During the first 3 months at site new volunteers are considered on lockdown. This means we are supposed to stay in our district and avoid spending nights away from our site. Being on lockdown is supposed to help us integrate into our new communities. Lockdown ends with short session of training back in our training village. So at the end of March, all 30 volunteers from our group left their respective sites and migrated back to our training village, Ha Koali, to share our ups and downs of the first 3 months. Some people had 8+ hours of travel time over 2 days. I had a grueling 50 min commute. It was great to see everyone again and trade stories from our sites. It was also nice to be back in the training village and see my host family again. Although going from living on your own to being 100% reliant on your host family for everything including boiled water was hard. But they were happy to see me and I was happy to see them and we fell easily back into our routine of playing at least an hour of Uno a night.
My ausi ( sister) was back and going to high school. Her daughter, Mpho, is now 6 months and so adorable. My abuti (brother) got into a healthcare college in Maseru. He wants to be a nurse. He was so proud when he showed me his acceptance letter and catalog for the school. And I was so excited for him. Going to college is not the norm here. I was thrilled that he was pursing higher education. My younger ausi is in form B (grade 9) and told me she too wants to go to college and become a doctor. It was wonderful to catch up with them and see what they were doing in life. I told them I would be back to visit again.
The trip back to Ha Koali also included trips back to where we all spent so many training afternoons, the bar in our village. They were redoing the outside area which used to just be a large tarp over an outdoor seating area. Now it looks like they are enclosing the whole thing with bricks and stones and a real roof. Some host families alluded that all our lakhoa money funded the redo. And that’s what Peace Corps is all about right? Building bars.
After our training our lockdown was over just in time for Easter break and a short vacation in Durban, SA. We caught a kombi in Fixsburg, SA, which is just across the border, straight to Durban. On the way there we had tire issues, including a flat, so it was a long trip. But the way back went smoothly and only took about 5 hours.
Our hostel in Durban was pretty epic. We stayed at a place called Banana Backpackers for 100 rand a night (or about $10). It had a courtyard with an above ground pool, a tikki bar, a rec room with couches and a TV, bunk beds, and a decent bathroom with showers. I was with 7 other volunteers in a room with 5 bunk-beds and 2 people we didn’t know. We were a short 10 minute walk from the beach.
We started everyday with a swim in the Indian ocean and breakfast on the beach. It was perfect. In the afternoon we ventured out into other parts of Durban. Many Indians live in Durban so there is a lot of great Indian food in the city. We went to a restaurant recommend by another PCV. We were the only non-Indians in the joint so we figured we made a good choice. We did, the food was fantastic. In Durban there’s a road called Florida Rd that had a lot of good restaurants and bars. We had dinner at a place called Taco Zulu which serves pizza, mexican, and sushi. It sounds sketch but the food was really good. I spent Easter Sunday looking for an open tattoo palor and I finally found one at the mall attached to Ushaka Marine World. Learned how to play blackjack at a table. Won one night, lost another. One afternoon all the girls in our group went out in search of haircuts. It felt so nice to get my hair washed, head massaged, and my dead ends cut off. It cost more than I expected but it was so worth it.
Durban was the perfect quick getaway to end the first quarter of school and to celebrate 3 months at site and 6 months in country.
On Wednesday the 22nd a new group of Healthy Youth volunteers will be arriving in Lesotho. It’s made me think back to when I first arrived here. It seems so long ago but still it’s also hard to believe I’ve already 6 months. Time feels warped here sometimes.