Around 10 a.m., an old blue truck makes it way to the top of the hill, and stops a few feet from my room. It’s Sister Bernadette, the Principal of the Catholic school where I shall volunteer as a primary education teacher with the Peace Corps, and her driver. When I see the empty truck bed, I’m no longer upset that Sister came along. In fact, having a nun with you in Lesotho is an asset, as everyone is eager to help her.
We load the truck, and I’m crammed in the back seat with a large cardboard box, and my stainless steel water filtration system. I’ve finished my ten weeks of Peace Corps training in a rural village and cannot wait to move to my new village which will be my home for the next two years.
“Would it be possible to do some shopping in Maseru? I’d really like to go to Pioneer Mall.”
“Yes, no problem,” Sister Bernadette replies, which I barely hear as the radio is cranked up so loud, it sounds tinny.
The driver, a large man, reminds me of a black version on my ex-husband. He cranks the radio up and I can no longer hear myself speak. What the hell is wrong with people’s hearing in Lesotho? My sons used to make fun of me back in the U.S. saying that I must be getting old as I kept turning the volume up on our TV, but here in Lesotho, everyone must be deaf.
“Is that a soap opera?” I ask Sister Bernadette. The man is yelling, and it sounds like he’s telling someone off.
“What’s he yelling about Sister?” I repeat.
“It’s a prayer,” she says.
I forgot how Sister always has a million errands to run when she’s in the capital city. Fortunately they drop me off at the mall.
“Is it OK if I take a couple of hours to shop?” I ask, feeling like I’m asking a huge favor.
“No problem,” Sister says.
I run around getting everything done, as well as my “must-have” cup of drip coffee at the Renaissance Café, and then I call Sister. Within five minutes, they pick me up at the mall, with my duvet, pillows and extra bags of goodies.
I apologize for taking too long, and Sister does not respond, so now the guilt sets in.
I’m so looking forward to heading home to my new rondavel, and I check my watch; we should reach my new village by 4 p.m.
After ten minutes, Sister says, “I need to stop and deliver some papers for our school.”
I sit in the car with the driver, and she returns ten minutes later.
Okay, so now we’re on our way home.
“You wait here,” says the driver, as he parks his car on a busy main road, and he and Sister get out.
It’s about 90 degrees outside and he’s parked the truck in the direct sun. I open my window, and there’s no breeze coming through. I open my door, and two young Basotho men start chatting with me. They want money, and while talking to them, I slide my purse under the water filter.
I make small talk to distract them.
“What do you do?” I ask,
“We deliver,” the young man says.
“What do you deliver?”
“We help you carry from shop.”
I then realize I’m at a Lesotho “Home Depot” and these guys deliver goods to their home or business.
“I need money. I have a child to feed.”
“How old are you?” I ask.
“Twenty-four.” He looks skinny and has deep wrinkles for a man his age. I compare him to my middle son who is twenty-five.
At first I’m scared of these young men, and think they want to steal from me, but then I take a different approach; I decide to motivate and guide them, so I ask if they have business cards.
They look at me unsure of what I mean.
“You want customers. So you need to give them a business card so you are more professional than all the other men doing the same as you.” I show him my business card so he knows what I mean.
“You need to offer them a discount on their first ride if they pick you.”
The young guy’s face brightens up, and thanks me. Now I’m no longer afraid of these guys, and I do hope that I offered them something they may use to stand out from all the others lining up to help customers.
I’m baking in the back of the truck. When are they coming back? I’m afraid to leave the truck as it’s unlocked, and all my stuff is visible inside.
I wait and wait forever, melting in my seat, feet sticking out of the open window, and my water bottle is now hot enough to make instant coffee.
The driver walks back, and I tell him about the men harassing me, but that doesn’t faze him. He gets in the seat and I ask, “Where is Sister?”
“We go inside,” he says.
He drives the truck into the “Home Depot” parking lot, just a few feet away, and parks. Why the hell couldn’t he have done that in the first place so that I could cool off inside the building with Sister. I find her sitting on a bench inside, drinking a soda.
“What are we waiting for?” I ask.
“I buy some wood and tin for the Priest’s house,” she says.
“What? Is there room with all my stuff in the back?”
“No problem,” she says.
If I’d known that it would take three hours to load up the truck with wood and tin roofing, which seems to almost fall off the back of the truck, I would have stayed at Pioneer Mall. At least it was cool and comfortable there.
I cannot imagine how this overloaded truck will climb up and down the steep mountains to my village, and how we shall be able to keep the tin and wood from sliding off, when we hit the rock and pebbled dirt road for 5 kilometres.
I am amazed by the amount of stuff people cram into cars, and by the risks they take, especially when people have to sit on top of one another inside a taxi or hang out of vehicles. The police don’t care whether a car is overloaded to the point of it being a safety hazard, even with children and babies inside.
I can’t believe it. We make it to my new village without a single mishap. The only problem is when we reach the peak; we seem to be at a complete standstill. What if we roll backwards? Will we make it, will we make it? I keep asking, and miraculously, we do, and then we slide down the opposite side like a roller coaster, gathering momentum for the next peak.
My lovely new host mom is there to greet me when the truck pulls up. I’m so glad I get dropped off before the wood and tin panels. I’m exhausted from this entire day of waiting, shopping and sweating.
Everyone comes out of “m’e Mary’s house to help with my bags and suitcases.
I have found my home in Africa. I have a habit of wanting to make each place I live in, feel like home; Africa is no different.