8 June, 2010

David’s Sixtieth

David writes:

As usual, my birthday followed exactly two weeks after Elizabeth’s.

I was told that we were going away for a surprise weekend and that I should pack exactly the same things as I had done for Elizabeth’s birthday. The first surprise came when, having packed my passport, I discovered that I wouldn’t be needing it as Elizabeth had arranged to hire the Cathedral Venture – no sleek racehorse of a vehicle, but one that doesn’t object whether it is climbing mountains or going over rutted tracks – and we were going into the centre of the country.

I found myself taken to Mohale Dam, the last on our list of “places to see” in Lesotho. We started the weekend with a guided tour – just for the two of us – of the dam and its control room (actually about eight push buttons in a box on the wall, thanks to modern technology).

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In fact most of the weekend was “just for the two of us”. We spent a couple of nights at the Mohale Lodge – a hotel with 69 rooms and we think one of the others was occupied. But there was nobody else in the dining room either evening. So there was no need to be embarrassed when the staff appeared with a cake specially baked and iced in my honour. You will note that there are more staff than guests.

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On my birthday, we spent the afternoon on a boat ride. It was a good job that we had the Venture as the tour guide / boat captain had no transport and we had to collect her from the village and take her out to the boat. It was a real treat to have the boat to ourselves and enjoy the lovely trip surrounded by the mountains.

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On the Sunday we went pony trekking. I had never ridden a horse until two years ago, but these rides are becoming a feature of our time in Lesotho. Again, it was just us two out for the ride with our guide, amongst some lovely varied scenery visiting several small waterfalls and not another person in sight.

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It is the start of the winter (and dry season) here but the weather was not too cold, although we did see ice on some puddles of water during our horse ride. We were up in the mountains, having driven through God Help Me Pass and others on the way up, but the sun shone and the weekend was perfect.

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2 June, 2010

Confirmation at St Agnes


David writes:

 

In May we had a big event at St Agnes – the Bishop came for a confirmation service, so the weekend was spent in preparation, both of the candidates – many of whom stayed overnight in the church – and of the food.

 

During term time, the boarding students at St Agnes attend an early morning mass in English.  That Sunday they stayed after the service and lined the hill to greet the Bishop, who was escorted up to the church in true Basotho style by over a dozen horsemen to much cheering and ululation.

 

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There were 56 confirmation candidates, gathered from St Agnes and its eight daughter churches.  The congregation was too large for the church, so we all gathered outside on chairs, benches or sitting on the ground.  The weather was just right – dry and warm but with a fair amount of cloud cover.  When the sun did shine through, up went a flurry of umbrellas to provide shade – which did not always make it easy to see what was going on.

 

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The singing was more organised than usual, but eventually the men of the Bernard Mizeki guild took over and started one of their favourite songs – to the delight of the Bishop (a guild member) who borrowed a stick from one of the men and joined in.

 

31 July, 2008

Our Recce in Lesotho

Outside our new houseWe have just returned from an amazing fortnight in our home-to-be. Our network of useful contacts has increased exponentially and we have been made welcome wherever we have gone. We will be living in a small house consisting of two rooms (bedsitting and kitchen/diner) and a bathroom. The house has electricity and we have been promised that the water will be connected to the bathroom (!), a sink (with water) will be installed in the kitchen and there will be a toilet added to the bathroom. What more could we ask for?

When we arrived, it was extremely cold at night and we learnt to follow the locals by staying firmly wrapped in a large blanket. Every day was sunny and, by the time we left, the afternoon sun had become quite hot. When we go out in January it will be summer and so both hot and wet.

Ha Fusi Secondary SchoolElizabeth has visited Ha Fusi school where she will be teaching. It is very remote (a minibus ride followed by long walk or taxi) and still in its infancy. There are exciting plans for its development from the existing three simple classrooms. It will soon have a water supply and it is hoped to build a staffroom and office very soon. Elizabeth is devising a plan to help them acquire textbooks through sponsorship. It is going to be a very exciting project.

David has also been getting to know people in the area where we will be living and in the capital and there should be plenty of opportunities for him to make use of his skills while we are there.

On a lighter side, David is hoping to buy a telescope to take advantage of the clear skies and lack of light pollution, while Elizabeth is planning to keep a few hens.

All in all, we are very excited about our placement. There is a real need out there and our help is greatly appreciated.

8 June, 2008

Preparing for our Visit

David attended a conference for UK NGOs working in Lesotho, which was also attended by Lesotho’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and the country’s High Commissioner in the UK. Talking to fellow delegates raised several issues that need to be addressed if our time in Lesotho is to be effective, but also introduced us to people who can help us resolve them. Elizabeth has already had a very helpful telephone call with a Durham Link representative in Lesotho and we will also be keeping in touch with Dolen Cmyru. We were also interested to learn of work being done by other UK NGOs in the country.

On a lighter note, David’s birthday present from Elizabeth was a set of horse riding lessons so that he might be able to cope with some horse trekking if we have the time on our visit in July. (See the video on the Lesotho page of our web site to see what that entails in Lesotho.)

Elizabeth has also been busy, taking part in a half-scale version of a local Triathlon. It was the first time she had done anything like this, but was pleased to complete the event and achieve all her targets along the way. Through sponsorship, including gift aid, she has raised just over £1,000 for the school in Lesotho. (See the photo gallery on our web site for pictures.)

 

5 May, 2008

More news on Lesotho

Things went very quiet about Lesotho for a while. It now transpires that the local priest has left the village (under a bit of a cloud!) but they are now waiting for a new one. However, I am told that the head teacher of the primary school is desperate for me to come and she has been a very influential figure throughout the project. I am sure it is all going to work out and to that end we are definitely planning to visit the area in July and finalise details. It’s still not clear when we will start but it is beginning to look more likely that we will go in January.

We have also discovered a link between Wales and Lesotho called Dolen Cymru. They are holding a conference in Cardiff at the beginning of June and David has invited himself along. Perhaps there will be an opportunity there to build up some contacts before we go.

27 March, 2008

Looking at Lesotho

Yesterday, we met up with Andy Uglow, who is leading efforts to establish a secondary school in Ha Fusi, a remote village in Lesotho.  The school has been built and is functioning, but not very successfully.  Parents are not willing to pay fees unless their children are taught by qualified teachers … and the school cannot afford qualified teachers unless the parents pay the fees.  Catch 22!

 This is where Elizabeth comes in.  It is hoped that her presence and qualifications, along with a teacher paid for by Andy’s fund raising at the school where he teaches, will inspire confidence in the quality of education on offer and help the school to become viable.

 Andy is visiting Lesotho in July with a party of sixth formers.  It is hoped that we might visit at the same time to meet the local people and discuss arrangements and terms in more detail.  There is clearly a lot of scope for initiative, and there would probably be plenty of opportunities for David to use his business skills, both with the school and with local craft cooperatives.

 It does seem as though everything is falling into place.

10 March, 2008

Looking at Africa

For a long time, Elizabeth has wanted to spend the last couple of years of her career working in Africa. The die is now cast: she has handed in her notice, her replacement has been appointed, and the last day at work will be the eleventh of July. But what then?

After being accepted as a volunteer by VSO, we find that there are no suitable jobs. Their attention has suddenly switched to establishing universal primary education throughout the world, and so there is no budget for secondary school teachers.

So we are looking for other ways to volunteer. Perhaps you have contacts in Africa and can put us in touch with opportunities?

At the moment we are exploring a link with a school in Lesotho. Our contact is Andy Uglow and we are meeting up with him on 26th March. So there should be an update after then.