Saturday, December 21, 2013

I met the King but it ain't no thing!

   I recently took a trip to the national park in the northern part of the country.
Peace Corps threw a braai for trainees and I was invited, since I'd been helping with training.
   The King was there, too. Like, thee King of Lesotho, King Letsie III.
   After swimming in the rock pool, I hiked up to the park's five-star lodge with some other PCV friends.
   Then, I saw the King.
   King Letsie III is very beloved by the people here. He's 50 years-old and has three children with the queen, Queen Masenate.
   When I saw him, he was posing for a photo with a waiter on the lodge's deck. The King was wearing a tan cowboy hat, a white long-sleeved shirt and khakis. His skin was as smooth as caramel and shiny like a bowling ball.
    After the photo op, I casually walked up to him and extended my hand.
   "Hi your majesty. My name is Jennifer Jiggetts and it's nice to meet you. I'm a Peace Corps Volunteer living in Mafeteng, and I'm very nervous right now."
   "Nice to meet you," he laughed. "And I know that you're nervous."
   "Can I take a picture with you?" I asked.
   "I'm going to eat now," he gently said.
   "OK, nice to meet you, your majesty," I said.
   Off he walked into the lodge to eat.
   Then (after the fact!!!) his security guard came running up to me.
   "Are you American?" he asked.
   "Yes, I'm married. My husband's in America," I said, because I thought he asked me if I was married.
   "Well, people just don't walk up to the king like that," he retorted.
   I had to butter him up.
   "I know, I just saw the king and got excited," I said.
   He forgave me for my ill manners and I went to go drink perhaps the best house wine I've ever had in this country. As I sipped, I thought about how cool it was to meet the king. And how down-to-earth he was! I was a little sad that his hunger was more important than taking a photo with me, but it was better to hear him say he had to eat versus him screaming, "Security!"
   But for real though, my feelings aren't hurt. I mean, a man's got to eat, especially if he's hungry, right?
   And that's just what the king did. (Note: I didn't want to look like a super stan so I didn't get a chance to peep what was on his plate.)
   The king sat by himself on the couch opposite from us, silently enjoying his meal. Then he left.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Rest in Peace Nelson Mandela

At the Nelson Mandela monument in Naval Hill in Bloemfontein, South Africa. Here, he is known as "Madiba," which is his clan name.

   I'd be remiss if I didn't say anything about Nelson Mandela's passing.
   What a monumental loss, not just for South Africa but for the world.
   People here -- self included -- have been very sad about the fearless leader's death.
   Naturally, there have been lots of musical tributes and commentary on radio and television stations. The mood here is just dull.
   Mandela was very, very beloved here in Lesotho, which is geographically surrounded by South Africa.
   Many Basotho benefited from Mandela's policies and benevolence by being able to work and live good lives in South Africa, while providing for their families back in Lesotho. His death is their loss, too.
   Mandela stood for many things: Peace. Justice. Unity. Love.
   Hopefully, Mandela's death -- and life -- will teach and show us all how to apply those attributes in our own lives.
   Long live Madiba.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Marriage in Lesotho

In order to get married in Basotho culture, men have to pay lebohla, which is 26 cows, to the bride's family. Here, my host brother, Tsepiso, is plowing one of the family plots.

   So you wanna marry me, eh?
   Well,  my host mama says you have to pay lebohla (leh-bo-la).
   Lebohla? The hell is that?
   It’s a “fee” men pay to a woman’s family in order to marry them; kind of like a dowry in India.
   Lebohla generally costs 26 cows, but 5 sheep are equal to one cow. Different families have different arrangements, though, depending on the type and quantity of animals they have.
   The Basotho believe that after the marriage, the women belong to the house. It is her job to keep the house clean. This role is clearly defined here, and women can’t negotiate household chores with their husbands like American women can.
   After marriage, a woman’s first and last name will change, too because that is also part of the culture.
   Still want to put a ring on me?
   Maybe you should just go listen to that famous Beyonce song insteadJ.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

You know you’re a Peace Corps Volunteer if (Part 2)

You know you're a PCV when everybody is ALWAYS overfeeding you. This is what my lunchbox looks like everyday. Everyday, y'all!! LOL!

