Friday, May 23, 2014

Death and Resurection

This is an entry that I wrote while I was still in southern Africa...

I will be leaving Africa on April 17 (which happens to be Good Friday).  I will arrive in North American April 18.  Although I won't be waiting in the air for 3 days I can't help but think of my upcoming journey in terms of death and new life.  I have been on this continent since 2011, I have lived here for almost 3 years, which is the longest I've ever been somewhere that isn't my hometown.

Home #1 (Lesotho)

Home #2 (Lesotho)

Home #3 (Lesotho)

Home #4 (South Africa)

I have met friends, I have made family, I've worked & played, adventured and experienced the rhythms of everyday life.  Living in southern Africa has given me some of the biggest highs & biggest lows.  I've often said it's my emotional roller coaster.  I've invented my love and my life (to quote Mumford & Sons).  To leave here I will be leaving part of myself.  Leaving will include a kind of dying.

In April 2011 I graduated from university and left the life I knew with my parents in the town I grew up in.  Now I'll be returning to the province I grew up in.  But I have changed and so has the place and the people I left.

April 2011

May 2014

So it will be a kind of new life that I will be starting.  A birth of something new.  Just like the new green leaves unfurling in the the spring, we know what form they had last year, but we never know exactly what they will look like now, until they arrive.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Community, Police Officers and the Lesotho Justice System

Part 3- The Lesotho Justice System

As of November 2013 I no longer reside in Lesotho.  I have relocated to Pietermaritzburg South Africa.  The Lesotho justice system was plugging along slowly and we had almost reached another potential court date (only a year after the break-in).  However, now that I have left I have not heard of any further progress.  Sadly the general feeling is that the court systems are not very effective and do not bring very much justice to the land.  For my community in Maphutseng this feeling has been exasperated by the fact that there are now “regular” break-ins to the offices.  This started in September and it has continued up until now.  This has never been a problem before so it is disconcerting to have so much theft and disrespect for our project now.  On top of these problems there continues to be less rain then expected at this time of year after a winter of drought.  There was rain at the end of the year so people were able to plant, but now things are drying out again.  Crops, animals,  and eventually people will all be affected by a lack of rain.  

 I’m sorry to paint such a bleak picture of Maphutseng right now, especially if you have never been there to see all the beautiful parts yourself.  If you were there you would see maize plants that were growing as tall as you.  You would greet people every day that would be happy to laugh and joke with you.  You would enjoy beautiful summer sunsets with purple mountains.  So here you have the two sides of the place that I miss.  The hardship along side the beauty.  I encourage you to live in the tensions that this world presents us.  And if your thoughts turn toward Maphutseng after this they will appreciate all the prayers you give for them.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Community, Police Officers and the Lesotho Justice System

Part 2-Police Officers

The nearest police station is in Mohale’s Hoek which is about an hours drive from my house.  We have driven there three days in a row this week to visit the Lesotho Mounted Police.  On Monday when we first arrived to give our statements it was the second time I have ever been in the Police station.  There are so many ways that the experience was different than anything you would ever experience in North America that I will not even try to explain it.  I will say that I was thankful that every time I had to go there I was with a large group of friends and co-workers because understanding a legal system in a different country and a language you are still learning is very difficult and frustrating.  We arrived at the police station sometime mid afternoon and by time they came back to my house, to inspect the scene of the crime is was dark and raining.  It was getting late and it seemed like no one was in the best mood.  However, when I arrived at the police station the next morning I learnt that the police went to the suspects house latter on Monday evening.  I was greeted by the lovely surprise of seeing my computer again and other items that had been taken.  Not everything had been found so we went to the suspects house with the police.  The suspect willingly started pulling things out of his house that he had stolen. It was not just my things.  There were chairs and bins and books, enough things to fill the back of a pick up truck. These things had been taken from the project where I work, the school and my house before I lived there.  This was an issue that was far bigger than me. My case was just the straw that broke the camels back.  During the rest of that day and the day after there were a lot of form and long conversations with the police officers in charge of our case.  They helped me to recover almost everything that was taken.  The man who took my things had been troubling our community for along time. Although it has been a difficult week I am glad that this man will not be causing strife in our community anymore. I hope that the process that is started can bring healing to everyone over these issues, including the man who has been stealing.  However, my main topic for this blog was meant to be the police officers.  My attitude towards them is a place where I have been humbled this week.  When we first went to them on Monday they did not seem to be very helpful, they seemed slow and inefficient and not very understanding.  But as the week has gone along, as I have become a little calmer and less upset, I have seen how they are working as best as they can to help.  They have been trying to do everything they can for me, while still following the system that is in place in this country.  And today truly showed that they are working hard and they are helping. Today is Good Friday and they drove out here to get a further statement from me instead of making me come back into town.  They also took the time to ask if I was feeling safe in my house again.  I guess humility is a good lesson to be learning on Good Friday, I just never expected to be learning it this way. (Wait for part 3 to see the conclusion of the story)   

