tales of lesotho. part two.

life in the village is slow and quiet, but that does not mean that it is boring, because there is always something to do. always. it is a patriarchal society, so it is not surprising that the males seem to do a whole lot of nothing. if you speak to basotho men they will assure you that they do a LOT of work, but considering they often add "eating" to their list of daily work, i take their assurances with a BIG grain of salt. what DO they do all day? hard to say. some of them spend the day in the fields watching over cows, sheep, or goats. some work in the fields. and some spend the afternoon in the shop drinking beer. no matter what they do, you can be certain that they will come home, eat a lot of food, and make a big mess, which they will not clean up. 
watching cows. bringing maize in from the fields. bringing maize stalks from the fields. drinking beer in the shop.

the women on the other hand seem to do the bulk of the work. not only do the women take care of the domestic duties, throughout the day they are also taking care of babies and children. the concept "it takes a village to raise a child" is alive in lesotho, which means that even those with no children or grown children will still find themselves caring for little ones. whether it is feeding, bathing, or comforting, the children always have needs.
babies go everywhere with their mothers. and grandmothers (far right) help raise their grandchildren.

"a woman's work is never done." her day starts shortly after 7am with sweeping the dirt. yes i know this is a weird concept, but i assure you that at most every house, the women wake up, put some water on to boil, and then step outside to sweep the dirt yard. what is even more disturbing is that after having lived in lesotho for a couple years, i actually buy into this concept, because it makes the house look pretty. by the time you are finished making the dirt look pretty, the water should be boiling, which is perfect, because it is time to do the dishes. this is a standard operation...scraps go to the pig and then wash, rinse, and dry. once there are clean dishes, it is time to make breakfast. the menu varies, but my personal favorite is tea and bread. make six or seven cups of tea and plates of bread and serve it to people. when everyone is done eating there are more dishes. super. and pots. ugh.
sweeping dirt. washing dishes. preparing a bowl of sour porridge.

now is a good time to take a trip to the village water pump to get water. if you are planning to do some laundry, you probably want to take two trips to the water pump. once you have water, you can wash clothes (by hand), or do whatever other chores you had planned...you know sorting beans, taking the chaff out of corn, or shining pots. once that is complete you must start pondering what you are cooking for lunch. my favorite is papa (a thick porridge made from maize meal) with soup, a strange but delicious substance similar to spaghetti sauce. finish cooking, prepare six or seven plates, hand them out, and then add the empty plates to the stack of dirty dishes.
laundry. sorting beans. removing chaff from maize. polishing pots.

at this point it is about 1pm. time to relax. for five minutes. and then you have your choice of options. go to the fields to shuck maize or head over to the neighbor's house to take corn off the cob. i was lucky because my mother-in-law (m'e') was crazy protective of me and would not let me participate in these laborious tasks, so i typically spent the afternoon visiting with friends and family.
bringing maize stalks from the fields. sorting through maize. taking maize off the cob.
but one day i did convince her to let me tag along when she went to take corn off the cob. not a horrible task, because it is one time the women will not yell at me for sitting on the ground (they believe women of child-bearing age should not sit on the ground, because it could make the womb cold....right) and it is a great place to catch up on village gossip. m'e' was pleasantly surprised to discover that i actually know how to properly take corn off the cob. of course i am a whole lot slower than her. she tried to con me into believing that i was as fast as her, but let's be honest...i cleaned 131 cobs (yes, i counted) and she cleaned five or six hundred. in my book, this is not even a contest.
my niece taking maize off the cob. my 131 clean cobs. m'e' and her gigantic stack of clean cobs.

upon returning home, it is time to make dinner. if you have a chicken and the thought of chopping off its head does not make you want to vomit, then you can have meat for dinner. if you are me, then you stick with peeling and dicing potatoes. get dinner started, take laundry off the line, and start a fire in the wood stove so everyone will be warm in the evening. put a kettle of water on the stove. prepare and serve dinner and then add the plates to the growing heap of dirty dishes.
removing feathers from a chicken. cooking papa inside. cooking outside.
now it is time to sit around, chit chat, and drink tea (more dirty dishes). sometime around eight or nine everyone will head off to their houses to sleep (families typically have a few little huts within the family compound, so they do not all sleep together. for example, the mister and i slept in one house, m'e' and female guests slept in the second house, and our little brother and male guests slept in the third house). this is a good time to take a hot bath, so you can be warm before jumping into a frozen bed. after all it is winter and despite the raging inferno inside the wood stove, temperatures inside the house are in the low fifties.
bathing in a bucket.

sleep for ten hours and the whole process starts over. thank goodness i was never left alone to do all of this work. between my sisters and nieces visiting, we always had at least three females performing these chores, but not all women are so lucky. after one month of doing only a fraction of the daily work, i am completely in awe of the women who do all of this work virtually unassisted. here in the states we aspire to have luxuries like fancy cars and big houses, but thirty days in lesotho and suddenly running water and electricity seem like precious luxuries. i cannot even describe the heaven that is dishwashers, washing machines, and grocery stores. i only hope i can sustain my appreciation until the next time i visit the village.

next installment...only in lesotho.


  1. Thanks for the charming picture of village life!

  2. i am so happy you enjoyed reading my post. :)