Saturday, July 6, 2013

Travel to Lesotho, Africa, In L. A. Forbes Tales of Deceit...

By 7:00 the next morning, the seven thousand foot valley was already flooded in sunlight, everything freshened from yesterday's downpour. Before leaving for school, Lucy checked up on her older brother Thabo, who was recuperating in another rondavel on their compound. She smelled dagga. His sudden appearance back in Malikeng last year was traumatic for Lucy and her sister, Grace. Barely recognizable, Thabo stubbornly resisted going to the medical clinic until the local sangoma said there was nothing more she could do. Now he had the equivalent of a small pharmacy of meds to take, and smoking dagga made it easier to cope.
Raised garden beds of carrots, beans, chard, mustard, tomatoes and squash, plus ripening peach trees, filled the fenced-in property. Lucy's prized spiral aloe, transplanted long ago to her rondavel garden, just finished its long bloom, signalling a new year.
Lucy came back to Malikeng, her natal village, three years ago after completing university and student teaching in Maseru, the capital of Lesotho. She thought city kids were disrespectful and unruly, and Maseru was hectic and noisy. Her students in Malikeng came from four local villages in the remote Lesotho mountain valley. For the most part, they were polite and well behaved.

Spiral Aloe: 

 Deceit in Lesotho

 Africa's Mountain Kingdom

By L. A. Forbes

Sarah had come to Africa as a volunteer in the Peace Corps, but it had been mainly because she had become restless after a breakup with her boyfriend as well as weary of her her public health work... She had never heard of Lesotho as, I am sure, many of us had not.
The young women grabbed their notebooks and
 chalk and went to their classrooms.
The public school was a four room,
one-story, concrete-block building on a hectare
 of land. There was no electricity, just lots
of north-facing windows. Gravity-fed,
piped-in mountain water was more than enough
 for the students, kitchen, orchard and vegetable
 gardens. It was a dramatic setting. The surrounding
 Drakensberg mountains, which extended through Lesotho
 and South Africa, reached ten thousand feet around
 the valley and were emerald green in summer.
Upper slopes were covered with reeds, ericas (heathers),
 proteas, succulents and wild flowers. The valley floor
was loosely divided into four villages, surrounded by
 intensely farmed fields of maize, beans and millet.
Some fields extended up the mountain slopes. Land
 ownership was privately held and passed down
 through families, rarely changing hands.
Their school went through grade nine.
As you can see from the pictures, it is a beautiful country, although with few conveniences. She had left her Albuquerque home because it was getting too big--quite a change though, wasn't it?

She would be helping {in a small fictional town much like those there} with an AIDS education program, but had little experience in preparing for such an activity...But the people she met were all very friendly, especially Lucy and others teachers with whom she would be working.

I found it interesting that the secrecy and unwillingness to face AIDS was just as prominent there as it was in the U.S. For me, my thoughts was that because it was so prominent in the world that everybody should be anxious to learn what to do... Because it was so closely aligned with sexuality, however, part of the issue was racially concerned, thinking that any help would require abstinence and thus fewer births, a desire of white people...

Sarah spent much time just getting to know the people in her location and then began to travel to other villages, so that soon she was known and recognized and somewhat accepted.

She had taken the time when she first got there to have a local woman teach her the language beyond what she had already learned through the Corps' program. Lucy had chosen a well-known woman who also made the joala, a local beer, for the small bar that they had built next to their home...

Sarah found that the children were very anxious to interaction with her, especially when they visited her in her home, a rondavel that had been provided by the leader of the tribe where she was staying...
They were amazed that she would have the place for just herself, so many immediately volunteers to live with her, which she had to nicely refuse...but she soon had to be involved with them in all aspects of living within the village and she delighted to getting to know everybody...

I want to stop here and point out that the author did live and work in the area and still lives in the country. To me, this was an important part of reading and absorbing the story line. In my opinion, you see, the tales of deceit are hidden within the story which is written almost like a folk tale that is past down through the generations. It is about the lives of the people living in the area and there was, for me, an underlying attitude picked up by the author, somewhat like it would have been presented to her as she was settling in to work...