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Community, Police Officers and the Lesotho Legal System

Part 1-Community

I was exhausted, I felt like crying and it was only 11am on Monday. I slowly continued to climb the last incline to get to my house when I saw people gathered outside my house. Not just a couple of people, it looked like all my neighbours were there, at least 15 people.  I had arrived home late on Sunday night after a weekend away in Maseru to discover that my house house had been broken into and my computer, camera and a lot of other things were missing.  During the morning devotion the next day I told everyone what had happened and I found out what the proper way to handle this is in Lesotho. We first had to go report to the chief and then we could go to the police officers.  By 11am on Monday the visit to the chief was done and I wasn’t quite sure what would come next.  When I got home and sat down with all my neighbours I realized that they were not just talking about the break-in they were holding an informal to court to determine if there was enough evidence against the man they suspected to enter his house and look for the stolen property. Everyone had come to share what they knew and to listen to others. Every nkhono (grandmother) around was sitting on my lawn and different witnesses were coming to report.  When I had arrived at my house so during the proceedings I went to take a nap.  I woke up to hear people shouting and making quite a commotion near my house. I had no idea what was going on. When I stepped outside I was quickly called over to a neighbouring house. I walked through all the people and went up to look in the open window. There was a my suitcase and sleeping bag. While I was sleeping the chief had arrived and allowed people to enter the house to look for stolen items.  During the proceedings I realized that I knew the man they suspected but I had no idea he was a close neighbour.  It turns out that he even had supper with the my land lady who lives in a house right beside mine. But I am digressing. I looked around at the people who had come to the house, some of them were the same one’s that had gathered outside my place but now there were teachers from the local primary school that had joined them as well.  The people from the community continued to stand outside the house all afternoon and into the evening when we returned with the police officers.  They stood there through the rain guarding the house and what was inside, waiting anxiously to find out what would happen.  When I had left my house Sunday night after discovering the robbery I felt unsafe, unsure if I wanted to return to living in that house alone.  When I went up to my house Monday morning I felt so supported and cared for by the community that I realized I am not really living alone.  Everyone around knows what is happening, all the bo nkhono and bo ntate moholo (grandmothers and grandfathers) care what happens at my house. It is their community, it is there reputation as my neighbours and they want me to feel safe and welcome.  Throughout this whole week I have been reminded that I am not in this alone. On Tuesday night we had a community meeting to decide how we should proceed with pressing charges. At that meeting I was reminded that it is not just the Basotho community that support me, but also all the other expatriates that work with me as well.  Every day people have been stopping by my house and stopping me as I walk to see how I am doing and to talk with me.  I am happy to be living back in my house. I am happy to be living in the village. I am happy that this incident has brought something good for my community through all the difficulty. (See the next blog post for the continued story)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Things Old and New

Today is the first day of 2013. It is the start of the first year of my life I will spend entirely on the African Continent. It is the start of something new. Today is also January 1st. It is a day I have experienced over 20 times in my life so today is also something old. Since I have returned to Lesotho I have experience new things and old things, things that remind me of my last year here, things that remind me of my Canadian home and things  that are completely new to me.

The Basotho community that I live in is a wonderful place where I am reminded of my last year and of my Canadian home. The church in our community is one place in particular that I have had many beautiful experiences and moments of feeling part of a community.  On Christmas Day we have a church service that starts sometime in the morning.  This year it rained Christmas morning so our service started even latter than usual, but this year I knew that rain meant church would start late. I was not surprised when I arrived a house at the time the service was supposed to begin and they were in the process of washing the communion dishes.  I arrived at church latter than some but earlier than others because I now know something of the rhythm of this community.  I found I enjoyed the service a lot more this year than last year. I am familiar with the liturgy, I know some of the songs, I understand what is happening.  This is a community I feel comfortable in, I am in the process of knowing and being known by a group of people and whenever I think about this it makes me smile.  The part of the service that made me feel the most connected was when we took communion.  We stood up in a large circle together.  Two elders served communion to us. One of them was my neighbour. As I looked around the circle I knew people. It was such a beautiful reminder to me that the Church is not limited to one place and my family is not limited to one group of people. Wherever I go and take part in a community there I can find the Church and there I can find family.  It was an experience of feeling connected and welcomed. It reminded me of the first sunday I was back in Maphutseng.  I was called to the front to greet everyone and so they could see that I was back. While I was standing at the front they started to sign a song for me. Then a few people started to stand up, walk by, and shake my hand.  And then everyone was standing up and making a line. Everyone from the small children to the old grandmothers walked by to greet me. I felt so welcomed, so wanted in the community, so connected, it was beautiful.

