Monday, June 14, 2010

The Shortest distance between two points in Lesotho is with 20 other people and a few chickens

So as promised, the blog is being put to use more often! I am currently sitting in my rondeval. It is super super warm in my house compared to the outside. I am guessing it is about 40 degrees out but i am comfortable in a tshirt. My house is made of mud and poop (i think poop at least, it would be fitting given my child like sense of humor) with a thatched roof. i lucked out. some volunteers have tin roofs that are really cold. I was sitting here trying to think of what aspect of my life to describe here and I settled on transportation.

So the majority of people here cannot drive and do not own cars. This makes public transportation very popular. Public transport consists of "taxis." These are essentially 15 passenger vans which usually carry approx 20 people. They are very cramped. We have a competition to see who can ride in a taxi with the most people. But along with people, much luggage is shoved into these taxis. The most popular luggage items are giant bags of "ma-simba" (which are snacks that have been described as flavored packing peanuts), bags of maize meal, and cases of beer that are delivered to bars along the ride. I have ridden with kids on my lap, baby chickens clucking next to me, and even sometimes standing hunched over a row of people. One volunteer said she rode a taxi with a sheep tied up in the front.

There are two workers on the taxi, a driver and conductor. The driver drives obviously. The conductor is responsible for the opening the door (which is sometimes much harder than you would think because the taxis are not in the best shape...i have been on taxis when they get flat tires several times), collecting money, and communicating with passengers.

To get a taxi in a main town, you go to the "taxi rank" or a place where the taxis gather to leave. The taxis will sit and wait until they are full until they leave. I once waited three hours for a taxi to my site. This is a constant source of frustration because many times taxis could leave and pick up people on the way. This would make more trips for the taxis and probably more money. Grr. Haha. This is the way it has been done forever so it is not always questioned (not the only thing thats not always questioned in Lesotho).

The taxi ranks are indescribable. There are hoardes of people going to and waiting for taxis. There are many stands and shacks with people selling fruit, vegetables, socks, drinks, and much much more. The first time we were taken around the taxi rank in maseru (the capital), I was terrified. I now find the taxi ranks very entertaining. The majority of people here are extremely friendly and it is fun talking to conductors and people in the ranks. They are usually very curious about me and where I come from. I am friendly with the drivers and conductors of the taxis that go to my site. It is also fun to see what people are selling. In general, these areas are a bit dirty (trash collection doesn't exist here) and taxis aren't in the best shape because the roads here are in bad shape. The taxi to my village takes about 45 mins to an hour. 15 mins is on a paved road and the other 30-45 mins are on a rocky dirt road where the taxi averages only a few mph. And I live in the foothills, so the taxi doesn't have to go up mountains on this poor road.

Another thing about the taxis is that the usually play very loud music. There are a few staples of the music selections of the taxis. One is gospel. I like the gospel a lot. Much of Lesotho is Christian. Another is house music, but it is pretty low quality house. It is more like the same beat over and over and over again. Not too exciting. They occasionally play pop music from the States but a bit behind I think. The last type is called Famu. This music is unlike anything I had heard before coming to Lesotho. I am told it is like Basotho gangster rap. There is usually an accordian and a guy mumbling extremely quickly. I hated it at first, but it grows on me every taxi ride. I am excited to have people in the US listen to it.

Ok! So that's the gist of transport. It is a bit frustrating because it takes a long time for taxis to fill and they stop along the way to the final destination to pick up and let off passengers. This makes trips very long. Trips take 2 to 3 times as long as with a private vehicle at times. This is not a culture of punctuality. Haha. We went on a school trip and told the kids to arrive at 5am when we planned to leave at 7am.

until next time...lerato (love) from Lesotho


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