You see, the deceit is not what we in the United States might think of as we consider the word...

It is about doing what you have to do to keep on living!

Death and dying are accepted as a natural part of that living. Those who had been involved sexually with others did not normally think about using a condom to prevent AIDS. If the woman didn't mind whether she got pregnant, then requiring a condom seemed an interference in their lovemaking... There are two young men in the book--one was a player, one was just a guy who was away from home and lonely, with little to do... Readers get to know both very well. Thabo has been diagnosed, but he came home and with help has been on medication and is doing better. Thabo after talking with Sarah and his family, decided to help with the prevention program, being willing to honestly share with them about what he had and was now going through.

Growing and selling daga was done by many of those who had the land. Regular planting would occur, but then, the dagga, marijuana, which grew well in the area, was planted in between the other rows. There were mining jobs in other parts of the country, but this required that the men be far away from home and their families for long periods of time. Allowing daga to be planted on their property and getting a portion of the profits was a small deceit, I am sure, for many who needed to be home and were willing to take the risk...

Toby was the main man dealing with those who purchased the dagga. But he was also a player, going after as many females as he wanted, even getting at least one pregnant and merely telling her to have it aborted. That she didn't then became only her problem. He thought about helping her financially, but never got around to it. He was a busy man who had recently bought a hot vehicle and was routinely offering to help people, using it for delivering supplies to the schools for instance. The teachers were grateful since their previous loads never came or were never completely filled...due to the taxi drivers... They were not making as much now since these special jobs had "paid better..."

Many of the town's men spent much time and money at the local bar but nobody but the one who made this brew knew it was a "special" recipe, which helped bring the men back! On the other hand, it was the same woman who collected herbs and other materials used in place of medicines, such as the Spiral Aloe, hidden now, to allow growth, because the men had sold off most of what was found in the hills...

        Aloe Polyphylla, or Spiral Aloe, grows in the wild above 2000 meters (6600 feet) in the mountains of Lesotho in southern Africa. Spiral arrangements of leaves can be counter- or clockwise. It's often covered in snow in winter. Considered endangered. This gem, which thrives in harsh mountainous terrain, is a perfect metaphor for the hardy Basotho, the people of Lesotho. 

Many of us routinely deceive in small or large ways. Toby, for instance, had not been willing to be tested, so that when his girlfriend got pregnant and they found her to be infected, he was caught--even then he hadn't gone...

So when this book suddenly closed, it made perfect sense to me... A man had died in an accident; neighbors were happy that it hadn't been one of the buses or taxis with many people... When disease and death arrives from something as vital to life as our own sexuality, it forces many to make choices--some of them are deceitful... What would you do? There are "real" examples within this short story. What would you do if you needed money to buy food or educate your children?

L. A. Forbes gives readers much to consider. Some people in America have similar situations...Do you try to help or call the law on those who cannot make enough for food for their children?

Thanks to the author for sharing about the lives of those living in Lesotho and other similar villages in Africa...Individuals interested in travel, world events, or personal life drama should consider this one!


About this author

I've had a peripatetic existence, by choice. I grew up in Montana, graduated from UW, Seattle in archeology and worked in The Philippines with Asian ceramics dating from the 10th to 19th centuries. From there I traveled independently to Tibet, China, Burma and Vietnam, often seeing places just opened to foreigners.

Next chapter was in southern Utah starting and running a successful business in Moab for seven years. I still love the Colorado Plateau area. From the southwest my husband and I moved to Lesotho, southern Africa and taught small business and HIV/AIDS prevention for two years. We've travelled into Zambia, Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia and all over South Africa.

I've resided in South Africa since 2004. I teach ESL (Cambridge CELTA certificate) and maths, working mostly with rural schools. The intense politics and disparities, coupled with stunning people, make RSA an amazing place to live.

I self-published "Spiral Aloe: Deceit in Lesotho, Africa's Mountain Kingdom", a work of fiction about that beautiful country.
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