27 February, 2009

Chicken

When you buy a pack of chicken breasts at the supermarket, do you ever wonder what happens to the rest of the chicken?

A year or two ago, I wanted to make some pate and my butcher had to order some chicken livers specially for me: there was too little demand to keep them in stock.  There’s no such problem here.  The freezer at our local supermarket regularly has packs of chicken livers for sale.  Next to them are packs of chicken hearts, chicken necks, chicken gizzards, and chicken heads and feet.  The last of these are sometimes wittily sold under the brand name “Walky Talky”.

If you are wondering what people do with chicken feet, they are often seen being barbecued at street stalls and sold as snacks.

Occasionally you can find a whole frozen chicken at the supermarket, but more usually people buy them live at the roadside stalls.

21 February, 2009

Library

David has joined the library in TY.  We’re not really sure which is the more surprising: that TY has a library or that David managed to join it.

In the event, joining proved proved fairly easy – compared with some things we have tried to do.  There was a form to be filled in, of course.  One side was for a referee, who had to be “known to the library” and had to “promise to help the Library trace” David “when called to do so at any time”.  On the other side, under the list of rules, David had to sign to say that “in case of failure to abide by the above, the Lesotho National Library Service may publish my photo and personal details in local media and eventual prosecution for theft.”  So, taking back the library books will be high on the list of priorities in the future.

The library itself is housed in one large room.  In one corner, a reading area, reached by a ladder,  has been built about six feet off the floor and was being used by half a dozen young children while David was there.  All the books are in English, with a lot of books for children and perhaps around a hundred feet of shelf space for adult fiction.  However, it is a place where time has stood still.  Andy Uglow remembers helping to catalogue the collection when he was here in 2002 and not a lot seems to have changed since then.  The adult books are what you might have seen if you had visited the book stall at an English village fete in the late 1990’s, towards the end of the day.  There’s a mix of classics, mysteries, romances and lots of Readers Digest condensed novels, and a few things that you have never heard of.

So what did David borrow as his first book – knowing that the librarian is likely to judge him by it?  A dictionary was the first consideration.  (He has been concerned about Elizabeth’s limited vocabulary: she seems to be questioning so many of his words when they play Scrabble together – although Elizabeth is more worried about David’s creative literary tendency.)  However, the dictionary seemed to be reference only.  In the end he settled for “The Tailor of Panama” by John Le Carre – diverting fiction but by a respected author.  He can take out the junk holiday reading on his next visit.

Water in the House

Our bathroom is now (at last) finally commissioned and in use.  As well as providing the usual facilities (other than hot water) it has enabled us to relocate a lot of things from our other two rooms – although we still have a lot of the plumber’s tools including four pickaxes.

Those interested in the detail can see a series of photos in the photo gallery on our main web site.  There’s the tap outside the priest’s house and the pit latrine we used to use.  You can see the main water pipe (mid-air and needs some lagging before the winter comes) and the connections at the back of the house.  The septic tank is entirely home made with the manhole covers cast in cement.  Then there is our bathroom: freshly painted – and those couple of coats of paint cover a multitude of sins.  Our kettles of hot water are augmented on sunny days by water heated by the camp shower kindly donated by Sallyann.  Finally, in African DIY style, we used leftover pipe to make a drainpipe to keep the rain off our verandah.

20 February, 2009

Time for a Haircut!

My hair was in my eyes so I knew I couldn’t put it off any longer.
I caught the bus into town and found a hairdresser.  The lady looked at me, I looked at her and we both laughed.  She said that she couldn’t possibly do it; there was a lot of laughter but she was determined, and then did point me in the direction of another hairdresser who she was sure could cut my hair.  We left on good terms.

At the second hairdresser, one assistant looked at me and my straight hair in astonishment.  Another came up to me “Can I help you, madam?”  Yes, she would cut my hair.  Everyone there, including me, was quite amused.  All the women here either have their hair cut very short or the younger ones have it braided.  She washed my hair, then I went to sit in front of the mirror.  At this point she seemed to lose her nerve.  She rummaged around for a fine-toothed comb (not Afro) and then declared in broken English “I don’t know how to start”.  I did wonder who was in charge here!  I showed her the parting, then gave her a sort of demonstration of what to do.

Meanwhile, children from the local primary school were walking past and all had a little look to see the white woman having her hair done.  (You do get used to being a bit of a peep show round here!)  At last, she plucked up courage and got cutting, with me making reassuring noises.  I kept telling myself that any disaster would grow out in time.  She got more confident and actually made an excellent job of it.  After cutting, she then said she wanted to wash it again;  I wasn’t sure why but I think she said “dandruff” which is the same in English as Sesotho.  I wasn’t aware I had it, but I was given what I can only describe as a thorough head massage, followed by something quite stringent being rubbed into my scalp.  It felt wonderful.

