Can It Get Any Worse?

Trip Start Jan 20, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Lesotho  , Qachaʼs Nek,
Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Yes, obviously it can get worse, and it did! Let me fill in a few blanks and provide a brief background before delving into the details.

Last November while in Qacha’s Nek, I was fortunate to sit in on a home-based care workshop, facilitated by Peggy from Canada and Mathabo from the University of Lesotho. At the time, I was extremely impressed with the support group women who were so unselfishly caring for the sick (mostly AIDS patients) and the orphans in their communities. They appeared to be hungry for additional training and information that would support their volunteer work.

The wheels started turning, and the plans for a women’s support group exchange between two projects on opposite sides of the country began to emerge. It all sounds relatively uncomplicated, but I can assure you that there were frequent outbursts of profound frustration during the planning process. Yet we persisted, and four of us were ready to embark on the long journey early last Thursday morning, even though I had been fighting a cold for more than a week.

Given the distances and the mini-bus schedules, it seemed impossible to limit our travelling time to one day, but fortunately we were provided with a project vehicle as far as Maseru. Sounds good, but we hadn’t figured on the driver showing up half an hour late, nor on the diesel tank being empty when he arrived. You guessed it - we missed the last bus leaving Maseru!

Not to worry -.  there’s always a solution if you’re prepared to suffer the consequences. It seems that a government employee was travelling to Qacha’s Nek in his pick-up truck, and offered to give us a lift...............for a fee of course. Only one problem - he had to quickly return home to pick something up. Yeah, right!! He finally appeared two and a half hours later.

By this time, there were six persons standing in the hot sun, all waiting for a lift to Qacha’s Nek. The cab of the pick-up would seat four, but the remaining two had to climb into the back. Having previously made a conscious decision to be more like Gerry, I graciously volunteered to take the uncomfortable floor behind. Of course I was fully expecting the two men to overrule my offer, but there was a mad dash for the seats in front, leaving the back for the old Canadian woman (me), and an elderly Catholic nun from South Africa. Our less-than-prime seating area had windows that wouldn’t open, creating a veritable greenhouse effect. I was convinced that when the driver finally opened the back door, he would be shocked to discover two cremated bodies. No such luck - I survived the gruelling journey!!

Upon arrival, I looked and felt so death-like, that it was suggested I might check into a guesthouse, rather than stay in the village as planned, and where I would find very limited facilities. I didn’t argue, but found the guesthouse to be completely booked, except for a teensy tin room that attracted the heat of the sun just as much as the back of the pick-up. I crossed the road for a cold drink, leaving the guesthouse attendant trying to pry open the door of the shared bathroom with a long bread knife. She never did gain entry, but she miraculously found me a decent room with a private bath. And none too soon - within thirty minutes I was experiencing explosive diarrhoea that persisted throughout the night.

Needless to say, I missed three-quarters of the workshop but finally managed a somewhat wilted appearance. The workshop was deemed a huge success, not only because of the opportunity to exchange experiences, ideas, and new skills, but also because of a break-through in reducing the stigma associated with AIDS. No member of the Qacha’s Nek support group had previously admitted to being HIV positive, afraid of the resultant expected shunning by the remaining group members. Amidst joyful tears and encouraged by the resource team from Pitseng who are all positive, three workshop participants declared their HIV status. It remains to be seen whether they will continue to be supported and embraced by the remaining group members, but at least it’s a good beginning.   

 The final night was spent in the village where we shared beds, floor space, and a community pee bucket. A good experience it was.

By this time I was quite oblivious to any discomfort or pain, and assumed that the journey back to Pitseng would be a breeze. Oh, but we had completely forgotten that school was about to begin again, after the two month Christmas break. The bus held 65 seated passengers as stipulated - but there were at least another 65 standing passengers, most of whom were students returning to their boarding schools. After a 5 am start, we reached Maseru in a totally squished state at 5pm, and jumped on the first of three mini-buses to take us back home.

So close, and yet so far away. With only two and a half hours to go, I was suddenly seized with severe chest pains. I relaxed, knowing that they would subside within thirty minutes or so. But like I said, it did get worse and I had no option but to see a doctor the next afternoon. No problem - just a case of Acute Gastritis that a few meds would take care of.

And now the worst is over - I’ll be good as gold by tomorrow, and am anxious to get back to see my good friends the orphans.

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fran fisher on

hi sharon,
i really have to reply to this installment of your trip as one of heather's good friends at mcgill, megan stockhausen, spent 2 years with the peace corp, - she is american and now in law iin dc, - IN QACHA'S NEK!!

Chris on

Whew - what a ride! reading this entry.. Hope you are feeling better now Sharon - keep up the incredible work!

Michelle Meyer on

Wow, Sharon! It is amazing how you have seen and experienced so much of the world and it's many different cultures... and how you have given so much help and care to so many people! I'm excited at all I heard when we met you in Lesotho and at seeing your photos and entries. on

its been quite a good experiance for travelling into those mountainous places Lesotho and have really done a very good job.keep it up!

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