Mount Keketso

December 27th, 2012

Ramabanta was absolutely incredible.  Christmas was exactly what we needed since we were all away from our families.  The Rosenberg’s and “Santa” did a wonderful job making us feel like we were with our families.  My favorite experience up there was definitely climbing what we called Mount Keketso.  Luke, Travis, Chelsea, Vatalia, Aunt Leigh and myself climbed one of the mountain peaks off in the distance last Sunday. We decided to climb without a guide which actually turned out for the better.  There was a dirt “road” (more like a path) between the main road and the village at the bottom of the mountain so it was as fairly easy start.  Once we reached the village we met our “guide.”  There was a group of kids that talked to us as soon as we got to the village and we asked a couple of them the best way to head up the mountain.  Little did we know that a 12 year old boy would guide us all the way up the peak.  He turned out to be a blessing.  He took us up the “easiest” path and kept us away from the cattle herders and let us know where snakes were more prevalent.  The path up the mountain was not easy.  At some points I felt that I was climbing rather than hiking up the mountain.  Because of the elevation, we also had to make frequent stops for water and to get some air.  Once we made it to the top, three hours later, the views were breath taking.  We ate our lunch at the side of the mountain over looking three different waterfalls in the background.  This was where were able to really talk to our “guide” and get to know him more.  He told us that his name was Keketso and told us a little more about his life in the village.  Since we didn’t know the name of the peak we told Keketso we were naming the mountain after him because he was such a huge blessing to us.  The way down was MUCH easier than going up.

Climbing the mountain was the most rewarding thing I have ever done. Reaching the top I felt so relieved and so accomplished.  Once we came back we looked at the map and realized the peak we climbed was over 9,000ft up.  No wonder we had to stop so often! Knowing that only made it more rewarding!

Now I can’t wait to come home and take on other peaks in the US!

 

Shout out to all my family, Mom, Dad and Adam I love you and miss you all!!

Rachel

Belated Christmas Greeting!

December 27th, 2012

Hello all!! It has been a little while since we have blogged on here. Christmas up in the mountains in Ramabanta was still beautiful. All of us students were happily going along with Josh and Diane waiting for Santa to come on Christmas eve and were delighted and surprised to find that Santa had brought gifts for everyone, large and small. We all ended up with a stocking filled with candy and a few trinkets. While we were all feeling a little nostalgic for our homes and traditions, the Rosenbergs welcomed us all and made us feel like one big family.
One of Josh’s Christmas presents was a full sized football, versus the plastic smaller one he had been playing with. To celebrate that, about 20 of us, including Josh, Dr. Rosenberg, and Dwayne (one of our drivers) all joined in for a great game of touch football (except for Josh who wanted to be tackled). We finished out our night with a while elephant gift exchange which was full of laughs and a group of us went and caroled at the Rosenbergs door before they went to bed. The holiday spirit was felt throughout the entire group.
Today and yesterday, we were split up into two different groups. One going to a school to repair a playground and then working on a pigery while the other group went to a new preschool that needed a few repairs as well as an appearance change. When we first arrived at the “preschool”, first impression was that it was just a run down shack. It was a plain building, with a broken up floor, and barely enough space to contain a class of preschoolers.
Our task was the add a paint job to make it seem more like a preschool, put in windows and a door, put in a new floor, and add a veranda to the front of the school. Looking at it now, no one could possibly imagine what it looked like before. The windows look amazing as well as the floor, painting and the veranda. All we could comment was how much it looked like a preschool now. The transformation was a confirmation of why we are here. To see how we as a group could have such a profound impact on a community reaffirms for me why I am here.

Mom, Dad, Michael, Christian, Carly, friends and family– I am alive and well. Working hard, lots of satisfaction, and enjoying this beautiful country. Can’t wait to come home and celebrate Christmas with you and share my stories. I love and miss you all!!

