29 May, 2009

The books – post script

These Maths textbooks are American, beautifully printed and have colourful pictures and diagrams.

At the beginning of lunchtime yesterday, one of the boys asked if he could borrow one.
The next thing I saw was a small group of boys sitting on the step huddled round the book pouring over the pages as if it was a football magazine.  I would love to have taken a photo but they would have suddenly become aware and it would have spoiled the whole atmosphere which to me was perfect.

27 May, 2009

New Excuse

I was always lenient with my pupils in Nottingham if they could come up with an excuse I had never heard before if they had arrived late/ not done their homework/ worn the wrong uniform etc etc…

Tau arrived late for school and appeared to be limping.  I asked him if his shoes had fallen apart – this has happened to several students so far.
“No, madam” he replied, pointing to his thigh, “My donkey kicked me”

26 May, 2009

The books – Episode 3

Those of you who have been following the saga of the Maths textbooks read on….

Last Thursday was Ascension Day so was a school holiday, and our priest was taking a service at Ha Fusi in the morning.  After asking if I could accompany him, I then asked if it would be OK to bring three boxes of books with me.  So off we went to Ha Fusi church which is in the same grounds as the Primary school.  The secondary school is at the other end of the village and can only be reached along a rough track definitely not suitable for the priest’s rather dilapidated car.  Since the primary school office is used as a vestry by the church, this was to be the next resting ground for my books.

A few days later – Tuesday – I sent a group of children to collect them at lunchtime.  This seemed a good excuse for an outing and it appeared that half the school went for the walk.  (UK teachers, please note – permission forms don’t exist, and it is quite OK to send children on errands – no need to count them out and back!  They seem to survive!)  After a while they returned very excitedly clutching the books.


They are now safely stored at school and I have started using them.  The students find it quite a novelty having textbooks and keep leafing through the pages to look and see what’s there!


25 May, 2009

Elizabeth’s birthday weekend

A few weeks ago we heard about an “Introduction to Lesotho” weekend at a guesthouse in Morija, a village a couple of hours away.   The programme included several language sessions, talks on the Basutho culture and a walk to the dinosaur footprints.  As it seemed a good opportunity to meet new people and it coincided with my birthday we decided to go.
The guesthouse was perched high up on the hill (a long climb for those of us travelling by public transport) and we were met by the friendly French owner who has lived in Lesotho for twenty-two years.

It was a wonderfully relaxing venue with hot showers (fantastic!) and beautiful views.  There were only six of us on the course (they usually have 15 to 20) and we have made some very good new friends.  The language lessons were excellent although very hard work.  New languages are hard enough but African languages, of course, have no common roots or structures.  It was a steep climb to the dinosaur footprints but worth it.  This creature was probably a miniature Tyrannosaurus Rex.

dinosaur footprints

We plan to spend another weekend there when it is warmer and go on a couple of pony treks.

20 May, 2009

Collecting the Books

If you read the blog about our visit to Ha Lereko you will know that there were unused Maths books just waiting for me to get my hands on.  Only Ha Lereko is almost inaccessible.  But it’s not easy to defeat me!

A few days after our visit, I decided I had not visited ‘Me Pholosi, the elderly lady who keeps all the parish schools and their teachers in order so I called at her house on my way home from town.  Well, who should be there but the principal of Ha Lereko school!  Just the person I wanted to meet.  She had clearly been (not surprisingly) rather suspicious of this unknown visitor who had left a message that she wanted to steal a pile of books from the staffroom.  However, by the end of my visit we were great friends and I told her I had arranged transport to the village the following Monday.

I had asked one of the lay readers at church who has a pick-up truck if he would take me for petrol money which he agreed to do.  He is a retired army “important rank” so has the time.  Firstly, we left an hour late and our first stop was the local petrol station.  He played the old trick of turning up with an empty tank and an empty wallet!  One learns to shrug one’s shoulders here.

We set off for the hills and somewhere in the middle of nowhere we were stopped at a police checkpoint (there are lots of them).  They checked tyres, horn, lights etc then asked for the bonnet to be lifted.  One officer read the engine number from the tax disc while another checked the engine – they did not match. Hmmm.  Our keys were taken away and we were then completely ignored.  We were going nowhere!  My driver told me that he bought a new engine last year but didn’t think to register it.  He started rummaging around and even managed to find the receipt – the police were not interested.  Another pickup pulled up behind us with the same problem.
My consolation was that the weather was nice and the views magnificent, but I did wonder if we would reach our destination before the school closed.  Nearly an hour later another pickup was pulled in – wonder of wonders it was someone from our church.  Somehow he managed to persuade the police that my driver was a fine honest upstanding fellow, and we were given our keys back.

Apart from a few stops to give people free rides (they walk miles) the rest of the journey was uneventful and we reached the school in time.  As I got out of the van, I was surrounded by gaping, giggling children.  For many of them, it was their first meeting with a white person.  Now I know how animals in the zoo feel!  I was made very welcome and met the staff.

Lereko schoolchildren

I had made a bingo game for practising multiplication tables for the school, so a classroom was filled with children for me to play it with them.  I’m sorry there are no photos as they absolutely loved it.  Most teaching here is very didactic with no element of fun.

I was given my books and we made our way back to my house.  The books are still here – I now have to arrange transport to Ha Fusi.  Will that be an eventful journey too?


On Saturday, a confirmation service was held at one of St Agnes’ daughter churches.  Then, on the Sunday, the candidates and Bishop Adam joined the service at St Agnes.

