Living, Learning & Loving La Vida Nueva

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Over the past few months, we have been in a constant state of transit.  It feels so nice to have finally unpacked our suitcases, stocked “our” kitchen, and generally set up camp here in Maseru for a couple months.  If you are like many of the friends and family I’ve spoken with over the past months, you probably have had a difficult time keeping up with where in the world we are.  Trust me, I’ve had a hard time keeping up with it all and it’s my life.  So, let me recap….

Got a few of my quilts unpacked to make our room feel a bit more homey

We departed SC on January 7 for Peachtree City, GA to check out at AIM USA headquarters.  On January 10, we flew to Nairobi where we spent four nights trying to get over jet-lag.  On January 15, we left for ABO in Machakos, Kenya, where we stayed for nearly three weeks.  When we left ABO, we went back to Nairobi to fly to Lesotho.  February 5th we arrived in Lesotho and immediately went to Bloemfontien, South Africa to get in with a doctor for Ellee’s birth.  Then three days later we left for our almost three week village stay in Quthing.  On February 28th we were picked up and taken to Maphutseng, Lesotho where we spent the past two and a half weeks next door to our unit leaders learning the ins and outs of living here. While there, we also completed working through our language learning/theory video requirements.  Then we left Maphutseng last Monday to attend our Lesotho team retreat at Malealea Lodge in Lesotho.  On Thursday we were transported here to Maseru.

Are you tired yet?  I certainly am.  While I enjoy traveling and seeing new things, I find it difficult to live out of a suitcase for an extended period of time.  I also find it difficult to keep up with 9 suitcases, 6 carry-ons, 2 car seats, a pack & play and a stroller for this long.  Believe me when I say I am happy to have those things tucked away in the spare room and plan only to worry about them again once we start packing up to move to Mokhotlong later this year.

The place we are living in now belongs to AIM and is used for the various needs of our Lesotho team.  It is a town house in Maseru which was previously lived in by the Lesotho Unit Leader.  It is completely stocked with the necessities for life so it makes things fairly simple for us right now.  Since we don’t have much more than clothes in those suitcases, we have a lot of house ware to build up before we are set on our own.  Currently we own no furniture and my kitchenware consists of a spatula, muffin tin, blender, toaster and a few knives.  Oh, and a potato masher since I married a man who could basically subsist off of spuds.

Retro kitchen

This weekend are going to drive up to Mokhotlong with our Unit Leaders.  The main reason we are going is to visit the house left behind by the family who recently had to leave Lesotho due to a death in the family.  They have quite a few furniture items they are looking to sell, so we are going to see all those things.  Also we want to see Mokhotlong itself before we move out there permanently in August.  Apparently there are a few leads on possible housing for us to rent and we may get the chance to see those places while we are there this weekend.  It promises to be a long 8 hours of extremely mountainous roads.  I expect Kyle to get very weary of all the twists and turns and I’m hoping he won’t get car sick.  I’m hoping I won’t get car sick either.  But, if we don’t go out there now, we won’t get the chance again to go as a family before we move permanently.

Speaking of a car, we thought we had one.  Then we found out the night before Jonathan was supposed to go pick it up in South Africa that the dealer decided to sell it to someone else before our money transfer came through the bank.  To say that we were frustrated would be a major understatement.  Nevertheless, we trust that God’s plans are better than ours and we are still waiting to find the right vehicle.  Until then, we are borrowing a truck from another AIM missionary here who recently purchased a new vehicle.  Jonathan is doing just fine driving on the other side of the road although I think he is thankful I can sit in the front seat and help him navigate traffic and round-abouts.  He probably wouldn’t admit it, but I feel pretty confident I’m helping a lot.  :o)  Once he gets good and comfortable in that vehicle, we will go out somewhere far, far way from other cars so he can teach me how to drive a manual transmission.  I’ve only done it once and that was six years ago.

Yesterday morning Jonathan met with the Theological Education by Extension guys he will be working with over the next few years.  I was busy doing things around the house but I gathered that he was very pleased with the set up and really looks forward to working with Ntate Joseph and the other men working with him.  It was a blessing to hear that they have been praying for us and excited about meeting us.  I really think this program will be a great fit for Jonathan as he loves studying and teaching so much.  He has joined the TEE committee now and will meet again with these guys next week to go about learning the program during our time here in Maseru.  Once we move out to Mokhotlong, Jonathan will be in close contact with Ntate Joseph who works with TEE here in the city.

