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

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sometimes I ramble!

It is 4PM on Monday and I walked into my house just as it started raining! Behind the mountain that I can see from my door, there is a small village. The government is building a road that snakes up the mountain and will eventually reach the village so public transportation can service them twice a day. They brought all of these huge machines and trucks to get the job done and about twice a week “explode” the mountain. I didn’t expect this the first time and was in a classroom observing a teacher when a bomb went off. I grabbed his arm and checked for damages. He, being fairly old, belly laughed because I was clearly not letting go of his arm for a few seconds. The point of telling you that long story is I got a hitchhike in one of the rock transporting trucks!! One of my principals and I put our fingers out, signaling that we wanted a free ride, and he stopped. I gave it a sideways look, rolled my eyes, and though “this is Africa.” Then I realized the door handle was over my head. When we opened the door I noticed that my seat was a good 6 feet above me! So I climbed in after Ntate Paul, the principal, and closed the door. I definitely smiled the whole ride home. Kids kept running to the road to see the truck, which drives up and down the road about 10 times a day, and I felt like a rock star! I know their gawking had nothing to do with me, but I waved as if I was Obama! In all of my excitement, I forgot how high up we were. When I went to get out, I backed down the first step and jumped. I hit the ground pretty hard a second or two later. Ntate Paul just looked down at me not really knowing if that was an accident. I took some IB Profen for the headache, but am still pretty psyched about it.

In other news…We had our camp a few week ago. It was part 2 of the Healthy Living Camp my friends Meg, Nicole, and I organized for 20 high school students. The camp was great! It was awesome to see the students again and catch up on the past few months. Some of the highlights of the camp were…Kick-4-Life, they teach about HIV through games, came and played games with the kids from 6AM-10. The guy who facilitated the session was amazing. He had way more energy than I had as the sun was coming up and the kids loved it. We had a guest speaker who is HIV positive come and speak about her life. She started by playing a game with the kids to help them understand how it might feel to learn your status. Then she talked to them about her life, how she found out that she was positive, and how she stays healthy. She also talked about her family, friends, job, things she does for fun, all of which the students thought wasn’t possible if someone had HIV. It was probably the best session of the day. We had our friend Alison come the first night to do a cooking demo. I loved it. I felt like I was watching the food network! She taught the kids how to cook a healthy or fortified version of the staple foods they eat. Everything she did was within a typical families budget and in some cases even cost less. Even the boys, who do not cook in Lesotho, asked questions! During lunch the receptionist told me that I had a guest. I gave it the usual “What could this possibly be” and walked to the lobby of the hotel we were at. It ended up being the parents of one of the campers who were in town; they live and work in South Africa while their children live in their home village. They gave me hugs and the mother told me that she had a picture of me with her son in her house! We had extra breakfast so they joined us for breakfast before leaving for South Africa. Our next camp is in August! We’re all looking forward to it!

So this next story is more of a high five for me than anything. I had this very specific idea of Peace Corps before arriving in Lesotho and a lot of it is exactly the same as I thought, but much of it is different. One thing that is different is that I thought I would be doing a lot of work with my hands. Digging and building things. Not exactly my style, but I thought I would give it a try. I finally, probably for the first time in Lesotho, picked up a shovel! I noticed that the water tap at one of my schools was not draining properly and, as a result, created a small swampy wetland all around it. One boy went to wash a peach and came back with wet shoes and ankles! So I went and checked it out, thought about what my dad would do and grabbed a shovel from the teacher’s room. After about 10 minutes of stomping on the shovel, pulling it back to make a loud suction noise, and throwing mud, I had a drainage pit! The kids were pretty confused for a few minutes, but when the water all started running away from the tap, they new exactly what was going on. I put in a good 3 hour nap after that hard work and was pretty pleased with myself.

