Last weekend was unexpectedly a blast and a half! I was in Maseru for a medical appointment and woke up Sunday morning to the bright shining sun and a refreshing breeze. The friend whom I was staying with suggested that we go to a lovely, charming, soul and stomach-feeding place called Living Life just across the South African border. We had no other plans for the day and I could not think of any better way to spend my Sunday than with great company, delicious food and REAL coffee!
This place really does not do anything wrong. They’re the Ladybrand equivalent of Olympia Café in Cape Town (my all-time favorite restaurant!). I commenced the heavenly food experience with a cappuccino which came with a dainty heart-shaped shortbread cookie! Next came a massive scone cooked to buttery perfection. The outside was golden and crisp while the inside remained delicate, fluffy and flaky scrumptiously perfected when paired with homemade cherry preserves and dessert cream. But no, that was not all, although I could have easily been satisfied and beyond with just that. I naïvely ordered the “small breakfast” but small it was not. It came with two eggs, 4 strips of crispy bacon, homemade golden chips, tomato gravy and a few slices of freshly baked bread with REAL BUTTER! Sounds like a lot, and indeed it was, but I enjoyed every last bite to complete satisfaction.
Brunch is the best meal ever, because when done correctly, it can be your one and only meal that day. But my friend and I couldn’t resist the adorable gingerbread men on our way out so we got two to go and ate them with tea for dinner. Cute little gumdrop buttons, come on!
I forgot to mention, that while waiting for our food and coffee, we went to the backyard area of the place and jumped on the in-ground trampoline and swung on the wooden “KOWABUNGA!” swing. Again, what don’t they do? We certainly did live life (to the fullest) at Living Life.
As much it pains me to say, I attended my first farewell celebration at Matholeng Primary (my favorite school). I was lavishly showered with love, hospitality and generosity—just like I have been for my entire two years from this community.
A few days before the celebration I was visited by a local seamstress who took my measurements for my custom-made seshoeshoe (traditional dress). The day before the celebration the dress was delivered and I was instructed to wear it the next day so I would look like a Mosotho woman. The dress was absolutely gorgeous! A striking turquoise color that makes my eyes pop and it fits me like a glove.
I woke up that morning feeling nervous and anxious to face the reality. I had the nervous pees for hours. When I got to the school I was greeted by high-pitched wailing and hugs came from every angle. Everyone was so proud to see their honorary American-Mosotho dressed like them. When the program commenced, each class performed a song, dance or drama for me interspersed with speeches from the teachers. I don’t think my eyes were dry for longer than 5 minutes at a time.
The most precious moment was when a Class 7 student, Lehlohonolo, got up and told me how much he’s going to miss me and thanking me for all the help I’ve provided. This was a HUGE stride for this boy because he had been quiet and timid all year, but yet he got up in front of everyone to say that to me. I gave him a big hug afterwards and when he got back to his seat he was crying. Talk about ripping my heart out.
After all of the performances I got up and attempted to give a speech through the tears and broken Sesotho. I then presented the teachers with a copy of Oh the Places You’ll Go because earlier in my service I did a workshop where I read that to the teachers and we set goals for where we wanted to go as a school. When I gave each of the teachers a hug, not one of them had dry eyes. I knew that saying goodbye would be tough, but I didn’t know it would be this emotionally draining.
As if all of this wasn’t enough already, we then feasted on heaps and mounds of food that the parents of the students had spent all night and morning preparing. I honestly do not have words to accurately express the depth and breadth of my love and simultaneous sorrow.
Saying goodbye sucks, and I still have my other two schools along with my family and posse of kids! I should have asked for tissues in my last package…toilet paper, it is!
Just like last year I did a little Halloween celebration for my kids. It was a two-day event where on the first day we played pin the smile on the jack-o-lantern, bobbing for apples and the kids colored masks I had cut out of cardboard. One improvement to this year’s masks was the addition of pipe cleaners. These things are genius, I tell you. Last year I didn’t have any way to attach the masks to their faces but despite my lack in supplies my kids put their ingenuity to work and managed to fashion their own form of attachment. But this year, I used the pipe cleaners and they worked out perfectly!
So the second day of Halloween-nees consisted of the kids coming to my place wearing the masks they had made the day before and they had to say “trick-or-treat” in order to get their treat. I’m like the house that all the kids avoid because instead of handing out candy the resident hands out toothbrushes or something that pales in comparison to mini-sized candy bars. Alas, it’s the teacher in me, so every kid received two mini-lollipops and a pencil. What most American kids might complain about, these kids jumped for joy over! I also dressed up as the Love Fairy again. I had saved the heart-shaped cardboard wings that I made last year and painted hearts all over my face and arms with red face paint (thanks, Vivian!). Gotta work with what I have, right?
I’m going to miss doing these kinds of activities with my posse so much! Their appreciation and excitement is so genuine and sincere it melts my heart every time.
