Wednesday 25 July 2007

Siloe High School

We're now in our third week and there are still no sign of Des and Dallan's bags and there's no response from them about me and Dee's stolen things. So I encourage you all to boycott British Airways or at least throw something at their offices or employees. Helen if your reading this, when you start being a pilot you're not allowed work for them ok?Right, rant aside we're doing well and moved onto our new school and accomodation. Tuesday was a national holiday for the King's birthday so all the people were hammered across the country. We moved into our new accomodation Mafateng Hotel in, oddly enough, Mafateng. The hotel is some cross between the amenities of a convent with the clientele of a brothel. There is a big spiral staircase leading up to our rooms which is like something out of Scarface just to add more confusion to the whole place. Our new school is Siloe High School, about twenty minutes away from where we are staying and a nice little place. After spending a week in two seperate groups we join back up into one big group again fo rthis school. The class are really friendly with plenty of characters. The principal is hilarious and really chatty and despite the class being a little bit latre she keeps us occupied until they all arrive. Des is not going to be around with us as much as previously as he is working on some HIV/AIDS awareness software for Camara and has to go visit clinics to interview people and do research. HIV is a massive problem over here in Lesotho with 30% of population infected, one of the highest rates in the world. As much as I love the work we are doing over here and think it's very worthwhile, we are quite buffered from issues such as HIV because we deal with teachers and slightly more well off people. But the problem really can't be ignored and it's great to see someone like Des actively trying to make a difference and educate people about something which is one of the biggest issues of our lifetime. The taxi bus drivers who we have hired for the week are the funniest lads I have ever seen. Barely a word of English between them but as soon as they heard we were Irish they lashed on a Westlife CD and blasted it every time we got in the van. We foolishly had a big singalong and dancing session to "when you're looking like that" and ever since they have it on a loop. The driver keeps on looking back over his shoulder to laugh at us arsing about the place and pays absolutely no attention to the road while his little sidekick just laughs his hole off. Sadly there is video evidence of us doing Westlife which will probably end up on YouTube at some stage and come back to haunt me.After three weeks of teaching we pretty much have the material and our classes down to a fine art. Everybody has their own little speciality subject and we really are working well as a group. Again I must say how lucky we were to get a group like we have, everyone really seems to gel well together and theres been no major fights to speak of. Again there are some stand out pupils who I take aside and teach basic web design. As our course is quite basic some people who already have a basis in Word, Excel, Paint and other applications can get quite frustrated going over stuff that they already know. That's why it is so good to be able to offer things like the web design to challenge them a bit and allow them to gain something from the course. Another one of our contacts over here, Simon, attended this course and as we had our graduation ceremony he gave a speech about SchoolNet and the work they do over here. A large group of the class made a decision afterwards to commit to meeting up and continuing the learning process together after we have left. Things like that are really what we are striving for over here. Giving these computers and these courses is pointless if peple don't take it upon themselves to keep learning and it's great to see them making a promise to do just that. So after saying our goodbyes to both teachers and taxi drivers and checking another school of the list we move on now to the capital Maseru and our final week in Lesotho.

