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June 14, 1979
You can't appreciate the luxuries that the Americans take for granted until you look at a Sears catalog with a Mosotho. I found myself apologizing for exercise machines, baby dressing tables, and playpens. To the plastic baby carrier, she commented, "But doesn't the baby cry?" The Basotho women carry the babies on their backs until they are about three years old. One thing for sure, the kids are never crying. The mother boosts the kid up on her back, ties a blanket around her body and goes about her business. I've seen some women walking around with one in front and one in back. Then when the little girls get to be six or seven years old, they take over the baby carrying because by that time the mother has two more.
I spent last week in Maseru at the National Agric Show and conference I had a great time despite the fact that the wheat I had carefully sorted didn't win anything. This is such a macho society that I have been very careful to always take the back seat at the ministry, staying with the women and not being aggressive. Well, I really got caught up in the challenge of winning at the show and forgot all about "staying in my place." I worked hard both days and was the only white-almost the only woman-who was working in the crops and vegetable section of the show. If I had stepped too far out of line, I guess Mathaba (my boss) would have told me to shove off but the Mokhotlong group acted like they were glad I was there. We won two first prizes in wool, one second and three third prizes in crops. I came back to Mokhotlong feeling very loyal to my mountain men. I wouldn't trade all the Basotho in the lowlands for the handful at the ministry. They looked superb in their blankets at the show, Most of the low landers have turned to business suits and western garb.
Since the bombing, the country has tightened up security and the Agric truck was stopped and inspected by the Army on the road to Maseru. The soldier who talked to me was so drunk that he kept falling into the truck to shake my hand. He kept saying, "You know you are safe because we are here," (and I wondered!). Anyway he knew Carter was president and that he was from Georgia. I was impressed with that.
Then when I was in Maseru, some PVCs and I went to a restaurant and man came over to the table. He said he was an undercover agent and to prove it, he brought two more "undercover agents" over to our table. The funny thing was that it probably is true. The Lesotho secret police go around bragging about it. They also said -the Americans were loved and that we are safe. I don't know how they tell the difference but the Basotho know the Americans. There is a joke floating around that the Peace Corps has caused such an embarrassment to South African whites (because we associate with the blacks) that the South Africans are going to start segregating us. Now South Africa has "Whites Only" "Blacks Only" "Coloreds (mixed) Only" signs and if Peace Corps doesn't change its ways, shortly there will be "Peace Corps Only," signs appearing in S.A.
Pat sent me a book, "Heroic Poetry of the Basotho" and wrote a 12-page letter for Mother's Day. Just received it. Mike sent me a card and a letter. Sorry I forgot it. They don't have Mother's Day here and I am so mixed up on the months. I keep thinking that we must have Thanksgiving and Christmas before we can have spring. Half the time I can't remember what month it is. Others in my group say the same thing. I understand from the old PCVs that if you make it through the first year without going nuts, you can remember what month you are in during your second year. A friend of mine gave me some tulip bulbs and some freezias to plant this month. Here I'm planting spring bulbs while yours are blooming.
Pat said he had hie first experience at hopping a freight train. I thought that went out with the 30s. He has a new job working for the Wyo. Highway Dept. on a survey team. He is talking about coming to Lesotho nest spring (your spring) instead of Christmas. Mike said Kathy has a job, beginning in Sept., playing in an Essen orchestra. It pays 600 Marks a month, just what they need to live on, he said. Never thought my son would be supported by another woman.
I asked you about "Mother Earth News." It started coming. Everything takes time, I guess. I sent Gen a blank check and asked her to send me some hair color so you will be getting a cancelled check on that. Holly voided both the checks I sent to her for stuff. Wouldn't let me pay her so don't want to ask her to send me anything else. Did the bank switch my checking account to a "special account" so that I am charged on for checks and not a $2 monthly service charge. What's my balance? I figure it is some where around $370. It's hard to believe but my Peace Corps readjustment allowance is up to $1,000 now (8 months times $125). I couldn't have saved that if I had been working in the states.
Guess I'd better sign off and get some work done around here. Because of my cold, I haven't done much all week but I'm getting my energy back today. One problem is that we have no water until afternoon when the pipes thaw out. That's a nuisance!