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Lesotho 2002

Hello you

Ok, I hope this isn't boring. I'm one of those people who just stops talking if I feel I'm not listened to, but you don't get visual cues with email...  


Had lots of space - I think cos I flirt with the girls when they assign seats - well, at least I like to think that's why. Watched Beautiful Mind again. I think you'd love this film. I mean Kpax was interesting, but this is class. It touches chords deep down for me. Made me start to see mathematics in life, so I came up with my own theorum:

SA = HT x AC. 

- which means that Stewardess Attractiveness increases in direct proportion to Hours Travelled and free Alcohol Consumed.  


Hazy, hazy Africa! It's a feeling, not a place. It's invigorating and mystical. The light is different. The skies are so blue today, untroubled by clouds. There's a kind of red haze everywhere over everything - it feels like you only really enter africa as your plane descends into it... before that you're just spirits hovering over it.  

To Maseru

The little bus took us past all the huge jumbo jets, turned up its nose at large jets, smaller jets, big planes, small planes... (they were getting smaller and smaller!) and finally selected this... angry mosquito! At least that's what it sounded like. Why do big planes seem safer when they weigh so much more? Just wondering.  

Maseru ("Muh-SE-ru" - capitol of Lesotho - "LeSOOtoo")

Looks like you're inside a washed-out Tom Roberts painting under a harsh sun - dry grass and rugged rocks over pink/orangeish soil, and everything cradled within a high bluff on all sides with hanging boulders. Houses about the size of public toilets, and made of concrete bricks. But delightfully scattered, not ordered. People everywhere - it's election week! Last election there were riots burning and looting and the army was called in. See what happens on Saturday. I like action, strange hey.    Going out to the project tomorrow. That will be more rural and fascinating.  


You. Hey you. How are you travelling? Still a little fragile, maybe? …..You know something? We humans are fragile things. And life just throws crap at us sometimes. But the human spirit in all its fragility is often so much stronger than adversity... kind of like the tiny plant that quietly breaks concrete. But sometimes it just needs a little support, hey. There are three options: we can lose hope for fulfilment and reach despair - the most unbearable place on earth. Or we attempt to fill the void by scrambling & grasping for what we can get - materially, or sensually. (dehumanising because we become selfish and self-absorbed and hurt others in the process.) Or we overcome and are giving persons. Sometimes we're a bit of all three.   

I'm sorry, this is metaphysical raving from someone who's lost almost all spiritual direction themselves. But I care about you. A lot. (But purely selfish motives on my part, cos maybe I just need your friendship. Pathetic isn't it.) I'll do what little I can to make sure you get through, because you deserve it.   

A gentle kiss from me upon every bruise you feel deep inside.   

And a warm hug just for being my friend.  

Love you,



Hello kindred spirit.  

Sometimes you have these experiences, and don't know who to share it with. I hope it isn't like the cry of a bird in flight to a bird caged. I'm hoping it's nice to read about, and not an irrelevant travel guide either.  

I was out at the villages today. This means presenting yourself to the chief's house first to state who you are and your intentions. There is a quiet rhythm to their traditions.    This village is the most photogenic place - right at the foot of Lesotho's tallest mountain. The land is undulating, barren yet colourful, sun poking thru onto rugged mountainsides that surround everything. The soils are rich red brown. Fields of dry maize stalks left to stand dishevelled like leftovers after meal. Rocks and dry grass fill the gaps. Occasional cows. And tossed at random the huts.    

The round huts are poetry - some are smooth earthy orange mud rendered, some are grey & brown stone, but colourful stone in every shape masterfully fitted together like an intricate puzzle - every wall an abstract delight; a few of traditional grass! Rounded, overhanging, flowing thatched roofs point vaguely upwards. They have crooked doors with wide crooked eaves and little crooked windows. Like a hobbit home. A family might have one, two or three huts - some even join. Outside them the dirt is swept immaculately clean, and chickens peck around. Inside is dark, quiet and sheltered, with dung floors, maybe a bed for the lucky ones, and possessions stacked neatly around the inner walls - a saddle, cast iron cooking pots, some enamel plates and glasses, some potatoes, some seed... Some have a table, some even have chairs or maybe just logs cut into low comfortable seats.  

It is cold outside, and everyone is rugged up in national dress, which is trousers/ shirts for men, skirts/blouses/hessian/towel/whatever for women but all wrapped in a colourful blanket over the shoulders or around the waist - and drapes to below the knee. Usually a woollen or other cap. The bright-eyed children are tiny, friendly and wrapped snug in their own miniature-version blankets. Children have high, sing-song voices.   

Everywhere I look is a classic photo (sometimes lost by having to ask through a long polite process - so they stiffen and pose. Sigh!) A lovely photo of a young woman proudly holding her 4 week old baby. Sometimes they ride past on donkeys, or skinny brown horses no bigger than the donkeys.  

