Finishing PCMI

*NOTE: I updated the aesthetics of my blog! Hopefully the new format doesn’t confuse you – all of the information is still the same, just figured it’s time for an update! Enjoy 🙂

My priorities since returning from Lesotho have been mostly focused on school. Returning to my second (and last) year of graduate school, I knew it would be a challenge getting back into the swing of a vigorous schedule, structured days, and highly efficient time management. My first few days at work in a student affairs office had its share of faux paus, causing me a lot of stress and anxiety over whether I would be fired or not, and whether I was fit at all for a formalized work environment. Luckily, there was a staff person in our Office of Global Studies that understood my circumstances and reassured me that I was more than qualified to perform the job. That month of doubt, realizing that I was not at all as readjusted as I thought, was the biggest challenge I faced returning home from service. Readjustment is not fixed, but continues to happen in the smallest ways, to this day.

Academically, I took a one-credit re-entry class to discuss experiences and perspectives of other PCVs and global activities scholars. I created a poster that was presented during Global Social Work Week, which highlighted the skills developed and takeaways gained through PC service.

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 11.40.55 PM

To promote PC’s third goal of sharing other country’s cultures with Americans, I IMG_1066participated in a Petcha Kutcha event where the returned Peace Corps Master’s International (PCMI) cohort presented on their service to a crowded classroom of other graduate students and professionals. In December, when Mpho visited from Lesotho, we went and spoke with my high school sociology teacher’s classroom about cultural curiosity and differences. I’m glad he was there to speak more in-depth about cultural traditions, as there way too many nuances and details I would’ve skipped over, even though I lived there for two years (it’s just not enough time!).

By the way, did I mention that Mpho is my fiancée? I tend to be a more private person when it comes to relationships, but this guy deserves a big mention and a lot of credit. We met right as my service began in Lesotho, and have been together almost three years now. He’s the most inspirational person I know, and I can’t wait to see what he does for Lesotho, Africa, and our future family. He hates the cold, but the fact that he proposed to me in Michigan, on Christmas, OUTSIDE, and then took these photos with me in the snow speaks volumes. Kea u rata haholo, moratuoa.

DSC_0712DSC_0872

In April I graduated with my Master’s in Social Work from the University of Michigan, alongside other RPCVs. We attended a ceremony where we were recognized as PCMI scholarship recipients, and took photos with our Dean and fancy certificates (funny to think two years of peeing in a bucket was rewarded with such a beautiful formality).

SSW, Victoria Galanos
2016 School of Social Work student awards ceremony

Just before graduation, we received the sad news that Peace Corps was discontinuing the PCMI program. There’s not a lot of details or reasoning we found to justify this, other than the program no longer aligned with Peace Corps’ goals as an organization. With the new application process contributing to record-breaking application rates and a modernized logo, it is apparent the Peace Corps has been reevaluating various aspects of their operations. I have to believe the decision to disband PCMI was also made with good reasoning.

I am humbled to have been a part of the PCMI legacy, and thank the Peace Corps and our Office of Global Activities for the partnership and opportunities provided to me and many other PCMI students across the country over the past couple of decades.

xX Nthati Xx

Earning My ‘R’

In Peace Corps terms, “R” stands for “Returned”. And that’s exactly what I am. On July 18, 2015, I returned back to where this journey began, to the people who sent me off.

DSC_1056

DSC_1063

DSC_1069
Grandpa eyeing my Oreos -__-

DSC_1079

DSC_1084

And it was beautiful.

I knew my remaining days in Lesotho would go quickly, but not so quick that I’d be back home for a month, and then jump into grad school, speed through winter break, and finally have time to update about those last two weeks in Lesotho half a year later.

My last few weeks in Lesotho were busy, to say the least. I packed up my little house, gave away my things to friends and villagers, had final parties and moments with locals and

DSCN5753
Jubilant Lesotho Post Staff and *new* RPCVs

volunteers, and said “until next time.” Final procedures in the capital lasted two quick days – a language test, a few interviews, and LOTS of paperwork. On my last day in Lesotho, after a few heartfelt words with PC Lesotho staff and some tears, I became a RETURNED Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV). And with several people I once called strangers, I left with a new family. Looking back, there is so much I wasn’t able to discuss on this blog, but impacted me in big ways. Life in the Peace Corps is not something I can generalize or describe perfectly. It was the craziest, most relaxing, peaceful, chaotic, long, yet short, fulfilling but seemingly futile, emotional and difficult experience I’ve ever had.

