19 February, 2011

The End of the Blog

Elizabeth writes:

We’ve been back now for three weeks, so I thought I would sign off the blog with a few comments on readjusting to life back “home”.

It has not been easy.  First of all, naturally, it was wonderful to be with the family, and we have had great fun rebuilding our relationship with the grandchildren.  However, adjusting to life here has been quite stressful, and will probably continue to be so until we move back into our home and unpack all our belongings which have been in store for two years.  People have been asking me to comment so here goes….

I miss my friends in Lesotho a great deal.  When you have lived and worked amongst people who have nothing, yet remain cheerful and uncomplaining, it lifts your spirits.  I miss the way everyone greets you on the road, in the bus, talks to you in the queue at the bank, asks after your family while serving you in the shop.  To them, people are more important than possessions.  They are so grateful for anything, but mainly when someone takes an interest in them – they feel that no-one cares about them, and I think they are right.  I still don’t know how we are going to solve the problems of Africa since their leaders, on the whole, are too full of self-interest to lead the way.

Naturally, after two years’ effort, I think a lot about Fusi school and its progress.  I am delighted to hear that this year there are well over 100 students and a fully-qualified teaching staff.  All we need is the promised government support and it will continue to provide education for children who would not have access to it otherwise.

So, now I have to move forward.  I will continue to support fundraising for Fusi school (which is desperately needed for staff salaries), but I also have to adjust to retirement – still no idea the direction that will be taking, but I’m sure will involve more travelling, and more time with the grandchildren.

11 February, 2011

The intrepid travellers go on…

Elizabeth writes:

We said our goodbyes to the family and caught a series of buses and taxis into Mbeya in Tanzania.  After two years in Africa, we realise that we don’t bat an eyelid when our already-full vehicle stops to pick up more passengers with their luggage – live and otherwise – before carrying on.  Keeping an eye on our rucksacks as they were shifted around was quite a challenge.

We had chosen Mbeya as a stop-off as it is on the Zambia-Dar es Salaam railway and I had a desire to experience a long African train journey.  We then discovered that one of Caroline’s university friends, Deborah, lives there and is running a wonderful charity supporting orphans and other vulnerable children (http://www.theolivebranchforchildren.org/).  Deborah was actually away fundraising when we called, but Lety, her assistant looked after us and showed us some of the charity’s work.  Another home from home.

Off to the station to wait for the train.  There are only two trains a week but they are always late and very unreliable – no worries – we were not in a hurry.  We paid extra to have our own compartment and settled down for our 24-hour journey.

I love trains – I can just sit and look out of the window for ever – just as well, the rate we were moving!  We were promised wild-life viewings as the railway passes through a large national park.  We saw a wildebeest, a few impala and a small group of elephants in the distance.  A bit disappointing, but the journey was fun.  Every time we stopped, local people crowded round selling food through the windows.

We arrived at Dar and found somewhere to stay.  It’s not a very interesting place, and most visitors  pass through en route to Zanzibar.  Exactly as we did.

We decided that we were going to chill out in Zanzibar and treat ourselves to a little luxury.  The ferry arrives at Stonetown, a fascinating labyrinth of old streets with traditional markets; our hotel was here.

 Zanzibar is a cultural mix of African Asian and Arab traditions and has a checkered history. It was once a slave trading centre and this memorial at the old slave market was quite poignant.

A spice tour is a must for visitors and we had fun trying to identify the spices by smelling the leaves….

…while our guide’s assistants wove hats, jewellery and other things from leaves for our adornment.

We ended our holiday at the beach and it was very relaxing as you can see.

Time to come home – we returned to Dar and took the morning flight – passing Kilimanjaro on the way.

3 February, 2011

Visiting our Extended Family

Elizabeth writes:

After leaving Madagascar, it was time to move northwards, so we headed for Malawi.