My friend Meg celebrated her birthday about 2 weeks ago. Last year she scheduled school visits in my village during her birthday, so she did the same thing this year. A few other people were in the area helping with a Life Skills workshop (teaching about HIV, goal setting, decision-making, self-esteem…) at the high school in my village. I decided the best gift I could get Meg would be 2 chickens to slaughter for the big day. I went around with my Ausie (host sister) and asked people to buy a chicken from them. It took us a while to find chickens fat enough, but we finally had 2 neighbors agree to sell us chickens. I told them that I would pay for them and pick them up in a few days. So the big day comes and we go to neighbor 1 to collect the chicken. He’s an older man who lives with his two primary age sons. He smiled when I walked through his gate with a few other white people. He told his sons to go get the chicken and we waited. We smiled as we hear these two boys running through a cornfield and chickens attempting to fly and run at the same time. The boys come out and tell us that it isn’t around today. So we told them to bring it to my house when it came home. You should know that this was all in Sesotho and we speak it, but not well enough for this conversation. So we go to house 2. I told a guy about my age why we were there and a woman goes to get the man I talked to earlier in the week. She stood at the edge of their property yelling for him and he comes out of the primary school with a huge smile on his face. We rediscuss that I wasn’t to buy a chicken and he takes off after one. He and his son had it cornered, but when they went for it, it ran the other way. After about 5-10 minutes of chasing, he comes over and holds the chicken out for me to take. Now I had thought most of this through, but not the transportation to my house. So he teaches me how to hold the chicken without getting pecked or clawed and we start the several minute journey to my house. When we arrive the two boys from house 1 were standing in my yard waiting with another chicken. So when I said I thought it through, I really meant I knew I wanted to put salt and pepper on it and roast it. So we all stood there with chickens making noises without a clue. I told someone to get rope from my house and my knife, but then we didn’t know how to tie them in a nice way that let them know that they weren’t going anywhere. So the youngest of the boys steps up and ties them up. He has to be about 6. He tied them and laid them on the ground for us. Fast-forward about 3 hours while we wait for everyone to arrive. It’s definitely getting dark and we have one headlamp and one flashlight for a pretty dark night. We had 2 experienced chicken slaughterers in the group who taught Meg and another friend how to cut the head off. Meg went at it and got the head off of chicken #1 in about 40 seconds. Without really knowing what to do next we used the rope that already had its legs tied and hung it from my clothesline. I’m sure my Ntate (host father) was not pleased. For chicken #2 I insisted that we untie it to see if a chicken can really run with its head cut off. Our friend went at it, cut it off, and then we all stepped back. The instant he let go of the chicken, it flew straight at Nicole, went off to the left and continued running about 40 feet into my families corn field, all while our friend had the chicken’s head in his hand!! It was crazy. The next hour was spent plucking, gutting, and cooking the chickens, which cost about $4 each!

Finally, I have been working on a project to order children’s books with and HIV message or lesson in them for primary schools in Lesotho. The books are being ordered and dates have been set. So the project is this… I am working with Peace Corps and the Ministry of Education to order about 75 HIV/Life Skill themed children’s books and teacher resources for 20 primary schools in the district that I live in. To make the books useful and the project sustainable, we are developing a workshop to teach 2 teachers from each school how to use these books in their schools. We are going to create lesson plans, try some games and activities in the books, and talk about how to have difficult discussions about sex, death, HIV, and everything else with students. From there, we are going to try to visit the schools to help the teachers to use the books well in their schools. I am also going to create a manual for other volunteers to use if they want to do this workshop in their villages. Hopefully other volunteers will be able to order books and recreate this workshop all over the country!

Well by the time I post this the African Library Project books will be in Lesotho! I will be heading down to organize the books by school and make sure my 3 libraries are well organized before the Easter break! My next blog will have lots of updates about that!

Hope everyone is doing well!


Mike's Dad said...

Mike, I’m so proud of your plumbing prowess! Great story! I'm proud of you!!
Love you,

Emily said...

Michael Dissen!

I am having a hard time reading this because I'm laughing so hard. I can hear your voice loud and clear as I'm reading this particular post.

Oh Mike...