Bon appetit! Bread rising in Mokethoaneng

It is 10:30 P.M on Monday and the rain has been pouring for the last 2 hours, the thunder is loud and lightning flashing, but this morning and afternoon - oh what fantastic cooking weather!  (This evening’s bad news I will send in a separate email.) I spoke to Ray at 8:00 who told me the weather being called for Maseru was thundershowers. Obviously, showers is a relative word.

We arrived at Mokethoaneng (Hope you have been practicing the name. There will be a test on my return.) at 8:00 to the sound of shouts and trilling.  We hit the ground running.  Christiane put 18 sunstoves out into the sun, Mpho measured  and poured water into pots and placed them in the stove while Setloke & I went to the Chief’s house to collect the day’s ingredients: flour, oil, sugar, salt, yeast, raisins and the 17 other sunstoves and lids.  Again the grandmothers and young uncle arrived in the nick of time to save me from schlepping anything.

I’m getting so spoiled that by the time I get home, we’ll need to have hired help.

The grandmothers jostled for position inside the community centre, each trying to sit closer to the front and if that wasn’t possible, then at least in a close second row.  We asked them to spread out  - making bread is serious business and they would need room to maneuver.  Everyone eyed everyone else to see who was going to sit where, but just like at home, there are some who manage to get the ‘best’ seats while the rest just sigh and sit somewhere else.

Measured bread ingredients were distributed to each basin, starting at the back of the room to make it up to those who lost the seat grab earlier.  Each cup of flour or teaspoon of sugar or salt carefully counted by the grandmother, to make sure the ingredients were exactly as stated on the recipe help tightly in one fist.

The group was sent outside to check on the sunstoves.  You could hear the voices shouting. “They are facing the wrong way.  They need to be turned to face the sun!” Grandmothers rushed to right this terrible wrong.   Test # 1 was passed with flying colours.

We then explained in detail how to make the bread, adding the sun-warmed water & oil and gently mixing and kneading the dough, using the analogy of handling a baby.  Pounding and squeezing will have dire results but gentle handling and turning over will produce a happy and wonderful baby. There was a lot of laughter as grandmothers were being accused of killing the baby, including the young Chief, who was caught over-squeezing the dough.  Some dough had to be pried out of fingers and gently re-mixed.  It is really interesting to feel the difference between dough balls made from the same ingredients, but only handled differently.  You can tell which ones will rise and which one will not.  That is why we put raisins in the dough, if the bread doesn’t rise and is more than a bit chewy, it will at least be tasty.

There was a mad dash through the door to be the first to select the sunstove in which the precious pots of dough were to be placed.  The women fussed over the acrylic lids, some showing others how to take them off and put them on in the most efficient manner, dusting off the ever-fine red soil and making sure the sunstove was receiving optimum sun.

The bread was an amazing success, cooking in approximately 2.5 hours.  On being offered a taste of the delicious bread by one grandmother, Christiane said she had to control herself from making off with a quarter of it!  I should have checked her pockets just to be sure.  The hillside was full of the sound of ‘yum’, ‘ooo’, ‘aie’ and trilling that can damage eardrums if you stand too close.

While waiting for the dough to transform into delicious bread, we received a large number of letters destined for Canadian sponsors.  Some have even included personal pictures.  These have been carefully stashed into my backpack. They cannot be trusted to the cargo hold.

We held a question & answer session with one grandmother asking the question of the day.  She wanted to know what other food could be cooked in the sunstove and whether it could be used for drying fruits.  Talk about serendipity!

On Sunday, I had dragged Halieo almost kicking and screaming to her first day off in her lifetime.  Christiane and I took her to Ficksburg in South Africa following the annual Cherry Festival which had concluded the day before.  We had a great day browsing in an art gallery, guest houses and a fantastic metal scrap yard arts and craft shop cum restaurant cum guest house. I think Halieo has concluded that having a day off isn’t so bad after all.

On our way home to Maseru, we stopped in Mapoteng where we have trained 50 grannies in 2 previous sessions.  We visited with Malira & Ntate who were the hosts for these sessions.  Malira told us that she recently dried carrots and peaches in the sunstove with great results.  She gave us a taste of the shriveled up carrot bits and yes they do taste better than they look.  She says that if you add them to soup or stew, they swell, regain their colour and taste as fresh as if they have just come out of the garden!

Her peaches were so tasty that she had none to offer us, they were gobbled up by all who came by.  But one batch of the peaches burned black, for which she blames her husband for not caring for them while she was away from the house.

Malira gave us a step-by-step description of the process.  This I used to answer the granny’s great question, referring to my notes taken in Mapoteng and telling them about Malira’s success and failure.  They loved the fact that her only failure could be blamed on someone else.

We had refreshment of cookies, apples and oranges. Again the grannies asked to be served.  They held out their hands with upturned palms, people in Lesotho don’t put out a hand to take something. A gift is expected to be placed in the hand of the recipient, not taken by an outstretched fist as we do at home. It is seldom that someone will put their hand into a box or bowl of food without being directed to do so.  In Halieo’s house, food can be left on the counter or in the fridge and not be touched by anyone without an invite or direction.

We then asked each person their age and how many children they care for.  We were shocked to discover that 1 granny is raising 11 children at the age of 82.  2 grannies are raising 9 at the ages of 72 and 57 respectively.  Because we have to buy some foodstuffs in bulk, there are a few extra packages from each. These were divvied up for these extra large households.

Grandmothers and the uncle gathered outside for photos and the graduation exercise because of course everyone had passed the final test with the loaves to prove it.  Each was called forward to have a flowered hat pin, made by Bea Brewer of Salt Spring Island, pinned onto their collars.  The uncle was the last to be called forward.  We asked if he should also receive a hat pin to hoots of laughter.  I planted a Canadian maple leaf pin on his collar and a big kiss on his temple while Setloke took a picture.  He was so bashful and the grannies screamed with laughter.

The prayers, dancing and singing always takes a long time on the last day. Everyone is so grateful and joyful, no one more so than the grandmother with the crippled arm.  She sings the loudest and dances the fiercest, not letting any infirmity get in her way.

We asked who would be cooking tomorrow in the sun and all shouted they
would be and they will every day the sun is shining.  As one expressed it so well, ‘We are so tired of the smoke and fumes burning our eyes and it is difficult to find anything to burn.’  The valley veld is expansive with wide-open fields and the hillside has too few trees for fuel.

A super ending to another exciting Cooking School session in Lesotho.

Soupa in Mokethoaneng Day 2 in Nov 2010

At 4:00 a.m, I woke with a start having forgot to plug in my computer.  A full battery is needed to show the videos and pictures to the grannies and uncle taken in yesterday’s session.

At 5:00 a.m. the skies looked threatening, so I read until 6:00 and sent Setloke a text.  He was not attending today, but is always available for advice.  His text read, ‘looks like rain’ so I waited some more.  At 6:30 I woke Christiane and said we were going to risk it and we were off by 7:30 with Mpho in tow.  Mpho has translated in past sessions and is quick on her feet.  She will be coming to stay with us in Canada by March 2011 for a visit.

We arrived at the Chief’s house and asked her about the clouds off in the distance.  Was it a good day for solar cooking?  She said yes, so we quickly went to work to prepare to cook soya mince with rice and home-grown vegetables.