Our first visit was to Andy Uglow and his wife Arani who now live in Blantyre.  Andy was the prime mover in getting Fusi Secondary school started several years ago.  It was good to see them, and to update Andy on the state of things at the school when I left Lesotho.

Many of you will know that our eldest daughter, Anne-Marie, worked as a volunteer in Malawi and there met her husband Wilson.  They now live in Nottingham, and we have never met his family.
Wilson’s brother, Symon, met us in Blantyre, and for the next week we were looked after by him and other branches of the family mainly in the North of the country.

We had a wonderful time and were treated like royalty.  Sometimes, there were barriers of language but a smile overrides everything :-)

..and here are the two mums!

Malawi is a beautiful country, and it made a welcome change for us to be surrounded by green countryside and lots of trees.  We also managed to make a visit to the beautiful lake Malawi, before heading North to Tanzania.

Tour of Madagascar

Elizabeth writes:

Madagascar is something different.
After leaving Lesotho, we joined a group of 16 on a fortnight’s organised tour of this island.

Although geographically part of Africa, it has had huge Asian and French influences during its history and it is really like visiting another continent.  It is the home to much unique wildlife, the best known of which are the lemurs.  We were fortunate to spot several different species of these in the wild:

We also visited a rescue establishment where they got much more close and personal, along with other forms of wildlife:

Our tour ended with a few days at a beach hotel.  Access was by boat only, and we needed zebu carts to take us out to the boats.

It turned out to be unbearably hot there, so all we could do was swim and rest (It’s a hard life!)
We enjoyed the tour, but realised that we have become quite used to independent travel, and missed the real interaction with the local people that you get when using public transport and generally fending for yourself.

Back Home

We have been back in Britain for a few days now, and it is wonderful to catch up with the family.

Apologies for the lack of blog – it proved too difficult with no computer and only access to some quite flaky internet cafes.  We will try to make up for it in the next few days.

I think we are both suffering from shell shock.  The lifestyle here is so different from where we have come from that adjustment needs to be slow.

We have had an amazing journey returning home the “slow way” so I shall try and share some of our experiences.

6 January, 2011

Madagascar

David writes:

We have had a good couple of weeks in Madagascar – lots of Lemur sightings and no rain despite it being the start of the rainy season.

Pictures to follow when we can get quiet access to a computer – preferably one without a French keyboard!

One more night in Antananarivo, then one at Jo’burg airport before we go to Malawi.

19 December, 2010

Farewells

David writes:

The last three weeks have been a busy time for farewell, reaching their crescendo at St Agnes’ church this morning.

David preached – fortunately he had been warned beforehand – and then, at the end of the service, we both had to come and sit at the front of the church to receive our gifts.  Elizabeth wore the seshoeshoe that she had been given by the congregation of St Christopher’s – which was much appreciated by the congregation today.

The gifts turned out to be a variety of hats, both traditional Lesotho hats – especially made with “St Agnes” woven into them – and more conventional ones for Elizabeth.  David was asked whether he would be wearing his when he was out ploughing when he got back to England.

After the service, we joined the Parish Council for a meal.  During the service, a churchwarden had shown the congregation the trophy awarded to the parish for being the best at paying their annual assessment and making other financial contributions to the Diocese.  Quite a change from the Parish we visited in August 2008, which was divided against itself and had no money at all.

Several people summed up the day very well:  “It is so enjoyable when first we meet, but parting is so sad”.  We shall certainly miss St Agnes, Ha Fusi and all the friends we have made in Lesotho.

We are now going to be on holiday in various parts of Africa – Madagascar, Malawi (visiting our son-in-law’s family), Tanzania and Zanzibar – until the end of January.  So blog postings may be intermittent, but we hope to have news in that time of the results of the Junior Certificate sat by Form C and also the size of the school roll at the start of the new school year.

A Merry Christmas to you all.