Second Weekend - Malealea Lodge

We arrived in Malealea Lodge about lunchtime on the Saturday. It reminds me of a scout camp with outdoorsy looking people roaming about, fresh air up your nose and dogs and puppies jumping up to meet you. Our forst day was spent relaxing and exploring our new surrounds, while here we are sleeping in traditional Basotho huts. They are small one room round buildings which sleep two or three and are covered by a kind of thatch roof. Before dinner children from the local school came along and sang traditional songs for people staying in the Lodge, and were followed by a local band. Nearly everyone we have met over here seems to be born with an amazing ability to sing and will belt out the national anthem or a traditional song with the drop of a hat. After plenty of Malutis and wine we grabbed some take away from the bar and some firewood and headed back down to our huts for a midnight campfire. After plenty of booze and drunken debates I decided to call it a night, the fresh country air seemed to go to some peoples heads and they decided to spend the night freezing their arses off under the stars.On the Sunday morning we decided to go on one of the many hikes on offer around Malealea. So after a stroll over a few hills and down some gorges we went to see some cave paintings. Our guide John told us that they were 300,000 years old and were painted with animal blood and fat. Mind-boggling to see something that old still look so vivid. When we first arrived over here some of us had great intentions of going jogging every morning but laziness and a lack of bags meant that we didnt actually go once. The hike seemed to remind us that we were missing any kind of physical exertion so we decided to stay on and tackle Mt. Fukufuku. It's the highest peak around Malealea and at 2,357 meters and a six hour hike its a pretty steep reintroduction to exercise. Des is going to be climbing Mt Kilimonjaro with Eoghan from Camara after we leave Lesotho so he definitly needs to get some practice in before tackling all 6,000 meters of that.So getting up early on Monday after a early night in preperation we meet our guide John for our big adventure up the mountain. Its only the lads who decide to head up, the girls are taking it easy and having a day of plodding along on their arses on the back of a donkey. John is a quiet little fellow, eighteen years old and from the local area, and has the surefooted confidence that you want to see when you're being led up a ninety degree incline. After a few short stops to enjoy the view (i.e. the manly way to catch your breath) we made it to the top. Amazingly the top of the mountain is the only place around where you can get mobile phone signal so I managed to give Helen a buzz from a couple of thousand meters up to say my last bye before she heads off to California. The views from up there were lie nothing I've seen before and Malealea where we were staying looked like a dot. I figured that seeing as there is a slim chance I'll ever climb any mountain apart from the Sugarloaf ever again in my life I should drop pants and get a good shot of my arse and the African skyline, two amzing vistas in one photo I'm sure you'll agree! I'll lash the picture up here soon as I can for you all to enjoy. So proud as punch with ourselves and pretty tired we made our way down the mountain and back for some grub. Again the rest of the day was spent relaxing and boozing in front of our campfire admiring the African stars.

Mamathe High School

So we are still in TY getting gradually more and more sick of the food in Blue Mountain Inn. Having finished in Peka on Wednesday midday we move to Mamathe High School for the afternoon and the rest of the week. It's still just me, Dallan and Dee plugging away but we have found with the smaller group we are actually more focussed in our teaching and it's surprisingly easier. Mamathe is nearer to Teyateyaneng than Peka and the principle is the wife of a minister so it is well funded with good facilities and they have had computers here before ours so we are expecting a good class. When I say good facilities I really don't mean that in the snese of what you would associate with good facilities in Ireland, the fact that this is the first school we have encountered with a flushing toilet instead of a hole in the ground called a drop toilet is my new definition of good facilities! Not taking away anything from any of the holes in the ground I've encountered of course, some of them were lovely! The class turn out to be really nice despite another slightly rough starting period, I really think that we are quite as on top of things and the class aren't quite as receptive when we start on a Wednesday afternoon. Maybe its the fact that we have to rush travelling to the school, the emotion of having just said goodbye to another group that we had grown to enjoy earlier that day or just the class not wanting to start midway through the day. But eventually we get into our stride and its just like all the other schools. I even get to take out three of the more advanced pupils, Elizabeth, Bell and Pelu to teach them some HTML and web design. The web design stuff is a good idea that Des usually does with the quicker moving students to make a little webpage for the school. It's pretty basic but just showing people that its not that difficult to learn these skills and that computers don't bite is one of the reasons we're over here.On Thursday we celebrated Jonas' birthday. Simon from SchoolNet Lesotho joined us for dinner in the restaurant of our hotel and kindly provided some champagne to mark the occasion. I've never had red sparkling wine before but this trip has thrown up some suprises and that was definitely one of them. Not as bad as you'd imagine. There was also a present for Jonas and a belated present for Joe from everyone at SchoolNet which was really nice of them. So a night of adult beverages followed and eventually we all headed back to the rooms with a few cans to continue on. After a short while Dallan wandered into the room as he does and announced that there was smoke coming from our room and was this normal... the lads had managed to cover the radiator with their clothes and melt the entire plastic side of it. After drunkenly trying to air out the room we eventually settled down to sleep with the fumes of melted plastic lingering in our noses, not too sure if it was the booze or the carbon monoxide poisoning but myself, Joe and Dallan were out like a light.We finished up on Friday in Mamathe, another 19 students graduated and we presented the school with an Irish flag. Each school we visit gets a flag when we leave, its a nice touch but the significance of a national flag seems lost on some Basotho people. Since independece in 1966 the flag has changed so much that the Basotho don't really identify with it. Still it makes for a great group picture with three white Irish faces surrounded by our classmates and friends with the Irish flag. After the graduation we went down to one of our students houses, his name is Jacob and he is an Indian man living over in Lesotho. He wanted the wikipedia put on his computer at home so we all decided to head down and have a gawp at his place. His children are back in India studying and his wife is back there visiting them so I think he was a little bit lonely and enjoyed the company, after looking through loads of his family photos we headed off to drop into TY and wander round the town. I was taken a little bit aback when wandering around a shop (called Dunn's... not the same one as in Ireland) I bumped into Jacob. Something wasn't working on the computer and he had followed us into town to ask us about it! Seeing as I was officially on my weekend I gave him a quick answer and headed off. So we are half way through our month over here and it really doesn't feel like it at all. We have all been running on adrenalin and the thrill of the new experiences up until now and are looking forward to a weekend spent hiking and relaxing at Malealea Lodge up the mountains. Tuesday is the King's birthday and a national holiday over here so we have only one school next week and a nice short week to look forward to after Malealea in Mafateng.

