Many of you enjoyed following my daily life in Lesotho, so it’s been a struggle for me to know what to continue writing about after the end of my service on January 7th, 2017.
Therefore, I’ve decided to share a document I wrote in October 2016, about the pros and cons of my personal experience in my rural village. Please note that this is what I felt at the time, and may be completely different from what other Peace Volunteers go through. I thank the Peace Corps for letting me serve, and once again, this is not to “put down” the Basotho people I met, nor the Peace Corps; it’s just Sonia writing down her thoughts and sifting through the pros and cons so she could make a her final decision.
I want to stress that I do not regret my fifteen, life-changing months in Lesotho, but I cannot sugar-coat my thoughts. I am who I am, and I say what I think.
Why I want to leave the Peace Corps
My village in Lesotho is not a place for me to get healthy. It’s actually a place where I seem to age faster, become apathetic and cynical and feel “used.” Sorry to disappoint you, but if you know me, I can only say what I feel.
Gratitude is not part of the Basotho culture, and as one South African woman told me, “Africans see white people as walking ATMs.” I can tell you this is exactly how I feel, and although many white people may think this is not politically correct, I don’t care. I will only listen to you if you’ve lived in a rural village in Africa recently, for over a year like I have, otherwise, you have no idea what it’s like.
I am often so bored with my life here, to the point where I feel claustrophobic and in jail in my rondavel.
There is no intellectual stimulation or conversation in my rural village; people don’t read or listen to international news, and I don’t speak Sesotho (my own fault) but I do know enough about my village that it’s mostly staring at people all day long, and gossiping.
I cannot leave my village when I want to; there are only three public taxi vans in the morning, and due to a lack of scheduling, these often show up one after the other at 6:10, 6:11 and 6:12. Makes no sense, but neither does my life in Lesotho where I spend my time trying to teach children English, and after one year, they cannot even answer “Have you had lunch?”
I thrive on being active both physically, at the gym or swimming, and intellectually, talking to people, learning and attending workshops. I cannot do this in Lesotho, except when I meet expats.
My body is aching from sitting on a bed for hours with my laptop, and a mattress that hurts my back, despite the extra plank I put underneath.
I cannot stand watching how dogs are treated in my village, and people throwing stones at them.
I’ve experienced most of what I can possibly learn in my village and my school, and another year is simply a continuation of what I’ve already seen and I am becoming less integrated, more frustrated and lazy like my fellow African teachers.
I need more in my life than gossip, sitting on a chair and trying to motivate children who are too hungry and poor to realize the value of education.
In order to understand my feelings and to make a sound decision, I am writing a list of pros and cons.
- A life-changing opportunity
- Personal growth
- Learning how to manage a project in an African country
- Overcoming challenges
- Overcoming my divorce
- Gratitude for my life in California
- Appreciation of food, coffee, books, libraries, workshops, weather, fresh vegetables, salmon, cheese, bread, wine and driving somewhere when I want to go, freedom.
- No intellectual stimulation apart from radio and online
- Teachers don’t seem to care, and spend too much time on their cell phones instead of teaching
- The children are not learning English
- The children spend most of Friday cleaning and not learning
- Children are treated like “mini servants” by teachers. “Get me my food.”
- I’m becoming lazy as I don’t see results
- Too much gossip and my counterpart has lost interest
- No guidance from Principal
- No teaching shedule or bell between classes
- Corruption and overall lack of caring about children
- No adult intelligent conversation
- People sit and stare for hours
- Jealousy among villagers
- Asking me for money constantly
- My loneliness
- No convenient taxis
- Stress over when taxi is coming
- Constant shouting which sounds like anger
- Beating animals, throwing rocks at them
- Having to greet people I don’t know, and why is it always me first?
- Loud, ear-piercing music
- Dangerous taxi drivers talking on cell phone and changing gears while steering at same time
- Dangerous roads and driving on opposite side of street
- No friend next door to open up to
- No restaurants or grocery stores
- No TV
- No coffee shops
- Eyes staring through my plastic bags to see what I’ve bought to eat
- Get to school and nothing happens for at least an hour and a half
- No structure
- No motivation
- No one reads books
- People stare when I carry my pee bucket
- Lack of communication
- Culture is lazy, and they admit it themselves
- No showers
- No toilet
I returned to Orange County, California on January 17th, and have ideas about what to do next. I’m going to share these in future posts; in the meantime, I’m resettling, organizing my life back in California, and enjoying my time with wonderful friends, and of course my three sons.