My second day in Maseru, Lesotho has just begun and I finally found a bit of time for a post. So far, I love every second of my stay here in Southern Africa and I haven’t come to regret my decision to come here ;-).
The last two days were rather busy:
On the 8th of October, my boyfriend and I left Bremen at 1pm to go to the airport in Hamburg. There I met another volunteer, P., who I had already met at the preparation seminar and who would also work for a project in Lesotho. After painful goodbyes from our close ones, we boarded the plane to London Heathrow. From there we took a flight to Johannesburg. The flight wasn’t as long and boring as I expected and we managed to entertain ourselves and each other by talking, sleeping, reading and watching TV so time almost flew by. It would have been even more enjoyable had it not been for the unfriendly woman next to us who made a face every time I went to the toilet (twice) and she had to get up. We arrived in Johannesburg at 9 am and our next flight to Bloemfontein departed 2.5 hours later – plenty of time, we thought. Unfortunately though, P. and I lost each other at the airport and had to wait ages in the queue at the South African border as well as for our suitcases. Finally, though, we boarded our last flight south. We safely landed in Bloemfontein after a rather bumpy flight in a propeller-driven plane over dry, brown land and almost 24 hours after my journey began in Germany. In Bloemfontein, we were greeted by our colleagues from the projects. My colleague (M.) made me feel really welcome, waving the sign with my name on it, laughing and hugging me 😉 I quickly noticed that I was not at all appropriately dressed and had packed way too many warm clothes – it was unbelievably dry and hot! After doing some shopping and eating lunch, M. drove me to Maseru. We successfully crossed the Lesotho border and drove to the office. Over the next couple of months, I will be working for the ‘Commission for Social Concern: Justice and Peace’ or ‘Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace’ (CCJP), a local NGO doing development and good governance projects in Maseru. These projects usually last a couple of months and are financed by the EU or GIZ, the Lesotho Catholic Bishop’s Conference or other NGOs such as the Irish Trocaire, amongst other. It is located next to the cathedral in Maseru centre. As our flat where another German volunteer, L., and I will stay was not completely ready on Wednesday, I slept in a tidy, comfortable room with the Catholic sisters nearby (a very safe place according to one of my colleagues). Everyone was friendly and the only hurdle I noticed was that language-wise, my Sesotho was poor and apart from ‘Lumela’ (pronounced ‘Dumela’ and meaning ‘Hello’) and ‘Sala hantle’ (meaning ‘Goodbye’), I wasn’t able to say anything. In Maseru everyone speaks English (as opposed to in the country side). However, the locals only speak Sesotho with one another and people tend to be more open and friendly if you make a bit of an effort to speak it yourself 😉
Yesterday, I woke up to the crowing of a cock (could it be any more idyllic – I think not!), took a short cold shower and got ready for the day. I was collected by one of the managers of CCJP, M.*, and brought to the office at 8 am (I’ll officially start working on Monday). L. came around at 10 am and we went to the city centre for some sightseeing. While everyone told me Maseru was small, it still seems rather big to me and I am sure I would get lost easily on my own. The heat was unbearable and the streets crowded. The smell of barbecue accompanied us (and in some parts trash, which seems to lie around everywhere in Maseru) as people grill sausages and meat everywhere. What I noticed is that there are almost no white people on the streets and as a result, everyone curiously looks or openly stares at you, greets you or starts talking to you while children say hello, smile or wave (the Sesotho word for white person is ‘lekhooa’ [white people = ‘makhooa’]). People are generally really friendly and talk to you for as long as you greet them beforehand (L. told me that it is better to greet people in shops or on the street when they look at you as they tend to ignore you when you need help but didn’t greet them beforehand. Another safety rule I need to remember). Basotho (the citizens of Lesotho) seem to be really sociable but also very polite compared to Europeans. In a bank for instance I asked for help but apparently didn’t thank the teller quick enough (or maybe it was because I didn’t ask him how he was doing beforehand – something I will always do from now on) so he bluntly told me ‘now you have to thank me’ – I was speechless. I also went to a small supermarket where two young girls started talking to me and asked where I was from, after which they told me Germans had good perfume (a funny cliché I had never heard about before… I couldn’t even think of one German perfume brand) and asked me if I was selling any ;-). L. and I spent a couple of hours walking around the market and inside Pioneer mall, looking for a bed for me and a fridge for our new flat. Later, M. negotiated a good price for the bed and fridge and we brought them to the new house. We are renting a small house in Maseru East with two bedrooms, a living room, kitchen and bathroom. There, we’ll live just next to our landlord (a Mosotho – singular form of Basotho – chief or ‘morena’). Here, it seems to be normal that you help one another. We had three great helpers appearing out of nowhere to help us carry the mattress, bed and fridge into the house (in contrast to South Africans, they don’t literally grab your stuff without waiting for a reply, carry it two metres and then expect you to pay them – I was vividly reminded of this at Johannesburg airport). We thanked them ten times and then accompanied M. to run some errands where I also got to see a bit more of Maseru. Later, M.* drove me back to the sisters, where, after a little chat with one of them about – who would have guessed – communism, during which she also reminded me of the fact that Maseru was ‘really dangerous’ (made me sleep less deep than the night before ;-)) and some time spent reading up on Sesotho, I went to bed.
Today, we moved all my things to the new place and went shopping. As I don’t have any sunscreen yet and seem to be the only one not carrying an umbrella to shield myself from the sun, I got sunburned quite badly. For tomorrow, I don’t have any plans yet but the people from my project told me that there was a party planned so I am looking forward to meeting a few more people.
[I omitted the names of the people mentioned in this post to respect their privacy – M. and M.* are two different people ;-)]
Here come a couple of photos: