Another look at Lesotho

•December 14, 2012 • Leave a Comment

So the following is the outline of notes that I made for another sermon that I gave at a local Lutheran Church in my area. I had figured out beforehand what the lectionary texts for the week were so that I could try and connect them to what I had experienced in Lesotho. The scripture texts in this outline are those lectionary texts, not just random texts that I chose from the Bible. It was kind of crazy actually that the things I wanted to say about Lesotho fit so well with the text. All of the following are notes from the sermon:

Numbers 11:4-6; 10-16; 24-16 – we need to realize that in the calling that God has for all people, we will not be comfortable just as the Israelites, in their calling, were not comfortable and began to complain in their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. In many ways and times, I was not comfortable in Lesotho. Uncomfortable things I experienced included:

–  Basin baths and an outhouse for a bathroom

–  Being mocked by students who didn’t understand me in the school where I worked

– Feeling helpless to do anything for the people there because their lives seemed so different

– Living in a five room house with no electricity or running water; no central heating or air conditioning; few of the things I took for granted here at home

– Washing all of my clothes by hand

– Eating boiled cornmeal, heavily cooked green leafy vegetables, and canned meat for most meals

– Going to church for over 3 hours sometimes or just walking an hour to get to a nearby village.

Just because I say these things does not mean that you have to travel across the world to feel uncomfortable though. Daily living following the way of Jesus can involve many uncomfortable experiences no matter where you are living.

James 5:13-20 – God is calling everyone to follow His ways, so often, a community of people will develop around you as you seek to live out God’s kingdom; in Lesotho, I saw this community in:

–  Church every Sunday morning from 11 to 1ish pm

–  Prayer every evening with my host family before we went to bed

–  The hospitality that was shown to all guests no matter when or how they arrived

–  That all children are everyone’s children because there isn’t much of a government social structure to support the weakest of society.

–  Visitors coming to your home to pray and sing a few songs in the event of the death of a family member or loved one

–  The help in burying the dead at a funeral as well as people speaking about the loved one at the funeral

–  The slow pace of life contained by walking, fetching water, washing dishes, cooking from scratch, staying at home, farming with a hoe, and possessing few amenities.

Mark 9:38-50– while I may have thought that some of the Basotho beliefs were not congruent with my own faith, that incongruence does not mean that God is not working in mighty ways or has already worked in mighty ways there. How often do we in our small towns and small lives get caught up in our differences rather than our similarities? Are we all trying to follow Jesus?

Jesus says that we should gouge our eyes out and cut our hands off if they cause us to sin. God calls us to a radical lifestyle that sometimes calls for radical responses to sin, suffering, and injustice. Going to Lesotho was radical for me in more ways than I can count.

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Questions from Lesotho

•December 11, 2012 • Leave a Comment

The following thoughts and ideas were the outline of my sermon that I gave at Metamora Mennonite Church when I got back from Lesotho.

Even though I did not choose the scripture reading today, it seems to go quite well with the fact that I’m here, talking about an experience in a place very, very far away in the small country of Lesotho. People there are just like us, loved and accepted by God and trying to follow Jesus in the best way that they know how. Though their way of life may be different than ours, Jesus is the peace between them and us that brings us together to be the church. I’m sure you who went to Colombia while I was gone saw this also as well as you who were at home, trying to be at peace with those simply in your hometown. Violence is easy; peace is difficult.

Scriptures: Luke 15:11-32

During my time in Lesotho, this passage in Jesus’ teaching was very important to me. It spoke to me most about the grace and love that God extends to us and that we often do not want to extend to other people. I began to see God more like a father than a judge who’s waiting for us to do something wrong or at least to report on it and send us to hell. I hope you see this idea run through as some of the backbone to my response to the difficult spiritual questions I encountered.

Questions to ponder from a year in Lesotho:

Are we willing to rethink and reject the violence that we commit in our own lives? Are we willing to commit to creative ways of dealing with conflict?

– During my time at the school, I became so concerned about the teachers’ use of corporal punishment that I became less concerned about the relationships that I needed to be forming with them. I needed to remember in those moments of frustration that they had been raised in this system and been taught to use this form of punishment throughout their entire lives. It would take much more than a 21-year old white guy to walk in and change it. I also began to think about what we do here at home that is violent toward other people and began asking myself if I am willing to work against those things with the same fervor that I felt for the children and the teachers.