Kyle's bedroom.  Notice all the little animals on the twin bed beside his, they are all on their backs asleep, too.  His idea.  I plan to work on getting him to sleep in a real bed sometime over the next two months so we can use the pack & play for Ellee.

While Jonathan was meeting with the TEE guys, I was discussing house keeping with the woman who typically cleans here at the town house.  I’ve never had anyone coming to help me clean before, but doing all our laundry by hand bent over a bathtub is becoming extremely difficult with the mass in my belly.  Carrying a vacuum up and down the stairs also isn’t something I fancy doing in a “normal” condition, much less while pregnant.  So, I’ve asked her to come one day a week to do the laundry and clean the floors.  She is a nice lady who washes clothes by hand 10X better than I do.  I’m paying her slightly more than is typical here and it is still less than going to the laundry mat back in the US.  I greatly appreciate her help and I know I will even more once I have an itty bitty one to worry about in a couple months.

My plans to walk to the post office this morning have been trumped by the constant pitter patter I hear on the tin roof.  I am expecting a couple packages from back home and I am giddy to see if they have arrived.  But, unless it quits raining, I’ll probably be sitting inside stitching baby girl onesies instead.  Not a bad trade.  Pictures to follow!


Friday, March 15, 2013

Dinner from Scratch

Changing your diet is one of the biggest adjustments to moving to a new place, in my opinion.  When Jonathan and I got married, I thought I was going to die in Illinois without Chick-fil-a and Atlanta Bread Company.  Boy did I have a lot left to learn.  Then in Mexico we still had access to many of our familiar restaurants from back home like McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, Papa Johns, Chili’s, Applebees and even Outback.  However, I still found myself craving foods we couldn’t find the ingredients for in our large grocery stores.  Now apply that to life in rural Africa and you’ve got a picture of what we’re dealing with over here. There are approximately two reliable local restaurants but they are about forty minutes away.  That means I’m making every meal in house.  The local grocery looks about like a large gas-station quickie with few options and very little variety from the basic staples.  In Mexico the shopping was difficult because of the language difference.  A vast majority of the foods we are familiar with were readily available, you just had to know the new name for them.  Here in Lesotho the groceries are marked in English but it doesn’t help since what we want isn’t anywhere in the store to be found.  Take spaghetti sauce for example: back home, an entire half aisle in Wal-mart is dedicated to a wide variety of spaghetti sauce flavors.  Here, however, there is no such thing as spaghetti sauce.  There are such things as tomato sauce and paste, herbs, garlic, salt, pepper….. you get the idea.  So, it isn’t that I can’t make most of what I want to make.  It is just that I have to make nearly everything from scratch.

Fortunately it is possible to make a lot of convenience foods from scratch if given a decent recipe or if you have a reasonable idea of what is supposed to go in them.  It just takes significantly more time.  The cheese only comes in blocks so you have to grate it yourself.  There is no such thing as bread crumbs so I’m left chopping bread ends into tiny bits…. No blender either, so don’t mention it.  Sore subject, I can’t make smoothies.

Anyways, last night I made homemade pizza by making my own dough and pizza sauce and using some beef sausage I bought in South Africa.  My very first attempt at pizza dough and pizza sauce turned out great!  Tonight I am making a St.Clair favorite known as crescent roll chicken.  Instead of going to the store and buying two cans of crescent rolls, however, I’ve got to start an hour and a half early to make my own crescent roll dough.  And since Africa doesn’t seem to sell poultry seasoning, I’m having to improvise on the spices.  What exactly is in poultry seasoning anyway?  I don’t know.  So I hope a little thyme, oregano, garlic powder and paprika make a decent substitution.  And I added poultry seasoning to the list of things for my mom to bring.  It is a good thing I enjoy being in the kitchen so much because I’m going to be there a lot more often and for a lot longer each meal. 