The other day I was sitting in my rondavel working on writing some goodbye letters. Right on schedule I heard Pulane knock on my door on her way home from school. I invited her in and she sat next to me on the floor. She asked what I was doing and when I told her the tone of our conversation immediately changed to something quite solemn. When she realized that I was leaving sooner than she expected we just sat there in silence when tears trickled down both of our faces. There are really no words to be said…
Then the other day while I was waiting for the rest of the kids to show up for my Halloween Bash, Bafokeng and I were sitting in the sun. Out of nowhere he says, “In 2014 you will no longer be here?” To which I responded, “yes, I am leaving very soon”. Less than a second later he reached out to touch my knee and said, “Ke tla u hoopla” (I will miss you). I don’t think there’s enough toilet paper in my village to soak up the tears that will be shed from now up until I leave.
Before coming to Lesotho, I celebrated my 22nd birthday and all I asked for were two pairs of TOMS shoes. I had never had any other excuse to purchase such expensive shoes, but I always envied people who strutted around in the classic and effortlessly fashionable shoes. Finally, I got my two pairs and packed them away with me to take every step along the way in Lesotho. Have they ever been worn to the sole with my multiple kilometer walks to and from school every day.
Since being here, living in the midst of a developing country and trying to contribute to said “development”, I have seen (and been a part of) failing, unsustainable projects. BUT I am very happy to say that TOMS Shoes does indeed follow through with their commitment of giving a pair of shoes to a child for every pair you, in America, buy. Just last week every student at Patlong Primary School was given a pair of TOMS shoes. These pairs are also made out of the canvas material, but are made with a rubber sole to be more durable. The smiles and leaps of joy each student expressed made me a proud supporter of TOMS. Walking home from school with my posse of kids, they all had a new pep in their step. Not to mention, they feel super cool to be wearing the same shoes as Miss Thato.
So with that, I would like to say, “Good on ya, TOMS. Thank you for being true to what you say and making a difference in the lives of the children in my village.” I guess that next time it won’t hurt as much forking over the big bucks for a new pair of TOMS once I get home, because I’ll imagine Pulane, Mohlanka, Tanki, Bafokeng, Poloko, Lehlohonolo etc…smiling and walking to school in their brand new shoes.
I must admit that I am very much in denial…not only at the fact that I am 24 years old now, but also that I have been in Lesotho for so long that this was my second birthday celebration in this country. I say that I was destined to be Mosotho because my birthday is also Lesotho’s Independence Day! Being a teacher, it’s awesome having my birthday on a public holiday because it means that I get the entire week off from work (the schools have an Independence Break…SCORED!) The whole week was beautiful; I was in Maseru earlier in the week so I was able to buy a couple bottles of red wine, cheese, crackers and chocolate at the grocery store. Once I got home, it seemed like the festivities never ended. I had fellow Peace Corps Volunteers coming in and out like tidal waves of company.
Yesterday, my actual birthday day, I was showered with indescribable love. In the late morning my family came by with a huge pot of samp (a traditional corn dish), another hug container of steamed and baked bread, a few baked goods wrapped in the most precious of ways, and this was all delivered while singing Happy Birthday. It brought tears to my eyes and I was ebullient to say the least.
As the day went on, the festivities continued and I heard another knock on the door. I opened it up, stepped outside and saw a huge feast presented in front of me. Grilled meat, papa, chakalaka and cold drinks! As if the Birthday wagon and its goods earlier wasn’t enough, my family prepared a feast for my guests and me. I broke down into tears and couldn’t help but give huge Shanelley hugs to everyone in my family.
I am continually stunned and humbled by the generosity of Basotho. How can I leave this place? This was probably one of the most meaningful and precious birthday celebrations I have ever had in my twenty-four years of life. :)
Let me preface this entry with the fact that I am extremely mature…NOT! I forever have an indent in my bottom lip because as a means to avoid laughing aloud at things while in class, I have resorted to biting my lip. I will share with you a few instances where I found it especially difficult to contain myself. I hope you find yourself smiling and perhaps, even laughing out loud (literal lol-ing) while reading this-life is full of joy and happy moments, so allow this to be one if so fitting.
-There was a boy in Grade 2 whose name in all seriousness is Fat Boy! He introduced himself without a hint of deviousness and the teacher then went on to do a positive reinforcement strategy where the entire class said in chorus, “Well done, Fat Boy! Well done, Fat Boy! Welllll!”
-I was observing a teacher teach, but she was not with her typical class, and when she picked on a student to answer a question she said, “Are you a girl or a boy?” (clarification: all children have their hair shaved for sanitary reasons, so it is rather difficult to differentiate pre-puberty)
-While observing a teacher teach a Health Class two students offered their input by commenting, “Girls grow PUBLIC hair and boys have wet dreams”. Needs no explanation. Too funny on all levels!
-While reading a composition by a Grade 7 student, for some inexplicable reason the phrase “butt stuffer” was repeated more than twice throughout the 2 written pages. Who knows!?
The perks of being lost in translation. Gotta love it.