Lesotho 9 September: Maseru
Start of Southern Hemisphere Peace Run in Africa
Our team has been involved in the planning of this year’s Peace Run since the idea of traversing all countries in the Southern Hemisphere was born. And today marks the start of the southern section of the African leg of the Southern Hemisphere Peace Run in Africa!
This will be an epic journey across Africa where we will be visiting 8 countries in just under a month, covering approximately 10,000kms.
We will carry the same Peace torch that has been through 25 of the 44 countries in the Southern Hemisphere to date.
Shown here are part of our enthusiastic team, Balarka and Tafadwza. We know they're eager for the start of this year's Peace Run as they've been up since 3am. Tea in hand, they're all packed and loaded to get the show on the road as early as possible. Not even the usual garden birds were awake to chirp, "Goodbye and happy travels!".
Just one final tweak to our travel arrangements. Abhijatri soon discovers after heading out that he needs to realign one of the wires connected to the trailer lights. It seems it, unlike our team, wasn't used to be being up so early in the morning.
After months of planning, we are very excited to mark the start of our African run in a country so aptly described as the “Kingdom in the Sky,” or more commonly known to us as, Lesotho. Lesotho’s beauty is marked by its rugged landscape nestled high in the mountains and what characterises it further as a unique and special country is that it is bordered entirely by South Africa.
The Peace Run last visited Lesotho in 2013 and although it was 6 years ago, what stood out in our memory is how the word, “Khotso,” which means peace, is commonly used as a form of greeting to one another. We were looking forward to returning to this land of peace and beautiful mountains. We will be visiting schools in Maseru, the capital of Lesotho.
Unfortunately, due to an on-going strike by government school teachers, our efforts to arrange visits at government primary schools in Maseru was unsuccessful. However, we were happy to be able to visit two private schools.
When in Roma (Maseru), do as the Romans do, and sit in an upcycled sofa! Thanks Balarka for organising all our team's accomodation.
Monday morning and another early start for the team as we hike up the mountain behind our house to catch the beautiful morning sunrise.
What a fitting place for us to light the Peace Torch since it's arrival in Africa. We think the rising sun can almost be synonymous with the lighting of our Torch, both inspire us with hope for a brighter today.
Morning yoga? Or the team's failing attempt to spell out the word, "Peace," perhaps? We'll let you decide.
Our first school of the day is the American International School of Lesotho, which is located right next to the United Nations headquarters in Maseru.
Key traits that one needs throughout one's life and not just in school, to never give up. It reminds us of one of Sri Chinmoy's saying,
"Never give up, never give up!
Even if you lose your way
A great many times,
You must realise that your destination
Is sleeplessly expecting your arrival."
And arrive we do! Thank you to Teacher Jess and her class for having us. Balarka introduces our Peace Run and shares with everyone that this is the first time that the Peace Run is visiting all countries in the Southern Hemisphere. Just as the class we visit is multinational and multicutural, so too is our team, and despite our outer differences, we still share so much in common - our love of life and a curiosity to know and understand others and ourselves better.
Our team is representative of all countries since we've also all lived in different countries, and continents at various periods in our lives. Many of the learners here are from different countries and continents too.
In addition to the Peace Torch, our team is carrying artwork from Japanese art students at Kansai university in Japan. Our Peace Runner friend, Harashita, in Japan, who teaches English to Japanese university students (in addition to being a very active peace runner), inspired her students to improve their English through a fun Peace Run project. Groups of Harashita's students prepared messages of friendship in English using novel artwork posters.
Here Cliff explains the project to the students at the American International School of Lesotho and reads out the messages on the posters. Beautifully decorated with the Lesotho National Flag and various photographs, the posters are a definite hit and everyone seems delighted with the posters and to have made this special connection with people on the other side of the world. Thank you student-friends of Kansai university for this inspiring experience.
Thank-you Kansai University for following us all around the globe on the Peace Run. We feel the world is that much closer and we're all much more connected than we think.
From all here at the American International School in Maseru to all in Kansai University in Kyoto,, "Arigatogozaimashita!"
Thank you Mr Brookes and Jess for hosting us today. It was a special start to our Southern Africa Peace Run.
Our next stop is the Maseru Preparatory School. Here Mr Masasa, who is the head of classes KS1-3 introduces the Peace Run and tells the learners about the importance of fighting for peace. What may seem like a contradiction, to fight for peace, he means to strive for higher ideals of kindness and tolerance of others. He is a fighter for peace and encourages everyone present to be one too.
The painted mural behind Mr Masasa depicts country life in Lesotho amidst the spectacular landscape of the mountains, "Kingdom in the sky." The Katse Dam is also featured in the backdrop. Its life-saving water is not only precious to the people of Lesotho, but to South Africa as well.
It's Abhijatri's turn to introduce our team to Maseru Preparatory School today, and he tells everyone present that Lesotho is the first country that the Peace Run is visiting as part of our Southern Hemisphere Run, to which this receives a rapturous applause.
This time Tafadzwa uses another clue for the learners to guess which country he's from - my country has the shape of a teapot!
Shree says that the country that his great grandparents come from has now achieved the accolade of being the most populous country in the world.
When Penny asked if anyone could feel a moment's peace, some said no, but we think they did. If not, the old adage, practice makes perfect, follows on from our philosophy of never giving up. "There is no such thing as failure, unless we give up....?"
Everyone here said they'd like to become a part of our team. Abhijatri shares our motto for everyone to learn, which is "Peace begins with me." He also says that when we're on the Run that we may get tired and sometimes this makes us feel unhappy but that when we try to feel a moment's stillness and peace within that this helps us tremendously.
We feel that what makes our team strong is that we're all friends and respect one another. While we may all have different backgrounds, this makes us stronger as a team as we all have different strengths to bring forward to help each other along the way, albeit through taking the photographs, or introducing our team, to preparing the meals along the way, to making us laugh and smile. And this is why we cherish and try to seek unity in our diversity too.
We've selected the artwork shown to present to Maseru Preparatory School from Kansai University in Kyoto. Here Cliff reads out the message on the poster and shares how a group of the Japanese students made their poster to look like the Lesotho flag, which in turn was made from a collage of photos from our 2013 Peace Run in Lesotho.
Abhijatri presents Mr De Kock, the headmaster of the school with a certificate of appreciation for Maseru Preparatory School. Mr de Kock was instrumental in making our school visit possible and we are immensely grateful to him for this.
In the background, we can see here Mr Gabriel Kaphe, the Deputy Headmaster of the school. Mr Kaphe cordially welcomed us to the school and was very much supportive and interested in the peace work of the Peace Run.
After everyone had held the Torch, Balarka led a spontaneous Peace Run around the school fields. Of course, everyone wanted to take part and had lots of fun - we all agree that peace should be fun.
Our Peace Run in Lesotho finished with a short run out of the school towards Maseru Bridge, the border post with South Africa, which was the gateway to our next event in Cape Town.
Our team was all smiles as we brought to an end our first country visit on the Southern Africa section of the Southern Hemisphere Run.