-Kieran

The Sound Of Music

December 23rd, 2012

This morning, 8 of us (britt, ben, emily, maggie q, alyssa, mary ann, kali, our bus driver lee) made the ten minute walk to the local catholic church for the 11am service. As you could probably imagine, the 8 white college students in the back pew stuck out like sore thumbs, but the local Basotho were very welcoming and appreciated us attending. The entire service other than the second half of the sermon was in Sesotho, but we did not have to understand the language to appreciate the beautiful music/singing. A small Basotho girl named Gadubi (sp?) ended up sittng on britt’s lap and falling asleep once the service started. She then began snoring, which caused britt and i to begin laughing… Which caused a few awkward glances. I dont think any offenses were taken. The silliness ended when an older woman allowed the girl to sleep on her lap and left britt to have free hands. Although we didnt understand most of the service, we were all able to be brought together through sharing the peace. One woman went out of her way to walk to the back of the church to shake each of our hands and make us feel welcome. After the service, she came back to the trading post to specifically thank us and tell us how she appreciated our service. We had to leave early for lunch, but on the way back, as we scaled down a mountain, it felt like we were in the sound of music.
Britt and mary ann began to sing, “the hills are alive with the sound
of music…”

Benben & Brittbritt

Lightning trecking in a pony storm

December 23rd, 2012

Yesterday after a bit of a bumpy drive, we arrived at Ramabanta. The view from our back yard is filled with breathtaking mountains and water falls. After getting situated and having lunch, half of us had the opportunity to go pony trecking through the mountains and to see cave paintings that dated back two thousand and five hundred years.

For some, or one, Meghan White, this was the first experience being on a horse. Boy, what an experience it was! We all got to name our horses, such as Snow White, Cachita, Struggle Bus, World’s Greatest, Brown Beauty, Honey, and Isabelle. As we all sat on our horses waiting for the adventure to begin, it was apparent none of us had any idea what the day had in store.

We headed up the street to begin our way onto what seemed like the rockiest, skinniest, and most winding trail. There may have been a language barrier between man and beast that became rather obvious approximately ten minutes into the treck. Sweetly pleading with your horse to move forward had absolutely no effect other than making the local Basotho laugh at our attempts. After miraculously ending up in one place, we dismounted our houses and started a down hill hike to the cave which proved rather difficult. Travis did a tumble and roll not just once, but twice. No worries parents, he was okay! The situation was funny enough to draw tears from Jessica D’s eyes. Erin R and Meghan W, holding onto each other for what seemed like dear life, slid down the mere 6 inch decline, screaming the whole way. Again, we somehow gathered into one group and were able to admire the ancient cave paintings and take a quick breather. This was the calm before the storm, literally.

We climbed back up and remounted our horses. We admired an abrewing storm that seemed to be a safe distance away. Being halfway around a mountain didn’t register as a problem. We noticed that the leaders encouraged the horses to break away from the steady pace we had previously been going, and instead move towards something that could more or less be described as a brisk gallop. The wind picked up, and even those with glasses were not protected from the dirt blowing sideways. The sky darkened, the thunder rumbled, the lightning brightened, and rain began to fall. Still, we were far away.

Parents, do not be concerned! You may have a threatening image in your mind, but add to this image your children screaming with excitement. We all were laughing and encouraging our horses to gallop on with the call we learned, “Ay Ay Ay!” (imagine a rain dance call). The rain picked up as we got closer home. Finally, as we reached the home stretch, someone up ahead screamed, “HAIL!!!!!” We can only imagine what a bystander might have thought, watching these crazy college students on horses in the middle of a storm screaming with excitement and loving life, all while trying to protect their cameras at the same time.

“God bless the rains down in Africa” was no longer just the lyric from the catchy song, Africa. It was now a first hand experience we will never forget. Once more, we added to our list of stories that would end with, “Only in Lesotho.”

-Jessica D, Erin R, Meghan W

As Simple as a Smile.

December 21st, 2012

God bless the rains down in Africa.

This is the place I have dreamed about going to for years and now I am finally here, yet it is not much different. While the houses are built differently, the landscape is not the same, and there are animals walking all over the grounds, I still find myself forgetting I am in a different country, a different continent. I sometimes feel like I am in America, in Connecticut, in New Britain even. However, what does stand out are the people. While there are friendly and welcoming people in the States, in Lesotho the people here show such genuineness in their welcomes through great smiles and waves of joy.

One would find it unusual for Americans to be greeted so kindly in another country, that is why I asked one young girl why she loved us coming to her country, knowing that we will leave so soon. She answered back: “Because you are a friend.” This wise girl also wrote to me saying that although our time is short we should enjoy the time we have together.