Is economic well-being a sign of God’s blessing?

– This idea was one of the core issues of my time in Lesotho. The organization that oversaw my position was teaching farmers about switching over from conventional agriculture techniques to conservation agriculture techniques. In so doing, they would often phrase the transition as one of repentance from an older, sinful way of doing something to a new way of life that honored God’s creation. This isn’t so bad, except that the thoughts were framed within a certain reading of the Old Testament, in which God did not bless because the Israelites were doing something wrong and were not repenting of it. Often, it sounded like people who were teaching these new farming methods were saying that if you switched over, God would have to bless you for your obedience and that is not always the case in farming because of other extraneous circumstances nor is it necessarily the case that people who are well-off are right in the center of God’s will and blessing.

What saves us? Ourselves? God? His grace? Hard work? A certain set of beliefs that are exactly right?

– In the first couple of months that I was in Lesotho, my host mom and a young man from the community who was probably in his mid- to upper- twenties met together every Sunday for Bible Study. After the first Sunday, I wondered if my host mom really wanted him to come back. I sat and listened that first evening as he told her that because she was baptized as an infant in the Roman Catholic Church, she was not really following what God wanted. He claimed that she really needed to be baptized in the river or at least baptized by immersion somewhere. I became very upset in these moments because my host mom began questioning her raising and in some sense, whether her baptism as an infant was enough for God. I encouraged her then to not give in to the young man’s demands, but instead, to stand firm in the faith that she had been raised in. I was convinced that God’s grace was not hingent on her perfect form of baptism.  When you think about the salvation of a person, what is God saving them hingent on? Is it hingent on some set of beliefs, some acknowledgement of truth in the world, an acceptance of Jesus into my heart (whatever that means), a commitment to following Jesus, or maybe even a set of rules that people need to be following? What is God’s grace hingent on in your conception of who God is? My final question is that if God’s grace is truly unearned, free, and unmerited, how can it be hingent on anything that we say, think, or do? How can it have anything to do with us at all?

Is God’s grace transformative? If it is, then why do we continue to use violence, manipulation, coercion to get what we want or to get someone to do what we want? Are we willing to love unconditionally?

–  During my first three months in the school, I really began thinking about why corporal punishment bothered me so much. In some senses, I was fine with hitting a child because I had learned in my psychology classes in university that if administered with proper restraint and explanation, corporal punishment can be effective. But I was concerned because it seemed only to show who had all the power in the relationship in Lesotho.  Sometimes I wanted so bad to use the stick on some students and show them who was the master or leader of the classroom. I saw this also in the disciplinary actions of the teachers.  I found that their methods were very inconsistent and seemed to hinge more on how angry the teacher was at the time or if the action seemed to remove power from the teacher.  I wondered about how I had disregarded the idea that God is reactionary and waiting to punish us when we messed up. I wondered how I could be someone like that when I didn’t believe God was like that. I believe that God’s grace is transformative, that him giving of himself to empower us is what brings about change in our lives, not the strict and unmerciful laws of the Old Testament. Swift retribution does not seem to be the way of Jesus, yet it is the easiest method for getting across our point in the moment. I soon realized that I needed to start thinking creatively about how grace works in a practical sense in the classroom. How does it look to extend God’s transformative grace to other people? Is it possible to bring about a change of behavior using grace rather than punishment?

Is power a scarce resource that we cannot be willing to give away all the time? Is there a source of power, and if so, will it run out (not talking about electricity)? Power is an abstract idea that we have created in our world. How can we show that it is actually not possible for power to ever run out? Do we try to empower the people around us as Jesus did?

– This idea challenged me as I continued to cope with what felt like powerlessness in the classroom. The students would not listen to me because I did not use the stick. Also I did not know a lot of Sesotho, which made it more difficult for them to ask for help from me when they had a conflict among themselves. Someone on the team of MCC workers in South Africa challenged me to really think about whether or not power is a scarce resource that requires hoarding. How do we hoard power from other people hoping that if we hold onto it, we will never have this scary feeling of powerlessness? Maybe We’ll be able then to control our world if we hoard all of our power.

