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.

1 December, 2010

School Farewell

Elizabeth writes:

Where have the two years gone?
Yesterday was the end of the school year and time for Fusi Secondary School to hold its prizegiving and farewell ceremony.  Any excuse for a good day-long party.  Since I was a celebrity for the day I was not allowed to go early to help with preparations – I would be collected from home (with David and my friend Karen) at 10 o’clock.  In true African style, we were collected at 11 o’clock.
We arrived at school to an enormous cheer from the students ( I now know how it feels to be royalty) and to the wonderful sight of smoke coming from the chimneys of the new kitchen.

Eventually, the proceedings began and, of course, there were plenty of speeches to be got through.  I wrote my speech and had it translated into Sesotho, so when I spoke in their native tongue everyone was very impressed.  (David videoed it and I can’t say I was impressed by my abominable accent!).  You will notice the school principal giving me some hearty applause.

The boredom of continuous speeches was relieved by songs and traditional dances performed by the students.  They have been practising for weeks.

Eventually, we came to the distribution of prizes (generally exercise books and pens), and, of course, the giving of gifts (cue more speeches).  We said farewell to the Form Cs and if they have passed their exams most of them are hoping to proceed to high school for 2 more years of study.  Another teacher is also leaving to take up full-time teacher training (she is presently unqualified) so we made a bit of a fuss of her.
After this, I was completely overwhelmed.  I was given gifts by students, by the local primary school, by colleagues and by ex-students.  It is very humbling to receive such generosity from people who have so little themselves.  The pi├Ęce de resistance has to be an amazing weaving of the school, designed and made by our neighbours, a weaving cooperative.

I also love the traditional dress made especially for me, shown here with the school cook and her niece and son who were both students last year.

David has a theory that every Basotho occasion ends with food at 3 o’clock.  When he says this to the locals, they seem surprised, but at 3 o’clock yesterday, we all enjoyed an excellent meal. (The students were talking about it all last week as they would get MEAT!)

What a wonderful day, but a very emotional one too.  I hope and pray that the school will continue to grow, and help the children in the area who have so few opportunities.