Saturday, April 23, 2011

Musings on an Amusing Journey

Let me begin by clarifying the title of this post. When I say “amusing” I generally mean that the journey can be called amusing NOW, but at the time it didn’t appear quite so funny to me.

I recently went down to Maseru for a few to days. I happened to make the mistake of leaving on a Sunday…when there are fewer taxis and cars on the road making the trip much longer. The trip down was relatively unexceptional, apart from the fact it took me forever. I usually start my trip by taxi, going from Mokhotlong to Botha Bothe, and then hitch hike from there. One the way down I saw two things of interest. 1) SNOW. Yup, snow…in April. It was not a welcome site. 2) A large overturned truck on the mountain pass. This wouldn’t be considered of interest usually because its fairly common. But this time it was surrounded by what I can only describe as the Lesotho version of an environmental hazmat team. It was super strange. Hitch hiking is really common among PCVs here, but to Basotho we’re crazy. This one guy who was on my taxi even offered to pay for my taxi so I wouldn’t have to hitch hike. It was a sweet offer but no thanks. I was lucky to get a hitch (that’s cool kid slang for hitch hike for those of you not in the know) with a big truck, which was lucky. I finally made it to Maseru at around 4:30.

My trip to Maseru did have some high points though. One of the main reasons I made the trip was to meet with the US Ambassador, Michele Bond. I had met her a couple of weeks ago at the Peace Corps 50th Anniversary Press Conference. She was nice enough to agree to meet with me to talk about the Foreign Service (something I’m strongly considering for those who didn’t know). She has had an incredible career and it gave me a lot to think about. Later that day, I met with another member of the embassy staff who had recently gone through the whole Foreign Service Officer Test process. The meeting was really helpful and he gave me good advice about preparing for the exam, which I’m taking in June. Overall: good day. (Plus I got to hang out with Melissa so obviously it was going to be a good day  ).

The journey back home is the amusing part of the journey. A fellow volunteer was nice enough to let me crash at her house for the night before heading back, thanks Chante! I was out at the road in TY looking for a lift at around 6:30am. It took me a little while but I finally landed one. These two ladies picked me up, a mother-daughter pair it turned out to be. Things started off pretty normal with them, typical small talk. Then the conversation turned. They were almost sneaky about starting the religious conversation. It began with politics, then turned to evolution v creationism. Then before I really knew what was happening they were reading to me from the bible! In Sesotho and English! It was really hard not to laugh because all I could think was “OMG this is really happening!” They legit spent a good 45 minutes subtly trying to convert me into a Jehovah’s Witness. They were really nice about it though lol. And when they dropped me at the road they gave me some literature to read.

My next lift was with a police officer and nothing particularly exciting happened. I was still in shock from the Jehovah’s. My final lift was with a group of young people. They were really nice and were going to Mokhotlong! I thought I was pretty lucky…until I found out they were only going to Letseng Diamond Mine (2.5 hours from my house). When we finally got to Botha Bothe I decided that I would be better off taking a taxi to Mokhotlong. So they dropped me at the taxi rank and I got myself a taxi. That turned out to be an excellent decision because we drove past their broken down car later on. The taxi rank is always a little bit funny (and entirely frustrating). You never know what you’ll encounter. This time I was witness to a young man trying to stuff a fairly large dog into a maize meal sack. The dog was not thrilled with this plan, but he eventually succeeded. To paint you a word picture of the scene: a big white sack with a dog’s head poking out of the top. Luckily my taxi driver made him take a different taxi. Things were going pretty smoothly until we reached Moteng Pass (a steep mountain pass as you enter Mokhotlong). All of a sudden the taxi stops, there’s some chatter and then people start getting out. Now all this happens in Sesotho so I had to ask the guy sitting next to me if I’m supposed to get out. Getting out of the taxi is not desirable for two reasons: 1. Moteng Pass is steep and walking up it is not fun, 2. it COLD OUT. The taxi couldn’t make it up that particular part of the road with all of us in it, so out we went. But it was almost worth it because another taxi was stopped as well. We all had a front row seat to the dog show. The dog I mentioned earlier had attempted to escape by poking its legs through the sack and running away. It was really funny. Eventually I made it home and took a long needed nap.

