Saturday, April 19, 2014

The HIV/AIDS crisis here

My students participate in a program called Grass Root Soccer. It's intended to educate them about the HIV/AIDS crisis that's plaguing the country.

   There are nearly 400 students who attend my primary school.
   About half are orphans. Most of them have lost one or both parents to the HIV/AIDS crisis that's plaguing Lesotho.
   Sadly, Lesotho has the third highest HIV/AIDS prevalence in the world. The driving force is multiple common partners (MCPs) and unprotected sex.
   This crisis is no laughing matter. It's real. Some of my students are the heads of their
households. Others are being raised on their grandparents' thin pension. And, unfortunately,
some of my students are living and suffering with the disease.
   As a Peace Corps Volunteer, it's my job to help to mitigate the spread of the disease. I do this by teaching about the virus in my Life Skills classes.
   I also co-facilitate a program called Grass Root Soccer, which uses games and soccer lingo to educate youth about the disease. My co-worker and I hold sessions twice a week for about two hours.
We graduated 35 students in our first class last year and have continually run the program each school session.
   Personally, I'm a nun and I ain't getting none. Pun intended. I don't mess with anyone out here. Lord knows I'm no Goody Two Shoes but I've been closed off here because I have to practice what I preach, especially when it comes to a disease that's plaguing my country of service-and my students.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Cute Animal Overload!! (World Wise Post)

My host brother loves (terrorizing) little animals. Here, he's determined to pull this poor pig's tail.

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.

   Lesotho is an agricultural society which can only mean one thing: cute animal overload!
   My students own and see lots of cute animals here in Lesotho. Case in point:

I passed these cute little piglets while visiting another volunteer a while ago:

These 'lil piggly wigglies inspired this blog post!

Can't run. Can't hide:

I've seen plenty of donkeys here but never tied up like this! Basotho use donkies to carry large sacks of maize meal up and down the mountain communities they live in.

My family's cat just keeps on having kittens!

They are the cutest little things. My host mother feeds them papa and milk.

There was something in the water for a while at my house because every animal was popping out babies!

Love this baby goat! She kept running away when I tried to snap her picture, though.

This is the family dog, Lion:

He really is a lion. Just comes up in my house without knocking and stuff. No manners at all, lol. I love is courage.

This is my host family's baby donkey:

Why is she black and her mama is brown? Mama's baby. Daddy's maybe. OK, I'm gonna stop being messy:)

   Many of my students and volunteers own domestic animals like dogs, cats and even chickens.
   I don't.
   Animals are the gateway to parenthood and I'm only just only trying to feed my mouth right now, thank you very much:)
  But, as long as I live here, I'll continue to bask in the tenderness of cute animals.

  Which animal was your favorite? Is there anything more specific you'd like to know? Please let me know. I'd be happy to answer your questions.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Poem for Joala (Basotho beer)

A villager is brewing Basotho beer, better known as joala (jwala). Joala tastes mainly sour and bitter. Some versions can be ginger-y and sweet, though. Either way, it is a beloved beverage all over Lesotho.

Note: Joala is the name for beer or alcohol in Lesotho. This poem is dedicated to the country's celebrated beverage.

A Poem for Joala
Come here, sit down,
And give me your ear.
I'd like to tell you,
'bout Basotho beer.

It's bitter and sour,
But sometimes it's sweet.
To all the Basotho,
It's a tasty treat.

They drink it at weddings,
Events and feasts.
Joala is made with,
Their special yeast.

The best I tasted,
Had a sweet ginger base.
It left me so sick,
and laid out on my face.

   Soooooooo, ummmmmmmm...about that last stanza...Riiiiiiiiiight.
   I was on my way to a braai with friends late last year. They had that good joala; that excellent home brew!
   I went: Gulp! Gulp! Gulp! Then, out of nowhere, a Black Mamba grew in my stomach and spit its venom all over the place. Took a while before I felt like a normal person again.
   So, no more home brew joala for me. I'm sticking to filtered water:)

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Using a Dutch Oven

Using a Dutch Oven has changed my "culinary" life out here. And probably made me pre-Diabetic, too.