Quotes from the year:

“The only thing you are entitled to in life is death” (in response to a conversation about the entitlement mentality of people at home as well as people we were experiencing in Lesotho; we all think that we deserve something from other people and from life itself; maybe all we’re rally guaranteed is death in this life)

“In Lesotho, things come to life and things come to death” – I saw certain things come to life in Lesotho like ideas about community, hospitality, family, and so much more. However, I also saw life choices, habits, and events that would lead to death also in Lesotho like violence, drunkenness, and other related things. In addition, this goes back to the death rate of Lesotho in comparison to America in that death is more a part of life there than here where we often push death to the side and try to ignore it.

Where/how/when have I seen God in the last year in Lesotho?

I saw God in the little things like…

–          Sitting down every evening almost with my host family to pray, eat, and drink tea.

–          The faces of my students who challenged me, mocked me, and inspired me throughout the experience. They challenged me to think about the transformative nature of grace.

–  The faces of teachers who are also mothers, cooks, cleaners, walkers, water-fetchers, bill-payers for the family, and so much more.

–  The slow pace of life and the tiring nature of life filled with fetching water, eating lots of carbohydrates, and cooking everything from scratch

I saw God in my language teacher who gave me so much grace in learning a language I had never heard before.

I saw God in challenging conversations about development and poverty with local people as well as missionaries who have been involved in development for years.

I saw God in all of the conversations, prayers, misery, and joy of being with my SALT co-worker. Living a year in Lesotho would have been much more difficult without her.

To conclude these remarks, I encourage you to take these questions and ideas home with you. Chew on them for a while, talk to someone about them, reflect on them, and figure out what some of these things could look like in your life. Following Jesus is not a one-time event or prayer; it is a journey with God toward relationships, a way of life, and a planet that are more whole, more real, more life-giving. Thank you.

Comment or challenge any thoughts as you read this. Let me know what you’re thinking.

An Unforgettable Journey the finale

•December 6, 2012 • Leave a Comment

After school ended the first week of June, I was able to focus on a few other things for the school besides my usual duties of fixer-upper and class visitor. The school was interested in getting some new textbooks for reading and some new dictionaries for the classes to share. I had told them since Christmas that I was willing to assist them in buying some new tetbooks and things for the school. Me Malintle, fearing that there may not be another opportunity like this jumped at the chance and finally was able to get a consensus from the teachers on the books that they wanted. I ordered 10 copies of two different English textbooks from SA, 10 Advanced Learners Oxford English Dictionaries, and a single copy of the shorter oxford English dictionary, which was to serve as the authority in the school as to whether a certain word was actually English. I ordered a copy of the shorter oxford from America through Better World Books, a online used book store that is committed to literacy around the world and has free shipping to anywhere in the world. I was so excited when it came in. The other books I was able to buy locally through the different book printers in Lesotho. Besides these new books, I was able also to find around 50 to 60 used childrens books in South Africa that I brought back to the library to at least add a few to the small collection of 500 books. The teachers, though, were so excited when all of these different books came in and they were able to begin using them in their classrooms.

In addition, throughout the year we were able to interact with some different visiting groups, including students from Eastern Mennonite University and Bethel College. There were a couple of different farming conferences, one of which was done through the network that had grown around different farmers from around southern Africa who had started to adopt Farming God’s Way, the name given to the conservation agriculture principles that they used and taught. The other farming conference was through MCC, in which partners of MCC from southern Africa came to Lesotho to continue training and talking about the different problems that each one has encountered in his or her home country. We had some individual visitors also who came from the US, Canada, and Holland just to name a few. I was not always interacting with Basotho, just most of the time. It was always refreshing, though, to speak to a native English speaker who understood, at least partly, where you were coming from and understood things the first time you said them.

At the end of June, we left Lesotho, spent a couple of weeks in South Africa, and returned to America on the 18th of July. About a week later, I was driving home with my parents, wondering if the experience I had had in the past year was only a dream. It seemed so distant and foggy in comparison to the experience I was having here in America. Could two realities like Lesotho and America really exist in our world? If so, am I ok with them both existing in such ways? These questions, I will continue to wrestle with probably for the rest of my life. As you read all of these things feel free to email me and ask questions about the experience that you didn’t quite understand or didn’t line up right. The thoughts expressed in this journey are not necessarily normative for the entire country of Lesotho, but they are my experience.