As promised, here's the second part to my "You know you're a Peace Corps Volunteer if..." post. Read the first part here.

1. …If you get more visits from rodents and insects like mice and spiders than other volunteers.
1. …If you consider it a productive day when you’ve updated your blog.
3. …If your heart melts when your host siblings unexpectedly say an English word you taught them.
4. …If you’ve missed fast and reliable Internet just as much as you’ve missed your mommy.
5. …If you get random kilos when your students see you around the village. (A kilo is a form of positive reinforcement used by many teachers here. To do it, you scream "KILO!!" And then you clap six times and they point to a student while saying, "Whoooh!")
6. …If you’ve read an entire book while waiting for a taxi to fill up and leave.
7. …If you’ve forgotten your American name because you’re so used to responding to your Sesotho name.
8. …If you’re used to being called Lekhooa. (This means foreigner/white person in Sesotho.)
9. …If you went insane when you’re Blackberry or smart phone Internet service stopped working.
10.  ..If you’ve missed your car just as much as you’ve missed your dad.

Have any to add? Do so in the comments section. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The New ‘Do

It's a drastic change but I'm loving my new haircut!

   The big chop. The new ‘do. The cute cut.
   Call it whatever you want to call it but I did it!
   Yep, I cut my hair.
   Many reasons.
   First, my hair wasn’t doing so well in this weather.  The locks had started to fray, split and break off because of the dry air. The dreds were also super yucky from the windy and dusty conditions here. Since I don’t have running water in my hut, it was very difficult to properly clean my scalp.
   Next, I had been wanting to cut them off since Pre-Service Training last fall but I was scared. Scared of how big I thought my head was going to be. I know this sounds vain, but I didn’t want to walk around with a head the size of a soccer ball. Once I was certain I was going to cut off my hair, I had only told a few people who assured me that a short natural would do my head justice.
   Also, it was time. I first grew my locks in high school, when I needed a hairstyle that would fit my distance-running lifestyle. That was about ten years ago! I’m 28 now and have turned a new leaf.  And I think now, my haircut reflects exactly where I am in life.
   Finally, I’m in Africa, where the short natural reigns supreme. If I’m going to cut my hair off, this is definitely the place to do it!
   My thoughts about this bold cut have changed over time, though.
   My adoptive mother cut my hair off when I was in the first grade because I kept tinkering with the styles she’d give me. One day at school, a Boy Scout representative came into my classroom to talk about the organization. When she was done talking, she placed brochures on all the boys’ desks.
   Guess who got one?
   “I’m not a boy, I’m a girl,” I tearfully told the representative.
   I felt so ugly with my natural back then.
   Not now.
   I feel as regal as the hair on my head.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

You're a Peace Corps Volunteer if...(Part 1)

You know you're a Peace Corps Volunteer if every kid in the village wants you to take their photo every single time you see them. Every. Single. Time.

I hear stories of similar things that Peace Corps Volunteers here in Lesotho (and at other posts) experience.
These things can include waiting forever and a day for the taxi to fill up so you can go to your destination.
Or they can be you sitting next to an animal --instead of a person-- on public transportation.
Oh yes, it's happened, so I thought it'd be cool to come up with a list of things that tell of our unique experiences.

So, you know you're a Peace Corps Volunteer...

1. ...If you've dropped anything of value in your pee bucket or latrine. Or, if your biggest fear is dropping anything of value in your pee bucket or latrine.

2. ...If you've checked multiple times before leaving your house to ensure that your gas tank was off. And by multiple times, I mean, like 20 times.

3. ...If you've sat, packed like a pilchard, on a taxi carrying waaaaay too many people. And, sadly, the windows were closed:(

4. ...If you've stepped in donkey dookie, sheep shit, dog dung or cow crap.

5. ...If you've had to wash your feet more thoroughly than your heavenly parts.

6. ...If you think it's Christmas or your birthday anytime you receive a care package.

7. ...If you've cursed out the computers at the Internet cafe for being too slow.

