A zooming update

I can’t believe it’s been 9 months since After I left in August I traveled for a couple of months. I first visited friends in Australia where I experienced a bit of reverse culture shock: seeing green grass, birds and level soccer pitches really stand out as the first memories that messed with my brain for a while. Very simple things like being able to drive or walk around outside after dark scared me because I had rarely done that for more than two years. Not all was bad, though. I missed how much more simple and serene life was in Lesotho. Being around so many strangers weren’t that big of a deal for me, it was more just seeing so many white people showing so much skin and dancing that blew my mind. I was definitely not in Lesotho anymore. Shoutouts to Georgia, Maureen, Julian and Will for housing me, and despite me struggling getting back used to this lifestyle, letting me pet some ‘roos and have a great time in western Australia.

 

After Australia I was off to the newly Brexit-ed UK. Of course, something was bound to go wrong at some point. A flub in getting a visa messed up the flight I was supposed to catch after what was supposed to only be a few hours layover in Malaysia. A half hour of freaking out reminded me what travel was all about, and I just started googling hostels in the capitol, Kuala Lumpur (KL), since it was inevitable that I would miss my flight out of there. I decided to stay for a week. BEST. FLUB. EVER! Besides the unexpected heat and humidity of KL (it had just snowed nearly a foot right before I left Lesotho), I enjoyed getting to eat lots of Thai, Malay and other southeast Asian food, going to a dope water park, seeing the world’s tallest twin towers, and meeting cool friends that I would later visit on my next stop. I will for sure visit again and do this area of the world some justice.

 

A brief stop in Dubai was all I needed. I saw the world’s tallest building and payed way too much for a pair of sunglasses. When the pilot tells you “it’s a COOL 37 degrees Celsius here,” that’s a terrible sign! That’s 98 degrees Fahrenheit at 10 am! By 5 pm I was ready to get out of this city and back to the airport.

I finally arrived in London after that unexpected detour in Malaysia and Dubai. I stayed a few days with new friends, George and Cathy, that I met in KL. It’s amazing meeting and forming bonds with people from all around the world! They really showed me everything I could have hoped for: The Eye, Abby Road, a private tour of the British Parliament, Big Ben, MI5, some Harry Potter film sites, Oxford University, Stratford-upon-Avon (Shakespeare’s home and theatre) and so much more. Thanks so much, George and Cathy for your help in KL and your hospitality in London!

 

Next stop: Iceland. This can briefly be summed up in one sentence. It was the most mesmerizing country and the most expensive country I’ve ever been to! I saw the Northern Lights very faintly. The night before I arrived were some of the best viewings form the city in a very long time :(. I did see the Great Geysir in all its wonder, swam in hot springs and listened to the Secret Life of Walter Mitty soundtrack while driving around. I even convinced my buddy, Eric, to meet me there. Epic times!

 

Then there was Canada. I told people I was flying into Winnipeg and the reaction was always the same: “Why Winnipeg?!” That should tell you a little bit about Winnipeg. Luckily, we drove out of there headed west towards BC. Over two-thousand miles later and I had visited Glacier National Park in Montana, Banff National Park, did an epic 23-mile bike trail called Seven Summits in Rossland, BC and lots of other opportunities to go out for a rip. Robyn and Mikka were the best pals ever!

I got back to the US in time for my cousin’s wedding and then jumped right into the life of the typical American. I was working two jobs almost immediately while moonlighting as a Uber driver. I hated how much of my routine I had lost since Lesotho. I wasn’t reading, self-reflecting or writing as much as I used to. I did take a couple of skiing trips to North Carolina and Salt Lake City to break up the monotony.

After filling out random job applications almost daily for a couple weeks I finally heard back from two places. The first was a position in Hawaii with a wilderness therapy program. Immediately after I got the job offer over the phone with this place, I got an email from a cruise line about a position. Why not just take the phone call and see where it goes. Turned out that the cruise position was a much sweeter deal than the Hawaii gig. But it’s Hawaii, they said.

This is what this whole post was for:
I’m taking my next journey to the waters of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest with Lindblad Expeditions on the National Geographic Sea Lion as a steward. I leave May 9 for Seattle and then May 11 for Alaska where I will board this ship until mid-November. I’m excited and hopefully I’ll be able to share some cool pictures and neat experiences from this next adventure!

