In 2002, my international investment banking career in Singapore had left me drained. I needed to find the physical and mental freedom to return to my first passion, which was development work. I left my job and embarked on a solo backpacking journey, looking for peace and inspiration. By the time I circled around sub-Saharan Africa and ended in Lesotho, I found both. I have never looked back.
My very first impression of Lesotho came from the high peaks of the Drakensberg mountain range in the eastern part of the country, where the autumn air was cool and crisp. Dirt roads wound through small villages dotted with tradition rondavels made of stones or mud, with thick thatched roofs. The vast mountain plains opened up into a broad blue sky and brilliant, high-altitude sunshine. Our hiking trail climbed up rocky table mountain tops and down into freezing cold streams that cut through house-sized boulders, groves of thirsty willows, and into caves of prehistoric paintings. Lesotho, tucked completely within the walls of South Africa, seemed an ideal natural treasure to me.
Fast forward thirteen years. After living in Vientiane, Laos, for two years, last November, I arrived back in Lesotho. This time, I had a family in tow. My husband is in the U.S. Foreign Service. The rhythm of our family life consists of an international move every two to three years, with trips back to the States for home visits and language training in between.
Where I once turned to travel to help me change my life, what I now seek at each new destination is stability and conetinuity for my family.
After 22 hours of travel, we arrived in the capital city of Maseru, which is situated in the hilly western lowlands. The air is again cool and crisp, although now it is springtime. The backyard of our new house is full of bright yellow birds, endlessly flitting back and forth to complete their work. The males are busy constructing round grassy nests, which dangle festively in our trees. If a female doesn’t accept the nest, the male bird tears the entire thing apart and starts all over again. The kids and I have named one “Butternut”, and we admire his tireless work everyday.
Maseru is a small city with a growing suburban sprawl. There are barely 300,000 people in the entire urban area. The buildings are low, the traffic flows, and only a couple of noteworthy malls have popped up within the past two years. “First impressions” this time around are mainly focused on the business of getting on with life for our family–new school, new friends, new job, new supermarkets, getting the internet set up, figuring out a car, and obtaining household help. Luckily, it’s been quite easy to get everything that we need. As far as Western-style life needs go, there are plenty of products here that are brought in from South Africa and beyond.
With our basic needs met, we’ve been exploring beyond the city. I still find Mother Nature calling at every turn. Within Lesotho, you can go hiking just about anywhere. Cross a bridge and stop to hike down to explore up the river. Head up a hill to find herdsmen tending livestock. When it rains, we hike in the mud (the kids’ favorite). When it’s hot, we cool down in streams and waterfalls. The nearby children find us no matter where we go; the adults are not engaging but very courteous. Fortunately, the personal safety issues prevalent in most of South Africa are not as concerning in Lesotho yet, and most of the expats we’ve met are comfortable exploring the countryside.
After the scant two-and-a-half months that we’ve been here, we are already feeling more settled. And while we all miss what we’ve left behind in our “old” life in Laos . . . and Mexico. . . and the U.S. . . ., we begin anew to embrace what we have and to anticipate what gifts our new country holds.
Is there a change in your life that you’ve made or would like to make? What have you left or would like to leave behind, and what have you found or hope to find?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by our mother of twins writer, Dee Harlow, currently living in Lesotho. You can also find her on her blog Wanderlustress.
Photo credit attributed to Damien du Toit. This photo has a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-ShareAlike license.