Friday, July 11, 2008

THE BLANKETS - July 10th, 2008

Lesotho's practical and fashion wear are blankets. They have distinctive colors and designs related to the districts they are from The designs are of a corn cob (fertility), a cabbage leaf (prosperity), and a crown (related to the British Imperialism). They have only been part of the culture since the late 1800's when European traders gave King Moshoeshoe a blanket which became the rage, and the animal skins were thrown aside. Women wear them like coats or skirts They have a gigantic safety pin which seems to be the only assistance in keeping it in place. Men are often bundled head to thighs in them, protection from the frosty mornings in the fields. Babies are also bundled-up in the blankets on the backs of their mamas. They are expensive but everyone seems to have them.
I had my M'e (mother) and her two daughters to my room last night for popcorn and hot chocolate. It has been especially cold (below freezing) the past 2 nights and they have no heat in their house. Whereas, I have my little propane heater which keeps me comfortable. She is always amazed at how warm my room is. There is a donkey-neighbor who, every night when it is most cold, goes into a noisy donkey protest. I am imagining that in donkey language he is screaming - “It is friggin' cold out here!”.
Although I am living with only a 2 burner propane stove, a propane heater, and one kerosene lamp, I still feel like a spoiled Western consumer. I was the first of my group of 7 to use-up my propane tank. My M'e has to pump and haul my water for me and I am guessing that I use more then the locals. The 2 large buckets that I have are for drinking ( I boil it), bathing (not so often), washing dishes and clothes. My garbage consists of a smallish plastic bag which usually takes me a week to fill.
I am still figuring out the shopping and cooking thing. So far, I am good with rice or Ramen noodles mixed with anything- anything to date means canned tuna, salmon, and smoked oysters. I am also getting my fill of yogurt, granola and fruit. I have made two types of bread (orange and apple)which I consider a major accomplishment. What about the refrigeration, you might ask? Well, as this is winter, everything stays cool enough. Summer will present new challenges.
We have had 3 deaths in the. village over the past 2 weeks – 2 men in their 20's and one older man. Our group of volunteers spent a little time with the mother and wife of 2 of the deceased and donated some money which brought her to tears. As people are said to die of the “common cold” here, it is often hard to know the cause of death. Bur we are told that one young person died of TB. I read that 30% of the world's population has TB (astounding!) and a high percentage of people with AIDS have TB as their immune systems are so vulnerable As volunteers here, we are also at risk, especially as we will be relying on public transport which is cramped and full of people. The Medical team here has given us prevention tips and will test us as time goes on.
Bokone Village volunteers had an assignment to do a village fund-raiser. We held a “concert” which is different than what we Americans think of. There was an admission fee ;1 Maloti -.(12 cents) for adults and half that for kids. Then people paid whatever they wanted to get someone or some group to sing. One could also buy their way out of it by paying more than the inviter paid. Our volunteer group had a grand repertoire prepared – Blowin' In The Wind, Hokey-Pokey, Row Your Boat, In The Jungle, Hakuna Matata, and some Basotho songs. Our families all came with dozens of children and adolescents. I paid to have my extended family perform, and there were about14 of us. Almost everyone was in front at some point. The Basotho are natural harmonizers and it is always wonderful to see and hear the women singing and moving to their lovely songs.
The training continues to be a 40 hr/wk job with more info on HIV/AIDS, small business development, working with youth, language, and self-care. It should all be useful when we get to our own villages.