Wednesday, July 30, 2014

More musings on food!

 I bought this Guava juice from Pic n Pay, a Western-style grocery store in the capital city. It was only about 50 cents. It was good but I wasn’t sure what I was drinking. Is it Guava or peach? Or apple? Who knows?

   I never get tired of blogging about food, and eating it. Here, share these goodies with me:

-Tassenburg wine: 
OK, this is the worst wine ever but it’s what you drink when your funds and the wine selection are low. I call it “Classy Tassy.” Teeheehee.

This jewelry set was made out of Chappies, one of the most popular candies eaten here in Lesotho. This gum is the reason why I have had so many cavities during my Peace Corps service!

-My gas thank quit me meal: 
This is what you eat when your gas tank says, “I’m done!!”I have to change my tank at least every three to four months but just in case it quits on me unexpectedly, I keep fresh produce, canned tuna and crackers on hand. I always prepare for the worst, even when it comes to food.

These are like the M & Ms of Lesotho. They cost roughly 50 cents. I like to buy them and make trail mix out of them.

-Nik Naks: 
These are like the Cheese Doodles of Lesotho. I love them! Can’t get enough of them!

What do you think? What foods make you go gaga?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Peep how People Pee Here!

Gotta go? This is where I do the do and make it do what it do in Lesotho.  

   Name one thing you (should) do every day. {cues Jeopardy music.}
   If you said go to the bathroom, you get a cookie!
   In Lesotho, most people use a pee bucket and a pit latrine to take care of their business.
   But through my travels, I've seen bathroom business being handled differently all throughout the southern African region.

So, this is a toilet. Sort of. I forget what you call it but I came across it during my trip to Mozambique. Apparently, you just pop a squat, piss and drain your pee with the water in the black bucket. I don't think it's suitable for pooping, though. Only pee. Sucks, right?

This is another type of "bathroom" I came across in Mozambique. After a hole is dug in the ground, someone will place this circle thingy over the hole. Then, you must stand on the foot pads, squat and piss. Interesting. 

 Wanna piss here? Well, you gotta pay. I paid about 2 Rand (roughly 20 cents) to piss in Durban, South Africa.

   Are you surprised by these pictures? Not your average Joes, eh?
   It's not uncommon for people to pay to pee in the southern Africa region. It's done quite a bit here in Lesotho.
   Some people are just very entrepreneurial, and let's face it, sometimes you just gotta go! And you must pay the price.
   But really, though. Pay to pee. Pay to poop? I remember the first time I heard that here.
   "Ain't that some shit?!" I thought.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Traditional Basotho Dancing: Litolobonya

Video used with permission by RPCV Aparana Jayaraman
 Pre-school girls are performing a traditional Basotho dance called litolobonya. 

   Last Christmas, I spent part of my day watching women in the village perform a traditional Basotho dance in a tiny dusty room.
   Several women beat the drums like the instruments owed them money. Others shaked and shimmied to the beats while clutching cups of joala, traditional Basotho beer. One woman got so drunk that she ended up singing and dancing off-key in her birthday suit.
   Welcome to litolobonya (dee-toh-loh-bon-ya).
   Litolobonya, which translates to old clothes, is one of several Basotho dances performed by women in Lesotho. It's an exhaustive dance, mainly working the abs, thighs and hind parts. I know, honey, I've done it!
   It's also an exclusive dance. Only married women and mothers can attend the concerts in the village. I get a pass because I'm a teacher and a Peace Corps Volunteer.
   Men trying to catch a glimpse of the action can be lashed. For they will reap the rhythmic rewards later on in the bedroom;)
   However, young girls are taught the dance because women believe they have to learn how to move their hips at a very young age. So many primary and secondary schools have litolobonya teams that compete at cultural events around the country.
   Teachers at my school also have a team, and we practice daily. Our dresses are made from old maize meal bags and bottle caps. The songs we sing tell tales of sorrow and sexual exploits. We will sing "Ke na le hauta!" while pointing to our heavenly parts. Song translation: "I have gold!"
   I would share pictures and videos of the village litolobonya concerts but the women here won't let me capture those intimate moments. They cook, clean and constantly care for others. Litolobonya is the only thing they have for themselves, they say.