And this is why I came to Lesotho. To enjoy the time I could get with the Basotho; to know their names, to hear their stories, to build a relationship, to capture their love and give mine. I believe that I have done this even after one week. I have built a relationship with a child from playing with dirt that developed into a great friendship. I have relationships with Habitat leaders that started out with (quite frankly) bull shitting. Language is not a barrier in forming relationships. That is the beauty in Lesotho. If one does not know the language, the Basotho will teach it to you and when you mess up they will teach you again. Although, I have learned that the language of a simple smile can develop a beautiful friendship.

Mama: I think you would appreciate that I developed a friendship with a child who did not speak much English but could read and write it by playing the letter game, where I wrote a letter on his back and he would guess. The next day he came back with a friend and I saw him doing it to his friend. I also am teaching some children some sign language, which they love (obviously). I think you would love it here. There are gardens and sunflowers everywhere.

To family and friends (Ma, Daddy, Zach, Troy, Mel, FLCR, and others):

Happy (last day of) Advent. Merry Christmas! I love where I am and what I am doing and I love you all!

Love, Alyssa

P.S. They do know it is Christmastime and the Basotho are so excited to have us spend Christmas in Lesotho. :)

 

From Africa, With Love

December 21st, 2012

You think people in the midwest are nice compared to big city folk. try out Lesotho. the Basotho  are some of the friendliest, kindest, biggest hearted people i’ve ever met. theres something so truely magical about hopping into our bus, driving around this beautiful (and I mean beautiful. the plateaus and mountains everywhere around us with some of the most magnificent clouds billowing out over top of them. the green fields in the valleys that we drive through. man if you havn’t been to Southern Africa yet in your life. make the trip. seriously)  country and waving to all of the children and adults we see along the road. i wish i made more time in my day to sit back and enjoy my surrounds… been working too hard digging pit latreens for houses over the past couple of days.

HIGHLIGHTS

-playing two straight hours of soccer at kick for life. the girls totally owned our boy team thanks to their stout defense.

-all of the kids who always around to play with

-the growth of the friendships between us witt students as well as the ever growing attachment to this country.  i can see why people come back from the trip abslutly in love with the country and the Basotho.

 

Dont get me wrong it’s not all hunky-dorry.  theres just as deep of lows as there are high of  highs. it’s a wake up slap in the face to see how unfair the world can be . a person over here can work  his or her a** off for their whole life and still not provide enough for their familyfamily to have a good life. and then take us  middle class students. we can float trough college, not really pushing ourselves at all and still come out on the other side with a job that can provide so much for us. it’s just not fair. we’re learning that. and starting to think about how we can create positive change in the world.

but i’ve been blogging for way too. it’s time to get off. there’s a bone fire calling my name.  thanks everyone for the support. none of us could have been given this life changing opportunity it if wasn’t for our loving friends and family.

Mom (Catherine), Dad (Rob), George, Allie, Brent, Radam, Sim, Nana Grandfather, Auntie, Uncle Ken, Kev, Michael, tigger, rex Everyone else who I’m forgetting. thank you for everything. I love you all so much. have a great holiday season.

keeping you in my hearts while i’m over here.

LOVE WILL.

 

 

Khotso, Pula, Nala

December 20th, 2012

Rocks.  We moved lots of rocks. LOTS AND LOTS AND LOTS OF ROCKS. Rocks on rocks on rocks.

Today half of the group went back to the Habitat site to continue working on the two houses that we were building.  At the  beginning, we started by making cement and moving cinderblocks so we could continue building.  In addition, some of us worked on shoveling and digging out a pit latrine (aka an outdoor bathroom).  HOWEVER…for the majority of the day, we walked down and up a rather large hill carrying rocks that we took from a torn down, abandoned house.  At first each person carried their own rock up the hill by themselves.  It was very exhausting, hard labor, so we stopped for a break.  Then we found out that the Basotho workers thought we weren’t getting enough done and needed to move faster.  So needless to say, we got our act together.  About 12 of us spaced out down the hill and formed a production line so we would only be walking a short distance to pass the rocks off to one another, working as a team.  (Brittany would like to take the credit for this life-changing idea).  Moving these old rocks was dirty work–the dirtiest we’ve had so far!  At the end of the day, we looked like two year-olds who had been rolling in dirt all day. Thankfully, this worked for us so much better, and we were able to accomplish much more in less time.  We did this all day, as in for six hours.  It was tough work physically but a mindless task, so we were able to reflect and talk a lot through all of this.