We have already had a few mishaps with the groceries we bought locally and I suspect they won’t be the last.  For one, I somehow bought the off casts of ground lamb (meaning it included literally a handful of bone chips and a lot of other things I didn’t recognize) instead of what I thought was ground beef.  It wasn’t labeled and although I thought it was extremely cheap, I didn’t know what it was supposed to cost here.  Because we had found bone pieces in the ground beef we were served in our home stay, I wasn’t terribly surprised by the experience.  However after further investigation and discussion with our Unit Leader’s wife, we determined that the meat I had purchased was completely inedible and we pitched the rest of what we hadn’t yet used.  We are thankful no one got sick off of it.  Then I found worms in my flour so I have now learned I’ll need to freeze my flour upon purchasing it.  And I have cracked into two extremely rotten eggs since being here, my first experience with rotten eggs during my entire cooking carrier.  I never imagined the smell was as bad as people let on.  It is. 

Possibly the worst experience thus far was a pork roast I bought in South Africa last week.  It was from a very nice grocery so I really don’t know what went wrong there.  I suppose the same experience could have happened back home since obviously there was just something wrong with this certain piece of meat.  Our Unit Leader’s wife was shocked when I told her what happened.  I should have known when I opened the meat package and the smell punched me in the face that there was something wrong with it.  But, since I am still suffering from an extremely sensitive pregnant nose, I thought maybe there was something wrong with me instead.  So, I put it in the oven and tried to ignore the smell that was making me want to vomit.  The windows were open and it didn’t take ten minutes for the kitchen to be swarming with flies.  I’m not joking when I say that before I could do anything about it, there were at least thirty flies making themselves at home on my counters.  I nearly had a nervous breakdown.  Jonathan was gone at the time and I didn’t know what else to do besides close all the windows in the house and try to kill each one individually using a flip flop.  I need to buy a fly swatter pronto.  First I had to put away everything in the kitchen I had out trying to make the rest of dinner.  Then, one by one, I murdered flies for about half an hour.  I am a fly killing machine, by the way.  Just as I was killing the last couple of flies, Jonathan walked in and his first exclamation was, “What happened?  Is he dirty?  It smells terrible in here!”  I could’ve cried.  Not because of what he said, because I thought it smelled terrible, too.  It wasn’t like I was very proud of how dinner was coming along.  But, I didn’t know what else to do!  So, Jonathan proceeded to help me clean the kitchen of three dozen dead flies and then we inspected the meat.  He is crazy and still ate some of it but we threw the rest away.  I just don’t know what happened but the flies caught a whiff of it and decided they were going to join us for dinner.  Turns out Kyle and I went vegetarian for a night and had large portions of baked macaroni and cheese and corn on the cob.  Unbelievably, Jonathan didn’t get sick off the bit he ate; he has a stomach of steel.

Little by little we are learning and I am so thankful we have already had the chance to go to South Africa to find some things we just can’t get out here in the mountains.  I’m getting a good feel for what you can’t even find in South Africa and I’ve got a growing a list of spices for my mom to bring when she comes.  Until then, I’ll make what I can make with available ingredients and improvise where I can.  I love cooking and baking and it makes me feel so satisfied to know my family is enjoying good, homemade food.

Oh, want to know how to make crescent roll chicken in the States?  Here is the recipe my mother in law gave me in my St.Clair Family Cookbook:

1 can crescent rolls
1 can cooked chicken (or you can cook your own like I’m doing right now)
1 can cream of chicken soup
½ cup milk
½ cup grated cheddar cheese
poultry seasoning
salt and pepper (if I use canned chicken, I omit the extra salt since the chicken is already very salty that way)

Roll crescent rolls out.  Fill with chicken and re-roll.  Place in baking dish with seam side down.  Mix soup with milk and add poultry seasoning, salt and pepper.  Pour over rolls.  Sprinkle cheese over top.  Bake 30 minutes at 350*.  

You can easily double or even triple this recipe for a larger crowd.  It is so simple and I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t want more.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Life Today

Lumelong from the beautiful valley known as Maphutseng, Lesotho!  Lumelong means good day to all of you.  Yeah, we’re already almost fluent in Sesotho.  Not!  We have a long ways to go.  In Mexico we lived in such close proximity to our Mexican friends that we had constant interaction with Spanish.  Right now we aren’t in such a language learning conducive situation and it makes practice hard.  However, I think once we get somewhat settled into Maseru, we’ll be able to make some friendships with local people and get working on becoming fluent Sesotho speakers.  For the time being, we are studying books and practicing what we do know and enjoying this time as a family.