Every day I am reminded of something or someone from a Peace Corps memory. Since today is in remembrance of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I have been dismissed from work and school to reflect on his legacy and dream, and think about how my service can be used to help that dream become realized. A quote I often shared in Lesotho comes to me:

“Change is the essence of life. Be willing to surrender what you are for what you could become.” – Reinhold Niebuhr

Our work to make this world a better place requires us to surrender our pride, admit our shortcomings, and discuss how we can learn from them and learn from each other. I didn’t do that enough during my service, and “failure” was really hard to admit. So I’m going to work towards doing that, because one day it’ll matter. Today, it matters.

_________________________________________________________________

There’s a lot I’ve reflected on throughout my first semester back, thanks to the staff and fellow RPCVs in the Peace Corps Master’s International Program. And there’s still a lot I am processing and grappling with. Adjusting to the quickened change of pace was challenging and sometimes downright debilitating, but I’ve had incredible support from family, friends and teachers throughout this readjustment period. Thank You all for the happy arrival back home, and for putting up with all of my new habits and odd questions.

I am happy to say that despite my recent resistance to the drastically increased access to, and progress in technology and communications I have experienced since returning home, I plan to continue posting on this blog about my Peace Corps experience.

Salang Hantle (Stay well).

xX Nthati Xx

Oh, Public Transportation

I grew up in West Michigan, having gone off to college not understanding the concept of public transportation. At university I took the campus buses, but only for short distances from one side of campus to the other. Then I came to Lesotho, Africa, and I learned what it meant to REALLY take public transport. And now that I’ve lived here for two years, I am comfortable saying – you haven’t taken public transportation until you’ve taken public transportation in Africa (or perhaps any other developing country [no, I’m not referring to Africa as a country]).

When I first arrived Peace Corps drove us from the airport to our rural training villages, so my first encounter with public transport was an animal – The Donkey.

Kids would ride around, carting bags of sorghum or maize meal from a nearby shop, or just trot around chasing one another for fun. Although donkeys are common in my more urban town, the more rural areas of Lesotho benefit most from donkeys as they can easily traverse the mountainous terrain with large loads.

Horses, like the one I found this Ntate riding in the mountains are more common for people to get around not carrying loads with them. His saddle is beautiful, but a lot of younger men typically ride bareback. I have never seen a woman/girl ride a horse. Or donkey.

A friend in my camp town started an organization in partnership with Lesotho Sky and he promotes cycling as a ‘green’ way to get around, as well as bicycle safety. Here he has collected a list of names and is calling them up one by one to choose a bicycle that has been donated from the U.S. Cycling isn’t really a common method of transport, though. And Lesotho certainly doesn’t have bike lanes.

“We cut hair”

Now, real public transportation in Lesotho… is something. Whether I travel short, ample, or long distances, there’s a different vehicle to get me where I need to go. The fun part about public is that I never know what my trip will be like, but it’s almost guaranteed to give me something to talk about. First, I go to the taxi rank to find the right vehicle for the destination I am heading towards. I am typically bombarded by men asking me where I’m going, and then quickly chauffeured past shacks and hair salons through crowds of people and taxis right into my seat. Rarely does the taxi leave shortly after I take my place, so I get to spend my time watching vendors selling things out of the bucket on their heads and buying things like fruit, airtime, or ice cream when they knock on my window.  Eventually, when all the seats are filled to over-flowing, we leave. And this is how trips have gone:

Sometimes I sit next to a princess.

Sometimes the door flies open as we’re flying down the road.

Many drivers show reverence to John Cena, the patron saint of Lesotho, by putting his sticker on their dashboard, windshield, or rear view mirror.

Sometimes I can see the road though the floor of the bus.

Like, REALLY see the road.

Sometimes when I travel really far the other passengers bring everything but the kitchen sink.

Sometimes people transport their sheep. And yes, I have traveled with a sheep under my seat. And baby chicks on my lap.

Loading the sheep onto the top of the bus

1011635_10153166355840515_852797217_n

Sometimes I get smushed between two big guys, one of whom has a cast on his arm.

Rarely am I not smushed at all.

But usually I’m smushed pretty good. This was only for an hour.

And once we rode like this for 6 hours.

For the first time in my life I get carsick driving through Lesotho’s mountains. So people tend to be generous and give me the front seat or a window seat. Here I got out of being packed into the back of a pick-up truck.

