Tuesday, August 31, 2010

August Data at the Resource Center

August, 2010
Resource Center Data

Total Visits: 296

50% Children ages 4-10 yrs
33% Children ages 11-20 yrs
5% Children around 2-4 yrs
5% Local Non DTEP Teachers

For those of you who have asked how to help or what to send :), here are the favorite activities.

Eric Carle
[Spot Series] by Eric Hill
J. Cannon
DK Eyewitness Books [readers below 10yrs]
HS Math textbooks
HS Science textbooks
HS/College Business Education Texts or Magazines

Children often buddy read, so duplicate copies are welcome!

Easy math books [counting numbers, fractions, multiplication, division]

Easy preschool alphabet / sounds books / colors / shapes / animals

Books about puberty, aimed at children around 11 or 12

Simple information books about African nations or stories set in Africa

Simple information books about hygeine

Memory games

Unifix connect cubes


Newsprint drawing paper

Large preschool size crayons

Coloring books

Simple word search books

Simple ‘activity’ books that support reading and math skills

Children’s magazines such as Click and Time for Kids

English dictionaries

If you are able, please send in Priority Mail Box [this is expensive ($40) but ensures delivery].

Print 'Educational Resources: Books' and 'Materials for Library - Children' written in black marker clearly in several places. Thank you and photos will be sent!

Tamara Weiss, PCV
Peace Corps Lesotho
PO Box 554
Maseru 100 Lesotho
Southern Africa

Sunday, August 29, 2010


“Coo coo!” Laughter outside my door. “Coo coo!”

I check my cell phone under my blankets so as not to make the light detectable. 2:51am.

“Coo coo… sesotho sesotho sesotho ‘sehua!’ [english language] sesotho sesotho ‘lehua!’ [white english person] sesotho sesotho…”

The voices outside my door travel to the next rondavel in the compound, speak loudly and call ‘Coo coo’. Then they return outside my door. I silently thank my burglar bars, my keys, and all my locking and unlocking that have been recently making me impatient and feeling silly and suspicious, a stranger at home.

“Coo coo!” The pattern repeats. Then silence, and a final light two taps on my door.

I know they can’t get in, that they are drunk to a blackout variety, and that if I just stay silent and feign a deep dead to the world sleep they should get bored and go away.

And they do.

But I am still very much still under my covers, awake, for another hour before adrenaliine tosses me out to keep busy until dawn. I wash my hair. I study Sesotho. I do the dishes. I work out. I eat breakfast. Finally at 5:30am the sun decides to arrive. I bring my buckets outside to wash my clothes, to remember other days, to watch who might come out of my Ntate’s home.

Ntate has been gone more than two weeks now. He left with two suitcases, so I’m told, saying he was headed for Maseru. I never saw him go, and he never told me. I feel somewhat abandoned in surprise – though his wife was left equally ignorant, and that should be comforting in someway, I reason, but it’s not.

A man comes out of the house, sees me leaning over my wash buckets, and looks startled. “Lumela, Mme.” Good morning, he says.

I give him my best steel eyed trying to be Basotho I-know-what-you-did-last-night stare, unfortunately not fully perfected. But I stare unabashedly. My brain takes photos of his sunken eyes, his long yellow buck teeth, his bony cheekbones and the rectangle scar carved out above his upper lip. A green blanket with beige flowers shrouds his frame, his grey boots are anonymous and common for herdboys.

He looks away from me, checks back with the uncomfortable feeling of being studied, then goes to piss on the pig corral in front of him.

When he has returned inside the house, I text a trusted friend from the village. “Last night…” Even though I know my friend is away, I know he is highly respected and has a large family here.

Within minutes a text comes back. He has alerted his family in the village, and they will be coming.

Meanwhile the man has opened the door to leave my Ntate’s house for good, his white tulip hat perched on his head and his walking stick probing for the first solid step. He doesn’t look at me as he zig zags down the hill, the path of a stranger. I trail him silently.

My Mme appears from the kitchen where she sleeps, and Abuti Thiela emerges from the house where he boards, and I tell them what happened.

“Pepe! Pepe!” Mme touches her hand to her heart and then places that hand on my chest. “Ke o rata.” [Sorry, sorry. I love you.]

Abuti Thiela offers, “He is the one who has no common sense.”

Yes, I agree, somewhat frustrated that common sense is even in the same sentence as the man’s pronoun. So, having shared our thoughts, I turn back to my washing. Mme goes to feed the pigs. Abuti Thiela watches the village wake up.

Within 30 minutes, three Bo’Mme walk across our yard. I am not sure who these women are, so I wait. They head straight for me.

“Aussi! Ho joang?!” How are you / What’s up? They ask in unision.

“Ho sharp, Kea leboha,” I stammer uncertainly.

“Aussi!” One Mme steps forward, cocks her head, and repeats, “Ho joan?”

