I survived my very first coup d’état. It was very ironic how this situation began for me. I was sitting in my room reading the Peace Corps Times that I had picked up from the PC office on the way to site. This issue’s front page was about the recent Ukraine/Russia situation and had a story inside written about the situation from the view of the PCVs serving in Ukraine. They were evacuated back to the States due to the political unrest. I was reading different perspectives from volunteers who had to leave people they had come to care so much for without any notice or explanation for why they were leaving. In the middle of reading this article I got a phone call from our PC staff saying we were now on standfast. I had only just learned what this meant from the article I was reading. This is where Peace Corps accounts for all volunteers and asks them to remain where they are and wait for further news.
For me, this was strange because the village life didn’t reflect what I had been hearing was going on in the capitol. I had spent the day walking around and talking to people and no one seemed to have a hint of what was happening in the country. It was a sunny Saturday morning when there was an attempted coup in Maseru. The following Monday the police stations all around the country had been closed for safety reasons due to the headquarters in the capitol being taken over by the military. We had been receiving security updates throughout the few days that this was going on. That night I received the phone call saying we were to consolidate. Consolidation is the step where all PCVs are to travel to their designated areas set by Peace Corps’ emergency action plan (EAP). I met up with my smaller group in Mafeteng and then we all headed to our consolidation point in the neighboring district. We spent two nights consolidated within the country before Peace Corps Headquarters in Washington, D.C. assessed the situation and saw best that we move outside the country. I felt a little guilty because I immediately thought of this as a vacation. I had only been in the country for about three months at this point, and at site for only three weeks. So for me it was just another simple move and I could just go with the flow. Others had very strong roots in their communities as some were half way through their service and others were just two months from completing their service. Some were very close to their families and others even had local significant others so I understood that this was difficult for some.
For three weeks we lived a very lavish life in South Africa. All 80 PCVs serving in Lesotho were living together under one roof. The Black Mountain Resort was our home. There was sand volleyball, a swimming pool, Jacuzzi, buffets, cable television, hot showers, a movie theatre, wifi, spa treatments, game drives, mini-golf, and a full bar with pool tables and a dance floor. Life as a refugee was quite nice. Many volunteers coined it as “consolication.” I spent 21 days in consolication with 80 really cool people. I’m glad I got the chance to meet everyone that I get to share this wonderful country with. Coming back to site has been very hard for me, but now after two weeks of being back I’m starting to readjust to the village life. I think for many of us there has been an unexpected readjustment period that we have all gone through. It’s all a part of Peace Corps, I guess. Now it’s back to bucket bathes and less delicious and less nutritious meals. My Peace Corps service has been all about adjusting and readjusting to different situations at this point. Unfortunately, there will be a completely new readjustment period for me in the coming weeks. More on that later.
Some of the events from Consolication:
The Cheetah Experience seemed to be a great conservation park. They rehabilitate cheetahs, lions, leopards, black leopards, and a variety of animals. Such a great experience!
Sala hantle (stay well),