Published: November 3rd 2006October 4th 2006
Today Lesotho celebrated its 40th anniversary of independence. This small kingdom has had a rough history in recent years. In 1998, the political parties in the country contested the national election, and riots broke out, primarily in Maseru. Instead of supporting the government in efforts to restore order, the army also began to riot. Unable to find local resources to quell the chaos, the government invited several neighboring countries to come in and restore order. South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia sent troops in to stop the civil conflict and managed to restore order, but not until Maseru had been burned and looted. Since that time, the government of Lesotho has contracted with the government of India to train its army, which is now much more professional and much less political. The primary base for the army is quite close to Kal’s house
Bob picked up Greg, a pediatric HIV/AIDS physician and Bahá’í who just arrived in Lesotho last Friday, and brought him over to Kal’s house. We all chatted about Lesotho, pulled out the map and looked at the topography, and talked a little about China. Greg had just come from a 6-week stay there; Baylor Medical’s project didn’t work out - no patients could be seen, possibly due to China’s difficult bureaucracy. Doctors from outside the country often can’t see patients alone or get medical licenses. Baylor’s project in Lesotho has gotten off to a better start, and Greg expects to stay until next July or August. He is married and has an 18-month-old child, and his wife and child are in Korea visiting her family for now.
I also talked with a local Bahá’í who is an engineer, Ntsiki, regarding a job offer I had from another small local firm. I told him that I had withdrawn my application since we weren’t sure that we would stay in Lesotho, and the manager of the firm was very gracious and kind. We had a very nice talk, and he said that if I decided sometime this month that I would like to work for him, please call. He asked to stay in touch. We didn’t talk money at all, since the bigger issue of staying wasn’t resolved.
During our stay on Lesotho, we managed to negotiate its very crowded streets, drive on the left side, and adjust to the local money, which is called the maloti (M). The maloti is tied to the value of the South African rand (R), and both currencies are accepted in the country. The maloti, however, is not accepted in South Africa. We also got to know many of the local Bahá’ís, and we attended a Bahá’í Feast and a devotional service during our stay. The music that was sung at the Sunday devotional was very enjoyable. The voices and harmonies used by the local people are fantastic.
Today we left Maseru to go back to South Africa. Thato and the girls left early and said goodbye. The maids, Mantai and Ndeboe, said goodbye and promised to give the two boxes of cookies to the gardeners, who were off today since it was a holiday. My cold is a little better, although still pretty bad. We packed up and had breakfast, and a bit later Kal came down. His shop is closed today. Last night after we told him we weren’t certain about staying in Lesotho, he was very quiet. Today he was pretty normal.
We are on our way into Bloemfontein. We had to wait for some time at the border; it was busy with people going into South Africa to shop on the holiday. We drove for awhile and then pulled into Thaba Nchu to find a bathroom. There we also found a busy downtown with open-air market stalls along the street, where Bob bought a Basotho clay pot. We ate at Kentucky Fried Chicken - the first American restaurant we’ve been to since we left the US - and the food didn’t totally agree with me, but it wasn’t too bad.