They know. “Oh, bosiu moabane?” Last night?

“Eh!” They place their hands on their hears. They tell me that they are from my friend’s family. I rush to tell them about the night, and my voice cracks. Basotho don’t usually cry past the age of 15, so I try vainly to protect my maturity. After I finish, with only a single tear convicted by a brush of my finger, they are still waiting for something.

“Empa, holokile kajeno. But now everything is ok. Letsatsi le teng. The sun is here. Holokile. It’s ok.”

“He is coming,” they clarify why we are waiting.

“Here?” I double take. They know who it was last night? I have to speak to him?

“Yes. You will meet hiim. He will come here and see you.”

There’s nothing to do but stand together. Within minutes the same man, green blanket pig pee-er, walks up to us.

He’s shorter when I see him standing this close to me. His sunken eyes now fall even deeper into his skull, holes of hangover, mistakes, and regret swim in a yellow soup of fear beneath sagging eye lids. He commences the trial by babbling in Sesotho, the women answer, he answers. I imagine the ping pong conversation consisting of denials and offenses.

It stops abruptly, and Abuti Thiela steps forward as my translator.

“You must forgive him.”


“He has asking for to forgive him. He is going.”

I hesitate. I try not to guffaw. I look at him and am surprised by the earnesty as he meets my gaze. “Will he not come here? I don’t want to see him. I want to feel safe in my home, in the village.”

“Yes, he is going. You must tell him.”

I don’t want to forgive him. I want to push him down, steal his blanket, and instantaneously transport him to an urban jungle where everyone speaks jibberish and threatens him. But now 6 pairs of eyes are looking at me, full of concern that this matter be resolved.

“Of course, I just… I just want to feel safe. I forgive. Just please ask him to go.”

“He is going,” Theila repeats patiently for the third time. “He will not come back. He is from over there,” and he motions across the valley to the other mountains witnessing village life. “He is not from here.”

The group begins to dissippate. The Bo-Mme make sure that I have their phone numbers. I thank them again and again. We hug. It is not yet 8am. Time to start the day.

In the warmth of the morning, the spring buds have whispered ‘we told you so’ to the doubting frost long since slunk into the thirsty ground. My meeting scheduled at the Resource Center consists of the ECCD Teacher scheduling three workshops for the region’s 8 nearby teachers, then we work together for two hours making alphabet letters for literacy lessons. A DTEP teacher, year 2 student leader, also comes to discuss the calendar. Then it is time to go to the semi final soccer games at the local field.

After one game, I’m exhausted. I pass the cows lazily enjoying the first hot afternoon of the season. I take a nap. A knock at the door lets me know I’ve overslept, and two girls have come to call me to open the library. We read book after book together, switching off languages and pages, and others join and then leave and then return. Finally, it is time to go home.

As night begins to bashfully return, an old man arrives on horseback at my rondavel. He dismounts and ties his horse to the post outside. “I have come to visit you.”

He walks over. “I could not sleep,” and he takes my hand to finish during our shake – hand, thumb, hand, “…until I know what has happened. From your own words.”

I realize that this is the father of my dear friend I had texted in the morning. He listens with his heart, his eyes pouring into mine, and at the end of my expressions of gratitude for him and his family, he says, “You have come here. You are here to help. We are here to help you. You must feel safe. You are at home here. Tonight you will sleep well. He will not come again. No one will come. We are here to protect you.”

We say goodnight. He calmly goes to collect his horse, and requests Abuti Thiela to bring my Mme so that they may speak.

I go inside my home, make dinner, light candles, and welcome sleep again.

Soccer and cows...

Spring peach blossoms...

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Metzi E Teng

Winter stays unwelcome. Everyone wants Spring now: the farmers tilling the fields with four cows, the piglets born last week, the children walking to school with wind whipped eyes, crying. And me, my nose raw and my hands dry snake skin, I want Spring too.

There is ice in the mornings at the pump, and it freezes on my jacket arm as it sloshes in escape from under the lid of my bucket. ‘Qhoqane’ is the word for ice, I’m taught one morning. I practice saying the clicking to distract me on my climb back up the steep hill from the water pump. The first click has an ‘h’ blend, the second doesn’t.

The water has been out at the nearest pump since March. I’ve forgotten the summer days of luxury, when water was just five minutes to and ten minutes back with a bucket full. I’d go two or three times a day without a thought. After March, the stakes changed. Should I wash my hair or clean the dishes? Could I reuse the water from boiling eggs for my tea? How important is it to rinse after brushing your teeth?

During the last week, winter had angrily stomped back in from warming days in a tantrum of frost, wind, and stinging air. I had committed to visiting a school nearby, only an hour and a half by foot. A new dear friend, a local Basotho teacher whose family was from the village, had introduced me to the principal several days ago – and also had popped in on his former second grade teacher, who still worked there. It was an introduction that immediately created trust and community, I didn’t want to do anything to damage this new relationship – especially not on account of the weather.

