Monday, January 16, 2006

August 22nd

Hi, Finally training to be a Peace Corp volunteer is reaching a conclusion point. I left Oklahoma June 15 and should be an official volunteer by August 29. This last eleven weeks has been definitely busy with business starting early and ending late. I spent much of my free time either writing home via computer or letters or just napping as much as possible. I actually am at my site and am pleased to be here and no longer with the group of trainees. I feel like I am moving on.

I compared to other volunteers I have mentioned had been given a "good stroke of luck" figuratively speaking. As mentioned I am staying in a two-bedroom duplex. Let me first say though that some of the other volunteers are in basic accommodations consisting of on roomed "round or square huts" with grass roofs with no electricity, running water, or plumbing. Their places are furnished with one bed, one, gas stove, and one gas heater. My place first of all has electricity, running water and plumbing. My place has a kitchen and in it is found a four top gas stove with oven, a stainless steel sink, refrigerator, covert for storage of pots, pans, and food. My living room has in it the kitten table that is coming with five chairs, a book shelf, and additional covert for storage, and a comfortable long couch (which I am sitting on while writing this). The bathroom is a small bathroom with toilet, sink and bathtub. I do not have as of yet a shower but have had ideas about making a make shift shower with hose and a bucket. One bedroom is furnished with a wardrobe with a place to hang clothes and shelves to store items. The other bedroom has a similar wardrobe and a small bed. My place is about 24 ft by 23 feet or about 550 square feet. It is by no means huge but for a person whose bulk of possessions were able to fit into two bags and a backpack it has a nice open feeling almost even bare feeling. One strange thing is that the living room, and bedrooms all have vents in them as is common in Lesotho. The vents in buildings are metal grills about the size of a cement block and allow air to circulate from inside to outside. As I mentioned these are very common in Lesotho I have of yet to figure out just why though most of the building have vents in the walls unless it has something to do with keeping things cool in the summer time but in the winter time it is really quite a nuisance. In some places with the gaps around the windows and doors and the vents in some houses with all the windows and doors closed one can actually still feel a draft. It right now just does not make sense to me.

I also have a different system for hot water. I actually having been residing here for over 24 hours am still waiting on the hot water. I apparently have a hot water solar panel. This of course needs sun and it has been cloudy and rainy. There was a little bit of warm water when I arrived yesterday but it has been cold since. I do believe though that I shall have hot water maybe even by tomorrow. If not I can just heat the water on the stove for a bath. As Lesotho is supposed to have 300 days of sunshine a year and so far I believe it I am not as yet too worried about it. I am also suppose to be getting a phone soon as my duplex is wired for a phone and the previous volunteer had a phone. With this of course I am planning on trying to get wired into the Internet.

My connection shall only be a 33k per second but for a third world country with 99.5% of the people here I am estimating not having internet I am feeling fine with it. Actually excluding the Macintoshes at the Peace Corps head quarters and other volunteers that brought computers I have what seems to be one of the nicest computers in the country which by American standards is still good but starting to get old but by Lesotho standards is actually nicer than any of the computers they are selling in the stores here. I am under the impression that the computers here in the stores for the most part are hand me down computers from the U.S, Asia, and Europe that have been refurbished. Even my old computer which was a hand me down computer from my brother which now would probably be five years old at least if I did not sell it to a buddy for $25 is nicer than most of the computers they are selling here as new.

I have already me one of my neighbors who introduced himself as Mr.

Abraham an he seems to me to be Pakistani by ethnicity, he shares the other side of the duplex with me and it seems like the wall that we share while being made of stone is actually quite capable of letting sound come through.

The walls of the building are all made of cement block and the ceiling seems to be like a dry wall type of material, the floor is linoleum tile like is often found in public building in America. All my widows are equipped with bugler bars and the door equipped with a burglar door. There also is a bob-wired fence around Mr. Abraham's and mine's duplex. Last night I also met Ntate Maholo which is his real name but translated into English is Mr. Big. He is about 5' 5" and probably ways about 110 pounds.

He is though for a Basotho man about normal size or just a little bit small.

