Lumelisa Ha Makotoko le Metolong
I will remember this day for the rest of my life.
I know that is a bold statement, however; let me explain.
This week, all of the trainees have the opportunity to go on our site visits. We get to meet our host families, supervisors, colleagues, see our new home, and meet our communities where we will be living for the next two years. Yesterday, I arrived at Metolong Primary School with my principal and IL (Introductory Liaison who is also my host mom). Upon arrival, all 450ish kids ran out and greeted me. The day before, I was given the name Teboho Theko. As soon as I meet my ‘m’e, we were both filled with great joy. I am told that Teboho means gift of pure joy. As I was introduced to all of the students and announced that I was going to be a new teacher at the school, screams of joy filled the air; I have never seen so many smiles in one place. The students began repeating my name over and over. Teboho Theko had officially arrived. My welcoming had been planned and anticipated for over a year. Needless to say, everyone was pretty excited. As my principal guided me to the staff room, I got to meet all of the teachers that I will be working alongside starting in January. After I left school, I was then introduced to the three communities that I will be living with and serving. It was great practice for my Sesotho but thankfully my principal was able to translate everything for me throughout the day.
Metolong is a tiny, humble community nestled in the beginning of the foothills of Lesotho. Meaning, there are mountains everywhere you turn; EVERYWHERE! I wish I could describe how magnificent the surrounding peaks look like. Pictures will forever fail to do them justice. The vibrant hues of green from the grass and trees contrast against the dark reds of the soil. Streams of water, flow from the towering highlands, all the way to deep valleys and nearby river gorge. The result is a masterpiece of nature that only God Himself could create.
We ended day with an hour walk back to my home. I will never get tired of looking at the Machache Mountain Ridge that faces my path home. Finally, as I reached the village of Ha Makatoko and I walked through an old metal gate that overlooked a vast valley of farmlands, my eyes were fixated on one thing, my rondavel and future home. My ‘m’e gave me the key and I opened the door to find a half empty hut with a few tables, chairs, and a FULL SIZED BED! Funny how I come to Africa and I will sleep in the biggest bed that I have ever had in my life! After I settled in, I walked into my m’e’s house and helped with dinner. I ended the day reflecting by listening to music and journaling. I could definitely get used to this.
However, yesterday failed in comparison to today…
I woke up with the idea that there was going to be a small gathering honoring me at the school and welcoming me into the community. I had no idea and was absolutely no way ready for what occurred.
I began the long trek to school with only a few students to guide me, but the closer I got, the more joined. As I reached the entrance of the school, I had about 50 kids following me. I was greeted by my eager principal and was told to await the ceremony in his office. I was greeted by another volunteer who I had been talking to over the past few days about my site. I couldn’t believe that I was finally here. After chatting for a few hours about her two year service, getting some advice, and after listening to a few of her best Peace Corps stories, my principal notified us that it was time to begin the festivities. With my camera fully charged and ready, I was given the seat of honor facing the crowd of community members and students, unprepared for what was about to happen. Groups after groups of students performed, sang, and danced in the ways of the traditional Basotho culture. Community chiefs spoke of my arrival being a sign from God. My principal and fellow teachers said a lot of very nice things about me, ensuring that I knew that I was loved and welcomed. Soon after, my principal tapped me on my shoulder and announced that I would have to make a speech. I anxiously greeted that group of over 300 community members and students in Sesotho. My principal translated everything that I couldn’t and as the bo ‘m’e began their battle cries of cheers, my principal, ‘m’e, and community members presented a Basotho blanket and traditional hat to express their immense gratitude for my arrival. As the cheers began to die down, more screams began as the area chief presented her gift of ANOTHER Basotho blanket and traditional hat. I have never felt so loved and accepted by a group of strangers in my whole life. This is the moment I had been dreaming of when I imagined myself in the Peace Corps over two years ago. Here I was, in a small community, of the Mountain Kingdom of Africa, being welcomed and showered with love and gifts. And to think, I was just visiting! It pains me to know that I have to leave Metolong and Ha Makatoko in coming days, but I am beyond thrilled to know that come December 19th, 2013, I will be an official Peace Corps Volunteer and this place will be my new home for next two incredible years.
-Teboho Theko kappa Tumo Temahane