Living, Learning & Loving La Vida Nueva

Friday, April 18, 2014


Meet Tlotlisang.  Today is his 8th birthday!  He lives across the street from us and is Kyle’s best neighborhood friend.  Daily he comes knocking on our door asking to play with Kyle.  He has a sweet and gentle spirit we have grown to love and appreciate.

A couple months ago, Tlotlisang’s mother died unexpectedly.  Estranged form his father, Tlotlisang lives with his uncle, our dear friend Ntate Ntsimane.  Long before his mother passed away, he came to live here in Mokhotlong to be cared for by Ntsimane.  I dare say in this boy’s short eight years of life, he has experienced more difficulty and heartache than I have at three times his age.  Nevertheless, his smile exudes friendliness and contentment.  He is well cared for by his aunt and uncle, attends school here in Mokhotlong, and plays hard outside during his free time.

Tlotlisang and his cousin, Tsepo, making sand birthday cakes this morning in our yard.

Ntate Ntsimane and his wife, Mme MaTsolo, care for a number of boys who aren’t biologically their own.  Along with Tlotlisang, they are the caretakers of Tlotlisang’s older brother, as well as 2 or 3 other young boys between the ages of 12-14.  The scourge of AIDS has left so many children parentless.  In other instances, children are left in the village with relatives while parents go to the city to find work in order to support their families.  The boys are responsible for their own cooking and their own laundry.  I’ve personally witnessed Tlotlisang at age 7, hand washing his own laundry.  Once I asked MaTsolo if he is any good at washing his clothes.  With a faint smile on her face, she told me that he wasn’t very good at all.  And sometimes when he is asleep, she sneaks into his room and takes some of his clothes to wash for him, to lighten the burden of his laundry.  All of the boys sleep in a small home on the same property as Ntsimane.

The house the boys live in.

Shortly after we moved here, MaTsolo informed me that Tlotlisang was highly concerned about Kyle.  He had sat her down to discuss with her that he believed Kyle needed to be in school.  He told her he would walk him to school and help him to learn to read and write, because he was already helping another boy in the school to do the same.  MaTsolo tried to explain to him that Kyle was much too young to attend school, which pacified his concern for Kyle’s education.

Oftentimes Tlotlisang sits on our front porch with us while we enjoy the morning sun.  Yesterday while we has here, I asked him when his birthday was.  When he replied with, “tomorrow!”, I immediately began to plan a birthday cake for him.  With Ntsimane and MaTsolo currently out of town, I knew there wasn’t a way in the world that little boy was going to have a cake for his 8th birthday.  After nap time, Jonathan and Kyle ran down to the local shop to buy cocoa powder and icing sugar.

With Ellee fast asleep in her crib last night, Kyle and I began to bake a cake for a very special boy.  My son was giddy to help me use the hand mixer and even happier to lick the beaters.  At 11pm last night, I was icing this chocolate cake with this chocolate butter cream icing, per Tlotlisang’s request.  I was so happy he wanted chocolate.  As I don’t have two cake pans of the same shape, I think this cake could easily be classified as the ugliest birthday cake in history.  However, because it tasted great, I don’t think any one minded.  

Eight of the neighborhood kids showed up for the festivities, which was a fear of mine.  Earlier there were only four — boys who regularly play around here.  But by the time I got outside with the cake, that number had doubled - well, 7 boys and 1 random girl.  Oh well, the cake was plenty big enough for each kid to have a good size piece and still leave some to share with Ntsimane and MaTsolo once they return.  We blew up some Happy Birthday balloons and presented the birthday boy with a bag of gifts Kyle picked out for him this morning at Pep (think The Dollar Store).  Kyle chose two motorcycles, a small bag of candy, a bag of marbles and a beanie to go into the birthday bag.  The kids sang “Happy Birthday” in English and then again in Sesotho before they began devouring their cake.  I think everyone seemed to enjoy it because no one left a morsel on their plate.

Occasionally I ponder what exactly my role is here in Lesotho.  With Jonathan busy working with Theological Education by Extension, along with meeting regularly for language lessons, and working towards his Masters, I’m almost always just busy around the house with my kids.  Don’t get me wrong, I love it.  I wouldn’t have it any other way because I believe I am right where I need to be.  But it’s days like today that remind me — I do have a ministry all of my own, and not just to my own children.  It may not be in a classroom, or in any organized setting, but I pray the time and energy I invest in the children who play at my house will produce lasting results.  I pray I am able to show love to “the least of these.”  In a country full of hurting, lonely and dying children, I pray a smile, a chat on the porch, or a slice of chocolate cake will shine a little light into their day.  We love Tlotlisang and the sweet friendship he shows to our kids.  I hope he had the happiest of birthdays!