Peka High School

After surviving our first week we now face the daunting task of being split into two seperate teams. This means less time to spend with people when teaching and the lack of security that comes with a big group but it also means we can double the amount of people we help and hopefully the air of confidence from our successful start will follow us. Myself, Dallan and Dee are given Peka High School while the rest (Des, Joe, Aisling and Jen) head off to Kolonyama. Jonas and Carla still have plenty of stuff to get sorted for the rest of the month so they will be preoccupied with that and drop in and help out where ever possible.Peka has been described to us as the "ghost town" school because of the numerous deserted buildings dotted around the campus. Even the first journey there seened quite cursed as our first taxi bus choked us with fumes as it broke down and the second nearly lost an exhaust as it pulled in. The walk up the drive to the school hit home why it has it's ghost towwn alias, to the laft had side is a deserted guards entrance and a long building of concrete and broken windows. Bare trees loom large over your head and the shells of broken buildings are everywhere. Apparently this was one of the first high schools in Lesotho and was the pups nuts back in the day but funding has since gone elsewhere and the locals we met told us that the students are what they used to be. But after some initial problems with setting up the computers, surge protection and a drunken local chief (at nine in the morning! I was very proud of him!) we find the students are just as we have come to expect, enthusiastic and a great laugh. We also have two police officers from the local cop shop in attendence. I have heard rumours that the police aren't to be fucked with here, they aren't very well educated and slightly trigger happy and the two we have on our course certainly fit into the not well educated category. They definitely are used to having people stop and pay attention to them as they just shout at you when they need help even if you're in the middle of helping someone else out. So when Dee tells them in no uncertain turns to be polite and wait their turn they don't know where to look.On our second day there I finally get my bags back. I'm really relieved to have them back until I actually check them, the good people in baggage control in Jo'burg airport have helped themselves to my sleeping bag, clothes and plenty of other stuff. Dee has also gotten her bag back and had a load of things stolen too. Worst of all our clothes have obviously been thrown about the place and are damp and wet, and the sneaky fuckers stole my Jameson! So angry e-mails are sent and insurance forms filled out but everyone is alive and nothings stolen that cant be replaced.We finish up in Peka on Wednesday and give out 19 more certs. There are plenty of stand out students and I really enjoyed talking to one guy Victor Mopeli, he lives near the school and is a well studied man, been to college in Botswana and Bloenfontain and teaching tech drawing in Peka. He is really interested in fine art and is really interested in the Wikipedia software we install on the computers, the one thing I have found which is common across all the people we have taught is a real thirst for knowledge. As well as teaching in Peka, Victor also has just started up a photocopying service and helped to organise a fruit and vegetable co-op for local people suffering from HIV and AIDS and their families. Its seeing someone really trying to educate themselves and still finding time to help others that makes you appreciate this country.