16 December, 2010

School Newsletter

David writes:

The December newsletter for friends of Fusi School is now available at www.fusischool.org

If you have not already received an e-mail telling you this, and you would like to be informed of future newsletters, please send an e-mail tofriend-request@fusischool.org  with Subscribe as the subject.(You will then be sent an e-mail requesting confirmation, which you can simply do by using the reply button in your e-mail program.)

13 December, 2010

Fusi church

Elizabeth writes:

Ha Fusi village church is a simple building with no decoration, and just wooden benches to sit on.  It is one of eight outstations (daughter churches) of St Agnes, the large parish church on the edge of town where we live.  At the school farewell, the  churchwarden who is on our school management board asked when we would be visiting the church to say Goodbye.

Yesterday, David and I left home in glorious sunshine to catch the minibus and walk across the fields to the village;  it is nearly an hour’s walk from the main road to the village church.  When we arrived, we perched ourselves comfortably on one of the benches.  Not for long!  Two chairs were carried to the front of the church and to them we were escorted.  I could feel more royalty treatment coming on.

The service started as per prayer book with a few prayers, a hymn and a couple of bible readings.  It then seemed to become more of a farewell to us than a service.  Interspersed with prayers and hymns, different people would stand up and say how wonderful we were.  It all became rather embarrassing;  some embarrassment was saved when it started to rain and hail, eventually so heavily that the service came to a halt as the noise on the tin roof was deafening.  Fortunately, we had come prepared with a gift to the church (a bible for the lectern and some candles), and we were then presented with gifts from them.  I had been measured a while ago for my second seshoeshoe of the week….

…and David was given a straw hat made by one of the villagers.

Lunch had been prepared for us, so we enjoyed that watched by the cook and a few people from the church.  No-one else ate with us – they can’t afford that extravagance.
By then, the rain had settled in for the day, and we were not dressed for it.  Despite many attempts, no-one could contact the van driver who runs a basic taxi service from the village, so we had to walk.  It was pouring with rain and hail and blowing a cold wind, so that I could not believe it was supposed to be summer in Africa.  Ah well, we got home safely, dried off and looked back another emotional farewell from these lovely people.

7 December, 2010

Durban

Elizabeth writes:

Every teacher will empathise with the fact that I felt drained at the end of the school year;  the farewell just finished me off.  Time for a few days break.

Everyone has been telling us to visit Durban while we are here, so when our good friend Averyl from Nottingham told us she was visiting her daughter who lived there, it seemed a perfect opportunity.  We hired a car and set off, driving through the beautiful Drakensberg mountains.  It took us all day, but we were relaxing and enjoying the scenery.  When we arrived in Durban I had a basic map (courtesy Lonely Planet), but we found that, as part of their new image, the city council had renamed all the roads after African freedom fighters.  Throw the map away…”Keep going in this direction until you come to the ocean, than turn left” seemed to work.

Although it was raining, our first impressions were good, so we booked into one of the sea-front hotels and enjoyed a beautiful view of the ocean and promenade.

The next morning was still wet, but it cleared up later and the rest of our visit was lovely and sunny.  There are fabulous beaches there;  I enjoyed my dip in the Indian Ocean; further out were plenty of surfers, but we didn’t manage to see any dolphins which are pretty common apparently.

We met up with Averyl who is kindly acting as a free courier.  It was lovely to see her and catch up with the news from back home.

We were joined by her daughter and son-in-law who welcomed us to their home.  I also managed to purchase a chainsaw for Fusi school, so that they can supply their own wood for the kitchen.  The principal is very excited.

We decided to take two days to drive home.  We took the southern route, and entered Lesotho, travelling through the South of the country which we had never previously visited.  Now we can say we have travelled the whole country before we leave.

It was a lovely break, just what I needed.  Now to get on with the task of clearing the house.  We are leaving in two weeks, touring Madagascar for two weeks, then visiting friends and family in Malawi, before travelling through Tanzania for a final relax in Zanzibar.
I’m not sure of the wisdom of returning to Britain at the end of January, but it will be lovely to see family and friends again.