Saturday, June 28, 2014

Finding that Silver Lining


 I always try to look for the good in every situation, for after the rainstorm, there's always a rainbow, right?

   When I was around two-years-old, my parents bravely gave me up for adoption. 
   Things at home weren't going so well and they felt like I’d have a better chance at a good life with a more stable family. 
   I commend them for their painful decision. It is one that has allowed me to take (calculated) risks and to also see the Silver Lining in every bad situation, no matter how painful it may be.
   It is this line of thought that has gotten me through some of the roughest parts of my Peace Corps service.

Here are some times when I learned to count my blessings instead of wallow through sorrow:

      1. Bedbugs: There’s absolutely nothing about bedbugs in the Peace Corps brochures so let me tell you about these little fuggers, they’re hell!!! They make you go crazy and destroy your life. The buildings here are old and are the perfect hiding places for these little bugs, who really like to show their asses in the summertime. When I first got them, I cried a  stream. And when they showed up for the fourth time, I cried an ocean. During fumigation, I had to take everything out of my house to clean and spray. It was depressing when the suckers came back AFTER fumigation! I hate them and don’t wish them on the devil, but bed bugs taught me to let go, as I had to throw away my suitcases to stop them from having a central place to breed. They also taught me to appreciate my house because, well, I have a roof over my head. And  a bed to sleep in, even if it can bare bugs!

2.      Blackberry Blues: My BlackBerry is my TV set. My magazine. My link to civilization. When it’s not working, neither am I. I’m depressed. Can’t think straight. I’m highly irritated and annoyed. Yep, all over a cell phone. The Silver Lining is that I experienced true generosity of a friend who let me borrow is old BlackBerry. This kept me connected to my loved ones in America during a time when I needed them the most.  And, I ended up getting a new BlackBerry because my cell phone company sent my old one off to Joburg for repairs and couldn't track it. So a good friend and a new phone came out of my BlackBerry blues.

3.      Diarreah: ‘Nuff said.

4.      Bedbugs, BlackBerry blues and diarrhea all in one week: Three calamities all in the same week was NOT cool. I wanted to lie down after my digestive system and phone broke down but my poor bed was sick, too! It was so horrible that I wouldn’t wish the suffering on my worst enemy. The Silver Lining? A lovely care package I received from a dear friend at the end of that terrible week.

   As you can see, I’m a half glass full kind of girl. 
   Finding the beauty in painful and difficult situations is what I specialize in. 
   Doing so has made the harder parts of my service more bearable, and made me really appreciative of this experience. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Natural Beauty in the Bush!

   Once upon a time, I used  to be a beauty blogger.
   I’d write about products that moved me. Lived in my beloved Sephora. And I’d always concoct my own beauty “recipes” using what I had in my kitchen pantry.
  Since I now live in the bush of Africa, my beauty routine is heavily reliant on natural and unsuspecting things. So all of that practice from back in the day has helped me a lot here.
   Read on:

-Green tea bags: I drink green tea almost every day. And when I’m done with the bag, I’ll use it to tone my face because green tea helps to shrink pores and gives my skin a nice glow.

-Honey: I put honey on everything: my tea, on my pancakes and even on my face! I live for my honey facials, which I do 2-3 times a week. Honey naturally retains water, which makes it a good skin softener and moisturizer.

-Chapstick: Yes, Chapstick! I use Chapstick to moisturize my cuticles. Read this in a beauty magazine a few years ago. The pros use this tip and so do I J.

-Brown sugar: I make my own hand and foot scrub using one cup each of brown sugar and olive oil, and 1 teaspoon each of nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla extract. The sugar acts as a natural exfoliant, gently sloughing off dead skin, while the oil moisturizes hands and feet. The spices and extract leave a pleasant scent. I sometimes use this scrub on my face, especially if I’m out of honey.

-A toothbrush: I gently brush my face with a toothbrush about 2-3 times a week. Like the sugar scrub, the bristles on the toothbrush slough off dead skin from my face. This is another cheap exfoliant that you probably have on hand or in a care package!

   When I agreed to join the Peace Corps, my beauty routine was the least of my worries. 
   I had spent several years creating, experimenting, mixing and making body concoctions with ingredients used from my kitchen. 
   It’s a skill that’s served me – and my body – very well here in Lesotho!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

More on eating here and my fave meals

  The cuisine of a Peace Corps Volunteer usually consists of three main delicacies: Ramen, hard-boiled eggs and the classic, peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
   But eating like royalty can be a major snooze fest. So I had to switch things up a bit.
   Here are some of my fave meals:

 Chic pea pasta:

I made this for my birthday last year and it was an awesome, easy, peasy dish. Pun intended.

