Living, Learning & Loving La Vida Nueva

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Vacation Plan B

Months ago while in Durban, Jonathan picked up a pamphlet for a set of holiday cottages on a lake about three hours from Mokhotlong.  Upon inquiring about prices, we decided we would go for a vacation after peak season ended.  After spending Christmas and New Years without our extended family in the US, we felt it would be nice to have something special to look forward to as a family.

A couple weeks before we were booked to go, we started throwing around the idea of asking our neighbors to join us.  We had gathered that they also wanted to take a vacation during the school break and thought we could enjoy some time away together.  Because of the school schedule, we had to adjust our dates and plans a bit but we were able to settle on four nights in side-by-side cottages.  Each cottage came with a row boat and we decided to grill out every night for dinner.  We were all so excited!

And we're off!

So early one morning we packed up and set off.  When we arrived at the top of Sani Pass, the mountain road we use to get out of Mokhotlong to the east, we were informed that the pass had washed away.  At first I thought it was a joke.  How could it just fall off?  It is unpaved and even in good conditions it isn't a pleasant road to drive.  However, heavy rains and hail created a serious land slide.  We went down the first two curves and were stopped by all the taxis which had pulled over.  We got out and peered over.  Sure enough, there was no road.  Because it was still raining and foggy, we couldn't photograph it.  There were people walking down on foot with their belongings to catch another taxi at the bottom.  That wasn't an option for us.  So we turned around and started the one and a half hours back home.  We were all so deflated!

I was most disappointed for Kyle and Joy (our neighbors' daughter).  Kyle kept saying, "I am so sad we can't go to our boat vacation."  Joy, who had chattered excitedly the whole way to the pass, barely said a word all the way back to Mokhotlong.  From the looks of it, we were sure it would take at least a few days, if not longer, to fix the road.  As we drove back, I started pondering our options for going towards the west using the other road out of Mokhotlong.  We already knew of a few places we might be able to stay, if they had availability, about four/five hours from here.  After running the idea by our friends, we inquired about a place I found online and booked for that night!


....Are we there yet?"

We got back in the car and drove the five hours down to our new vacation destination.  What a long day that was!  We finally arrived and my kids were absolute troopers in the car all eight hours of traveling.  What was meant to be a quick, three hour drive down to our closest town turned into an eight hour tour of half the country.  Our vacation began at the grocery to pick up things we can't get in Mokhotlong.  Then we crept along an extremely dark highway trying to find the place.  Finally we succeeded.  And we all crashed for the night!

"See, Mom, I got out of the tree all by myself!"

Studying under the willow tree

Ellee is completely smitten with Ntate and Mme Mosoang.  

We ended up on a quiet farm in the lowlands, each family with our own cottage.  We grilled our dinners every night and had fun playing some football (soccer) in the yard around the farm. There were two ponies and a donkey for the kids to visit just outside our front door!  The kids enjoyed splashing in the pool and we did a little shopping and sightseeing in the small towns nearby.  Our days were spent relaxing mostly, napping and just playing with the kids.  Although it wasn't exactly the lakeside holiday we had been looking forward to, it was still delightful.  And because this place was cheaper, we stayed five nights instead of four.

Beautiful patio overlooking the South African countryside.

"Look, Mom!"

This child was almost to the top of the ladder before we realized she had gone anywhere.  A monkey!

One morning we went to a tourist site only about ten minutes from where we were staying.  It is the end of a gigantic underground tunnel which stretches 90 km from high in the Lesotho mountains down to the lowlands in Orange Free State.  The tunnel was drilled for the purpose of exporting water from Lesotho to South Africa.  Dams are being built within Lesotho to further direct water sources to export tunnels.  I was completely fascinated by the size of the tunnel and the amount of water rushing out!

A piece of the tunnel to give you an idea of the size.  There was a plaque that said three people had died during the drilling and placement of it.  

Having our friends with us was such a treat.  It was just like we'd hoped.  Company for meal times and board games but also totally laid back and relaxed.  I think they really enjoyed the time away from the day-in-day-out life of Mokhotlong.  We all joked that it was nice just to not have anyone knocking at our doors for one reason or the other (a common occurrence here morning, noon and night).  As we were leaving, they suggested as long as we are in Lesotho, it must now be a tradition that we plan at least one family holiday together per year.  We agreed.


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Shepherds of Men

The past two days we have had the honor of hosting a group of outstanding young men.  The shepherd TIMO (Training In Mission Outreach) team stopped by our house yesterday and again today during a jaunt to a far-out village.  These guys are the cream of the crop, let me tell you, and they mean business - about food and the Gospel.

Left to right : Sam, TIMO team leader from England; Chris, South African born, now an English citizen; Mark, Montana, USA; Caleb, Pennsylvania, USA; Tobias, Germany; Spencer, Iowa, USA.