We returned to the mirror and after a bit of a blow dry we both declared ourselves very pleased with the job.  And all for less than £2.

17 February, 2009

Staffroom

You can now see a couple of photos of the completed staffroom block at the school on the Photo Gallery page of our main web site.

16 February, 2009

New Priest for St Agnes

Sunday’s service started with Mr Lau, a Parish Warden, introducing the new Priest for St Agnes.  He is Father Setumo, who is married and has a young son.

We met Father Setumo a couple of weeks ago and know he has been well-briefed on the past problems of the parish and fully knows what he is taking on; we also know the Bishop has been careful in selecting someone who would be right for the parish.  So we have every confidence in our new priest.

Unlike England – where there is a special service to install a new priest – here Father Setumo was straight into leading the communion service.  He interacts well with the congregation and is full of energy.  His sermon was delivered without any notes, walking up and down amongst the congregation, asking them questions and starting up the occasional verse of a hymn to emphasise a point in his sermon.  He also gave us a few asides in English so that we could get the gist of what he was saying.

He won’t be taking up residence in the priest’s house for a while as it needs some work on it, having been empty for quite a while, but we are looking forward to seeing more of our new neighbour.

15 February, 2009

Gardening

David writes:

I went out to the school for the first time on Friday.  Well, I’ve not been that keen to leave the house with Elizabeth at 6:30am and have a half hour walk from the main road.  But on Friday there was a meeting for parents, so I hitched a lift with some of the dignitaries, sitting on the wheel arch at the back of a pick-up on a track that was passable – so long as you knew when to go off the track and drive along the field instead.

Elizabeth writes:

It was decided that we should hold a parents’ meeting and 10am on Friday morning was deemed an appropriate time.  Half of the parents turned up so it must have been convenient for them.  Since most are unemployed, no time is better or worse than any other.  The meeting was very formal and mainly in Sesotho.  We started with hymns and prayers and the students sang an easy English hymn I had taught them so I think the “audience” was impressed.  The parents were informed of our application for registration and were urged to try and pay their fees on time. I think these were the main items on the agenda.  There was a long speech saying how wonderful I was but since it was in Sesotho it wasn’t as embarrassing as it might have been.  David and I were then given our Sesotho names – this is quite special;  I am now Maboitelo (meaning self-sacrifice) and David is Tsepo (hope / trust).

School Garden

David:

I took the photo above, which shows some of the school garden.  As you can see, they are growing maize.  It looks due for weeding – but, to be fair, gardening is timetabled for Friday afternoons and has had to be abandoned each Friday this term because of the torrential rains.  It was the same rains that had eroded the surface of the track, creating deep pot holes and gulleys.

Maize flour is used to make papa – which is the staple diet here and in many parts of Africa.  You can sometimes see a long, doubly articulated lorry, piled high with sacks of it, delivering to shops in our neighbouring town.  Also, as you go along the main road, you come across mills where the flour is being ground.  If they are close to a town, you see people pushing wheelbarrows to and from the mill.  Out in the country, there will be a collection of people with their horses and donkeys, chatting as they wait for their flour to be ground.

This weekend we also invested in a spade and a rake for ourselves and Elizabeth has sown some dwarf beans by the wall of the house.  Wallflowers might be more usual in that position but the local shops only sell vegetable seeds – although we are told that there are nurseries around where you can buy flower seeds.

11 February, 2009

Video

After exploring several blind avenues, we now have a short piece of video up on the internet, showing singing during the visit by the Boys’ Brigade wedding party to St Agnes Church.  You can reach it by clicking on the link at the bottom of the posting on our Rabbit Blog.

Or by clicking here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wCRKeEGheLo

7 February, 2009

The Rabbit Blog

We now feature “Rabbit Blog” where you can watch the progress that the Boys’ Brigade make with their rabbit project.

You can reach it from the link on  the right, or via our web site, or directly at www.thedunfords.org/rabbit/

Our Day Out

After a strenuous week of meetings and teaching, Elizabeth said she had had enough of getting up early and walking down the hill to catch a (minibus) taxi.  She wanted to have a day out.  So on Friday (her non-teaching day), we got up early, walked down the hill, and caught a taxi.  Only this time – and for our first time ever – we headed north.

The taxi took us up to Maputsoe, an hour’s journey away.  We were soon in lovely, green countryside – such a contrast from the dusty, dry brown we saw when we were here last July.  There were undulating fields of maize and pasture reaching out towards the ever-present mountains in the distance.  There are no fences or hedges here to divide the fields, and very few trees, so you get an uninterrupted view to the mountains.  The only fences you see are a few dilapidated strands of barbed wire around houses and their gardens – just like we have around our own house on the Mission.  In neighbouring South Africa the barbed wire is to keep people out, but here it is to deter the animals you see everywhere being watched over by the herd boys as they graze.  A few days ago, a cow wandered past our own front door having given the herd boy the slip.

