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

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Long update!

These pictures are of a preschool that I have been working with. They really don't have any supplies, so I am trying to get some art supplies to them. In the one picture, they are eating out of one bowl with their hands. Another picture is people seperating the wheat from the chaf. They used the wind to seperate them. It was pretty cool!

Hey everyone! It’s been a while since I have typed a decent blog. I haven’t been in town lately and have not had much time to get online. Sorry if I haven’t replied to any e-mails for a while!! I’ve been in my village for 3 weeks and have really been enjoying it. My laptop isn’t working so well, so some of this is handwritten and I typed it when I had a chance.

I’ll start with a story…I just finished brushing my teeth and still laugh because I stand on my “front porch” and spit to the right of my house. It is really convenient, really! After I rinsed my toothbrush, I flicked the water off like a priest in church. It made me laugh for a few minutes because I felt like I was blessing the grass. As I’m typing this, it’s about 2 weeks later and I still laugh every time I brush!

As I wrote this part of the blog, I was sitting in my long underwear, hoodie, and thick wool socks writing by candle light. The temperature keeps getting very cold and then getting hot again the next day. I can’t keep up! It is starting to get darker much earlier than when I first arrived in Lesotho. I start lighting candles around 5:30 so I can see while I make dinner and read before I go to bed. I am starting to enjoy living in a hut with a grass roof, lighting candles to see, and even walking to school sometimes. Little things, like blessing my grass, make me laugh. My hut is a mess, but most of the rooms that I have lived in have had clothes, papers, books, and everything else scattered around. The only difference is that my dirty and clean clothes, dirty dishes, all of my food, and everything else I have are scattered throughout one tiny room. I decided that I had to clean up a little bit the other day and found a spider that I swore was a scorpion for a few minutes. I chased it around, keeping a pretty good distance between us, and decided that it was just one of those spiders that is better off squished about 100 feet from my house.


This past week has been incredible! I went to town on Thursday (March 5) after school to prepare for the literacy workshop that I think I talked about in another blog post. I made some really cool handouts so the teachers had something to help them remember all of the information we covered. My friends and I also celebrated Meg’s 23rd birthday! It was a great time and great to see some of the people I haven’t seen in a while. We had an 80’s themed party…if pictures surface, Tom Cruise was not there in his Risky Business outfit  On Sunday, Meg came back to Ha Sefako with Phil and me to visit some of the college students she works with and to do the workshop with me.

The workshop went really well! 11/12 teachers showed up and we only started about 30 minutes late, which are both AMAZING! Because of the terrible roads and the inconsistent transportation, teachers usually start arriving late. I think they knew that I meant business when I told then that we were starting promptly at 10. The workshop ended around 1, which was longer that I had expected, but could have lasted much, much longer. We talked about reading aloud to students, students reading and learning to read, speaking out loud, and writing. We taught them some games to help the students learn because most of the time, they are just asked to copy words from the board. We taught them sight word bingo, which is bingo with very common and simple words in each box. When the first teacher got bingo, we gave her candy and the teachers went crazy! They love candy and playing little games like this. I’m hoping they play bingo with their kids! The teachers seemed excited about the workshop and even checked books out of the one library in the area.

The workshop was on a Friday, so I told teachers that I expected to see them trying some of the ideas the following week in their classes. I made sure to spend a significant amount of time in each of the teachers classes to observe and help where I could. I was really excited to see that teachers were trying to incorporate some of the new ideas into their teaching. One teacher even asked me to observe her “Right now!” I went in to find that she was reading with her students and having them read. She experimented with some new ideas and was very proud of herself. Her students spent about 40 minutes reading 3 small sentences, but it was definitely a start. Once she finished, she looked up at me and said, “See Thabang, my students can read.” I just smiled.

Earlier this week, I woke up with a headache and stomach ache, so I decided to go to the school next to my house instead of my farthest, which is 20 minute bus ride and 1 hour hike up a mountain. On my way to the school, I stopped at the preschool to introduce myself and give them some books. I had such a great time there! The teacher spoke almost no English, so I tried my best to talk to her in Sesotho. I ended up getting pretty far, but I know it was very broken Sesotho. There were about 23 kids and they all just stood in the room looking at me with huge eyes. The teacher asked them to sing and dance for me, which I loved! Once they realized that I was enjoying it, the kids started singing louder and getting into the dancing. On my way out, I realized that it was lunch time, so I waited around to see what their eating situation was. Each of the students brought a small container of either papa (ground up corn meal that makes a very stiff mashed potato looking thing), a small amount of meat, potatoes, or some other type of vegetable. The teacher took 4 medium sized containers and put a ton of papa and a mixture of other stuff inside. Then 6 kids crowded around each bowl and dug in with their hands. The kids were between 2-6 and had more boogers and funky stuff going on than I’ll write about, but none of them washed their hands. So to see them dig in, lick their hands clean, and go for more was a lot. I took pictures…hopefully they will load! I thought the worst was over, but when they finished, it was time to get a drink and clean up. The teacher had a basin full of water. The kids each washed their hands, face, even their hair in some cases, and then took scoops of water with their hands to drink! I might buy spoons and cups next time I’m in town!!

Today, March 20, is my free day. I decided to visit the preschool and the primary school closest to my house in the morning. I brought a book that a volunteer had translated into Sesotho and asked the teacher to read it to her class. She didn’t really want to, but I showed her what to do and the kids loved it! I’m going to try to stop by once or twice a week. After I left, I decided to take advantage of the beautiful day and sat outside and finished my 13th book. I ran out of books in my village (will get more next weekend in town) so I’m reading the whole Chronicles of Narnia. I feel like I’m 12, but it’s a good read. I had my shirt off and was getting some sun when I realized that this was just like the beach and that I had 2 avocados in my hut. I threw on my Hilton Head shirt (then took it off), made guacamole, turned on my iPod and pretended I was at the beach. It was sooo nice! Much needed getaway!

Well I hope everyone is doing well. I’m in town today and will be until around April 8 (I think) when I go to South Africa! So give me a call! I’ll post my South African phone number closer to when I leave.

I should be able to check e-mail pretty often in the next few weeks and can get texts, too!


Gram D. said...

OK.. good to see you here. I was starting to get worried. It's been like 2 weeks..

great post.. great pictures..

got your e-mail.. also.

love & miss you,


Allison said...

Michael it seems like your having great time and I'm trying to get a package together for you for your preschool.... ill let you know when i send it. Your stories are great and it really seems like the people are appreciating what your doing and that your being a really effective teacher and supervisor... love and miss you! I'm working on the rest of my email now, so ill talk to you soon!:)

Mike's Dad said...

Thabang? Isn't that the song that silly Asian guy sang on American Idol a couple years ago?



Randall said...

Mike, let me intro myself: I'm Phil's dad, and I teach high school English right now. I did spend 16 years in a middle school where English is a second language to Spanish. Matter of fact, some of my seniors I had as 8th graders. I sent some ESL type materials to Phil, but I'm thinking they may be more use to you. Check with him. If he deleted them, I can resend. You can look an pick material that might work, and I can send more. My email is youngren@fairpoint.net. Or, tell Phil, and he'll get to me.