Arriving in Lesotho

I’m here, jet-lagged, ears ringing, wakeful in the night, bleary and unfocused by day, but in love, enraptured, swept away by the beauty of parched golden-colored land, by the warm shy smiles of strangers, by the two-handed handshakes of old friends, by the echoing racket of roosters, by the squawking of great gray ibises (called Ha-de-dah’s by the Whites). I’m here, intoxicated by great clouds of lavender blossoming Syringa trees, by cascading bright green willows, by a fine powdery dust that makes the air glint in bright clear sunlight, by the music of the Sesotho language, by dog-bark and laughter heard across mountain valleys. Intoxicated with my privilege, I’m here.

I had my day with Christine after a night sitting up in an impossibly crowded plane (every seat taken). Six hours with Christine swept by as if it were half an hour. There we were in the City of Westminster drinking coffee, drifting through the past four decades of our lives as if we could see it from a distance, tears flashing in our eyes and gales of laughter. We caressed shared memories, we held each other’s losses, were embarrassed (that would be mostly me) by our foolishness. We saw what really mattered over the last forty years and what only seemed at the time to matter. We saw and affirmed for each other what is alike in us (great, fat generous hearts) and what is different (she rooted, me wandering). We saw what has driven us, what held us back, what we chose. We saw and held hands and commended each other, thanked each other, and planned she’ll come to the USA in 2012 and stay a while.

Then back to Heathrow (a nightmare of bad management and stupid policies with bad signage) and a second long night sitting up, cramped, back slumped and knees jammed) and finally to Johannesburg. On the plane I’d begun to feel my heart race with emotion hearing the different accents of Black-inflected and White-inflected English, feeling again the sharp and violent history of Apartheid, the still-new energy of freedom, the disappointment that followed the hopes, the memory.

On the plane I felt it, in the airport I heard the accents of two different kinds of White South Africans and the nuanced distrust between them; I heard cleaning women speaking Zulu and Xhosa; and in the transfer lounge I sat with a group of men from Swaziland and watched their playful ease: touching each other, holding hands, leaning on each other’s shoulders with easy affection that made my eyes smile.

Finally after delays, after a bumpy ride in a small plane even more cramped than the great crowded jets of the two nights, finally, at 3 p.m. on Friday afternoon, I climbed down a rickety stair into a breezy, sunny Spring afternoon in Lesotho. I have written this between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. on Saturday as the morning darkness has filled with a rising chorus of roosters summoning a dawn that has not yet shown itself. Soon I will sneak out for a dawn walk and some photographs. Forget Jetzone and Advil PM. Nothing makes me sleep, I am alert at the wrong time, ears ringing, heart pounding, faintly nauseated, legs swollen (though the compression hose did help), eyes bleary.


My morning walk was divine, though I couldn’t stop myself and walked for an hour and a half, after which I collapsed and could not move for half an hour. Now I’m in Chris Dunton’s office, on his computer. I have arrived on a holiday weekend when the students are away, so we have some hope I’ll be able to post this on the blog, though even with the students gone, pictures are impossible. I’ll say more later about Chris and his welcoming home and table, our stroll around campus last night, our first talks. He had a bad fall six weeks ago that has left him with a sore back, so he walks with difficulty but insisted on indulging my hunger to see and smell and hear the land where I lived for two very eventful years. I find it even more beautiful now. I have had twelve years of separation to make it dearer to me than it was then, and I loved it then. After I post this, I will summon my energy, quiet my pounding heart, and go puffing and gasping up the hillside to M’e Mpho’s house.

About Kendall

Undoing white supremacy and capitalism, one photograph at a time.
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13 Responses to Arriving in Lesotho

  1. Ann says:

    Bless you. You made it. Hurray, Kendall. I am so happy to read you, to travel with your words, to feel what you must be feeling, to see with your poetic language the clouds of intoxicating lavender, the blossoming trees, the honey colored land… No need to tell you to take it easy, you’ll race your heart to falling in love with Africa again. So I’ll just say, bless your heart. Live. Enjoy, be happy. Now is your time.

  2. Bravo! If it weren’t for the delicious air and the landscape and all the personal excitements one would have course have expired hours ago on the hideous conveyance – and you don’t have to remind me of the Heathrow nightmare. I’m awfully pleased your London rendezvous went well though. But you must tell us exactly where you are so we can track you down and get at least some second-hand impression of your exotic surroundings. Is it Maseru, which I see has a sort of airport?

    Blessings from Sintra, which until I re-adapt looks like a scruffy back yard where someone has thrown an untidy pile of stones.

  3. Darlene Olivo says:

    Oh, how wonderful to know you are safe and in thrall, albeit with ringing ears and your circadian rhythm doing the Hokey Pokey. Thanks for the vivid descriptions, the sensory details. I stand in awe of your courage to follow your heart in this, and count myself fortunate to be among your friends.

    Much love,

  4. Uomi Brog says:

    Your excitement is so palpable, thank you for sharing, I am delighted with your ability to post, somehow did not expect it, so all the more pleased. Keep it going that stream of your creative outpouring, there has got to be a book in the making. Happy Trails!

  5. John Guarino says:

    I’m smiling. Thank you for sharing all this.

  6. Margareta says:

    So glad to hear that the journey went reasonably well! Thank you for sharing your exitement and thoughts! Hugs!

  7. leiflife says:

    Oh… Dear Kendall… How vividly you share those first few hours of “being there”. No photographs, but marvelous word pictures that let us see, smell, taste, hear, and feel with you. I was rapt as I read your spilling forth of heartfelt joy at what you found. So familiar, yet made new by the years away. A coming home of sorts; I know this from your words. Love and thanks, dear friend, for your great, fat generous heart.

  8. Kim Sharp says:

    Don’t you wish our bodies would/could keep up with our spirits? Your spirit is soaring in spite of it all. EnJoy!

  9. Anne Eberle says:

    Dear blurry happy K – hurrah for your safe, if not always comfortable, journey & arrival and for all that you recognize and love about Lesotho. You will shine the wonderful musical colorful exuberance of its people back to them, and record that with your camera as well as their troubles and hardships. Bless you for taking time to share with us your trip, your brief intense time with Christine, and your arrival. love, Æ

  10. Barbara Charman says:

    You arrived safely to all the beauty and joy you anticipated. I’m so happy for you. Continue to soar in your bubble of light.

  11. Kendall says:

    Thanks so much. Electricity erratic. I have pictures to go with everything, but they will have to wait till November. Bless you for your wonderful comments.

  12. Betsey L. Josselyn says:

    You are safe and I wish I had checked here earlier. I’m so relieved. x

  13. Keith says:

    Dear Kendall, now that I am feeling quite a bit better I’m going to start again at the beginning of your odyssey and read it with pleasure. It might take me a while still, because I don’t want to overdo things and suffer a setback; but I’ve just re-read this posting and am looking forward to the unfolding story of your visit. Your writing seems to bring Lesotho alive, not that I have any experience with which to compare it, but I can see and hear and smell and feel the country in your words; and I don’t doubt them in the slightest.

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