Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Power Outage

Hello all--

Though I apologized for my late post last week, I failed to explain why I didn't get around to it on Saturday.  Let me start by telling you about that interesting day.

I started with great plans.  I had two things to do in town, email and buy a heater.   Then I needed to get back to Masianokeng for the institute class at the church at 11.  At 12 I was going teaching with the missionaries.  Mme Moorosi was going to Ladybrand in South Africa to do some shopping, but she said she could drop me and pick me up in 2 hours.  I went first to a shop to buy the heater.  They were sold out.  No big deal, it was just a little hiccup in my plans.  I could buy one later.  Next I went to the email shop.  After writing for some time, the power suddenly shut off.  Other businesses in the area seemed to have backup generators, but not my favorite little Chinese internet shop. 

There were only two of us in the shop at that time (though there are 34 computers).  I guess it was too early, cold, and wet, to have many people out and about.  The other man was a Nigerian named Hycent.  We talked about our respective countries and shared with each other our purposes of being in Lesotho.  He is a businessman, doing retail of cosmetic products.  We had an interesting conversation about the world's collective view of the Nigerian people.  As a nation they have earned themselves quite the reputation.  They are known in Southern Africa mostly for drugs and crime.  He told me that he is a Christian man and he doesn't do or sell drugs, yet he is constantly faced with opposition because of his citizenship.  In looking for a place to locate his business, he was unable to mention where he was from without prices rising drastically.  Basotho people (and South African people) are not generally friendly towards Nigerians.  I am glad to be from a nation that has a very good reputation here.  America is known for helping the Basotho people with food aid and development projects. The peace corps also has given the American people a good reputation in this country.

After about thirty minutes of talking with Hycent, a white man came into the internet shop to print something.  When he saw the power was out, he stayed and talked with us for another thirty minutes or so, hoping (as we were) that the power would return.  When I asked him where he was from, he told me he is from Ukraine, but is an Israeli citizen.  It was very interesting to learn about the everyday life in Israel, and also to hear an Israeli's opinion of current events in the Middle East.  He was a very funny guy, though his accent was so strong that I could hardly understand him at times.  As we talked, I realized that we were quite a gathering in this small internet shop--an American, a Nigerian, a Ukranian/Israeli, the Chinese that own the shop, and their Mosotho employee.  I love the diversity of being in Africa.  Johannesburg is much more of a melting pot; my experience at the email shop was more unusual than it was typical of Lesotho. 

Finally the Chinese chose to close their store for the day, refunding the time we had paid for and not used.  I had another thirty minutes before Mme Moorosi was supposed to come, but I knew that she hadn't brought her phone with her, so I had to stay by the internet shop.  After over an hour, she still hadn't arrived.  Finally I called Ntate Moorosi and asked him if his wife had returned home without me.  Apparently she had hit a pothole and got a flat tire.  Finally I took a taxi to the church, but as luck would have it, I was in a taxi that kept stopping for long periods of time.  They were going to a far-off place and wanted to recruit more riders to make it profitable for them.  I was only a 20 minute ride away from the church, but it took me 45 minutes to arrive.  At this point I realized that I had failed in all of my plans for that day.  I hadn't emailed, bought a heater, gotten a ride with Mme, or attended institute, and the missionaries had to wait for me since I arrived at quarter past 12. 

Luckily the rest of the day went largely according to plan.  I had a nice time with the elders, teaching many lessons.  It is really fun to be with the missionaries in one of my old areas.  I know people they don't know, so I have been able to introduce them to some of my old acquaintances.  Also I have met new people and learned new areas.  It is kind of nostalgic to do missionary work here again.

The rest of my week went well.  I have been  making some progress on different projects at Itjareng.  I have been helping them extensively with their 2013 budget, and I spent a few hours on Thursday researching new possible donors for the centre.  They are in need of a lot of repairs and improvements.  I hope that they will get an internet connection at the centre soon.  I got quotations from two different companies for setup of a wireless connection.  It is somewhat expensive, but I think it is necessary for their work.  They have lost past donors through lack of communication as they check their email VERY infrequently.  I have set up two email accounts for the centre, one for the administrator, and one as a shared email for the office.  I want to setup a google calendar including all of the yearly events and share it between the email accounts so that everyone can access it.  I also have encouraged the director to start a blog for Itjareng.  It would be a great way to advocate for disability rights and it could serve as a website for Itjareng since they have no internet presence at all.  My biggest project for next week (besides continuing the work on the budget) is to create a new employee contract to be signed by all of the employees.  I will also likely write out the policies and regulations of the centre, as they don't have any written policy.