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Bon Voyage,
Jody

A poem for Lesotho

I wrote this poem a while back and each time I read it to myself memories flood my mind; both good and bad. It’s the combination of all these memories that make the past two years of my life so special. Without the bad, the good wouldn’t have been so. And without the good, reflections on it all wouldn’t be so nostalgic. Kea leboha bakeng sa lintho tsohle, Lesotho. Ke tla u chakela hape nakong e tlang, kea u tšepisa.


Oh Lesotho
By: Jody Lewis

Oh Lesotho, fatse la bontate rona
That girl visiting for a week said you have no culture

But I know
Culture is not something you so obviously observe in town

But something you taste, like the dust that lines your mouth in the months before the rains start
Like the sweet, warm porridge you drink for breakfast in the mornings
And those small peaches that squirt delicious juices to the back of your throat

And culture is something you smell
Like the scent of fresh makoenya billowing from tin shacks on the roadside
The crisp air you take into your lungs when you make it to a mountain’s peak
And then that of trash burning once you’ve descended

It’s something you hear
Like a taxi blasting famo music from its speakers
The crows of a senseless rooster around midnight
And every Lumela as you walk by

It’s something you see
Like the wearing of thick, colorful blankets no matter the season of year
The erected tents housing an entire village for a funeral
And a shepherd with his molamo as he guides animals to find scarce water

And, finally, it’s something that you feel
Like the stifling heat, bumpy road and immediate adjacency of neighbors on a taxi ride
The warmth of a hand shaking yours as it cheerfully greets you
And the ache of your heart when it’s time to leave.

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Lesotho has been the most beautiful of dreams and the worst of nightmares!

I won’t play up my time here and say it’s all been great and that you should be jealous; I’ve actually had some of the worst days of my life in Lesotho. I’ve also had many of the greatest memories of my life here as well. I can honestly look back at the past two+ years of my life here and say that I’m grateful for it all. I know I’ve grown in many ways and have gained so much here: travel opportunities, experience in many different fields, new friends and a big family. I can’t wait to come back again in the future!

The next time you hear from me, I’ll have visited Australia, England, Ireland, Iceland and Canada!

Till next time,

-Jody

Got a problem? There’s a bucket for that.

It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that my contract in Lesotho ends next month—in 45 short days. It’s hard partly because I have no idea what I’ll do when I get back home, and also partly due to the truth that this is now my life. My home. And it’s all I know.

Even when I try to think of things to look forward to in America nothing comes to mind. Of course, seeing friends and family again is exciting, but I know that will be normal again after a few weeks. My routine of waking up in my all but quiet rondavel, brushing my teeth in a bucket, opening the door to the bright sun to go take my morning poop in my latrine, washing my hands in another bucket, and then taking a bath in yet another bucket seems so natural now. There’s a bucket for everything, it seems. It’ll be quite a change to wake up to the sounds of traffic or a police siren in the place of the donkeys and sheep that live in the corral next to my window in the mornings.

I couldn’t have prepared for everything PCVs told me before I got here no matter how many times they told me; it takes the  experience itself to know. So, I’m prepared for another roller coaster of adjustment once I get back, as I’m being told and have experienced in the past. I have seen life through a new lens that will forever shape the future. What I’m trying to say is this: Two years is a long time. Think about what you were doing back in June 2014 and how much you’ve done since then. Most of my friends have moved to different places, gotten engaged or married, gotten pregnant or had a baby, bought a house, gotten a new job, finished school and so many other milestones in their lives. Equally, I’ve have major things happen in my life too since then! And after next month, I have to pack up and leave all of it behind. So many people; so many experiences. The cohort I came here with, other PCVs, my students, tons of friends I’ve met along the way, the Maseru poetry crew that I’ve grown way more from than they could ever know, Sam, and of course my family: Malika, Tšepo, Teboho, Mme, the brothers and all the cousins. Yoh! I’m feeling it just thinking of it all right now! What can I do to show people how much they mean to me? A brai sounds good. People love delicious food, but that’s something I do every month with my family. A card is nice but no words can describe how much people here mean to me. Some random gift feels the most fake to me too, because that’s kind of what we do when that distant relative that never comes around decides to show up for Christmas and you have to do something quickly. And half the time we don’t even like that relative anyways. So, what do I do? I’ll probably end up doing many of these things, but showing someone that they won’t just become a distant memory is difficult.