Friday, July 25, 2014

My Trip to Mozambique Part 3 (Videos!)

   Hey everyone! I'm sharing some footage of my trip to Mozambique with you today. The videos are pretty self-explanatory but I hope you enjoy!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

My Trip to Mozambique Part 2 (The Food Edition!!!)

I've written about the tropical paradise that is Mozambique, now let's talk about her food.
Here's a sampling of what I had:
 I ate fresh breads like these cheap little buns that were sold near the craft market!

I also really liked these bean cakes. They were cheap, too. And very addictive.

I drank local fare like this 2M (McMahan) and Laurentina. I liked the Laurentina the better.

This was dinner one night: fish curry, coconut rice and fresh salad. It was divine!

This is a traditional Mozabiquan meal of matapa (finely chopped cassava leaves) and xima xima (pronouced shima shima). Xima xima is their version of maize meal. It's called papa in Lesotho.

I ate fresh fruit every morning!

Coconut rum was really refreshing!!

I fell in love with passion fruit!

And I learned about massala, a guava-like seeded fruit that the locals love.

More local fare: Feijoada with rice. Basically, beans and rice.

This Manica was my favorite beer!

This chorizo pizza was yummy!

So was this prawn curry!

This cheesecake melted my heart!

Fresh seafood. Ripe fruit. Let's just say that I ate like a queen in Mozambique!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

My Trip to Mozambique Part 1

Shortly after school ended, I spent a chic week in the African tropical paradise that is Mozambique!!!

   I recently got a chance to visit the southern African country of Mozambique, a melting pot of many different cultures.
   It's a tropical paradise, consisting of 16 main ethnic groups.
   Fishing is a huge source of income, and about 80 percent of the population relies on subsidized farming (maize, cassava) to get by.
   Portuguese is the official language, as the country was colonized by Portugal. I had to pick up a few phrases such as Bom dia (Good morning) and Obrigado (Thank you!).
Mozambique gained its independence in 1975.
   I had a great time during my stay there back in June.
   Take a peek at my chic week that wasn't weak in Mozambique!

I went with several Peace Corps buddies. We first stopped in the capital, Maputo, for a night.

 Fabrics. This is my weakness! 

 This is the golden coast of Tofo Beach. What a dream come to life.  

This is a scene from where I stayed in Tofo Beach, a tourist enclave in Mozambique.

Crafts were everywhere! I bought only three of these necklaces. Only three!

These were my PCV friends I went with. Dominick (on my right), Amanda, Mary Beth and Will. Dominick spent his summer break with Will and Amanda.

This was the view from the hotel. I'm a beach girl so I really appreciated waking up to this type of heaven:)

The currency is called Meticals. The exchange rate was 3 Meticals to 1 South African Rand/Lesotho Loti. So 200 Rand ($20 USD) was equivalent to 600 Meticals.

Fishermen fetch their catches of the day in these dhow boats.

I liked the way the women there wrapped their babies around them with their bold fabrics.

I spent more money on fabric than food. No lie.

I spent many days like this!

   Overall, I had a really good time in Mozambique. I stayed at Nordin's Lodge, which was right on the beach and farely reasonably priced.
  Tomorrow, I'll talk about the food I ate in Moz. Stay tuned!

Source: Lonely Planet guide

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Traditional Basotho Names

These are my host brothers, Tsepiso and Katleho. Their names mean promise and success, respectively.