First Weekend

With bleary eyes and sore heads after last nights festivities we said our farewell to Aloes Guest House and Pitseng and headed on our way to TeyaTeyaneng or for us simply TY. After a pretty hectic week where we were all running on adrenalin it is good to get a break and to relax. We are staying in Blue Mountain Inn which is quite well known in Lesotho. When we arrive there are armed guards at the gate and bus loads of church choirs arriving. The first impression of BMI is that it is pretty Westernised, although we have been extremely fortunate with our accomodation so far (showers, decent food, safe) we have also been staying with Basotho people (apart from the Indian owner of Aloes in Pitseng who was married to a Basotho girl) and eating local food. The menu of Blue Mountain is pretty much what you would expect at home, steaks, burgers and chips and the clientele seem to think of themselves as the great and the good of Lesothan society. There is a real air of snobbery around some of the people drinking and eating here but thankfully the staff all seem sound. On our first night we met the Chief Justice of Maseru in the bar of the hotel and while I wouldn't be so naive to say that someone of his mantle wouldn't drink back in Ireland, I would say they probably wouldnt be hammered drunk and harassing people as openly as this fella was. He even had JUSTICE written footballer style across the back of his t-shirt. After finding out that he used to stay in the hotel I worked in while in Dublin we made our excuses and left. Dee is insisting that I mention here that he only came over because I flung her hoodie at her, in my defence I gently tossed it to her if anything and she's not decapitated so she can stop moaning!So our first weekend off was spent chilling around Blue Mountain and wandering around TY. Teyateyaneng is probably the most developed town we've stayed in even though it just consists of a few shops and the usual stalls. Because our bags are still missing we decided to try buying some more essentials but shops close early on Saturday and aren't open at all on Sunday so we're still having to survive on the few bits we have. With any luck British Airways have gotten their shit together and on Monday bags will start arriving.

Joe's Birthday

Woke up today to Joe being jumped on and sung to by the girls. I think there are three birthdays while we are over here so plenty of excuses for a piss up. We tried to get as much of a lie in a possible then made our way to the school. Malafatsana, our contact over here, lives around Leribe and is nearby so he picks us up every morning in his open back jeep to drive us to the school and shooting along with the wind battering you at seven in the morning while hanging out of a bakkie for dear life definitely wakes you up in the morning!Today was our last day in Pitseng High School and after an initial bit of tiredness we have gotten to know our class. Dee in particular is having great laugh with the nuns and Sister Juliet in particular. She has made us all honorary members of the Sisters of Charity so I'm not only co-chief of Butha-Buthe but I'm also a nun now too! At lunchtime we bumped into an American lad Eric and he joined us for some chicken and pa-pa. He's over here as a Peace Corp worker for two years working and living in a local village and helping in any way he can, it's amazing to think of people dedicating themselves to that long a commitment and you really have to have the upmost respect for someone willing to do that. Once we had finished we had a really nice presentation and were given prayer sheets by the nuns and a traditional Basotho hat and then seeing as it was Joe's birthday we had a cake after the presentation. The nuns have a bakery on the school campus which does cakes and bread for the mission and they made a savage cake that my Granny would have been proud of. John Tau who I mentioned before gave a really moving speech about Lesotho and the needs of the country and extended his thanks to Camara and us. The man has a real gravitas about him and the room just falls silent as soon as he goes to speak. A really inspirational man and someone I really would like to stay in touch with. Cormac is back with us also for the night before heading off to the other countries that Camara are involved in, I reckon he's just back for the piss up for Joe's bday!! ; )

