Time to fly!
Almost ten years to the date I set out on a journey to broaden my horizons, see the world and change my perspective on life. I travelled to Kenya by myself to meet up with a team from Habitat for Humanity from September-October 2006.
It is Friday, August 26, 2016 at 2:40am and I am in a Wimpy Diner in Johannesburg Airport with many other weary travellers sleeping in booths after eating some greasy fries and burgers, trying to pass the time with e-readers, iPhones and journals. This is stop 2/3 on this trek.
I arrived at Pearson on Wednesday, August 24th after a teary goodbye to my husband Mike (we have never been apart this long). The flight from Toronto to Amsterdam was about seven hours. I watched a few movies but could not sleep from the excitement. I was then on to the beast of the flights- the 10.5 hr flight to Johannesburg. We arrived a 9:30pm and everything was closed. I didn’t care- I’M BACK IN AFRICA!!! I had so much time to kill, from 10pm-6:40am in the airport.
The flight from Johannesburg to Maseru was only about an hour and a half. I met two out of the six people on the plane, one a reggae musician and the other a social service person who was in Washington at a Mandela convention. We talked the entire way about the state of the world, what we were looking forward to in Lesotho, and where we had come from. When we landed, there were several government officials lined up on the runway to commemorate and remember the 2014 coup. I walked through the gates and there was our Country Representative, Andy, waiting for us. It was so great to see a familiar face.
We hopped into the car and drove to the Maseru mall to get a SIM card, adapter and breakfast. In traditional Knope style, I had waffles. It still felt like a dream, that I had yet to arrive. We then got into the car to start our drive to the nun convent where I would be staying. As we got closer to the city of Hlotse, my heart started to beat fast and the sights and sounds from ten years ago came rushing back. The bright sun, dirt roads, market vendors, the music, laughing children, cows and goats on the side of the road and half built buildings and churches. We drove through small towns and districts with brick homes and tin roofs. Oh, Dear African Sun, how I have missed you. Yes. This feels like home.
We pulled into the nun’s convent to a beautiful little place with several small homes and a hostile for girls who go to school close by. Sister Lebohang greeted us in full nun attire with a big hug and smile. The place is stunning. Beautiful little gardens with succulents growing from nothing, peach trees blossoming, fences tied together with string and driftwood. This is where I feel I belong. There is a serenity and peace that overtook me and calmed me. I feel settled, calm, this feels like home.
I wandered through the small town, across to the grocery store, around a bustling street full of singers, roadside Vodacom booths, vendors selling pork grilled over a small fire and brooms made of straw. As I wandered through the markets I met a woman who stopped to shake my hand and welcome me. We spoke for a few moments and she told me my name should be “Mohau” which means Grace in English. As I walked the streets, I realized every child I passed was waving and giggling, and I may just be one of the only white people in the village or that they had seen, at least in a while. What a difference to know you stand out, to feel you are being stared at, to not understand the language or the customs and to be seen as someone different.
For all of the feelings of sticking out, the people of Lesotho welcomed me with open arms, shaking my hand, hugging me, saying “Lumela” (hello) and greeting me with smiles.
That night, we met Andy and his partner ‘Me Maklompho for dinner at the hotel across the street. I had a tea, pizza and a Maluti beer. We laughed, told stories, and discussed what the next two weeks would bring. When I returned the nun convent, I climbed into my bed that was covered in warm Lesotho blankets and fell asleep with a full heart.
I am so grateful to be in Africa, in Lesotho, and to have this incredible experience. I’m grateful to have a husband who loves and supports me and I’m grateful for the life I have and the home I will return to.
Tomorrow is a new day. A new day in LESOTHO!
— Candice Coghlan