Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Friday, May 21, 2010

Education For All

This week was 'Education for All' week, so I want to celebrate. These photos show a meeting between some parents, the reception class
teacher at the nearest primary school [similar to kindergarten], and the teacher from my village for the Early Childhood Center [similar to primary school]. The meeting was to discuss how to coordinate their activities for the year, and preliminary plans to build a permanent home for the village ECCD center.

The ECCD teacher has come to the library / resource center to make materials and discuss curriculum, and I was thrilled to see that it has been useful to her [you can see various items on the walls and in the 'math center'].

The final picture celebrates the DTEP students who came at 8:45 am and stayed until 3:30pm, traveling several hours both ways, in order to revise and complete their assignments before the deadline tomorrow.


Bitches and Boyfriends

A couple days ago, a beautiful bitch adopted me. I had walked over to pick up some books from another PCV who lived in the neighboring village, and she met me as I was coming up the path to his house. Her coat is an orange caramel; the tip of her nose, her paws, and her tail are all white – as if she were gently dipped in paint before coming to us here on earth. She introduced me to the other dogs living there, and I later found out that she had been a puppy inherited from the previous PCV. The dogs who stayed at that rondeval were a hybrid of pets and guard dogs – a rare exception here. As I left his rondeval later, she came to see me out.

Then she walked with me through the village.

“That’s a handsome dog!” said the mother nursing her baby as she sat at her doorway.

“I know,” I smiled. Thank you didn’t seem quite right, but it was a nice compliment.

“You have a dog now!” remarked the traditional healer as I turned up the path by the library.

“Yes, I know!” I agreed with uncertainty. But she already had walked up to the library as if it were here home, even though I kept on walking to head home. She quickly caught up.

By the time I arrived home, I was ready to introduce her to my Ntate and M’me.

“Look! A dog!” I pointed.

“Yes, I see that,” my Ntate confirmed. We later named her ‘Tsebo’, for ‘Faith’. My Ntate had been considering getting a puppy to become a guard for the house, and here she had arrived. Tsebo is probably about 1 year old, given her penchant for chasing her tail and sprinting off in spontaneous celebration of life.

She stayed close to me the rest of the evening, and slept outside my door all night – guarding it several times (from some unknown dangers I’d rather not consider) with her loud growling bark. In the morning she was ready for the day’s journey to visit a school.

During the hike, we continued to get to know each other and discover where our interests overlap, somewhere between chasing birds, smelling dirt, hiking, and warily avoiding cow manure. She stayed by my side nearly the whole time.

We arrived at the mission school to work with some student teachers, and she agreed to stay outside to investigate.

As usual, after I had finished working with the teachers, I had the most delicious meal of the week with the Sisters who stay at the Mission. Today, the eldest Sister had already eaten and she was just sitting with me and another Sister [who is a teacher], so we could join in her company. Her face is permanently smiling, her beautifully high cheekbones creating two delicate pillows for her thick glasses – heavy black picture frames that showcase her kind eyes.

“Tell us a story,” I say mischeviously. I am fascinated by her quiet sensitive warmth, melted by her loving hugs, honored and grateful for her welcoming presence. How did she come to be who she is?

“A story?” she looks up at me amused.

“Yes, a story about you.” I say firmly. I swallow another delicous spoonful of Cream of Mushroom soup.

“You must give me something to narrow it.”

“Ok, a story from when you were a little girl.”

The other Sister, the teacher, leans over with a delighted grin. “She once had a boyfriend!”, she says crisply, clearly, words that sound like the crunch of an apple.

I am eager for another bite. “You did! What happened! Tell me!”

Eldest sister laughs, chuckles to us, then to herself. She blushes.

“Well,” she begins. “I was walking home from school. There was one other of us. When, then, there was a man. He looked at me. He said, ‘You, come here. I want you to be my wife.’ He came over to me, and, at that time I was wearing the blanket.” She gestures how the Basotho blanket is wrapped around the shoulders, fastened with an oversized safety pin somewhere slightly off center where the corners meet.

“So,” she rested her hands again on the table as she continued. “He came over to me and he took the back of me, by my blanket.” Here she shows again where he might have grabbed her, just behind the neck, gripping the blanket firmly and yanking. “Well I unhooked the pin, and,” she looks at me and pauses, “I ran away.”

Both Sisters start giggling uncontrollably. “And I never saw him again.” She finished, wiping her mouth with a napkin with satisfied firmness.

I guess you never know who will find you when, and whether you’ll need to consider how to keep or lose ‘em.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Daily Readings

Hungry as Pigs

There is an unearthly sound coming from somewhere at the top of the hill near my home. I hear it as I walk up from the pump with my bucket of freshly washed laundry. The squeals and grunts are grating, loud, raw, and forcing a rude soundtrack on my usually thoughtful, quiet walk home. Something is either in extreme pain or ecstasy, but my empty farming background has nothing to offer for clarification. When I get to my family compound, the noise has only increased and it is clearly coming from a neighoring structure.

I see my Ntate sitting in the sun near my rondavel. “Ntate, what is that noise?” I demand.

Ntate squints at the early morning sun and answers my silhouette, “Those are pigs. They are hungry. When you don’t feed them, they cry.” His own pigs are happily rooting in their outdoor pen nearby.

I have walked past him now, and set down my bucket to open my door. I think for a moment about hungry pigs, smile, and decide to risk it.

I turn and lean out from my doorway. “That’s just like me,” I say with a grin. I’m hoping for once my humor might translate.

Ntate smiles at me, laughs, and I breathe. “Oh? Do you cry when you are hungry?” He seems even a little genuinely surprised – but of what I’m not sure. Surprised that I cry when I hungry? Surprised I would cry over hunger? Surprised that I might know hunger? Surprised that I am comparing myself to pigs?

“Sometimes I cry when I'm hungry,” I reply as we laugh together, his answer and my surprises stay hanging in my mind.