   I've grown into a little baker that Betty Crocker would be proud of.
   Sort of.
   I love baked treats and using a Dutch Oven has helped me to enjoy them a bit more often.
   Here's how it works: I put an old tuna can in the middle of a big pot. Then I put my baking dish on the can. The heat creates a convection the circulates and "bakes" the meal.
   It basically works as a double broiler but without the water.
   You can put dirt at the bottom of the pan but I don't because it makes cleanup easier.
Here is a picture of it in action:

This is a peanut butter loaf I made a while back. The pot is sitting on top of an old tuna can. It baked up in about 40 minutes.

The peanut butter loaf was the first thing that I made in the Dutch Oven:

It was OK. Too much peanut butter for my taste.

I also made this vanilla pound cake for my host mother:

It was pretty darn good. Everybody, especially my host mom, loved it.

This whole wheat orange bread was OK:

It was mediocre at best but I didn't burn it so that was the victory!

   The Dutch Oven works great for me because I don't have a conventional stove.
   Cooking time is usually no more than an hour. Clean up is a cinch. And my stomach is always happy:) 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Take a Stroll Through My Village!

 I love my village for its natural beauty and splendor!
   I love my village.
   It's beautiful and lush and teeming with full aloe plants, hearty peach trees and picturesque mountains and hills. I walk around the village daily to admire its natural splendor.
   Here are some visuals:

I'm slightly obsessed with these aloe trees! The spiral aloe is the national flower of Lesotho.
During the summertime, the village is green and lush.

I take this pathway when I go on my daily evening walks. 

This willow tree on one of my host mother's properties is one of my favorite places to read-and hide!

The village is gorgeous, even at night.
Rainstorms create these natural water runoffs around my village. Here's video: video

   A beauty, isn't she? 
   I love nature and always find beauty in peace in it. It's safe to say that my spiritual views are deeply rooted in nature. After all, we're able to breath because of trees and plants, right?
   Here, in my village, I think I've found heaven.


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Welcome to Club Jiggetts!!!

   It's a Friday or Saturday night.
   The DJ is on the ones and twos.
   Bass is bumping.
   Party's pumping.
   Jiggy's jumping.
   I'm in the cluuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuub!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
   Kind of.
   There are no clubs out here in the village, unless you enter my little hut on the weekends when I have dance parties. With myself. Yeah!
   These South African house music songs are always on my playlist:

DJ Ganyani's "Xibugu"

My owning a BlackBerry makes me like this song even more!

Heavy K Point featuring Mpumi's "Wena"

This is my fave South African house song. When I hear it, I tear up the dance floor!

Black Motion featuring Dr. Malinga's "Father to Be"

This is another goody!

Mafikizolo featuring Uhuru's "Khona"

This song will also get me up out of my seat.

   Of course I don't know what they're saying in theses songs but I love the beats, rhythms and melodies.
   And the village bars and the one or two clubs in the capital city will also play these popular tunes.
   Problem is that I don't go to those places for safety reasons. It is not seen as a good thing for women to go to bars because people think they cause trouble. And I'm not allowed to stay overnight in the capital city unless otherwise approved by Peace Corps staff here.
   So every weekend, I hit up what I like to call Club Jiggetts in the safety of my hut.
   It's free, I'm the DJ and I'm the No. 1 dancer.
   Club Jiggetts is in the house. Literally.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Basotho and Their Hats

This is the traditional Basotho hat, the mokhorotlo. It's shaped like a mountain, for which the country is known for.

   The Basotho are hat people. They wear some of the most stylish and quirky hats I've ever seen!
   Case in point, this villager is wearing a wizard-like hat:  
He looked like he just stepped off the set of The Hobbit, right? LOL.
And I saw this dome piece at a craft festival a while back:

This guy was the star of the crowd. People couldn't stop staring at his hat. Neither could I!

Here are other hats worn by the Basotho. They'll sell for the equivalent of $5-$10 US dollars:

The Sesotho word for hat is katiba (kah-tee-bah). Oh, and by the way, I love straw hats.

   It wasn't until I moved to Africa that I really, really appreciated a good hat. 
   I always thought that my head was too big for them, so I rarely bought and wore them in America. Unless it was winter. 

This used to be my favorite hat:

Then I cut the dreds and the hat didn't fit me anymore. It's hanging on the wall in my house.

This is currently my favorite hat:

It's made out of plastic bags by a group of women affected by HIV/AIDS. Two Peace Corps Volunteers are working with the group, Mountains of Hope. Their website is

   In this country, hats are a mainstay on my dome, and the heads of the Basotho! Which hat was your favorite? And are you a hat person, too?

