Monday, January 16, 2006

October 24th 2002

Hi Everyone,

I was in a nice restaurant. Well you might say nice for Lesotho. The fact of the matter is that by American standards it would be an acceptable but yet low class place to eat but for the city I live in which is a camp town or provincial capital it is one of the three nicest places to eat out. We were having a birthday party for a colleague of another Peace Corps Volunteer. In to the restaurant walks a lady carry a box of apples and bananas. She walks up to our table (we were the only ones there) and the sticks the fruit in front of us implying we should by some. After a go around of telling her we are eating at the restaurant and that we don’t want to buy her fruit she then just starts begging for money. She then explains she needed money for food and that she was hungry. We were very taken back not but kind of use to this kind of thing too. Not only though did she want money but also she wanted it for food when she already had a big box of food she was trying to sell. She then explain not only did she want food but that if we gave her the money she was going to go and buy fat cakes. I am not sure if I have explained fat cakes but it is a deep fried bread maybe comparable to a donut that by all means is very tasty but not very good for a person and is known to make people fat. Well I have to say this lady must have already eaten a fat cake or two because she was fat and I mean pretty fat. The kind of fat that people have to start walking slow because they weigh too much. Her and just about every other lady here that eat more than there fair share of fat cakes. Which brings me to a side note, how can there be a famine here if eighty five percent of the women are fat? Sure all the men are very skinny and one might even think that all the women just ate all the food and did not give any to the men (which might actually be happening) but by no means should Lesotho have been declared in a state of famine by the world food program. There is more than enough food if the women would just share.

But as I was saying there was this lady begging from us. Why? Probably because we were white. I might in a ten minute walk to the store and a ten minute walk back be asked for money three times and not think much of it as out of the norm of things. And I am not sure if they all the times really want money but it is just a good way for them to start a conversation. I know we as volunteers don’t really give money (or at least I don’t) so there must be an ulterior motive for asking. I really do believe though for many of them some of the only English they know is “Give me the money” and for others it is just a game to ask for money.

I should also say as I write this my neighbors some of whom are girls from the ages of eight to fifteen are standing around in a circle singing and dancing. The drum they are using is not really a drum but from the sound of it is a plastic bucket turned upside down but I assure you still can make a lot of drum like sound loud enough to get in a circle and sing, chant and dance to as the last bit of daylight fades into the night sky. I know that the idea of people getting around in circles and singing and dancing is kind of a romantic idea of Africa and while it does not happen every night like it probably use too it still does. A lot of things have changed like now there is no campfire, the people are wearing a lot more clothes, a bucket has replaced a drum, and the songs now have a pseudo-Christian meaning but the tradition has still remained somewhat in tact. I should reinforce though also that the Basotho are what I could consider natural dancers and singers. These people on a whole can sing and dance so well that when they break out in a melody (as they often do) it can almost make a man break down at times it is so beautiful.

It really amazes me the contrast in how well the people I work with are almost musical geniuses in their own way but it takes me seriously ten minutes to teach someone how to use the arrow keys are a keyboard. This is of course to most Americans whether their ancestors came from Africa or not something that is almost instinctive or might take ten seconds to teach with the student even after ten seconds knowing much better how to work the arrow keys then after ten minutes of me explaining it. I am serious in that some things are so foreign and difficult to teach but with time they do learn and seem to be able to use. All this the while like their ability to sing and dance so well is a skill to me that is just as foreign.

Now I don’t mind saying a little R&R wouldn’t be to upsetting. In that since the beginning of this month I went to a four day cultural festival, went to a week long drawn out conference, then came back and went to the capital city for a couple days for Peace Corps business, came back entertained people coming to my house for an Outward Bound Program, went to the Outward Bound Program (which is related to the one in America), came back and for three days have hosted people on post outward bound trips. It would not upset me too much to just have some time here at the place to myself for a few days with no travel or too much company.

I am enclosing a picture from the scenes of Outward Bound. I hope everyone else is doing well. Jeff


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