Christiane put out the sunstoves while Mpho and I carried the soya mince, rice, carrots, potatoes, onions, oil and basins from the Chief’s house.  Grannies arrived to lend a hand, throwing goods onto their heads leaving me in their dust.

The 35 (can’t say just ‘Grannies’ now that we also have a young man!) were in attendance, although some had to meet with the Chief beforehand for community business.  Today was to be a race against clouds and possibly rain. Everyone received a basin filled with the day’s offering and with the knives they had been asked to bring, started chopping, slicing and NOT peeling.  We talked about the nutrients in potatoes and carrots telling them that neither of us peel these vegetables at home.  They were happy to try this out for themselves and simply washed the potatoes and carrots in the pots of water we had placed on the floor.

Mpho chopped veg and peeled onion for one grannie who has the use of only one arm and charmed the rest of the gathering.  They asked her to return for the bread making next week.  Water was added to the pots, stirred gently and taken outside to the sunstoves. It all sounds so simple, but there is a lot of excitement, loud voices, shouting, laughing, shoving and spilling going on.  A group of excited grandmothers all jostling for water at the same time and each trying to beat the other through the door to their favourite sunstove can be intimidating.

Once the pots were gently placed in the cookers, lids carefully, but quickly slid into place and all turned facing the sun, we sat on the grass.  We refreshed yesterday and today’s lessons and answered questions about foods to substitute, keeping pots clean and caring for the cookers.  Then we listened to stories.

The first story-teller spoke about her country.  Although it is small among nations, it is beautiful with lakes, rivers, mountains and forests.  The people live happily, depending on the soil for food, such as maize (used to make papa) and sorghum (makes a soft porridge almost like pablum). <My note: This village grows and grinds its own maize meal.>  Goats provide wool and cattle provide meat and fresh milk (she stressed the word ‘fresh’).  Yet, we are not rich but we can do something to live and have a little to eat. This grandmother graduated from Standard 6 (Grade 6) and can speak English.

The second story teller added to a description of Lesotho and how it is governed. “People in Lesotho are god-fearing Christians.  We have many schools and some of them are free (primary education is free). We have plenty of water and sell some to other countries. We have big mountains with names like Thabanalimmele and we love them.  We have a King, Prime Minister, Ministers and Assistant Ministers.  We feel our voices are not heard.  The saddest thing is that people are not employed and those that are receive very little pay.”

The third story teller talked about a beautiful wedding - her own.  Her family was paid lobola (dowry) for her.  When asked how much, she responded with a pleased smile ‘Ten cows’.  She and her husband were matched by their parents.  She went to the house of her husband’s parents where she sat behind the door so that the visitors could not see her. She could only be seen by the women, girls, her parents and in-laws.  They slaughtered a sheep for the festivities.  She was offered the ribs after they had been braied (BBQ’d).  She didn’t have to eat them but no one was allowed to eat until she ate.

When asked what happens if a girl did not want to be matched with the boy selected by her parents, they laughed and said she would be convinced.  The convincing could include a whipping with a cow’s tail.  They said that girls generally agreed.  <My note:  this is not how a wedding proceeds in Lesotho today.>

Another grandmother commented that for some of them, the lobola has

yet to be paid to their families. Some husbands’ families are so needy they could not and still cannot afford to pay.

The fourth story teller spoke about going to school.  When she first went to school, they used a slate that cost .01¢.  That was a lot of money so many had to share a slate.  Books were available for the older grades.  They were taught in Sesotho until Grade 4 when English was introduced.

Teachers used to beat them to guide them in the right direction and they loved them. <My note: Not sure that this love was shared by all in the group >.  They were taught Math, History, Geography, Hygiene & Sports ‘ netball for girls and football (soccer) for boys.

On Moshoeshoe Day, they danced the ‘Mokhibo’ (Basotho dance).  This grandmother danced in a group for her country in an international show, going to Germany and Spain with the Prime Minister.

We moved into the centre as the clouds moved in a little closer. While refreshments of cookies and fruit were handed out, the last letters were read out loud by Mpho for yesterday’s missing 5.  You could hear a pin drop. Everyone sat in enrapt silence as she read the greetings.  Then the group was invited to write a letter to their new Canadian friends.  Many were worried that they couldn’t write in English and have no envelopes.  Mpho has offered to give each person an envelope and to add the English translation to each letter. Everyone was thrilled as were we.


My computer was placed on the table and all gathered round to see the photos and videos from the first day of cooking school.  So much laughter and noise, pointing and giggling and stamping of feet!  We had to play through them again and repeat the video a number of times.  Their favourite part of the video is of a grandmother bumping Christiane by surprise while doing the “shakey-shakey” dance and Christiane’s response with a more powerful bump (or should I say ‘cross-check’) as the grandmother disappeared from camera sight!

The event erupted into more song and dance as we started to put together the food packages for the day.  Potatoes, carrots, onion, soya mince and rice were placed in each basin.  All the extra veg and food items were divvied up and added to the packages for the 3 child-led households with nods of approval from the grandmothers whose eyes were full of wishes for their own families.

We talked about the change in weather and its potential impact on the day’s cooking.  The sun and clouds took turns and we weren’t sure which one would  win. Everyone hurried outside to do the ever-important taste test when the clouds seemed to take over.

It wasn’t perfect but darn close, and most of the grandmothers had no difficulty in taking spoonful after spoonful of the delicious meal.  They were surprised at the ease of making such delicious food with affordable ingredients that could include items from their own gardens.

One grannie thought the mince might require 10 minutes of finishing at home, but her tasting of spoonful after spoonful was making it hard to believe there would be any left to ‘finish’.


Nov 2010 Cooking School in Mokethoaneng - Day 1 Making Papa

The sun was not supposed to shine today (Wednesday).  At 6:00 a.m. rain was in the forecast and clouds were in the sky, left over from yesterday's downpour.  Some thought the day was impossible, but my sidekick Setloke and I have seen worse.  Off we went, Christiane Gourde, Setloke Lekhela & I, to the village of Mokethoaneng,17 kl from my friend Halieo’s house, but so far removed from the capital city where resources are abundant.
This year we have 35 sunstove recipients with food packages for an extra 3 families.

Halieo had arranged a meeting for last Sunday with the village's very young chief, Mahlabathe Majara, to confirm the location and the list of grannies.  There were 33.  I asked the Chief to be the 34th so that we will have a super user in the village that all the other grannies can turn to.  She has 1 child and is also raising 4 children from her deceased sister.  Almost every Basotho family is extended by children from deceased family members.

The Cooking School training is being held in the community room attached to the Chief's office. The community is fortunate to have such a building even thought the Chief's office ceiling leaks heavily in almost half of her office.

While discussing the potential 35th "grannie", the Chief told us about a disturbing situation in her village.  She has 4 households that are run by young children whose parents have died.  The most desperate child-led household has a young uncle who cares for them as best he can.  We quickly decided to add him as the 35th "grannie" for which he is now very grateful.

This discussion was really tough.  We had already been reduced to tears and swollen throats by the reception from the group who had gathered after they heard of our impending meeting with the Chief.  It really was Christiane's fault, as she was near sobbing when I looked over at her.  Halieo's eyes and cheeks were sparking with tears as she translated for us to the Chief.

