Saturday, May 19, 2012

Five countries in five days!

Some of you may or may not know that I am now in Lesotho in Southern Africa. I have been here since May 11th.

I spent some time considering whether to start a new blog to write about my experiences while I am here. After some intense deliberation within myself, I have decided against it. I am quite busy (and have limited internet access) so I will not have time for my regular blog posts until I return. Also I didn't want to go through the process of creating a new blog and inviting people to follow it once more. So I plan to post weekly for the next three months or so on my experiences in Africa. After that it will be back to my normal blog posts.

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This has been a very eventful week and a half. I will tell you all about it.

On Monday May 7th, I left Phoenix at 7 or so in the evening. I arrived in London sometime in the late morning. It was an uneventful flight, other than the lady next to me spilling wine on my only white t-shirt. Once I arrived in London I acted fast, leaving the airport and taking the express train to Paddington station. For the next four and a half hours, I walked from Paddington station towards Buckingham Palace and Big Ben. It was a marvelous experience. I walked through some residential areas (as residential as London can be, I suppose) and trekked through a lot of downtown London. There were SO many people. It was worse than Johannesburg in some areas. The variety of people was also quite impressive. Areas of note were Hyde Park (where I watched some horseback riders), St. James Park (where I observed the great variety of waterfowl), and the Guard's training area (where I saw the Queen's guards train and listened to the band). All of those I saw on my way wandering around as I worked my way towards Buckingham Palace. It is a very cool building, as are the surrounding monuments and the gold adorned gate surrounding it. Next I went to Big Ben and Westminster Abbey, where I had someone take my picture with the big clock. My time was short and I walked so far and so quickly that I feared I would have blisters. I nearly ran to the subway station. As I waited in line to buy a ticket, I listened to the white couple behind me speaking to each other. Their accent seemed out of place, yet familiar, so I asked them where they were from. Turns out they were South African! (Okay, she was Kenyan, and he was South African, but they raised their family in South Africa.) Now they live in the British Virgin Islands, and they were on vacation in London. I told them I was on my way to Johannesburg, and we talked about the RSA for a while. It was nice to meet them. I took the subway and then the express train back to the airport, got through security very easily, and then literally had to run to get on my plane (I was one of the last two to board).

The flight to Johannesburg was again uneventful (Except for when I spilled my full cup of water in my lap. Yeah, that was fun). I arrived at 6 a.m. and snatched a taxi to the taxi rink downtown. I had plans to see my friend in Swaziland and watch the BYU Young Ambassadors that night (they just happened to be performing in Mbabane that same day). It was interesting taking the first two taxis. The first one from the airport was a small taxi cab (the kind we are used to in America). I had to pay by the kilometer, and there was a meter keeping track. It cost R12.50 per kilo, and ended up costing me R311 (somewhere over $40). The drive was about 30 minutes long. In contrast, the taxi I took from Joburg to Mbabane, (a sprinter van!) took me four and a half hours to Swaziland and cost me R190. It was a very full taxi, with a total of 23 persons.

Swaziland was great. It is a beautiful country. Very green and wet, with rolling hills. The taxi dropped me off in the middle of town with my luggage and absolutely no idea of how to find either my friend or the performance venue that I needed to be at. I asked around until I found an internet cafe and sent a Facebook message to Manqoba Shongwe, (one of the Elder's I served with in Joburg) which he responded to about an hour later. He came and met me, and then we took a taxi to the King's Spa and Convention Center. There we met Jordan Roper, another Elder I served with on my mission. He is playing piano with the Young Ambassador's band. MANY church members from Swaziland came for the production. The performance was awesome, and the highlight was when they did a local song in the native language. Their pronunciation was great, and the style was just like they do here in Africa. Everyone in the audience was going nuts! Afterwards they greeted the audience, which was really great. I stayed that night with the Shongwe family, where I met Manqoba's sisters, brothers, and parents. He has a very large family. They were VERY accommodating and enjoyable to be around. Their property was neat. They have a rather large home, though it is in various states of completion. They also have a few fish ponds, cows, and chickens. Quite a neat place, really. The next morning I caught a taxi back to Joburg, and then another taxi to Lesotho. That was a taxi total of almost 10 hours. I arrived in Lesotho Friday morning (midnight). In the course of five days, I had visited five countries (USA, UK, RSA, Swaziland, Lesotho) and spent a total of over 35 hours in a taxi or plane (not to count the numerous hours spent waiting at the taxi rink or airports).