 Dinner: Lentil burgers topped with beet root and carrots:)

Lentils are my second fave bean after chic peas and this meal was yummy. 

Papa and tomato gravy and eggs:
 To my host mother's delight, I've learned how to cook the Basotho staple dish, papa. I love it with tomato gravy.

Fresh veggie soup and bread:

I obsess over soup in the wintertime because it's simple to make and hearty.

Dinner: Curried mushrooms over brown rice:

I used to hate mushrooms but came to appreciate them in my mid-20s. This dish was so good!

   As you can see, I eat pretty well here.
   Not having a fridge severely impacts what I buy, cook and store, though. I keep lots of dry goods like pasta, beans and rice on hand. Once cooked, they can keep for a night or two.
    I also keep potatoes, onions, tomatoes, eggs and carrots on hand for soups, gravies and other easy meals.
   The weather impacts my eating. Food like bread, butter and cheese spoil faster in the summertime. Naturally, they keep longer in the wintertime.
   My breakfast is usually cereal or oatmeal, and I eat lunch at school.
   I also use spices like basil, Italian seasoning and cumin that friends sent in care packages to spice up my meals.
   Only the best when you eat like royalty, right?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Things I Miss about America

  I miss lots of things about America.
  I miss my family and friends and electricity and water pressure and central heating and unlimited Internet and infrastructure and street lights and Chipotle and Sephora.
   Good thing is I’ll be back home sometime in December. Soon. In six months.
   Then, I’ll be miss lots of things about Lesotho.
#homesick #mixedfeelings #keepingitreal

Saturday, June 14, 2014

You're a Peace Corps Volunteer if (Part 5)

Jillian Michaels who?!?!?!You're a Peace Corps Volunteer (especially in Lesotho!!!) if climbing these beautiful mountains is your workout.

Here's another installation of "You're a Peace Corps Volunteer if..."
Check out parts 1, 2, 3 and 4, here!

1....If the hardest part of vacation is returning to site.
2....If you don't like to empty your pee bucket when other people are around.
3....If you don't consciously exercise because you unconsciously exercise by pumping water and/or climbing mountains or hills to get into village.
4....If you've spent most of your service waiting on one thing or another.
5....If you have absolutely no shame talking about your poop, especially in front of other volunteers.
6....If you have no problem wearing the same clothes over and over again.
7....If you don't tell your family in America every single thing that happens to you. They worry too much.
8....If you've pooped your pants. 
9....If the first thing you do during vacation is take a shower.
10....If you think ice and water pressure are the best things since sliced bread.

Have any more? Feel free to add on or comment in the comment section!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Six more months to go!

Six more months left to goof off with these silly little kiddies!

   It’s hard to believe that I have about six more months remaining in my Peace Corps service here in Lesotho.
   Six more months!
   Crazy thing is that those months are going to zoom by in the same exact way that these 21 months have.
   Life after Peace Corps is becoming more and more of a reality these days. It’s all my fellow volunteers and I talk about. And honestly, I can’t stop thinking about it. I’m not anxious. Just preparing because nothing goes according to plan.
   But I also have been trying to simply enjoy these present moments, especially since my time is so limited in Lesotho.
   At school, I am wrapping up projects. Contractors have broken ground on my school’s water pump. If weather permits, it will be finished in about a month or so. I can’t explain to you all how exciting this is. The road to this water pump was a long and hard one, but like Betty Wright so famously sang, “No pain, no gain!”
   I’ve also begun to help organize the school’s library and will finish during winter break, which starts in early June and lasts through July. We recently picked up our boxes of books and have prepared lockers to house them. There are lots and lots and lots of books to go through. It’s been tedious but fun work, and really has brought me back to my childhood. We received lots of Dr. Seuss, Curious George and Beverly Cleary books.
   At home, I spend most of my free time with my host family. I plant extra little kisses on the children’s cheeks and dole out more hugs. Every night, we find ourselves playing more and more rounds of UNO. Every Sunday, eating more homemade cakes.
   I’m truly savoring all of this time with my host family and will miss them the most, especially the children, when I leave Lesotho.
   Personally, I really am laying the groundwork for life after Peace Corps. I have lots of options: Grad school. Peace Corps Response. Flipping burgers at Mickey D’s. Being a couch potato.  
   I’m blessed to be able to do anything that I want to do and to be anybody that I want to be. And I’m even more blessed to have six more months to figure it all out!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Tsoaing by the Numbers (World Wise Post)

Students at Tsoaing Primary School are  ready to learn!