This week I got to see the Avengers movie at the new mall in Maseru.  I left after work on Tuesday so that I could catch the movie before it was too late.  This was the last week it was showing in the theatre, yet there was only 6 of us in the room.  I thought it was a great movie.  Just an action packed adventure movie with some cool equipment and technology.  I watched the five o'clock showing, but by 7:20 when I got out of the movie, no taxis were available and the mall was empty.  I don't know how the night life is during the summer, but at least in winter everyone goes home and goes to bed as soon as it gets dark. 

Wednesday night I met one of the Moorosi's neighbors, a guy my age named Khoeli.  We had a great talk for over an hour about politics, religion, and life.  It was so cool to talk to him.  He is educated and interested in everything (like I am).  In my time here, he is the closest I have found to a friend.  Someone I would just hang out with.  I feel like the Moorosi's are my family, and I love my coworkers and the church members, but I haven't had anyone my age that was just my friend.  I have also been meeting a lot of cool people as I go to town to the internet shop and buy groceries.  People are so friendly and talk to strangers, so I have been making some good acquaintances as I go around.

Today I am going to a wedding with Mme Moorosi.  We may also go horseback riding afterwards...when I told her I'd never rode a horse, she said it was a must! 

I started making plans to visit some different areas in South Africa in August--I'm hoping to visit Mafikeng, Polokwane, and Joburg.  I'll try to finalize my plans this week and contact people throughout next week.  I plan to leave Lesotho August 6th, so it is coming right up!  I still have so much to do before I go.

I uploaded some pictures on Thursday.  First are pictures of my "little sisters" here, and then there are some pictures of the expansion of the Moorosi's house.  Check them out here:

I'll have more to write about next week.  I hope you are well! 

Sala le Molimo,

Thuso Moorosi

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Me and my girls!

I took the first picture (below left) when I was in Lesotho with my dad in 2009. Now in 2012 I took the same picture with the same girls, Kamohelo and Katleho! Kamohelo (Welcome) is the daughter of the Elder's Quorum President at the church, while Katleho (Success) is the daughter of the Branch President.

2009 Kamo, Me, Katly
2012 Kamo, Me, Katly

Katleho (6) and Masokhoane (2) are the daughters of the Moorosi family.  They are very different in personality.  Katly is quiet and serious.  She loves to play and have fun, but she is also very quick and observant.  Khoane is very loud and talkative.  She seems oblivious to everything around her at times.  One of her favorite pastimes is to get too close to the heater so that mommy or daddy have to grab her before she catches on fire!  They are really fun girls and I like being their "big brother."

Katleho and Masokhoane at church.  Katly is wearing my suit coat.

Khoane loves the ceiling!

Sometimes Khoane just cries.  No one knows why.

Katly and Naleli in front of the house

Here are some pics of the expansion of the Moorosi's house.  They added the garage and a bedroom.  I will be using the bedroom until I return home, after which the room will be for the girls.  In the past they have had just three rooms--a kitchen, living room, and bedroom.

Putting on the roof!

There are bricks, metal, and cement debris everywhere!

The new garage

This is inside the house! This will soon be "my" room.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Dung, Dung, Dung!

I'll start with a few apologies--I'm sorry I am late with this post! Also, I'm sorry to say that I was unable to match the excitement of last week. That might be a good thing--I don't need that kind of excitement every day. Anyways, this has been a nice week.

After I wrote last Saturday I went to a YSA activity at the church in Maseru. When I arrived they hadn't yet started, so I helped some others clean the church. There is a small courtyard area in the middle of the church where pigeons love to perch (and poop). Luckily the bird dung was dry so we swept it into piles. After an hour of sweeping, we had filled two large trash bags with pigeon poop. Kind of gross! But it is always a good feeling to clean.