    Lerato rato borato. Banana fana borato. My, my borato. Lerato!
   OK, that was corny but names are really important here in Lesotho. (BTW, Lerato means love in Sesotho.)
   Basotho tend to give their children positive names like Mpho (gift), Palesa (flower) and Thabo (joy/happiness).
   They believe that a bad name is an omen. But if a family has a child after one that has died, that child can be given a bad name. The "bad name" is given to get the child to survive, according to my Peace Corps Sesotho Language Book.
   A bad name can be ntja (dog), Mosela (tail), Nthofeela (thing) or Tsoene Motho (one who looks like a monkey).
   "Good names" can also be given to children who succeed those who died. Some examples are Tseliso (consolation), Malefane (one who pays) and Puseletso (reimbursement).
   Here are some other tidbits about names in Basotho culture:

-Many children are given Christian names at Baptism, since many Basotho are Christian.

-When a woman marries, her first and last names completely change. She will likely be "Ma," or "Mother of someone." For example, MaPalesa means mother of Palesa, and MaThabo means mother of Thabo.

-Other Basotho will give their children the name of one of their ancestor to honor the family heritage.

-Some families give their sons the same first names as their last names to honor the family name. For example, my host family's last name is Tsiane. So one member of the family's name is Tsiane Tsiane.

   I use the names to help me learn Sesotho. I've picked up many words in school and around the village just from asking the kids what their names are.
   They've taught be Banolo (soft), Neo (gift), Likotse (dangerous) and one of my faves Lehohohnolo (lucky).

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Winter in Lesotho

You know it's winter when you see the little kids wrapped up in blankets!

   If hell is experiencing a winter with no central heating, then I guess I’m there.
   It’s winter here and it’s not pretty.
  It’s so cold that schools close during June and July because teaching and learning are impossible in frigid conditions. So cold that I have to put on about five layers to keep warm. So cold that all I can eat is soup and drink tea. So cold that sometimes, washing my ass with baby wipes only is sufficient enough by me (My standards for cleanliness have changed drastically since joining the Peace Corps.) So cold that I paint my nails way less than I do during warmer months. 
   Thankfully, I do have a heater that I light up at night, when temps can go below zero. And my big brother did send me a sleeping bag that keeps me pretty toasty.
   Honestly, I shouldn't be complaining because I’m in the lowlands, the mini mountains. My fellow volunteers in the monstrous mountains are the ones who are really suffering. It snows and is much colder out in those parts of the country. Well, actually, it snowed in my district (a rare occurrence) in May and it freaked me out but I survived.  
   Ever the optimist, I have decided to find the warmth, good things, about this frigid winter. Read on:

-Dairy lasts longer: I eat way more dairy during winter months because my house will get so cold that it will act as a refrigerator. Pretty cool, eh? No? Lol.

-More reading: It’s too cold to do anything else but curl up with a book and get lost in it.

-Less bathing: OK, there was a volunteer who didn’t wash her ass for like, five months. That’s not me and that’s not what I’m advocating here. But during the wintertime, and especially when I’m not at school, I do get a little lax because it’s way too cold to care. I bath every 2-3 days, OK?! I do. No lie. 

-Winter break: Lord knows I love the kiddies and all but it’s nice to have some time off, sleep in and spend my time doing whatever I want with it. Being a human being truly is underrated.

-Hibernation: I don’t visit many volunteers much during the winter. Too cold to be social and traveling and shit like that. I gladly turn in to Winnie the Pooh and keep my ass at home. Ya dig?

   So yeah. Winter here is cold. Very cold. 
   They don’t call Lesotho the “Switzerland of Africa” for no reason.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Moshoeshoe’s Day (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.

  Hi boys and girls! How are you? I hope it’s starting to feel like spring in America. I know you have had a very snowy winter.
   This month’s blog post is about the most important cultural event in Lesotho, Moshoeshoe’s Day. Say it with me…Moh-Shway-shway’s Day!!
   This special day honors King Moshoeshoe I, the founder of Basotho nation. He was a great warrior and was strong allies with the world famous Shaka Zulu.
   My school hosted the Moshoeshoe’s Day ceremony this year, which was held on March 11. Six other schools attended. This is how the day went down:

Early in the morning, it started raining like bats and frogs:

 Rain never stops the show in Lesotho, though, because the element is saluted in the national anthem and is vital for this agricultural society.