Our home stay was quite the experience and didn’t achieve all that I had hoped it would.  We had a hard time interacting with the people as we spent a lot of time trying to keep Kyle out of mischief.  I certainly feel that having a two year old makes focusing on learning much more difficult than it was when we were childless.  Nevertheless, we did what we could to learn and we certainly had a chance to observe how the Basotho people live their daily lives.  I am thankful, however, to be in our own space now after being surrounded by others constantly for two months.

Now we are here in Maphutseng next door to our Unit Leaders for two weeks (one more week now) learning from them about living in Lesotho and how to navigate everything from grocery stores to border posts to roadside license checks to interaction between our children and the local children.  They have been working here in Lesotho for over 20 years.  We are in a guest house which was built as a future retirement home for a friend of theirs and it is very nice.  We are still working on a vehicle although I think we might have bought one yesterday.  If feels kinda funny to not know if you have purchased a vehicle.  Our Unit Leader knows just about everyone and has had lots of friends on the look out for the type of rough and tumble vehicle we were interested in purchasing.  Apparently one came available in Pretoria day before yesterday and I suppose we bought it yesterday.  AIM has our vehicle money so they would’ve been taking care of the actual purchase.  Hopefully we’ll know today whether we got it or not.

I visited the Obgyn again yesterday in Bloemfontien.  Everything still looks good and Lady Saint is growing well.  The Dr did another quick scan to look at measurements and she is now measuring right on her due date.  Of course, we all know that babies don’t necessarily come on their due dates (ahem, Kyle).  Nevertheless, things are looking good and I am scheduled to go back in 5 ½ weeks.  I won’t be doing the standard frequent visits as long as I’m not experiencing any problems as it is quite the haul to Bloemfontien for a blood pressure check and a pat on the back.  Our plan is to go in 5 ½ weeks, then again in 5 weeks when we will stay in Bloem until Ellee decides to make her grand appearance.

During my visit to Bloemfontien, our Unit Leader’s wife took me around to shop for some things I haven’t been able to find here in Lesotho.  Last weekend I made a list of all the groceries I was looking for and sent it with some other team members who were going into South Africa.  They brought back just about everything on my list and that has made cooking this week extremely exciting!  On Wednesday we were taken to a nice butcher just over the border in SA because the meat I had purchased here in Lesotho was pretty much disgusting.  It turns out I think I accidently bought the “off casts” of the beef rather than lean ground beef.  So we spent about half an hour or more picking bone chips and other things I didn’t recognize out of it.  I can’t believe we didn’t get sick eating it.  When our Unit Leader’s wife got home and I asked her about the meat, she was appalled that I had been sold such pathetic stuff.  She made me give her the rest to feed to her dogs as she deemed it unsafe for us to eat.  Fine with me, I really don’t prefer crunching my beef.  So when she took us to the butcher, I got some beautiful lean ground beef which was bone free.  And some boneless skinless free range chicken breasts.  Since we left America, all we’ve had access to was bone in skin on chicken pieces and I was really ready to see some leaner meat!

So, I feel like I have a pretty good handle on what we can and can’t find here if we look hard enough.  There are still a few things I’m hunting for but I expect I won’t find them or at least not for a price I am willing to pay.... Like real maple syrup.  Regardless, it feels good to have a stocked kitchen and to be able to cook familiar food for my family.

I learned yesterday that our Unit Leaders have a trusted friend on the lookout in Mokhotlong for our house to rent.  I’ve been so curious about our housing up until now but I didn’t have a clue in the world how it would work itself out.  So, I now know that “we” are looking for a 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom house with running water!  I am stoked!  I was really hoping for 3 bedrooms so we’d have an extra room for visitors.  For normal life, I’ll plan to have Kyle and Ellee separate and that means I’ll get to do some sort of a nursery for my Ellee once we get settled in August.  I don’t expect the place will be very large, but we don’t mind and I am hoping for a decent little yard, or garden as they call it here, for Kyle to play in.  Once our scout has located 2 or 3 possibilities, our Unit Leaders will take us to Mokhotlong to make the final pick.  I’m excited to have a little choice in the matter and I really can’t describe my excitement in thinking about our first “house”.  I can't wait to not share walls!

