Sunday, July 27, 2008


What a day!The volunteer trainees were invited to the American Ambassador's home today for lunch. It is a lovely home and they are a charming and easy-going couple. While there, we were surprised with an early announcement of our site assignments. I will be at a clinic run by a Catholic mission with many opportunities for extensive community outreach, HIV education, peer support groups, life skills training and much more. I also will have running water and electricity! After 6 weeks without this, it sounds like quite a treat. The primary work assignments of the volunteers cover a huge range from agricultural training in a high school, to eco-tourism development in the mountains, to small business development, to hospital work and more. Most of us are very excited about our assignments and ready to go.
I am now happily plopped on the front stoop of my Bokone village home, watching the bright orange full moon rise on my right, and on the other side, viewing my neighbor's wake. We have now had 5 village deaths in the month I have been here. The women have been preparing food for days, they've probably slaughtered an animal, (which I am glad I missed), and the men are now putting up the tent. Usually at these events (in fact, most any event) the men do a lot of drinking and can get rowdy. I am told it is going to be a noisy night.
We drove several hours north today to hike and BBQ in one of the national parks – Tsehlanyane. Finally, we got out of the Maseru “lowlands” (4500' ft) and into the famous Mountain Kingdom scenery – and it is gorgeous. One of our volunteers has been assigned to this park where an outstanding lodge has been built (and just happens to be where his office will be!). His assignment is to help them develop their eco-tourism business. Needless to say, he was thrilled! I was glad that I didn't know ahead of time how difficult the “2 hour” (really 3 hr) hike was going to be. There were many ups and downs, with 6000 ft. elevation, a tiny bit of snow, and a bunch of muddy slippery slopes. But it was a beautiful day and I patted myself on the back when I stumbled back for the BBQ.
To date, I haven't seen any TV or listened to any radio, so my only news is a weekly South African paper. The S.African President Mbeki has been in support of the Zimbabwe President Mugabe in spite of the horrors Mugabe has created in the economy. For example: the inflation rate has escalated 2.2 million percent, driving the cost of a loaf of bread to about1/3 of a teacher's monthly salary. There is 80% unemployment. Eight weeks ago the Central Bank issued a Zimbabwean $50 billion note – at the time it was worth about $4 (US) but 8 weeks later it is worth $0.40. there is a cash shortage so ordinary citizens can only draw about $.75 (US) per day (Z$100 billion). The African Union is trying to get together to decide how to intervene but so far they have been impotent.
Other bad news has to do with global warming and the increased droughts in countries like Ethiopia which has had 5 out of eight years of drought. In Uganda there is a combination of droughts and floods, increasing landslides, deforestation, malaria, and the tsetse fly.