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.
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."
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