Day in the Life

Ian Besse, Grinnell Corps: Lesotho 2001

Friday, Jan. 4, 2013 2:23 am

If I haven't been awakened by the roosters already, my alarm gets me up about 6:30. I used to get up closer to 6:00 and go jogging with Ali twice a week, but I've gotten lazy and its getting to cold for me to jog. If it was sunny the day before, there's the chance of warm water for a bath. Sometimes when it hasn't gotten too cold the night before, we both get a bath. Otherwise, we've fallen into a more or less alternating day schedule on hygiene.

Then I get to making breakfast. Usually I grate a couple of potatoes and make myself hashbrowns topped with an egg, overeasy, and pour a cup of tea or coffee. Once in a while I'll break out oatmeal or make porridge with maize-meal.

After breakfast I rifle through the stack of clothes that seems to perpetually reside on the second bed in my room and find something I've only worn a couple of times. (When laundry has to be done by hand, it gets done less often.) I slip on the $3.00 watch I bought on the street in Maseru into my pocket. (I quickly discovered why it cost me $3.00-the band fell off the second day I had it and it gains about 5 minutes every week or two.)

At about 7:30 or 7:45 I make the three minute trek to school and get my desk in the staff room in order before assembly at 8:00. Assembly is the daily gathering of all the students and teachers in the main hall for the recitation of the rosary, the national anthem (in three part harmony) a Bible reading, a Sesotho hymn, and the pledge to the cross which bears a striking resemblance to the pledge of allegiance. Following assembly we all file out, the students head to their respective classrooms and we go back to the staff room until 8:25 when the first period begins. (I'll include my time table at the end). We break for tea at 10:25 and lunch at noon. The students either bring a lunch or make their own at the hostel. We teachers all go home for lunch.

At the beginning of any given class that I teach, the students all rise as soon as I enter the room. I greet the class, they greet me in unison. Then they launch into a brief prayer at the end of which I say they may be seated and class begins. Also, throughout class, whenever a student speaks, she stands at her desk.

Classes end at 3:00 pm except on Fridays, and from 3-3:30 the students have free time. At 3:30 the students go to an hour long study hall (except on Wednesdays and Fridays-Wednesdays alternate between clubs and sports during that time and Fridays everyone is done at 2:20 so people can catch the bus at 3:00 to Maseru.)

On Mondays, many of the Form B's come over to our house after study hall for silent reading. Ali and I have started a reading club where students can earn stickers, candy, and prizes for reading books from the library. Tuesday after study hall is the Form A's turn. On sports Wednesdays I spend from 3:30 to 5 coaching our own rag-tag, but very enthusiastic, soccer team. Not only am I on the esteemed sports committee, I'm the head soccer coach. It remains to be seen whether we will play a real game this year. On Thursdays from 4-5 I tutor the son of one of the nurses in physics. His name is Liteboho, pronounced dee-tay-bo-hoe, who completed high school last year but would like to try for a higher score on the Cambridge exam in November. And on Fridays Ali and I make a ritual hike to Mpontane, a village about a 25 minute walk away to buy two large, cold Castle lagers and a couple liters of Coke.

Typically we spend our evenings working on assignments cooking dinner, and reading or playing cribbage. Periodically we'll visit another teacher or have some of them over for dinner and on Mondays as soon as the generator comes on, Violet the daughter of our neighbor and colleague Me Libe (dee-bay) comes over for our weekly Sesotho lesson. Violet is a student in Form D, but she's 23 with a little girl of 4 years, named Zanele (zah-nell). She finished school, or dropped out, 6 years ago and got married. Now she's back to try to improve her Cambridge marks so she can go to college. Like her mother, she's a lot of fun and her daughter, who often visits, is quite the cute little girl.

On the weekends that we stay home, we often play kickball or basketball with the other teachers and students. The teachers really like kickball. Or we tend our small garden plot where we are attempting to grow pumpkin, beans, peas, cabbage, garlic, radishes, and carrots. The soil's not so good and we don't weed enough, but we've had successes here and there. Before all the peaches disappeared with the onset of autumn, we would spend a lot of time peeling peaches so we could can and dry them. We're now the proud owners of 6 jars of canned peaches and innumerable dried peach slices.

The generator usually kicks off about 9:30 and we are left in darkness save the little light we get from our candles and paraffin lamp, so I'm often in bed before 10:00. And if I'm lucky, the cows and dogs and ducks and chickens that roam all over will choose to make their nightly racket somewhere besides right outside my window and I'll get an unheard of in my college days 9 hours of sleep.

So I'm constantly staying busy, but enjoying the simplicity of things here. Its nice to look at the night sky when there are no lights for 50 miles and its nice to buy milk from a neighbor when its still warm from the cow.

Well this has turned more into a week in the life of Ian Besse, so I'll stop here. Hope this gives you a better idea of when life is like for me these days. Much love from Lesotho.

  Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
7:45         E Physics
8:25 B3 English E Physics B3 Lit A1 English B3 Lit
9:05 B3 Lit B3 English B2 English   B2 English
9:45 B2 Lit B3 English A1 English B3 English  
10:40 A1 English     B2 Lit  
11:20 A1 English A1 English      
Lunch          
1:00     B3 English E Physics A1 English
1:40   B2 English B3 English E Physics B2 Lit
2:20 B2 English B2 English   B2 English Early Out