The Basotho men here are not as compared to American men very big. As it is though Ntate Maholo is the night guard who apparently has been hired by the school to watch the school and the other residence that live on the school compound with me. He seemed very nice but spoke little English so before I can really talk with him I shall have to take more Sesotho classes.

I have been explained to that one of my neighbors will be able to tutor me in Sesotho as my language skills are only basic. As far as what I am going to do while I am here it still has yet to be determined. Some possibilities that have been discussed include, Teaching English or teaching computer skills. Setting up a system to take pictures of the people employed by St.

Mary's and making idea cards. Doing general administrative work and working in the community on various projects. I kind of get the impression though that I actually may not be doing much but then again will probably be as busy as I want to be.

I find it very ironic that I gave up almost everything to become a volunteer and have found myself in the middle of a situation where my house is now a lot nicer in a better neighbor hood and am now treated well and respected in the community. Oh well :-)

Yes it is kind of sad being away from America. I feel often times loneliness and isolation but at the same time feel like this experience is going to be better for me.

One thing that is kind of different though is there is no place to but your trash so the new modo is "if you can't burn it then smash it" I am serious, I mean this is what it seems like everyone else here does as there is no public system around here for disposing of trash. So I am actually trying to reuse things and make the most of them with out being too wasteful. I feel kind of bad burning my trash but should probably feel worse for having so much in the first place.

It seems like my radio stations at my site have been significantly reduced though. While I can pick up some stations I am no longer picking up the BBC and the one music station that I feel like I like and have been able to turn into is really fuzzy. The plan though is once the rest of my stuff is brought out here to my site which includes aluminum foil I can then put foil around the antenna to boost the reception. I have already seen that this works and might have some music and news to listen to after a while. There is radio stations here that speak Sesotho which I basically just recognize but can't understand, Afrikaner which I do not understand, French which I recognize parts of but do not really understand and of course English which what I feel really for now the intercontinental language and fastly I feel becoming the language of the world. One note though is often times I heard people talking about something called "Voice of America" which obviously deals with news that is important in the United States. I was with patience able to tune it in fuzzy and then walk around my residence for a few minutes trying to place it in different places until I found a place to put if for better reception, yeah! Don't let the name Voice of America fool you though it apparently is broadcast from Africa using African reporters with heavy African accents. I feel like now if I can The Voice of America, the BBC, and a quality music station or even two than I should be all right with my radio listening choices.

Most if not almost all of the Basotho here speak a very little English but for also most that is all the English they speak like I feel my Sesotho after two months is better than most of their English. In addition it is like a common dream that most of the Basotho have in common to go to the United States. I feel like they really do not exactly know what it is like to actually be in the United States and while I agree it is probably all around a better place to live it is not a magic land. Basotho when they talk seem to talk about America like it is many times better in every possible way compared to Africa. It seems like to the Africans that not only the grass is greener in America but it is the most perfect grass that has or ever will be grown. In fact with a few exceptions of soccer, rain, and getting something for free the most excited I have seen many of the Basotho is when they talk about someday going to America.

Again I want to emphasize that time here somehow works differently. It was my very first day here as a resident in my place and the next day some kind of walk was taking place and one of the Basotho was inviting me to take place in the walk. I agreed and he told me a strange thing for a westerner to hear. He told me basically, "Tomorrow we are going to a walk in a place outside of town, I will need to pick you up and drive you there, it is supposed to start about 8:00 AM so we can be there in time I will pick you up at 8:00 AM." Now I was told to watch out for this that the Basotho will be late for many things but this kind it seems to me is not even trying to be on time and in fact if it starts at eight and wants to pick me up at eight is going to make us obviously late. In addition the next morning when about half past eight when I was picked up everything seemed fine. No one seemed rushed that it starts at eight and it is already half past. This is just normal here and is among one of the differences I shall try to get use to but not necessarily adopt.

Day Three of My Site Visit:

Today the weather was much better finally the sun came out and the weather was very fair. I was able to do some errands and shopping today. One thing I was able to do was be able to buy and install light fixtures. While I had electricity and lights before it was kind of like just a wire hanging from the ceiling with a sleeve attached to the wire to put the light bulb in.