Maputsoe is a town with a border crossing into South Africa and has a reputation for being a bit rough.  There were no obvious signs of this as we rode in, although we noticed that several of the shops’ security guards were carrying rifles – not something you would see in TY nor that we have noticed in Maseru.  However, we only stopped here briefly to get into a taxi headed for Butha-Buthe.

As we travelled further north, there was a noticeable change in the scenery.  As well as getting closer to the mountains, there were far more trees.  In one or two places you could even have imagined you were in England.  The journey took us through Hlotse, often called Leribe although technically that is the name of the District rather than the town.  It looked quite a pleasant place but here we were reminded that, despite a taxi having the destination on the front and despite having paid the full fare to go there, this was no guarantee that the taxi would actually go there.  At the Hlotse taxi stop, we were bundled out of our taxi and into another one which, it was claimed, would actually take us to Butha-Buthe.  (David once travelled about a hundred yards from the taxi stop in Maseru before being transferred into another taxi at the side of the road.)

Elizabeth was quite excited when we arrived in Butha-Buthe as this was the place that hit the newspaper headlines last year when Prince Harry’s mobile phone was stolen while he was acting as a bouncer at a nightclub here.  However, we failed to find the nightclub – or indeed very much at all.  It seemed a fairly typical town.  Not an awful lot of traffic: taxis going to various destinations; some “four plus ones” as the local taxis are known; very occasionally a long, double-articulated vehicle fully laden with large sacks of maize meal; and quite often someone riding a donkey or a horse.  Lots of motor horns sounding as the taxis try to summon trade and lots of shops with loudspeakers outside playing loud music to attract customers – although it has the opposite effect on us.  As many street stalls as there are shops, although here they were mostly gathered together to form a little market.  We bought ourselves a banana – at R1 each – as a morning snack.  Also, as David’s watch had stopped in the middle of the night, Elizabeth treated him to a new one – at R40 (just under £3).  Then we checked out the supermarkets.  Just as elsewhere they came in two varieties – those owned by Chinese and those owned by Indians – but all selling the same minimum range of goods.

Having exhausted the delights of Butha-Buthe, it was back to the taxi stop into a taxi to take us to Ts’ehlanyane National Park.  Once it was full of passengers, and a large collection of provisions, it set off on an hour’s journey, the first ten minutes of it back the way we had come and then the next 32km over a rough unmade road, dropping off passengers and provisions as we went, leaving us as the last two passengers being taken to the entrance to the Park.  We arrived at 11:30 – just four hours after leaving home.  Before the taxi left, we checked that he would come back later in the day and arranged that he would collect us at 2pm.

Although we only touched the edge of the Park, it is in a beautiful spot, in the midst of the mountains.  We viewed the accommodation they have there, including some excellent guest houses which are nearing completion.  We would like to claim that we hiked along one of the trails there and it is true that we did, but this was only as a means of reaching the Maliba Lodge, which we were told is the only five-star lodge in Lesotho.  It is certainly well-appointed and served us a tasty (albeit expensive by Lesotho standards) lunch.  We have put some photographs of our visit in the picture gallery on our web site.

We got back to the site entrance at about 2:30, to be told that our 2 o’clock taxi should be here shortly.  We waited for an hour and a taxi appeared, but it soon became clear that it had been booked to transport a group of Red Cross workers who had been staying at the Conference Centre in the Park.  As time passed, we started to become concerned as to how we would get home, as public transport comes to a halt after dark and we had a long way to go home.  Eventually, when no other alternatives had presented themselves, we got ourselves a ride in the Red Cross taxi – which did not leave until ten to five.  Rather than go back up to Butha-Buthe, we got off at the main road and hoped a taxi would come along – but before one did, a man in a pick-up stopped and offered us a lift into Hlotse,which we gladly accepted – although he drove so slowly that we were passed by several taxis along the way.  After practising his English with us, the driver dropped us off next to a taxi going to Maputsoe and there we transferred into another showing a Maseru destination board.

We breathed a sigh of relief and settled down to the journey as the daylight disappeared, to be replaced by flashes of lightning as the rain came down.  At last we came into TY, where everybody else got out of the taxi and the driver decided to finish for the day.  We were bracing ourselves for a half hour walk home in pitch darkness, when we heard “Hello, ‘Me Elizabeth”.  It was Richard from church, who had just driven back from Maseru and noticed us standing looking unhappy in the dark.  He offered us a lift home, for which we were exceedingly grateful.  We were back a little before 8pm after an enjoyable day out in African style.  The only white faces we had seen all day were a group of four or five people visiting the Lodge.