The Elephant Door

My first series of photos: A Dozen Sunrises

My host mother came running to me with open arms yelling, as many Basotho women do, “aaaa lililililili!” ‘M’e Maneo Matela is one of the most energetic, happy and loving women I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.  While we walk, we sing. After we eat dinner, we dance. I always participate and am never shy, whether they are laughing with me or at my attempts to be Basotho, at least they are smiling and laughing.  This has been the best part of my days. Usually we are dancing to Sesotho music, which is mostly just an accordion with a man yelling words in Sesotho, but other nights my brothers are playing their hip hop music ranging from Lil Wayne cursing every other sentence to Chris Brown finding a big booty girl. I have yet to decide which is better. My go-to Basotho move is the shoulder pop, which takes a little bend in knees, a sway to one side and simply moving your shoulder up and down to the beat.  In our training village, Ha Mothebesoane, I am known as ‘Dimpho Matela.’  Many of the mothers gossip about us. I, apparently, am the one who dances after dinner. 

Everything has been far more than I ever expected. To begin, the door to my room is a beautiful carving of an elephant.  Every day, I am humbled by the generosity of my family and the attitudes of the community towards us. ‘M’e Maneo is also an incredible cook, and while repetitive, Basotho food is no let down. Breakfast is either Lesheleshele, a warm grits bowl that we all throw peanut butter and sugar in. Lunch and dinner are generally papa (corn), a vegetable or two, and meat. My host brothers, Sele and Rapelang, are the coolest (or the sharpest in Sesotho slang). Sele is in his last year of high school and speaks English nearly fluently. Lucky for me. A few days ago I asked Sele what he was going to do after high school, wrongly assuming it would be something similar to his older brothers (working in the mines in South Africa) or becoming a farmer/herder as many men do in small villages. But no! Sele is going to University in the capitol to study accounting on a scholarship. To say I am amazed is an understatement. He will be the first ever in his family to go to University. The younger one, Rapelang, is a spit fire wild child 15 year old who is absolutely killer at dancing, soccer and being my best friend. We walk to school speaking Sesotho in martian voices and usually spend the afternoon dancing, playing games, or walking around the village. 

It’s a good thing I packed well for this 27 month long camping trip. There is no electricity and no running water. I forgot to appreciate the last time I would use plumbing…Now, we use pit latrines and pee buckets at night. Each morning I wake up and light my stove to heat my water for my bucket bath. As of right now, I plan to only wash my hair..maybe twice a week, while shaving and other habits I have already been thrown out the least for the winter. It is already beginning to get cold and snow will be on the ground soon. Normally at night, I write in my journal by kerosene lamp then before I fall asleep I study or read on my Kindle. Minus the Kindle, every day my life feels as though I have stepped back in time. It is much more simple: we own what we eat, every animal and person plays a role is society, we are generally free from electronics, we know and greet our neighbors whenever we pass them, we are at home before dark, and we sing and we dance for entertainment. If it weren’t for the nonexistence of chocolate, every part of my life here would be amazing. Chocolate addiction is no joke (Plz SEND care packages!) 

Every day, the 22 other new Healthy Youth Volunteers and I train for 9 hours a day. In the mornings we learn how to speak Sesotho and about the Basotho culture, while the afternoons are spent in health, safety and security, development and technical trainings (I’ll talk more in depth on training and our roles here in my next post). In just over a week, I’m pretty impressed with how quickly we have learned basic Sesotho. Out of friendship, we greet everyone we see. Like I was at one time while learning Spanish, I smile and nod, even when I am completely lost. Of course, maintaining my sense of humor.

It’s hard to believe I now live in the middle of South Africa in the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho. So much has changed in 12 days. From every view point the landscape is breathtakingly beautiful. Ha Mothebesoane sits with the mountain highlands to the East and lowlands to the west. Every morning I have watched the sun slowly rise over the mountains, lighting the entire village in a golden glow. For the next two years I will go to bed when it is dark and wake up with the sun. I will always appreciate that no matter where you are in the world, sunrises and sunsets remain the same, incredibly calm and beautiful. 

P.S. I am looking for a school to connect with in the World Wise School Correspondence Match Program. The program matches current Peace Corps Volunteers and educators in the United States to share and learn from their experiences. Because I will be working with youth 10-35 I think it is so important in our world today that we foster these connections! If any of you reading this are teachers, have friends or family that teach and want to correspond with me over the term of my service please reach out to me at: Thank you!