It isn’t easy for me to let go of the idea that weather is surmountable, a challenge that I should arm myself to overcome to continue with my business. The villagers have no such quirky notions. When it is cold, you stay with others and make a place where it is warm - until you have to fetch water, food, or kindling. Free primary education, compulsory for children and thus for their teachers, does not mesh well with this framework.

Even so, the visit was a success. The teachers were huddled together outside in the sun with the children. I met with several, reviewed the lesson plan for next week when I should return because it will be warmer, and was thanked repeatedly by the principal for coming so far.

On our return, it finally began to warm up. Just as Ntate Tye and I were passing the field where the horse races had been held last weekend, a crystal clear sound flows across the grass. Music dances on the sunlight. Rhythmic strumming of guitar chords are coming from the herd boys who’ve taken a rest from walking with their charges. They stand together warming up in the bright patch of light. Their band is already framed on a timeless album cover: the glorious Lesotho mountains hover behind, arms around each other’s craggy shoulders, the valley cradling this next generation of caretakers.

We approach, greet, and marvel at their craftmanship. We dance a step, and when I ask to take their picture they become professional and businesslike. I am offered portraits of serious musicians. As we continue on our way, the sun becomes more confident. I take off my jacket.

Then I realize the opportunity unfolding. “Ntate, I think it is warm enough that I should do the washing!”

Ntate Tye nods, agrees, then offers to pay someone to do my washing. No, I explain, again, I like to do my own. I know where it is dirty, I say, and I know when it is clean. I know the stories behind the dirt, and memories jump out of the soap suds while I scrub. And, though I don’t say it, some of my favorite times have been washing at the pump. Sometimes alone, sometimes with an audience, and often being helped in some way.

When we return to the village, I collect my washing and go down to the pump. Two other Bo ‘Mme are at the pumps also, their big family buckets of laundry nearly three times the size of my single life. They quickly motion where I place myself to join them. The women talk, watching me carefully to fill my bucket when I need clean water. Nobody asks me why I don’t pay someone to do my laundry, neither do they plunge their arms in to show me the right way to wash clothes. We are just three women at the pump, doing our work together.

It is another sign of a changing season.

The last rinse finished, and I trudge up the steep hillside to return home. Just as I pass the shop on the crest of the hill, I blink at an illusion. A ‘Mme is filling her water bucket at the nearby tap!

The tap! The tap is running water again!

“Mme! Mme!” I nearly drop my hard clean work and awkwardly trot up to her carrying it balanced on my hip. Her head swivels up to face me from her bent over position as she picks up the now full bucket. Her eyes meet mine, mirrored in my excitement.

She clearly announces, “Metzi o teng.” Water is here.

“Metzi o teng!” I repeat breathlessly. Water is here! Water is nearby! Water is close to my rondavel! Water is precious and it has come back, here, near, close to me!

I hoot! I forget what word might be appropriate in Sesotho, and instead I sing out, “WAAAHOOOO!!” She laughs. There are women coming with two and three thirsty buckets hanging from their hands, ready to store the abundance and jauntily walking goodbye to the morning trudges down the steep rocky slope.

And suddenly the world really does seem warmer, full of music, cleaner, and a lot closer to home. Metzi O Teng!

[These are pictures of the Musicians.]

Monday, August 2, 2010

First Day of School

Today was the first day back at school following the winter holidays. In the morning, we all walked up the hill to school together. After assembly, I joined my favorite class 2 to substitute an hour before the teacher arrived [many of them later came to visit the library - I'm hoping that by now I am a familiar face that helps to make their library a safe and fun place]. Then, it was time to prepare to reopen the Resource Center / Library!

There has been enormous support and help from various sources:
Note the growing children's section [Thank You Sara at LCE, American International School in Maseru, and M&B!], brand new science texts [Thank You Jed!] and math curriculum books, new 'Health Resource Center' with a book bin including a Basic Health Reference booklet [Thank You Erika!] and HIV/Aids Information brochures, and calendar board [Thank you Erika!], the children loving the new puzzles [Thank You M&B!], building/counting with unifix cubes and Liketso working on her phonics in Explode the Code [Thank you V&E, and everyone at LO!].

After school, the Resource Library opened from 2pm-5pm. There were over 25 visitors today, mostly children between the ages of 3-12, but including the pre school [called 'ECCD'] (who requested two books for a read aloud this Friday) and kindergarten [called 'Reception class'] teachers - both mothers, and the Traditional Healer [He asked to speak about HIV/Aids, so after a brief conversation about all those affected, infected, and available treatments - he picked up several brochures in Sesotho and sat outside reading them.] Thank you for all of your support!