With less than two months to go, I find myself experiencing a range of emotions I don’t even understand. I’m excited to start selling things but nervous about how much packing room I’m going to have. I’m ready to be done teaching but now is the time that matters most for students – they need to pass their year-end exams or they have no chance at passing their grade. It’s practically summer so all I want to do is be outside but I can’t (duh); I have to teach. Most of all, I’m ready to go home, but I realize how much I’m going to miss this place and these people.
Two weeks ago was the farewell party for the external students who will be leaving us next year because hopefully they’ll be moving on to one university or another. Lots of preparations were made all day Wednesday: cleaning, cooking, sound-checking (because there was electricity at this year’s farewell!) and everything else you can imagine. Wednesday evening teachers and students were up late cooking chicken and pork (from the recently slaughtered pig from our piggery), making chaka-laka and the traditional ginger drink.
On Thursday morning, it was rainy but the teachers played the students in soccer anyway. I hadn’t played in a very long time but laced up my oldest tennis shoes and threw on a jersey… if it hadn’t been for the students on the teachers team, they would’ve completely decimated us. As it was, they beat us I think 3-1, but it was great fun. It always amazes me how much the boys of my Form A and B classrooms become men on the field.
After a quick bath and a rushed attempt to write a farewell speech fit for the entire school, I headed up to the hall for the farewell ceremony to begin. As an outgoing teacher, it was also my farewell. Many students participated: singing, dancing, reciting poems, acting out dramas and giving speeches.
When it came time for my speech, I was incredibly nervous. I have been speaking in front of 40 people every day for the past 2 academic years but now it was closer to 400 with all the teachers, students and guests. I talked about how I had no idea what to expect from Sekameng: what the students would be like, how the teachers would be, what my house and village and school would be like… and then how impressed I’d been with everything. Students care about their work, and teachers and students care immensely for each other. The school is really a great place. I ended by urging them to continue working hard and thanking them all for a wonderful two years. It was a simple speech so I’m hoping everyone understood my English (ha).
I managed to make it through my speech without crying (which surprised me), but several speeches later, I was called up to the stage again. The students I’d applied with for a tuition scholarship wanted to thank me, or so the MC announced. When I reached the stage, they had a very large envelope and a funny-shaped bag. One of the students pulled a large handmade card from the envelope and read it out loud: “We shall miss you for your support and love. Thank you for everything. Wherever you go, whatever you do, our prayers shall follow you. Best of luck and God bless you” and they listed their names. Then, from the bag, they pulled out a Basotho hat. They explained that they had combined resources to thank me by giving me the hat. At that point, I lost it. These were some of the brightest, most needy students who had contributed money to thank ME. I gave them all hugs and sat down, smiling and still wiping my eyes. It was one of the most generous gifts I think I’ve ever received.
After the ceremony was lunch (at 4pm) and we all feasted before the post-meal entertainment: a beauty pageant. This beauty pageant was honestly one of the most ridiculous things I think I’ve witnessed in Africa. There were maybe 7 or 8 girls entered and they had to strut and pose and dance in front of the whole school and a handful of judges. They dressed up in their street clothes and for one of the categories even got to wear a very fancy formal dress. Maybe it was because I’d seen so much of the rehearsals the days prior, but I didn’t watch much of this pageant. Afterwards, they kept the sound system going for a massive dance party. From what I could tell, the students really enjoyed the farewell.
The next morning however, all the previous day’s fun came back to bite us… all. Everyone who had eaten anything at the farewell was running to the toilet. Repeatedly. Teachers, students, staff, guests… my stomach didn’t calm down until late in the afternoon. Looking back, its pretty funny, but at the time we were all miserable.
On Saturday I left for Swaziland to visit PCV friends there (who I met on vacation in Mozambique). It was an incredibly long day of travel: we crossed the border shortly before 6am, left for Joburg at 7am, arrived in Jozi about noon and were on the way to Mbabane by 1pm. The travel gods were smiling down on us – no problems in Johannesburg and the taxi for Swaziland left very soon after we all piled in. We reached Mbabane by 5:30, our hostel by 6, dinner arrived about 7:30 and we all conked out at 8:30.
The next day we parted ways; I went with PC-Swazi and my travel companions went their own way. We relaxed another day in Mbabane, cooked a tasty Mexican meal and enjoyed one more hot shower before camping in the Ngwempisi gorge the next day. There were 7 of us total staying at a tree-house for grown-ups, as we called it. It was an awesome open-air lodge/hostel place built in and around a massive boulder. There were beds to sleep 16, a kitchen, and several areas to have bonfires. Possibly the greatest part was the toilet and shower. They were situated around the boulder so there was privacy, even without a door. While sitting on the toilet or standing in the shower, you could look out and see the river valley and the many hills in the distance. Truly stunning.
On Tuesday we went hiking down to the river, across the river, and on a barefoot death hike to one of the most disappointing hot springs I’ve ever seen. Except the barefoot part across little burs and sharp twigs (which was the death hike – our feet hurt so bad!), it was really amazing. Crossing the river was a bit scary as the current was fairly strong in places, but the cool water was refreshing, and thankfully there were no crocodiles. The hike back up was difficult but only because our trail-blazers were practically flying… no “pole pole” like on Kilimanjaro! That night we sat around the fire and ate dinner before going to bed very early.
We were up and out pretty early the next morning… into Matsapha for pizza at a great place called “The Italian Job” … probably the best pizza I’ve had in Africa (other than my own homemade, of course). Then, because of planned protests in Mbabane and Manzini the next day, I went with Megan to her site for a few nights. We reminisced about Minnesota (and America in general), did massive amounts of laundry and walked around her community – a very nice place. Her family was very sweet and gave me the Swazi name “Nomaswazi” which I’m told means Swazi girl… I learned greetings in Siswati and really enjoyed seeing how another PCV in another country lives. Plus the volunteers there are awesome – we’ve hung out together in 3 different countries now!
My last night, we went back to Mbabane so I could leave early the next morning… we tried to make black bean burgers but they turned out terribly. First, we had to use lentils instead of black beans. Second, we burned the lentils. Third, we made sangria. All in all, a very fun night and a good way to exit with a bang.
Traveling all the way back to Lesotho wasn’t difficult, just long. My head hurt, my stomach hurt, and I didn’t want to drink too much water for fear of stopping the taxi every hour to use the bathroom. Oh, Africa. I made it back to Lesotho sort of late, but I found a friend crossing the border to share a taxi with to my destination so it worked out just fine.
I got to site on Sunday afternoon, unpacked, had a snack and fell asleep almost instantly… until 1am. My afternoon nap turned into almost 16 hours of blissful sleep before teaching again this morning!
Other than all of that, not too much new to report. I’m looking into possibilities for jobs or grad programs after I get home but it’s really daunting… One day at a time!
Love from Lesotho,
A year in America
3 months ago