We then headed back to Aloes guest house for yet more cake, dinner and some drinks. Joe seemed a little suprised with so much cake in one birthday but that didn't exactly stop him. He even got a lovely present of a girls bracelet off the daughter of the guesthouse owner. We were joined by Malafatsana, his wife and daughter Grace, and John Tau who lives nearby and then after dinner some locals came by to give us a performance of the local dance. Hopefully all these videos of local dances and singing will be put up on youtube once I get back but it really does have to be seen to be believed. They use an instrument like a violin made out of horse tail and the songs are like chants in Sesotho of things like "We're going to the lowlands" but it all fits in so well with the dancing. We then tried to repay the favour by belting out Molly Malone and The Fields Of Athenry but we weren't a patch on the locals! Then followed what can only be the most mistimed and drunkenest rendition of Bohemian Rasphody that the continent of Africa has ever witnessed... I can only apologise to all who were in attendence...

Sunday 22 July 2007

Lesotho Update

Well as any of the few people who check on here know I haven't really been up to date with the old blogging! The internet is not really widespread over here and even when we get a chance to go on it the connection is atrocious. I have plenty of post which I might get a chance to put up soon but most will probably go up once I'm back. All in all though I'm having an amazing, memorable experience with some great people! Back on Sunday the 29th with a kickass beard, c ya all then!

Day Six:

So we had our first full day with Pitseng H.S. today. While they do have a seen it all before attitude there are very few of them who's skills match up to the attitude. There are three or four people who will probably fly through the workbooks and get some extra tuition but the rest are of average ability. The Sister who runs the school is a sight to see! Her name is Sister Juliet and her reputation is that of a bit of a battleaxe but Deirdre is put teaching her and I think she just loves Dee's laugh and banter so she comes across as quite harmless but I'm sure if she wanted to put you in your place she could! I have to also add she has the largest arse I've ever encountered in my life, if I'm feeling brave tomorrow I might try and get a snap of it!There is also a very intelligent man called John Tau in our class. He teaches English at the school and has a real dignified air about him that just demands respect. I really enjoy talking to him and he reminds me of Moleko from St. Peter's who I also enjoyed sitting down with and just nattering away to, both men have such amazing insights on life and it's such a privilege to meet them. His name Tau is Sesotho for lion and Pitseng Ha Tau is the full name of the town we are in at the minute so I presume his family would be held in high esteem here. Pitseng's name comes from overhangs in nearby caves which were used as shelter for the Basotho and to protect them when in danger and the guest house we are in overlooks the Malutis (also the name of the beer we have been living on) which are some of the most amazing mountain ranges, this whole place is just full of stunning views no matter where you turn.Tomorrow is Joe's 27th birthday so we are all getting ourselves ready for the celebrations!

Day Five: Wednesday 5th - Finish first school, start second

So today was our final day with our first class in St. Peter's. it's been a fantastic introduction to our teaching and I think we'll be very fortunate if every class we get over the month is as motivated and as friendly as they have been. We covered a little bit of computer maintenence in the morning and then answered any questions that they might have had. While everyone else was busy teaching Dallan and Joe went off and met some locals and got a tour of a traditional Basotho hut which sound amazing. It's a small round hut with just one room and a kind of thatch roof and I definitely want to see one properly. After everything was done we had some tea and got ready for our presentation of certificates. The presentation was pretty amazing, everyone in our class passed and got a certificate which we are all pretty proud of considering the disparity between some peoples abilities. On one hand we had Tolo who pretty much flew through everything we taught him and was just a real inspiration and a massive indicator of how intelligent and bright the future of this country can be and then there was the people who were maybe slightly more advanced in years who struggled a little bit but still pulled through. We presented the certs and an Irish flag to cheers and some Xena Warrior Princess style screeching from Lucy the principal and my co-chief Anastacia. It was a sad farewell and there were a few people who we want to keep in touch with but we have to move onto more classes.
So we went straight from St. Peter's to our next school, Pitseng High School. Pitseng is slightly south of Butha-Buthe and we're staying near a little town called London. Unfortunately our bags are still in a different London. The new school is less rural than St. Peter's and better equipped. In the mornings in St. Peter it could take up to half an hour for computers to warm up but this lab is better insulated so we don't have to worry bout that. My initial impression of the new student is that they are slightly less impressed with us than St Peter's. They seem to have a done it all before attitude but hopefully we'll connect with them over the next two days. Our new accomodation is lovely with warm showers which is a massive bonus over here, particularly when theres no fresh clothes to change into. After dinner everyone is way too wrecked to get up to much after the pretty hectic day of goodbyes and hellos so it was off to bed for an early start in the morning.

