Awkward In Lesotho – Me and My Maid

Does this get easier, I wonder?

I am living in Lesotho; unemployed and alone during the day in a UN compound surrounded by fencing and guards. When I walk outside the compound, either the freakishly scary dogs chase me or the UN drivers try to run me over. So I try to blend in, try to find a place to fit in but still it is hard.

I feel stuck between the expat community and the local one… not really in either.

To make matters more unsettling, it is viewed as “necessary” to have a maid. Now, I understand this and I value giving someone an opportunity to earn an income, but I am unemployed; hence at home a lot of the time.

What do I do when she comes to clean; sit and watch her? READ: awkward. I try different things; I leave, I pretend to be “busy”, I try to help but never do I feel comfortable. This much older woman is in my bathroom with running water and electricity scrubbing my clothes in the bathtub. Imagine how guilty I feel when I visit her at her home to see that she has none of the above; no running water, no electricity and no bathtub.

I felt so conflicted.

In the end, she is why I loved Lesotho. The fence between my compound and her was always present but little by little the divide lessened and I began to feel a bit more comfortable; gradually the cleaning was less about the cleaning and more about the sharing.

P.S. If you ever have the chance to visit South Africa, try to see Lesotho for its other worldly scenery, its people and the most fascinating thunder and lightning storms I have ever experienced. If you are a storm junkie, this is the country for you.

Sandstorm Dining – Yes, I will have a tangine with some sand on the side please.

So we looked up and asked our Bedouin guide if the sky looked rather strange.

We were on our camels and headed to some pocket of sand in the Sahara Desert that was awaiting our arrival. Not sure of what he really said, we had no choice but to keep on going. Yes, the light was beautiful reflecting off the sand, but what about those clouds over head?

Finally with very sore butts (riding a camel has really been over romanticized) we happily saw our tent made of carpets and began to dream of a beautiful night’s sleep under the stars. We lounged around on the mattresses outside our tent until a drop of rain hit (WHAT! Does it really rain in the Sahara and what are the chances it would be now?) So we quickly rip our stuff into the tent and wait… maybe it would stop… but instead the rain turned to wind and the sand began to pick up. Struggling to shut the door (a very loose term for a door) we thought we were safe.

Then Mr. Bedouin guide opens up our efforts to close the tent with a buffet of Moroccan specialties. Well feeling very guilty that we are the wusses hiding in a tent while he cooks and hand delivers our food, we thought we had to eat. The sand was now flying all around us and within seconds the tangines were filled with sand. We tried but between the sand in our mouths and the uncontrollable fits of laughter, we had no choice but to stop.

So now we were stuck in a tent that apparently had a few leaks as the sand rained down on our heads, ending up everywhere, our ears, our eyes, our noses etc.

So good, Jade sleeps ( a teen can sleep anywhere), Erin listens to music (a twenty something always has tech as a back up plan), Chris (a 50 something always has a sleeping pill) and I am left guarding and rationing our little water that we have left over.

Oh yes… we have a lot of food with sand but we have very little water. My mind wanders… how long could we be here… what would we do about water… and then I see the bat flying above me.

Now I am officially no longer happy.

I wake up Chris who is snoring and he goes outside the tent. I lay there still thinking the bat won’t come near me if I pretend to not be there. Chris is now snoring outside the tent in the middle of the sandstorm.

How does one do that?

Erin follows him so I wake up Jade and together we put our turbans over our faces and head outside away from the bat. This is now insane even for us. We can’t even see in the storm so I lay face down on the mattress wondering if we can breathe through these turbans and the sand.

Somehow I wake up to Erin and Chris telling me to check the sky. The storm is done and finally we have what we want.. that glorious night sky in the desert where the stars shine and all is well. As we returned to our little town the next day, we thanked the Sahara heavens that we had not insisted that my 73-year-old mom join us.

Oh well… how often do Canadians get to experience a sandstorm in the Saharan desert?