But my friends weren’t so lucky.

I do like driving through the mountains though.

Especially when I get a hitch, and the car looks like a bumblebee.

Along the way we have to make sure we don’t hit school children.

Or livestock.

The pictures are so striking. Like, “I’m driving through this right now??”

Lemme Instagram this.

I can even ask to pull over and take a look at the view (A.K.A. IMMA GET SICK IF YOU DON’T PULL THIS CAR OVER).

But when I’m not sick I love stopping to look at the mountains. I do.

And I admire those brave enough to take in the thrilling mountain air through all the twists and bends.

xX Nthati Xx

The Year of PYD

This year I vowed to work more with youth in schools around my community. I wanted to increase participation in positive youth development (PYD) throughout the area, and especially at the high school in my village. Of all the ways I could have done this, the following events were the ones I found to be most rewarding.

Write On!

In 2014 I conducted the Write On! International Creative Writing Competition at one school, and this year I expanded into two. This years’ prompts were complicated for many of the participants and required a lot of out-of-the-box thinking. One of the questions was ‘You have a time machine that will only work once. What will you do with it?’, and many participants took the logical route, saying if their alarm clock or watch only works once (yes, those are technically ‘time machines’ – machines that tell time), they would go to get it fixed. Duh. So I think a bit more lesson planning around creativity is needed to provide the type of responses we were looking for, but the fact that over 300 students wrote English essays for fun and were rewarded with certificates for their efforts was a major motivator. English and creativity are becoming more and more essential in Lesotho’s attempt to become a more modern society, and I was glad to have created an opportunity for students to express themselves freely without judgment.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

GLOW Camp

In March I helped my PCV friend in a nearby village run her girls empowerment camp for all the girls who attend the high school she teaches at. The name of the camp is called Girls Leading Our World (GLOW) and it is an international Peace Corps curriculum designed to help girls find their ‘spark’ and share it with the world. In order to encourage leadership, support, and valuable experiences, GLOW sessions touched on assets, self-confidence, friendship, teamwork, health, and most poignantly – marshmallows. I ran one of the health sessions with a counterpart from my organization and we discussed the power of thinking before acting, especially when it comes to sex, drugs, and alcohol. There were a handful of us PCVs helping to run the camp, along with a few teachers, and around 100 ‘campers’ who stayed over the course of a weekend. Managing that many high schoolers for 3 consecutive days is a lot of work, credit mostly due to my friend who organized and managed the camp (although I was in charge of the assembly of s’mores on marshmallow night which was a feat in itself). I got to lead a group of approximately 25 students throughout the camp, and our bond, talks, and realizations were so so SO worth the exhaustion I felt for the rest of the following week.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Peace Corps SKILLZ

Many times had I tried to rejuvenate youth clubs in different schools in my community. For many reasons my attempts weren’t working, and I finally decided to focus on the one high school in my village. After several after-school meetings of fluctuating attendance, one of the teachers suggested I move the club to their lunch hour. It was only feasible I would have a half hour to facilitate sessions, but at least I had a better chance of having a more stable group which was necessary for the Peace Corps SKILLZ (Grassroot Soccer) program. My first sessions were packed with students, in equal distribution of boys and girls. But over time (yes, it took me 2½ months do complete 10 sessions) it was only the girls who had chosen to keep attending. Although I missed the valuable perspective of the boys, my demographic allowed me to be silly and open with the girls, asking them questions about relationships and culture that they could candidly discuss without worrying that a boy would tease them about it or tell their friends. We learned about HIV, stigma, transmission, the difference between facts/myths, testing and support. At one of my last sessions I distributed slips of paper for them to ask questions about anything and everything, and here are a few of my favorite questions (although all of them were good!):

  • I want to know why the rate of HIV/AIDS is Lesotho is higher than other countries
  • My boyfriend wants me to marry him immediately after graduating. So I am afraid… but also I am too young. Am I wrong?
  • Is it good to have more than 1 boyfriend?
  • Can it happen that a female can be pregnant yet her partner used a condom during sex?

At our last meeting in May I went over each of their questions as they ate the wonderful phenomenon that is no-bake cookies. Faces lit up like the first time I read Cosmo, and I asked them if they had ever asked these questions to anyone else before. “NO!!!” they all shouted, giggling and blushing a bit. I was filled. Perseverance pays off, and I will forever keep the memory of these girls doing their “Matsepe Kilo” in my mind.