An Unforgettable Journey Part 4

•December 5, 2012 • Leave a Comment

With December comes Christmas, which was probably the lowest point of my year in terms of missing home. As much as I would like to say that we don’t have many traditions at my house on Christmas, we actually do. They may not be strict traditions, but they are things that we do nearly every Christmas. At home, we eat lots of food, sit around on the couch, open presents, eat some more food, play games, drink coffee, and other similar things. During Christmas in Lesotho, my host mom and host brother went back to Qacha’s Nek, their hometown. I stayed behind in Maphutseng because I needed to work the days before Christmas weekend, otherwise they would count as holidays for MCC. However, the day after Christmas, I was able to leave and visit my host mom and brothers in Qacha’s Nek for a couple of days. It was the first time that I had ever slept two people on a single-sized mattress when I had to share a bed with my host brother. This experience is common for most guys my age because if a friend or guest comes over, you often just share a bed with him because you don’t necessarily have an extra bed or in your house, and you can’t turn people away.

For the winter retreat, all of the SALTers and service workers from SwaLeSA went to the east coast of South Africa just south of the city of Durban, the largest port in the Southern Hemisphere. We spent a week relaxing away from our host families and finally hanging around people who understood all of the words that we expressed. We went swimming in the Indian Ocean almost every day. We also played cards and board games and watched movies. In addition to those good break activities, I was able to speak to James and Joan about switching my job description to something a little different than it was before. We decided that it would be better if I worked more as a teacher’s aid who centered from the library classroom. Then teachers could come and talk to me if they had a question about some subject matter or to just talk. Also, I took on full responsibilities for the library, finding more books for the kids, visiting each of the classrooms to help the teachers, and read to the students. One of the most devastating parts of my year was seeing how few books were available to the students to read.

When I returned to Maphutseng after the retreat, I began planning a few things to start doing right away, including visiting the reception or kindergarten class and first grade class. I wanted to start with the younger grades first because the faster that they learned to hear and understand English, the easier their subsequent years of school would be. By the time that my time ended in the beginning of June, I was visiting the kindergarten and 2nd grade class 3 times a week and the 1st grade and 3rd grade classes twice a week. I was able to visit the 4th grade classroom a couple of times during the final 6 months, and I was given the privilege of teaching both the 5th and 6th grade classrooms for a couple of days, which actually went pretty well if  I didn’t stress not getting a lot done throughout the day. I also started giving a weekly devotion to the teachers. It was about a half-page typed and themed around the book of Ephesians. Interestingly, it worked out perfectly that my last devotion was also the last piece of Ephesians 6, which I thought gave it a good sense of closure. You can read those devotions on this blog.  In the last couple of months between April and June, I started opening the library to the 7th grade students to come in and read about a half hour before class, which actually became more and more popular as we drew near to the end of the first semester.

Because I was no longer confined to a classroom all day, I was able to start and finish some construction projects for the school, including the repair of twenty desks. Each desk is able to seat 5-6 students. They were very simple desks, but they built well and to last. I also built two 4 feet tall by 8 feet long bookshelves for the Kindergarten and 1st grade classrooms. In those younger classes, the children had no shelves on their desks to place their bags on, while all of the older classes had desks that allowed for this. Having shelves in their rooms helped the teachers keep the floor cleaned up from everyone’s bags lying around as well as provided more space for a teacher to store supplies, textbooks, or anything else that they may need.

Really, I became a jack of all trades. If anything was broken, I was asked to try and fix it. I became really good at replacing door knobs and locking mechanisms in doors because many of the ones at the school had either broken or were not working properly. My biggest project was remounting and fixing broken doors in the student toilets. The girls had an outhouse with five stalls, while the boys had an outhouse with three stalls and a huge concrete urinal. Only two of the five doors were functioning correctly for the girls, and two of the three that were broken had no door at all. The hinges had broken on the doors, so the school had put the old doors in storage until someone came along who could fix them. I was only able to do any of the above projects because the missionary there had all of the tools that I needed to get them done. I would have never been able to do it had he not trusted me with his tools.

An Unforgettable Journey part 3

•November 24, 2012 • Leave a Comment

For those first three months, my daily schedule consisted of sitting and watching my colleague teach, assisting her in marking papers, teaching some subject in her classroom, or sitting in the classroom trying to maintain control while my colleague had left the room and I was uncertain of what was planned next. As soon as the 64 students in my classroom realized that I was not going to hit them with the stick, they began to disregard anything I had to say in the classroom. I started to try some different management techniques that I had learned to get students’ attention, but they rarely listened. I always wondered why my colleague would not step in to help me manage the classroom until I found out one of the assumptions about Basotho culture. It is that you can never let another person, especially in authority, ever lose face. If she would have stepped in, she would be telling the class in some sense that I was incompetent or unable to do my job, but she could never do that because you cannot allow that to be known, even though all the students knew this already. It was like the longstanding elephant in the room. Students would mock me in the classroom and out on the school grounds, making fun of the way I talked.

