“You take every opportunity given you in this world, even if you have too many opportunities. One day, the opportunities stop, you know.” - John Irving
Having been dropped off at a garage stop by Niall and Vicki, I was transferred by an old colleague (Setempe) to his house before picking up Anne Loughran at Maseru Airport. Five hours in the company of his kids Felix and David was a lot of fun, I was dutifully entertained by the elder, Felix, until the siren calls of his friends’ soccer game won over. David who is younger has not as yet mastered English so I spent the latter part of the day watching cartoons and marvelling how the same story is repeated endlessly.
At five we picked up Anne. She was waiting with a French lady she’d met on the flight whose son had not arrived. Being Anne we were 'commanded' to stay there until he arrived!! The airport closed up, the sun was setting, I had visions of us huddling together with our bags for a night when finally he came. That’s Anne! Kind, caring but totally in control.
An ugly, lovely town ….. crawling, spreading…. this mountain town is my world. Ok this is an adapted Dylan Thomas piece but for me it summarises Thaba Tseka as Thomas’ was so descriptive of Swansea.
For all the blogs I’ve written, I don’t think I’ve described the place where I’m situated. Thaba Tseka didn’t exist in its current form even thirty years ago. It is a collection of villages like Paray or Ha Phaila which were dotted around the mountains almost like spokes on a wheel. Then with the building of the Katse Dam there needed to be a central hub, somewhere that would be a relaying post between Maseru and the project. Thaba Tseka emerged from this and I guess it became a “Dodge City” type frontier town. It grew, it spread, it became a hub for the district. Government buildings, district offices, education, police, all these started to congregate here. By now Thaba Tseka hosts a prison, an airfield of sorts, three secondary schools and a host of primaries. New money has come in with foreign investors building some structures and global businesses like Vodaphone setting up substantial offices. The buildings are an eclectic mix of concrete block structures with some brick developments. The schools show how differing times have bought a few new buildings erected in differing styles. There are a few buildings which are on a second level and the centre of the town has a four storey ( the equivalent of a sky scraper) block, housing Vodaphone, Standard Llesotho Bank and a few other insurance companies.Read more
The last fortnight has been a completely different experience. From not having been with Welsh people for six weeks i’ve been in the constant company of Claudia, Mandy and Vicki. The system at Dolen has been to have a monitoring and evaluation week in order to ensure that the work being done is of quality and is meeting targets set by the funding sources. This year was different as the Dolen team were also providing input in terms of Literacy/Phonics retraining and also collecting information about where to focus training in the future.
The main difference has been noise! When I usually return to the house its a “haven of peace”, that went out of the window. How can three people replicate what happens in a grade zero class. Another difference has been food. My usual diet has been a breakfast and an evening meal consisting of some raw butternut squash and a dry piece of bread! In the last fortnight there has been an expectation for a new meal called lunch. This being supplemented by something called snacks (crisps, nuts, rusks) at various key moments of the day. Meals have been prepared, none of this sitting at the coffee table…. a proper dining experience and in some cases cakes or apple crumble. I feel healthier and more relaxed, even though preparing it all, serving it, washing up and ensuring that the ladies have a fun conversation has taken it out of me!!!!
In all seriousness I'd forgotten how introvert a person becomes when on their own, being with these three has been great fun. The only downside of the visit was that officially school have not been open. Through some negotiation I managed to make sure that some grade 7’s were in at loti and taught some topics just to keep me sane. Claudia came along and showed them some Kumihimo a Japanese band making exercise which the children loved. They are so good at the creative stuff.
My third blog has covered the hardest of the fortnights socially. By this time living alone in a foreign country begins to start highlighting the things you miss. Luckily I have colleagues coming out this weekend and from there on most of my time is with company. It isn’t the day that is difficult - when you’re working time flies and there are numerous conversations to be had. The difficulty is in the evenings where in reality after 7 pm you are in the house. There is very little night life in Thaba Tseka and what there is would not attract a 60+ year old. In fairness the day for the majority starts at around 5 am so early evenings are a necessity!
The second fortnight has passed quickly, I’m not sure if that is a result of me being busy or whether the mind gets used to little conversation! I now understand Robinson Crusoe much better!
In reality it is all about how busy the environment is. The days start at 5:45, I sort my breakfast and stuff for school and either walk up to 3 miles or catch a bus for a journey of just over an hour. I’ll let you guess which I prefer. The bus journey is interesting as an experience. The fare is around M30 or some £2, for that you get transport that looks like something from “The Exotic Marigold Hotel”. As this is Lesotho, the journey would not be complete without eardrum shattering music. This can vary depending on the driver’s preferences. The one I prefer is the home spun music which seems to remind me of Italian village music. My least favourite are hymns which go on for ever and remind me of my childhood Sundays. The bus has the driver accompanied by his first mate and a guy who collects the fare. Tickets are written out on receipt of the fare but you then sit for the journey wondering if you’ll get change.
So what is it like to revisit an experience that changed your life. I guess the answer is different but strangely comfortable.
Having felt at a loss coming back from Lesotho, I was lucky to get the chance to go out again this year. That feeling of loss was primarily because I felt that there was work to do and that I had no sense of closure. Perhaps that’s what this work is … a constant feeling that it will never be finished.
The experience this time is different, no team of three, no one to whinge to when the day has been a disaster. There’s also that missing company when you finally sit down for a meal and realise that you’re looking at one knife, one fork and a single lonely little spoon. There’s no one to palm off the dish washing to either!!!