By then the activity had started. First we played volleyball for a few hours. I really enjoy volleyball--I've been playing in Stake intramurals for the last two years, which has been a lot of fun. Here it was even better, because the next tallest person was probably a foot shorter than me. I got to do a lot of spiking, and there wasn't really anyone blocking me :) Honestly, I had a huge height advantage; there were a lot of people that played well. It was competitive and I had a lot of fun.

After volleyball we watched some action movie about the Greek gods. The movie was okay, but what was fun was to have the experience with the Basotho my age. I don't think that most of them watch many movies, or at least not at the theatre. Watching on a big projector screen is kind of cool for anyone, but for my Basotho friends, it was fun to witness their reactions to surprises on screen, the gross CGI creatures the heroes fought, and the cool fighting scenes. There were a lot of surprised exclamations and people holding their breath as they awaited the outcome of a scene. When the main character defeated this mythical creature with multiple heads, there was literal cheering!

This week I have a few more stories to share from the life of Mme Moorosi.

Mme Moorosi grew up in a rural area of the district of Mohale’s hoek in Lesotho. When they had meat, each person would be given a piece to cook to the level of their satisfaction. When she was very young, she couldn’t cook the meat by herself; often an older child would volunteer to help her. She had to be very careful when accepting such requests. If she wasn’t, she would find that her meat had disappeared and been replaced with a dry piece of cow dung. Because she was little, she wouldn’t recognize what had happened; she just thought the meat had been burned or didn’t taste good.

Another childhood story also coincidentally included cow dung. Once some neighborhood girls invited Mme to go play with them. They were going to dig for eggs. They decided together that whatever eggs each girl found would be for her alone to eat. Eventually they came to a field with many heaps of cow dung. They directed her to dig at one, and they each dug under the dung heaps looking for eggs. Surprisingly to her, all of the other girls found eggs, but she found none. They directed her to another pile, but still she found nothing. The other girls were all cooking and eating their eggs, having a great time. Finally one of the girls offered to share with her. She felt so grateful, since she hadn’t found any eggs herself. When she returned home, she told her grandma the whole story. Her grandma now knew what had happened to all of her chicken eggs! The girls had stolen the eggs and buried them, placing heaps of dung to mark each place. They also made some heaps without burying any eggs beneath. Because they knew where the eggs were, they directed Mme to dig in all of the wrong places, while they each found eggs.

I think her life has been so interesting. It is also great to hear her tell the stories and hear her inflection and see her body language and facial features.

I only realized after typing all of this that I have mentioned dung three times in one post! A new record! Manure is very useful (and commonly used!) here--it is fertilizer, fuel for the cooking fire, and a common coating for walls and floors. After drying, it makes a watertight surface that is easily swept and has a pleasant appearance.

I have really enjoyed working with the new director of Itjareng, Ntate Molise Foso. Only 29 years old, Ntate Foso has already had a quite interesting career. I have had several meetings with him, and I am very impressed. Ntate Foso walks with crutches due to a sickness in his childhood that left his legs different lengths. His disability has given him a drive to succeed in life. In his childhood and teenage years, Ntate Foso was told that he couldn’t succeed. He has worked very hard to prove those people wrong.

Spending time with Ntate Foso has helped me to see the importance of the work we are doing for the disabled. Because he has a positive outlook in life, he has been successful despite (or maybe even because of) his disability. There are many disabled people living in the rural areas of Lesotho that have not been as lucky. Disabled persons are sometimes treated as less than human. Villagers tell the parents of the disabled that they must have been cursed by God. In this situation, disabled people in Lesotho are often excluded from opportunities to go to school and are hidden from society. Already physically disadvantaged, their opportunities for success are further limited by a lack of education and regular social interaction.

In a meeting with Ntate Foso he told me, “I am not a disabled person; I am a person with a disability.” His disability, which I viewed as a stumbling block, has been a source of strength and motivation in his life, driving him to success. I have learned from him this experience that I shouldn't judge others by what I see. Regardless of size, shape, religion, race, gender, or sexual orientation, all people deserve fairness and equal treatment from every other person.

Life is good. All is well in Lesotho.

Sala le Molimo,

Thuso Moorosi

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Politics, Stories, and Bribery

Another week has come and gone!

