June 26

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My Adventures in Mohales Hoek

DSC_0072“Sometimes a change of perspective is all it takes to see the light.” — Dan Brown

Before I get into my trip to the mountains, I wanted to share with you some words and phrases I’ve been learning in Sesotho.  I am super lucky to have an awesome roommate in the CHAI house Thatohatsi (Thato for short) who is teaching me words, phrases, and pronunciation.

  • Lumela Mme pronounced Do-may-la May this is a standard greeting for women
  • Lumela Ntate pronounced Do-may-la N-dat-eh this is a standard greeting for men
  • Mme pronounced May is for women who are older and or married
  • Ntate pronounced N-dat-eh is for men who are older and or married
  • Aussi pronounced Ow-si is used for younger or unmarried women and means sister
  • Abuti pronounced A-boot-y is used for younger or unmarried men and means brother
  • Kealeboha pronounced Gi-la-bo-ha means thank you
  • O Phela Joang? pronounced Oh Fae-la zho-wang means How are you?
  • Ke Phela Hantle pronounced K Fae-la Hunt-lee means I’m fine thank you
  • O Tsohile Joang pronounced Oh Ts-oh-heel-y zho-wang means How did you sleep – you only use this in the mornings.
  • K Tsohile Hantle pronounced K Ts-oh-heel-y Hunt-lee means good thank you
  • Anything that starts with a Q is a clicking sound, but it’s always followed by a vowel and you have to click and pronounce the vowel at the same time.  I’m still working on that one.  I will get it down before I leave.

On to my trip in the mountains.  I had arrived on Sunday June 18th in Maseru.  On Tuesday June 20th I had a trip scheduled to the mountains with my Nutrition team members.  All of the members of my team told me to bring warm clothes as we were going to the mountains and it was cold there at this time of year.  I dutifully packed the only two sweaters I had brought with me.  My new boots that I bought just the day before.  I also brought a sweatshirt and fuzzy socks with me for the evening when I would be in my room.  While I had the right clothes to prepare for the cold, I was not mentally prepared for it.  In the back of my head, I thought, “I’m from Canada, I’m used to the cold.  It’ll be fine”  WOW is all I can say.  It was cold.  I mean, it was really cold.  Added to that, electricity in the mountains sometimes gets shut down around 10:00 pm in order to conserve it.  That means no hot shower after 10, and no space heaters working to heat the room…

I had gone to dinner with my teammates and got back to my room before 10:00 pm.  I was supremely grateful that there was still hot water available so I could shower.  I want to tell you that I would have toughed it out and showered even if there wasn’t hot water, but honestly, I totally would have wimped out.  Guys it was COLD in the mountains.  There is no showering without hot water.  I don’t care who you are, no one is that tough.

So I get in the shower/tub combo and notice a bucket in the tub.  It turns out the shower head was broken, so the only way to rinse off was to fill the bucket with water, and then use that to rinse off.  I was so grateful there was hot water that I didn’t care.  I happily used the bucket, without any complaint.

I was also quite happy that I had listened to my colleagues and packed all of my warm gear as I was in my sweatshirt, my chenille topper (that I stole from sister, and love because it’s like wrapping myself in a warm hug.  Thanks Caroline, love you 🙂 ) and my fuzzy socks.  I had the space heater going in my room and I turned up the electric blanket all the way to high.  I knew I would only have the heat until 10:00 pm so I needed to build up all the heat I could.  Did I mention that it was really cold in the mountains?

Now, this is the part of the story that my friends and family who know me well will have difficulty believing.  You see, the plan was for all of us to be ready to leave the next day for Mohales Hoek by 6:00 am.  Yes, you heard that right, I, the non-morning person, needed to be ready and out the door by 6:00 am the next day.  Guess what?  I actually managed it.  I got up at 5:30 am, changed and was ready by 6:00 am.  Now Thato, my roommate and teammate, was also ready by 6:00 am.  The other two members of the team, both men by the way were half an hour late…

We made it to Mohales Hoek by around 8:00 am.  We were at a medical centre that was built by CHAI and Partners in Health (PIH).  The purpose was to talk to the World Food Program (WFP) volunteers who were giving out Supercereal Plus as a complimentary food to women with children ages 6-24 months.  This cereal is meant to be used in addition to breast-feeding.  It is meant to provide additional nutrients to children in order to prevent stunting.  This is the cereal that I am working on the investment case for, in order to get it fully funded and distributed to all children in Lesotho.

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Mothers get to this location to get the Superceral Plus by walking.  They will walk for hours on end, with their babies on their backs, in order to get this for their children.  We interviewed mothers that left their homes at 4:00 am in the morning and walked to the medical centre.  Can you imagine that?  They also walk back with their children and the Supercereal Plus that weighs 6kg or 13.2 lbs.  I would love to figure out a distribution method for this cereal that is cost effective and gets the product in the hands of those who need it most without them having to walk for hours to get it.  I will figure this piece out.

I found this trip to be quite enlightening and humbling.  When you see human resilience up close and personal, it really makes you stop, think, and re-evaluate.  At least it did for me.  It also made this project I’m working on personal.  This isn’t an abstract concept anymore.  I can see the who the people are, that will benefit from this project.  They’re real, not just words on paper.

Another thing, I was amazed by the beauty of the mountains.  Below are some pictures I took.

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Until next time.