We came to the top of a pass to what felt like the highest point I have ever stood in Lesotho. We bordered Thaba Tseka and Mokhotlong — a small stream a thousand feet below us marked its separation. The district of Mokhotlong is known for its high mountain peaks, whereas Thaba Tseka is mountainous, but diverse and vast sitting in Lesotho’s epicenter and touching most of the other districts. I had never traveled this way before and each new direction I go in Lesotho feels like I am uncovering a new frontier, like only a handful of people had been there before. The road was treacherous, a word that still describes it modestly. I joked with the other Basotho in the large Toyota truck..
“People do this for fun in America, they call it off-roading.”
“Here, we call it life.” They laughed.
Standing on the pass I thought back to how far I have come in one year. April 22nd, 2015 I arrived in Ha Mothebesoane to a group of Bo-Me dancing and singing very loudly. I was groggy from three full days of travel and two sleepless nights. When my name was called, M'e Maneo ran to me with open arms yelling “aaaaalililiililli.” My aaalilili will never be as great as hers, but I am still practicing. I think back to the most precious family I had the pleasure of living with for ten weeks while I learned Sesotho and had monotonous amounts of PC Training each day. I re-read my first blog post today, “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 ‘Limpho Matela.’ Many of the mothers gossip about us. I, apparently, am the one who dances after dinner.”
I am reminded of Rapelang’s dance moves and his perfectly crafted wire car, and of the two of us singing in weird voices skipping to school and training. I think of little Keneuoe who first bawled when she saw me, but eventually wore my enormous blue beanie grinning and hugging me. I think of intelligent, clever Sele, who studied Sesotho with me each night and translated cultural situations when I didn’t understand. I think of my sister Matele, who has now passed away, and how our last conversation was at Christmas over Taylor Swift.
On April 22nd, 2016 I stood amazed at the view of mountains before me, cut by horizontal sunlight and shaded in dark hues of blue from the clouds. The past year had not in fact all been a wild dream. There are so many things I am grateful for - the difficult and the wonderful experiences. I have learned a new language less than .02% of the world speaks, cut off a chicken’s head, DIYd a rondeval, drowned a mouse, thrown rocks at angry dogs and geese, made new friends from America and new friends from other countries, found a family on the other side of the world, painfully witnessed someone die, watched too many movies and TV series, sang in honor of someone’s life, attended a traditional wedding, had no idea what I was doing or why I was doing it, photographed the sunrise over 100 times, brewed Kombucha, taught girls about sexually transmitted diseases, tie-dyed t-shirts with my students, painted, laughed, hiked, traveled to Europe, hugged my mom and my brother, been HIV tested, held a camp on Boys Respecting Others, played on the Lesotho Women’s National Volleyball Team, coached the men’s team in Thaba Tseka, danced, made of a fool of myself, ate more papa than I care to admit, watched the stars with friends, colored with my little sister, got a new tattoo, couchsurfed, saw old friends, listened to Irish music in a pub in Ireland, fought for human rights, waved to America across the Atlantic Ocean, yelled at children for asking me for sweets and money, yelled at adults for asking me for sweets and money, hitchhiked hundreds of times, ate probably over 50 containers of peanut butter and so many other things.
But the thing is when I look back and when I share my experience in Lesotho with you I want you to know, it’s not at all about me, it’s about everything else.
April 22nd was also EARTH DAY! I stared and marveled at our planet's landscape, but earlier that day I also helped promote environmental awareness activities.
Earth Day is celebrated international by over 192 countries to raise awareness about environmental issues. These agencies seek to change human behaviors that are harmful to our planet. In Lesotho, we suffer from environmental issues such as, soil degradation, drought, water and air pollution, waste management and more, but we can fix these!
In participation, my organization and I encouraged the Ministry of the Environment, Forestry and other government officials to take part. We created and gave out environmental themed lesson plans to various schools around the nation helped by Peace Corps Volunteers and in Thaba Tseka we hosted Earth Day Trivia on Motjoli FM - giving out reusable bags to the radio's listeners. Did you know, one reusable bag has the lifespan of 700 plastic bags? And plastic can take from 15-1000 years to decompose and emit cancerous toxins if they are burned?