ADAAL Club with their SKILLZ certificates, Matsepe H.S.
ADAAL Club with their SKILLZ certificates, Matsepe H.S.
ADAAL Club with their SKILLZ certificates, Matsepe H.S.
ADAAL Club with their SKILLZ certificates, Matsepe H.S.

xX Nthati Xx

As I Approach… Closing of Service

The first week of May, 2015 my fellow Healthy Youth 2013 (HY’13) volunteers and I had our Close of Service (COS) Conference. The conference is organized by post staff for outgoing PCVs in the final months of service to reflect on their experiences, translate experiences into meaningful skills for jobs outside of Peace Corps, and how to say goodbye to the people and places that have shaped PCVs’ services over the past two years.  The days kind of went like this: pig-out on a gourmet breakfast buffet, sit through sessions, eat finger foods I forgot existed, sit through another session, stare at the buffet lunch to work up my appetite for two plates of food, sit through more sessions, socialize, go for a walk so that I can manage a 5 course dinner, eat, bring back a plate of food, socialize, eat 4th meal. Luckily there were only 2 ½ days of this, or else I might have exploded. At the end of the conference we took pictures surrounded by the majestic Maluti Mountain Range at Maliba Lodge, had a group hug, and got excited for the next destination we planned independently of Peace Corps staff – Clarens, South Africa.

The Women of HY'13 @ COS
The Women of HY’13 @ COS
My fabulous cohort at COS - we made it!
My fabulous cohort @ COS – we made it!

Just across the South African border is this small town with values comparable to West Michigan – family, church, good food, and craft beer. We dropped our things off at a backpacker hostel before b-lining it to the Clarens Brewery. Clarens Brewery is a quaint space with vaulted ceilings and many windows, the focal point being a bar that greets its customers with its taps ready to pour as they enter. In the back are large exposed metal vats, a spectacular sort of village all their own. After a most essential tasting of almost every variety, I settled on the award-winning Red. Once I joined the group outside where picnic tables lined the perimeter of the building, I took a moment to stare at the beauty of our beers in the sunshine, and then I took one large, smooth gulp of my first micro brew in approximately two years. Thank You, God, for helping me make it through these past two years. And Thank You, God, for friends, sunshine, and craft beer.

My Clarens Brewery Red brew
My Clarens Brewery Red brew
Friends outside Clarens Brewery, South Africa
Friends outside Clarens Brewery, South Africa
German Restaurant paradise - bratwurst, mustards, and Weiss!
German Restaurant paradise – bratwurst, mustards, and Weiss!

For the next few weeks I’ll be wrapping up my projects, saying my last goodbyes to friends, family, and the village, and soak up as much of Lesotho as I can. Now, some of you may be wondering at this point when, exactly, I will be making my return back to the good ‘ole U.S. of A. I have been given a COS date in mid-July, and if you really want to know specifically, just have a look at the countdown I have on the right side of this page –> You see it?? Yayy!!

I’m going to make an attempt to blog much more frequently in the upcoming weeks so that I can get out a lot of what I’ve been doing and wanted to say, since I’ve preferred to spend my time elsewhere than in front of the computer these past couple months. So stay tuned, as I wrap up these two years I’ve spent abroad in Lesotho!

xX Nthati Xx

Nala & Nelly

Peace Corps pets can be the biggest comfort and the biggest pain. I’ve had two dogs as a PCV in Lesotho, and while it was a challenge to care for them and keep them safe I don’t regret the decision to have dedicated a lot of free time and living allowance money towards companions that gave and taught so much to me.

My first dog was a runt that my host father brought home about a month into my service. I called her Nala, which means “prosperity” in Sesotho, but of course also out of nostalgia for the Lion King and the fact that I was living in Africa and a dog was the closest I’d get to having a pet lion. I bought Nala bags of puppy kibble in town, and after realizing that I spent far too much money on kibble alone, I started her on a diet of papa (starch) mixed with kibble for nutrients. After only about two or three months, when she finally started to grow into a larger, fatter puppy, Nala disappeared. No one in my family or village knew where she had gone.