There are many hungry. HIV is rife - 30% - but they don't admit to it, so few believe it is real. Stigma, politeness (our hiv education has to say "share a blanket with a woman" to refer to sex - even that is considered borderline) and disbelief. Some young people said: "We don't know anyone who has died from this aids. So we cannot believe it is as bad as you say." At funerals they attribute to something else because of shame. And doctors aren't allowed to tell a spouse without permission. One woman's husband returned from the mines and said, "the mine hospital told me I got there just in time, or I would have Aids." Only after her husband died, her new baby died, and the family were sick did she discover the truth. No-one told her until the project staff found out the story. She's gone. There are many aids orphans we support. There are protected water sources that are improving health, schools built, a clinic etc, blah.blah. Food security and agricultural reform is big on the agenda.  

The household survey is going well - part of our evaluation process. The people are polite and thoughtful. But they have few options. The country has been declared a state of emergency due to food shortages. It's a mess.  

But the people are beautiful. Dignified. Ready to smile and laugh and take you into their hearts. They like me cos I'm attempting their language - which is lyrical and musical. One of the villages is Ha Nqosa - but the q is a loud 'tock' sound with your tongue. So it's Han(Tock)Osa. There are different types of clicks - seems to depend on the following vowel. A Masotho person belongs to the Basotho group, they speak Sesotho and live in Lesotho. 

A group sang for us. Only six of them -- one old woman with a scratchy voice sang a phrase and they broke into 6 part harmony. It souded like 12 people!!!!

Sorry for this long email. I hope it at least says that someone cares about you. 

There's only one XXX, and she's worth many keystrokes...  


PS. Some of my notes... I suppose it's all pretty irrelevant to the rest of the world... who cares. But it's their life. It's all they've got.  


This is one of the poorest countries on earth. The countryside is veldt, but denuded and ravaged. Less than 9% arable land remaining. They scratch the dry soil and plant maize. When the men went off to the mines, the agriculture became dependent on fertilisers and hybrid seeds - bought with cash they no longer have. Need to introduce mixed organic farming, but 70% of farmers are women and it requires more labour. So food security is the most pressing issue - people aren't starving, but many are hungry.   

HIV infection is 30% of the nation, but no-one acknowledges it. Social change due to generations of men absent in Sth Africa in the mines. Now they're unemployed, and sit on streets wearing their hard hat and white boots, like a stamp to say 'we once belonged. We were once proud'. A woman here believes that her husband beats her because he loves her, so will not complain about domestic violence.


Subject:   Just dlete before you read it. I think.  


Ok, I've drunk too much and I'm lonely & that's a bad...   combination. So under such circumstances I'm not eing accountable for anything I say.kl Oope.s.   

I remember you. You were a sensation on my tongue. You were silk on my fingertips. You were a woman in my arms.   

I'm lonely.   

This time in the villages is like being fully alive. I love it. The children would melt you - they are more cute here than anywhere I've seen.    On the other hand I'd melt you. Either hand really.   Ok, I'm being bad. I should stop. I love you and know that it isn't going to be like this 7 I'm just being bad. Besides, nothing can come of it - (!)   

There’s no-one else I could tlak like this too= to. I'm not even editing my simtakes. These laptops have bery small keygoads. but who wantso to carry a graet mbig keybouard arround. I whould do more editing or you waon't understand this. Isn't that so much better now that I don't edit my emails! Hey I got that right. that too.   All right. That's it. I whould - (seems to be a slipt of the tongue there)(somewhere). I should!! say au revoir my beautiful aldy. What's a beautiful aldy? Damn. Au revoir mon ami. I could sooooo hold you close right now. But now oops. no sed. sex. (my typing is pabd). bad.  

But just to be close would be heaven. But it canot be. There is a delightful gracvity that exists in sucha context, no? If it breaks we are sent hurtling off through space. LAone.   

A thousand soft kisses.



Subject:   Re: I'm concerned about you...   


Hey that's ok. We ebb and flow like the tide and the shore - sometimes you give, sometimes I do. I just had a19&1/2 hour day. I'm stuffed.  

Next morning. Four &1/2 hours sleep! (Yuk)    

Yeah, you can be the beach & I'll wash over you. I'd like to be rolling, pounding surf breaking myself upon you in slow motion actuallly. But I've changed metaphors... I think we're as inevitable as tide and shore - wherever you move or however you change, the tide flows to meet and embrace you - and if it's drawn between two lovers, the moon and the continent, it never leaves. (I'm talking about the ocean, what's the problem?)   

I'll have to keep this brief, like stealing a kiss, so I can get ready. You will probably have better and worse days for a while. I'm glad you've set boundaries on extra classes. It's always tough for new teachers starting.... I think it'll be slightly better at start of next term - you become more established then in their minds. Preparation time means you can go in with more determination in your spirit, and it shows somehow. And you can have occasional lessons that kids find more interesting than messing around. I think that a kind of inner determination in your spirit - I think authority is a spiritual thing sometimes... Tough when you're tired. I'm just talking, I'm not telling. I don't know how I'd go either. I just think working both jobs couldn't be helping.   