8. ...If you've spent a quarter of your monthly stipend on hotel pizza and beer or playtime at the pool.

9. ...If your students still don't understand your accent, even after you've box-talked or faked a British accent.

10. ...If you've received change, or anything for that matter, from someone's bra.

So, there ya go!
Can you relate to any of these?
Feel free to add on.
And stay tuned, there will be a part two!

Note: Some of these items may apply to volunteers in other countries.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

How I drink safe water here

   Many people ask me how I drink my water here.
   It's pretty easy peasy.
   Here, lemme show you:

I get my water from my host mother's pump. This gives me a nice little workout:

I pump one water bucket about two times a week.

Afterward, I boil the water for at least five minutes:

When the water is cool, I filter it. It can take all night for the water to filter:
   Finally, I'll have safe drinking water. Yay!
   Thank God for my host family's water pump.
   Before they got it installed last year, they'd hike up the mountain next to our house with buckets and wheelbarrows until they approached the springs:

   Then, they'd collect the water and hike back down. Everyday.
   I have nothing to complain about.
   I'll never take advantage of the convenience of a water faucet again.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Excercising in Lesotho

   Every morning, I wake up at the crack of dawn, meet my trainer at the bottom of the hill and we go running in the valley until the sun rises.
   Who needs a trainer when you LIVE on a mountain??!!
   I many not have a treadmill here but I unconsciously use my surroundings as a gym.
   Case in point:

I walk up this mountain to get in and out of my village:

My host sister is getting ready to climb the "slope" here with my host brother. Sometimes, I carry my groceries up the mountain. Call me lazy but I have to take breaks while going up because I get tired.

My host mother's water pump works thee hell out of my arms:

Sometimes I get lazy and make the kids pump my water.

Walking around the village is a workout in and of itself:

I'm a walker so I like to go for random walks through my village. I see a lot of beauty here.

   Now, there are a couple of gyms in the capital and at a few hotels around the country.
   But why should I pay when I can use Mother Nature to help keep me in shape?
   I've lost about 15 pounds since I've been here, and I haven't even been trying to lose weight!
   But who's complaining, especially when I don't need Billy Blanks in my village to keep me toned.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

"Eating" cupcakes in a cupcake-less land

 In sad human news, I used to pretend to eat the cupcake on this mug. In fact, I bought the mug only because it had a cupcake on it. Judge me.  

   I love cupcakes more than Kanye West loves himself.
   But unfortunately, there are no cupcakeries in Lesotho. What a damn shame!
   I've had to take up creative visualization to help me with this problem, because living in a cupcake-less land IS an issue.
   Here's what I do to deal with this problem:

I pretend to eat cupcake icing when I apply this yummy cupcake gloss to my lips:

It tastes SO good!

And everyday, like 50 times a day, I eat what I like to call "imaginary cupcakes."

Don't mess with my vision, folks! If you pretend, like I do, you'll see a cupcake on this plate, too:

It's a red velvet cutie with cream cheese icing. Oh. Mem. Gee. It was GOOD!!!

I imaginarily taste the cupcakes on this box of cupcake crayons. They're strawberry vanilla-flavored:

But I got tired of imaginarily eating cupcakes. I believe strongly that if you visualize, then you will materialize. So, that's what I did. But first, I made this cupcake manicure for my birthday. I used real cupcake sprinkles:

And then, I made real cupcakes and icing for my birthday!!!! Yay!!!!

I was so happy, as were my eyes, taste buds and stomach. 

Now, I bake the little goodies a little bit more often with molds I found in Bloemfontein, South Africa. Only problem? I can't stop eating them:)

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Improvising in Lesotho

I live a very simple life here.
There is no air conditioner. Or unlimited cell phone service. And I use the computer twice a month.