Thursday, April 10, 2014

DIY Africa

 Sometimes you just gotta roll your sleeves up and start in the kitchen from scratch.  If you live in Africa, that sometimes changes to almost-always.  Occasionally, I just have a hankering for something and it requires a number of preparation steps ahead of time to achieve the end goal.

Every afternoon, sometime around 4pm, I have a grumble in my belly that tells me it's tea time.  Sometimes I have coffee for tea time, sometimes decaf tea and often times a big glass of chilled water.  In my mind, the real reason for tea time is the tea time treats.  My treat of choice has varied widely over the past year; first it was a rusk, then a piece of pumpkin bread.  Right now I prefer to indulge in a sliver of zucchini bread and/or a small tea cup full of African Sunrise granola and a few dollops of greek yogurt.

After about a minute of Googling zucchini bread some months ago, I settled on this zucchini bread recipe that had like 4-point-something stars and 4,000-something reviews.  I trust recipes like that.  I read tons and tons of those 4,000 reviews and found some ways to help make aforementioned zucchini bread a little less like cake and a lot more friendly to the waistline.  Below I'll post the modifications to the zucchini bread recipe I made.  I won't post a review on the zucchini bread recipe based on the many modifications I made because I can't stand it when people do that....

I spent morning nap time yesterday grating zucchini.  But, our electricity was out nearly all day yesterday for some unknown reason, so I was unable to bake my bread.  Today I began my preparations by first making apple sauce.  Although, because I had a number of mealy peaches in the fridge that were no good on my morning cereal, it turned out to be more like peach sauce with a hint of apple.

While my peaches and apples cooked on the stove top, I was busy grating potatoes to make hash brown casserole for dinner.  The menu tonight was inspired by our time working at Cracker Barrel.  CB grilled chicken tenders and hash brown casserole with fluffy fruit salad on the side.  The secret to CB grilled chicken tenders?  Marinated and pan-grilled in Italian salad dressing.  That's it.  Anyway, back to the casserole, hash browns aren't exactly a South African thing.  Thus I was left to make them myself.  I was pleasantly surprised at how easy that was (thanks again to Google).

So, my zucchini bread.  Once I completed the peach/apple sauce by pureeing it with my immersion blender, I whipped this batter up:

* 3 cups flour (1 cup white, 2 cups wheat)
* 1 tsp salt
* 1 tsp baking powder
* 1 tsp baking soda
* 3-4 tsp cinnamon
* 1 cup sugar
* 1/2 cup oil
* 1/2 cup apple sauce
* 3 eggs
* 3 tsp vanilla extract
* 4 cups grated zucchini

And I would've loved to add some nuts but alas, I didn't have any.  The recipe makes two loaves.  My modifications make it just sweet enough but not overly so.  And I tried to pack in as much zucchini as possible and it's absolutely delicious.

While my bread baked, I prepared the hash brown casserole to wait in the fridge until dinner.  After that, I worked on the fluffy fruit salad.  Then I started chopping veggies for my new favorite lunch of choice (based on this recipe):

I added chopped fresh garlic, some extra roasted cauliflower I made last night and a bit of salt and ground pepper.  Instead of vegetable oil, I used EVOO and then I used half white and half whole wheat pasta.  I am so glad I have leftovers in the fridge for tomorrow's lunch.

Thankfully Little Lady took a long morning nap so I was able to get almost all of this completed while she was asleep.  My back ached when I was done and I was sure ready to sit down, but it feels nice to get a lot accomplished in one day.  And I was very happy to sit and enjoy my tea time snack today....

Hope you'll DIY and give one of these recipes a try.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Coming Home

I can't even settle in my mind how it felt to be home, let alone describe it in words.  It felt surreal to say the least.  People talk about reverse culture shock often.  While I sort of poo-poo the extreme emphasis put on culture shock within the missional community, I do understand how one can experience it when moving into a different culture and again when returning to their own.  I didn't feel shocked going back to my home country, but I was much more aware of how it compares to the world in which I live now.  Needless to say, it is vastly different.

