Living, Learning & Loving La Vida Nueva

Saturday, January 21, 2017

There's A First Time For Everything

We first met Danki in 2013 on our initial visit to Mokhotlong.  We didn’t have a place to live here yet and we had only come to visit a colleague, Jayne, and survey the town.  Jayne took us around Mokhotlong, showing us where we could find some groceries and to show us what a rental house might look like.  Along our tour, we met an elderly lady who sat on her front porch and chatted with us for a while.  Sound familiar?  I blogged about her on Christmas Eve.  There were a dozen young kids around, understandably curious of the outsiders who had come to their little part of Mokhotlong.  Jonathan, Kyle, tiny Ellee, Lacy, my mom and myself were there and in our pictures, Danki was there, too.  We didn’t know it at the time, but it turns out that we moved in next door to that elderly lady, MaTopi, and she is now our neighbor.  Because Danki rents a room from MaTopi, he is also our neighbor.  He first moved to Mokhotlong in 2009.  The youngest of ten children, he was born and raised in a village until age ten.  At that point, he moved to Mokhotlong to continue his education in the better town schools.  Eventually, he began renting a room from MaTopi and started high school nearby.  He recently graduated and has since been doing odd jobs around town.  He hopes to go to college and study engineering.  He will have to work to pay his way through school.

Around Thanksgiving, he told us in conversation that he had never been to South Africa.  He said he had a passport, but it had never been used.  He wanted to see the ocean.  We asked when he turned 18, since it’s much easier to take someone across the border once they are an adult.  He said his 18th birthday was the first of January.  So, we told him we’d take him along sometime when we were going to the coast.  When we decided to fly Lacy home out of Durban, we determined it would be as good a time as any to take Danki with us as well. 

Typically when we go to Durban, we’re there for doctor’s appointments and necessary shopping.  We usually stay with friends and oftentimes don’t even make it to the beach.  For Danki, however, the beach was first priority.  Thus, I found a condo right on the beach for an absolute steal and booked it for a couple nights after Lacy’s departure.  Danki was counting down the days weeks ago.  He told us he could barely sleep last week because he was so excited.  On Sunday morning, we packed up and embarked on a trip of firsts.  We knew seeing the ocean would be a first, but it hadn’t even occurred to me exactly how many firsts he would experience during a few days in South Africa.

First ride down Sani.  First border crossing.  First passport stamp.  First monkey sighting.  First ride on a freeway.  He couldn’t believe how fast the cars were going.  First automatically opening doors.  First time in a mall.  First time ordering from a menu.  First meal at a sit-down restaurant.  First shower.  First time seeing a small dog.  First McDonalds.  First traffic jam.  First view of an airport.  First look at the ocean.  Second, third, forth, fifth shower - he’s hooked.  First night in an air-conditioned room.  First time seeing a poodle.  He roared with laughter.  All the dogs in Mokhotlong are mutt herd dogs.  A groomed poodle was just a hilarious sight to him.  We enjoyed his reaction.  First elevator.  First escalator.  He went up and down a few times just because he could.  First time to a movie theatre.  First swim in the ocean.  First swim in a pool.  I couldn't believe he knew how to swim, but he did!  First milkshake.  First parking garage.  First air hockey.  First soda fountain.  I should’ve counted the number of refills he got!  First water fountain. First drive thru.  His reaction was priceless.  He couldn’t believe there was a person behind the screen taking our order and that the food was going to magically appear out of a window.  Jono explained the headset concept.  First bumper cars.  First zebra.  First ostrich.  And I'm sure many more I'm forgetting!

While we were out, the monkeys got in and made a huge mess!  The housekeeper left the window open and this....

It’s so interesting how commonplace all these things are to me.  In fact, for us, coming to South Africa is comforting because it feels like home.  It looks more like America than anywhere else nearby, and the sights, smells and sounds are much like those from home.  It’s still different, but it’s a whole lot closer to American life than we find in Mokhotlong.  Danki, on the other hand, knows nothing of life outside of Lesotho.  Excluding a very short school trip to the capital city, he barely knows life outside of Mokhotlong.  Needless to say, he’s intrigued and maybe a bit shell shocked by life there.  And it was so fun to watch him experience it. 

I don’t know where his bright smile and kind heart will take him in life.  I hope and pray he makes wise choices.  He has the potential to have a bright and successful future.  I suspect this won't be the only trip to South Africa he takes with us.  It really couldn't have been more fun for any of us!


Monday, January 9, 2017

Diaper Duty - River Edition

Last week Mokhotlong experienced the heaviest rain we’ve seen here.  It began with a torrential downpour which caused a flash flood.  The flood caused much damage which included washing away the pipes that feed water to our area from the water source.  Thus, the water has been off for over a week now.  Our tank is still supplying water to our house.  We have been seriously rationing water (....back to the outhouse….) because we have no way of knowing how long it will take to repair the pipe damage.  After inspection today, we see that it is still over half way full.

Washing laundry uses so much water.  I had been letting it pile up in hopes that the water would return.  Yesterday, however, we decided it was time to take matters into our own hands.  Literally.  The sun was shining for the first time in days.  So we gathered up a week’s worth of laundry for six people, and Lacy and I walked a short distance to the river nearby our house.  This river has been running pretty well for the past few months.  However, after all the rain last week, it is running at probably four times its usual flow.  There are always ladies and young girls doing laundry here, so we certainly weren’t alone.  We brought our bucket, some soap, a scrub brush and a lot of elbow grease.  We managed to wash a lot of laundry in about an hours time.  When we brought it back to the house, we threw it in the washing machine for a spin cycle to save our hands from trying to wring it dry.  Then it hung on the line over night and now it’s folded and ready to be put away.  Does it get any more organic than that?  I want to know if all the green, crunchy, eco-friendly folks are doing their laundry this way.  If they aren't, I want to know why not. 

This morning, we headed back over to the river to do the same thing — only today, diapers were our duty.  Someday, I’m going to tell Sadie Kate that Aunt Lacy and I hand washed her diapers in the river in Mokhotlong.  I’m going to tell her that she cannot misbehave because we’ve done too much for her needy little self.  Joy was there helping us, as well as another girl who lives nearby.  We finished the diapers and they are now in the machine for a spin cycle as well.  I will probably spring for paper diapers to use until the water comes back on.  I think she’s worth it.  And I think our hands are worth it, too.  

After washing diapers, Lacy decided to wash her hair in the waterfall.  We have still been taking showers, albeit less often and more quickly.  Nevertheless, running water and sunshine provides a good opportunity to get clean.  I brought shampoo for that very purpose.  She went first, then I followed suit.  The water was so cold on our backs and we might’ve screamed the entire way through it.  But we have clean hair.  And fun memories.  

Kyle or Gollum?

There is no way to estimate how long it will take for the water supply to be repaired.  This is, after all, Africa and nothing happens quickly.  Between river laundry and showers, I think we can manage to make our tank last at least another week.  If it comes to it, we’ll make a plan then.  For now, we are enjoying nature and the simplicity of washing in the river.   Next up, muddy shoes!