Mahlabathe was overwhelmed by the reality of the gifts coming from strangers, these grandmothers and other new friends in Canada. Her voice quivered as she spoke and was almost a whisper when she told us about her orphan families.

We discussed the option of providing sunstoves for the 3 remaining little families, but the children are at school all day with no opportunity to make use of the stoves.  The option of their being able to use it was not thought to be viable at this time.

The Chief has taken on the responsibility of distributing the food packages for the children families. In all likelihood, the food will be given to someone who has been supporting the children and who will prepare it for them.

It should be noted that most Basotho are generous people who assist their family and neighours as best as they can, but feeding additional hungry young children can be more than a hardship for many in this village.

Getting back to today’s Cooking School:  Day 1, we introduced the idea of cooking with the sun to hardened skeptics.  These people have been given many promises that have never been fulfilled.  Day 1 is always thus, wary participants who allow us to prove our ideas because there is the promise of food for their hungry families.

The challenges started with the pots. We had 14 sets of 3 pots and needed to source 21 more - absolutely none to be found by our South African supplier.  Our only option is more expensive individual pots with which we made a set of 2.  Unfortunately, the smaller of the pots, in reality a dish, cannot be had in black, the optimum colour for solar cooking.  So we were back to painting the pastel-coloured pots with that ever-stinky, black etching paint used 2 sessions ago.

We were also a bit hesitant to introduce 2 different pot sets to one group thinking it might cause jealously and distress.  The idea of 2 training sessions based on pots was immediately dropped once I witnessed the road conditions to the village I would be driving to and fro each day.  The fewer trips required, the better.  

Christiane suggested that we number each set and have each person draw a number from a hat.  It proved to be a great idea, everyone was satisfied that there was no preferential treatment in giving better pots to one than another.

Then there was weather.  We have had nothing but hot sun until our Cooking School start date of Tuesday (yesterday).  It is always disappointing to wait once we’re ready to go and grandmothers are waiting with feverous excitement.  We apologized for the bad weather and for the fact that sunstoves only work with sunshine.

Unfortunately, my Basotho name, given to me 4 years ago, is MaPula, meaning Mother of Rain.  Rain is always needed in Lesotho, but I still think it’s the wrong moniker for someone promoting solar cooking.

Today was a pleasant surprise.  The clouds stayed on the periphery defying the weather announcer from South Africa (what does he know about Lesotho anyway) and our local weather worriers.  The sun was hot and strong over head for the whole day.

Day 1 always starts with papa, the hard porridge made from white maize meal that is the staple of the Basotho diet.  For most, this is the only menu item at their table.  29 grandmothers and the lone, young uncle of the child-led household were in attendance with smiles, songs and ‘Dumela’ & ‘how are you, I’m fine thanky’ to everyone.  They listened to me in English and Setloke in Sesotho and asked intelligent questions about how to make this work in their well-established daily routines.

Waiting 3 hours for papa to cook was hard to comprehend until they realized it will only take 5 minutes of preparation - the rest is free time because the sun does all the work. There is no leaning over a small fire or paraffin stove, stirring the pot while fumes and smoke fill their lungs and burn their eyes.  This was almost benefit enough but the real commitment to solar cooking only comes when the papa is cooked perfectly.  So we are always a bit nervous.

While the papa cooked, we talked about the Canadians who sent these gifts of sunstoves, pots and food. The grandmothers clapped and shouted.  Christiane held up a map of Canada while I pointed out Salt Spring Island and Gatineau, the home locations of these new friends and of Christiane and I.

Rounds of juice concentrate, biscuits, chopped apples and oranges were passed around to sounds of approval.  Grannies asked to be served rather than serving themselves, concerned that they would take more than was expected.  Food is not a treat in Lesotho. It is a constant wish in most people’s lives.  People here always say they are hungry.

We talked about all aspects of solar cooking, the pots, weather, foods to cook and fruits to dry, and the fact that almost in every temperature, the solar cooker could heat water, very hot in spring, summer and fall and take the chill off of freezing water in winter.

The last was told to us by one of the grannies in 2006.  We told them of past grannies’ successes that they could try on their own cookers.

We also gave them a brief demonstration of making a solar cooker with a cardboard box and tin foil, mentioning that a piece of glass from a broken window could serve as a lid.

We then handed out the most wonderful gift of all, the letters written by the Raging Grannies, Dennis and the young Reford granddaughters.  I really love this part of the session, watching the faces as they pour over each picture and word.  The very touching letter from Dennis, who calls himself ‘only a handyman’ was presented to the young uncle Makalo to applause from the whole group.  Setloke then translated each recipient’s letter as they nodded in agreement and pleasure at every word.

In no time, the papa was deemed to be ready, a bare 2 ¾ hours after the pots had been placed in the cooker. Everyone used their new dishcloth to pick up the pots, after many learned the hard way that the sun makes the pots very hot.  For some, warnings are not enough!  For others, the difficulty in picking up the pots was due to the letters clenched tightly in their fists.

Each pot was opened, the contents given a hard stir and then tasted. 29 of 30 excitedly declared the papa to be perfect.  One grumpily stated that hers wasn’t quite done, but yes, she would take it home.  The 5 extra pots that we prepared will be held for pick-up by the 5 who were not able to attend today.

The grannies sang and danced with joy (young uncle watched with smiles on his face - men don’t perform this type of dancing and anyway he was busy putting things away) and then sang some more to Christiane when I announced it was her birthday.  She joined in the dancing to their great delight and laughter as did Setloke, taking hold of a cane and prancing around until he saw my video camera.

The grannies then proceeded to the Chief’s house to pick up their 12.5 kg bag of mealie meal and some promptly swung these onto their heads with no effort at all.  They shouted and waved as they started the walk home.
It was a great day.

Day 3 - Making Bread Nov 12, 2009

Day 3 was hot and dry.  We were up and out at 6:00 to prepare for the big day making bread and the graduation ceremony from cooking school.  I was hoping the Grandmothers’ energy would rub off on us and it did, starting very early.


We carried out the bags of flour, sugar, salt, oil, the packages of raisins & yeast, the boxes holding the last of the 3 pots and the buckets of water for cooking, tea, washing and general usage.  I laid out 12 sunstoves, facing the wrong way.   This was to be the first test for the grandmothers.  We then took the pots from the boxes and then started to measure the 1.25 cups of water needed for each pot.  We wanted to put the pots out in the sun to warm the water a wee bit.  It wasn’t even 7:00 am when seven of the Grandmothers were milling about, shouting good morning and how are you’s to everyone, really eager to get started.  Their bodies moved with a lightness that wasn’t evident two days ago.


One of the grandmothers took over the task of dusting the pots, everything always needs dusting –  and another assisted with the measuring & pouring of water.  Then Setloke arrived, still dressed in yesterday’s finery, because he had stayed over at someone else’s home the night before.  He was thrilled to see everything shaping up for the day, but I know he was a little disappointed that he couldn’t take part.  I am thrilled that he has been able to go on in school, but I do miss him during the training.  Happily, Malehlomela fills his shoes so well.  She just isn’t as big and strong. All of the grandmothers happily pointed out to, their now beloved, Malehlomela that they had each remembered to bring their basins for bread-making.