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!
   Math is one of my least favorite subjects but I thought it would be fun to incorporate it in today's blog post on my school with fun math "equations."
   Read on:

1. 199 girls +223 boys = 422 Tsoaing Primary School students.

2. 12 madams + 3 sirs = 15 Tsoaing Primary School teachers.

3. 8 class periods + 1 lunch break = A full school day.

4. 5 days + 1 week = Lots of learning.

5. 2 grassy fields + many students = Loads of fun!

What do you think? What can you tell me about your school and your students?

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

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Living on $200 USD in Lesotho

   Money, money, money, money, MONEY!!
   Today, I want to talk about money, or chelete in Sesotho.
   As a PCV, I get a monthly stipend that’s the equivalent of about $200 US Dollars. (I get an extra $20 USD during cold months to help defray the cost of heating materials).
   Most people here get by on about $200 US Dollars a month (or 2,000 Maloti or South African Rand) and PCVs have to live like the people as much as possible. That’s why the stipend is that little.   
   Things here are pretty cheap. The US conversion rate is about $10/11 US Dollars to 1 Lesotho Loti/South African Rand.
   I try to make my stipend work. I'll spend about M400 on food, M200 on airtime, M200 on transport, M100 on laundry, M100 on Internet fees and M300 for savings per month. 
   And if I’m trying to go on vacation, I will cut back on food to save. It cost me roughly $200 US Dollars to go to Clarens, South Africa and I spent an entire paycheck on that getaway! It was worth every loti, though!
   Money, moolah, dinero. However you say it, it’s a big part of my life here!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Rest in Power Maya Angelou

I shipped these two Maya Angelou books to Lesotho so I can have time to really savor them, to really cherish their words.

   During my teenage years, my adoptive mother and I regularly got into nasty arguments over nonsense.
   I’d always end up running upstairs to my room and she’d remain downstairs hurling her venomous verbal vomit.
    “You ain’t never gonna be shit you ugly little bitch!” she’d yell. “All you’ll ever be good for is a good fuck!”
   Infuriated, I’d storm out of my room and launch my own war of words.
   “You may write me down in history with your bitter twisted lies!” I’d scream while swiveling my neck. “You may trod me in the very dirt but still like dust I’LL RISE!!!!!”
   I didn’t need to say anything else. Those lines from Maya Angelou’s famous poem sufficed.
   That’s why I’m deeply saddened by the literary legend’s recent death at 86 years-old.
Angelo lived one hell of a life, wore many hats and was everything to everyone.
   The St. Louis native was a civil rights activist, writer, teacher, actress, journalist, singer, director, madam, prostitute, television producer, professor and teacher. She did it all.
   And she knew everybody. Angelou worked alongside Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X to fight for civil rights. And she was good friends with other famed writers like James Baldwin and Nikki Giovanni.
   Naturally, Angelou gave black people, especially black women, a vibrant voice, even when she silenced her own after her mother’s boyfriend raped her when she was only 8 years-old. Angelou gave us a reason to smile and more importantly, the affirmation that we lacked absolutely nothing. No thing!
   I found a sense of myself—and my own voice--in her work, which was often rich, raw and multidimensional. Every black woman writer, self included, owes their entire career to Angelou.
   The Pulitzer nominee also contributed many gifts to the world, to humanity. She had extensively traveled the globe, spoke six languages and was courageous enough to fall in and out of love. In short, she lived life well and on her own terms, and gave us all permission to do the same.
   She showed me how to live my life, too. Simply gave me permission to just be.
As a young adult, I’d always keep Angelou’s book of poems “And Still I Rise” on my nightstand. I regularly read the poetry because in my early to mid-20s, I came to understand Angelou’s words. I was living a lot of what she wrote about: self-acceptance, love, pain, beauty and resilience.
   Angelou still influences me, even as a Peace Corps volunteer in southern Africa. I shipped two of Angelou’s books (“The Heart of a Woman” and “Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now”) to Lesotho so I can take the time to really savor the tomes. I did and again, I soaked up the Medal of Freedom winner’s life stories and grandmotherly advice.
Maya Angelou gave the world eight decades of grace, humility, compassion and love.
   May she forever rest in power and more importantly, in peace.
   I am forever grateful for her life and her legacy, her work and her words. They were words that I used to fight with. Were words I used to hoist myself up from the depths of despair. Words that ended up blanketing me with the warmth and the comfort that only a ‘Phenomenal Woman’ can give.