In November, three Americans, one German and one South-African-turned-British came to Lesotho to spend two years living among and witnessing to the Basotho shepherds.  The shepherds are a subculture within the Basotho people who live in the rural mountains, herding flocks and surviving under extremely difficult circumstances.  Oftentimes shepherds are ostracized as outsiders and there are social and geographical blocks to reaching them with the gospel.  Here shepherds are largely illiterate; their traditions are to sing songs and tell stories as a way of passing along important information.  The TIMO team came to impart a set of Bible stories which were developed by two female AIM (Africa Inland Mission) missionaries and translated into Sesotho.  Because the shepherds are exclusively men, typically between 18-35, AIM intended to send young men to live and work with them.  This group of guys signed up for two years of extreme living.  We (Jonathan and I) are truly challenged by their courage and commitment to the gospel.

There is something of a gaping hole in the missional community where young men are concerned.  It is commonly known that the missional force is largely made up of single women and older couples.  It does seem that the trends are changing and we know a significant number of young families on the field.  However, the number of single missionary guys we know could be counted on one hand.  Until we met all these guys.  They are serious about what they’ve come to do and we are so proud of them.

Their living conditions are even more isolated and primitive than I think I can accurately depict.  Obviously, I haven’t lived where they are living.  However, we pass by the area in the vast, seemingly uninhabited mountains where they stay, during our trips in and out of Mokhotlong.  Their huts are only about three feet high with a thatched roof and just an elevated space for sleeping.  The shepherds (Basotho shepherds and the TIMO team alike) have nothing but the clothes on their back, the blankets they wear for warmth and shield from the sun, and a spoon for eating their breakfast and dinner.  Both meals consist of a thick maize meal called pap and occasionally some wild greens they find growing nearby where they live.  They drink water from the streams around their huts.  I do believe they have a bar of soap but judging by how the guys looked when they showed up at my house and how my sink looked after they washed their hands, they must not invest too much time in utilizing it.  That’s okay.  As I see it, why bother?

From sunup to sundown these guys are outdoors.  They are working to learn Sesotho so they can better communicate with their shepherd neighbors.  They hike up and down mountains, play a familiar game amongst the shepherds with sticks and rocks, sing, read and sometimes nap while out on herd duty.  In the mornings and evenings, they take turns making the fire to cook their pap.  It’s as if they are on a two-year long extremely difficult camping trip.  But a camping trip with an eternal purpose.

Every forth week of the month, the team leaves their post, called a motebong, in the mountains and retreats to a house in Clarens, South Africa.  Their TIMO team leaders also live Clarens and facilitate their travel and work with the TIMO program.  In Clarens, the guys can shower, eat whatever they want, watch a movie or just take a nap in a real bed.  They also have internet access during that time to contact their loved ones back home.  Because TIMO is focused on mission training, there is also a curriculum that goes along with the program.  The guys are reading some of their assignments while at the cattle posts, and completing the rest of their assignments while in South Africa.

The guys were at our house for breakfast on Thursday morning, so we invited a few of our closest friends here in Mokhotlong to meet and visit with them.  The team arrived fully clad in shepherd attire, although they’d ditched their blankets and boots for coming indoors.  I made up 24 egg/cheese/bacon mini-quiches in my muffin pans.  Then I made two loaves of fresh bread and cut up a whole bowl worth of fresh fruit.  We served that along with all the drinks we could come up with here in Mokhotlong : juice, hot tea, coffee, Coke, water, ginger beer (like ginger ale), Mountain Dew, sweet tea and milk.  It was absolutely demolished.  Then they set off to their village destination about four hours from here.  Jonathan was able to join them and enjoyed his time getting to know them all a bit better.

Kyle making sure everyone had a car to play with.

Breakfast grub

Turns out Tobias already knew our neighbor/friend Ntsimane

Eating and catching up on the Africa Cup of Nations soccer tournament.

Upon their return yesterday afternoon, I served up Double Doozies per Kyle’s suggestion.  After those vanished, I made up some soft pretzels and they were also gone in no time. Apparently eating pap (think really thick grits) breakfast and dinner can leave some people hungry for comfort food.  I specialize in comfort food so I was happy to oblige.  At least we could send the guys off with bellies full of American junk food and prayers for a successful ministry at the motebong.  

We will see the guys again in a couple weeks at our quarterly AIM-Lesotho prayer day.  I’ve been assigned to making treats for tea time.  Now I’ve got to pull some more tricks out of my sleeve and I will obviously have to make at least twice as much as I was originally expecting.  I see a lot of pans of brownies in my future…  Happily.  It is a privilege to serve those who are giving so much for others.  Do join us in praying for the Lesotho shepherd TIMO team.


