Two and a half weeks after my arrival in Lesotho and two weeks (so long) after my last post, I finally found the time to write another one. It would be difficult to sum up the last two weeks in a couple of sentences, especially as I probably wouldn’t even remember all that had happened (A couple of days back I wrote down the name of a road in Maseru so I’d be able to remember it and tell the taxi driver where I had to go. Yesterday, I was in that same road but I couldn’t and still can’t remember what I had done there a few days earlier – I am getting old!), so I won’t even try ;-).
I will however try to roughly summarise what has happened and particularly focus on the last three days as they were awesome (and they are the ones I can remember the most – Thank you, short-term memory!).
I am still beyond happy that I came here and would even go as far as saying that I wouldn’t mind staying here and find a job after the six months at CCJP are over. I have really nice colleagues and I get along great with them, met some cool people, I like my house, my neighbours etc.. The last part is something I really need to emphasise. I think in the last five years at university (or should I say universities!) and in the multiple flats and houses I lived around Europe, I never knew my neighbours and they didn’t know me. We probably couldn’t have cared less about one another’s existence – unless I or they were too loud doing whatever. To be honest I didn’t even know my neighbours or their names when I still lived my parents (we moved to the place they still live in when I was ten years old so I lived a solid nine years in there before moving out). Now after a little more than two weeks in my house, I already know my closest neighbours, I know their faces, we greet each other and they know my name (I wish I could say I know all their names but I am still not good with Sesotho names, their pronunciation etc.). I talked about this with a Mosotho guy here and he told me that people just care a lot more about what people around them are doing, how they are and so on and I already find that really admirable. I guess this is even more so in the countryside where people actually know one another. It is however already quite interesting to see this in a capital. Even their language hints to the closeness of the people here as people generally call one another ‘M’e (Mother), Ntate (Father), Ausi (Sister) or Abuti (Brother). They also do it to me and on the street I am either someone’s sister or mother 😉 So I didn’t think I’d say this just after two weeks but I already feel quite at home here. Also, I can say that safety is an issue but not as much as everyone made me believe it is before coming here – Lesotho is much safer than South Africa! Of course it’s not always sunshine here (literally so, it rained the other day and the rain leaked quite badly into our house [see photo]) but overall I am quite happy being where I currently am.
So after this general update on my stay here, I’ll try to be more precise and actually talk about what I have been doing these past two weeks (as much as I can remember) and then post the obligatory photos (not as many as I had hoped to post). The last two weeks were relatively calm. We didn’t manage to travel and stayed in Maseru for the whole of the last two weeks. From Monday to Friday, I worked (generally from 8 to 5) and all in all I cannot complain much about my work. I’d prefer if I had a liiiiittle more to do but after talking to my boss and telling him that I could deal with more workload, he said he had a lot to do for me this week, so I am hoping that’ll improve as well. CCJP currently has a couple of running projects. The first one focuses on working with community based organisations in Lesotho to strengthen their capacity to engage with the local government. This is to promote democracy and decentralisation and is financed by the EU. The second one is for early childhood development – don’t know much more about this project, to be honest as I have not specifically worked on it. The third one is a programme where they focus on liaising with the Parliament to follow their current debates, give input as well as updates on the radio for the general public. The last one is a short one playing out at the end of November. Specifically, CCJP organises events for this year’s “16 days of activities against gender-based violence”. I am currently assisting with this project, researching, writing the proposal, proofreading, meeting stakeholders etc.. However, one highlight of my work so far was a meeting I was able to attend organised by UNICEF in the UN House in Maseru. There, UNICEF invited civil society organisations and government officials for input about how the rate of birth registrations in Lesotho could be increased (currently only about 43% of children under the age of five are registered*) as people miss out on a lot of rights such as child support grants or free health care if they don’t register their child’s birth. It was really interesting to see how international organisations engage with stakeholders as this was more or less the topic of my final dissertation at university.
* More on this topic see http://www.unicef.org/esaro/5480_birth_registration.html
As opposed to work last week, this weekend was rather busy. On Fridays we usually work until 1 in the afternoon. As a result, I spent my afternoon going shopping with my colleague (bought new shoes and comfortable ones for a change). In the evening, I went to a bar with a colleague and then to see some live music with some people from the Lesotho foreign ministry. First night out with Basotho people only and first time I took a taxi there on my own (the safe ones, don’t worry family!). Saturday morning (surprised I made it out of bed in time), I met up with an Australian volunteer to buy some Seshoeshoe (traditional fabric) so I can get a dress made by a woman at my work. Loved the place where we bought the fabric (see photo). In the afternoon, I met up with a friend and in the evening two of the German volunteers came to Maseru to stay at our place for the night. We went to the mall to buy some groceries (first time I experienced a black-out and complete darkness in a supermarket for about ten minutes) and spent the evening drinking Maluti and eating sausages. Sunday morning I went to church (yes, that’s right, I do that because church here is so much better than at home ;-)) and then I got invited to a braai ( afrikaans for “barbecue” – apparently you can also use it as verb and say “to braai meat”), where I stayed quite a long time and then walked home.
All in all, good times! At a preparatory seminar for Lesotho, we were told that when you go to a foreign country, you experience several phases: the exciting phase, where everything is new and great. However, this phase supposedly wears off after a while and if you’re unlucky, you’re going to experience a phase of “escalations”, where you get homesick and everything is just too much and too different for you to handle. Eventually, if you manage to make it through that phase and haven’t quit by then, you will get better. So far, I haven’t experienced any escalation phases and I hope it’ll stay that way.
Enough with the talk, here come some photos of Maseru. Unfortunately, I took most of them with my phone but I hope you’ll still enjoy them.