Tuesday 10 July 2007

Day Four

Unfortunately Helen left us today to head off home, she will definitely be missed from the group and it's a pity she's gone but we have a job to do and we have to get our heads down. We kind of know what to expect now after yesterday and after setting out a plan we flew through to material and the class seemed to be really responsive. There are some really advanced people and some not so advanced but one lad in particular has been the class star, Tolo is sixteen and is at the classes with his Mum who is a teacher in the district. He is so eager to learn and has such an passion for computers. I keep telling his Mum, who's name is Eclett, that he's gonna be the Lesothan Bill Gates and that she better remember I taught him all he knows when he's loaded. The class seem to be really getting into it. Today we are covering Calc (spreadsheets) and the older ones in particular love when they put in a formula and see how the computer does all the work for them. I had a talk with Anastacia (the local chiefs wife) about where she is in charge of and what her duties are. She has responsibility for a pretty large area and basically must allocate land, resolve disputes and so on. So if someone was letting their cattle graze somewhere they shouldnt its her job to sort them out and believe me she would most definitely sort them out I'm sure. Her son is studying in Jo'burg and once he is finished and wants to return to Buthe-Buthe he will take over her duties. I told her that I would take the place of her son she I'm now officially the co-chief of Buthe-Buthe and have been adopted as her Irish son!! So don't fuck with me or your cattle will have nowhere to eat!Tonight was our last night staying in Steven's guesthouse. Where we stay is seperate from his house but when we are eating dinner we eat in their dining room. We have built up a bit of a bond with Steven as we're staying with him and teaching him too. His wife Mama Tela is absolutely hilarious and always laughing. So seeing as it is our last night with them we sat down and had a few drinks with them. I reckon they had maybe started a bit before us because they seemed pretty merry when we sat down but it turned out to be the most surreal, hilarious and interesting dinner ever! Mama Tela had to head off to bed after a while due to excessive adult beverage consumption but she was so hilarious, constantly laughing and very witty. Steven was telling us how he is a descendant of a tribe of cannibals (nice one Jonas and Carla, put us in a cannibals house for three nights!) and this tribe killed and ate Moshoeshoe I(pronounced Mo-Shwey-Shwey)'s father. Moshoeshoe was the first King of Lesotho and seems to be a very fair wise leader, he united all the Basotho people and the people of Lesotho seem to all be very proud of him. He found the tribe who cannibalised his father and captured them all and when asked if he would kill or murder them all he said No I will not because you are my father's grave and I must respect my Father's grave. It was such an interesting tale to here and from what I've learned Moshoeshoe seems to be an amazing figure and I really want to find out more about him from the people I meet. The night turned into quite a blur after that and the six o'clock morning wake up call doesn't seem too attractive!Still no bags!!