Technically my journey was over. But yesterday something happened that relates to the overall craziness of the trip. I was walking home from town and was about 3 minute from my house when I came across a woman and her 2 sons. The woman approached me and claimed she had seen me before. I figured, sure ok, chit chat and all that…be polite. Then, all of sudden BAM. It happens again! Out comes the bible and she’s trying to get me to join the Lord. That makes twice in 2 days. I swear something about me must just scream HEATHEN!

Anyways, I hope you all enjoy your Easter holiday!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Winter not-so-wonderland

So this post is going to be brief. Its mostly just to quickly update on my least favorite kind of weather....WINTER. It has arrived. What does that mean exactly? It means that I'm extra cold and that soon it will snow. For those of you who've forgotten or are new to this blog I'll remind you about my housing situation. I live in a concrete house with a tin roof...aka a freezer. Bummer for me.

Other than that there isn't too much new to report on my end. My garden is thriving (which is shocking). I have exactly 2 cucumbers (they're about 3 inches long at present, and were planted before thanksgiving lol) and the tomatoes that I did NOT plant but grew anyways are doing excellent as well (although this cold weather is threatening their well-being).

On the American side, this government shut down has my attention (Peace Corps is a government agency you know). I'm sad I'm not there to really follow the action...sigh.

Ohh well...that's all I really wanted to say. We're having a bit of an after work dance party at WFP now.

3 more months to go!!!!!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Movalli's do Africa