I soon decided that I needed to move to a different position in the school so that I could serve all of the teachers effectively and not embarrass myself all of the time teaching. After we let out of school on the first of December, I began preparing some ideas for a new job description so that I could talk to my country representatives about them when we went to Pietermaritzburg, SA for our winter retreat.

One of the craziest moments of the trip happened during these initial months. The school takes a school field trip every year, in which students who can pay the fee can go. When I arrived at the school, they told me about the upcoming field trip to Mohale Dam, one of the largest dams in the country. I was told that I would not have to pay for the trip and that the other SALTer serving in Lesotho was invited to come along if possible. We both ended up going and having one of the most interesting school field trips. I will say I will never forget my first school field trip as a teacher. I wrote a blog post from this trip that summarizes the trip quite well. You can find it by looking back through my blog posts.

During the month off of school for Christmas break, I was able to spend most of my time helping with farm activities at the mission. Late November into early December are the ideal planting times for Lesotho. This being said, the average beginning planting date for farmers in Lesotho is December 27, nearly a month after the ideal planting date, November 25. Late planting is a major cause of poor crops or crop failure depending on the summer months of January, February, and March.

In December, I was finally able to get my hands dirty, digging holes for seeds with a hoe as well as driving a tractor with a two-row planter. August, the missionary in charge of the mission, had me start right away with the planting, which was intimidating because I had never done it before. It was simple enough, and I soon became the main planting man at the mission. August and I put in several 15 hour days, starting planting at 5 am, and leaving the last field when it was almost completely dark at 8 pm. I really enjoyed these moments. They reminded me of home, helping me miss my family and farm a little less.

An Unforgettable Journey: a School Story

•November 4, 2012 • Leave a Comment

So in the midst of my story about my journey to Lesotho, I had written a note to include the history of the school that i worked at, so I’m including that here. It was not written by me. The principal gave me a handwritten copy of it, so I copied it onto a word document, and now I’m putting it here. It might not be enough details for you to understand everything, but it will give you an idea.

Maphutseng LEC Primary is a famous school in the history of the church. Oral and written history states that it was established around 1896. There had been several principals who devotedly served in this school. One among them was Mr. Peter Sebdai Mantutle who meritoriously served as a principal until 1999.

“It is said that schools in the region of Maphutseng used to gather in this school for quarterly tests and examinations. Within the region, it was the only school which offered the old standard six (1). As a result, many learners came to this school to finish their higher primary level education.

The school was known for its excellent academic results and outstanding performance in sports activities. The school choir, under the conduct of Mr. P. S. Mantutle, was honored by many schools in the southern region. It has produced many young and senior citizens who hold high posts in the government and in the private sectors within and outside the country.

It is obvious therefore that the buildings constructed in 1896 must have stood the tests of harsh weather for many years. This was witnessed by everyone around the area in the middle of the 1990s when the classroom buildings had reached the state of dilapidation. Roofing was easily blown away by any wind that blew. Children were likely to be hurt by the falling walls and metals blown away by wind. It was a heartbreaking situation in 2001 when two classrooms were completely demolished by a very strong wind. The only unreliable building left for 554 pupils was a three classroom building. The school cried out for help from donors, the government, and many other non-governmental organizations.

In 2002, the Microproject Programme under the European Development Fund assisted the school with two classrooms (2). The project was wholeheartedly supported by the church and the parents of the school. However, the school still had a problem of two classes that had no classrooms. The school was therefore bound to continue asking for help from the Ministry of Education and Training, and the Ministry indeed responded and fulfilled its promises in 2008 by building four classrooms, the office including a staff room and a store room, toilets(3) for pupils, and two toilets for female and male teachers.

The school was grateful to the Ministry for rescuing the school because the conditions before the construction of the buildings had badly affected the teaching and learning in the school.”

 

(1) Remember from a previous post that students have to take an exam in 7th grade. Before that was instituted, it used to be that they took an exam in 6th grade, so MLECPS was one of the only school to even offer this opportunity to children living in the Maphutseng valley.

