In order to honestly share my experiences as an American visitor to Lesotho, I often have to write about myself – how what I see is different than what I’m used to, how I understand (and often don’t understand) my new surroundings, and how these experiences make me feel. This is fine. It’s useful for me to process my thoughts by writing about myself, and it’s easy for American readers to step into my familiar shoes and see Lesotho through my eyes.
Despite this perspective and despite the fact that the title of this blog contains my name, at the end of the day, I don’t want this to be a blog just about me.
As much as possible, I want to use this platform to share Basotho voices. These are voices that I’m lucky enough to hear every day – and let me tell you, my Basotho friends have some good stories to tell – but they are voices that most Americans rarely get the chance to hear.
Between now and March, I’m supposed to conduct two interviews a week with members of my community. The purpose of these interviews is to prove to Peace Corps that I’m meeting people, beginning to integrate, and not just spending my days holed up in my rondeval.
I’m also using the required interviews as an opportunity, not just to get to know my neighbors myself, but also to share with you the names, faces, and personalities that compose my world. At the end of each interview, I ask for permission to take a photo and to share the words and images with my family and friends in America. This is a project I’m excited about!
To begin, I introduce you to the most important person in my Lesotho life: my mother.
My host mom, or ‘M’e in Sesotho, was named Limpho (“Dim-po”) as a child. According to Basotho tradition, she gained a new name, Maserialo, when she was married. However, ‘M’e Limpho bent tradition by telling her family that she loved her original name too much to let it go, so now she goes by both.
My ‘M’e was born and bred in the mountains. She grew up in Mohlanapeng, a village about halfway between mine and the camp town of Thaba Tseka, but she moved to her current home when she was married. She speaks of Ntate Ntoli, her late husband who used to be a coal miner, with incredible fondness. His photo is prominent in her dining room.
When I asked my ‘M’e what makes her happy, she answered without a moment’s hesitation – “my children.” Although she had more, four of her children are currently living. She has one son, a teacher, and three daughters, who live in various districts around Lesotho. ‘M’e is raising her grandson, who I refer to as my little brother. However, ‘M’e will tell you that she has five daughters – she counts me and the volunteer she hosted before me as true members of her family.
This should tell you something about the kindness and hospitality that characterizes my ‘M’e. She calls me “baby,” reminds me daily that her home is always open to me, and regularly asks if there is anything she can do to help me.
Despite the knee pain that plagues her – it’s arthritis, or as she describes it, “a poison in her leg” – she constantly finds ways to make my transition to Lesotho easier and happier. She stood up for me at a recent pitso (community meeting), warning the men in the village that if anyone bothered me, she would report it to both the chief and the police. She cooks the best bohobe (bread) in Lesotho, and every week she delivers a big, steaming hot piece to my door. She sits with me at her kitchen table and answers my questions about everything – “How do you say this in Sesotho? What’s the best way to wash my sheets? Can you remind me of the name of that ntate with the truck?”
In return, I give my ‘M’e slices of banana bread that I make. I helped her hang photos in her house. When there is thunder and lightning, I invite her to have tea in my house – she is scared of lightning, and she tells me that not only did lightning kill her sister, but also that she herself been struck three times.
My ‘M’e makes me laugh every day. She taught me, unbidden, how to say “those boys threw rocks at me,” in Sesotho, a phrase I hope I’ll never have to use. I’m training for a half marathon, and every morning when I leave to run, she shouts after me, “run fast, my baby!” Every time my puppy tries to dash through my open door, she talks to her calmly, like you would talk to a child: “this is not your house, Motsoalle.”
Because of my ‘M’e, I feel at home during a transitional period when I could easily feel lost, lonely, or just plain down. At the end of our interview, I asked if she had any last words for me. She responded, “don’t forget that I love you.” I smiled, wondering how on earth I could forget that.
Coincidentally, this post that I’ve had planned for weeks fits with the latest prompt of a “blog challenge” run by some RPCVs. That’s what the following logo is about!