Basotho Culture and Other Things
As I write this 1), the cold rain trickling down the windows is sharpened by my knees feeling the cold through my wet pants. The sky is so uniformly grey, and the nearest trees on the hill are barely visible through the mist, a vision of an alpine winterland. The hum of the generator and the patter of rain on the tin roof mix with soft conversation to form a background noise as pleasant and grey as the weather outside 2) The projector sits uselessly, throwing a blue screen on the paper taped to the cinderbrick wall. A couple of people have been driven home to changed, soaked from the walk to the Hub3) and we're nominally waiting for them, though it could have been any other reason. We spend a good deal of our time waiting.4) We've gotten quite good at it.
Lesotho - the country. Sesotho - the language. Basotho - the people.5)
My observations thus far. So I don't repeat myself later on, this is all about rural Lesotho. The more urban, the less extreme and more 'western'.
The Basotho are an extremely friendly bunch.6) Their lives have a slow rhythm,7) driven more by the sun and the seasons than by clocks. And by more, I mean they barely understand the concept of time.8) Events regularly start hours later than scheduled.9) And interesting by-product of this is that - completely opposite of accepted american culture - the will interrupt whatever they are doing, whatever conversations they are having, to answer a phone call.10) The rational (so far as it goes), as best I can make out is that people who are with you can wait, but a phone call must be important. As a corollary, it's rude to not answer your phone if you have it on, or to stop answering during a text conversation without saying goodbye. But it's the 'friendlyness'11) that really drives me up the wall. You can't walk ten feet without being greeted, asked where you're going, or what your name is, followed by other things I fail to understand, which continue to be shouted at you even after you've said goodbye and are walking away. There's one kid, on our way home, who every FREAKING day, asks `What's your name?' in a very abrupt voice. No greeting, 'What is your name?' in their odd accent.Though I will grant them, a large majority speak a decent amount of english. Which makes sense, since it's the countrys second official language, as is the language of school instruction - in theory at least.Going along with the close, slow rural community comes gossip.12) One time, Julie and I were walking to the hub13) when she was called over by a schoolgirl along a fence. She asked if it was true that Julie hadn't been home when someone knocked on her door.14) A couple of things on that, but first I will note that for the Basotho, when the sun sets, it's night, and you should be home.15) First thing is, how ON EARTH would Julie know if someone knocked on her door when she /wasn't there/;16) and secondly, what an absurdly trivial thing. To be fair-ish, though, everything we do is magnified by being white/foreigners.Speaking of segues, animal lovers would be /rather/ unhappy here. Animals are purely functional, judged and treated on their performance, and certainly not pets to be coddled - or even fed, in some cases. Dogs survive on scraps, and are regularly stoned by children. My host familys four-year-old was throwing puppies the other day, and no one batted an eye. Donkeys are regularly beaten and whipped.
Talk about a limited repertoire.17) During the time that my family was cooking for me18) I ate : oversalted, overcooked swiss chard, boiled maize meal, bread19), beans20), overcooked eggs, peanut butter when I could get it, tomatoes, and every once in a blue moon, chicken. The first five made up about 80% of the diet.21) All their cooking takes place in pots - pans are nearly unheard of.22) Everthing is /waaaay/ oversalted, salt being essentially the only spice. Something that strikes me as odd, is that they (communally) have a large amount of cattle,23), and goats, yet never seem to slaughter them for meat, and have not developed any sort of dairy culture. You'd think if you have cattle, you might as well breed some dairy cows, and even more so with goats.24) It's a pity, I would really, /really/ love some cheese. You can get Kraft singles from the towns, and a bit of other stuff, but it's expensive, and since I don't have a fridge I can't really get any. And certainly no fresh cheese.25)
This topic bores me to death, and even title smacks of governmental political correctness, so I won't say much. Pretty normal agrarian gender roles (women = house stuff, men = farm stuff), but an odd quirk in the system is that though men 'carry heavy things'26), women get water. Literally the heaviest thing they have to regularly lift. We had a good laugh about that during our 'stereotypical gender roles' session, which everyone hated and was completely useless.27)
Things I've gotten used to:
- Being woken by animal noises, and kept awake by flies buzzing around.
- Going to bed at 8:30.
- Cooking by lamplight.
- A sudden influx of chicken in diet due to store freezer no longer freezing things.
- Crowded taxis.
- Eternally waiting.
- Bathing with a couple of gallons of water, and using one for washing dishes.
- Mopping the floor after my bath, and thus cleaing the floor too.28)
- Doing everything in plastic tubs and buckets.
Things I didn't realize I would miss:
- Adjustable stoves - seriously mine goes from 'blast your face off' to 'off' in about an eigth of a turn.
- Good kitchen lighting - cooking dishes and washing by a dim lantern is slightly less than ideal.
- Meat - I literally cannot get enough protein in my diet. And that includes finishing off a kg of peanut butter in 4 days, and eating 30 eggs in the same time frame.
- Dairy - cheeeeeeeeessseeeeeeee. And butter. Killing me.
Thing's I've gotten good at:
- Baking on a stove - made some pretty excellent cobblers and banana breads thus far. Still having trouble with yeast bread.
- Socializing - some of you will get a kick out of this, but I've been hosting fairly regular card get-togethers. As in people come, we play canasta or similar, and I cook a cobbler. It works out, because I love a bit of cobbler, but if I'm the only one, I'll eat the whole thing.29)
- Growing a beard - I can feel your glare from here, Mom haha.
- Not measuring - see above baking, all eyeball. Pretty useful.
So far we've been in a training village, going through 2.5 months of nonsense + language, but sometime in mid-December we go to where we'll be for the 2 years. We found out a few days ago. Sadly, I will not be in the mountains. Actually, quite the opposite, the lowest of the lowlands, .
Pop those into google and you might see my rondavel. Depends on how often google updates Lesotho.30)