This week was great. My study of Lesotho Politics concluded on Friday with the submission of my final assignment. Mme Pascalina told me I should take some time off to finish it. I'm glad she gave me that time, as my sickness last week kept me from doing much of anything. On Wednesday I had an interview with Ntate Shale from the Development of Peace Education office and Ntate Lenka from the Transformation Resource Centre. Both are organizations that have been involved in Lesotho politics in one way or another--especially in conflict management and election training. I had a good meeting with them. It was really nice to learn about Lesotho's politics from a person rather than a book.

The most interesting thing I learned from the meeting is that there has been a new Assembly Hall (for the Parliament) constructed on a hill overlooking Maseru. Though it has been completed for a few years, the National Assembly has yet to use that hall. It was built by the Chinese in an agreement with the Lesotho government whereby they were promised some land in exchange for the building. While the Assembly Hall has been completed, the government has not honored their agreement; therefore the Chinese have not "given them the keys" to the Assembly Hall. I found that very interesting.

One fun experience I had this week was to talk with Mme and Ntate Moorosi about their experiences at the Lesotho Police Training College and compare it with my experiences at Army Basic Combat Training. It sounds like the training (and the behavior of the instructors) was almost the same! Ntate Moorosi loved the experience. He liked getting stronger and working together with the other recruits. He also thought it was so funny when their instructors would come up with new and creative punishments. Mme told a lot of funny stories. I don't think she was a good fit for the Police, or at least not the training experience.

She told us about one time when she stole some eggs from the dining facility and put them in the hood of her jacket. The cook saw her and confronted her about it and she confessed. He asked her why she took them and she said it was because they always overboiled the hard boiled eggs and so she wanted to make them herself. The cook and her commander got together and said that she should show them how to cook the eggs properly. They took a whole flat of eggs (30) and had her cook them properly. Then they told her she had to eat them all! She was crying and they were all watching her and yelling at her. She said she was only able to eat three. I can totally see my drill sergeants doing the same exact thing to a soldier at BCT.

One time another recruit fell asleep in the classroom so Mme Moorosi put a piece of paper in his mouth to be funny. He woke and slapped her. She complained to the commander, who reprimanded the recruit and told him that he needed to learn how to treat others. They gave him a large rock that they called his "baby" and told him he needed to carry it with him everywhere he went. He took it with him when they went running, brought it to town in the taxi, and slept with it at his side.

Mme was very good in the classroom but she struggled with horseback riding (a large part of the police force rides horses), shooting, and drill and ceremony (marching and facing movements). When they had to shoot M16s, she would just put the weapon on automatic, close her eyes, and hold down the trigger until all of the bullets were fired. Because she didn't enjoy doing those activities (and because of the belittling comments from her peers and instructors) she avoided attending some of those events. She would hide inside the ceiling of their barracks and no one ever found her. The instructors would send the whole training group looking for her, but she stayed hidden.

Ntate told us about his experiences doing patrols, guard duty, and getting gassed with tear gas. He had a lot of fun with his training (besides the tear gas!) and said it was so much fun. It was interesting to hear the different experiences (and level of enjoyment) between the two of them. I found it so interesting that their training was so similar to mine (in discipline and treatment).

Perhaps the most interesting story from this week was my experience at the Lesotho Border. When I lived in Lesotho in 2008-2009, I got a six month visa whenever I entered the country. When I arrived last month, I was given a 30 day stamp in my passport. I asked about it and was told that the longest they give is now 30 days. I filed away in my mind that I would need to come back in 30 days to get another stamp. Then I got really sick. When I recovered I remembered my passport. I checked the date and saw that I had missed the deadline by 3 days. Of course I still needed another stamp. I talked to Mme and Ntate Moorosi about it, and they both thought I shouldn't have any problems. All the same, Mme Moorosi accompanied me to the border post just in case.

The immigration officials sit behind a large counter at the border post. You have to talk to them through a glass window, and hand them your passport through a small opening. I was surprised when I handed the lady my passport and she gestured towards the door at the end of the counter, asking me to come around. The door was unlocked and I walked to where she was seated. She showed me my previous stamp and explained that I had overstayed. I told her that I was aware I had overstayed and was very sorry. She brushed off my apology and told me that I had violated the law and that she would have to take action against me.