 Mamohapi, the grandmother we visited last night, came in through the gates with a great smile, much to our delight.  Other grandmothers arrived with letters in hand.  They are so excited to have new friends from ‘that side’ so far away.  They wrote notes of love and gratitude for wonderful gifts, some even apologizing for sounding a bit sad. Maphuthi arrived with a piece of paper but needed to borrow a pen.  She sat at the table in the garage holding on to her bread recipe with the letter she received by her side, the one with the picture of Lois cross-country skiing.  It took her a while to put down on paper the few words she needed to say.


We started the day reviewing the lessons learned in Day 1 & 2 and reinforcing the science lessons and answered questions.  Then we pointed to the sunstoves that had been set up with the back end to the sun and told them we were pre-heating the tiles in the sunstoves.  It didn’t take very long for the grannies to inform us that the sunstoves were facing the wrong way.  They got up and remedied the situation.

They giggled when told that they had passed the first test, but the bread-making test was to determine who graduated today. 

Bread day is always a challenge.  The idea of being gentle when mixing the ingredients together is contrary to everything they have been doing for most of their lives. These ladies are used to pounding and squeezing the dough mercilessly.  They all have very strong arms and hands, even those who are troubled with arthritis. 

Everyone helped pass around a copy of the recipe and the pre-measured ingredients. There were howls of joy when the raisins were passed around.  We always include raisins in the bread training session.  If the bread is a little hard because the dough was pounded and beaten too much, at least it will still be tasty.  

There was a lot of laughter as I pried Maseeiso, Maphuthi & Mamokoatsi’s tightened fingers from dough balls and caught fists before they fell once more onto the pulverized dough.  We reiterated that beating the dough was like beating a baby – neither would turn out well.  Soft hands, like those used to roll a baby over, were exactly what’s needed to make bread rise in the sunstove.  There were still a few skeptics whose lesson would be learned only when the bread was done.

Once Grandmothers had placed all of the bread pots in the sunstoves and dusted off the covers, Malehlomela, Mathuso and Mamoalosi gave a bread-making demonstration.  There were 3 grandmothers who were unable to attend the session, so this would be their bread.  Everyone watched intently as the recipe was repeated out loud and then 3 pairs of hands mixed and then gently needed the dough with a nice soft ball of dough ready for the pot.  Everyone ahhhd and oohhhd.

To while away the time, we repeated what had been learned during the 3 lessons.  I had Malehlomela explain that it would be a lot easier to cook at home without everyone looking over their shoulder.  I also mentioned that they could start earlier because they wouldn’t have to wait until they bathed and dressed up, as they were doing to come to the cooking school.  Grandmother Malitlhare piped up, “Would you rather we didn’t bathe?” We all broke up.


The rest of the morning was spent gossiping in the shade with biscuits and a cup of soft porridge, Malitlhare feeding her grandchildren and all watching a slideshow of the past days photos and videos. Everyone found this to be exciting and they laughed and pointed at their own and their good friends photos as the pictures flashed by on the screen.  It was good fun.  These grandmothers are a little more sophisticated about technology than their country cousins, because they are more exposed, living on the fringe of the capital city, Maseru.

The moment of truth arrived with the bread testing shortly after noon.  Some of the loaves were wonderfully light and high.  Others were less so on a decreasing scale where the skeptics learned the lesson.  But all the loaves were delicious! 


Every Grandmother was pronounced to be a graduate and the singing and dancing began once again.  Each Grandmother was called forward to receive her Hat Pin made by Bea Brewer.  They are all grateful for everything, the stoves, food, letters and then Bea’s wonderful hat pins.


The singing and dancing was followed by speeches from the grandmothers, led by Makhahliso who had us in tears yesterday, sending their love and gratitude to everyone in Canada, followed by Halieo who told the group how she and I met at Carleton University in 1992 and spoke of our enduring friendship.  Then Mathuso, who was as overwhelmed on the last day as she had been on the first, led the ladies in prayer, songs and joyful dancing to the shrill sounds of her whistle. It took a while to convince everyone that it was time to go home, but they were excited to gather their bags of salt, sugar, raisins, yeast and the tasty bread into the basins. We packed the sunstoves and heavy flour bags into Mathuso’s son’s and my cars and drove to the support group centre where helping hands could take it the rest of the way home.  The Grandmothers danced along the road with the colourful basins on their heads, showing off their hat pins to any and all who cared to see.  A fine ending to a fine 3 days of cooking school.

Day 2 - Soya Mince and Science Nov 11, 2009

We had asked the Grandmothers to come for the second day of cooking school at 8:30.  Malehlomela was out again before me.  I rushed to help get water, pots, basins and food ready- this was at 6:30 a.m.  I barely had time to unload the pots as the first of the grandmothers started to trickle it.  I checked the time on my cell phone and yes it was only 6:45.  That’s when you know things are going really well.

So we put the grandmothers to work, dusting off the 25 lids and the 25 pots while we hauled water and got the big electric kettle going to make tea.  Working at Halieo’s is so easy compared to working in the mountain villages.  All the modern conveniences, like electricity and 50 cup kettles are all there. The only thing missing was our big strong Setloke to lift all the heavy stuff!  We also had the helping hand of Mamoalosi Kheoane, another support group volunteer.  She cared for the grandmothers, making them soft porridge and tea and putting out the biscuits.  She also prepared the food for any grandmother who could not attend the day’s lesson.


The day’s recipe was Soya mince  (what the Grannies called “Soupa”) The Soya is a boxed product with flavoured powdered soya.  It is a good alternative source of protein –something that is sorely lacking in the diet of most grandmothers and orphans.  We mixed the mince with 3 cups of water, 1 large potato and a large carrot, 1 onion and a good handful of rice. 


Each grandmother had brought her own knife and unlike the grandmothers in the mountain villages, they had real knives – maybe worn a bit, but not the sharpened lengths of tin our other grandmothers had. Only one needed to borrow a knife due to forgetfulness.

Once all the pots were placed in the sunstoves, we again took refuge in the shade of Halieo’s garage for discussion, stories, singing and laughter.

We started with a science lesson – how to make your own sunstove.  Margaret Bennett, our sunstove maker, had given me a new product to try out to replace black pots.  It is a sheet of thick foil with one side being printed black, not painted, black.  I had presented it to the grandmothers to show them how they could completely cover any coloured pot with the black side facing out and use it in place of a black pot.  This group of grandmothers have promised to test the durability and life span of the foil.  Two members of the group, Makhahliso (aka – Mamonica) & the young Mathobang, have volunteers to take the responsibility of recording the results and reporting them to me.


The other side of the foil is the usual reflective tin, so this was to form the basis of our science lesson – creating their own sunstove using some reflective material and products they might find close as hand.


So we talked about the science of cooking and I explained that their knowledge how to make bread and biscuits rise so perfectly was basic science knowledge.  None of it was a miracle, but for many, it was trial and error science or science taught to them by their mothers or grandmothers.. 


I asked the Grandmothers if they could explain to me the science behind the workings of the sunstove, and this they did.  So, I suggested that they could teach their grandchildren and neighbours how to use this science knowledge to make a suntove for themselves.  They looked a bit sceptical as I flattened out a piece of the tinfoil and reached for a cardboard box.  The light started to shine in their eyes as I covered the inside of the box with the tinfoil and included the lids of the box for downward reflection.  I then told them they could use an old broken window or a cover such as the one from the sunstove, as a lid and, voila, there was a sunstove.  Their response wasn’t “Wow!  It was an excited “Of course”.  That, to me, was the most wonderful part of the 3 day cooking school.

