Saturday, 16 September 2017

Traveler’s Diarrhea and Justin Bieber

photo by Philip Maher
A day off at the Lipofung caves, Lesotho:
Minus their fearless leader

I almost made it.  It took seven days and despite extreme precautions, I developed symptoms of the travel bug……no detailed description necessary.  On other trips I am often out for three or four days.  I hope today is the only day for this trip.

The team took the day off of foster home repair and clean up and headed up to the only ski resort in the highlands; a treacherous drive.  Apparently, the van needed a ‘rest’ several times as it climbed.  Phil is our driver and we are going to knight him for his efforts.

The view up there is incredible.  The highlands of Lesotho are the most magical, eerily beautiful place on earth.  I am sorry I missed the trip this year.  I had an entirely different day.    Getting up, except when absolutely necessary, was too difficult so I laid in my bed looking out the heavily sheared window recognizing only blue sky and sunlight above the decaying walls of the cottages that surround our courtyard.  Not much to see which left ample room for the sounds of Lesotho.   Off in the distance, all day long, I heard cheering and chanting teenagers.  At least I think they were teenagers.  It must have been some sort of sports tournament.  Their exuberance was extraordinary.  All day long, chanting and cheering in harmony, of course.  It was the sound of pure joy.  I could here honking taxis on the road in front of the convent, the drivers accosting each other and their customers.  When the cheers died down, I heard birds chirping in the heavily blossomed bushes.  At one point this morning, a group of men and women made their way up the street singing in that un-mistakable African harmony.  I could make out the hymns.  They seemed to slowly make their way up the street and then back down.  Funerals are on Saturdays here.  The sadness in their voices made me wonder whether that was what this procession was for.

On and off all day, in between deep, dreamless naps, I heard these sounds.  A housekeeper was in and out sweeping and cleaning.  No vacuum cleaner but the worn out carpets were swept clean.  She made her way into my room several times, just to see how I was.  She told me the story of her efforts to finish her high school diploma.  At 23, she had managed to complete grade ten but then was forced to work in order to eat.  She has been caring for the nuns here since April.  Several of the nuns are quite elderly.  Her responsibilities include caring for them.  The nuns are holding on to her pay so that she can save it for her education.  She wants to be a nurse.  Completing grade 11 and 12 will cost her 4,000 M or $400.  That’s a fortune for someone like her.  The longer it takes, the less likely she’ll succeed.  If a woman in the developing world gets 1 or 2 years more education, she reduces the under 5 child mortality rate in her community, by 15 %.  I contributed a wee bit to her education fund.  The amount I donated covers my groceries for a week in Guelph.  It covers all of grade 11 for her. 

Just as I was dosing off for nap number six, I heard a song that I recognized playing somewhere off in the distance, the bass way too loud.   There was nothing African about this music.  It was Justin Beeber.  I was disappointed.  His music doesn’t even come close to the traditional hymns and songs of Lesotho but apparently he is very popular here. 

Everything moves forward, even here. 

It’s dark and I am dosing off again.  I can hear the excited chatter of the team, just returned, down the hall in the dining room.  They are talking about how difficult it is to raise funds for international development and how exhausting the work is.  It requires the patience and perseverance of Job.  If that is the only thing they pick up on this trip, I will have done my job.

Almost asleep, I hear this lovely, almost Gregorian chant coming from the church across the compound; all male voices, slow profound harmonies.  No Justin B. here.  Faith in humanity restored.

The church bells chime on the hour just as the raucous noises of the day settle into a chorus of crickets.  I love Africa, travel bug and all.

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