Monday, March 28, 2016

Phase 3 Training Part 1

This past couple of weeks have been busy for the Education 85 Peace Corps group.  We all had to attend a workshop in the same village we had our initial Pre-Service Training at, Ha Koali in the Berea district.  Traveling in Lesotho is a pain in the butt so I decided to get an early start.  Plus Melinda and I were racing to the town of TY.  With a beer on the line I eagerly set off to the A1 to hitch hike.  

What a great start to a day.  Just look at those beautiful clouds in the sunrise.  Those are the weaver birds, whose nests I photographed in a previous blog.

The A1 looking east at sunrise.  Thaba Popa is in the background on the right.   

I got a quick hitch from a couple that work at the Mokhotlong Hotel.  They were heading to Butha-Buthe to pick up food and supplies for the hotel kitchen.  As most of my hitches have been, it was wonderful having company on the journey.  It’s also a great way to talk to people about America, the Peace Corps mission, and make new connections.

About an hour into the journey we passed the Letseng Diamond mine.  It’s the 7th largest diamond mine in the world as far as yield goes.  I will suppress my opinion on the importance of diamonds (it’s just a freaking rock!) and say Letseng does do some good to the local community, such as providing jobs, free lumber to schools, and sponsorship for infrastructure.  Here is a view of a temporary town where workers live just outside of the mine.

Letseng diamond mine.


This is one of the only ski resorts on the continent.  You can see the ski lift for the ahem short bunny slope in the center left of the photo.  The pools of water are for creating artificial snow during dry winters.  

There isn’t much habitation between the town nearest to me, Mapholaneng and Butha-Buthe.  The area is very cold, remote, and harsh.  Wealthy individuals hire shepherds to take care of their animals in these areas because there is so much free grazing land.  The shepherds build these quaint shelters and corrals, known as cattle posts.  

The descent from the mountains in the Butha-Buthe district is a hairy one.  A tractor trailer broke down on one of the worst sections.

Luckily the Japanese came to the rescue (come on Volvo!) and towed the tractor trailer up a 1:7 grade hill.  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing but it happened.  The Toyota is a Hilux with a 3.0 V6 diesel.  The little Yota was in 4 Low with only traction to stop it.  Some volunteers jumped onto the tail gate to give the truck some additional traction.  

I am amazed what Basotho women can carry on their heads. 

I stopped in a shop in Butha-Buthe for a Russian (crummy hotdog / sausage hybrid but the first meat I had tasted in over a month) Mokoeyna (unsweetened dough ball) sandwich.  This combo is sadly the staple of some volunteers.  

Butha-Buthe has KFC.  It’s nice to see an American face every now and then, even if he is a fictitious, chicken-frying, colonel.

I walked through Butha-Buthe towards the outskirts of town, in order to get a hitch hike to TY (to beat Melinda), when I got picked up by a Mosotho friend from Mokhotlong.  Remember the Basotho party we attended a few weeks ago?  Well the host of the party Teko, happened to be driving to Maseru when he saw me walking on the road and stopped.  It was great talking to him and we even managed to pick up my friend Ryan Wagner in Peka on the way to TY.  

I beat Melinda to the Blue Mountain Inn by a few hours so I reacquainted with some volunteers at the bar.  

Melinda finally arrived and a group of us headed to the taxi rank in the hopes of finding an easy ride to the nearby training village.  

It was raining on the way to the rank.  When we arrived the taxi was full and just leaving so we had to wait.  Here is the road to the taxi rank.

Luckily we had shelter from the rain and I didn’t mind cause I was in good company.

A taxi eventually arrived.


I was happy to see everyone except Timex, who I believe made it his personal mission to deprive me of sleep.

It was good to see the old crew.  There were new beards and stories to share.

Jim giving Heather a high five.  Care packages were passed about and treats from America were shared by all.

Then all joy and happiness left the area and training began.  Tyreek finds something better to do than listen to training.  Seriously even our instructors were excited…

This is ‘M’e Mamasupa’s “I really want to hear about your first world complaints” face.  

Needless to say, the first day ended at the bar.

Training is like a mixture of attending your 5th cousins funeral, showing up for a prearranged soup kitchen volunteer activity (except occupy Wall Street happened after you volunteered), attending your recovered alcoholic aunt’s third wedding (except it’s dry and there is no cake),  teaching an old dog a new trick, scissoring an elderly individuals drivers license in half because they failed the eye test by a single point, dropping your bread butter side down, having your beating heart pulled out by the witch doctor from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, listening to many babies (volunteers) cry all at the same time.  I despise training.  

Here Melinda looks at me to get her out of some awful exercise.  Sorry babe, if there was a fire alarm nearby I would pull it for you.

As a side note, I was elected as one of 8 volunteers in my group to be a peer support network individual (nanner nanner Melinda).  This means I will be responsible for checking in on my group of volunteers and ensuring they are doing alright mentally, physically, and socially.  It’s a role I didn’t really consider myself being a part of right up until the description of the role was announced.  I am an outlier from most of the other volunteers but I get along with every one of them.  My military experience has placed me in many stressful environments and I feel I can help others through hardships.  I believe in the mission of Peace Corps Lesotho and I genuinely want everyone in my group to finish their service.  As an outlier, my hope is that I can offer unique advice to those individuals in my peer support network group.  This is a job I will take very seriously over the next year and a half.  

Melinda was also elected in the peer support network.

Here is a photo of me, taken by an unknown individual, testing the cusp of business casual.  I don't remember what the topic of discussion was but Lisa and Wagner are always fun to talk to.

One of the days was spent traveling to Maseru to witness the top Primary and High schools in Lesotho.  The Maths teachers went to Lesotho High School.  We were introduced at morning assembly.

We worked in groups with some of the form A students to use a post board to visualize vectors (a line with an arrow on one end that has both a magnitude and a direction).  Here Wagner looks on as his group is confused and behind my group.

The form A’s were excited we visited and sad we had to leave.

We were given a tour of the grounds.  There were two story classrooms.

The library was amazing.

There was a maths lab with a smart board and group work seating arrangements.  

To be continued…


- Joel

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