After hearing about Nala’s mysterious disappearance, and my distress over her absence, the town vet said he’d give me one of his puppies. After picking up the new puppy, along with a few of her siblings, we orientated them with a car ride and reggae music and took her home. I let her sleep in my house (a very westernized behavior, if you didn’t know) for about two weeks until I was so sleep-deprived I cleaned out one of my family’s pigsties and placed her in there to stay. I asked my friend how old the puppy was, and he assumed only about five weeks or so – totally breaking the law if I was in the U.S. Despite her young, tender age, I raised Nelly to be a healthy dog, much bigger than others in the village and much more social.

Dogs in Lesotho are mostly used as utility to help herd animals and guard at night, making them often aggressive and feared. So it came as a big surprise to the kids in my village when Nelly would follow me out to the water tap and want to jump up on them after playing around in the puddles. I was able to teach the kids that dogs can be petted if nice and obedient without throwing stones at them, and soon people stopped fleeing when they saw her barreling towards them from across the field so she could join in on the fun. Actually, a lot of the kids learned the “puppy” dance, a movement Nelly was notorious for: you stand feet together, bend elbows and squeeze them into your body, stick out your booty, and shake it.

The only other time I’d ever had a dog was when I was really young, and Nelly went on to teach me a lot in our time together. We were very similar in a lot of ways. We enjoyed harmless fun, such as me luring in the ‘killer’ goose that terrorized my family’s compound, and then me giving her the signal to chase it far into the cornfield or pond. She didn’t like to be tied up, and I didn’t like to stay in my house for too long, so we often went into the forest at the base of the mountain behind my house to explore for hours. We were also curious, and would watch pigs and take note of the grossest things they’d eat, and how close we could get to the dairy cow before it charged us. I also learned how fear coincides with confidence, and how you can own fear by having confidence, or let fear own you by showing doubt. I learned that mostly by being at war with the goose, and Nelly showed me that fear (the goose) can chase you, but if you stand up and start chasing fear (the goose), courage and confidence prevails! We also shared the commonality that learning from your mistakes isn’t as easy as saying the phrase. Sometimes I’d come home to find her off her chain, pieces of plastic bags shredded around my stoop. She’d have this pained look on her face, and then uncomfortably trot up to greet me and I’d have to say “Nelly. If you eat plastic bags, you poop plastic bags.” Thankfully I didn’t have this issue, but sometimes I wonder why I still go grocery shopping on the last weekend of the month when I know it takes me 30 minutes to get to the register, or go to work without rain boots or an umbrella on an overcast day and get stuck walking home in a downpour. I treated Nelly like I would in the U.S. and wanted so desperately for her to be my cuddle buddy in bed at night. But her habits of eating animal poo and rolling in red dirt and manure quickly ruled her as an outside dog only. I couldn’t take Africa out of the dog, just like how you can’t take the American out of me. I’m an American living in Africa, and it’s okay to be frustrated and feel out of place sometimes, because I’m trying to fit into this lifestyle that is not inherently mine – the same way that I was hoping to make Nell an indoor dog in Africa.

Almost a year into having crazy Nelly, she fell pregnant. I was excited to have puppies, but also thought about how often I’d be lugging 10kg bags of dog food up a mountain to my place to feed her increasing appetite. Around the time I found out she was gonna be a momma, I remember reading outside one day and then tying her up so she wouldn’t wander as I took an afternoon nap. My family’s domestic worker was really adamant about not freeing her when I wasn’t outside the whole time, so although this woman was the only one around and mostly working inside, I obliged. A few hours later I woke up and went to let her off her leash when I found her, her chain, and her stake all gone. Confused, I asked the domestic worker if she knew where Nell went, and got nothing. She was missing for a few days and I started to accept that something weird happened, and the curious cases of missing dogs (both disappeared without a sound and no one saw them) were probably connected. My host family told me their theories of what might’ve happened, and we put word out into the community to keep eyes out for Nelly, the dog everyone had come to know and care for.

It’s been a few months and Nelly hasn’t reappeared. I’d like to think that she’s being taken care of, wherever she is, which is a very hopeful statement compared to a lot of animals’ fates here in Lesotho. It’s hard to not think of all the things that might’ve happened to her, which can be very sorrowing to imagine. I definitely still miss her, taking a lot of joy looking at the memories I captured, and wishing she were here to chase away the geese (there’s two of them now) when I don’t feel like it. I decided not to get another dog, hoping to find the same companionship in other dogs that live near my place, or perhaps the village children who have taken very fondly to my crayons as of late. Mostly though, I didn’t want to put myself through another heartache.

xX Nthati Xx

What Comes From Above

I moved into the house that would shelter me for my two years of service back in August of 2013. It took me only a day or two to realize there were many holes and cracks, seen and unseen, that let in dust, ants, spiders, and the cold. During the first rain I also realized that my corrugated tin roof let in water, and even worse, in summer – hail.