(2) These two classrooms are currently the kindergarten and 1st grade classrooms. Before the classrooms were built, most of the younger grades met under trees for their learning because older grades needed a classroom with desks, a chalkboard, etc.

(3) Note that toilets mean separate brick outhouses with multiple stalls for girls and boys. During my time there, I fixed 4 of the stalls by reinstalling the doors that had fallen from their hinges and trimming the sides of the door to make them fit better in their door frames. In addition, I fixed the locks and door handles so that students could actually lock the stalls when they were using them.

An unforgettable journey part 2

•October 23, 2012 • Leave a Comment

The following Monday after I arrived in Lesotho, I began my work at the primary school. In the geography of things, the mission was built at the end of a ridge before the sides of the hill begin to steepen toward the river. Further in on the ridge, about 100 feet from the mission house is Paster Moletsane’s house, the pastor of the LEC church, which is also about 100 feet further to the north than his house. Then about 50 feet from the front of the church is the first building of the school, and it is one of the newer buildings on the school property. So I was not far from the mission and had little problem making it to school on-time those first few weeks. That first morning, I walked to school, uncertain of what to think or how to feel. I had never been in a school in Lesotho before. I didn’t know what their schedule was like. What would the kids think of me? Would they speak English? Would they care that I was there?

After the morning assembly, we went to the school office where I was introduced to the entire teaching staff. I couldn’t pronounce anyone’s name, and I soon found out how difficult it would be to learn Basotho names. So lets stop there and cover one important thing about the Sesotho language and the Basotho people. This is very important. I became a Mosotho while I lived among the Basotho who are the native people of Lesotho, and they speak Sesotho, which I also tried to learn. Similar to American, I am Mosotho. Similar to Americans, then, we are Basotho. Also, please realize that the “th” sound in Sesotho, the language of the Basotho, is a hard “t” sound.

Back to the story, after I was introduced, Me Malintle, which is the formal way of saying Mrs. Mantutle, told me and the other teachers that I would be helping in the Standard 5 classroom. Almost all of the other classrooms had two teachers in them, and it was decision that was made by the government as to how many teachers a school had, so I went into the standard 5 classroom. When we walked in, my colleague, Me Makolobetso, asked if I liked to teach math, and I said I did, so she said that I could start teaching math right away. Within ten minutes, I was trying to introduce fractions to a group of 64 Basotho students, ranging in age from 11 to 16. I soon found out that my accent was not one that they could understand well, so within a couple of weeks my colleague actually took over for me. It sounds ridiculous now, but I felt even in those first few weeks like I had failed already. How could I not teach a class about fractions? What was so difficult about that? A difference in language can make all the difference in the world in terms of respect and understanding in a classroom.

In the school system in Lesotho, students have to pass national exams at the end of their 7th grade, 10th grade, and 12th grade years. When a student takes the exam, they will receive a 1st, 2nd or 3rd class pass. If you receive a 1st class pass, you are ready for high school. If you receive a 2nd class pass, you could go to high school, but it might be kind of risky. If you receive a 3rd class pass, you should probably retake 7th grade. All of the exams are written in English, except for the Sesotho exam, and they include an exam for all of the following subjects: math, science, English, Sesotho, home economics, social studies, and religious studies. The type of class pass that a student gets is very important because while primary education is free for all children who can attend, secondary education is not free, so the high school system works similarly to the college system. Children can move away from home to live with family who live near a respected high school.

In those first few weeks, I also had to start getting used to the proper form of Basotho discipline, which is a swat on the hand with a stick for all misbehaving individuals. I was kind of mortified the first time I saw it. I was wondering about what could have prepared me for such things before I left. I wondered who had got it wrong on my job description, not to tell me right away that I would be teaching. My journey had started in Akron, Pennsylvania, and the people there had offered two sessions to people who were going to different places to teach. The lady in charge of placements told me that I would not have to worry about managing a classroom by the looks of my job description so I really didn’t need to go to any of the sessions. In those moments in the classroom, watching children get hit on the hand and trying to teach children even though they understood few of the words I was saying, I was wondering why I hadn’t just gone to the training sessions. I am not sure now how I did not expect these things to be different. Corporal punishment is commonplace all over sub-saharan Africa in schools and was not all that uncommon in the United States not too many years ago. Either way, I was stunned. Even though I was reeling from all that was happening around me, the support network that MCC provided as a part of the program was very helpful throughout the time as overwhelming as my initial encounters were with Lesotho.