Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Nice Long Weekend 2/2

Welcome back to the second part.

After a nice hotel breakfast we headed to the Peace Corps office to drop our bags off at the volunteer resource center.  The main office is closed on the weekends but there is a side door, which we can access using a key fob.  The center has four computers with internet, a small library, water (usually), teaching resources, and lots of other helpful items.  

Here Melinda fills out our travel forms while Jon Lee catches up on some interwebs.  Jon Lee is from Qacha’s Nek and one of the farthest volunteers from me.  It’s quicker for me to drive to Qacha’s Nek via heading out Sani Pass gate into South Africa than going on the A1 through Lesotho.  After finishing up our paper work we headed out to explore Maseru.

Maseru is the capital and largest city in Lesotho.  The population is approximately 227,880 and it takes up 53 sq mi.  There is an interesting blend of malls with modern stores and street markets.  We needed to pick up a salad for the Ried’s house that night as well as a few essentials like coffee and spices.  

We found ourselves in one of the large Shoprites in the city.  While they don’t nearly have the quality or familiar brands found in a stateside store, it is an impressive sight compared to the small family run stores where Melinda and I live.  After Shoprite we headed off to a popular burger dive called Dougies.  

There is nothing quite like drinking a cold beer, while sitting around a table made out of a spool, waiting for a burger that comes from a dive restaurant, which is made out of an old shipping container.  Maluti is one of the few local beers made right in Maseru.  

While waiting a tiny Toyota truck started pulling a bus backwards out of the parking lot and onto the main road.  It did not go well at all.  The driver of the bus kept turning the wheel the wrong way and almost taking out several cars in the process.  Somehow they wound their way up the hill and out of view without incident.  

Nothing much to say here, I just really like taking pictures of Melinda.  Bonus points to the individual that can pick out the make and model of the vehicle in the reflection of her sunglasses.  

After lunch we walked to the Pioneer mall in order to pick up some things for that nights dinner.  Lisa Ried was making beef lasagna for everyone and we were really looking forward to it.  

As much as I’m not a mall person in the states, the Pioneer mall is pretty nice and has most of the things you would need within a short walk of the Peace Corps office.  I usually stop by one of the malls every time I visit Maseru.  

We went to Pick n’ Pay grocery store for some salad items.  I purchased deodorant, hot sauce, and coffee as well.  We ran into Jon Lee, Jeremy, and Lirra (another Qacha’s Nek volunteer) at Pick n’ Pay.  Jeremy was in town from Hlotse to visit a food festival.  He was heading north back to his site and left before us.

The four of us headed back to the Peace Corps office for our bags before we grabbed a taxi towards the main taxi rank. 

Melinda looking good at the rank.  Jon Lee wasn’t joining us at the Ried’s so he jumped on a different taxi.  Melinda, Lirra, and I boarded an empty Morija taxi but it took no time to fill up and leave (a rare treat).  As a side note, I have waited for two whole hours for a taxi to fill up and many volunteers have waited longer.  It’s never a fun ordeal because it’s difficult to get a feel for how long it will take.  The Basotho just have a different notion of time and feel waiting is just part of traveling, where as it drives most volunteers nuts.  The transportation system is not in the passengers favor.

Morija is a beautiful place.  It’s on the outskirts of the Maseru district, nestled up against a large plateau.  There must be some kind of microclimate because it is a small oasis in the middle of a desert.  There is plenty of unique flora and fauna to look at.  Morija is also home to a small art community, a museum, a printing shop, several nice churches, and the royal palace.  

Here is the short road to the Ried’s house.  The plateau is visible through the trees.

The Ried’s are a really nice couple (check out their portrait in the blog “Swearing In”) and have an amazing place.  They love hosting and often house several volunteers during the weekends.  From left to right:  Lisa (standing), Ryan is behind her, Lirra, Melinda, and Nikki.  Josh was in the other room when the photo was taken.  The lasagna was amazing and Ryan made a pizza on top of it, there was also popcorn so I was happy.  

Forgive my gushiness, I sometimes joke that Shakespeare is gagging in his grave listening to our phone conversations but we are a very happy couple.  Melinda lights up my life.  I miss her very much and I am counting down the days until we see each other again at the peer support network workshop on June 3rd.  To borrow Melinda’s line, I can’t believe we had to come all the way to Africa to find each other but I’m so glad we did.  

Blood! Guts! Guns! okay I’m back guys.  

On Monday morning, we headed down the road and then parted ways.  Melinda and Lirra headed south and I north.  Of course the two girls got picked up in no time flat while I waited 45 minutes before calling off the hitch hiking attempt and just boarded a taxi to Maseru.  

I took another taxi from Maseru to TY, where it’s easy to hitch out of.  I got picked up by an interesting accountant named Teboho.  We had a really good conversation about what makes people successful, his answer was passion and a bit of luck.  He came from a poor family and worked his way up from teller to his current position as branch manager at NedBank in Mafeteng.  He took me all the way to Hlotse.  No sooner than I exited the vehicle that I was picked up again.  It was another accountant who worked for the government.  The guy was very talkative and insisted on taking me past his turn off.  He flagged down another vehicle to give me a ride the rest of the way to Butha Buthe.  The third vehicle was driven by a woman who was an accounting teacher, that’s three accountants in three hitches!  She also happened to teach at a school with a Peace Corps volunteer but I’m not sure who it was as I don’t know everyones Sesotho names.  

Here is an uninteresting picture of Butha Buthe.  I just wanted to get home and wasn’t really in photo mode.

I grabbed a russian and mokoenya at the little hole in the wall bakery in Butha Buthe and headed down the road.  I ran into two volunteers, Tony and David and we chatted for a few minutes.  I took a 4 + 1 taxi to the edge of town and began my wait.  I waited an hour and a half and actually gave up.  I walked across the road to head back to the taxi rank in town when a vehicle approached.  It had a “J” license plate, which means it was registered in Mokhotlong.  Each districts license plate begins with a unique letter, which makes hitch hiking a bit easier.  I successfully flagged the vehicle down from the opposite side of the road and they agreed to take me as far as Mapholaneng (about 25 km away from my house). 

The vehicle was leaking oil and overheating up the steep pass heading to Mokhotlong.  We ended up limping at 20 km/hr (12 mph) up the hills and coasting down them.  It took us roughly 4 hours to reach Mapholaneng, where I was lucky enough to get a quick taxi to my house.  

I got back late but still in good spirits from seeing Melinda and the weekends adventures.  

On Tuesday morning, heading back to school.  Thanks for reading.


- Joel