Tag Archives: Mokhotlong

Julie Moore, a fine addition

To cease my endless solitude, I have recently received the grace and good company of a certain Julie Moore. We will forgive her Canadian background (except on Canada Day, because who doesn’t want an excuse to party on a weeknight?) and revel in the wonderful new addition to the TTL campus.

IMG_8965 - Version 2Julie has fallen into Mokhotlong ready for a challenging year of growth and learning. I can at least guarantee her that much. Though this is not her first trip to the African continent (hello, Tanzania and Morocco), it will certainly be her longest and most remote.

IMG_8704A registered nurse, specialising in adolescent psychiatry, Julie has spent most of her time abroad in Mexico. Coincidentally, it was in Puerto Vallarta where she received her first up-close-and-personal interaction with southern Africa (via a side job at an African art gallery, run by an eccentric Jo’burger named Brian.)

Fortunately, Julie’s interest in maternal and child health will pick up where Jenn left off – providing medical-related advice to the TTL staff when they ask specific questions that I, unfortunately, am ill-equipped to answer even on my best days.

Jules is a lover of red wine and good literature and positive environments, which naturally are vastly improved by companions, candles, and comedy.

IMG_8719I am so grateful to have another warm body to occupy space in the office and common room, but even more to have an eager mind for discussion and assistance. May your opinion of this Canadian ruffian be ever-and-increasingly-positive, as is mine.

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All for two little blue stamps.

Why do some things always seem so unnecessarily difficult? Among them: group projects, first dates, and acrylic self-portraits. Yet what I shall forever rank as the most obnoxious and emotionally taxing are visa/permit applications.

Julie (Jenn’s replacement TTLF Fellow) and Gargi (a contracted nutritional consultant) arrived in late May, just in time for TTL’s 10-year anniversary celebrations. Lesotho only offers a maximum 30-day visa upon entry, so temporary residence permits are required for these ladies’ extended stays.

Two weeks ago, Julie and I trekked across town to the Immigration office to obtain just such a residence permit, what should have been a straightforward affair. I had all the documents and official letters in order. I had my phone with sufficient airtime. I had contact information for all the head honchos that could instruct the woefully incompetent ntate on how to endorse the permit once in Julie’s passport.

We parlayed with Ntate Immigration for 30 minutes, long enough to be told that yes, everything looks fine. Yes, this type of residence permit is possible. No, this immigration office no longer has the appropriate stamp to give a temporary residence permit. Travel to Butha-Buthe and talk with the Immigration office there. Maybe they could help.

I’m sorry? Fine.

Well the Immigration Office in Butha-Buthe had a different (read: with additions) set of requirements for this residence permit (of course it did). Police-certified copies of their passports and passport-sized photographs were suddenly needed.

Although I got ‘M’e Immigration to waive the photograph, it seems that certified passport copies are more strictly enforced. That only added an hour and a half and 3 additional travel stops in order to procure. Never mind that the police had gone for lunch by the time we made it to their headquarters for certification.

At long last we made it to the taxi rank for the return trip to Mokhotlong, tired and irritated – the weight of accomplishment had not yet sunk in – and hungry. The glorious Basotho steam bread that filled my summer is now hibernating for winter, judging by its scarcity. It took Julie and Gargi a good 20 minutes to find the only loaf remaining among all the taxi rank vendors, delivered by a helpful ntate in the plastic sale basin. It was a pretty bad loaf, too.

The wait time for the taxi to fill was over 2 hours.
The number of passengers, 16.
The amount of luggage (mercifully) filled only 1 seat.
And long after dark, our kind driver delivered us to the front gate of TTL.

All for two little blue stamps.

Searching for Sunday

It’s been a good long while since I’ve broken my routine in favour of mucking around and bushwhacking a new trail.

Some might call this ‘exploring.’ I call it ‘walking in Mokhotlong.’

Before Jenn fled westward, she had described a winter route with a built-in river crossing. Not one to miss an opportunity to hop around on large rocks that spend most of the year underwater, I finally decided to track down this trail of ‘M’e Jenn’s. I think I found part of it; I think I missed most of it.