A warm embrace. Brett


Subject:   nearly friday...  

xxxx, mon xxx-rica.  

A kiss on the lips from me. Very French, no? A kiss on the back of your neck, and one between your breasts. And there I must desist...  

I'm just trying to make you feel nice... I don't know. Sounded nice to me. I hope you had a good day. If you didn't then... I don't know. Sounds like you're getting somewhere. You'll be great. I know you've got something - it probably still needs developing, but there's a beautiful honesty to your communication that has some cut-through. At first you'll just have those moments... and later you'll have them in the palm of your hand. And such beautiful hands.  

I'm stuffed after my last two days - going to have an early night - hoping for a clear day to hit the villages again. I think of you a lot. Too much, maybe. I can't walk away XXX. I can't pretend you don't exist. You are... you are so... I couldn't ever replace you. They wouldn't be you. 

You. Only one you. Only one you.  



Subject:   Are u ok?  


The lady is quiet. Everything ok? Sorry about my last email - I was pretty out of it. Hope your week was ok - that you swam to the other side without sinking. I do rescues if you ever need one.  

Rain. Rain. Rain. Mud. Mud. Mud. Four wheel driving through muddy ahfrica. Vehicle slides sideways, backwards, roundabout, and sometimes grips forwards. Vehicle and road in mud wrestling match. Road wins. Nearly down ravine. Nearly in creek. Ahfrican voices in vehicle. Fields of wet maize.   People walking in the rain rugged in blankets and woolly hats with umbrellas. Round huts, grass roofs - windows and doors set a foot deep in hte thick walls. Smoothly rendered, warm inside - hot coals in buckets.... Hard maize porridge, spicy chicken - don't know what the vegetables are...  

Your friend,


Ps. ok, I don't iknow what the house red is, but two glasses and I have to correct my typing.  

I wasn't going to do a ps. 


Subject:   Last day  


Today was such mix. When you're a child, your joys are complete and taste so sweet. As an adult all your joys are brushed with sorrow and bittersweet. Like you & I.   

Today was walking through the hills to villages where dark-eyed children stare until you look back, then giggle at the novelty of a white man. Walking across rocky creeks, through the rain... People walking, pass and greet, pass and greet.... Into villages... Into the thatched round huts, where the ritual of welcome is passed back and forth like verse and chorus, verse and chorus. Dumela (Greetings) - Dumela; Haelale (peace to you) - Haelale; Likhomo tseo (and how are your cattle) - le manemane a tsona, (with many calves)... It's sing-song and beautiful. I learned it. 

Through the narrow crooked doorways into the dark huts, with thick-set narrow crooked windows, glass often completely yellowed from smoke. Smoky, smoky inside, so you sit low. Above is the thatched roof reaching to a point, with crooked branch framework crafted together. Fire inside a large tin... children - tiny, tiny children with big eyes of wonderment around the walls snuggled together, some gnawing on maize as a tiny kitten explores. Dignified African woman and sometimes a man sitting. All ragged. The african women are so, so beautiful, even when old, and often hide their smiles.  

I make two children paper aeroplanes - a boy shows me the car he has made out of wire. A beautiful little girl called Puleng says she loves dolls, so I fold some paper and tear, tear, and make her three dolls joining hands. I give her a pen and she draws faces, and writes her name and two friends on them.   

It was such a joy. I felt so alive. When we finish our survey with a grandmother, i say, 'mama, we have asked you many questions. Do you have any questions of me?' 'Yes,' she says with clear eyes. 'We are hungry. (she grabs her stomach). What are you going to do?'   

In another house, 'The program is very slow and we are hungry. What can you do to help us now?' The famine of southern africa is hitting. What do you say? How do you walk away and wait for long-term development in the face of immediate need? How do you go back to Australia with all our ludicrous abundance and self-satisfaction? You know what I did?  I didn't do a bloody thing, and now I'm sitting in a hotel feeling like.... I know the theory, that handouts don't solve long-term problems, but I feel like a complete loser. We have a food security proposal in to the Australian government that could turn this place upside-down if it gets through...  

But don't get me wrong. I love it. Ilove the people. I love the country-side. Africa is beauty. My last night, and back to business processes. Still have to write up the evaluation - unearthed some issues.... 

We need to make some big changes. It's been worthwhile.  

Thanks for being a friend and listening,



18th June (to someone else)

Want to hear something strange?  

When I was in Africa this time, I didn't see any wild animals at all. Not one. But since I've been home I've been woken each night by a strange noise. Around 1 or 2am I can hear a male lion calling - you know that short territorial moan that drops deep & resonates. It's only about 300 metres away from my bed - it's very clear. You think I'm being funny, don't you. But there really is a lion about 300 metres away from my bed. True.


(it was a circus that had camped close by. I never explained that to them though.)  

abstraction abstraction 51-55, M 2 Responses Nov 20, 2009

Your Response


Ouch, you found it.

Thank you for reading it. The ob<x>ject of my affections... very susceptible to words arranged beautifully.