A greeting line after church
An experience that I have had that is completely new to me is moving into my own house. I have a 3 room house all to myself. I have been in the house less than I month but I am working on making it my own.  My landlady is my neighbour. We share the same property so she always knows what I am doing and I always know where she is going. In the picture my house is the large L shaped one and hers is the small rectangular one.  I have never lived all on my own before so I have been enjoying the new luxuries of moving furniture wherever I like, eating whenever and whatever I like and having a house to myself. There is a plateau right behind my house and I have decided to take a picture from the top once a month and watch how the village bellow me changes over the seasons. This is the first picture.

My house in the valley

And the last thing I wanted to share is something old that I miss that has been replaced by something new.  Each year our family has a tradition of making new years cookies, fried dough with raisins coated in icing sugar. This morning I was thinking about how I missed new years cookies when I looked at my counter and realized that I had makoenya left over. They are also called ‘fat cakes’ and they are deep fried dough that is sold in all the towns, wherever the mini buses stop.  They are not quite the same but they are very similar. So today I will continue old traditions in a new way and eat some fat cakes for lunch. Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Planting Season

I have been back in Lesotho for almost a month now. It has felt like a whirlwind of farm activity, moving around and meeting people again. I think I will describe to you all the different ways my life has been crazy and full in the last month.

The first and biggest one is my job (aka farming). It started with putting in some new plots on my first full day here and has continued on to putting out fertilizer in a research field until 7pm last night. I arrived in the middle of the planting season, which explains some of the craziness. All the maize (corn) is supposed to be in by Nov. 25 but we always wait on the rain. On Nov. 24 we got a really good rain so we have been busy ever since.  Last week some professors from the University of Tennessee arrived to plant the research fields and put out tests.  Part of my new job is helping them and overseeing the research fields while they are away. It has been fun to learn some new things and hear what the plans are for our fields. But it has been tiring trying to keep up with all the new things.

The new plots we put in 
There is a group of short term volunteers here and a group of Basotho young adults (the residents) that are learning about conversation agriculture farming and living at the project for a couple of weeks at a time.  So needless to say, the housing at the project is very full. As I have been reminded since I returned the norm in this place is people coming and going; some expected, some unexpected. And I have not been disappointed.  In the last month over 15 people have arrived and over 20 have left. I am still waiting for housing to be built before I can move into my permanent residence so I have been moving around on the project property as rooms become available.

I have also got to see all my old friends and family! That has been a wonderful, welcoming, love filled time. On the first sunday I was back in church I was called to the front. I had forgotten that this would probably happen, so I was a little surprised when they started singing a song for me. And then everyone stood up and walked past to shake my hand. It was such a beautiful welcome. It made me feel wanted and that is a great feeling.

I arrived during a very busy season at Growing Nations, but it has been a fun, exciting return. Every day holds something interesting and new and I have been welcomed so warmly and so kindly that in a way it is does feel like coming home.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Heading ‘home’ again

Tomorrow I head back to Lesotho to start a 2 year term with at Growing Nations (GNT) with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC)*.  I have slept in many different beds and been through many transitions since I left Lesotho just over 4 months ago. Mostly I have in Canada visiting friends and family, but most recently I returned to the US and then South Africa (SA) to do an MCC orientation. 

During my last time in Lesotho my I have often used the word ‘home’, but it was not always to refer to the same place. When I talked with new people about where I was from, what I ded at home, ect. I would use the word home to refer to my home community in Canada or the broader Canadian culture.  As I spent more time in Lesotho I started to refer to the place that I lived with my ‘host’ family as ‘home’, especially when I was visiting in SA and talking about life in Lesotho. Over time my ‘host’ family ceased to be my host family and just became my family. And the people I lived with simply became my mother and sisters and brothers.

When I flew to SA 2 weeks ago I watched Madagascar 3. I watched it because it had been quoted a lot by one of my fellow SALTers but there was one scene that stood out to me about ‘home’. #Spoiler alert# There are 4 zoo animals that got out of the zoo that have been having adventures throughout the world. They have been trying to get ‘home’ for a long time. When they finally make it back to the zoo they stand outside the gates and reflect on how much smaller everything looks and how tall the fences are that separate them from each other.  They then decide to go back and join the new friends they have made rather than go back to what they thought was their home.  It made me think about how my perceptions of where home is has changed. I still consider Canada home, I still love seeing my family and friends there, but I can no longer ‘see’ it exactly the same. I am realizing that it is not the only place that I consider ‘home’ any more. 

When I arrived in SA I stayed at the MCC headquarters. It is a place I had often stayed before and I felt ‘at home’ there.  As I started to meet old friends again it started to feel more like ‘home’.  For a long time I have been looking forward to seeing my Basotho family again.  As I have been thinking about going back to Lesotho, in a way, it feels like I am preparing to go ‘home’.  I will still miss my Canadian family and I will still miss my Canadian ‘home’.  But the Mumford and Sons song lyrics ‘where you invest your love, you invest your life’ have been echoing in my head.  And I would say that I have invested my love in Lesotho and now part of my life, part of where I consider home, is also Lesotho. 

*See profile for explanation