Travel Lesotho: Finding My Path
I always seem to find myself on dusty, muddy roads, the kinds that no other person in their right mind would contemplate going down. It is not that I seek out bushwhacking as a personal pastime. Rather, it comes as a part of the territory. My life has been a series of spinning dials and new courses set. Lesotho came to me in much the same manner.
It was an evening in February. I sat in my mother’s kitchen, staring at a despondent computer screen. I was impatient with life, as I always seem to be when one course has been run and I am awaiting the next to be set. I am not sure how, but I found myself watching a documentary made about a prince on his gap year in an obscure country called Lesotho. Lesotho is referred to as the Kingdom in the Sky. It rests among the Drakensberg mountain range and its entirely landlocked by South Africa. I felt immediately drawn to this tiny country. Perhaps it was its obscurity or the faces of the children I saw in the documentary. But whatever it was about Lesotho that grabbed my heart, it refused to let go. Lesotho appeared in my dreams for months and I looked for volunteer opportunities but there seemed to be none.
But Lesotho had already planted itself in my mind. I worked with an organization called Interim Programs, which specializes in connecting young people with volunteer/work experience opportunities around the globe and together we found an orphanage in Cape Town. So on May 10, 2009, assuming that I would somehow end up in Lesotho, I boarded a plane for South Africa.
Travel Lesotho: Finding My Path
I volunteered with about 30 orphaned or abandoned children at an orphanage in a township for six weeks. Then a friend suggested I join her traveling along the South African coast. It worked out so that I had 3 weeks to spare at the end of the trip and I asked the woman who ran the volunteer program if she could me help find an orphanage in Lesotho where I could volunteer.
I think there must been a higher power looking over my path, because after a few days, she emerged from her office, holding a piece of paper with the name of the orphanage where I would volunteer: Mantsase Children’s Home. It was the very same orphanage that had been presented in the documentary and that was responsible for leading me to Africa in the first place.
Lesotho stared at me in the same way a long lost friend stares into your face waiting for recognition.
On July 7, 2010 I found myself sitting in the passenger seat of a white pick-up truck on my way to the orphanage. My head bounced against the side of the window as I tried in vain to steady myself against the constant upheaval of the tires against the uneven ground. I was not alone, but there was no conversation. My driver was more silent than even the most unyielding of marble statues. Nothing but my own thoughts challenged the lonesome drone of the engine. But I was grateful for the silence. Language would have only interrupted the more important discourse I was having with what existed outside the dirty window.
Lesotho stared at me in the same way a long lost friend stares into your face waiting for recognition. Children were everywhere. They roamed the barren land like the herds of wild animals you would expect to find on the Serengeti. But Lesotho’s children were not as dignified as those romanticized beasts. These children gnawed at the last bones of survival. They stared into our headlights hoping that our cargo might include a mother returning from heaven to tuck them in tonight.
The land has a way of communicating. If you listen she will tell you stories, like your grandmother did, stories that dance on the border between undeniable truth and fantasy.
In an African night, the land and the heavens mimic each other. The lights of tiny villages appeared like constellations and the stars looked like homesteads. Looking out my window, I imagined whole families sitting around open fires in the all-consuming loneliness of space. The orphanage appeared over the tree-lined hill. Its brightness stood out against the otherwise dark village that surrounds it. As far as my eyes could see, no other light gave contest to the florescent beams that poured out of Mantsase’s windows.
Travel Lesotho: Finding My Path photo credit: unsplash.com