One grandmother quickly pointed out that she had seen a roll of tinfoil in the grocery store and asked where it was good enough to work in making a sunstove.  So we all discussed the idea of how to make a sunstove and what products could work well – like that tinfoil in the grocery store.  Many of the grandmothers have old metal basins, so we talked about lining these with tinfoil and using a piece of glass or a sunstove cover to make this into a simple sunstove.  


I then asked the Grandmothers to be sure to make us of their sunstove gift.  I further asked that if for any reason they could not or did not want to use the sunstove, would they please give it to someone else who could use it.  They all laughed when I suggested that this was not a gift to hang on a wall, but was to be used to help them in their daily lives.  Each and every grandmother stated that they needed these stoves to help them feed their families.


The grandmothers’ chatter was animated and full of excitement, so I thought it was a good time to ask them to share some stories about life in Lesotho.


Grandmother stories:

M’e Mametsing story: She did not attend school because she would rather herd cattle. She doesn’t even know how to write the letter ‘A’.  She used to wear the Basotho mini-skirt (made of string, likely by her mother or father) – everyone found this to be quite a giggle.  Not sure why unless she meant that she wore this while herding cattle, which would mean she was generally older than the usual age for such childish garments. She would join the kids coming home from school as if she had been there too, so it was obviously meant to be a secret kept from her parents.  She married at 20 and had 10 children of which 7 survived.  They are all off on their own. She lived happily with her husband- may his soul rest in peace (she said that each time she referred to him).  Now at 83, she lives and cares for 5 grandchildren and her 94 year old aunt.


Another grandmother’s story was not so cheerful.  She spoke of a very painful childhood.  She only attended school for a short time.  She said that although her father was a rich man, he did not share anything with his family.  They had nothing to wear, not even blankets. and they slept under sacks. (All Basotho wear blankets like we wear coats, sweaters and skirts. They are also used to carry children on your back while you go about your chores and daily business.) The children went to school barefoot, even in winter.  This was her life until she married at 15 (1960).  By this point of her story, most of the grandmothers were silently wiping their eyes or were holding their heads in their hands. 

She worried about her mother who was alone at home with many children.  She didn’t enjoy marriage, it was also very painful.  Her children grew up with nothing.  She never had a bit of happiness until her husband died.  (At this point, she is openly crying and her pain is clearly felt by everyone.) She believes that God gave her guidance throughout her troubles, but she believes that death will be better than what she is living on earth.

Most of us were now crying along with her, there was no need for language to understand her sadness and pain.  We took turns comforting her, but it was so very difficult.


Mathuso, the founder of this support group – Phonosong, tried to pick up our spirits by telling her own story.  She grew up in her grandmother’s house because there was so much trouble at home. Her father had died and her mother was not working.  Being so poor, she never even dared dream about going to High School, but an aunt was able to help support her and that is why she is where she is today – because of the assistance of her aunt. (Mathuso has received international recognition for her work with the poor in Lesotho.)

She then led the group in song and this raised everyone’s spirits including Mamonica’s who greatest love and only joy is singing.


We then asked the Grandmothers what brings them joy.  Many responded that hearing and singing hymns and other songs was their greatest joy.  One expressed her joy at having met Mathuso and receiving help from her support group.  Mametsing spoke of her joy at learning about Mathuso’s aunt who had helped  her receive the education that has allowed her to help so many people.


Mathato said that although all of her eight children have died, she has a grandson who is brilliant.  He is 17 and is graduating from High School.  She is a very happy grandmother.


We were happy to get out into the sun, to check the ‘soupa’. They had all thickened beautifully into a veggie stew, full of pungent flavour.  Well, all except one.  The Grandmother had forgotten to add the soya mince, so she will do it next time at home.  You could smell the different scents before the pot lids were lifted.  The shouts of pleasure were loud and long.  The grandmothers’ tasted and sang, then tasted some more and showed each other the wonderful meal they would be taking home.  There were 6 different flavours and everyone loved the one they had.

Mathuso was quietly sitting alone in the garage with tears in her eyes as the grannies were gathering their cooked food & groceries.  She said she is so deeply touched at the experience.  She is overtaken by emotion and wonders how Halieo (known here as MaItumeleng) knew these were some of the most needy people in Maseru.  She said that words cannot properly express how she feels.  She is so thankful for the grandmothers in Canada.


The Grandmothers’ placed the days food, 2 kgs of rice, carrots, potatoes, a box of  soya mince and a bottle of cooking oil into their new colourful basins and started the trek home. 

Malehlomela gave them all a serious warning to return with the basins the following day, or they would be making bread in their bare hands.  The grandmothers all giggled at this young woman who was speaking to them so boldly. She is really taking charge of the training sessions and becoming so confident that she is now advising me!  What a truly wonderful turn of events.


Then Malehlomela and I went off to meet one of the grandmothers who had been unable to attend.  We brought the pap and the soupa that someone had made for her.  This elderly woman with a lovely and gentle face has 2 adult children in the 40’s who are mentally handicapped and others in her care.  She is not well herself.  I had met her husband 5 years ago.  He was a tall handsome man, very gentle and welcoming in his manner and had shown me his beautiful gardens. He was the main caregiver in his family.  He died two years ago and the family is now destitute.  The gardens no longer exist. As you can understand, his wife’s life is beyond difficult without him.

At one point in our visit, I asked Malehlomela to ask the Grandmother a question, but before she could ask it, the Grandmother answered the question in English.  We were all stunned.  She told us that she and her husband were South African and had worked for Afrikaans.  She speaks Xkosa, her native language as well as Afrikaans, English and Sesotho.  She said that she and her husband came to Lesotho so that no one could ever put them out of their home again.  We left them to eat in private, and noted on our way out that there was no other food in the house.

We returned home to our house of plenty, in sharp contrast to what we just left.

Day 1 - Pap for 25 November 10 2009

Note:  Ray & I came back in November 2009 for a wedding and sunstoves in Naleli - Halieo's village.  Ray left for home and work after the wedding with a serious toothache - awful on all counts, but I had one week and the sun poured as heavily as the rain had in February.  Unfortunately Setloke is off to university, so he only came by to visit and see how we were doing and Penney was at home in Canada pouting.  Young Malehlomela agreed to be my assistant and boy, did she ever do a fine job.

Dear Raging Grannies, Ray, family and friends .........
What an amazing trip – everything went so well.  It’s still hard to believe.

Ketsi’s wedding to Clement was wonderful, but exhausting, as some of you can imagine.  A ‘home’ African wedding takes a lot out of everyone and to be honest, I have yet to recover.

We arrived in Maseru on Thursday after an 8.5hour drive from Joburg – don’t ask.  The 480 kl takes everyone else 4 hours, tops but we had a great time.  We did visit the elderly nuns we lived and worked with almost 4 years ago.  They are all looking well and Ray’s bakkie is still running.

There was little sleep in the house before Saturday morning’s big event.  Cooking takes place all day and night with some people going without any sleep at all!

