Ntate John

Reds, pinks, blues and yellows mix together, moving shades so slightly you don’t recognize the change in hue. Below, the rolling landscape is still and scattered lights pop up as villagers make the change from day to night.

I am standing around a fire with seven others. Our little camp is nestled halfway up a mountain on a stretch of flat land. We are so high that patches of ice attached to rock are visible. An assortment of meats is being browned and we are taking swigs of beer from brown quart bottles and passing them to any open hand. Both Sesotho and English float through the air, but laughter is the main language. We stop for pictures or to readjust our blankets that are hugging our shoulders to keep in the warmth.

I’ve never been so in love with Lesotho.

A few days earlier, I was in Maseru and ran into my host sister at the grocery story.

“Ntate John is there,” she informed me.

There being the village and Ntate John, or just John, is the volunteer I replaced. He lived in the village and taught at the school from 2008 to 2010. He is a legend, in the village and in Peace Corps. Without ever meeting him, I knew what foods his liked and disliked, what he did in his spare time and some interesting situations he found himself in.  

A few months prior, I reached out to him on Facebook, hoping to get some perspective and maybe give him some updates on the village. We shared a few messages and he mentioned that he may be coming to Lesotho during his school break. He gave me a possible time frame. That was it.

And then, one day, he showed up, kind of like I expected him to.

He was in Africa for a school-related trip and decided to visit his former home before returning to the U.S. for the new academic year. He came a few days and was nice enough to offer some advice and share stories. He took me to waterfall near the village that I had no idea existed. He even allowed me to tag along to the mountain top braai at dusk with a few others from the village.

Even a year removed and headed a stable path in America, John’s love for his former village is still very evident. It’s also infectious.

It’s easy for volunteers to fall into negative thinking. Projects are disrupted by unforeseen, very solvable problems or there isn’t enough motivation to get that group going. When we PCVs get together, we share war stories from the village and sometimes we forget about the good stuff, the small things that make each day here worth it. We become more focused on the end date rather than the actual experience.

But seeing it from John’s perspective – two quick years now a memory – I saw my time here as something else – a blessing.

During his visit, I had some of the most amazing nights in Lesotho just being with friends and family and absorbing each beautiful moment. I grew closer to my family and to other villagers. I realized my village had a waterfall and I climbed high into the mountains near my home. I went to bed each night, smiling at the opportunity I’ve been given to be here.

The night before he left, I told John that being around him has been good for me. It’s allowed me to really see the beauty of this village and how amazing life is here.

“Those were the two best years of my life,” he said. “I would hate to know that you didn’t enjoy them the way I did.”

Sometimes we don’t understand how great our life is unless we can step back and see it from someone else’s eyes. John and I are different people and will utilize our time here in different ways, but it is both of our homes and we can love it in similar ways.

I love it here, and maybe I’ve always have. I just needed someone to show me that in a blink of an eye it will be over. It’s better to feel and live that love now than to channel it through memories in 17 months.

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2 thoughts on “Ntate John

  1. It’s never too early to think about the Third Goal. Check out Peace Corps Experience: Write & Publish Your Memoir. Oh! If you want a good laugh about what PC service was like in a Spanish-speaking country back in the 1970’s, read South of the Frontera: A Peace Corps Memoir.

  2. Pingback: YOP – July | a story

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