Well I felt like having a light bulb just hanging from the ceiling was tacking and also hurt my eyes. Barring the idea that I could just go into town and buy a halogen lamp :-) I decided to but the light fixture. The light fixture and light bulb that came with it (but one burnt out already) was only twenty rand or two American dollars a piece. So I bought a couple and installed them. Because of the way things were I still have a wire just hanging from the ceiling but then it runs into the fixture so I guess that is better.

I tried to get a telephone today. They told me to come back later, when I came back later they told me to come back tomorrow. I had a lot more luck at the post office though. While there I got something called a P/bag which is basically the same thing as a PO Box while the P/bag is bigger it can only be checked from inside the post office. I am not sure why exactly I got a P/bag instead of a PO Box but it is fine with me. It has a disadvantage that I will have to actually go into the post office each time to check my mail instead of using my key to open the box but I guess that is one less key. It seems like the lady at the Post Office maybe just wanted to talk with me but on the other hand there was when I was looking at the other P/bags only one space open which is the one I got so maybe somehow they are better. I decided since there was only one opening for the P/bags and she said she was giving it to me like I was special to just act like it was a neat thing and that I appreciated while inside I wonder now why am I getting a P/bag when I wanted a PO Box. It is not a big deal that the post office has to be open because they have regular hours on Monday through Friday and half a Day on Saturday. As it is I would not be out at night anyway and would most of the time be checking my mail during the day as it is.

I was able to purchase a cell phone today. It is a Nokia and is so big and bulky that if I saw someone in the USA with a phone this big I would of probably wondered why they had a phone so big and old especially when they just give away phone that are better than that. In fact I threw away three phones before I left all of which were better than this one. oh well. I am

still not too sure about all the details but I do know that it cost me four hundred rand which is of course forty American dollars which was basically the last of the money I brought with me. For my four hundred rand I get the phone and a entire year of unlimited incoming calls, unlimited voicemail, and unlimited voicemail retrieval. In addition there was a limited amount of call time, maybe like about ten minutes worth of calling out to other people in Lesotho. If I want to call out more on the cell phone the deal is they want me to buy more prepaid cards. I have got the phone mainly just for emergencies for people to call me on. The catch is my phone works kind of like a nine hundred number. If someone is calling me it really cost them a lot of money but does not cost me beyond what I have already paid anything. For someone to call me in Lesotho it cost them about three rand a minute or thirty cents a minute for someone to call me and from the US as far as I can gather so far it should costs about two dollars a minute which means I am not expecting too many calls from the US on my cell phone. I am curious though if that is really how much it would costs even though this was basically explained to me when I bought the phone I do not really consider the information a reliable source.

I was also able to purchase a coffee table today. Peace Corps basically gave me some money which they called a "settling in allowance" this is for the people I mentioned before that only had a bed, stove, and heater. My money is going towards a phone, coffee table, and internet. Tomorrow after trying to get the phone I plan to check on seeing about the internet. I have a feeling that there is no place here in town to get internet but I do know it is possible to get because some of the volunteers in my class that live about ten minutes away from me walking have replaced some other volunteers that had internet. I also am supposedly supposed to teach some computer literacy to the teachers. Maybe I can get some of my internet subsidized by the school then.

As it is I am starting to have an idea about how I ended up at this assignment. Well it seems about a quarter of the volunteers brought computers and more are planning on buying computers but the rest of us brought laptops. But out of the seven people in vocational only two of us brought laptops and I made it known that I brought one. Actually during one of the interviews or maybe all of them I kind of slipped in that I had a nice laptop that I brought so I just needed a place with electricity having heard that someone in the class before said basically the same thing and got electricity. So if I can put one and one together it would seem that me telling them how important my using my computer was they figured I would be "the right man for the job" here. This makes sense after today the principal of the school told the group of teachers that she requested someone with computer skills to come here. So as it is it seems like I am here to teach computers and as it is English.

Anyway I know I am writing a lot now but that is because everything seems now seems so new and exciting with my situation changing on a daily basis.