Of course I was aware that I should have come in earlier to get another stamp. What I didn't know was how seriously they would take it. I wasn't too surprised that she would be upset; after all, I had clearly broken the law. At the same time there was nothing I could do to change the fact that I was late. I informed her that I had come as quickly as I could, as soon as I recovered from my sickness. I honestly think that I wouldn't have forgotten to come in if I hadn't been suffering all of last week. I had been spending every possible moment sleeping and trying to stay warm. I had no thoughts about my school or work responsibilities, let alone the need for a border stamp.

Luckily Mme saw my predicament and came through the door to my rescue. Though they spoke in Sesotho, I understood much of the conversation (it helps when you know what they are talking about). Mme explained to her that I was staying with her family and that I had been very sick. She offered to call the doctor to verify that I had been to see him. She then asked what I should do. The border official said that there was a M200 fee (~$24) for overstaying. I was surprised, as the fee is small, and she hadn't mentioned any fee to me. She had told me that she was "going to take action against me." Mme Moorosi told her that she didn't think it was fair that I should pay the fee (I think it was fair... but that is besides the point). The lady then said, "Okay, well give me M100 and we'll forget about the fee." Of course that M100 would never find its way to the cash box... Mme hesitated, and the lady said, "Come on, I scratch your back, you have to scratch mine." I am not unfamiliar with bribery, but I have never heard a direct request for it before.

Mme really impressed me with her response. She told her that before she was converted that would have been fine, but now she had converted to Christ and couldn't participate in any bribery. She said that the church wouldn't like it. The lady asked what church we went to, and she told her. A few seconds later, my passport had a new stamp and we were on our way, no fee or anything! Mme saved me from whatever "action" the lady would have taken against me. At the very least she saved me from a M200 fee.

God is good, and life is good. I had an eventful week like always! I hope you are also well and happy.

Today there is a church activity for the single adults in Maseru. I haven't been to the church in Maseru since I arrived; I attend the small branch at Masianokeng. That should be fun, though I have no idea what we will do.

One last thing--I realized that I have never included my address here. Of course you can email me to contact me, but if you'd like to write/send anything, my address is:

P.O. Box 10957
Maseru 100


Sala le Molimo


Monday, June 11, 2012

Sick Week

On Saturday after emailing I went to the auditorium at Central Bank to attend a dance competition that my friend Kholu Liphoto was in. Celebrating the Queen Masenate’s birthday, the dance competition brought together couples from Botswana, Swaziland, Namibia, South Africa, and Lesotho. When she invited me I thought it was some small local competition, but it is quite a large annual event. Also, Kholu won first place at the competition last year, so she was defending her title. I went with my friend Mothepu at 6, expecting to be there for an hour or two. Apparently they were far behind schedule. They were still doing the youth division.

Kholu didn’t end up dancing until around 11, but we stayed since we had already paid the entry fee and we had only gone in the first place to support her. All of the couples danced in so many styles: tango, waltz, salsa, cha cha and some ones that I don’t remember. Kholu did very well, taking second place; first went to a couple from Botswana. She was very disappointed since she won last year, but I thought she did great. Since the couples danced all at the same time and each individually, they weren’t ready to give awards until 2. I ended up arriving at home after 3 am, which is late for anyone, but basically unheard of here.

Monday was a good day at work. We had a staff meeting, our last one before the trainees went for winter holiday. Since the instructors are also going home for holidays, I shared with them my plans for the next few months. They were very supportive, and promised to give me the information I needed to do that work in their absence.

On Monday night I slept terribly. I woke feeling very hot, with pain in my lungs and a horrible headache. I tried to go to work, but came home after a few hours to rest. I slept all day and then went to the doctor that evening. He said I had influenza and gave me some medication. I then slept again, sleeping a total of 24 hours out of 32 hours.

On Wednesday morning I felt a lot better. I went on a road trip to Butha-Buthe with the entire staff of Itjareng. We visited a primary school for the physically handicapped called Thuso e Tla Tsoa Kae. They call the school Thuso for short, so I joked that the place is named after me. They are funded by the American Pea e Corps and Sentebale, a foundation ran jointly between the King of Lesotho and the Crown of England. We had a meeting with the parents of many of the children at the school, explaining to them what Itjareng is and distributing application forms. Itjareng takes trainees from 18 years and older, so only a few of the students at Thuso were old enough to apply for next year, but it was still good for all of these parents to learn about the vocational training we do.