Then of course is the aftermath.  Yikes – about a thousand plates, hundreds of pots, bowls, basins, glasses, jugs, cutlery, cooking utensils.  We washed, dried, sorted, stacked, resorted, searched for and delivered these things over the next week.

On Tuesday, I went shopping for our new lot of sunstove recipients.  Again the Ralebese family played a major role getting us the best prices.  Mahloni, Halieo’s daughter-in-law, drove me there and back with a bakkie full of goods.

Halieo explained how the grandmothers had been selected.  She helps out a couple of local volunteer support groups that provides assistance to grandmothers with orphans or neglected grandchildren, HIV/AIDS children, underprivileged families, the sick, disabled and elderly.    This one group, called “Phomolong” meaning ‘Resting Place’ is run by an amazing woman, Ms Mathuso Moroeng.  It is this group that selected the 25 sunstove recipients, out of at least 55 on their needy list!  What a difficult chore for them.

Phomolong started about 10 years ago with the mission to end abuse against women and children, but deepening poverty and the AIDS crisis have forced them to expand their mission.  There are at least four other such groups in the Maseru district.  No wonder everyone is always so exhausted.  There are so many in need of food, health care and basic decent living conditions with no help coming from the government.  The void is being filled by caring people in the community like Mathuso and her husband & Halieo and her family.

The 3 days of ‘Sunstove Cooking School” were magical – the grandmothers were skeptical, surprised, excited, elated, funny and ever so thankful to those wonderful Canadians who have changed their lives.  Mathuso cried on the second and third days, saying we could not possibly understand the profound effect this has had on her and on the needy grandmothers.  She is simply overwhelmed and has no words to express how she feels.

Thanks to you all.  You have brought so much to so many women to date.  For me, the experience is both humbling and joyful mixed with so many other emotions.

Day 1 - Making Pap for 25
The day started early. Malehlomela is this session’s translator and assistant.  She assisted Mpho in Mapoteng 2 years ago but this time she was on her own, well, not quite – she had me. Ha!  I tied back the curtains at 6:00 a.m. and there was Malehlomela carting sunstoves from the store room to the garage.  So I moved quickly.  We carried the 25 12.5 kg bags of maize meal and pots and then large buckets of water.   

Day 1 is always the most difficult.  We are nervously excited – about to meet a new group of grandmothers and hoping we meet their expectations – that the weather holds and the food cooks as miraculously as it should.  The Grandmothers, on the other hand, are excited, curious but skeptical.

The first day usually starts a bit late because the Grandmothers need to bathe and dress before the great event and then meander their way along the road to Halieo’s house.

As they trickled in around 9:00, so did Halieo’s bakkie, filled with chairs and some grannies.  The chatter is exciting and everyone is talking at once, moving chairs and then replacing them on request.  I hadn’t thought of chairs because the rural grandmothers we have been working with prefer to sit on the ground.  I had (wrongly) assumed that those who wanted to sit up, would sit on the garden wall.  Halieo always knows best and she brought the chairs from the support group’s gathering place.

We were so busy getting things going that it wasn’t until the next morning that we realized that we had not introduced ourselves properly.  But the morning started with someone leading a prayer, then we explained what we were going to be doing at ‘Cooking School” for 3 days.  We repeated the steps and instructions about sunstoves a number of times, then held a practice session putting on and taking off the sunstove lid.  Each grannie had a go at it and fumbled while everyone else shouted encouragement and instruction.  Easier to say than to do.   Then we had the Grandmothers fill each pot with enough maize meal, stir it, cover it and then put the lid on the sunstove.  All pots were cooking by 10:00 and the sun was pouring in.

We then gathered in the shade of Halieo’s garage and talked about the Raging Grannies and others in Canada who sent these wonderful sunstoves to them.  The Grandmothers are always so amazed to hear that someone in a place so far away cares enough about them to send such gifts.  They expressed awe and thanks with songs, chatter and tears, shaking their heads and clapping their hands. 

The 2 large photos I have  of Raging Grannies were passed around for all to see and they ooo’d and aaahh’d over them.  The letters from Canada were received with such joy.  This time we were fortunate to have Mathuso’s son and his friend to help translate the letters.  What an exciting time.  I offered to deliver any letters to Canada that these grandmothers wished to write.  This generated a lot of discussion, principally about language.  It took some time before I was informed of the concern being discussed in Sesotho.  One of the grandmothers stood up and said that many grandmothers who wanted to write a letter did not know how to write in English.  So, I told them that Grandmothers in Canada wrote in English because they did not know how to write in Sesotho, and that I presumed that those Grandmothers in Lesotho who could not write in English would write in Sesotho.  They were so relieved.  I had hoped to have such letters translated by someone in Halieo’s house before I left, but there just wasn’t time.

The grandmothers were happy to have pictures taken of themselves to send to you.  This group was the first to ask this question, “Could you please ask the Grannies in Canada if they could please send us a picture of them that we can enjoy?”  So, if you are willing, the grandmothers in Lesotho who received your letter without a personal picture, would like to receive an individual photo of you.

M’e Malekoro, who was a recipient grandmother in 2006 was visiting Halieo’s house during and following the wedding.  She is a relative on Halieo’s ex-husband’s side who lives in very poor circumstances. She was sitting outside watching all the activity, so I asked her to join us in the garage.  I explained to the Grandmothers that we had a sunstove expert with us to whom they could ask questions.  Then I asked Malekoro to speak.  She was fantastic.  You could hear a pin drop as she told them how she uses the sunstove and how it has been so wonderful to her life.  She explained that even in winter when the weather is too cold to cook with the sun, there is enough sun to heat the water for bathing.  They were really thrilled to hear her speak.  She told them about her new successes at drying green beans in less than 1 day and how wonderful they tasted so much later when she used the dried beans in her papa.  She said they tasted as fresh as if they had just come out of her garden. 

We couldn’t have found a better advocate of the sunstove than this dear elderly lady. (note to self – always have a Sunstove recipient speak to Grannies on the first day!) They applauded her and asked question with such deference and respect.  It was very helpful for those skeptics who were not sure how the day was going to end.  Now they were really pumped!

One of the grandmothers was so excited to see how the maize was cooking that she kept asking to see it.  We explained to her that opening the pot was not a good idea, because the heat would be lost and the pot would have to re-heat before it could continue cooking the food.  She was so terribly excited that I told her she could be the one to take the lid off of the pot when the time came.  She told me that she just could not believe that such a miracle could happen, that the sun could cook food.

So we carefully repeated how a sunstove works, explaining how the black pot is heated enough by the direct and reflected sunlight to cook the food inside.  When the lids were finally removed, the singing and exclamations started.  With each pot exposed, they shouted, ‘It’s real papa!”

It was a really great day.

Will get pictures up soon.

Finally, the bread has risen!

Dear Raging Grannies, Ray, Dad, Uncle Bob and Aunt Nancy, Judy & Bill,
Josh, & Roncito, family and friends;

Saturday night was movie night at the Sr Margaret’s orphanage. Penney
& I walked in to determine if it was passable by car, but it was not.
We needed Halieo’s bakkie. The rain washes out everything.  Many of
the paved streets that were fine when we arrived, are now a pothole
nightmare.  The road pavement is built on sand, so when the rain
persists, the sand is washed out underneath, creating craters in the
middle of the road.  Driving is always dangerous here, driving after
dark is suicidal.  We do a lot of driving after dark.

