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dog's diary (1)

Ha ha ha. Long time Smith family joke :)

7 random thoughts 7 days in to my “captivity” in Pretoria:

  1. I would describe the current situation in Lesotho as stable but unpredictable. There are still a lot of factors in play that have the potential to take things down hill very quickly.
  2. Over the weekend the military commander behind the “coup” that ignited this all reportedly stole weapons and is hiding in the mountains. The (supposed to be current) commander says military action is the “only option” to resolve the situation.
  3. Doesn’t the statement “rogue military commander hiding in the mountains” sound like something you’d read about in Afghanistan or some other notoriously war-torn country? It’s certainly not something I ever thought I’d say about Lesotho.
  4. The big news tomorrow is that Pres. Zuma of South Africa is coming to Lesotho since word on the street is that the PM is backing out of his agreement to reopen parliament.
  5. The Deputy Prime Minister also has a trial related to the charges against him for corruption scheduled for tomorrow. No word yet that it’s been canceled. Considering the measures he has gone to already to avoid those charges it seems like a potentially sensitive milestone.
  6. On a happier note I am thankful for beer festivals, spas and friends that helped pass the time over the weekend.
  7. Also, I have had sushi for dinner 6 times since I arrived and McD’s only once (sushi I can get delivered straight to my hotel room). Lunch has been more varied.

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I spent all day Tuesday making arrangements for the expatriates on my team to leave Lesotho and ensuring procedures are in place to protect the safety of our host country national staff staying in Lesotho. It was surreal to drive around the city and see everyone going about their day as usual while we were making plans to leave. Then I remembered how loud the gunfire was Monday night (According to AFP it was automatic weapon fire at the Police Training College, which is across a small pond from my house), saw the increased LDF presence at the airbase near our office and noticed the lack of police around town. So although people were going on with their lives it was definitely not all business as usual.

For the last two mornings I’ve woken up in a hotel room in Pretoria, South Africa and will be working from here until this blows over. If Lesotho is a 3-star hotel – comfortable but not luxurious – then Pretoria is a 5-star resort. (Even if I don’t have a private bathroom or walk-in closet in the office ;)) Thankfully I have people on my team who are still in Lesotho to give me updates and everyone there remains safe. Regardless of how comfortable it is here, though, I am itching to get back home.

The good news is that there have been improvements in the last 24-48 hours including the police have going back to work, and the PM returning to the country (albeit guarded by the South African Police Service (SAPS)). That said, there are big questions that still need to be answered like: what’s happening with the military commander who refuses to step down? (<< Seriously, read that link.) What happens when SAPS are no longer guarding the PM and Police Commissioner? And when will the US Embassy go back to business as usual?

I hope that the answers to these questions get answered quickly and that everyone can get back to their lives in Lesotho.

 

Then the Lesotho Times releases four pretty damning stories and I see my life in Pretoria stretching out for the near future …

Metsing behind coup attempt: ‘Maseribane

Thabane to dissolve parliament

Tšooana implicates Metsing in army attack

Kamoli must surrender: New army boss

I wrote the below this afternoon. Then there was a citywide blackout with gunfire in my neighbourhood and possibly other parts of the city as well. All I know is that I heard gunfire and when the entire city is black it’s pretty damn freaky when guns go off. As I write this I don’t know who/what was targeted or what else is going on in the city especially because apparently the military have shut down the TV and radio stations.

What I can’t stop thinking, especially in light of what I wrote earlier is: Who the f*** do these people think they are? Who turns out the electricity across the capitol city of a country and then goes after someone/something with guns? Because I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that there was a citywide blackout in a place that almost never has electricity problems and where the political situation is a dicey as it’s been recently. I’m know that I don’t understand all the factors that are driving the current situation (corruption, scare mongering, power grabbing, whatever), but I do know that this is not okay.

Wishing Khotso, Pula, Nala (Peace, Rain and Prosperity) for Lesotho. We need all three as soon as possible, but especially peace.

 

 


For the most part I forget that I live in a developing country. I have access to water/electricity 95% of the time and we’re almost always given notice of planned outages; my internet is speedy enough to handle my needs; I can get almost anything I need (especially food wise) in Maseru and almost anything I want (especially entertainment wise) in South Africa. Altogether there is very little hardship in my life.

Then I was woken up on Saturday morning with news that the military had surrounded/taken over the police HQ, central police station and the State House where the Prime Minister lives in the early morning hours with gunfire.

Hello reality check.

My weekend went from lazy to hectic providing updates via phone calls/emails/SMS to HQ, my staff, CHAI colleagues, country directors from other NGOs, and friends near and afar. It wasn’t a rapidly changing situation, but it did take some time to get the full details of what happened. Twitter, surprisingly to me, has been a great source of information.

If you want to understand the political undertones to the events this weekend this article is a good overview while also being entertaining. At this point using the word “coup” to describe the events on Saturday is in dispute. What cannot be disputed, however, is that the political environment is unstable. The Lesotho Defense Force (LDF) and Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) don’t exactly like each other and, as I’m writing this, nobody knows who’s leading the LDF.

All of this reminded me of a conversation I had a few months ago when a friend asked me what would happen if Obama decided to run for another term. The conversation then went something like this:

Me: Uh, no. That would never happen.

Friend: Seriously, though, what would happen if he just decided to run?

Me: It wouldn’t ever happen.

Friend: But just consider “what if.”

Me: I can’t even conceive of a “what if” because it’s never going to happen.