After the parents meeting they gave us a tour of the place. In the office I met a young peace corps volunteer from New York. Her name is Lisa and her Sesotho name is Nthabiseng. Surprisingly our visit marked her last day as a volunteer in Lesotho, so she it was kind of cool to meet her just before she left. They also had a volunteer from Australia. As we toured the place it was clear that they have much more funding than Itjareng. They also have a wider range of handicapped people than we do at Itjareng. To be admitted at Itjareng the trainees must pass an interview to prove that they are capable of being trained within whichever field they apply for. Those without use of either hand or those who are too severely mentally handicapped can’t attend Itjareng.

On our way home, what should have been a three hour drive took about five hours. We had to stop constantly for toilet breaks, shopping, and visiting friends. We stopped at least 10 times. Also the teachers were in somewhat of a celebratory mood since we were closing the next day for holidays. Some were drinking and we had loud music playing in the taxi. Of course everyone had to dance and sing along. Although I’d felt alright in the morning, I started feeling very sick again during that drive.

After resting for a few hours at home, we went to Maseru Sun hotel to the buffet to celebrate for Ntate Moorosi’s birthday. It was a great evening—we had a lot of fun eating, talking, and singing happy birthday. It was funny because we saw a waiter bringing a cake so we started singing happy birthday, but then the guy walked right passed us and gave the cake to another table. It was kind of embarrassing, but funny. Then another cake was brought to us just after.

On Thursday I had a really interesting day at work. I was feeling worse than I did on Wednesday, but I had already planned to teach a personal finance class to the staff. It was a really good class; I enjoyed teaching and I think the staff really appreciated my help. Some of them were very new to using a computer, but at least they have access to the computer teacher if they need help.

After lunch we had a meeting to review the employee contracts. It was difficult for many reasons—first of all, I don’t know the employment laws in Lesotho; second, I have no experience with contracts; third, there are five different versions between the different employees and two are working without any sort of contractual agreement. I am going to see what I can do to work on that situation.

Friday I was feeling even worse, almost as bad as I first had on Tuesday, so I didn’t go to work. I watched cartoons with the kids and slept. I also watched the inauguration ceremony for the new Prime Minister. This is the first peaceful change of government since Lesotho’s independence in 1966. Now today I have done nothing but send this email. At least today I am feeling a little better. Being sick changes everything; it has helped me appreciate how well I usually feel. I hope that everything will be back to normal by Monday.

Though I have been sick the whole week, it has still been eventful and fun. I am still happy. Many adventures await me next week.

Update: So I meant to post this on Saturday, and then Sunday, but on both days the power went out in the whole town. I first thought it had to do with the snow. Apparently not, as the snow was gone by Sunday. I asked Mme and Ntate about it (the power shut off three times Sunday evening) and they said it was maybe an effort by the city to limit people's power usage. It is cold so everyone is using more power than usual. Perhaps it is an effective way to send people to bed and conserve. Also I’m feeling much better today. Good news :)

And now some pictures:

Kholu and her dance partner at the competition

Me with Gayla and Katleho on Sunday

The incarnation of the Holy Ghost according to the IPHC church... I find these stickers everywhere

Katleho’s bad hair day!

Snow on Saturday. Meanwhile I hear its in the hundreds in AZ!

Sala le Molimo,


Saturday, June 2, 2012

Welding, Politics, and a visit to Katleho’s school

As usual, this week was very eventful and exciting. Though exciting things are usually the exception, this summer they are the norm.

On Sunday I had the opportunity to go teaching with the missionaries. After church (in which I taught Sunday School—I have either spoken or taught without warning each Sunday. At least next week I have been asked to teach again (my impromptu lesson must have been alright!)) I went teaching with the elders. Another brother also came for the afternoon, so Elder Shaw and Mothepu went with the bakkie (pickup truck) and Elder Jonga and myself went by foot. Elder Jonga wanted me to introduce him to some people I used to work with in Masianokeng. I gladly obliged, visiting some of my dear friends throughout Masianokeng and Ha Nelese. At each house we shared an inspiring message and a prayer together.

