08 September 2010

Thank you for the messages. I can't write much now. But, thank you.
The memorial here was very healing... We celebrated Tom's life. He
REALLY loved his site, LOVED the kids, and was such a good volunteer.
After someone dies you always say good things about them, but Tom
REALLY was one of the best volunteers this country has seen - he gave
so much in the time he was here and will be deeply missed, but always
remembered; always a part of each of us, his students, and this country.
With Love

06 September 2010

This is extremely hard to even write, but I want to inform you of a
tragedy in my life and the lives of every member of the PC/Lesotho
Community: On Friday night my close friend and district-mate here in
Lesotho (there are about 8 PC volunteers in each district) was shot
and killed while in Maseru while he was attending my PC group's Close
of Service event. He was walking with another close friend and
district-mate when this happened - she is safe. WE ARE ALL SAFE and
most of the volunteers and staff are together now. We are experiencing
extreme grief and shock. There will be a memorial service here
tomorrow, Monday, at 4 PM (10 am EST). I simply ask that at that time,
if possible, you take a moment of silence to hold Tom, his family, the
members of the PC/Lesotho community, and all who knew Tom in you
thoughts and prayers.

Below is a link to the Peace Corps press release, with photos of Tom.
IF you inform anyone else of this please refer them to this link and
please be respectful to not add any details that are not explicitly in
this press release to avoid the spread of misinformation.

It is not neccessary for you to send me a message unless you feel you
must. I know that you support us and I thank you for that.

Tom is and will be deeply missed and he lives on in our hearts.


11 August 2010

On Chinese Shop Owners in Lesotho

Economist.com Piece about Chinese in Lesotho

An excerpt from my comments on Economist.com:

I'm an American who has been living and working as a volunteer teacher in a rural village not far from Mokhotlong for the last two years. 

Unfortunetly, there are two distinct phenomena being conflated here: the noteworthy presence of a Chinese shopowners throughout Lesotho and the Chinese governments foreign policy in Africa. The shop owners are in most cases immigrant who came to Lesotho with little, and are building new lives and raising families here. They are here for the long run and are not exporting resources nor by any stretch of the imagination subjugating Basotho. As the article mentions, the shopmowners "seem entirely divorced from geopolitics." These small business owners are trying to make a livelihood in an open market and in doing so are employing local Basotho and providing goods and services (including building supplies for infrastructural development) to rural areas where such supplies were previously unavailable. Further, they often practice an efficient business model, strong work ethic, regular and predictable service, and a wide variety of supply. This puts the economic force on other local shop owners to improve their practices and ultimately the whole community benefits from the improved efficiency and supply. I know this sounds like a lesson from Econ 101, but I watch this process unfold daily. My best friend is a Basotho shop owner. We often discuss how he can gain a competative edge over the Chinese shop. By improving customer service and supply, he has done quite well. We are now making plans to build a bigger shop! 

Clearly adding the economic force of these new shops is not pleasant at first, as it forces other shop owners to improve their practices and can at first be perceived as 'outsiders' stealing business - such frustrations were partly the cause of the violence of 1998 - but ultimately the improved business practices and wider supply that results really is what is needed for the development of these rural areas.
I'm not going to comment on China's foreign policy; it's another, seperate, story - but that's my point. Emigre shop owners in Lesotho should not be conflated with the foreign policies of the country they left any more than emigre shop owners in Queens, New York.  

21 March 2010

Pony Treking In the Mashai Valley

We borrowed some horses from the priest and the primary school
principal. Also a man from the mission guided us in exchange for any
homemade Basotho beer we came across. The cost amounted to about 90 US
cents. We had a great time, though Mira and I were quite saddle sore
by the end of the ride. It wad a beautiful day.

Mira's Visit

(note: I've been updating facebook much more often than this blog. I'll try to update the blog more, but if it's not happening, check out my facebook page. Cheers!)

Mira came to visit for the last two weeks. The trip was wonderful. It was nice to have her meet the teachers and students, see the schools, garden, go pony treking and just share my mountain life with her. It feels go to be able to share the experience with her.

In other news a movie theater just opened in the new shopping center in Maseru! Seats are only 15 Rand, which is about two bucks US. I saw "Did You Hear About the Morgans?" last night.

Khotso, Pula, Nala!