Tag Archives: 2014


Critical Caffeine Cartography


Lesotho in the Commonwealth Games

[Note: This is a cross-post. The original can be found on the TTL blog]

(photo cred:AFP)

The 2014 Commonwealth Games are happening right now in Glasgow, Scotland!

This is a pretty exciting time for everyone with a vested interest in Commonwealth nations as they watch the different countries compete for prestigious medals and prizes.

But you might find yourself wondering about a thing or two. For instance: ‘What exactly are the Commonwealth Games?’ or ‘What do these games have to do with Lesotho?’ Valid questions, to be sure. So to help ease your mind, I’ve compiled a short Q&A below!

1) What is the Commonwealth?

According to its founding Charter, the Commonwealth of Nations is a voluntary association of 53 independent and equal sovereign member states that collaborate through economic support and political strengthening to champion several key values, including: democracy, human rights, international peace and security, and more. Read the full charter here.

Moreover, all the participating Commonwealth nations share a certain degree of common colonial past with the United Kingdom, whose reigning monarch is currently their official head of state or perhaps was at one time. Today Queen Elizabeth II is recognised as the head of the Commonwealth.

2) What are the Commonwealth Games?

In 1891, an Englishman named Sir John Astley Cooper proposed a “Pan-Britannic-Pan-Anglican Contest and Festival…as a means of increasing goodwill and good understanding of the British Empire” – which it was at that time. The idea took a few years to organise, but since their initial round in 1930, the international athletic competitions now called the ‘Commonwealth Games’ have been held every four years (think British Olympics).

The events have expanded and changed over time, but the Games currently boast 21 able-body sports and 7 para-sports, which the host country sets with official approval from the Commonwealth Games Federation. The 2014 Glasgow Games include: Athletics, Badminton, Boxing, Cycling (Mountain Bike, Road, and Track), Diving, Gymnastics (Artistic and Rhythmic), Hockey, Judo, Lawn Bowls, Netball, Powerlifting, Rugby Sevens, Shooting, Squash, Swimming, Table Tennis, Triathlon, Weightlifting, and Wrestling.

3) How is Lesotho involved?

Wouldn’t you know it – Lesotho is a member of the Commonwealth, having joined in 1966.

Since 1974, Lesotho has attended the Commonwealth Games and sends most of its competitors to the running events (where their successes are no doubt a result of high-altitude training). For the 2014 Games, 27 athletes traveled to Wales where they trained and prepared to represent the Mountain Kingdom. Most of their events are scheduled for this week, so tune in to cheer them on with Basotho pride!

4) What else do I need to know?

Like many friendly competitions, the Commonwealth Games are an opportunity for the host city to put forth its best face and exhibit its unique history and amusing quirks. Certainly, Glasgow is not short of quirks, nor shy about celebrating them.

Dancing Tunnock’s Tea Cakes (a half-biscuit, half-marshmallow, non-dancing Scottish treat)

The fabled Loch Ness Monster herself in tartan (plaid)

But Lesotho has its own claims to fame, some of which the Basotho athletes flaunted when parading in the opening ceremony.

(Photo cred: AFP)For instance, the conical shape of the mokorotlo, or Basotho hat, is inspired by Mount Qiloane, one of the peaks in the Maluti Mountain range that give Lesotho its harsh climate – thereby justifying those beautiful Basotho blankets – and unique status as the country with the highest low point in the world: 1400m!

And because Lesotho is not lined up to host the Commonwealth games in the near future, I thought I’d highlight some other Basotho trivia worthy of your attention:

  1. Lesotho is a landlocked nation and the only one in the world that is completely surrounded by one other country – South Africa
  2. The most common mode of transportation is horseback
  3. The country motto is ‘Khotso, Pula, Nala’ meaning ‘Peace, Rain, Prosperity’ and respectively represented by the white, blue, and green of the Basotho flag (which also features the indigenous Basotho hat.
  4. Lesotho is home to one of the only two ski resorts in Sub-Saharan Africa. #AfriSkiFTW
  5.  Lesotho has its own dinosaur – the Lesothosaurus discovered in 1978 by Peter Galton

And now you know.

Taster Trip 2014 | Final itinerary

In under 3 weeks, we put over 3,000km on Winston’s tires. In each place we visited, we spent no more than 2 nights (with the exception of Durban) giving us a wee ‘taste’ of each place and plenty of incentive to return in time.

With a few adjustments from our original route, I give you our final trip itinerary, complete with links to my photos and reflections.

[Accompanying photos are primarily a compilation of my own, Marijn’s, and Cathy’s. How fortunate, else I’d never feature in a single one.]

Jules caught me in a moment of patriotism

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Jules caught me in a moment of patriotism

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Happy Fourth of July!


We Are One (Ole Ola)

Prepping for the 2014 World Cup.

7th the first

Now is not the time to detail my profound love for the number 7 or describe the source of my appreciation for all its mystical power. Predictably and graciously each month, however, the 7th rolls around like clockwork, for indeed it is. Understanding this to be the first 7th of the new year, it deserves some recognition and added celebration.

I have been resident in Lesotho and working with TTL for exactly one month. Today I received my Lesotho residence permit. Like most visa scenarios, this was a time-consuming affair – though not as cumbersome as my Ghana visa extensions… Today I celebrate residency!

One year ago I arrived in Equatorial Guinea from Germany to begin as a research assistant for the annual January Bioko Biodiversity Protection Program (BBPP) expedition. I met some great people, and today I celebrate the anniversary of our time together.

Perhaps it is cliché to be grateful for the chance at a new beginning and a year ahead with blank pages aplenty. Fortunately this year has so much potential to be phenomenal, thereby overriding any categorization as ‘cliché.’ Today I celebrate plans fulfilled, opportunities knocking, and dreams to be realized.

New Year’s Celebrations

How to celebrate New Year’s Day in Mokhotlong:

  • Get woken up at 3am by Basotho partiers returning home
  • Photograph the killer stars lighting your rondavel
  • Drink Amarula in your coffee
  • Drink Amarula straight
  • Croon to the Amarula bottle amoureusement en français
  • Watch Sherlock mini-episode and explode in all the feelings
  • Wander along the Senqu River
  • Edit a history of Rwanda (to be published in 2014)
  • Visit Jenn baking cookies
  • Avoid grease fire
  • Help Jenn dust shattered glass off the cookies
  • Paint glass-free cookies with Anri
  • Cook the most heavenly veggie egg scramble of the year
  • Dance in the rain
  • Blog, read, sleep

Happy 2014!