Now for my experiences so far in Lesotho. When I arrived, Ntate Moorosi (the father of the family I am staying with) picked me up at the border and drove me to the village Ha Matala where I will be staying until mid-August. After sleeping for a few hours, I woke to find that my young friend Katleho (six years old) had already gone to school. Mme Moorosi was at work, but Ntate Moorosi was still there as was their young one Gayla and their worker. As is common in Lesotho and South Africa, the Moorosi's hire someone that helps with the cooking, cleaning, and childcare. She also eats and sleeps at the home. The Moorosi's worker is called Selingi.

Staying at the Moorosi's is such a blessing to me. They have a car, which is very uncommon here. They always want me to use the car if I need to go anywhere, and they give me rides to work and to church (where we all go together). Also I pack a lunch to take to work, and I come home to find dinner prepared for me by Selingi. Also Mme and Selingi do all of the laundry, so I haven't even washed anything yet. To all of their kindness I owe them so much. It is a great blessing to me, and is allowing me to focus on my studies and my internship.

My first day back at church was amazing. It was so good to be in the Masianokeng Branch again. I served there as President and then second counselor of the congregation in 2008-2009. It was the longest I lived in an individual area on my mission; I stayed nearly 8 months. I don't know if someone didn't show up to speak, or if Ntate Moorosi just planned on having me speak and didn't tell me... but I spoke for about 10 minutes in the meeting. It was a great opportunity, and the members were so happy to see me. I was likewise so overjoyed to be reunited with them. There are a lot of people in these surrounding villages that are so special to me. It was great to see people that I met with that are still coming to church. I also was pleased to hear that a man we taught in 2008 has recently been baptized. His name is Khobatha. I told the Moorosi's that I used to meet with him and they were surprised because he hadn't come to church until last year. It was just so nice to be there, and I know I will enjoy the company of these saints for the next three months.

Another note about church--the Masianokeng Branch used to rent a small space from Itjareng Vocational Training Centre (the place I am now doing my internship). In May the branch finally started meeting in their new location, a set of six trailers that are set on the property that I helped select for purchase in 2008. The trailers are semi-permanent; they will stay at least until the congregation exceeds 100 on average, at which point they will build a permanent structure. They do, however, have plumbing, electricity, a kitchen, bathroom, and a baptismal font (all of those things are a big deal here).

Now on to my internship-- I started work on Monday. I am mostly working with Mme Pascalina Letsau, the extension officer for Itjareng. Itjareng (or IVTC) is basically a training ground for physically and mentally handicapped people of all ages to learn vocational skills and become self reliant. There are seven main courses: computer literacy, sign language, metalwork, leatherwork, carpentry, sewing, and agriculture. Each trainee takes computer literacy, sign language, and agriculture, and then opts for one of the remaining courses as an emphasis. On Monday I was introduced to each of the teachers, went to a training meeting on the upcoming elections, and met with the director of IVTC.

At the meeting for the elections, some people came to teach the students how to vote (elections are on the 26th of this month). I was nodding off the whole time as I was so tired and the whole meting was in Sesotho. After the meeting, Mme Pascalina introduced me to all of the trainees and told them my name. Then she asked them what my Sesotho name should be. They suggested two, Thuso and Lebohang, and then voted. I am now called Thuso (pronounced Two-so) which means help. They selected it because of its meaning and the purpose for my coming--to help Itjareng.

In my meeting with the director we discussed what I can do to be helpful to the centre. I will be doing many things including traveling to follow up on past trainees, working in the classrooms, records keeping, technology upgrades, finances, and budgeting. My work will largely be with Mme Pascalina, who is in charge of doing the records and follow up visits. She also does trainings in far flung villages on HIV/AIDS which I will likely participate in.

Well that is all the time I have for now. I am doing very well, I am happy, and I feel very blessed. Thank you for your love, support, and prayers.

Until next week,

Sala Le Molimo (stay with God)


  1. That is an amazing adventure. You rock Jeremy. Also Capital letters? What is going on... enjoy it.

    1. i apologize for the capital lettering. i am trying to make it up to you on this reply. also, is it that big of a deal? should i make an end of my lowercase lettering, nice as it is? i know captain won't even read my blog because it is lowercase and it bothers him so much...

    2. I was just surprised. I had to take a second glance and make sure it was you writing. Capitals or not I still follow you.

  2. Sounds like an amazing adventure Jeremy! Have so much fun and be safe!