But you better believe I'm surviving without the small luxuries I had in America.
Here are some "substitutes" that I use to make up for the losses of some very convenient American appliances:

The sky acts as my "television set." This cloud totally looks like a UFO, though. No? LOL:

Most Basotho burn their trash in huge steel tins like the one pictured below, so this is my "garbage truck," or better yet, my "incinerator":

These basins serve as both my "bathtubs" and my "washing machines:" 

This clothing line acts as my "drying machine" and a volleyball net:

This water pump is my "faucet," or my "kitchen sink":


   See, life here ain't so bad.
   I've got to admit, though, there was a slight adjustment to go from the comfort and ease of using American appliances and conveniences to doing things such as peeing in a bucket and not a toilet.
   But I've gotten used to the swing of things here-and the lifestyle.
   Learning to improvise here in Lesotho has taught me to appreciate simplicity.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Maintaining my manicures!!

I crocheted this little bag to house all my nail stuffs because I can't live on a mountain in a village in the bush of Africa and not do my nails. No way Jose!

  My love for nail polish has been well documented.
  But did you think it was going to stop when I moved to Africa?
  Chile, puhleez!
  I've been trying to maintain my manicures here but Lesotho has not been very good to my tips and talons.
  The air here is super dry because of the high altitude and mountains, and as result, my cuticles, nailbeds and hands have been super dry.
   I've been moisturizing them with everything from shea butter, vaseline, olive oil and body cream. Still, I feel like my hands an nails are desert-like.
   This has not stopped me from doing my fun manicures, though!
   That was one of the things that I was NOT going to give up during my Peace Corps service.
   Here are some of my fave manis I've done here:

I did this manicure for my Peace Corps swearing-in ceremony last year. I tried to recreate the Lesotho flag:

This is a Lion King (or the Lion Thing) inspired manicure:

I bought a small gift bag and tried to recreate its design:

I did this cupcake manicure for my birthday and used real sprinkles:

This manicure was done for a volunteer friend who had taken a gorgeous picture of a Capetownian sunset:

Sometimes, though, I wear naked nails so my nailbeds can breath a little:

But most times, my nails are painted! I did this manicure for Peace Corps Week and it was featured on the Peace Corps Tumbr page:

   So, there ya go! This is one of the many things I do to pass time here and just to make me happy.
   I've also taught the teachers at my school how to give basic manicures and we're doing so to raise money to install a waterpump at our school.
   What's on your nails?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Dear American Taxpayer, here's what I'm doing with your money...

Dear American Taxpayer,

   Teaching is my first job, but the Peace Corps requires me to have a secondary project/s.
   The project must be sustainable and utilize the skills, resources and commitment of the people I work and live with in my village and at my school.
   The project must also impart Goals 2 and 3 of the Peace Corps which are "to help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the people served," and "to help promote a better understanding of other people on the part of Americans," respectively.
   So, since I'm here on your dime, you better believe I won't waste it.
   My students have participated and placed in a national writing contest and written their pen pals in America. I also tutor them after school.
   Here's what else I'm doing here:

I started an English club that has over 100 students in it:

We play word and sentence games every Wednesday. My hope is that the club will help improve their English writing and speaking skills.

And my baby is a farily successful craft project I started in April:

Every Tuesday and Thursday, I teach the teachers how to make jewelry. (They've been teaching me how to knit.) We sell our handicrafts and hope to install a much-needed water pump at our school with our sales. The water pump will cost about $2,000 and we've raised about $200 so far. We have a looooong way to go but we're keeping out spirits up!
I have a very busy and full life here, and am working very hard on my secondary projects.
My days are long but I see that my hard work is paying off.
The last thing I'd want to do is waste your hard-earned money--and mine!



Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Basotho Bits: Cultural facts about Lesotho

   Can't lie.
   When I first saw the word "Lesotho" printed on my Peace Corps Invitation letter last year, I had to Google the place.
   "The hell is a Lee-soh-tho?" I thought. Had never heard of the country.
   Since I've been here, though, I've learned many things about "The Mountain Kingdom in the Sky."
   Briefly, Lesotho (pronounced Le-soo-too) has about 1.8 million people. It's a gorgeous country full of humble and welcoming folks.
   About 40 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. And the country has the negative distinction of having the third highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in the world. About 23 percent of the people here have the disease.
   That said, there's lots of beauty and interesting cultural tidbits here. For example:

The bo-'m'e (women) carry babies on their backs:

And the women carry stuff on their heads:

I will always be impressed with this. I tried to do it but my neck almost broke!