Today made us appreciate all that we have more than most of us did before and helped us realize how blessed we are.  We really take so much for granted.  For instance, if we had a dump truck, it would have taken us five minutes to move all of the rocks to the top of the hill.  But in Lesotho, they don’t have the option of using dump trucks or other machinery.  Those pieces of machinery don’t exist–it has to be all manual labor to finish a job like this.  Once we made our production line, we were all touching each rock that went to the top of the hill, which would later be used to complete the houses for the incoming families.  Because we had to do this with our own two hands, we realized how lucky we were and that much greater satisfaction comes from physically doing the work yourself.  We have only been experiencing the building style for a couple of days, but it has really made us appreciate all of the work and effort that the Basotho put into their country.

Though it was a fun day, there were some hard parts.  As mentioned in previous posts, there are lots of kids who play on the hill by the work site.  One of them came up to us and asked why we weren’t building a house for him.  It was such a hard question to answer because we see the need but know that we can’t build a new house for each Basotho family.  It left us feeling unsatisfied, but we have to remember that we are making a difference nonetheless with the houses and other projects that we have completed on this trip. We have to remind ourselves that we still must carry on,  keep our heads up, and give what we can, even if it’s just a smile and an open ear.

Overall, it was another great sunny day in Lesotho.  We even ended the day with fun by singing and dancing with the kids in the village by Thorns.  It’s plain to see the difference that we are making purely by seeing the joy on their faces, which we seem to also find reflected on our faces.

Tomorrow, the groups will switch and experience the site that they did not get to see today. Then Saturday morning we will head up to Ramabanta for Christmas.  We wish all of the families back home a Merry Christmas and Seasons Greetings!

Khotso, Pula, Nala (Peace, Rain, and Prosperity),

Mary Ann and Brittany

December 20th, 2012

Well family and friends- I am working hard, feeling great satisfaction and learning so much about the Basotho people and this beautiful country.  I am so thankful to have been able to come on this trip, even though I am missing you all, especially as we creep closer to the holiday season.

Today, we split in half to go to two different work sites. Tomorrow we will be switching the sites we attend.  My group went to a secondary school (8th-12th grade) in a village called Nazareth.  One of the teachers there is a peace core volunteer and we were going to be painting the library at the school, building some book shelves, planting fruit trees, and a few educational paintings on the outside of the buildings.  I was going to be painting a map of Africa with three other people.  Thank you Cindy Day for teaching me all the countries of Africa, came in handy and I managed to impress a lot of people at the site.  Heather, the peace core volunteer told us that the map was going to be so important for her work with the kids because so many of them believe that the US and China are in Africa.  While at first this seemed strange and ridiculous to think about, these children hear so much about those two countries why wouldn’t they think they were closer than they actually are.  It was great to see the kids innate curiosity at watching us work and their eagerness to point out Lesotho on our map.  While we were not directly affecting their living conditions, I felt we were making a major impact  on the community life and were helping bright minds soak in more knowledge.

Mom, Dad, Michael, Christian, Carly, and all my family and friends– I love you and miss you.  Hope you have a wonderful Christmas season and I can’t wait to tell you about all of my experiences when I get home!! XXOO

Kieran

December 20th, 2012

Yes parents I am alive and kicking!!!

Not only did I arrive, but I have been having the most amazing time. We are only on our fourth day and it feels like home. I also don’t even know where to begin…

The first two days as you can glance over from previous blogs, has been quite the physical challenge. I am very aware of my leg muscles at the moment, but it felt great. We built and worked on two different houses for two different families that we met and it was one of the most memorizing moments of my life. Seeing the joy on their faces brought such peace to my heart. We also arrived at Baylor yesterday (also can see the specifics from previous blogs) and it was a day filled with emotions and feelings I didn’t know that i could be capable of. I wish I could describe the day for you in detail, but I couldn’t if I tried. It has been the first time in my life that I have been speechless. You better believe it family…I was speechless. We have plenty more to do and I cannot wait to see what happens next. It’s amazing because it’s always an adventure and always something new to see and something interesting to learn. Cannot wait to show you all my pictures and amazing memories. I’ll email or call soon!!