On Tuesday I worked with Mme Matebello in the metal work department. I was impressed by the many different things that the trainees learn to make—everything from dustpans to shovels, rakes, and barbeque stands. Mme then asked if I wanted to do some welding. Of course I did! I don’t know how welding usually works, but in this case we had something that looked very much like a car battery that started the welding rod. We took cables that were attached to the battery (like jumper cables) and clipped one on the metal table we were working on and the other to a welding rod. By touching the rod to the table, the circuit was completed and the electricity ignited the welding rod. I got to wear one of those cool hood-like helmets with the tinted flip-visor to tone down the brightness. I don’t think I was very good at welding, but Mme said I did just fine.

Tuesday evening was a very exciting night. Lesotho had their general elections last Saturday, May 26th. Everyone was so excited about politics leading up to the elections. In the taxi, at work, at home, at the internet shop, everyone has been talking about it. Well the election results were announced all day Sunday, all day Monday, and continued into Tuesday morning.

I may or may not have mentioned that as part of my studies here, I am doing a correspondence course studying Lesotho politics. (If politics bores you to death, you have my permission to skip this and the next paragraph. Otherwise I encourage you to keep reading :) I have been writing papers on the history of government organization and structure in Lesotho and sending the papers to my professor in Utah. It has been a lot of fun, even more so as everyone else has been talking about politics. Lesotho is a constitutional monarchy with a bicameral parliamentary legislature. The upper house is composed of the highest tribal chiefs, while the lower house is elected using a mixed-member proportional representation system. In Lesotho’s case the MMP system is a compensatory system. Basically this means that each voter selects the candidate (and party) of his/her choice within the constituency where they live. There are 80 constituencies being contested by a total of 18 political parties. The results are tabulated and the winner in each constituency is announced. After they have counted all the votes, they allocate an additional 40 seats according to the percentage of votes that each party received. If a party received 20% of the vote, then they ought to be represented at approximately 20% of the seats in the Assembly. The reasoning for this system is that it is possible for a party to receive 20% of total votes, yet not win in any constituency. These compensatory seats are the way that smaller political parties can still achieve representation within the parliament.

For some interesting history (at least I think it is interesting!), we can consider Lesotho’s 1998 and 2002 elections. In 1998, the party in power received barely 60% of the vote, but won 79 out of the 80 constituencies. At that time Lesotho did not use an MMP electoral system. Because 40% of the population was upset by the election results, there were huge riots. Much of the capitol city of Maseru was burned to the ground. A peacekeeping force was sent in from Botswana and South Africa to restore order. Under international observation, all of the political parties in Lesotho met to discuss an alternative electoral system. After over two years they agreed on their current system. It was a good thing too—in the 2002 elections, the party in power received even less of the vote, a meager 55 percent. Despite getting just over half of the vote, they again won 79 of the 80 constituencies. However, this time the opposition parties were still represented. Because the leading party already had more than its share (55% of the 120 seats) they did not receive any of the 40 compensatory seats—all of these seats were allocated to opposition parties according to the percent of votes they received.

If none of that was interesting to you that is okay. This part may be interesting. In the May 26 2012 elections, the leading party failed to get a majority of the seats of parliament (coincidentally, they received just over half (41) of the constituencies, which would have been a majority under the old FPTP electoral system). The party that received the second most number of seats agreed with the third and fourth largest parties to form a coalition. Together this coalition numbers over 61, thus allowing them to be in power in government. These three parties met together to agree on the terms of their coalition, and finished their plans late Tuesday night.

As soon as the announcement came over the radio, there was cheering throughout Maseru. After 15 years of rule by the old majority party, there is new leadership. The leader of the All Basotho Convention Party (ABC) had widespread support throughout the capitol, and the people were glad to hear the announcement—especially since they were discouraged when the opposition party again received the majority of the constituencies. The MMP system is pretty neat because it gives a more accurate representation of the will of the people. Though the party in power received over 50% of the constituencies, it did not receive over 50% of the vote, so the compensatory seats were allocated to the opposition parties.

