

   Re chabana sa khomo. That means "We are the people of the cow" in Sesotho, Lesotho's Mother Tongue.
   As you can see, that statement is true. The cow is essential to Basotho life, it is truly an animal of the people.

Information Source: The Morija Museum  and Archives

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Footage of My Students Singing (World Wise Post)

This blog post is part of a series of activities that I'm doing for the Peace Corps' World Wise program. The program links Basotho and American schools through various activities such as blogs like this one and friendly letters.

Here's footage of my students singing and having a good time. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

My Peace Corps Service in manicure format!!

   My bosses here always tell me to find coping mechanisms for the tough days of service.
   Not a hard thing for me to do when I have a million and two bottles of nail polish in my little hut:)
   Maintaining my manicures has been a big part of my life here, so I thought it would be really cool to tell the story of my service through my manicures.
   Read on:

About two years ago, I left my career, car and loved ones in America to be an education Peace Corps Volunteer in Lesotho:

I live in a hut called a rondavel:

It has lots of spiders:

The experience has been so raw that I've felt naked at times:

I teach English and Life Skills to primary school students:

Some days are bright and easy peasy:

Other days leave me feeling blue:

...especially during the holiday season when I'm not around my family:

I've definitely been on an emotional roller coaster:

But I am so grateful for this unique opportunity to serve others with all my heart:

I even still got to inhale my beloved cupcakes:

And see beautiful South African sunsets:

I'm so grateful to be here and to sometimes have a chance to sit back an smell the flowers!

   Painting my nails, especially during my service, really kills two birds with one stone for me.
   It helps me to relax, since I can be a little high-strung. And it is one of my biggest coping mechanisms, behind writing, crafting and reading.
   I'm looking forward to continuing my polish passion when I step on American soil in December:)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Footage of the Student Choir (World Wise Post)

This blog post is part of a series of activities that I'm doing for the Peace Corps' World Wise program. The program links Basotho and American schools through various activities such as blogs like this one and friendly letters.

Here are videos of my students practicing for Moshoeshoe's Day, which was held on March 11. Enjoy!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Footage of my students using their water pump

My students are using their brand new water pump. They helped to make it a reality by making jewelery for the school's craft project. Profits from the craft project went toward the pump.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Returning back to Lesotho

I had plenty of downtime during my recent consolidation to South Africa. While there, I was able to visit a cheetah park in Bloemfontein.

   Hot, steamy showers. Unlimited electricity. Free Internet.
   This is the life that I've lived in three different hotels during the past three weeks as part of a consolidation effort that Peace Corps recently implemented for nearly 80 volunteers serving in Lesotho.
   Instability in the country's government and military and police forces caused this action but Peace Corps is sending us back to the "Mountain Kingdom in the Sky" soon. They made the decision with the U.S. Embassy and State Department to send us back because the police force is back at work and there is an absence of problems in Maseru, the capital city. Volunteers will be on stand fast and Peace Corps and other agencies will continue to monitor the situation. They'll send more frequent security messages and communicate with volunteers more.
   I have mixed decisions about the news. God knows I'll miss the comforts of the modern world at this hotel in South Africa, but it'll be nice to be back in village and to see my host mom and my little boys.
   My emotions have been all over the place during the past three weeks. At first, I wanted to go back to America and thought the Peace Corps would send volunteers there because of all of the uncertainty in Lesotho. And I still have about two more months left to serve. They didn't send us back, though.
   Then, I wanted to go back to Lesotho because I missed my host family and friends, and the simple way of life there. I was also concerned about my friends in country. Their government is in shambles, as is their leadership. They don't have peace, something they're known for.
   But since I'm not in control, there was nothing I could do except take in some luxuries and First World comforts. I went on my very first game drive at the Maria Maroka Game Reserve, luxuriated in my first hot stone spa treatment, splurged at the mall and visited a cheetah park. I also fed my face with all kinds of grub from the hotel buffet: croissants and lasagna and lamb and stir fry and lemon tart and raspberry cheesecake.
   But remnants of Lesotho were still with me as I repeatedly wore the same clothes over and over again and hand washed my undergarments and socks in the hotel bathtub.
   Honestly, this consolidation thing wasn't so bad once I came to the realization that I couldn't control when or if I'd go back to Lesotho. I likened it to a paid vacation.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Best Books I’ve Read During My Service (Part 1)

   One of the best things about my service is that I’ve had lots of time for leisurely reading. I’ve gotten lost in many a book. Here are some of my faves (in no particular order):

-The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley: 

I gained a MUCH greater appreciation for Malcolm X after reading about his life. He overcame a tragic childhood and made the best of his jail sentence to become a rock for African Americans during the civil rights era. His controversial life was a series of change; his autobiography should be a required reading for everyone.

-Discover the Power Within You by Eric Butterworth: 

This is the first book that I read which put a name to most of my spiritual views. My copy is stained with yellow highlighters because every sentence gave me an “aha” moment.

-Shanghai Girls by Lisa See: 

This was a masterfully written narrative that completely messed up my sleep cycle. It told the plight of two sisters who struggle to hold on to their Chinese identities after being sold to Americans and moving to California. What ensued was a tale of peril, assimilation and beauty. My best friend recommended this book. Great pick, girl!

-Bel Canto by Ann Patchett: 

I kept hearing Ann Patchet’s name being uttered from many a Peace Corps Volunteer. After reading Bel Canto, I see why. Patchett is somewhat of a literary goddess. Her words have wonder. Her sentences sing. Her paragraphs are praiseworthy. Her stories are splendid. I’m not an opera fan but this novel made me appreciate the genre with her awesome plot line. They say good writers read really good reading and Patchett’s book should be studied for its masterful writing.

-She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb: 

I first read this book eons ago when I was a preteen. I ate up the pages in about 2 days. Same thing happened after rereading the book some months ago. I love the main character, Delores, and the way Lamb weaves her heartbreaking story of survival and acceptance. How Lamb writes so genuinely from the perspective of a woman is beyond me.

   I lost count of how many books I’ve read during my service but these are among the ones that stood out to me.

What are some of your favorite books and what have they taught you?