Saturday, September 6, 2008

BLOOMIN' - September 2, 2008


Spring is happening, and the beautiful pink peach tree blossoms are coloring the brown countryside in every direction. My garden was planted this week. Since I have never successfully grown anything more than a basil leaf, this will be a challenge. But I am noticing that I have a lack of greens and veges in my diet so I will welcome the access to them (she said optimistically). I live in a small village area that has very limited supplies. No shortage of potatoes and rice or fruit of the season – but little else for now. And the two “camptowns” on either side of me ( 20-60 minute taxi ride) aren’t much better.

My experience of “luxury” has taken a hit since the first week. I haven’t had any hot water. And as often as not, I don’t have any water at all. I have taken to filling-up a very large pot whenever I do find the water running (sometimes at 3am!) so at least I will have drinking water. Bathes and clothes washing are now in the luxury category. I guess this is the norm around here. The compound is filled with water tanks that catch the rain run-off. The clinic buildings are using a well which is where the shortage is happening, but some of the nun residences use the public water supply which has to be paid for and is running fine. Everyone scurries around here with buckets looking for water for cooking, cleaning , animals, and gardens. Maybe this will ease when the rains come. We had a terrific 24 hours of wind. It sounded like a North Dakota blizzard except with dirt and dust- everything is oh-so dry. I am just beginning to feel what it is like to live in a very poor country where access to everything (food, water, books, medical care, information, transportation, lamps, sponge mops, paint colors, maps) is so extremely limited. It is really a lack of choices (one type of cereal, 5 paint colors, 2 hours walk to the clinic) and a lack of people with skills to offer services or information. The computer school that is next to me has one computer with internet access. I finally received permission to use it 2 hours per day – I was happy – but it “broke” the day before I got to it. They think it may be fixed in the next few weeks.

St.Rose Clinic is intending to reopen its Village Health Posts in four different areas. As there are over 20 villages in this catchment, it means the villagers from surrounding areas will need to get themselves to these posts for the once/month contact. My counterpart, Call, and I took a taxi to these posts to make contacts with the chief and/or village health workers. Our taxi was a little broken down Corolla that scraped along the barely noticeable road-we should have been in a Landrover! Finally we had to get out and walk the last 15 minutes as the road ended in a ravine. The chief of this village was a woman whose husband had died some years ago. We always ask the villages to think about the kinds of needs they have and then later we can see how Peace Corps can assist them in these needs.

I have also begun to meet with some of the village outreach groups ie.Red Cross, Know Your Status, Village Health Workers, to introduce myself and get their ideas about the type of trainings they feel would be beneficial to them. These trainings will likely fall into categories of HIV/AIDS counseling and prevention, nutrition and gardening. I am hoping to invite other PC volunteers in to help me with these trainings as they have expertise that I don’t have- (to say the least!)

Peace Corps has suggested that we take these first three months to “integrate” into our community and not attempt to jump into any projects. This is great advice as there is so much to learn about the systems we are living in and to understand more deeply the Basotho culture. I am so fortunate to know a Canadian woman (Linda) who is living on the compound and will be here for the next year. She has been in Lesotho for 9 months, so her perspective and understanding is also very valuable. Besides this, she will be a great friend. We both count our lucky stars to be on this journey together.

My first package arrived after seven weeks with a French Press and Starbucks coffee. My mornings have been made! I am still enjoying the Milky Way and try to catch the spectacularly orange sunsets every day.