Ha Sefako, Butha Buthe, Lesotho
I graduated from Penn State and currently live in Lesotho, Southern Africa as I serve in the Peace Corps!

My Lesotho Videos

Saturday, January 24, 2009


I just got done taking a much needed bucket bath and figured I should update everyone on my first week in my new house! I have only been here for one week and already have a few good stories. My week began when Phil and I left the comforts of the training center, which has running water and good food, to come to our new homes. After asking which of the many taxi’s (really they are big 15 passenger vans) would take us to our village, we got on a bus and left after about 10 minutes of waiting. We were very excited because the taxi’s wait until they are full to leave. We only had to wait for one more passenger! About an hour into the ride, I counted about 18 people in the van. I thought this was a good number, considering the fan holds about 15 people. As we rounded the bend, I noticed a group of 4 people standing on the side of the road. I figured we would pass them and another taxi would pick them up. Nope! We pulled over and they crammed into the van. Later in the trip we picked up even more people. I think we had about 23 people in the van at one point. At our last stop, the guy who collects our money and lets people in and out of the taxi got out and closed the door. I thought we were going to leave without him when he climbed on the back of the car, smacked the window and we took off! He stood on the back for a good half hour before Phil and I got off the bus!
I think I wrote a little about our trip to South Africa. We ended up making it back safely and even caught a taxi to take us back! After taking roughly 17,618 steps (I tried out my pedometer) I came back and went right to bed. I don’t think we will be making many trips to South Africa. We were very excited because they have a Super Spar, which is supposed to be the “super” version of their amazing grocery store. Phil and I didn’t think it was so super. We weren’t able to get many things that we couldn’t find in Lesotho. I think we will stick to the 2.5 hour bus ride and visit our friends while grocery shopping.
On Wednesday, Phil and I decided to hike the mountain behind my house. It was beautiful! It took us about 2 hours to get to the top and he said we were at about 8,000ft (he has a GPS). I slept a little later than I should have, so when Phil got to my house I was still unconscious. I was about to leave the house in shorts and a t-shirt when he encouraged me to dress for cold weather. I am so happy I went with his advice because when we got to the top, it must have been 55-60 degrees. I had long sleeves and a jacket on and I was still freezing! I was exhausted after our hike and accidentally slept for about 3 hours after. Many of the boys here (heard boys) take their animals to the mountain to graze every day. They climb the mountain in sandals or rain boots like it is nothing! I’m still exhausted and it has been a few days!
2 other volunteers, Nicole and Melody, came to visit us for the weekend. I figured I should probably finish cleaning and moving in before they came so I spent some time Friday getting my house organized. I had a huge bag of garbage that I needed to deal with. In Lesotho, they burn garbage, which is not so great for the environment, but it is what it is. So I took my garbage, a box of matches, and my paraffin out back to figure out what to do. I thought a little paraffin might speed up the process! I dumped a cup or so on top of the bag, lit it, and tossed it into the barrel that was in the garbage pit. I was pretty proud of myself for getting it in the barrel. A few seconds later the flame got huge and I noticed that the flaming barrel was leaning against a hill of dried grass. Seconds later the wall of grass behind the barrel went up in flames. All I could do was stand there and mumble some choice words…which turned to saying the same words much louder. I looked around and realized that I was completely alone in Lesotho for the first time EVER! Forgetting everything I learned in my 22 years of life, I picked up a piece of cardboard and started fanning the fire. I quickly realized that I was just making it much worse, I went back to talking to myself. Eventually I got a bucket of water and dumped it allover myself first and then on the fire. I left the situation wet, sweating, and with considerably less arm hair on my right arm. So next time I need to dispose of my garbage, I think I will just leave it unburned in the garbage barrel.

Care Package Ideas:
• Pictures! I have a few that are decorating my closet doors.
• Cross word puzzles. My friends and I here have been making them and sending them to each other. The clues can be anything! If you make me one, I’ll send one back!
• Protein bars, crackers and cereal bars. Really anything to eat on the run. I will not be cooking any meat while I am in Lesotho, so I will be eating a lot of beans, lentils, peanut butter, and tuna.
• Candy! Chocolate sends well…anything really!
• Tuna/Chicken packets. Another volunteer told me that they come in pouches, which are lighter than cans.
• Books – I’m on my 5th book already! I’m open to anything!
• Dried fruits and nuts. It will be hard to find fruits during some seasons and nuts can be expensive here.
• Pretzels – can’t find them anywhere! Anything to snack on!
• Lighter. I am flying through matches to light my stove and lamp.
• Duct tape – can’t find any good tape in Lesotho.
• Drink mix. Those crystal light water bottle mixes and Gatorade. It is really easy to get dehydrated and I haven’t been able to find Gatorade mix here.
• Mix CD’s. My Ipod is my best friend at night and when I am cleaning! A mix full of new songs or just good ones would be awesome!
• Hand sanitizer
These are all just ideas of some of the things I need. I really don’t need a lot of anything, just a little mix! Even just one thing or a letter would be great! I would love to get some updates so I know what is going on at home. Not having cell phone service is killing me! If you do decide to send something, put little things in a small container. I could always use an extra container to put things in!
Oh, so mail takes a minimum of 3 weeks to get here. It really takes a long time. I also live very far away from where it will be delivered, so it might take a while for me to get the package/letter.

This past week went really well, too. I met with the principals from all 4 of the schools I will be working with. I came in with a typed agenda for each of them and a survey for each of their teachers. They were blown away! I also met with 15 of the 32 teachers I will be a resource for. They were very excited to meet with me and seem like an amazing group of teachers.
My principals asked me to wait until next week to visit their schools, so on Thursday I decided to walk to the local clinic. I left around 10:20 and got there around 12:30. It was about 10,000 steps (I wore my pedometer!). When I got there I started talking with a woman and told her about my job in the village and everything. After hearing how long it took me to get there, she belly laughed and told me that all of the nurses and doctors were out of town! She told me to try back in 2 weeks. I slept for about 12 hours that night!
Oh, so my phone does not work even a little in my village. And texts that I have not read delete themselves after 3 days. So I will write on my blog when I will be in a village that has service. I HAVE SERVICE TODAYYY!!!! I will have it until about 6AM Sunday (Pittsburgh time). 011-266-591-66881 (I think that is right!)

Hope everyone is doing well! I got some cards in the mail yesterday and it made my week! Thanks
P.S. My new Sesotho name is Thabang Matela. I am the chief's son! How cool is that!!!


Allison said...

Glad to hear you guys are doing well! :-) I would still highly suggest going in together to get a PO box in Butha-Buthe...you'll get mail a lot more reliably and faster that way.

Salang hamonate!

Allison said...

haha I'm calling you Thabang for the rest of your life by the way... im glad to hear your doing well and i miss your face!!!! thanks for the message on facebook it made my day:) oh and the fire story i was peeing myself cause i could just see the whole thing happening..:)miss and love you!

kim bryan said...

Mike..I am enjoying reading about your life adventure. Everyone at Gray;s Woods asks about you and miss you..take care! Kim

Mike's Dad said...

Thabang, I signed the papers at the bank and U.S. Post Office today on your behalf to change your name to Thabang Matela. Is there anything else I can do to help you out?

Love you,