Lesotho

Living Conditions

Communications

Mail

Volunteers generally receive mail and packages from the United States in two to three weeks. It is a good idea to number all mail you send to the United States and to encourage people sending you things to do the same. While in pre-service training, you will receive all mail through the Peace Corps/Lesotho post office box address: Jane/John Doe, PCT, c/o Peace Corps/Lesotho, PO Box 554 Maseru, 100 LESOTHO. During your Volunteer service, you will likely to be able to receive mail directly at your site. However, Volunteers may always elect to receive mail through the Peace Corps post office box number.

Telephones

Cellphone coverage is readily available. The cell network is different here, but international calls are possible. In the first few weeks of training, trainees will be provided an opportunity to purchase a cellphone at their expense. There is no need to bring a cell phone with you. They are widely available in Lesotho. Many Volunteers use them to stay in touch with each other and the U.S. There are a few sites where cell phone signals do not exist. In some cases Volunteers have both Lesotho and South African phone numbers, depending on coverage in these areas.

Internet

Many Volunteers bring laptops computers to Lesotho. Please keep in mind that there is no guarantee that you will be working or living in a village with regular access to electricity. If you choose to bring a device, make certain that you purchase personal insurance in case of theft or damage.

Housing and Site Location

You must be prepared for a number of hardships and lack of amenities that you may have been accustomed to in the United States. Your house will be simply furnished with a bed, a two-burner gas stove, and a heater for winter. You will probably have to walk a short distance to fetch water from a community tap. Most likely you will be required to use an outdoor pit latrine. Peace Corps/Lesotho works with communities prior to the arrival of Volunteers to ensure safe and adequate housing. For a house to be considered suitable, it must have strong doors and windows, a good roof, and burglar bars. Many Volunteers live in a one-room rondavel (round house) with a thatch roof and no running water or electricity. Others have a two- or three-room house with a tin roof, electricity, indoor plumbing, and running water. Lesotho uses 220 current with large three-pronged round plugs and sometimes smaller two-pronged round plugs like many countries in Europe.

Living Allowance and Money Management

Volunteers receive a monthly allowance in local currency that is sufficient to live at the level of the local people. The allowance covers food, housing, household supplies, clothing, transportation to and from work, utilities, recreation and entertainment, and incidental expenses. Peace Corps Volunteers are expected to live at a level that is comparable with that of their host country counterparts. The Peace Corps discourages Volunteers from supplementing their living allowance with funds from home. However, Volunteers often wish to bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. For this, credit cards and traveler’s checks are preferable to cash. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs.

Food and Diet

Most food, such as fruits and vegetables, is imported from South Africa. There is a wide range to choose from if you have access to shops in the bigger towns in Lesotho. The main meal of the Basotho includes papa, made of cornmeal; moroho, or vegetables (mainly cabbage or Swiss chard); and nama, or meat, which could be beef, pork, mutton, or chicken. Dairy products are also available. Because of the prevalence of tuberculosis and brucellosis in Lesotho, do not consume raw milk. For storage purposes, we recommend the use of powdered milk or ultra-pasteurized milk, which comes in cartons and is available throughout Lesotho. In some parts of the country, maintaining a vegetarian diet can be challenging in terms of being able to find all that you need to get recommended daily allowances of vital food groups. Whether you are a lacto-ovo vegetarian) or a vegan, your daily meals will need to be balanced to provide sufficient energy. Many soy products are available in Maseru, although they can be expensive. There is a wide variety of pulses (legumes such as peas, beans, and lentils) in Lesotho. The medical office can also provide multivitamin supplements.

Transportation

Local transportation varies from your own two feet to luxury coach buses. For the most part, as a Volunteer you will travel around the country in kombis (which are basically minivans that seat 10-12 people), "4+1s" (small sedan taxis), or regular buses. Fares for public transportation are reasonable. Volunteers are expected to walk long distances on rocky, uneven terrain. It is likely that you will walk from two to eight kilometers before reaching your worksite or where you can access public transportation. At your site you will most likely walk to work and shop. A few Volunteers may be issued bicycles or authorized to rent horses depending on need, resource availability, and safety and security concerns. If you are issued a bicycle or approved to rent a horse, the Peace Corps will provide you with a mandatory helmet for riding to work. Operating or riding on a motorcycle is strictly prohibited by Peace Corps/Lesotho and is grounds for administrative separation. Under exceptional circumstances, Peace Corps/Lesotho may authorize Volunteers to operate a motor vehicle for project-related purposes. Currently, no Volunteers are authorized to drive for work purposes.

Social Activities

The Basotho are a welcoming, hospitable people. You will meet many who will look out for you and make sure you are taken care of. Within a few months, many Volunteers refer to their Lesotho hosts as families and feel that Lesotho is home. For the most part, social activities in Lesotho are fairly informal. Those who are interested in getting to know you can be quite persistent. It is normal for people to stop by completely unannounced. Do not be put off by this; the Basotho will expect the same from you. It is rare to receive a formal invitation to visit. If you want to see someone, just stop by. Unfortunately, many social situations are connected to funeral activities. Alcohol use in Lesotho is widespread and alcohol abuse is common.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

In Lesotho, dress and appearance can be perceived as signs of respect (or a lack thereof) and are important for your effectiveness as a Volunteer. Males: long pants, a shirt with a collar, and closed-toed shoes (not sneakers) Females: a longer dress or skirt, dress slacks, closed-toed shoes, nice sandals or ―Teva-like footwear. If the material from which the garment is made is sheer or see-through, a camisole or slip should be worn underneath. Spaghetti straps, bare-backed tops, and tops that expose the midriff must be avoided to minimize unwanted attention and are never acceptable at the Peace Corps office or at Peace Corps events. Volunteers should present a clean appearance – including feet – at all times. Clothing must be clean, mended, and ironed or at least not a mass of wrinkles. Shoes should be polished and clean. Backpacks must be clean. Hairstyles should be neat and clean. For men, clean, short (above the collar), conservative hair is expected. Beards and mustaches should be trimmed. Small studs in one’s nose are acceptable during working hours. Earrings for men are not acceptable in the workplace. Obvious tattoos are not appropriate for either men or women; in Lesotho, tattoos are associated with prisoners.