The Basotho are known for their beautiful blankets that they wear year round:

The women wear blankets around their hips to warm their ovaries.

Horses are a common form of transportation here, especially in rural areas with unpaved roads:

Donkeys are also a form of transportation. Many people use them as pack mules to transport huge bags of maize meal:

Women climb the mountains and hills in heels:

This is my 74-year-old host mother climbing the mountain to our village. In heels. HEELS!!! I can barely do this in hiking boots!! LOL!

Anytime a parent dies, the family gets together for a feast called khutsoana, which means orphan:

The orphans (young and old) must have their hair shaved. If not, they'll have bad luck.

Bana (children) at my school play morabaraba, a traditional Basotho game played mainly by bo-ntate (men):

These are just a few things I've learned about Basotho culture in my nine months here.
Very interesting. And intriguing.
What do you think? What say you?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Forced marriages: A recent experience that happened to a student at my school

 This herd boy tried to beat a student at my school into marriage but he messed with the wrong people!

   I usually write about sunny skies, sprinkles and chocolate chips. You know, the good stuff.
   But today I want to discuss something more serious: forced marriages.
   Although there are no known statistics for forced marriages in Lesotho, it's a common thing here.
   Some girls get beat or worse, raped into marriages by some of the men here.
   In some cases, the girls' families will send a posse to rescue their children. In other ones, the police will get involved. Other times, nothing happens. (Marriage here requires a negotiation or fee called lebola, which says that a man must pay 26 cows to a woman's family. If you don't have cows, 5 sheep are equal to 1 cow but each family negotiates based off of what animals and resources they currently have.)
   I've heard of a few volunteers share stories of forced marriages. Unfortunately, I now have one to tell.
   My school is located on a mountain and sits next to a bigger one amongst the Pukane Mountain Range. There are many smaller villages within this range, and the children that live in those communities attend my school.
   During one recent morning assembly, teachers were informed by children coming down the mountain that a student was being beat into marriage by a herd boy (a boy or young man who looks after animals) on top of the mountain next to our school.
   "I will kill you if you don't marry me today!!" the herd boy screamed to the young girl, a friendly and well-liked student at school.
   Most of the teachers and students ran up the mountain to rescue the student and kick the herd boy's ass. (For safety concerns, I stayed at school with the remaining teachers and students.)
   The victim came down the mountain a short while later, obviously traumatized. She went into a classroom to try to collect herself and to process what had just happened.
   About two hours later, I heard some commotion. I immediately dropped my lunch of papa and milk and went outside when I saw it: a mass of students waving sticks; singing and dancing.
   They had captured the herd boy!!!
   Apparently, the students (the kids!!!) found the herd boy hiding in a donga (a waterless basin) many miles away from my school. They tied his arms with a rope and walked him back to school. Here are some photos of his arrest:

The students, villagers and teachers encircled the perp and would NOT let him leave:

They shamed the slime ball, an 18-year-old who used to attend my school:

The police came and arrested the herd boy:

The herd boy, who already has one wife, is being loaded into a police truck: :

News travels quickly! My boss gave a few interviews to some radio stations, and here is the school listening to one of the reports:

   It was a very intense day. My emotions were all over the place!
   I had never witnessed the (rightful) public shaming that I saw on that day. And I was sad that the student, an intelligent and beautiful girl, had to endure such a horrific and traumatizing experience. (She even got bit by the herd boy's dog.)
   But I was happy that the children found the perp AND brought him back to school. (How freakin' gangsta is THAT??)
   My bosses at Peace Corps told me during Pre-Service Training that forced marriages are real and sadly, there's nothing we can do about them.
   My only hope is that the student begins the healing process and that God spares the many other girls who are at-risk for forced marriages.

NOTE: I've talked to Peace Corps' security about the incident and told them that despite this situation, I still feel safe here. Please do not worry about me. Not to make light of a heavy situation but I got attacked by a duck a few weeks ago and I think that was more of a threat to my safety and security than the above situation.