Minor issues at the time, I remedied the situation by placing buckets or towels where puddles formed. I told my host father about the situation, and he paid a man to climb up on my roof to try and patch up the problematic areas. It rained, and there seemed to be no difference. I tried to put up with it for a few months, the number and size of buckets increasing as time went on.  A good-weathered week mid-2014 I decided to have another try at the roof. I bought some tar and called a friend to come over and patch areas with the sticky, black substance from ontop while I hit the roof with my broom from beneath to signal leaky places. It rained a week later and puddles no longer formed in spots where they once had – they had all changed location by a few centimeters in different directions and now I was faced with the whole new issue of relocating where it rained inside my house.

The writing, er, rain, is on the wall...
The writing, er, rain, is on the wall…

A bit defeated, I accepted that “This is the Peace Corps” and I needed to “Be Resilient.” So I hoisted my mosquito net above my bed and draped my larger pieces of clothing I wasn’t using among the wooden beams above, hoping they would at least slow, if not stop the amount of water that found its way to my floor and my bed.

My desk where I couldn't leave my computer because of leaks
My wet desk where I couldn’t leave my computer because of leaks

It did kind of work for a while, but the stress of watching dark clouds creep towards me and having to place all of my papers, books and electronics in safe places away from the threat of water always lingered.

On a rainy night in January this year, a fellow PCV stayed at my house. We resorted to hanging out on my bed, cocooned within my mosquito net slowly deafening from the sound of rain hitting the tin roof.  Around us the floor had flooded and sinking into the middle of my bed under my makeshift tarps was our only hope of refuge.

Floor flooding and getting my bed sheets wet
Floor flooding and getting my bed sheets wet

“Tori, this is not okay!” she said to me matter-of-factly. I let out a nervous laugh as I processed why she said this. It was all so normal to me. I thought all volunteers have issues with their roofs… why is draping clothing among the rafters, laying pathways of towels and buckets around my small house, and having to hide in my bed “not okay”? I woke up the next morning damp and sick. My friend didn’t have to convince me to call Peace Corps staff and ask for some help fixing my roof.

My request went for approval through a few people, but it didn’t take long to grant. Turns out my tin roof was severely rusted, explaining the failed attempts to fix it (and probably the reason they had painted it from inside so I couldn’t see the dishonest color). The PC staff member who surveyed my house ordered for a completely new roof and a bit more height added to one side. Not only would there be no holes that let in little rays of sunshine (I’m being wildly sarcastic about this) but there would be no chance of water pooling and eventually seeping in! Construction was to start two days after I got the news, and I’d have to go stay at a place in town while they literally raised the roof (whoop, whoop).

Vacated all the harvested wheat to make room for my stuff!
Vacated all the harvested wheat to make room for my stuff!

The morning construction was to start two men in trucks arrived at my door at 6:45am as I had just prepared to wash my pile of dishes and drink a cup of coffee.  My host father informed me that there was no time – I had to move everything out as soon as possible. And I hadn’t yet packed a single thing. With a little help from our domestic worker who has become like a mother to me, I had my entire house packed up and moved in under an hour and a half. My unwashed dishes may have been stuffed into a hopelessly unclean pee bucket that I’d later have to deal with, but I didn’t care.  All I could think was “Let’s do this!!!”

It took the contractor a day and a half to replace my roof. I came back and despite the inside looking like a major potters wheel disaster had happened, I was happy to feel the luxury of a vaulted ceiling and smell the pine scent of new wood. A few days after moving back into my house a string of storms plagued the area. Lots of rain and lots of hail – the perfect test. I laid my head on my pillow the first night of storms, smiling, until a clod of mortar fell and broke on my face. I had to sleep at the foot of my bed away from the wall for a few nights, allowing the now-dried mortar to fall from the ceiling as hail beat down.

Old roof...
Old roof…
New roof!!!
New roof!!!

My house is dustier than its ever been (always falling bits of mortar), but I’ve learned that I’d rather be dusty than wet. Thank you, Peace Corps, for paying for my beautiful, shiny, new roof. And thank you, roof, for, well, being a roof.

xX Nthati Xx