The movie “Return from Snowy River” is an Aussie love story about a
man, a woman, horses and bad guys.  The horse riding is spectacular
and the kids love it.  This is the 3rd year that this movie has been
requested, and some of the boys were disappointed that they had to
wait so long to see it.

We left Halieo’s at 6:30 on Sunday, hoping for sun and were ready for
8:00.  We could see the clouds in the distance, so would be a short
sun day.  Julia, Esther, Mateete and Florina arrived before 9 and we
decided to start with them.  We had been warned that many would not
show early due to Sunday church services.
Our aim was to train these 4 ladies how to make sunstove bread so that
they could assist us with the training of the large crowd.   This is a
totally hands-on activity requiring a lot of measuring, so we needed
all the help we could get.

Some grannies arrived later, but we explained that due to the incoming
clouds, we could not start any more bread.  So we all sat in the cool
due to cloud and then the hot due to sun until 2:00, chatting the
whole time.  Then, the rain returned.

We were up at 6:15 Monday morning with red skies over the mountains,
but bright sun overhead. We brought (well, ok – Setloke brought)
everything out of our rondavel - sunstoves, pots, 42 bags of flour,
sugar, salt, raisins, yeast & 42 bottles of cooking oil.
Penney and I measured 1.5 cups of water in over 30 small pots when I
remembered that the measurement was only 1.25, so we did it over
again.  The grannies started to arrive in dribs and drabs, so we set
them up in groups and put our newly-trained teachers from yesterday to
work.  What a great day it was, even with the ever-threatening rain.
More grannies wrote letters for us to deliver in Canada; Penney gave
each one a small heart; toothbrushes from my dentist Barry Cooper were
a huge hit, especially with Mateete who has false teeth!  The prize of
the day, was the sweet grannie hat pins made by Salt Spring grannie
Bea  Brewer.  A few were also made by me with help from my little
friend Nadia and her mother Ann Britta.  The grannies think of these
pins as their graduation certificate and were beaming as they received

The bread was great.  The grannies sang and danced then said a prayer.
 They sent their love and thanks to everyone in Canada who made this
possible.  Then, they packed up their goods, many pounds on their
heads and others wrapped in the blankets around their waists, and went
on their way at 2:30.  The sky burst open with rain at 3:00 but we
were already napping.

We had dinner at 10:15 last night with Malira and Ntate Ralebese, and
were up at 6:00 this morning.  Penney & Setloke are in Pitseng and i
am in Maseru because i had a 1:00 meeting with Sister Alice that she
missed.  Ah, Lesotho, maybe Thursday.
Tomorrow i meet with our first grannie group - the Grannies of
Pitseng.  What a treat.

Day 4 & 5 - More rain - aghhhhhh!

Dear Raging Grannies, Ray, Dad, Uncle Bob and Aunt Nancy, Judy & Bill,
Josh, & Roncito, family and friends;

Thursday morning the skies broke with torrential rains.  The rolling
thunder directly overhead and the ongoing flashes of sheet lightning
woke me up.  Malira was also pounding on the door at about 5 a.m.,
worried that the overturned sunstoves would be damaged in the rain.
The outer casing is made of hard plastic, so upside down, they are
safe from rain.

The 3 missing grannies arrived in between rain showers.  I recognized
them from years before. We told them the story about my
misunderstanding where they lived.  They had a good laugh.  We set up
the sunstove as darker clouds gathered and started what turned out to
be a great training session.  When the rain came we moved to the porch
of the rondoval to continue.  These ladies are really sharp and asked
lots of questions, practiced putting on and removing the lid,
investigated the pots and talked about potential recipes. They are
excited at the prospect of drying peaches in such a short time.
Each grannie was given a letter, read aloud by me and translated by
Setloke.  They were so moved by each one's letter and after close
inspection, placed them safely in their clothing.
We drove them home in pouring rain and received a large bag of peaches
from Matankiso in return.  They are very keen to start cooking.  On
the next sunny day, they will make papa and then bread with everyone

The rest of the rainy day was doing accounts (gosh, I hate that task)
& matching names to the photos of the 42 grannies.  What a huge task.
I don't have a template to identify each of them, but thankfully
Malira caught most of the mistakes.

While we did our computer work, Setloke went off to visit a young
friend who had been in a horrible car crash with her young husband of
1 year.  He died of his injuries in hospital after 4 days.  Her left
side was badly injured, requiring steel pins in her thigh.  She will
be in hospital for a while.  She and her husband owned a clothing
store.  Rumour has it that staff were stealing from the store while
the two were in hospital.  The store has been closed and will remain
so until she recovers enough to return.

We prepared our "to do" list for Friday morning hoping (in vain) for
sun.  We have a long list of niggley-piggley items to address -  the 3
grannies who did notreceive their letters yet, the ones who didn't
make papa or mince, who is missing a pot,....  We also filled the 42
small pots with the exact amount of water for breadmaking to save time
in the morning.

Friday was a washout, really disappointing.  So we drove up to Pitseng
to complete Penney's errands. The mud was deep, we were filthy to the
knees and few errands were completed - people not home, telephone
numbers changed, rain, etc.......

Friday evening we took our hosts, MeMalira and Ntate Ralebese out to
dinner. We offered them the choice of the Leribe Hotel in Hlotse, or
The Morrison in Ficksburg, SA. They were so excited and chose South
Africa. The Morrison is a 90 year old school hostel building that has
been renovated into a small hotel of 5 bedrooms (very very nice), a
large bar lounge, restaurant and courtyard lunch tables.  What a
place.  Ntate said being there was like a dream.  They both said it is
a night they will never forget.  A great time was had by all.

Saturday light was filled with early rain, folllowed by teases of
sunshine that never lasted more than 5 minutes.  So we have come to
Maseru.  I will hopefully meet with Sr Alice for the Michael Stephen
Science Scholarship for Lesotho.  She is to give me information on the
first recipient and will discuss future selections.  We will also host
a movie night for the orphanage kiddies.

We left the grandmothers praying for sun on Sunday.  We will return
there by 8:00 tomorrow.
Anyone know a sun dance?

Day 3 - No cooking but lots of partying!

Dear Raging Grannies, Ray, Dad, Uncle Bob and Aunt Nancy, Judy & Bill,
Josh, & Roncito, family and friends;

Heavy cloud cover blanketed our sunshine on Wednesday morning, but we
had great hopes.  We were dressed for the last day with this group of
39 in our Basotho 'Shoe Shoe' outfits (pronounced: shway shway).
Penney was in full regalia with skirt, top and scarf and I in my

Grannies arrived to wait for the clouds to pass, but by 10 a.m. we
called it quits.  One of the grannies, Masenyopotsie Setipe brought
Penney & I a gift – a plastic container of "lipabi" (pronounced
dee-paw-bee) that she had prepared herself.  This high-energy food is
made by roasting maize over a fire until it is brown, and then
grinding it into a fine grain, almost powder, with added sugar and
There is a lot of work to prepare this food and the grandmother
proudly held out her hands to show us the blister on one palm caused
by the grinding.
We discovered that another grannie, Josephina Ramagoane, had quietly
left gifts in Malira's lounge, not wanting to attract attention.  She
left her green hat that I had so admired and a Basotho broom.
Before the grandmothers left, Malira spoke to the grannies and asked
them to return at 2:30 because she had something to tell them.  I
wasn't sure what it was about.  Some grannies stayed to chat and
others walked home, I drove Mamoferefere Katse & Joshephina home.
Mamoferefere is not the eldest but is the least physically able and
Josephina, her neighbour, came along for the ride. Most of the
grannies are pleased to walk and chat with each other along the road.

