About a year ago, in a church that moonlights as our training center, my group, the Ed 12s, sat in a big circle while Peace Corps staff members read out our names and the location of our new homes.
When my name and site was read, I was immediately devastated. We had a chance to look at the possible sites before hand and then write an essay, ranking our preferences, for staff consider. This was not my top choice and, foolishly so, had my hopes set on another place.
That night I cried, devastated with my future and upset that my wellbeing was disregarded.
A year later and I now confess that Peace Corps knew what they were doing when they put me here. That other site is still a good one, but this is my home.
This weekend Hannah came to visit and the two of us joined the Peter (the British man living in my village) his wife Brenda (a Mosotho woman), their daughter Beatrice and their granddaughter Kira for Roof of Africa. I strolled over to their the secret garden of a home and could already smell another of Beatrice’s delicious masterpieces before I even hit the front door. She was busy inside making meatballs and packing a lunch for our group. We loaded up the car, met Hannah at the lodge on the main road and traveled into the Machache Mountain for the Roof.
The Roof of Africa is a massive motorbike race that attracts riders from all over the world. Peter, who has attended 20 or so of these events, told me it is an official race in the South Africa motorbike season but people from anywhere can ride. It’s a three-day even held in various places around the country and we observed the final day at Bushman’s pass, a tricky mountainous area that is even terrifying to climb even in a car.
There were hundreds of cars with trailers attached sitting parked at the pass and bikers, and their fans, mulling around the area. It felt like the derby races I used to cover when I worked as a sports reporter in Idaho or the campgrounds of We Fest. Lots of tents and lawn chairs. Lots of drinking. I’ve never seen that many white people in Lesotho and it was a bit weird to watch them interact with the village kids who walked up the mountain to observe the fun.
We roamed around for a bit and then set up our picnic of meatballs, samosas, chips, bread, cheese, cookies and juice and people watched under the hot sun. After we staked out places at the finish to watch a 16-year-old South African kid climb a rocky path to become the winner in the expert category. I got chills it was so exciting.
After we had enough of races and the sun, we descended the mountain and stopped off at the lodge for a few beers. Peter, after my ravings of Hannah’s cooking, invited us back to his house. We cook; he provides the wine.
I enjoy bringing people to Peter’s house because they always get the tour. There is the house they live in, the one they are renovating, the garden, the fields, the animals, the fruit trees and the vineyard. Every time I bring someone there, they always leave saying, “You are so lucky to have them in your village.” It is true.
We, and I mean Beatric and Hannah, cooked chicken, potatoes and stuffed butternut squash. I love being in that kitchen and watching all the magic unfold and then tasting in.
They called a family friend to walk Hannah and I home and we stopped to buy quarts of beer for late-night girl talk. We woke the next day, made potato pancakes and fried eggs and enjoyed them on my porch.
Village life is not always perfect. There are times when I want a cold Diet Coke and my favorite television show, but for the rest of my life I will cherish the years I spent in this small village. Little kids hug me on my way to school. Men shout across fields to greet me and women light up when I say hello. I stare at mountains every day and am a five-minute walk from a waterfall. And two families have adopted me as their own.
It’s funny how a year ago I couldn’t imagine living in this place and now I can’t think of leaving it. There are lots of great places in Lesotho, but I am happy to call this one home.