Ke Teng 

It’s been a while.

My ‘M’e and I ready for swearing in

In the last few weeks, I’ve become a real Peace Corps Volunteer. I finished training, swore an oath at the Ambassador’s house, and moved to the remote village where I’ll be living and working for 2 years. I also “graduated” from trainee to volunteer in some unofficial ways. Since my last blog post, I’ve killed thatch spiders bigger than my palm, slit a chicken’s throat, hitchhiked to friends’ sites, made bagels without running water or electricity, and survived a really terrible night where I was sick in ways I won’t mention online.

In a lot of ways, I’m settling in. I have a house, a dog, and a lovely new host mother.

Every afternoon, I go on a walk around my village. I don’t know many people yet, so I see it as a way to get some exercise and start to “integrate,” my main task until my teaching job begins in late January. My Sesotho is coming along, but I’m still a beginner, so the conversations I have are short.

They all start with the same greeting: ke teng, le kae?

Literally, it means: I’m here. Where are you?

Figuratively, it’s more like: hello, what’s up?

This greeting is far more popular in my new village than my training village, and somehow it seems fitting. Ke teng. I’m here. It’s a nice reminder to myself that training was fun, but now the real work begins. I’m here, this is my home, this is what I’m here to do.

Maybe I’m looking too far into it, but “Phase II,” or the first 3 months a volunteer spends at site, is notorious for being a time when you have too much time on your hands. Training is 3 months of over-scheduled chaos, but at site, you have no obligations at first. It’s summer vacation, the other teachers at my school don’t stay in the village when school is out of session, and there are only so many podcasts I can listen to in my house.

So, I walk, I greet, and I think about how I’m here and what that means.

It doesn’t mean I’m comfortable and confident – not yet. I’m here, but I still have no clue what’s going on most of the time.

I really do love my site!

Last week my friend and I walked 3 hours of our trip from her site to mine, because nobody had told us that taxis wouldn’t be running that day. It was a beautiful walk through the mountains, with a Basotho women who happened to be going to the same place, but we could have done without the unexpected hike while carrying luggage.

One of my first days here, my principal visited and was appalled that I didn’t have enough water (a post is coming soon on the severe drought in this part of the world). She insisted that it was the school’s responsibility to bring me water, although I had planned to draw my own, and she promised a delivery every morning. The deliveries never came, and I eventually heard that the schoolchildren were refusing to fetch me water. Fair enough.

This morning, I planned to go into Thaba Tseka, the “camp town” nearest me and the district capital. My ‘M’e (mother) told me to be ready at 7 am to catch a taxi into town, then woke me up at 5:25 by banging desperately at my door and saying it had arrived. I stumbled up and pulled together my things while half asleep… And the taxi arrived at 7.

Finally made it!

In these moments, I remember how utterly confusing Lesotho still is to me. I love this country, and I love it’s people, but I’m still stumbling around lost a lot of the time. I’m here, but I have SO much to learn.

I’m excited to be here. Until school starts, I’m going to focus on getting to know my new family. I’m going to make my house a home. I’m going to train my dog. I’m going to prepare for teaching. I’m going to laugh at myself for all the mistakes I make and all the confusing moments I find myself in. I’m going to keep walking and keep greeting.

Motsoalle, my best friend at site

I wrote a post a long time ago when I visited my site for the first time – I had planned to upload that today, but the power is out in town and I didn’t have wifi. I’m typing this post on my phone as a place holder, because I want to keep this blog active as I figure out a good way to post more substantive content with photos from my camera (not just iPhone shots!) on a regular basis. That’s hard without consistent Internet access, but I promise, I’m trying! I have lots of ideas that I’m excited to write about in the coming weeks. 


16 thoughts on “Ke Teng 

  1. Hello Jillian,
    Happy New Year from the Raffa household! I will be reading your latest blog to my 93 year old mum this morning. I know she will comment about how incredibly brave and determined you are.
    Do not be discouraged if the time until late January seems endless and chaotic. Once you begin your teaching duties you will organize your day, and wonder why the time goes by so fast. I hope you continue to love your site and learn from this challenging experience.
    As always, I am incredibly proud of you!
    Barbara Raffa


  2. We loved the chicken dinner and you going through killing your first chicken. That had to be hard for you but we laughed. Your puppy is precious and will be a big comfort. We are up at the cabin for 11 days of Christmas vacatio, maggy took off and we did not know if she survived the 20′ degree night or the coyotes and mountain lions. She was gone 18 hours, we had pretty given up and got a phone call that she was ok. Christmas blessings ! You are brave,giving and we have so much love for you.
    Kate is working as a biologist at the county doing habitat management, precious lily grace is in day care ( loves it). In 6 months uncle curt will be retired and we will be up here for good, yeah!
    Love, love,, love aunt terrie


  3. It’s great to hear from you Jill! Thanks for painting such a vivid picture of your new life in Lesotho! Your talents as a writer and photographer are shining through. That shot of your Christmas dinner was priceless! What a gift it is to share in this experience with you! I love your accepting attitude and sense of humility. Those attributes are sure to help you adjust and connect with your new neighbors. Here at home,the first floor of our house is currently under construction so there’s no running water downstairs and I just filled our coffee maker in our upstairs bathtub. I literally read your blog minutes later. Thanks for helping me to feel grateful for my bathtub water! Love and best wishes for a fulfilling 2016! Alison


  4. Sending you love. Cannot even begin to understand all you are learning and experiencing, but so glad you have this means to share it with us. And, yes, to let us know you are still alive.


  5. I was so excited to see news from you in my email today. Your time spent there will be a treasure forever. The photos are great and my favorite is the “feet up chicken”. That could win an award! Hugs from Alaska, Charlie


  6. Sending hugs and prayers your way. Keep your chin up as you embrace and experience all that the people, the village & the country have to offer you. What a transforming experience. So humbling for all of us to read. Thank you for sharing. XX00XX


  7. We love reading your blog and being reminded that you are SOOOOO far away physically but always in our thoughts. Your FB post about the drought in s. Africa was eye-opening. We’re just now starting to get El Nino in California and the sierra snowpack is about 11% above normal…YEAH. Hard to believe there are people seriously dying and starving, losing their farms and their cattle, due to lack of water. We are very proud of you and the work you’re preparing to do, and the goodwill you are building for our country…God knows we need it. Love you and miss you. Happy 2016 and keep on “Ke Tenging” (if we can make that a verb?). Pat and Di


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