So I this is the first chance I’ve really had to sit down and write an update…and there is quite a bit to update so I apologize in advance for the length of this post.
At the beginning of February my mom and sister came to visit me! It was a total blast. I took some public taxis to Joburg so I could meet them at the airport when they arrived. Good news being that I survived the Joburg taxi rank all by myself! This for those of you who don’t know, is a pretty significant feat because that particular rank is quite intimidating. I stayed our backpackers for a night by myself and went to grab them at the airport the next morning. Almost immediately after we got to the backpackers we set off on our adventure for the day: the Joburg Lion Park. We got a tour of the park in a van and saw lots of animals (zebras, springbok, etc) and then drove through the lion sanctuary. The lions are really cool; there were two kinds, regular lions and white lions. Then we saw some cheetahs and other cats. After the driving tour we got to go and touch a bunch of lion cubs. They are sooo cute and soft. Then we went to feed the giraffes. You stand on this raised platform and the giraffes just come up and eat the food right out of your hand. It was really fun, but also kind of gross. Giraffes have super long, black tongues that can seriously wrap around your whole hand…if you don’t believe me just check out my facebook picture (Jess caught my complete surprise at the nasty tongues!). It was a great way to spend our one day in Joburg.
The next day we flew to Livingston, Zambia. The weather was AMAZING…which for my family who came from the snow covered US was a treat. The backpackers we stayed at was really cool, great pool, cool cushions all over the place to sit on, good food, etc. We went on an elephant safari on our first full day. It was amazing! We each got to pick an elephant to ride (with a handler who chatted fun facts to you) and ride around the park on an elephant. We saw cool birds and got to walk/ride through the Zambezi River. At the end we got to sit on our elephants’ leg and feed them! My elephant was hilarious because he’s apparently an eating machine. Throughout the safari he would veer off and grab a tree to eat. After the feeding was over they fed us humans some breakfast and showed us the video of our ride. It was such a fun day. That night we went on a sunset booze cruise on the Zambezi. It was gorgeous and we even saw a crocodile. The next day we decided to be adventurous, mom less “decided” and was more “forced.” We went zip lining over this huge gorge. Jess and I opted to go “Superman,” where the harness was behind you so you flew like Superman. Mom chose option number two, where you are essentially sitting and can hold the rope. It was EXCELLENT. Also scary. You legit run and jump off a cliff. They even let us go twice each…mom of course thought once was more than enough for her lol. Then we got dropped off at Victoria Falls. If you ever have the chance, go to Vic Falls…its incredible. We decided to walk down to the bottom of the falls first, called the Boiling Pot. The walk down is crazy. There were baboons that would walk right in front of you…ask Jess how close if you get the chance (she had a not so great experience with one lol). The walk is totally worth it. The view from the bottom is insane! The walk back up is less fun. Then we walked over to the top side of the falls. That time of year has SO much water that once you get anywhere near them you’re soaking wet. We ran into some crazy Zambian twins who took like 100 photos of me and Jess who were absolutely drenched. We opted to rent ponchos. We got soaked but the view is more than worth it. So beautiful! After leaving the Falls we spent some time in the market outside getting some souvenirs. I even bartered my hair elastic to help Jess get a drum or something. The rest of our time in Zambia was pretty relaxing. Chilling out by the pool, checking out the local craft market, reading books and magazines. Then it was time to leave.
We rented a car in Joburg so we could drive to Lesotho. At the airport we were lucky enough to run into my friend Rocio, who was going to miss meeting the fam to go to her sister’s wedding in America. It was one of those crazy chance meetings that never happen in real life lol. We stopped over in Clarens, SA before heading to Lesotho. It’s a cute little town with lots of B&Bs. Then we set off for the mountains of Lesotho. It was a crazy drive; the weeks of endless rain wreaked havoc on the roads. We all took turns driving, with mom being the maniac who punctured the tire. But we managed to get a guy to help us change the flat and we made it safe and sound to Mokhotlong. It was nice to get to show my new home to my family and for them to experience the kind of life I live here…bucket baths, pee buckets, sheep everywhere. We spent a relaxing few days in Mokhotlong before heading down to Maseru. In Maseru I got to introduce the fam to the Peace Corps Office, and a bunch of my friends (who were awesome enough to come in for the day to meet them!). We all went out to lunch at a local Chinese food place where mom and Jess got to see first hand some of the cultural differences that exist between Americans and Basotho. The next day we set off early to go to the tiny Bloemfontein Airport. It was sad to say goodbye to my family. It had been almost two years since I had seen them and we had a really fun time together. But I think they had a good vacation and it was a nice break from the usual for me.
Things have been fairly slow since the family left. It took me a few days to readjust back to my life here. But things are just about back to normal now lol. The weather is starting to get cooler, the kids are back in school…everything’s moving forward. I only have about 3.5 months left so everything is moving really fast. The future is exciting and terrifying all at once. Not having a job or place to live is scary. But I’ll be taking the Foreign Service Test in June and am starting the job search. Two years goes by pretty fast…4 months goes by even faster. I’m looking forward to getting stuff done in my last few months and spending time with the friends I’ve made here.
Its funny, I was thinking about “life” on my walk to town today…you tend to contemplate weird stuff while you walk around here, what else are you going to do? I’ve been looking back at my two years here a lot lately. The thing I’ve noticed is that with Peace Corps you might not have the big obvious “successes” that you have in other types of jobs. I don’t necessarily have things to “show” for what I’ve done here. That used to make me uncomfortable. I think it’s culturally ingrained in us that successes need to be tangible in some way…you do your job well you get a promotion/raise, assignments get done and you move on to the next, and the next after that, there’s a structure and a system to doing everything. My life here is nothing like that. Many of the “accomplishments” I’ve made here you can’t even really quantify and its difficult to put them into words. I’ve lately been redefining what I think of as “success.” I've had some great break throughs...awesome workshops that I designed and facilitated, getting my organization to do condom demos at HIV events. But many of my successes are less related to structured “work” than to more abstract random events…like getting a four year old to call you by your name and not “white person,” or walking through a school campus and giving high-fives to little kids, even having people come to your house to hang out with you. I don’t know what effect I’ve had on people, or if anyone is any better off because of the work that I’ve done here, but I like to think that I’ve made some kind of a difference, if nothing else than that all the kids in this town know what a high-five is.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Once Upon A Time In Cape Town...