We were so excited to see everyone, especially our parents and siblings.  Throughout out trip, we were also able to see and visit with many of our dear friends, as well as all our grandparents and all my aunts and uncles.  We burned up the road between SC, NC, FL, AL, MO, IL and GA.  But it was great to see everyone.  Fortunately my family was able to travel with us along our two and a half week journey through FL and on to the midwest, for which we were all so thankful.  Kyle so enjoyed playing with his Aunt Maggie and Uncle Caleb on any playground we could find.  Plus, it's great to have extra hands around to help with Little Miss.

Bedtime stories with Pops

Leaving is always hard.  It just hurts.  The flight is a miserable reminder of just how far we are from where our family lives.  Thankfully, the internet really does help close the miles between us and makes it seem like we aren't quite so far away.  Spending hours over the Atlantic, though, reminds me that we can't just hop in the car and road trip back to grandparents' houses for a visit.

Can I just say that our kids are the best travelers?  They put up with being in the car for I-lost-track-of-how-many hours.  Then, we boarded the miserable Atlanta to Joburg flight Tuesday evening and they took it like champs.  The Delta ladies in Atlanta saved us the perfect baby spot on the plane, complete with attachable bassinet.  I think Ellee girl had it better than business class.  She did really well sleeping in that thing most of the flight.  We made Kyle a pallet on the floor underneath her with Delta issued pillows and blankets and he also slept most of the flight down there.  When he was awake, he was playing the iPad, snacking on plane food and visiting the lavatory.  He seemed to be infatuated with the itty-bitty can't-change-your-mind-in-it airplane bathroom.  Sleeping for Mom and Dad on the plane was pretty much impossible, but at least we all made it back to South Africa in one piece.

Dinner in the Atlanta airport..... The Varsity

Upon our entry into South Africa, however, we were detained for hours because of a false alert that was scanned into Jonathan's passport by someone in Maseru.  We've tried and tried to get it overwritten but alas...  I almost lost it a few times during the two hours we spent arguing with immigration about not paying a $100 fine over something for which we are not at fault.  By the time we finally got out of that office, our bags were way past the carrousel in luggage pick up and we had to go hunt those down in an office somewhere.  There we found one was missing.  After hunting that one down, we took a taxi to where Rocky was parked.  It took us nearly an hour to find someone who could get us the keys to the office where the keys to Rocky were hanging, as it was after-hours by that time.  We unlocked Rocky to find that he was dead as a doornail and then had to locate the biggest vehicle in the property to try to jump that giant engine.  Finally....... hours after landing........ we headed to our friends' house in Pretoria (about thirty minutes from the airport) where we were to spend the night.  The next day we got Rocky a new battery and visited our friends and their new baby.

The kids love baby Ty

Friday we started the ten hour drive from Pretoria back to Mokhotlong.  We stopped half way with friends and fellow AIMers and spent the night before trekking up the mountains on Saturday.  We arrived late last night, Rocky full of suitcases, groceries and a few small furniture items we procured whilst in Pretoria.  It felt so nice to be home after days of traveling to get here.

While we were gone, our landlord (and dear friend) did some maintenance on our house and it looks wonderful. The coal stove we bought has been pretty much installed, which just a few lose ends that need to be tied up before we actually start using it.  The ceilings, which up until now were unfinished, were painted white.  And our guest room ceiling was completely repaired, eliminating the bubble wrap that was in some places patching the existing ceiling,and leaving it looking much more welcoming than before.  I was so excited to see that!  I will post photos once it is photo worthy.

Because we have now entered into freezing temperatures at night, we purchased some much needed heating paraphernalia.  We bought a mattress heater for our bed, two wall heating panels for the kids room, and a hot water bottle wrapped in a plush dog for Ellee's bed.  I spent all day Sunday putting things away and doing laundry.  Today I deep cleaned this place because the ceiling repair left the house full of dust.... as if Mokhotlong isn't dusty enough to begin with.  Tomorrow we go out to the village of Molumong to visit our AIM teammate for our weekly prayer get-together.  It's about a 40 minute drive from home.

It is good to be home, to spend time alone as a family and to have time to play with my kids.  It is nice to sleep in my own bed.  It's fun to watch Kyle meet his toys all over again.  Truly, there is no place like home.