Thence began the mucking and bushwhacking.

In short, I played around on a mostly-dry riverbed for an hour – rock-hopping to my heart’s content – before slipping into the water, at which point I napped on a massive rock slab mid-river, basking in the paradoxically warm winter sun as I waited for my socks and shoes to dry.

Somedays these Sundays are necessary.

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SNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW!!!

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Today my pants fell down

On my morning run by the river I suddenly found my pants around my ankles.

I’m not sure which is funnier: that this happened, or that my first thought was ‘Damn, now I’ll need to duct tape these to my body each day.’

#BudgetLife

Southern African Adventure

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Itinerary

  • 7-8 April | Marijn & Ann arrive in Mokhotlong
  • 9 – 11 April | Sani Pass & Drakensbergen
  • 11/12 April | Cathy joins us with friends from Jo’burg
  • 12 April | Drive to Durban
  • 13 – 15 April | Surfing near Durban, potentially go up to St Lucia/Kosi Bay/Richards Bay/Sodwana/Isimangaliso Wetland Park
  • 16-18 April | Swaziland
  • 18-19 April | Santa Maria Island, Mozambique
  • 20 April | Day trip with Maputo friends
  • 21 April | Back to South Africa
  • 22 – 23 April | Kruger Park
  • 24 April | Drive back to Pretoria
  • 25 April | Apartheid Museum, dinner, last bits and bobs
  • 26 April | Cathy, Ann, & Becky leave South Africa

LHWP: Not without controversy

IMG_5553I cannot claim superior knowledge of environmental degradation or of actual economic impacts by large-scale hydro-electric projects in sub-Saharan Africa. Neither will I say the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) is the first of its kind to throw academics, politicians, and concerned citizens into a frenzy (see in particular: Grand Inga Dam Hydro Project in DRC). Yet, I am fairly confident that most such projects are greeted, at least at the outset, with ceremonial pomp and flair. This was certainly the case last Thursday when ‘M’e Nthabeleng and I visited the LHWP Phase II launch celebration at the Polihali Dam site.

IMG_5526Attendees ranged from local high school students, who were liberated from their classroom confines to perform at the event, to King Letsie III of Lesotho and President Jacob Zuma of South Africa. Essentially, the launch was a grand opportunity for the local community to gather (alongside the foreign dignitaries of Lesotho’s only national neighbor), sing, dance, and uncork a few bottles of champagne. No shame.

IMG_5558But celebrations aside, one wonders how much the LHWP will benefit Lesotho in the long run, and how Polihali Dam will benefit Mokhotlong District in particular.

Entire villages must be relocated out of the path of future inundation. Their compensation is small and strictly monetary – no alternative housing, land, or counseling offered. Thousands of temporary jobs are created with each new phase of construction, to the benefit of local laborers, but as each section of LHWP is completed, so too are those contracts with few alternative or continuing employment options. Infrastructure erected to aid in efficient project-completion comprises roads and electrical lines – admirable undertakings, but short on long-term maintenance. Furthermore, the pre-project environmental studies conducted, supposedly with input from those same locals about to be booted from their homes, have produced cheery results and verbage but few enough solid facts to support the ecological overhaul about to take place. Already Lesotho faces horrific effects from construction projects that degrade the landscape, which naturally erodes at an alarming rate.

[The LHWP] is an ambitious 30-year, US$16 billion bilateral venture that envisions building five or six large dams in Lesotho … The largest water infrastructure project on the African continent, when completed it will transfer over 70 cubic metres of water per second to South Africa. [via IRIN]

The unavoidable inter-dependency of Lesotho and South Africa is unfortunate at best. Lesotho’s most valuable resource, water, is also its largest export to its dry, wealthy border-mate at 25% of total export revenue, 3-5% of overall GDP per annum. Already South Africa claims a huge percentage of Lesotho’s workforce, as jobs are scarce in the mountain kingdom, and controls much of Lesotho’s food imports, particularly to remote regions such as Mokhotlong.

À mon avis, Lesotho comes out on bottom in this deal, but what choice does it have? A question I cannot answer.

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