Because our team member passed away and his family is relocating after a time of respite back in the US, they have a lot of fairly new furniture and appliances for sale in their home about 45 minutes from Mokhotlong.  When we go to settle on housing, we will visit their home and look through the things they have for sale.  Of course it is an extremely sad situation but I am thankful that we might be able to help them as they have a lot of things to get rid of and we have nothing.  We will still have to purchase a refrigerator which I expect to be our largest expense.  It will need to be an energy saving appliance for the times when the power goes out and our food needs to stay cold.  Plus, we will do a lot of our major grocery shopping during occasional trips to South Africa so we’ll need a place to store things throughout the rest of the month.  I may look into getting a small freezer in addition to whatever the fridge has as it could reduce the number of trips we make to SA.  I’ve also been told it is possible to get a basic washing machine for a pretty reasonable price and I am interested in doing that.  If Ellee has the same spit up issues Kyle had, I can’t imagine washing that many soiled baby clothes by hand….. every day.  They would still air dry on a line but the washing would be taken care of by the machine.  That will mean fewer blisters on my fingers!!  I will be interested to see if the electricity in Mokhotlong will be strong enough to sustain such a machine…. We shall see.

Well that’s pretty much it for right now.  Another week here and then a few days for an AIM Lesotho team gathering and then we will be somewhat settled into Maseru for about 9 weeks until Ellee comes.  During our time in Maseru, Jonathan will be learning about the Theological Education by Extension program and we will be working with a language helper regularly.  In typical Jonathan fashion, he is already picking up the language way faster than me and even our Unit Leader is afraid he might surpass him if given enough time.  It is a blessing because his work with TEE will require that he knows the language well and as long as he can learn it through all his interaction with different people, I know he can help me at home.  With two little kids, I just won’t have the same opportunity to get into the village as often as he will.  He can be my tutor.  He's the cutest one around anyhow.

Will update again when I have something worth telling!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Curious George Takes a Bath

If you have been following our lives over the past couple of months, you might have noticed Curious George in some of our pictures.  That little monkey has been on quite the adventure as of late.  As the most recent addition to our family, he has already traveled to Atlanta, Washington DC, Switzerland, Kenya, South Africa and finally to his new home in Lesotho.  That is certainly a lot of travel for such a little monkey and you can see why he was in such need of a bath!

During the time that we stayed with my parents before we left for Africa, Kyle discovered Curious George amidst the large family of stuffed animals whose home is Uncle Caleb’s bed.  For whatever reason, Kyle took right to him and dragged him all around the house for those couple of weeks.  They became close friends quickly as Curious and Kyle had slumber parties each night in Kyle’s crib.  The morning before we left, Uncle Caleb kindly met Kyle, just awake for the morning with Curious in hand, at the top of the stairs to tell him he could take Curious with him to Africa.  So, Curious was packed in Kyle’s carry-on and pretty soon the two were off for a wildly exciting venture around the world. 

Curious was there as we said goodbye in the hotel room.  Flying across the Atlantic, Curious kept Kyle company during his few naps and many sleepless hours.  In Kenya, Curious went with Kyle to class regularly and frequented meal times with him as well.  Back on the airplane, Curious snuggled up to Kyle and geared up for a long night on the red eye flight.  Once we got to Lesotho, Curious and Kyle took a nice snoozer whilst we drove to South Africa for a short visit. Over the past three weeks, we have been nestled back into the mountainous woods of central Lesotho, experiencing village life first hand.  Curious has been here, too, faithfully keeping Kyle company during his naps and at bedtime.  Yesterday while Jonathan, Kyle and I washed the laundry, we pulled Curious out of his comfortable new home in Kyle’s crib and gave that little monkey a bath!  His hands, feet and face were so dirty, you would’ve barely recognized him.  We took turns scrubbing and rinsing him until we all agreed that he was a much cleaner monkey than before.  In typical monkey fashion, he hung upside down to dry over night and we rescued him first thing this morning.  He is as good as new and ready for many more adventures with his best friend, Kyle!

Bath time for Curious!

Kyle helps wash his hands...

Floating in the soapy water

That's where he's going to go once he's rinsed out....

Squeeze all the water out of him....

Silly monkey!

Clean Curious!!