“The Best Way To Prepare For The Future Is To Take Care Of The Present.”

-Solid advice from the PC calendar that always know exactly how I’m feeling!


With this thought in mind, I’m going to try my hardest to focus on the relationships I’ve made here and cherish every minute with folks. That means trying to learn more about people, opening up more to people, and simply enjoying the presence of people’s company. A good friend of mine explained to me a few days ago how life is funny like this sometimes. We go all this time with something/someone constantly being present, but when the expiration date approaches we see all this goodness and happiness that we otherwise took for granted. I’m thankful that I foresaw this happening long ago and spent more time talking with people even when I didn’t want to, or sitting under my favorite tree even after it was cold, or going somewhere even when I knew I was tired. Bottom line, I feel that I’ve made the most of my time here and will continue to do so until the last possible moments. But no matter how much we do this, we still wish there was more time. I hope future Jody is satisfied with this!

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I’ll leave you with last night’s sunset

Well, I gotta get back to my family.
Next time,
Jody

Less than 90 days left…

 

Whoa! I haven’t posted since January. Not a lot has happened since then, but the few things that have been going on have been great so I’ll hit the big points.

Teaching grades 6 and 7 science is one of the highlights of my time in Lesotho so far! I have always had a passion for teaching/tutoring and knew someday I would give a shot at teaching maybe as a part time thing or as a second career. I went into it nervous and afraid that I wouldn’t do a good enough job. After my three-month stint as a teacher, I know I will find myself in a classroom someday!

Each day I came to school with a bag full of things to use in class for experiments or demonstrations—rocks, jars, candles, water, pasta, rubber bands, sand, and so many other random things. My students loved science class and during breaks they would ask me if we could have class again. Seeing middle-school kids excited to learn about air pressure, the rock cycle, or about the planets in our solar system is such a wonderful thing to me! I’ve always loved science and that’s all I’ve ever put 100% focus into even since elementary school, but I was never excited as my students have been the past few months. Fortunately for me after all the teachers wondered what the heck I was doing with all these random things in class, the test scores proved that a large majority took genuine interest and learned the material exceptionally well. The most recent topic was Earth Day, I had my classes focus on Earth-related issues. In grade 6 we went over air, land, and water pollution. In grade 7 we went over seven types of pollution (air, land, water, thermal, light, visual, and noise) and wrote essays. “But sir, this isn’t English class. Why do we have to write compositions?” We wrote a few different essays in grade 7 and I tried my hardest to help them understand the importance of being able to write well. If they really want to attend university abroad like they say, then the first things schools abroad see is their ability to write well. This is something I didn’t realize until college and had to play catch up, so I hope I was able to get that point across to at least of few of them.

As of last week I’m no longer a teacher; my principal and I agreed that it would be better for the school’s future if I worked on setting up a computer lab for the school. So, that’s now my primary focus for the next couple of months.

My cohort and I just had our COS (Close of Service) Conference at a really nice lodge—it had amazing food and a hot shower, so that equals paradise for me! We got our official COS dates, which we were all excited about. We did lots of reflection about things we will miss about Lesotho, the funniest moments, things we will never forget, and several other questions that brought back many great memories with these folks that have become like a family to me.

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Started from the bottom, now we here! Cheers to my cohort, the ones still here and the ones that found opportunity elsewhere!

It was an informative conference for me, and I mostly enjoyed the panel of RPCVs and the many stories and advice from them—the American Ambassador to Lesotho, a CDC doctor, a worker for PEPFAR, a Foreign Service Officer, my Country Director and a couple of other staff members. They talked about possible next steps after Peace Corps, how to readjust to America once we are back (my greatest fear), and all the benefits we have as RPCVs. It took a lot of dedication and time to finally get that R!

My assigned date to leave Lesotho is July 27. I’m looking forward to my three-month journey home: Lesotho→Australia→UK→Ireland→Iceland→Canada→USA!!