Well...I'm back in Lesotho, which means my vaca is OVER...sigh...
But GOOD NEWS! It was AMAZING. Here's what happened...
First, I went to the lowlands (Mafeteng) to stay with my friend Melissa on Christmas Eve (which is where I was last year for those of you keeping track). We had a blast getting all excited for CT...highlights of that visit being watching Melissa get her head straight razored...SO funny.
We met Elissa, Jessica, Mike, and Evan at the border and set off for Bloemfontein where we would catch the bus on Christmas Night. Everything was closed at the mall so we obviously had to take advantage of an empty mall to take funny photos with their xmas decorations...Eventually we all split up and saw some movies to kill time (also to splurge because thats what we do). The bus ride was long (12 hours) but not too bad. When we finally got to Cape Town it was awesome. Big buildings, lights, people, sidewalks...We spent the first day walking around. It was technically a national holiday so not that much was open. We did have this SUPER good Mexican food. I feel like this would be a good time to inform you all that food is going to come up ALOT in this post, to put it into context for you, there is VERY LITTLE ethnic food in Lesotho so we get REALLY excited about variety. The next day Jess, Elissa and I want to Stellenbosch.
Stellenbosch is the hub of the SA wine region. Our first day we went on a 6 hour wine tour. Fun times all around. We even created our own 5 star rating system. We also learned some tips to be snobby when drinking wine in public (ex. you don't "smell" or "sniff" wine, you "nose" it). The best part of the day was this one winery with cheese...I can't even describe to you how delicious the cheeses particular was this one goat/cow cream cheese wrapped in garlic and herbs...OMG. Needless to say we all bought some lol. Stellenbosch was a cute little city/town (kind of like Gloucester is a "city" but is much more like a "town").
When I got back to CT I went with the girls to the V&A Waterfront...aka a huge mall by the ocean. Ohhh developement....
One really cool thing to see in CT is the Bo Kaap. The Bo Kaap is a tradtionally Muslim neighborhood built in the 1870s (I think..) and all the buildings/houses are painted different colors. After visiting the museum we realized that there is really no reason for doing so..which is sort of anti-climactic but still a site to see. Ok. So many of you know I was going to Shark Diving...sigh...I did. However, I happened to be on only the second tour that year to see no sharks. Did you just hear my heart break? Because it did. It was still fun though. I learned about sharks and wore a wetsuit and still went into the cage.
One of the biggest attractions in CT is Table Mountain. Unluckily for us, the weather was not really cooperating with visiting the site! Just about every day it was closed because this super cool looking cloud was just sitting on top and also it was quite windy out...hence the closure. But LUCKY for us it opened on our last full day in CT!! It is SOO BEAUTIFUL up there. We took the cable car up, which does this cool floor spin thing that allows you to see 360 degree around. It was the perfect day weather wise and we set off on a little walk/hike. Well of course 5 mins into it my shoe broke...typical lol. Jessica and I turned back..with me walking around, looking like a total freak mind you, with no shoes on (my theory was that it looked less dumb walking around with NO shoes than with just one). Me and Jess still had a good time being silly tourists and making spectacles of ourselves...we may have taken a nap on a big rock...maybe...
There happened to have been many PCVs in CT while we were there. They we're staying too near us but we did manage to hang out. Especially at night. I'll tell you this. CT at night is FUN. We didn't NOT stay out dancing til 4am...
Overall I had a spectacular time with the ladies and have discovered that CT is EPIC. GO THERE IF YOU CAN!!!
It took me 27 hours to get home, which was NOT fun. Also, returning from a sunny paradise to a rainstorm mud pit sucked alot. One funny thing that happened was that Haley (another PCV) and I got a lift from this one man who once finding out we worked for Peace Corps, decided we were really spies. AWESOME. Except I'll tell ya RIGHT NOW there are no pertinent secrets to be found here lol. It was good to be back in my own house again though.
Since being "home" basically 2 things have happened. I became friends with my deaf neighbor who I estimate is roughly 16-18 years old. She has these SA sign language posters that she brings out to teach me...PS American sign language is NOT the same. It has been a really neat experience for me. Challenging though because some stuff she tells me is not on the posters...
The second thing is that my group finally had our Reconnect (a training workshop type thing that happens at your year mark but was REALLY delayed for us). It was great to see my other group mates again and hear about what they've been up too. We only have 5.5 more months!! CRAZY!
Other than that its pretty much been business as usual. Right now we are having a belated birthday dinner party for Parker (who is adorably caring for our neighbors puppy at this very moment).
I hope everyone had a great Christmas and New Years!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tis the Season

Hi All,
Today is Christmas Eve, so first off let me wish you all a Merry Christmas. Christmas here pretty much is like any other time of year, you wouldn't know it was near Christmas by looking as there are no festive lights, music, or any of the things we've come to know and love about this time of year. Also, its summer haha.

