After exactly 15 months in Lesotho, I decided after several months of reflection, to start a new chapter in my life. I’m returning to the U.S., and looking forward to seeing my sons more often, and being with so many supportive friends.
Before I get into the reasons why I decided to start a new chapter, I want to thank the Peace Corps for giving me the opportunity to experience work and life in rural Lesotho, and to especially thank the Peace Corps Lesotho staff, including the wonderful Country Director, Wendy VanDamme.
I was so lonely in my rondavel and had moments where I yearned for family and friends, and someone to have an interesting and stimulating conversation with. After teaching, my legs and hips were getting achy and stiff from sitting on my bed for hours with my laptop, or a book to keep me going. I did walk in the mountains on a daily basis, talk to my “host” mother, and her family, but what I missed more than I realized were family and friends, my gym in California, and the sharing of interesting conversations. I am a “people” person and thrive on meeting and listening to others, not sitting alone for hours a day with a laptop as my best friend.
I feel I’ve given, and done everything I could possibly do for my school, the children, and my community. Thanks to all the books, DVDs, clothing donations, shoes and school supplies that all of you were so kind to send to my school.
(Please note this is my personal experience and not that of the Peace Corps or other Peace Corps Volunteers.)
I’ve learned so much about myself, have grown so much stronger and way more assertive. I have no trouble saying “no” to things I don’t believe in or don’t want to do. There was so much I didn’t mention in my posts about the village gossip and jealousy, and problems at my school that I won’t get into here. One thing that I never expected, and I know I may be generalizing here, was the lack of gratitude I experienced. Many continue to expect everything to be given to them, without lifting a finger. It’s quite sad, and I’m reading an eye-opening book recommended by two friends who worked in different parts of Africa. It was written by an African author: Dead Aid. Why Aid is not working, and how there is a better way for Africa.
Her name is Dambisa Moyo.
I think we are all geared to help others, but after being asked on a daily basis, “Give me money,” by children and adults, and being shoved by two people in a supermarket line in Maseru and told that I’m the one who should be grateful for helping the Basotho, not the other way around, I’ve become quite cynical about aid to Africa. I think the book explains the background, although I haven’t finished reading it. (I want to emphasize that this is my own experience, and may not be that of other Peace Corps Volunteers.)
I was also upset that after one year of teaching English and reading and computer skills, the children could not answer a simple question in Grade 7. Only one of my students out of 36, got a “first class” in the final exam. This means 60% or above. The rest got 30%-59% which is still considered a pass here. So in my opinion, the education is not improving in the rural areas, and I wanted them to do well. I’m not sure what the problem is; a lack of good nutrition? a lack of parental or grandparental involvement? a lack of interest? a lack of the basics in education? a lack of motivation? poverty and having to stay and help in the village after grade 7?
Anyway, I have no regrets, and after 15 months, I know so much more than I did before about life in the poor parts of Africa. I’ve changed, and I did make a small difference with a few of my students, so that’s why I’m ready to start the next chapter in my life.
I’m returning to Orange County, California, on January 17th, meanwhile I’m in South Africa, and then off to see my wonderful Dad and Jill in Paris. Here’s a glass of wine to celebrate my service in Lesotho.
Note, I’m still wearing the “Take a Risk” shirt I bought in Maseru. That’s what I’m doing with the next chapter in my life.
I would like to continue blogging and am asking you for ideas.
What do you want me to write about on my blog now?
- Specific topics from my experiences in Lesotho?
- My search for a new job?
- My online dating experiences as a middle-aged woman?
- Any other ideas?