But the sun later came out and the school choirs sang very beautifully.This school had a beautiful choir!

Teachers and I wore our new traditional seshoeshoes (se-shway-shways).
This is the latest design and is all the rage in Lesotho! But don't we look like pumpkins? LOL. 

After singing, we climbed the mountain for sports
The school is on a mountain and located next to a mountain that we use to train our athletes.

This big green field is our track!
This is what it looks like on top of the mountain.

This was the crowd. They are the best cheerleaders!
They kept the onlookers entertained and runners motivated. Yeah! Here's video of the crowd cheering the runners on:

Here are the runners. All of them worked very hard!
You better believe that Tsoaing Primary School students ran their bums off!

Tsoaing Primary School took top honors! We’re No. 1! Yeah!

The school had a very good showing on Moshoeshoe's Day! We sang well and ran fast! Yeah!

It was really a beautiful day! Teachers and students at my school worked very hard to put on an amazing cultural event. All of their hard work and preparation paid off. 

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

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Things I've learned in Lesotho (Part 2)

Life is a classroom and these children have been my biggest teachers. What are you learning?

   Here is Part 2 of things I've learned in Lesotho land. Read part 1 here.

-How to bake bread: Before going to site, every volunteer gets a cookbook to help them get their Rachael Ray on. My cookbook collected dust for a while until I read it out of sheer boredom one day. The recipe on page 46 really piqued my interest. Peanut Butter loaf. I've since made it a dozen times, mainly without peanut butter. It's now one of my fave things to make and eat.

-How to run a small business: I was a journalism major in college so it's a surprise that I initiated a highly profitable income-generating arts and craft project. It happened very naturally and organically and quickly grew into a "small business." I had to do lots of research on economic development, financial literacy and business management. I then had to teach 14 teachers about these topics! I was a journalist before joining Peace Corps! I did not expect to come to Lesotho and do this because I'm afraid of numbers. But now that I have this small business experience, I'm confident that I can run my own small business one day.

-How to let go of control: I have a confession: I'm a control freak. There I said it. But Africa's been great for my controlling tendencies because the reality is that I'm not really in control. My God, my creator, is. This has helped me to let go. Not give up, but surrender. I've learned to prepare (because nothing goes according to plan!), to do the best I that I can with what I have at the moment and to just let go; leave it up to the Universe to see fit with the outcome.

-How to live on less with little: Long before I joined the Peace Corps, I'd been moving towards living a minimalist lifestyle. I was done with conspicuous consumption and wanted to live with less. Then, I joined the Peace Corps! I live in a hut the size of a matchbox with no electricity, running water or fridge. I live within my $200 monthly stipend, wear the same clothes over and over and read for pleasure. And guess what? I have a pretty good (and simple) life. And for the most part, I'm happy:)

-To know when to let go: I''ve learned when to let go, or when to simply say, "No." For example,
I seriously considered extending my Peace Corps service. In fact, I knew I'd extend. Then, I changed my mind after the ninth month of my service. I was severely homesick, and I knew I couldn't do another year without seeing my family. I couldn't afford to see them visit my family in America because I had bills to pay. So, I decided 27 months is enough time for me to serve, and to "get" all that I'm supposed to "get" on this journey. Not extending my service has taught me to know when I'm supposed to go.

-How to shuffle a deck of cards:  I've always marveled at people who knew how to shuffle cards. Thought they were cool. A PCV who visited taught me how to shuffle. Now I'm the main shuffler during nightly UNO games with my host family. Now, I'm cool:)

Anything you can agree or disagree with? Anything you can relate to? What else have you learned in your life?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Bonding with my host family with UNO!