Love you all—Merry xmas Bobby, Dominique, Mommy, Mike, Teddy, Big Al and Bailey :) xoxoxx

nik-

 

To my family and friends,

I wanted to message you all to let you know that I have made it here safe and sound. It is crazy to think that today marks only the fourth day of working here in Lesotho. For myself and many others I have talked to it seems that we have been here much much longer. I think its the combination of the new beautiful scenery that we come across everyday. The Basotho have opened there arms to us and have taught me something new everyday. So far, my favorite activities that I have been able to experience have been being able to go to Baylor where we were able to host a carnival for HIV/AIDS children. The amount of smiles that I saw on these children and the fun we had, helped me forget that these children are faced with a much tougher challenge. We have also had the ability to build houses for a girl who is taking care of two orphans who have lost parents to AIDS. After learning the story, the motivation to work my hardest to get these houses done has been pouring through me. Days are full with no down time, as we are working hard on projects from sun up til sun down. Mom, Meg, Meaghan, and anyone else that is able to read this: I miss you all and hope that you are all enjoying Chicago. I cannot wait to share all the great memories, pictures, and stories that I have been building everyday.
Talk to you soon,

Trav

P.S. Merry Christmas to the Bordine and Galloway family and to the many other love ones of mine out there!

I Am Only One

December 19th, 2012

This morning we visited the Baylor Pediatric AIDS Clinic in Maseru. Baylor is a free clinic started by the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas that treats children with HIV and AIDS. We went there to have a carnival for the kids; we brought one of those colorful parachutes you used in elementary school gym classes, rub on tattoos, bubbles, coloring books and crayons, and bracelet and necklace making supplies and set to work playing with the children. I’ll come back to our time at Baylor in a minute, but I want to outline the rest of the day first.

In the afternoon we went to Kick For Life and wound up playing soccer with some Basotho kids for about two hours. Now, I have a bad history with soccer. It’s a long story that involves mean little girls–I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say I’ve never been a fan since. But I decided to follow the motto “When in Lesotho, play soccer with the Basotho!” (They say that, right? Well…they should.) Like I said, we played for about two hours and it was SO much fun. The children didn’t speak much English, but we could all understand the game (except for the fact that we couldn’t always tell which little boys were on our team–there were a lot, and I’m pretty sure some of them kept changing sides). The kids were very good, but we held our own. We were pretty proud of that fact until we realized that they were a lot younger than us so we should have probably been embarrassed. It was so great to be able to have fun with these kids and give them some new opponents, and I think it helped all of us to bond as well. Plus I scored a goal, so basically it was the most exciting moment of my life because other than that I was pretty terrible. Needless to say, soccer has been salvaged for me.

Back to Baylor. The atmosphere outside during the carnival was so happy and positive and that’s really all I could think about. I just loved seeing their smiling faces and knowing that we were a part of that. I know not everyone felt the same way, but I left Baylor in pretty positive spirits. These were sick kids that we got to make feel special and important for part of a day, and I felt good about that.

I didn’t realize just how difficult the morning was until our group meeting tonight. That’s when the waterworks started–myself and many others included. One thing Dr. Rosenberg told us is that Baylor treats about 3,000 kids, which is awesome. However, that’s only about 10% of the kids who significantly need treatment, and that doesn’t include the many other children who are infected. For a while this morning I was holding this little boy. I saw his sister carrying him around and told her I could hold him for a bit if she wanted to play or make a bracelet or something. As I was holding him, I realized he was very different from the other babies I’ve held. His sister told me he was a year and two months, but he didn’t look like it. His fists were clenched the entire time I held him, and he couldn’t really move his fingers much when he tried. Periodically he would start to shake a lot, and his eyes never really focused on anything the entire time I held him. I knew that this wasn’t normal. This was AIDS.

Everyone had experiences like this today, and I could go on forever talking about our time this morning. There were a lot of emotions today–joy, sadness, anger, grief, guilt. But I have to walk away feeling like we did something helpful. At the end of the day, I think what I will take away most from Baylor is the importance of small acts. It’s true that we can’t cure all those kids. There is a lot we can’t do for them, and that’s a hard reality to face, especially when all of us have so much. But when we were playing with the kids I forgot that they were all there because they had AIDS, and if we could do that for them for even a second, I think our time is worthwhile. During our meeting, a quote from Edward Everett Hale popped into my mind. That’s where I’ll end this post:

“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”

-Emily