March 11th, was Moshoeshoe Day, pronounced (Moshway-shway) in Lesotho. What is it? It’s the day the Basotho commemorate the death of the country’s founder.
All schools, including my small, Catholic school start preparing for this day, when school opens on January 25th, after the summer holidays—yes, we’re in the southern hemisphere here in Lesotho, southern Africa.
It’s a full-day event where children from various schools participate in sporting events, and traditional songs and dances.
Here’s how my first Moshoeshoe Day took place.
“Are you ready to walk?” ‘M’e Mamoshaka, the teacher from my school asks.
“Over there, by the nipple mountains.”
I see those nipple mountains from my rondavel, and they are by no means next door.
Mamoshaka looks at my shoes. “Are you wearing those?”
Teva sandals are good for walking, but I notice her hiking boots. It’s too hot to wear boots, so I keep my open-toe sandals on.
We leave my place at 8:35 a.m. and take the short-cut up and down the rocky, red-dirt clay path; the one carved out by cattle and sheep traipsing to the pastures, as well as the children walking from remote villages to school.
After 45 minutes, we reach the main road. Mamoshaka is wearing a long-sleeved gray sweater, and complains about her new curly hair extensions she had braided onto her own half-inch long African hair.
“I’m too hot with this hair,” she says.
“But you look beautiful with your curls. How long did it take to have those extensions put in?” She missed school on Thursday to go to the hairdresser in Maseru.
“I was at the hair place for ten hours, and there is still a piece missing in the back, but I was too tired to stay longer.”
“Ten hours! That must cost a lot,” I say, knowing how everyone in my village keeps telling me they have no money, and yet, they get hair extensions, and buy the Seshoeshoe pronounced (Seshwayshay) traditional dress you see us wearing in the photo. All the teachers had them custom made, and I chose the color purple.
Had I known this walk was not what I call a “walk” but more like a mountain-climbing expedition, I would probably have stayed home; but I had bought the dress though, and promised the teachers I would be there.
Small children in their green uniforms pass us on their way to the school. We get there two hours later, all sweaty and exhausted, and then the poor kids start running the 100m-500m-800m and finally the 1.2km races. One of the girls from our school usually wins the races, however today, she was slower than usual. I am told this is because her parents did not feed her breakfast. Neither parent works, and they beg for food from their neighbors. As Mary, (my host mother explains,) they are both lazy. I felt sorry for the children, especially when lunch was served, and the teachers were given chicken, lamb, rice, carrot salad, vegetables and dessert before the children were allowed to eat lunch.
I helped serve lunch to the hungry children, and their food was in a large bucket. It contained samp, (a lumpy grain) mixed with a red sauce, and porridge. I felt guilty about eating better food, and being served before the children.
After lunch we changed into our Seshoeshoe dresses, and listened to the children sing and dance.
The children are performing and we watch all three schools compete.
Everyone is happy, including the nun, (Principal) of my school. Watch them sing and dance.
The hike back home was horrendous. I had to help ‘M’e Mamoshaka climb the rocky cliffs, and I am 21 years older than her. Now I know why it’s important to go for my morning walks, and why I need to keep exercising.
What an experience for me to participate in the Moshoeshoe festivities. Next year, on March 11th, everyone has to hike to our school, as we shall be hosting the event.