Saturday, July 7, 2012

Blankets, Work, and Funerals

Just after I left the internet shop on Saturday, I realized that I had failed to write about one of the most interesting days of my week. On Thursday I wore my Lesotho blanket to town. If you aren't familiar with the Basotho blanket you can google it or check some google images here. I also have a poor quality picture that someone took for me. Sorry that it is blurry!

All day people were commenting on my blanket. Of course it is not usual to even see a white person, let alone see a white person wearing the traditional blanket. Nevertheless, I have worn my blanket to town before and received very little response. Thursday was different. People were stopping me to talk to me, girls were flirting with me, and people were shouting at me from across the street to get my attention. I felt like a celebrity, and it was a strange feeling.

At one point I went to the Vodacom (cell phone) store. I had been there for a few minutes when suddenly everyone started laughing. I followed the collective gaze of those around me and saw a naked man walking down the street. Here I was on Kingsway Road in the Central Business District of Maseru, the capital city of Lesotho, and a man was just walking down the street completely naked, as if nothing were out of the ordinary. I don't know why the man forgot his clothes at home, but he seemed quite content to walk around in public (and in the cold!) completely naked. Kind of strange.

I imagine that there were quite a few people in town who went home that day with a crazy story to tell their wives and children--"Guess what I saw in town today? A naked man walking down the street and a white man wearing a Lesotho blanket!" I'm not sure which will be more surprising to hear.

I didn't get the opportunity to go horseback riding last Saturday. The ride out to Malealea was long, and the road full of potholes. We really didn't have time. Plus it is expensive, so I didn't complain. The wedding reception was cool. They had a big tent set up and a large church choir sang. They sounded very good! The reception coincided with the groom's parent's 40th anniversary, which is very rare here.

At one point they asked for gifts to be given to the parents. Mme Moorosi had forgotten to bring anything, so she decided to give some money. She had already gone up to give it to them when they announced that all those giving presents should also say a few words to the couple. Mme didn't know what to say, and so she made a joke. She was holding her daughter Masekhoane, and she said to them, "I know that this family has two sons, but they only have one daughter. I have brought this girl as my gift to them so that their family can be well balanced." Everyone laughed and Mme gave Khoane to the gentleman. Everyone enjoyed the joke. Luckily, he gave Khoane back to her mommy!

The new Prime Minister, Tom Thabane is doing some really interesting things. He has changed policies so that the government will purchase vehicles from Toyota instead of Mercedes. He has also made it impossible for government employees to purchase used government vehicles at a price under the market rate. Prior to this, government ministers have been keeping their government Mercedes for a small fraction of the cost.

Thabane has also stated that government employees do not need to be first class passengers on airplanes, and says that all government officials will fly economy.

Last week Thabane went to one of the ministries (I believe it was the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare) at 8 in the morning. When he didn't find the minister, he sat at her desk until she arrived (at 9:30!). When she came in her office, he shook his head, got up, and left without a word.

It will be interesting to see how Lesotho evolves under such a leader. Lesotho is also currently constructing a new dam in the highlands and a turbine system that will generate more than enough energy to power the entire country. Lesotho has sold water to South Africa for some time; soon they may be in a position to sell power as well.

At church we are planning for the Masianokeng Branch Open House. The new building we are meeting in has finally been completed, and we will be hosting an open house to introduce neighbors, pastors, and government leaders to learn more about our church and go on a tour of it. I have never done a church open house, but there is a very organized packet by the church describing how it should be organized. It is quite similar in form to a temple open house, just on a smaller scale. The open house will be a lot of work to plan, as we will create and send invitations, invite the media, and train church members to be tour guides. Each organization in the church will do a little presentation for those on the tour describing what is done in the Priestood (men's organization), Relief Society (women's organization, Primary, and Sunday School (to name a few).

At Itjareng I have been doing a lot of work. I have completed a design for new business cards for all of the employees, which will be printed soon. I created a new blog for itjareng, which can be found at, and we completed the 2013 budget. I also drafted a new contract for IVTC employees, and I am currently working on writing the Staff Rules and Regulations for the organization. It is a much bigger project than I first anticipated.

I hope I can finish all of the projects that I have started before I go. It is very cool to work with Itjareng, and have the trust and confidence of the Administrator and staff. I have proven by my work that I can give good advice and produce good work. As time has gone on, I have been given bigger assignments. I am also the editor of all of the documents created by the Administrator or the Extension Officer. Sometimes instead of editing, I am asked to write proposals and letters, which they review before sending. This week we heard back from the Maseru Sun Hotel. I wrote them a letter asking them if we could host a disability awareness dinner dance free of charge at their ballroom. They agreed, so we have formed a committee to plan and organize the event.

Mme Moorosi has been experiencing some dibilitating dizziness lately. She saw the doctor a few times, but this time they referred her to a specialist. They found that she has an ear infection, and something about the fluids in her ears may be affecting her sense of balance and creating the dizziness. She is on sick leave for a week and has been taking medication. Not surprisingly, she isn't sitting around--the sick leave is like a vacation to her. Maybe the medicine has made her feel well enough that she can go out and about.

Today the Moorosi's are at a funeral for a family member in Maseru. He was in a prominent position in government, so it is a large event with hundreds of people coming that need to be fed. The funerals here are big social events. In Basotho culture you are expected to go to the funeral of anyone from your village and anyone that you are related to.

With Lesotho's prevalence of HIV/AIDS and with one of the lowest life expectancies in the world. Here is Wikipedia's list of life expectancy by country. Lesotho is 190th out of 194 countries. The world's life expectancy is 67.2, while Lesotho's is 42.6 (according to the UN's list. The CIA World Factbook lists Lesotho 188th out of 191 with a life expectancy of 40.38). Lesotho also has the distinction of being one of four countries in the world where men live longer than women on average. The other exceptions are Zimbabwe, Swaziland, and Afghanistan.

All of this results in a lot of funerals. And it is a big deal. You have to attend the funerals or you can displease the chief and be shunned by your neighbors. There is also a belief that if you don't go to others' funerals no one will come to yours. I don't understand the logic of it, as I don't plan to be in attendance at my funeral!

I had the opportunity to go to a pitso (public assembly) in Ha Matala (the village where I live) on Sunday. The whole meeting was in Sesotho, so I had a very limited understanding of the discussion. Afterwards I talked to Ntate Moorosi about it and he was able to fill me in. A lot of the discussion revolved around a bereavement fund for the family of persons who pass away in the village. Everyone puts in M10.00 ($1.18, but it is worth more than that amount would be to us) and the money goes to the family. I think it is a good system. The whole meeting was pretty cool. Anyone could speak and all opinions were considered. I like the idea of living in a community where people know their neighbors and discuss local issues. The expectation of the culture is that everyone should come and be involved. An interesting culture.

I have a busy day ahead of me. I am going to prepare to sing (in Sesotho!) in church tomorrow. I am also going to help paint someone's house and help someone else with some computer work.

Life is good!

Sala le Molimo,

Thuso Moorosi

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