Day Three: First Day Teaching

Today was our first day getting cracked into the teaching. Up at six in the morning! Six in the frickin' morning! Our first school is called St. Peter's and is well off the beaten track. You turn off the road and then endure a drive in a rickety old taxi bus which is like a converted VW van with eleven of us piled in and boucing all over the place. The school is situated in the most amazing place I have ever seen, a load of small stone buildings sitting in the midst of some of the most picturesque mountain views. It's one thing sitting in a classroom in Dublin staring out the window but if you were sitting in a classroom looking out on breathtaking scenery like this then there is not a hope I would do any work. As we got stuck into setting up the classroom and the computers our first pupils arrived in dribs and drabs. Some hung around outside the doors nattering away while the braver ones sauntered in smiling brightly and shaking hands. We had 19 working computers and 26 pupils so we had to use our laptops for a few and after a few blank faces at the beginning (really don't blame them that early in the morning) we got into the swing of things. Myself, the lovely Deirdre and the (apparantly) cuddly Des took the first session with everyone else milling about as classroom assistants. The people are so friendly and happy it really was such a thrill to get in there and really interact and get to know them. We all pretty quickly formed bonds and everyone had a pet student. Joe moved about the ladies before finally settling on Agnes, she had hardly any English and he sat down and led her through the whole day as she looked longingly at him. She even serenaded him with the Lesothan national anthem toward the end of the day. Agnes works for the local chief Anastacia who also was at the class. Her husband is the chief of the region and she is a lovely 61 year old who managed to fly through the day as quick as any of the younger ones. Aisling has managed to lose her voice already but still slogged through whispering in strange men's ears all day. Despite the lack of a voice every now and again I could hear her telling people "we're going to have to put him down now" which I think might have been referring to me. So thoroughly chuffed with our first days work we headed off home for more of Mama's cooking and a few more Maluti beers. In my professional opinion Maluti is much nicer than Castle Lager. So we had some mealie pap (which is like mashed rice, if that makes any sense, and is kind of a staple here) and some pork. Its so simple and so tasty and really hit the spot after a suprisingly tough day teaching. We had been joking abvout the idea of having a fashion show with all our highly fashionable clothes we bought in Peps. So I decided to take things into my own hands and called into the girls room in my shockingly small and very stuffed (it is pretty cold here) briefs, my tshirt, socks and hat which I had bought and shocked Carla and Helen and pleasantly surprised and visibly aroused Deirdre! After that we fell into our routine of having a few drinks, nattering away and pissing ourselves laughing at Dallan's one-liners.Oh and our poxy bags are still missing!!!

Day Two

So we have crossed the border and entered Lesotho. We got a taxi bus down to the Maseru border crossing with our passports ready. After being told to stop taking photos in case I was considered a spy we had a pretty easy passage through the immigration. It's amazing how universally accepted the Irish passport is! the border crossing is basically going over the Mohokare River and passing through two Soviet Russia-esque offices, once you have entered Lesotho there is a kind of shanty town area where we were waited for another taxi bus and our contact Malafasana. He works for the National Cirriculum Development Center who do great work trying to promote education within Lesotho. The area when you cross over was quite an introduction to the poverty that is in Lesotho, all shacks with corrogated iron tops selling fruit and bread with one or two appearing to hav nothing on offer for sale but with dodgy blokes standing in front of them, obviously offering some dodgy services I guess. After a short wait we met Malafasana and headed off in our taxi bus toward the town of Buthe-Buthe. We decided seeing as our clothes were still missing we would stop off at Peps, which is the Lesotho version of Penny's, and get some clothes to see us through the next few days. We think it's gonna be hilarious wandering into our first teaching session stinking and wearing manky horrible clothes! They will probably look at us thinking were the ones in need of a helping hand!So after getting undies(briefs!), socks, and a fresh t-shirt we finally headed to Buthe-Buthe. The place we are staying is nice enough, four rooms and eight beds between eleven of us and one shower which gets colder as you turn it hotter. Our landlord Steven is a funny fela who keeps smiling, laughing and saying "I am happy". He's going to be attending our first teaching session too which should be funny. We all decided that it is essential for us to decide on a nice study plan to prepare for tomorrow and get an early night... we then stayed up til an obnoxious hour and hammered through plenty of Maluti the locally brewed beer and forgot our lesson plan idea! Oops!! Well here's looking forward to getting stuck into teaching tomorrow, we all can't wait to get stuck into what we came out here do.

