We have been at site for five weeks now, and we are getting settled in to life and work in Qacha’s Nek. We have our house set up and it is starting to resemble a home rather than a temporary habitation. It is nice to finally be able to settle down and really unpack.
We work pretty regular hours- from 8:00 AM to 2:30 – 4:30, depending on the day’s activities. Our work is pretty varied. A lot of our time thus far has been spent meeting people in the community and attending workshops and meetings for our organization.
Much of my work also involves organizing the logistics needed to make the organization more efficient, such as setting up a schedule for transportation usage, and organizing materials and assisting with the technology they are already using.
Brandi spends a significant amount of time organizing materials for the Youth Resource Center, as well as meeting with supporting community members like the school principles to discuss how we can assist them and they can assist us.
We spent much of the previous two weeks budgeting as well. Our organization receives their funding for the fourth quarter next month, and we had to research and draft detailed purchasing plans to have our funding approved.
Life in our village is a little different than at home. After struggling with a problematic generator for weeks, they finally connected the permanent power lines a couple weeks ago. Having electricity all the time is a huge blessing. Water, on the other hand, is still problematic. We get it at night- sometimes. Maybe once a week in our house, though the compound gets it more frequently. Getting water in the house is a major cause for celebration. We can (slowly) fill up our four water buckets, and washing dishes becomes a thousand times easier. The first time we got enough water for the sink to work, I did all the dishes with a giant grin on my face. Go hug your dishwasher. Hug it right now. If we don’t have running water (the majority of the time, in other words), we go down to the compound buckets and fill them by hand, then haul them back. It isn’t far, fortunately, but the buckets get very heavy. For the record, just flushing a toilet, washing dishes, and drinking, two people go through about 40-80 liters of water a day. Ask me how I know.
We cook mostly everything we eat ourselves, from scratch. If we want Mexican food (assuming we have much-coveted refried beans from Maseru), Brandi makes tortillas from scratch, guacamole from scratch (also requiring precious, rare, and easily-spoiled avocados), and I cook bone-in chicken (all that is available) and then de-bone it afterwards for burritos. All dishes are similarly difficult. We are getting to be accomplished cooks.
There are three exceptions. If the field staff is here, the compound matron cooks everybody a huge Basotho lunch, usually with a starch such as rice, samp (think creamed corn), or papa (a stiff corn meal…thing), a couple vegetables such as steamed or fried greens, peas, pumpkin, or beet root, and chicken. It is awesome. On Saturdays, we sometimes go down to the road to our favorite food trailer. This is literally a tiny inoperable trailer that is converted to function as a miniature restaurant. She also makes Basotho food- usually papa, meroho (steamed greens), and chicken (during the week) or pork (pig’s ear, to be specific, which is remarkably bacon-like, served on Saturdays). She also makes incredible fries (chips here) that are rarely available.
Our final option is to venture in to Qacha’s Nek camp town, as we did last Friday. Qacha’s Nek is about 45 minutes away by private car. On Friday, we took public as nobody was headed that way by private. Taking public means you walk down to the road and catch one of the handful of “combis” clustered along the road. A combi is a small bus made to seat around 15 people. They actually usually carry closer to 20, sometimes more. Combis don’t leave until they are full, which means if you are the first person there, you might wait a long time. Fortunately, shortly after we arrived at the road, a partly full combi roared up and quickly filled with people who had been waiting with other combis. Even more fortunately, we were able to score the coveted seats in the front row next to the driver. The combi was beat to hell, and it was a probably only through creative engineering and repair and a series of miracles that the thing moved at all. This worked in our favor though, as the front seat backs were broken, making them similar to recliners. We are talking luxury of the highest order.
So we jumped in and the driver reached across, tied the door shut using a hole in the tape covering the void the window had once occupied and the grab handle, and we roared off. Hills ground the combi to a crawl, but through expedient (and exhilarating, or terrifying, depending on your individual capacity for risking violent death by combi wreck) use of the downhill slopes, we were able to make incredible time.
Living in a more developed village as we do, Qacha’s Nek holds little draw. The shopping isn’t any better than our own village. There are two things that hold our attention, though. The first is our P.O. box. The second is pizza.
Through the direction of other volunteers and ambiguous pointing from the locals, we tracked down Quick Serve, a restaurant with absolutely no sign or identification of any sort. This does not however, cut down on its popularity. I have no idea why, or how it came to be, but Italian food is very popular in Lesotho. Thus, Quick Serve makes a fine pizza. After a completely worthwhile hour wait, we got two incredible pizzas with olives, onions, green peppers, and shredded chicken, as well as Quick Serve’s staple item, french fries. It was one of the better meals I have had since arriving.
We were less fortunate on the combi ride back. We had to wait about an hour and a half for the combi to fill, followed by another hour and a half to make it home. We spent this time crammed, four abreast, in the back row, our packs jammed on to our laps and our knees in the seatbacks in front of us. This is more standard fare for riding public, and clarifies why, when disclosed to one of our coworkers that we had taken public to get in to town, her response was an astounded “Why?!”. All in all, not bad though.