Two years. They can pass in an instant. It is nearly impossible to sum up our time in Lesotho. It has been amazing in so many ways – the friends we have made, the places we have seen, the challenges we have faced. It is crazy to think back to that Friday afternoon two plus years ago and how receiving a little flag with a hat on it has changed our lives forever!
People always ask us what it was like to live in Lesotho and we can’t answer without smiling. Here is a country of striking natural beauty, with mountains, rivers, harvested fields, gorges and waterfalls that you could spend a lifetime wandering over, through and beneath. The people are open and warm, a ready smile as soon as you say ‘Lumela’. It was a place we easily called home for two years – a place we could have stayed much longer.
Though Lesotho is a place of majestic beauty, it is also sadly a country of equally great challenges. HIV/AIDS and TB is rampant. Poverty is endemic. Education is massively underfunded and supported. And political divisiveness threatens to tear the country apart. Sometimes the basic functionalities of government and civil society seem to be a herculean task. Even leaving the country has its own challenges with an enormous amount of inconsistency and conflicting relations with its surrounding neighbour.
It is frustrating to see the unfulfilled promise of a country and a people, especially when you know that they have so much to offer. Lesotho could easily be an eco-tourism hot spot, which in turn could bring in much needed income to its population. There are already success stories, like Maliba Lodge, Malealea Lodge, Semonkong Lodge and Afri-Ski. There could be dozens more with the natural beauty of Sethlabethebe National Park, Katse Dam and Sani Pass just to name a few. It will take a major change of mentality and that is always a grand challenge. Still, we remain hopeful that others will find this country and with that, new opportunities can be created to help to improve the lives of the Basotho.
For us, it was a brave new world. Our first assignment in the U.S. Foreign Service. Our first experiences in sub-Saharan Africa. Our first time living in a developing country. We knew our lives would change, but in what wonderful and weird ways, we never could have guessed.
Firstly, we travelled. Both of us, but especially Cora, travelled all over Lesotho. There are few people, either Basotho or foreigners, who have seen more of Lesotho than Cora. For her job she was able to visit communities so far remote that she and her colleague Hopolang sometimes had to take horses or walk for an hour or two to complete the visit. That would be after a similar length of time bumping and jostling over the ever diminishing dirt tracks in a 4×4 vehicle. No matter where you went, whether close to home or across to the opposite border, this country has never stopped offering viewpoints that will simply leave you speechless. I know we have described some of these sites in other blog entries, but truly, it is hard to properly explain what it is like to travel around this country.
We met amazing people here. So many have left large imprints on our hearts and spirits. Some are like us, nomads out exploring the world and fortunate to have backgrounds and opportunities to do so. Others are permanently at home in Lesotho so we will have to remain connected through electronic means and keep the firmly held belief that we will once more see each other in some future time. People make an experience truly magical and that was certainly true for us in Lesotho. Rea leboha especially to our Basotho friends and colleagues who connected with us and showed us amazing patience, love and interest. You all know who you are.
Professionally this was an amazing first tour. Though it was more limited for Cora, in that she wasn’t able to formally use her skills as an Intercultural Consultant, she was able to work in an extremely fulfilling job that allowed her to support a lifeline of funding and empathy for Basotho. For me, it is hard to imagine a location and job that would have offered me more opportunities than I had here the past two years. My role as the General Services Officer (GSO) allowed me to experience so many different facets of U.S. Embassy functions and I learned and developed a tremendous amount. The challenges were great, and nearly constant, but the lessons I have learned and skills I have acquired will serve me well for years to come in this career.
We could write an entire book about Lesotho and the emotions it stirs in us, but ultimately we fear that anything we write will leave out a key component of our lives here and truly will not do this wonderful place the justice it deserves. For this, we will simply say that if you can find your way to Lesotho, do so, and you will not be disappointed. Until you do, come and visit Lesotho virtually through our gallery: http://www.pbase.com/malinakphotography/lesotho
Rea leboha ha holo dear mountain kingdom and Basotho people. We will miss you dearly and hold the memories we have from here forever in our hearts. Not least of all, we carry with us the most beautiful tangible memories of Lesotho through our gorgeous Mosa girl and little Moeti to be.
We know that we will return. No doubt in our mind, we will return.
In the meantime… Khotso, Pula, Nala!
*Note*: For those of you following our blog through email, first of all thank you. Secondly, apologies for these recent posts which seem a bit out or order, and late. We are finally catching up on all of our posts and are backdating older ones so please bear with us… More soon on our current adventures!