To read more about the Basotho shepherds, check out Jonathan's research paper he wrote for one of his seminary requirements.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Boukje's Curry

My friend, Boukje (BOW-key-ya) makes the best curry.  Well the truth is, I think it’s the only curry I’ve ever had.  But it’s seriously the best.  During our transition from Maseru to Mokhotlong, we stayed with these dear friends for nearly a month while trying to settle our furniture shipments.  When I asked if we could stay short term in their guest flat, I wasn’t expecting it to last four weeks.  And at that point, we barely knew each other!  You know those people who just feel like family from day one?  They are that kind.  The best kind, really.  Great friends and great curry-- it doesn’t get much better than that.

A lot of times I make concoctions up for dinner straight out of my head.  A little of this, a little of that-- I’m always tweaking something.  My Aunt is famous for doing this and we’ve actually turned her name into a verb.  So, just about every recipe in my book gets Lynned one way or the other.  Sometimes I follow the recipe 100%, especially if it’s something I am trying for the first time. But often I make changes out of necessity.

I seriously shake my head at comments on recipes I read online.  Some people review recipes that are completely different from the one listed. “I substituted apples for the peaches, zucchini for the carrots, I didn’t have any cream cheese so I just omitted that and I added 3 extra teaspoons of cinnamon.”  Before you know it, they’ve change apple-carrot cake with cream cheese frosting to peach zucchini casserole with a side of cinnamon.  It’s ridiculous.  However, other recipe comments make me shake my head for a different reason.  Yesterday I was reading the recipe for a pie.  The recipe listed the ingredients and steps to make your own pie shell.  A commenter asked, “Can I use a store bought pie shell instead?”  Seriously?  Do you even need to ask that question?  How would a home-made or store-made pie crust make any difference at all in the big scheme of making a pie?  Certainly the homemade would probably taste better and is better for you, but they are both pie shells.  C’mon people, get with the program!  You can make a few cooking decisions on your own. 

Sorry. I digress.

When Boukje first tried to show me how to make the curry it was literally just a handful of this and that and the other thing and put the lid on.  I was totally intimidated.  She kept telling me it was easy, but I kept telling her I didn’t even know what went in it!  So, she showed me all the spices and the steps and I eventually got her to write down loose measurements. Well, what do you know?  It IS easy!  Of course I didn’t have all the exotic spices that she used, so I promptly went out and bought them.  It’s that good and I wanted mine to be just exactly the same.

Here you have it, Boukje’s Curry:

Start by frying a chopped onion in a large (preferably cast iron or very sturdy) pot in olive oil over medium heat.  Then add 3 cloves of roughly chopped garlic and about a half inch of grated fresh ginger and stir for a minute. Then add meat.  I used about a pound of stewing lamb w/ bones.  I don’t really like to cook with bone-in meat as a general rule but Boukje convinced me it is better in this instance to have meat with some fat and bone for flavor.  You could also use stewing beef or even some bone-in skinless chicken thighs.  Stir the meat a little and add curry powder.  I used about 2 tsp of a medium curry powder and another tsp of this Masala stuff someone gave me.  Frankly I have no idea if there is any difference at all.  I suppose any curry powder will do.  Stir that around a bit.  Turn your heat down to low.  Now, from this point on, absolutely no stirring.  Got it?  Don’t stir.  Don’t even think about it.  This is why you need a sturdy pot. 

Now you add 4 peeled and chopped potatoes.  Then throw in  3 or 4 (depending on size) roughly chopped tomatoes.  Then sprinkle some salt and pepper.  Then, are you ready for this?  Give a good shake of fennel seeds.  Another good shake of coriander seeds.  Put in a cinnamon stick.  Add two of the stars.  And add maybe 5-8 cardamom pods.  Put the cinnamon, stars and cardamom all in the same spot so you can fish them out easier later on.  Put the lid on.  Walk away and come back in two hours.

Now that you are drooling from the wonderful aroma in your house, you can come back and open the lid.  Take out the cinnamon, stars and cardamom.  Now give it all a good whirl and have a taste.  I wanted mine a bit spicier so I added some red pepper flakes and it needed some more salt so I added that.  I let it simmer with the lid off while I cooked my rice and then we devoured it.  Best served with a side of Greek yogurt with diced cucumbers and fresh cilantro. 

1 onion
3 cloves garlic
1 inch fresh grated ginger
1 lb stewing meat
4 potatoes, peeled and chopped
3-4 tomatoes, chopped
3+/- tsp curry powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 cinnamon stick
2 star anise
1 tsp cardamom pods
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, if desired
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Fry onion in oil until soft.  Add garlic and ginger, fry 1 minute.  Add meat and curry powder and stir.  Add potatoes, tomatoes and spices DO NOT stir and cook on low heat for 2 or more hours.  When ready, pull out the cinnamon, star anise and cardamom.  Also remove any bones from the meat.  Adjust spices to taste.  Serve with rice and cucumber salad.