March 28th 2004
I had a nice day today. It went a little something like this. I woke up in the morning. Waking up in the mornings here is nice for me. I tried to set my schedule where I do not work so early in the morning so I get to wake up after I am fully rested. So about 8:30 AM I was out of bed and getting ready. I was supposed to be out of the house and on my way to do a project by 9:00 AM. I figured I had a lot of time because when someone tells you they are going to come by at 9:00 AM here in Lesotho a guy is doing well to see them by 10:00 AM. This person was on time and I was amazed. I ended up getting a ride in a back of a pick up truck with a few other people on a curvy, bumpy, and steep road. After about an hour and a half, I arrived at my destination. I was in a village deep in the mountains. As I went into the mountains, it was like driving back into time. I estimated I was now in a land where things are at least a hundred years behind how things are in America. I was arriving at the site of the meeting by the back of a pick up truck. Most of the others walked there but also quite a few road there horses. There clothes were all old and torn but many people were excited. At first it was only women but then a few men came to show up.
We were in a village and having an all villages in the area meeting to discuss HIV/AIDS and the possibility of getting a clinic in the site where we were meeting.
I had been asked to just come in and watch but after a little while when I tried to sit down with the general population there came serious objections and groans.
I was told I had to sit with the chiefs. So there I was sitting in a semi flat field on the side of a green mountain sitting in the first of a row of six chairs. The other five chairs are filled with the chiefs and we were all facing the villagers. The talks began and then the questions started coming to me from the other chiefs. They wanted to know what I thought of there being a clinic built for the village.
It was my turn to talk. After I introduced myself and explained and gave a brief outline of my answers to the questions in Sesotho I then found someone to translate my more complicated explanations. Of the people there only a few could speak English. Just guessing, the average level of education among all the people might have been third grade. With my translator by my side I started explaining about programs going on. I sighted that South Africa has recently promised to give medicine to all of its residents that have AIDS within three years (this probably won’t happen). Also the UN has set aside an enormous amount of money to get medicine to people with HIV and AIDS in this part of the world (that might happen). One main problem they outlined though was the lack of no clinics in the villages to distribute the medicine. I explained the medicine was good and that the thirty to forty percent of the people in the village that are HIV positive, in order to live would need the medicine to live in a few years when they developed AIDS. Most of the people were amazed to hear for the first time that there was actually a medicine for HIV. The audience was wide eyed, jaw dropped, and totally still for my advice. They all intently listened to the translations of what I was saying. I repeated some of the things to reiterate when they were most surprised. They were instantly taken with me. In Lesotho my name means hope and I was indeed giving these people hope.
Somewhere along the line though things got a little bit exaggerated. Even though in Sesotho I introduced myself as a Peace Corps Volunteer and the program I mentioned was with the UN and not the Peace Corps by the end of the meeting I had been elevated in there minds. There is now a group of villages deep in the mountains that personally believe they have been visited by the US ambassador to Lesotho. In addition the said ambassador (me) has personally promised them that if they can build a clinic that he will give them all the medicine for free. At one point the medicine I talked about was going to cure HIV. That was really the only thing I cleared up. I told them again if they could take the medicine that it would not cure the HIV, and that the HIV would not go away forever but that they could live for many years with out ever getting sick if they took the medicine. The whole bit about me being the ambassador, I did not correct because the truth was that I kind of thought it would be funny to be an ambassador for a day.
Anyway that was my day this last Saturday. It was a long travel to the village and a long travel back. It was an even longer day on top of a mountain on a bright sunshiny day for four hours with no sun block, which led to me getting a sunburn, but all in all it was worth it.
Love, light, and laughs, Jeff