I may or may not have used the words “rule of law” in the conversation, but in hindsight that’s basically what it boils down to, right? That in the U.S. people respect and observe the rule of law. Rule of law is what keeps Obama from flagrantly disregarding the constitution, keeps the head of the military from deciding he’s not going to step down after being dismissed and means you don’t worry whether the police or the military back one political party or another. (Okay, I guess point #1 depends on where you sit on the political spectrum but I would argue that whatever you say Obama has done against the constitution pales in comparison to what African “leaders” have done.)

What happens now? I have no idea. The latest news is that political leaders have promised to end the suspension of parliament, but that is potentially opening an entirely new can of worms. I have been well supported by our HQ team and we are taking extra precautions to ensure the safety of all our staff and will continue to work from home for now while we monitor the situation.

Another Get It Scrapped challenge – this time to us a 6×12 photo. Here’s my result:

Lagoon Memories by Heather Awsumb | Supplies: Washi Tapes White No 1, Little Layette Element Pack, Merry and Bright Element Pack, Sweet Rose Element Pack, Almost There Element Pack, Symbology Enamel Brads No 1, Hadleigh Element Pack by Katie Pertiet; Evergreen, Star Gazer by One Little Bird; Enamel Stars by Patti Knox; Worth a Thousand Words by Sahlin Studio; Embracing the Everyday Brushes by Ali Edwards

Lagoon Memories by Heather Awsumb | Supplies: Washi Tapes White No 1, Little Layette Element Pack, Merry and Bright Element Pack, Sweet Rose Element Pack, Almost There Element Pack, Symbology Enamel Brads No 1, Hadleigh Element Pack by Katie Pertiet; Evergreen, Star Gazer by One Little Bird; Enamel Stars by Patti Knox; Worth a Thousand Words by Sahlin Studio; Embracing the Everyday Brushes by Ali Edwards

I like my photos to be big enough for people to see the detail in them, but have can only think of one other time that I’ve taken this much real estate on a page with a photo. It’s also one of my most favorite pages ever. Part of why I rarely use photos this large is because I also really like to use more than one photo on a page. It’s interesting to me that in both examples I have of using large photos I also included smaller detail photos to add dimension. Finally, on this page to take up the left over vertical space I added my title and clustering of small elements.

This month the Get It Scrapped creative team took on ways to capture stories before scrapbooking. Here’s my page:

Bon Appetite by Heather Awsumb | Supplies: Prix Fixe, Forever Young, Star Gazer, Day Trippers by One Little Bird; Cooked Element Pack, So Fine Element Pack, Gator Crossing Element Pack by Katie Pertiet; Sprinkles v 24 by Valerie Wibbens

Bon Appetite by Heather Awsumb | Supplies: Prix Fixe, Forever Young, Star Gazer, Day Trippers by One Little Bird; Cooked Element Pack, So Fine Element Pack, Gator Crossing Element Pack by Katie Pertiet; Sprinkles v 24 by Valerie Wibbens

For this page I told the story of an impromptu chili night that I hosted earlier this winter. I took a picture and shared it on Facebook with a comment about not knowing how to control the amount of chili I make. (Seriously, I always make a TON.) I didn’t take any pictures when people were at my house, so I then used the photo on my scrapbook page to document the event plus the little personality bit about always making too much chili. Other ways that I’ve captured stories that I’ve eventually used for scrapbooking include the blog, Story Swoop at Get It Scrapped (seriously, if you haven’t tried it you should!) and even putting the story into the caption field of the metadata when organizing my photos.

Watching: Dr Who. (That’s right, nerd alert!) I’m on a 1 week catch up plan thanks to a recent issue of Entertainment Weekly. After watching the first episode of Season 5, though, I wanted to just start right there and keep watching …

Anticipating: No big travel plans for the next 4 weeks. I think that’s the first time I can say that this year.

Listening/Reading:Spillover: Animal Infection and the Next Human Pandemic” by David Quammen. The Ebola chapter was particularly interesting and kind of scary given everything going on in West Africa right now.

Eating: Chicken salad made with the whole roasted chickens they sell at Pick n Pay. I pick all the meat off the bones, shred it up a bit, add almonds, grapes and mayo. Delicious!

Working On: A regular dog walking schedule now that it’s light until almost 6pm. It’s amazing what 30 more minutes of daylight can add to your productivity.

Wanting: To go camping just as soon as the overnight temperatures get to double digits around here.

Playing: Plants vs Zombies 2. Addicted.

I read an interesting article this week on the psychology of why we love songs from when we were teenagers more than current music. According to the article:

Brain imaging studies show that our favorite songs stimulate the brain’s pleasure circuit, which releases an influx of dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and other neurochemicals that make us feel good. The more we like a song, the more we get treated to neurochemical bliss, flooding our brains with some of the same neurotransmitters that cocaine chases after.

The article goes on about why this is particularly true when you are between the ages of 12-22 years because the “pleasure circuits” are more like fireworks than sparks. Of course it got me thinking about songs that have specific memories for me. Unsurprisingly many of these are from when I was 12-22 years old and also unsurprisingly, according to the article, many of my memories are attached to dancing to that particular song. Some are recent and I wonder if they will remain in my memory the same way the songs from when I was younger have.

So, without further ado and with little explanation, here are the songs that came to mind when I was reading the article. I’d love to hear yours in the comments!

First boyfriend

First kiss

Maseru dance parties

Playing volleyball on the courts in front of my dorm in university

College debate team

and the entire 1200 Curfew album by the Indigo Girls

Attending church dances with my first boyfriend, before I was old enough to officially date

High school trip to Washington, DC

High school in general

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