It turns out the new Prime Minister, the leader of ABC, lives less than a kilometre from the house where I live. He lives in a simple cinderblock house with maybe four or five rooms. I was just getting into bed when I heard the cheering, so instead of going to bed I turned on the TV. We were all so excited to see what was going on, but the only Lesotho TV station, which is state controlled (therefore in the control of the party that just lost), had nothing to say about the elections. Instead they were showing something about sheep shearing. It was so funny to me that there could be a sheep shearing show playing while history was being made in the country. The cheering outside my house was so loud and intense. People were screaming, dogs were barking, cars were honking their horns, people were blowing whistles and vuvuzelas. It was nuts! Mme Moorosi suggested we go to Thomas Thabane’s house (the leader of ABC). Ntate didn’t want to go, so the two of us went. Somehow over 2,000 people gathered at Thabane’s house. Without any public announcement and despite the late hour, people came from all around. Most of them had to walk as the taxis were no longer running (and most people don’t have cars). It was an incredible sight. In the darkness the people were singing, dancing, and playing their vuvuzelas. I got to record some of the dancing and singing on my phone. I also saw many people I knew there. It was like everyone in the surrounding three villages had come together to be at Thabane’s place without any prior planning or announcement.

Wednesday I was back at work at Itjareng. It continues to surprise me how the school is both well off, and also so financially destitute. For example, the carpentry department, where I spent the day on Wednesday, has a brand new air compressor. After their old one broke, they got a larger one to replace it. The larger one requires a new electrical hookup, which has yet to be acquired. After more than a year of having this nice new compressor, the carpentry department has been unable to use it. It is now covered in dust and looks very old.

On Thursday I accompanied six-year-old Katleho to school. It was a very fun day. She attends the National University of Lesotho International School. The school has grades 1-12, with just one classroom for each grade. Katleho is in grade 1. I rode the bus with her to school (the craziest, most packed, loudest bus I have ever been on) and started the day in her classroom. When the bell rang we went inside, hung up our school bags, and sat on the floor and waited for the teacher. When she walked in everyone said good morning to her in unison. We proceeded to start with a song and prayer, after which the teacher had each student introduce themselves to me. (The idea of prayer in the classroom is found consistently throughout every school in Lesotho. To my knowledge it is also practiced throughout South Africa). While the children started their coursework, I helped grade some papers. Then one of the administrators came by the classroom to welcome me. You would have thought I was an important foreign dignitary by the way I was treated. I was introduced to each teacher and staff member and given a tour of each classroom. The younger students all wanted to show off their coloring and writing assignments, while others performed songs for me.

At recess I went out with the kids to play. The primary school is separated from the high school in playing area, so I played with Katleho and the other young kids. They had a swing set where a few kids were playing, and I thought I would push one of them higher than he was getting on his own. He loved it. Soon the whole playground was in line to be pushed on the swing by the white guy. I pushed each of them only three times because the line was so long. They all wanted to go very high, so I pushed as hard as I could, sending them high enough that they would have a bit of a jolt at the end of each swing. I then slowed them and held the swing while one got off and the other got on. Overall they were very orderly and well behaved. They were also very tiring. At least after pushing over 50 kids I was tired… I was sweating more than I usually do after my morning workouts!

On Friday I worked in the kitchen with Mme Thulo. I chopped potatoes and spinach and helped prepare the lunch—fish and samp. I enjoyed working with her and I even got to ring the bell for everyone to come and eat.

Around 3 o’clock my friend Jordan Roper came to visit. We served together as missionaries in Johannesburg in 2008. He has been here since April with the BYU Young Ambassadors doing a performance tour. Since he finished he has been touring Africa with one of his friends from the group. We talked for some time, and I told him all about my internship. We then shared some food together, and I ate my first PB and J sandwich since elementary school.

As they were preparing to leave, they found that the battery in the rental car was dead. Unfortunately, no one around had a car, and not surprisingly, no one had jumper cables either. Eventually the missionaries came by, but they also had no cables. Eventually we had to remove the Elders’ battery and put it in Jordan’s car to start it. It was an adventure.

This next week will be fun. I am teaching a class on personal finance to all of the staff at the school. I have prepared a sample budget on Excel. Excel is so easy to use for budgeting, but the largest difficulty will be to teach the staff to use the computers to be able to do the budgeting. Still I think that it is better than teaching them on paper. The files will stay saved on the computer and are easily adjustable for each month.

Sala le Molimo,