Bishop Adam

12 May, 2009

To Ha Lereko with the AWF

St Agnes has eight daughter churches, and our new priest has been busy visiting them all.  He has decided that the church at Ha Lereko needs some encouragement: it is in a mainly Roman Catholic area; the congregation is quite small; and some of them have to walk a very long way to services.  So, on Sunday, he took  one of the guilds – the Anglican Women’s Fellowship – along with him; and we joined them, too.


Ha Lareko is “up in the hills”, as everyone described it, and it took nearly an hour for our chartered minibus to make the journey there from St Agnes.  We had already been along the road to Mapoteng and knew how beautiful the scenery was there, with the mountains forming a backdrop.  But that had not prepared us for the views we got when we turned off the main road and were taken along an unmade road higher and higher up the hills.

The church is in the school compound just before the village.  The picture shows the road down into the village – and it really is that steep.

Road Down to the Village

We knew one of the teachers there: he lives in a house in the school compound – the only teacher to do so.  The views from the compound are wonderful – you feel you can reach out and touch the mountains.

View from Church

But we asked him what it was like to live there.  He said it was “quiet – too quiet”; not many people live nearby.  There is no electricity and it is a good five minute walk down the hill to his nearest water tap – and a less good walk with a full container back uphill.  As for transport, he said he can sometimes go a full week without seeing a minibus taxi pass by.  (Taxis are more frequent from the other side of the valley, but that is an hour’s walk away.)

Our own minibus was late to take us back home, so after the service and sharing in the AWF’s packed lunch – cooked chicken, rice and vegetables – we all walked back along the road to meet it, admiring the views along the way.


We don’t know how successful we were in encouraging the local congregation, but Elizabeth certainly was successful in another way.  In the primary school she noticed piles of brand new secondary school maths text books that had been donated by an NGO but were beyond the scope of a primary school.  She has already got agreement to take them for her school at Ha Fusi and we are now looking for a volunteer to transport them.  From the one school to the other – both near daughter churches of St Agnes – will be a drive of about an hour and a half.  As our priest said shortly after starting: “I’ve looked at a map: it’s a big parish!”

10 May, 2009

A Day Out at the Border Crossing

On Friday, David was feeling a little jaded after spending all week at St Agnes so he decided he would go out for the day.  Elizabeth, rather more sensibly, decided she would have a quiet day at home.

For a change, David thought it might be nice to go abroad and visit another country.  South Africa was the obvious choice.  So he caught the taxi into Maseru and then another one for the short journey out to the border post.  He walked through the Lesotho check-point without even needing to show his passport; strolled across the bridge over the Caledon River; and then joined the queue to obtain a South African visa.  Two and a half hours later he strolled out into South Africa.  There had been no problems: it was just that it had taken that long to process the queue.  The border crossing at Maseru is renowned for its delays, so it was good that David was only planning to pop into Ladybrand, about twelve miles away.

Getting a taxi was, again, easy and he was soon enjoying the delights of Ladybrand.  He had vague memories of other people speaking of it as though it were a land of milk and honey, teeming with restaurants and even ice cream parlours.  If so, they were all shut on the day he visited and an hour later he was back in a taxi heading for the border.  (At least one other person on the taxi with him had been on the same taxi coming down, which seems to confirm Ladybrand’s limited attractions.)  To be fair, there did seem to be several reasonable clothes shops and he found one large stationers.  But there was no bookshop (not unusual in South Africa from our experience on holiday a couple of years ago) – not even a selection of magazines – and no travel agent to help us plan our holiday in June.

Getting back into Lesotho was comparatively easy – just a half hour wait on the South African side and brief formailities on the Lesotho side.

So, by the end of the journey, David had spent three times as long in the queues at South African immigration as he had in the town.  But it was all worth it, as he discovered that he could only be issued with a seven day visa.  A new rule, he was told, as he was not entering from his country of residence.  So we will be off to the South African High Commission to persuade them that we should be granted a longer visa so that we can go on holiday there in June and do occasional shopping – (we hear there is a bookshop up in Clarens).

4 May, 2009

Change in the Weather

We can really feel the onset of winter now.

The mornings are dark and very cold – woolly hat and gloves for my walk to school.  However, the day warms up with the sun, and the middle of the day is sometimes quite hot.  The evenings are cool although we haven’t taken to wrapping ourselves in our Basotho blankets just yet.  I am very appreciative of my Canadian niece who hand-knitted the most wonderful bedsocks;  David was very dismissive when I packed them, but is now wondering whether they might fit him.

The shopping streets in town have changed somewhat.  Obviously, fruit and vegetables are seasonal.  The roadside stalls have replaced their frilly knickers (which I never did think would fit some of the African bottoms I see) with long johns.  The mosquito coils are nowhere to be seen.  There are now people roasting corn cobs (delicious!) and that delicacy chicken feet (yes, feet not legs).

We have been assured that it will get colder until July.  The house has no insulation or heating although we have bought a little electric fire.

Doesn’t seem like the typical image of Africa somehow.

1 May, 2009

Super-sized Veg

On Monday morning, one of my students, Malefu, asked me to accompany her to the village at lunchtime as Mr Malifosane had something for me.

We set off for his house which was a good twenty minutes walk.  He greeted me warmly and then showed me a pile of about thirty pumpkins which he had harvested.  He then opened the door of a storeroom where there were about twenty more.  He offered to give me one, for which I was very grateful.  I must have appeared extremely enthusiastic as he searched for two of the biggest pumpkins he could find.

Malefu and I struggled back to school with them, and my fellow teachers helped me get them home by carrying them on their heads.  Pumpkins are very, very heavy but they are also delicious as we have found every meal this week (and will do for a few weeks to come).