Three grannies had not yet attended any sessions and were not here on
this day. Speaking to Malira about it made me realize my mistake.
Malira had told me that three grandmothers were coming from Halieo's
village.  Because Halieo lives 70 kl south outside of Maseru in the
village of Naleli, I told her that we would meet with these ladies
separately after this session.
In fact, these 3 grannies were to come from a distance of 2 kl from
Halieo's birth village.  So the invitation to them had been delayed
because I did not appear to want to have them here!!! Agh… so we sent
a text message to one who had a cell phone, asking them to come on
Thursday morning early, assuming that the sun would shine.  We planned
to train them for 2 days, one with the group and one on their own.

Then we ran off to border towns of Maputsoe Lesotho & Ficksburg South
Africa in the rain to do errands.  Being dressed in ShoeShoe meant
that no one took us for Afrkaans, which is a good thing here. People
waved & shouted Kea Leboha (Thank you)! at us, some even stopping us
to say they liked our dresses and that we looked beautiful. I am sure
some of the men wanted to marry Penney.  The border guards in South
Africa and Lesotho were obviously thrilled as they smiled at us (not a
usual border guard facial feature) and waved us through.

We  returning at 2:30 as directed by Malira.  Under partial sun and
cloud, more grannies had gathered & most were dressed in their finest
clothes, some in colourful "shoeshoe".  We sat around for almost 3
hours, wondering what we were waiting for.  Malira was not in view.
Penney & I took the time to take more pictures of the grannies, chat &
play with the grandchildren.  It is amazing how everyone hung around
waiting without complaint.  This would NEVER happen at home.

Then the surprise was out.  Halieo's bakkie arrived as did the
family's blue Honda.  The whole family, including sister Carol & her
grandchildren shouted surprise and happy birthday.  This family had
driven for over 2 hours after work and school to come to Malira's to
celebrate my birthday.  I was so touched. Everyone knew about it but
me and no one let the cat out of the bag. What a party we had! The
little bit of rain that fell didn't affect anything. Two cakes were
brought out and rounds of juice passed around.  We partied for 1` ½
hours, singing, dancing & eating cake.  Some of the grandmothers had
brought presents that included  "lipabi", home-canned peaches, brooms,
glasses, water bottles. pottery and a beautiful scarf.  It is humbling
to receive gifts from these impoverished ladies.  The Ralebese family
brought the 2 cakes, one from friend Monehang who could not come, &
had a decorative plate painted with my name on it along with "First
birthday in Lesotho"
Then the Ralebese family left on their long journey home and the
grannies sang and giggled as they walked home to bed.  Mamaferefere
walked as far as my car and sat down on the verge of the road waiting
for a ride & Josephina announced to me that her friend and neighbour
was waiting on the road. Off we went, both grannies smiling and
chatting after so much fun.
The day was topped off with a huge dinner prepared by Malira at 9:00
P.M. Ntate & I walked back from the neighbours in the pitch dark after
parking my car. The sky was amazingly clear, with the most wonderful
array of stars. It looked like Thursday would be a great day. We could
see heat lightning shooting above the Maluti Mountains to the north &
east.  This lightning is called "The seas are playing" in Lesotho.
Ntate explained that this meant rain was coming in the morning.  And
it did.

Day 2 & Cookin'

Today in the wee hours in Toronto, Ray's Tara (with the help of
husband Mike) gave birth to her first child - a daughter, our ninth
grandchild.  Wow, what a gal.

Dear Raging Grannies, Ray, Dad, Uncle Bob and Aunt Nancy, Judy & Bill,
Josh, & Roncito, family and friends;
Our rental car is a Toyota Yaris, great on gas, turns on a dime and is
comfortable.  The only problem with it is its short wheel base.  As I
drove the car down the short steep slope into Ntate Ralebese's fenced
yard, the front end of the car hit the ground & it was stuck, nice and
snug.  A visiting neighbour and Setloke lifted up the front end of the
car as it rolled down the slope!  Getting it out was hairy, but now we
are parking at the neighbours overnight.

Tuesday was beautifully sunny – a super cooking day.  We reviewed our
Grannie register against MeMalira's because there was some confusion
about who was who.  Most of the Grandmothers gave us their "Christian"
names rather than the Basotho name that most people know them by.  As
they came and went, leaving food for pickup and people asking for
their food using their Basotho names, we were becoming increasingly
confused. We met with Malira, who rolled her eyes at some of the names
she had never heard of, that her friends and neighbours had given us.
This is not unusual in Lesotho.  I am not sure if people give these
English names in order to be accepted by us; or, if they think we are
not smart enough to be able to say the Basotho name.  Somehow I think
it is the latter and in most respects they are correct : )

The grannies started arriving at 10 to 8 and were very quick to help
with the setup.  Each day we have to bring out the stoves, pots,
buckets of water, food and implements for the day.  These elderly
ladies can carry more than most of us.

They brought their own knives as requested, some of which are merely
pieces of sharpened tin, and proceeded to cut up the potatoes and
onions for the soya mince.  They also added a handful of rice.  A few
grandmothers who were absent yesterday were also making papa for the
first time.  The chatter and foot traffic around the stoves was a
sight to see and hear.  They are all so excited.  One of the grannies
noted that she was feeling better than she had the day before and
thought that all the walking (a few kilometres for many of them) was
really doing her good.  Malira also suggested that having something to
look forward to and having a reason to bathe and dress was making all
of these ladies healthier.

While the food cooked we asked the ladies for stories of their lives –
childhood, marriage, school, grandchildren etc. I will relate some of
these stories in a separate email.  We also asked each grandmother her
age, how many grandchildren she had and how many she was caring for.
The numbers are shocking with many ladies in their 80s and 2 in the
90s with 2, 3 & 4 grandchildren.  Two grandmothers bring their
grandchildren to "school" as Malira calls our training sessions.  One
of the grandmothers has twin boys about 1.5 years old.  Everyone chips
in to help her hold, change or feed the babies during the day.

During the hot sessions, Penney and Thato, one of the grannie reps,
made up a guave drink and passed it around with biscuits.  The
Grannies had never tasted such a drink and really enjoyed it.
The mince was cooked by 12:30 and a great tasting began as each
grannie picked up her pot.  They licked their lips, some danced and
sang and they all clapped, sending love to the great Canadians who are
so kind to them. Again, upon the end of the session, some grandmothers
were missing items and new grandmothers came late.  All was sorted out
so that no one was missed and everyone left happy and with food.

The biggest thrill today was when I was approached by one of the
grandmothers who wished to give me something.  I opened this piece of
paper and discovered that this grandmother had written a note to the
Canadian whose letter she had received!  Ten grandmothers have written
to their new Canadian friends.  I will deliver these to the lucky
recipients in March.
Sala hantle.


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