Saturday, October 18, 2014 – Arrival and First Days in Lesotho

TY (Teyateyaneng – Camptown (here))

Part I – The Cars, Buses, Planes, and Waiting.

Well, this is the moment you’ve all been waiting for – my first post from Lesotho1). So much to say, so few words2) It’s just difficult to know where to start, I guess. I mean, who wants to hear about the short flight to philly, getting on a shuttle with Peace corps people who I thought were going with me but actually were going to Ghana, the weirdly business-conference-esque orientation, the gym at 1:30am, the bus ride to JFK at 2:30, getting there at 4:30 only to have to wait for two-and-a-half hours for the South African Air people to arrive so we can check our bags, during which we wandered around the seedy quarter of the airport we had access to, had breakfast at a ridiculously expensive diner three floors down. And who wants to hear about finally getting through, to get to wait another three hours for our fifteen hour flight to depart, and me doing one-legged squats and handstands at the gate.3) And, not having slept more than a few hours for a couple of nights, finally having dinner on the plane with a glass of wine, and passing for the duration of the flight, only waking at long intervals for a few minutes. And then arriving in Johannesburg with the dawn, only to wait another seven hours for the flight to Maseru4), having breakfast at yet another diner, and pacing another (much smaller) airport, occasionally peeking in shops. And finally taking the bus out to the tarmac where the plane (2×1 puddlejumper) was waiting. And a short little flight, the joy of seeing our ALL our bags in a pile outside the plane5) being greeted by a few PC staff members, and taking the bus out to the village (about an hour and a half ride).

Part II – Arrival

The bus ride ended with a long stretch on a dirt/rock road, nice and bumpy, into a village of huts and shacks, people running in from all directions, waving and singing.6) Mildly terrifying, definitely not my favorite reception. As we got off, we were surrounded by hugging and smiling and handshaking, which I naturally slipped out of as soon as I could. Luckily, another group had gotten there before us, so I was able to join them on the fringes of the greeting group and take pictures of the poor victims getting hammered by joy.7) The sun was setting, so the light quality was great. As things settled down, we were seated in a line, our backs against a hut8), and the villagers in a semicircle around us. The chief spoke a lot about how happy they were to have us9), and then they started introducing us to our mae10) These were to be our host families for the duration of the three months of training. They gave us our Sesotho (Lesotho people) names, mine being Thabang Sefika (Tabahng : joy, sefika: surname). Then we had a short orientation with instructions for the night and the next morning.11) Each PCT 12) then loaded their bags on wheelbarrows, and walked to their huts in the rapidly deepening red dusk. I got to my hut, and discovered that not only did I have a separate structure, but I had TWO ROOMS. They lit a paraffin lantern for me, showed me where the water buckets were, and left me to my devices. In the dimly-lit room, I poured a few inches of water into an oval plastic tub, stepped in it, and poured water over myself, scrubbing with my hands.13) I laid down in the bed (a queen size, no less), and my first thought was : Oh man it has plastic, how annoying. 14) My second thought : I wo – and sleep came.

Part III – First Days

1)
Pronounced Lesutu
2)
For once.
3)
Don’t worry, a couple of other volunteers are also exercise fanatics, so it didn’t look quiiite as strange. Or maybe it did, but at least I wasn’t the only one.
4)
The capital of Lesotho.
5)
Though they damaged my new backpack grrr.
6)
Imagine the very stereotypical, high-pitched singing you hear in movies about Africa.
7)
Not intended sarcastically, it really was too much. It set me on edge. Not that it should, but whatever.
8)
Some huts were traditional, round adobe with thatched roofs, but most were rectangular, cinderblocks with corrugated steel roofs.
9)
There was a translator.
10)
m-may : mother/respectful term for any woman not a child or teenager. Male equivalent is n-tatay (ntate).
11)
Mostly : boil the water.
12)
Peace corps trainee. I know, I know, acronyms. It’s the government, not me. I just imitate out of convenience.
13)
Neither soap nor scrubbing devices were provided. Tsk tsk.
14)
Why yes, I’m fine with bathing in cold water by pouring cups of water over myself, but plastic mattress covers annoy me. They’re loud!
lea/141018lesotho.txt · Last modified: 2018/03/06 08:59 (external edit)
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