I've had a lot going on lately, but unfortunately I haven't had internet in 2 months (gasp!) and haven't been able to update. Work has taken a surprising turn since Novemeber. I decided that I would make some manuals to build up the capacity of my organizations faciliation of workshops and trainings. The first was on games and activities to play that can enhance workshops and make them more interactive. It also made me realize that Simon Says is a very difficult game to describe using only words...seriously, try it. The second was on facilitation skills. GROW is starting some new projects right about now and its my job to sort of organize them and keep them on track. To be honest I don't really understand what exactly I'm supposed to be doing, but I figure I'll figure it out. At least its something to do.

In November I also got my first taste of the African stomach parasite/amobea. Let me tell you, you don't want one of those! A bunch of people got sick around the same time but no one knows for sure what caused it. It was incredibly NOT fun at all. But a round of antibiotics later I was good as new. Hooray!

We had a really fun Thanksgiving this year. I went with some friends to Semonkong and celebrated with a bunch of PCVs. Here are the highlights:
-Donkey Pub Crawl. Its exactly what it sounds like. Irena, Karolina, Brandon and I made t-shirts and were a "team"...Team Top Deck and we were each one suit in a deck of cards. Karolina was also a pirate haha and she painted our faces. She also made us pom poms and wrote some cheers for us to perform on the crawl. Then we all set of atop donkeys to various local bars in the area. It was so much fun. Pictures will come later :)
-Beautiful scenery. Semonkong is beautiful, especially this time of year. And it had been raining a ton so the falls were BOOMING.
-Fun Turkey hats. Our friend Ronan had all these craft supplies and helped us make hilarious turkey hats to were to dinner. They were all different and really funny. Mine was a gangster in case you were wondering.
-Amazing food. The Lodge made a traditional Thanksgiving meal for us that was absolutely amazing. First, I've been dreaming about turkey for about a year and a half now, so that was a major plus of dinner. Here's the menu: a carrot mouse with a leek and scallion sauce (soooo good), then mashed potatoes, grean beans, bread, gravy, cranberry sauce, turkey, stuffing, and fresh salad. For dessert, which we barely had room for but somehow managed to eat, homemade pumkin pie and homemade vanilla ice cream. Yum.

In the beginning of December the High Altitude Marathon was held in Mokhotlong. My friend Eric from TTL ran in it. It was really fun to watch. Eric did an amazing job and made it in under 4 hours! After the marathon we a had a little party at TTL with Rocio, Kevin, Eric, and I. We ate lots of food and drank tons of beer (hey, Eric had been training for months and therefore a drunken celebration was called for).

This past weekend, GROW had their annual party. I managed to convince all the PCVs and assorted white people to come. So Me, Rocio, Sara, Parker, Kevin and Eric rolled into the party together. It was a total blast! We danced to crazy Bastho music and basically just danced the night away...with the help of some local beers. It was a good end to the year and a good opportunity to interact with some locals in a fun way.

Well, I've pretty much said all I wanted to say. I'm headed down to Melissa's house in Mafeteng today so we can leave for Cape Town tomorrow! Can't wait!

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The life and times of Kristine: an update