Monday, March 10, 2014

A Poem for Tsoaing Primary School (World Wise Post)

My students at Tsoaing Primary School are a very lively bunch. They always want their pictures to be taken!

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.

Hi kids! I hope you're doing well! Thought I'd share a poem I wrote about my school:

Tsoaing Primary School

Tsoaing Primary is a great school.
Students and teachers are so cool.
We write,
We sing,
We grow,
We pray.
We learn every single day!

Here are a few more tidbits about Tsoaing Primary School:

-Our students wear uniforms that include black sweaters, white shirts, black dresses and gray pants.

-Our teachers wear black and white because those are our school colors.

-Women teachers are called "madams."

-Men teachers are called "sirs."

-There are 15 teachers on staff.

Kids, can you write a poem about your school? If you can, please post it in the comments section.
   Is there anything more specific you'd like to know about Tsoaing Primary School or Lesotho?    Please let me know. I'd be happy to answer your questions.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

How the Children Here Help Me

My 4 year-old host brother, Katleho, helps me carry freshly pumped water to my host mother's house.

   I had just received the care package of a lifetime from my big brother in America. The box was the size of a 27-inch TV. I was excited and couldn't wait to open it. There was just one problem though: how in thee hell was I going to get this box up the small mountain I live on?
   Like a true African woman, I tried to carry the box on top of my head but I couldn't lift it past my shoulders.
   When women in the village glimpsed at my futile attempts to lift the box, they stopped me. Perhaps they were embarrassed for me? LOL.
   They suggested something better: ask the children. I did and a boy delivered the box to my house later that evening.
   It's no surprise that a child came to my aid in my time of need. It's an everyday occurrence here, and I have come to depend on the kids more than the adults.
   Heck, now I understand why the adults have billions of babies: for support.
   Sure, the big people help me with the big things. My host mother helps me to navigate the country's transport system. And my co-workers always know where the best deals are in town.
   But it's the children who color my life and really get me through my everyday survival in Lesotho. The truth is that I need them more than they need me.
   Take school, for example.
   My students get my lunch, help me pass out papers and most importantly, constantly teach me Sesotho.
   Once, there were a few students who were play fighting in the classroom during lunchtime.
   "Stop fighting!" I screamed in English.
   The battle ensued.
   I asked a few students for the Sesotho translation.
   "Ska loana ntoa!" they replied.
   They quickly scrambled the phrase on the chalkboard for me to see. Afterward, I screamed it.
   The fight stopped, partly (I think) because my students get surprised anytime they hear me utter anything other than a basic Sesotho phrase. But they did stop fighting and I got the assistance I needed.
   That childly help also extends to the home I share with my host siblings who are 4, 9 and 14.
   My 14-year-old host sister, Rethabile, acts as my personal tour guide when she's not away at school. She takes me down paths and roads in the village I never knew existed. She also pumps my water when I'm too lazy or tired to do so.
   When I need to burn my trash, I call on 9-year-old Tsepiso. It's not uncommon for the kids here to light fires. You'd think that I would've learned this life skill in summer camp, but either I wasn't paying attention, or I wasn't paying attention. Not to worry because "Teppy," as I affectionately call him, takes care of this pyro problem for me.
   And don't think that the 4-year-old, Katleho, doesn't contribute to my life. When I send him to the store to buy airtime, he jets down the path like he's running for Olympic gold. And when it's time for me to sweep my house, he'll quickly grab my pink hand broom and dustpan and get to work.
   "Help!" he'll say in Sesotho. "I want to help you!"

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Help Us Get a Water pump!

One of my students is making beads out of clay from a nearby mountain for the school's craft project.

   Many of you know that one of my side activities is an income-generating craft project that I initiated with teachers and students at my school.
   We've made beads and jewelry out of candy in the village, clay from a nearby mountain, magazine paper, and the country's national fabric. Check out our Facebook page here.
   We're hoping to use profits to install a much-needed water pump for our learners, who get their water from "dams" like this: 

And this:

They also hike about a mile up a nearby mountain to get their water from the springs:

   The water pump will cost us nearly $2,000 US dollars. We've raised the required $500 through sales. But we need your help.
   Please donate to our cause by visiting this link on the Peace Corps' website. And please share it. Spread the word.
   Your donation is tax-deductible. Thank you so much!!!