I am obviously adding words to this e-mail when I have free time which since coming to my site I have had a lot more of. Maybe I should be studying my Sesotho for my test but it seems like the people are already very impressed with how well I speak it. I have also for the first time in training had what I consider to be real time to myself and time to do things like write e-mail. I get the feeling in six months my e-mail will be like. Well not much is new here, I am just kind of doing the same thing everyday as I have for the last couple of months, see you all later. Anyway even when that

comes though I should still have some pictures that I can be sending. The

one I am trying to attach is one of me and some of the kids in the village that I was doing training in. I tried to send it before but had some technical difficulties with hotmail.

I also was given another name today. My new African name is Tsepo. I guess it is Tsepo McDonald for all I know or I can just be T?epo kind of like Madonna or Prince or Cher. :-) As it is Tsepo is pronounced basically Tsae-poe, it is more complicated than that but I through an email do not right now want to explain it. The ts sound is like the ts sound pronounced in pizza or eats. My name means "hope". This apparently for a while and probably for two years should be the last time I really have to change names. As it is though I have kind of always liked the name hope and kind feel like being known as a hope is acceptable.

Day Four of Sight Visit

Today I just did a lot of shopping. I was in town again today to try to get a phone and they told me it would be a while I am not really sure just how long it will take to get a phone. I do know that while talking to someone today they told me there was a computer store in town. I want to go and check it out but I am not sure if it will have an internet cafe actually I kind of doubt it will but it very well might. I do know I had visited one town even smaller than this one that had an internet cafe.

I tried looking in many shops today to get some adaptations to make my sink better all I would of needed was some hose of the right size and then cut it to length. I thought that this would be an easy task but it would appear that in Lesotho in my district a person can not just buy hose. The seem to have garden hose and that is about it. So it looks like I will have to wait till I get to South Africa sometime to get the things I wanted today also one thing I wanted was a shower curtain. While many people were very familiar with the idea of a shower curtain once I explained it to them not a single person had an idea of a place in town about where to get one.

Town is pretty neat, when I am saying town I am mainly referring to one strip that is about a block long and is considered downtown. I live about a five to ten minute walk from the strip and going there it is all up hill at a fair incline but I would rather the incline be on the way there versus on the way back when my hands are full. It has a paved road on it and cars do drive on it but it is really mostly people walking as cars are kind of a major luxury here. There are a lot of people pushing wheel barrels with items they bought. The main stores are consisting of about three big grocery stores about as big as a neighborhood grocery in America or maybe even half as big as an Albertsons with more than enough food and variety a person can eat just fine but maybe not everything one wants. They also have about five small groceries on the strip. There are about ten furniture stores. And about fifteen clothing and shoe stores. It is also the location of the electric and phone company both of which here also seem to be a hassle to deal with even more than in America and a post office. There is also two banks and two butchers in town one of which has quite an extensive variety of meats. Now in front there is about eight feet of walking space and then the street vendors are set up. These are mainly selling fruits and vegetables that are home grown and other small merchandise that appears to either be made or "have fallen of a truck" which is slang for stolen off of a semi before it could deliver it to a store.

Then in the paved road many people are walking around well people are just walking around quite a bit as it is and then there are of course the beggars and even one street performer that is playing an accordion. I have to say though that the blind street beggars here sometimes really are blind is about as apparent as it can be as they do not have any eyes. An idea in my head is from an Indiana Jones movie. It is just kind of like that. It seems in each of the movies it does not matter which one Indiana at some point always found himself in some kind of market place in a third world country usually he is lost it seems like and no one around speaks English.

For me it is not seemingly that bad though and maybe sometime if I am brave enough to flash my camera I can get a picture of it so you all can see just what bustling commerce third world country style in Africa is like. :-)

There really is so much more to write like how the bo-me which just means a group of married women, they want me to marry their daughters. Adventures in taxis. How the little kids yell out "layhoa" which means white person, this by the way is not necessarily a negative thing for them to do. It is just something they do. What the plants and animals are like here. About how I got a house keeper to come at least once a week and do all my laundry for fifteen dollars a month. Just generally how things are but I am starting to feel like I need not be writing a book here and can probably write more at another time. Jeff


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