I know its been a really long time since my last update, clearly I haven't gotten any better at keeping this blog updated.
Since my last update many things have changed. All of the volunteers who went to America returned, with the exception of one. Its been great having them back. Luckily for me, my friend Rocio recently moved into my district and we're essentially neighbors! Its been amazing having her around.
October was a pretty eventful month for me. I spent some awesome times with the people in my district, especially Kelsey and Sara. (Although Kelsey is saddly living in a new district now). We all needed to de-stress a bit and had some spontaneous adventures together that I can't really get into the details of right now...Peace Corps rules and whatnot. But it involved a super fun fake bachelorette party, mixed drinks, and shopping :)
I also went on a mini vacation to Bleomfontein with Irena. We mainly went so we could go to the zoo. Turns out that the zoo is kind of ridiculous. They don't seem to know very much about the animals they have there. For example, the leopard area. There was an "informative" sign outside the leopard area read "spotted leopard/cugar/puma." FALSE. Those cats are not the same as the zoo would have you believe. Other animals areas were unlabeled, or labeled incorrectly. But it was fun all the same. A highlight was when we first got there and there was a man cleaning some small cages and changing the lightbulb in a snake cage. Sensing an opportunity, I asked if I could hold the snake (not thinking at all that he would say yes...its a zoo, not a petting zoo after all). But to my surprise the guy was like "ok." So I got to hold the Commn Corn Snake at the zoo. Oh Africa....
I got to do some actual work during October as well. At the beginning of the month I finally got to hold my Peer Educator Training Workshop. I had written the workshop about 2 months earlier but it was cancelled on me again. Sara and Kelsey attended it to help out and be supportive which was nice. I worked really hard on it and was really happy with the outcome. I taught them about being a leader, leadership skills, communication skills, and important qualities in a Peer Educator. I'm hoping that its something that can be repeated by GROW after I leave, because the Peer Educator Trainings that they currently hold are not particularly effective or appropriate. I also met with my youth group a few times (in Spetember I think though). In our first meeting we made tortillas at my house. Many students live alone or with extended family and are responsible for their own cooking and traditional bread can be a lot of time and work for them to make. Tortillas are fast and easy to make and require less ingredients (and therefore money) to make so it suits them. They had a good time making them. At another meeting we did arts adn crafts. We cut out their first initial from cardboars and then collaged it with magazine cutouts of things that describe them/they like. It was really funny and they get something to hang in their houses as a bonus.
One of the most fun work related things I got to do was go to a former PC Volunteer Lorian's Habitat for Humanity event in Maseru district. There were a bunch of houses built in one village and there were tons of volunteers to help complete them. Most of the PC volunteers were at one house where we plastered the walls. It was so much fun. Its surprisingly hard work and it was just a blast to hang out with people and help build a house for a family in need.
Some misellaneous stuff that have happened in October were crazy. First, I had my first official Couch Surfer stay (Couch Surfering is through an internet site where people let you stay at their place for free which is great for traveling on a budget). He was a really nice guy and it was fun having someone new to talk to for a day. I unfortunately had to take a lot of public transport and it was certainly eventful. For my 4.5 hour taxi ride to BB (closest camptown) I had to ride with the biggest, grossest SHEEP behind me..less than a foot from my head. It was unpleasant to say the least...they smell...BAD. It took up the whole first row of the taxi. But its makes for a good "this one time in Africa.." story I guess. One the return trip, on the route my taxi broke down 3 times due to engine overheating. The driver, while pouring river water into the engine to cool it down, sprayed boiling dirty engine water all over my purse...I was less than enthused about the events of the ride.
November hasn't been too eventful. I happened to be in Maseru while Irena's mom was visiting and so I got to meet her have lunch at this amazing place in Ladybrand. Her mom is so cute and I'm so glad I got to meet her. I'm currently in Maseru, due to leave this afternoon and it is unlikely that I'll get to return anytime soon. Policies have been changing a lot lately and PC has decided to close the Training Center where we stay here in Maseru. They are doing it because they want us all to be safe and Maseru is becoming a problem. But no need to worry folks, I've lived in much more dangerous places, and in Mokhotlong there is a greater danger of being ran into by a sheep than attacked by a criminal. :)
Looking forward to Thanksgiving and my Christmas/New Years vaca in Cape Town with my girl friends! Miss you all <3

Side note: its technically summer here now (opposite seasons) which is great, however it snowed in October and 3 days ago it snowed again and was so cold I had to sit in front of my heater lol. Seriously Mother Nature, get it together.

p.p.s Thanks Aunt Myrtie for the package! I loved it <3

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hard Times

So by this point I'm sure most of you have heard about what happened here earlier this month. Our friend and fellow Peace Corps Volunteer was shot and killed. It was a very difficult time for our Peace Corps family. The majority of volunteers came to Maseru to be together and there was a beautiful memorial service for Tom as well. A handful of volunteers chose to go back to America for counceling and hopefully all of them will return, but our thoughts are with them now. Things are slowly returning to normal, but unfortunately things will never be the same. But I wanted to quickly update you all and say thank you for all of your thoughts and prayers over the past few weeks.
Love you!