Playing UNO with these little jokers is always the highlight of my day!
   Every night, I spend quality time with my host family. Of course, we’ll talk about the day’s events. And we might also share a treat like a plate of homemade oatmeal cookies.
   But the one thing that we always do is play a few rounds of UNO, the popular American family card game.
   Playing UNO has created a real bond with me and my host family. It’s our chance to come together as a unit to learn, love and most importantly, to laugh.
   This is the most important part of my day as a Peace Corps Volunteer because it simply brightens my spirits.
   There are other UNO benefits, too.
   Four-year-old Katleho has picked up new English words and phrases while playing the game. When someone puts down a Wild card and names a color, Katleho will play the correct card because he knows his hues and numbers. And when he catches his big brother, Tsepiso, peeping at his hand, he’ll scream in English, “You’re looking at my cards!” (He learned that phrase from yours truly because that’s exactly what I say when I peep him looking at my cards.)
   Another benefit of playing UNO with my host family that the kids have learned strengthened their strategy.
   Tsepiso, ten-years-old, has learn how to be strategic when playing UNO. In the beginning, he’d quickly put down his beloved Draw 4 card. But now, after observing the master (me!) he’s learned to wait until the right moment to play his strongest cards. When someone excitedly announces “UNO!” Tsepiso will then put down his Draw 4.  Smart boy. He wins most of our games now.
   My host mom has also used UNO as a creative form of punishment.
When the boys act up, they sit out games. They try to give my host mom the sad puppy face but it never works. It’s the perfect punishment.
   I really love when the kids win, though. They’ll lift my portable light bulb high above their heads and scream, “Tsejana! Ke hlotse!” (Trophy. I’m the winner!)
   Winners they are.
   Winners, indeed.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The ABCs of Lesotho! (World Wise Post!)

"B" is for bana, or children. The bana of Lesotho have been my rock, my light and my peace. They know how to survive and have taught me to do the same.

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! It's very cold here in Lesotho and my students and I are trying to keep warm.
   I thought it would be nice to come up with the ABC's of Lesotho for you. This will help you learn more about "The Mountain Kingdom."
   Read on:

A: Aloes. The spiral aloe is the national flower of Lesotho, and many villages are dotted with big, sprawling aloe plants and trees. The Basotho make chairs, roofs and body creams out of this versatile plant.

B: Bana. This is the Sesotho word for children. The children here always help their families by fetching water, herding animals, cooking and cleaning. They’ve truly been the brightest part of my service as a volunteer because they know so much and have taught me a lot about survival. Without them, I wouldn't have have made it.

C: Chiefs. The chiefs keep the peace in villages. They also act as notaries by signing official documents, and have the authority to arrest and contain a person before police arrival. As a volunteer, the chief signed on my school’s bank account and grant applications. When you live on his (or her) land with his (or her) people, you have no choice but to respect the chief.

D: Districts. There are 10 districts in Lesotho. They are Maseru, Mafeteng, Mohale’s Hoek, Quiting, Qacha’s Nek, Berea, Leribe, Butha Buthe, Mohotlong, Thaba Tseka. Volunteers are placed all over the country. I live in the lowlands, Mafeteng, which is located about 40 minutes from Maseru, the capital of Lesotho.

E: Eggs. Eggs because I couldn’t thing of anything else that started with the letter “E” that pertained specifically to Lesotho. LOL. But really, though, I do eat a lot of eggs here because it’s hard for me to prepare and store chicken with no running water and refrigerator. So I get my protein fix from eggs sold in my village.

F: Feasts. Basotho hold feasts for weddings, funerals, births or just because. They’ll usually slaughter a cow or sheep, and drink lots of joala (traditional Basotho beer).