Day One

Well we have arrived in Lesotho. By we I mean the 10 people sent out by Camara to teach computer literacy in schools, this is myself, Jonas and Carla (our co-ordinators), Aisling, Deirdre, Helen, Jen, Dallan, Joe and Des. Cormac who is one of the founders and chairmen of Camara has also travelled out with us but he will leave us shortly to travel to the 4 other countries that have volunteers sent out to them as part of Africa 2007.So the journey, we were flying from Dublin to Heathrow and then onto Johannesburg. Here we were being met by Jonas and Carla who have been out here for a week before us getting everything set up for our arrival. After Jo'burg we really didn't know what exactly was planned, wether we would stay overnight there or travel to Bloemfontain or head straight to Maseru the capital of Lesotho. Anyway our flight to Heathrow was delayed by about 50 minutes so a final pint of Guiness (or two) was had to say farewell to Ireland and last minute supplies bought. I decided to buy a Ross O'Carroll Kelly book to cheer me up if I missed home! As we all know Heathrow is notoriously shitty for transfering flights so the fact that our plane was delayed by nearly an hour was not good news. Luckily we were arriving into terminal one and leaving from there too but we still had to make a mad dash across the terminal only to find that the queue was so massive for our Jo'burg flight that we would be waiting around for a good half hour!Flight was grand, flew British Airways and they have that great little screen in the seat in frony of you where you can pick your own movies, saw Zodiac (great) and Number 23 (not so great), was contemplating rewatching Pan's Labrynth but my head couldn't deal with sub-titles. Got absolutely no sleep on the flight which didn't help with the day of travelling I had ahead of me.We were paranoid with the delay that our luggage would not make it and of course it didn't! There was talk of there being something like 12,000 pieces of luggage in Heathrow needing to be sent on to their rightful owners. So we don't have our bags at the minute which is slightly annoying but we have all the important stuff.
So we were met by Jonas and Carla at the airport. The plan was to get a minibus south to Ladybrand which is a town just over the S.A. - Lesotho border near to Maseru. We even had a little trailer for all our luggage which was sitting in London. The journey down was about 450km and was really nice, the views of such vast tracts of land were amazing and the sun was shining. Although it's winter here the days are generally quite sunny with clear skies although once the sun drops it gets very chilly very quickly. Carla was saying that the week before we arrived it had been snowing and with it getting so cold at night I'm not at all surprised. On the bus the mood was good despite the missing bags and typical African music was interuptted by the odd bit of Westernised music including at one point Beyonce, yes I travel this far and all of a sudden "to the left to the left" comes on!! You would swear Ben Dalton had rung ahead and paid the fecking radio station just to piss me off! The drivers over here are a little bit loony on the roads, overtaking on bends, going at ridiculous speeds and so on but tucked away at the back of the bus I didn't really mind let alone notice. That was until I heard what sounded like a glass bottle smashing off the bus. We then started to swerve and slow down rapidly and it was obvious something was wrong, we all got a bit panicky until the bus finally shuddered to a halt at the side of the road. We all piled out and inspected the damage, we had obviously gone over a bottle or a stone and ripped the shit out of our left rear tyre. It was only for the great driving sense of our driver Sonny, and the fact that there wasn't anyone speeding behind us that it wasn't more serious. So we relaxed at the side of the road as Sonny changed the tyre and the cows looked on. The landscape was a bit to similar to The Hills Have Eyes for comfort though.Eventually we reached Little Rock Resort which was kind of like a camp site and had nice little thatch chalets waiting for us. It was so nice to finally arrive somewhere and relax a bit and it even had Rocky Saloon, a little bar with chilled Castle Lager for 6 Rand each which works out about 60 cents. They even had sausage dogs, three of them, and some Lassie dogs to welcome us! So after several beers and a pizza (gently breaking myself into the local cuisine, baby steps) I climbed into the top bunk to fall off to sleep only interrupted by Cormac snoring and Helen's phonecalls - even in another continent she still drunk-dials me!!!