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The name of my blog, 1.5 Billion Inches, symbolizes my passion to see the world (to travel and see every inch of its circumference). I will see two more continents and double the number of countries I’ve been to by the time I return back to the US! So excited!

See you in October!
-Jody

 

 

An eventful last few months

The past several months have been a continuous adventure. I’ve taken some exciting trips: Sehlabathebe National Park, the first national park of Lesotho, Thanksgiving and my birthday spent on the beaches of South Africa, the incredible mountains around Semongkong with new friends, and tons of small adventures intertwined.

Outside of the landscapes, waterfalls, and hikes that I love so much, I have also embarked on adventures into who I am (quick change of direction there, eh?). Some of my self-discoveries have been difficult to acknowledge and hard to face, but slowly I am getting used to them and enjoying learning to know myself better. Many of them I won’t publicly share, but I have grown and matured in ways I never thought I would. And maybe in ways I don’t even realize yet. Don’t worry, I’m still the same light-hearted and energetic guy that I’ve always been, but living alone in a one-roomed hut for over a year and a half can really get you thinking about things—relationships, religion, life goals, motivations, values, morals, and the hows and whys of life.

To say the least, I’m probably quite a different person now than I was when I arrived in Lesotho back in June 2014. That’s usually not a surprise to people when I say that: “Well of course you are; you’ve been abroad for almost two years now. We’ve all changed since you left,” Pirkle told me a while back. I know he’s right, but for the first time living alone, feeling isolated at times, and having only myself to find and interrogate true motives of my own thoughts, I have become more critical of my stances on issues, and consequently more sanguine about the development of my adapting beliefs. For me, I’ve always just tried to be who I am and there’s never been any convoluted thoughts present in my mind to explain why. Live in the moment, do what you enjoy and things typically fall into place. That’s how I’ve lived up to now and I guess it’s worked out decently. Just yesterday, actually, a seemingly impromptu Bible study broke out at a friend’s house where I visiting. In front of the group, my friend asked me tell everyone my favorite Bible verse. I tried to think back to youth group when I used to have a repertoire of favorite verses. After a while of searching through the cobwebs of my brain, still nothing surfaced and I threw my hands up. In my experience, most talks with people from the Seventh-Day Adventist Church tend to start with a subtle criticism of my life, and then finish with events forewarning the end of the world—so you get the gist of how it went. It was only after the lesson that an old favorite verse popped into my mind, but I knew I couldn’t say it without the untimely hint of sarcasm in my voice: “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” BOOM, even the Bible says you should live in the moment. I know I only have a short while longer of living this way to the max, but up to this point I have very few regrets and love how life has treated me so far.

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After many years of wanting to read On the Road, I’m finally doing it right now. So far, it’s great!

Anyways, as for my remaining time left in Lesotho I am hoping to have a prosperous final six months doing as much as I can for my community. The drought in southern Africa has been an absolute disaster for Lesotho (read briefly here and here). The farming projects we had going looked so promising. We spent about three months out in the fields planting, watering by hand from our man-made reservoirs that collected underground water and doing all the necessary hard work until there was not even a trickle from underground. Our fields were the only ones that had been plowed and planted anywhere nearby. Other farmers loved sitting and watching in amazement as three people did all of this hard work by hand (about four acres of maize). Normally, Basotho wait until after the first three rains of rainy season before they plant. After planting, Mother Nature takes care of it all up until harvest time. We got only a small harvest, but it makes me happy to see people roasting and walking around eating maize since there is no maize to be found in the entire country! My hopes of doing more farming and agriculture-related work has come to a halt and I’ve sought out other opportunities. Right now, it looks as if I will be teaching science and health at the primary school near me. I’ve tutored college students in the past, but being a teacher for grades 5-7 seems like a real challenge. I’m looking forward to it. Continuing committee work, possibly other camps and weekend events, and a few smaller farming quests will still be on the schedule as I start planning the next steps after Peace Corps.

Till next time,
Jody

Peace Corps: A Legacy of Service

Each time I watch this video I get chills. To see other people doing such wonderful projects around the world and making such a huge difference to people. In my future, I hope I will look back at my life in Lesotho and smile and remember the people I now call friends and family.

Six months remaining in Lesotho…