A couple of years ago I started to write a diary recounting some of my journeys in Africa – mainly so I didn’t have to repeat my stories countless times when I got back to Ireland. Now I see my diary more as a reflective journal and a way for me to learn from my experiences – an essential requirement when working in Africa. For those who have read my earlier entries welcome back, and for those new to the diary forgive my self-indulgence.
Sunday February 14th Johannesburg – Maseru
Jekyll & Hyde in Lesotho
I had last been in Lesotho in June 2009 to find the Hub in complete disarray. Frustratingly it has taken us this long to get rid of the old management and stabilise operations. I had planned to meet Trisha Olsson (Head Africa HQ) and Farid Ali (Africa HQ Technical Director) here to see whether the Hub had a future and how much commitment there was from our local partner to making this work. Without that commitment we would start a process of winding things up and concentrating on other countries.
Landed in Lesotho’s capital Maseru, a short 40 minute flight from Johannesburg, and traveled to my B&B ‘Boikhutsong’ just outside the city centre. Lesotho is one of the most expensive countries in Africa due to its proximity to South Africa and the B&B, despite being one of the cheapest in town still cost Malotti 250 (€25 per night). Met Trisha and Farid before traveling to the National University of Lesotho which is situated around 40kms south of Maseru in a town Roma. The campus is spread out over lush green acres, and with low rise building of bright limestone and a warm sunshine it reminded me very much of Stanford’s campus in Northern California. We wanted to see if this could be the site for our new Hub – but it being Sunday there was no one around to talk to so not this time Roma!
This was the first time I had been in Lesotho during the summer months (Ireland’s winter) and the term ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ only begins to hint at the difference in character of the country between these times. February is Dr Jekyll, warm breezes, green landscape dotted with pretty-coloured flowers and people smiling. July is Mr Hyde, barren bleak landscape, people huddled in blankets and temperatures dropping to -10C at night. Despite my crude characterisation of Lesotho in this fashion, the team of Camara volunteers who always visit in winter, come home captivated by the country – and its stark beauty at this time of year.