August marks exactly one year of service. What a whirlwind it’s been. Every day has proved to be a new adventure in this foreign land, which hardly seems foreign at all anymore. Chartering into the deep unknown on June 6th, 2013 has proven to be the best decision I have ever made. The experience thus far has been difficult to transcend into words, but I do appreciate those of you who have taken the time to read my monthly attempts to describe what it’s like living in this great country. They say a PCV’s service starts to take its true shape at the one-year mark and that certainly rings true for my experience. The computer lab I’ve wrote about in previous posts has finally been completed. On top of that, I recently began playing for a semi-professional team in Thaba Tseka for the Lesotho Football Association.
One Year of Service in Pictures
– – http://imgur.com/a/TjHIb
After arriving at my site only to find out my government organization had zero funding, I had to find some actual sustainable work or be forced to enact the option of moving locations. I immediately felt comfortable in the community of Thaba Tseka, so I set out to scope the area for potential projects so it wouldn’t have to come to relocating. Fortunately an education volunteer still remained in the area right before he was due to end service and was able to introduce to the principal of Thaba Tseka High School (TTHS). I informed her of my skillset and was immediately registered with the Ministry of Education and approved to teach Computer Studies and Business at the school. With the school year winding down at the time, I opted to teach a single class to get the hang of things. One of my colleagues manages what was then a defunct computer lab. Once I saw the machines in halfway working order I knew I had found my primary project.
There were many challenges associated with making the computer lab functional. Firstly, only about 5 of the 20 wall outlets were functioning in the room. This issue quickly took top priority. By a stroke of fate, I met and became very close friends with an engineer for the Lesotho Electric Company and he agreed to fix up the room for no charge on his spare time. It took a few months to acquire the necessary components needed to have proper electricity flowing throughout the lab. During this time I was developing a current curriculum as the one the school had was from 2006 and extremely outdated.
Persistence pays- It took 2 months to fix the electricity and another 4 months to procure the necessary components required to make this a functional computer lab. Typing lessons will be starting shortly and the students are tremendously keen to get started.
Soccer with Little Roses FC
As the winter deep freeze began to wane, the talk of the town turned to the upcoming season for the Lesotho Football Association. Thaba Tseka is too small to host a premier league team so instead the 12 teams play in the B division. It’s possible to compete for promotion but the travel required to play across the country on a weekly basis is near impossible due to lack of funding. I expressed interest of playing to a few friends and one of them set up a meeting with a manager for a team called Little Roses Football Club. He said they were looking for a new keeper and I accepted a tryout without hesitation. After a week of training with the team, the gaffer informed me that I would be starting the first game on August 31st. Training continued on for the entire month of August. Every weekday consisted of drills, conditioning, and team building. It was clear these guys took the sport very seriously.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous on the first gameday. We were playing the Police team and they won the league last year. At least 200 spectators showed up to the pitch. Many of them were students of mine, and a persistent “Ko-pi-no” (my Sesotho nickname) chant echoed alongside their whistles drums. The festive atmosphere was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. After presenting our registration licenses to the officials, we did the typical ceremony which included the national anthem and entering the pitch with 2 lines. The deputy officer was also the captain of their squad and said “hello Kopano, you are welcome!” This was also a very kind gesture of gratitude.
The pitch is entirely dirt. I took some time to remove the larger rocks from the goalie box prior to the game. Regardless, the hard ground was still akin to diving on concrete. Our team conceded the first two goals. First one was a fast break that just out of reach on my right side. The second came from about 10 yards out in which I had no chance. As planned, I only played the first half so the other keeper could get some playing time in the opening match. We went on to lose 1-5 in an embarrassing defeat. However, the coach offered many words of encouragement while also sternly warning of continued defeats if the back 4 don’t start communicating more effectively.
All told it was a fascinating debut to the world of professional soccer in Africa. Unfortunately the consolidation of volunteers (too be described in the next post) effectively took me off the team for three weeks. I’m eager to return and rejoin the squad as we progress through the season.
As always thanks for reading!