Monday, February 14, 2011

Getting Away in Lesotho

My parents came to visit me in Lesotho a week ago. I tried to talk them into staying in my hut without electricity or running water with me, to see what my life was like. But when they heard I had bedbugs they decided the local five star lodge sounded a bit better. I go to the lodge for work twice a month, where I get internet access and to see my friends that work there. Even though I only go twice a month I have gotten close to many of the staff. It’s much easier to form close friendships when people can speak English and understand me. I am still learning Sesotho, but can’t have deep or meaningful conversations yet. My lodge days are always very happy days. But getting to be “a guest” while my parents were staying there was a real treat. I not only got to see my friends for four days straight, I also got to take long hot showers and eat maybe the most delicious food I’ve ever had. Maliba Lodge is only an hour walk from my village hut but the contrast between the two is very dramatic. Only five kilometers from my village and I had gotten completely away to a beautiful mountain sanctuary.

Getting Away

After eight months in Lesotho, having not left the tiny country except for a couple day trips to South Africa, I was more than ready for a vacation. Volunteers in Lesotho are in an unusual position of living in a developing country that is entirely surrounded by a developed country. And the contrast between Lesotho and South Africa can be pretty drastic. The Lesotho landscape is made up of small traditional thatched houses with small gardens and farming plots. There are animals, goats, cattle, chickens, wandering around the villages in search of green grass and grubs. Shortly after crossing the border to South Africa the landscape changes, it looks a lot more like America. There are large plantations with mechanized agriculture and concrete houses in rows in towns. In Lesotho small houses constantly dot the landscape. The areas I passed through in South Africa all had electricity, which is definitely not the case in Lesotho. But it also meant that the cooking fires and laundry lines drying clothes were missing. The public taxis were much newer, and with the stricter law enforcement, they were never over packed. We went to Durban, a large beach city. I was thrilled to eat out and take hot showers, two things I had really been missing in my village. There were beaches, a waterpark, shops, restaurants and bars, and for those four days I felt anonymous and America. We went to a huge mall, big even by American standards, and it was a bit overwhelming after living in a rural area for so long. I tried to imagine what it would be like for someone from my village to be in that mall. Most of them have never been in a mall of any kind, and it just felt worlds away. While it was a wonderful trip, and really great to get away, it did not feel like home, even though it felt much more American. My little village in Lesotho, while not always being an easy life has definitely become home.