G: Girls. Young girls here fetch the water and help mom and granny cook and clean. They are also taught how to care for baby at a very early age. Sadly, some of them drop out of school and get married very young, continuing the cycle of poverty that plagues this country. One of the Peace Corps' goals is to empower women and young girls, especially in a patriarchal society like Lesotho. Sounds corny but I try to spread this message in my Life Skills classes, with my school’s craft project and at home, where I encourage my 15-year-old host sister to keep her grades up and stay in school. I’ve taught her how to make jewelry and scarves to earn extra money.

H: Herdboys.  Many boys, including my two host brothers, take their livestock for grazing. It is often a difficult and lonely life, especially in remote villages. But it is said that such training prepares a boy for manhood.

I: Initiation Schools. These are secret, sacred schools that are held in the mountains where young boys also train to be men. They are taught the duties and songs of manhood and, are usually circumcised. The ones that come back are widely respected, especially by their peers at school.

J: Joala. (Pronounced jwa-lah). This is very popular Basotho beer. It is made out of either sorghum or ginger and served at many a mokete (feast).

K: King Letsie III. The king of Lesotho is King Letsie III. He is beloved by his people and admired and respected by his peers. I met him last year. Got to shake his hand but he was too hungry to take a picture with me. His loss.

L: Lesiba. This is a musical instrument played by herdboys to pass time. They attach a string to a stick and place a feather (lesiba) on the other end.

M: Mountains: Lesotho is known as “The Mountain Kingdom.” It is divided between the highlands, lowlands and foothills. I asked Peace Corps to place me in the lowlands because there was no way that I could survive the extreme winter and frigid conditions of the highlands. They listened. Smart people.

N: Nkono. (Pronounced in-kho-no) This means grandmother in Sesotho and they really are jewels here.  Many of them raise their grandchildren while their adult children work and send money from South Africa, where there are better financial opportunities. I always say that Lesotho is carried on the backs of the grandmothers here.

O: Osele. (Pronounced o-silly). This is a bad Sesotho word meaning crazy or very bad, but the Basotho will shorten it up and say “sele.” It’s a bad word to say to children, and the opposite of what Americans say to their kids when they act goofy: silly.

P: Princesses. Lesotho has two princesses: Princess Senate and Princess ‘Maseeiso. I’ve always wondered what their lives are like. I never see them running up and down rocky paths with snotty noses and dirt-caked faces like the kids in my village.

Q: Queen. Queen ‘Masenate is the queen of Lesotho. Like her husband, she is a beloved figure here and like a queen, she always wears the most beautiful outfits. I often wonder what her manicures look like, and who does them.

R: Rain. This element is important to the Basotho because this is an agricultural society and many rely on their farms to support their families. The rainy season lasts from October through November.

S: Skiing. Yes, you can ski here at a place called AfriSki, which is located in the northern part of the country.

T: Twins. Back in the day, having twins here was a bad thing, one would have to be killed. Now, they’re considered a sign of good luck.

U: Umbrella. Like the Japanese, Basotho protect their skin from harsh sun rays by using an umbrella. I do this too, and always keep a mini umbrella in my pocketbook.

V: Villages. Lesotho is made up of many villages that the Basotho call home.

W: Wendy. This is the name of my Country Director. She’s been a big support to me as a volunteer and has been fairly easy to work for.

X: eXtreme. We’re going to pretend that this word starts with an “X,” OK people? LOL. This is a word that does my experience here justice. Some days I love Lesotho. Other days I loathe it. Overall, though, I really am extremely grateful for this extreme experience.

Y: You. I’d be nothing without your support. Your encouragement, letters, cards, notes, parcels and care packages have really gotten me through during my service. You have held me down while lifting me up and I’ll always be grateful for you!

Z: Zed. I always find it funny when Basotho say “from A to Zet” instead of “from A to Z.”

So there ya go! Here is Lesotho in A-Zet, er A-Z format. I hope you learned a little something about my country of service!

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

Sources: My Culture: Just the way things are done at home by Patrick Mohlalefi Bereng, Peace Corps, my host mom and my own experience