tales of lesotho. part one.

for the month of july the mister and i headed off to lesotho (southern africa) to visit his family. we departed on july 6th and surprisingly our departure was totally uneventful. we followed my handy to-do list and waltzed out of the house precisely on time. shocking to say the least. two hours at the airport, ten hours on the plane, and we found ourselves in paris for a 15 hour layover. super. one minor glitch...the mister is a citizen of lesotho, a country which has no visa-waiver policy with france. sans visa the mister was not allowed to leave the international terminal of charles de gaulle airport. lucky for me, i am married to a wonderful man who took control of my luggage and sent me off to wander through paris. i did not have any kind of plan. i had a rinky-dink map from the airline magazine and i was just hoping to find the eiffel tower. after some confusion (streets going every direction with names that are all long and sound similar) i did find the major sights, but it just was not the same without my mister, so i just walked. and walked. and walked. i walked from notre dame to the eiffel tower to the arc de triomphe. for those of you unfamiliar with paris that is about 9km of walking. a little between-flights exercise.
not surprisingly, i arrived back at the airport totally exhausted. the mister was there waiting for me...obviously, he could not leave the world's most boring international terminal. we got some food and watched a world-cup semifinal along with an international assortment of soccer fans. sometime around midnight we boarded our plane for yet another ten hour flight. ugh. we arrived at o.r. tambo international airport in johannesburg sometime around 10am. immigration. baggage. customs. and then we spot the mister's brothers and best friend. 
the mister's older brother, best friend, younger brother, and me.
talk about fish out of water...these village boys looked so out of place inside this vast steel and glass building. they were thrilled by the bathroom...automatic soap dispenser and faucets? apparently it took them a few minutes to figure out how to make the water come out. they then explained that we had to take a bus to the car. they could not fathom paying for parking, so they parked miles and miles away in the employee lot. oh-kay. after the bus ride and some walking we arrived at the car and piled in. but then the car would not start. oops. so we all got back out and gave the car a push start, which was a good taste of where we were headed. the next seven hours were an uneventful journey through the countryside of south africa, a painless jaunt across the border bridge and voila...welcome to lesotho.
the family. falimehang, tankiso, the mister, masta, janki,
and m'e' (my mother-in-law).
it was past 8pm when we arrived at the mister's childhood home in a village called ha makebe. since this is our first time in the village since we married, i know we will have to go through some of the traditions for the newly married, but am not exactly clear on what that means. the unknown is leaving me a little bit anxious, but i am trying to remain calm. when i wake up the next day i am informed that i cannot leave the house until my hubby's sister arrives and dresses me. ummm...okay. trying to roll with the punches, but being indefinitely cooped up inside a 100 square foot house is making me feel a tad claustrophobic. luckily my best friend motlalile showed up right before panic set in. tears, cry, tears, cry, i am so ridiculously happy to see her and the hours fly by.
kiss and hug with my darling motlalile and her brother.
finally my hubby's sister, masta, arrives and the festivities begin. step one, masta and my mother-in-law dress me, which amounts to helping me put on the traditional outfit, complete with blanket and headscarf. step two, all of the women of the family gather in one room, while the men are outside. the men bring a sheep to the door and my mother-in-law explains that the family is giving me this sheep to welcome me to the family. great. except for the part where they slaughter the sheep to feed to everyone in celebration of our marriage. step three, my mother-in-law gives me a new name. she names me marethabile, which means "we are happy." step four, my little sister, along with any girls who want to join us, takes me to a village water source. sort of the lesotho version of a parade, except in this case it is showing the new wife where to find water, so the wife will know where to get water for washing clothes, dishes, etc. 
returning from our walk to the village water source.
step five, i sit in the house and meet a gazillion relatives, all of whom expect me to remember them when they return the next day. sure, no problem. step six, the final step. my aunt comes in and tells me to refuse the sheep meat when it is brought to me. she then leaves the room and comes back with a plate of cooked sheep, which she offers to me. i refuse it. she offers again. i refuse again. she nods and leaves the room. then she returns and gives the plate to everyone else to eat. the mister and i were rather confused by this tradition. why offer me the meat if you want me to refuse it? but whatever. the others are delighted to eat sheep. in fact, my little brother's best friend ate so much sheep that i nicknamed him mr. sheep. 
mr. sheep leading the way to finish off the entire sheep in one sitting.
the next day was a saturday, which in the basotho culture is the day for feasts. this particular saturday there were two feasts in ha makebe, so there were a ton of visitors from the surrounding villages. i sat outside while everyone came to see me. i got a taste of how zoo animals must feel, because everyone wanted to see the new "makoti" (newly married woman) and take pictures with me wearing the basotho blanket. but i was thrilled with the chance to get to know the mister's family. 
the mister and i wearing basotho blankets.
 his older sister kept me entertained with her attempts to cook the sheep's head. 
the sheep's head. gag.
she spent four hours laboring over that head...YUCK...only to forget the cooked head in the pot outside. by the time she remembered, it was dark outside and the head was gone. dogs stole it and we had to listen to them howling in the yard all night, looking for more meat. oops. not exactly how she planned things, but it sure did break the ice.

next installment...a glimpse into village life.

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