While staying at Malealea Lodge in Lesotho we were rather well equipped to provide for ourselves, or ‘self-cater’ as its referred to here, each night. We had just enough food between the four of us (ourselves and two others we managed to squeeze into our little car) to last us our entire stay with the exception of dinner one night. Dinner at the lodge didn’t look too bad actually, but something else appealed to us a bit more. A traditional Basotho meal served at the home of one of the villagers.
On account of the rains our host Teboho arrived to pick us up at the lodge early. We wrapped up what we were doing and scurried with him out of the lodge and to his father’s home. The house was a one room, 10′ x 20′ block consisting of a few chairs, a cabinet/closet that looked like something from Ikea, some other shelves, and a double bed. We each took a seat as Teboho ran out of the house to the kitchen to bring us our meals.
While he was gone, his 74 year old father joined us and began to tell us about his life. He was proud of his only son (who was lucky enough to have 4 sisters) who started this business and that they often hosted people 2-3 times a week. His people didn’t use cow skin as blankets any more because the first white men who came (French missionaries) brought blankets that were so warm and so soft and so fuzzy that his people decided to use those instead. He taught me that when the beer or wine (we’d brought a bottle of red) was running low it was tradition in Lesotho to pour the elderly first and congratulated me on learning the tradition so quickly.
The meal itself was simple; a small piece of chicken, an unknown green vegetable, and mealy pap. Pap is basically a brick of corn meal that, well, tastes like a brick of corn meal. Although pap figures on the favorite food list of no one I’ve ever met, the vegetable and chicken were both seasoned rather nicely and left us all quite pleased. When our friend asked what the vegetable was, and we had a hard time understanding the word ‘spinach’ through the thick accents, we understood the word ‘popeye’ once Nicopane put his arm up and flexed his bicep for us.
Signing the guest book by weak lamp-light we knew we’d been apart of something special. Sure, this was a business venture by the young Basotho but it was unique. It was a venture that started with the help of a a Peace Corps volunteer over a year ago whose time in the Corps ended the day after Teboho hosted his first dinner guest. It is little bits of gold like this that make us most proud to be Americans.