Providing Lesotho's Children with Keys to the World

This is the story of our efforts to end the vicious cycle of poverty, disease, inadequate education, and early death
in a remote rural community in Lesotho, Africa, by providing quality education and life skills
to the young children there. Join us on our journey ...

Saturday, February 23, 2013

2013 Trip Report #1: Volunteer "Mules"

This post is the start of what will hopefully be a whole series of posts to take you through our trip to Lesotho from late December 2012 to mid-February 2013.  Hopefully, some of it will be entertaining and some informative, but my main purpose is to "get it on paper" before I forget, so we have a permanent record of what happened, what worked, and what didn't.  I've tried to keep a journal on these trips, but that usually only lasts a few days before I just don't have the time to bother with it anymore.

As I noted in an earlier post, we had nine outside volunteers, including myself, participate in this trip.  The five of us who came directly from the U.S. to Lesotho got to act as "mules," carrying laptops and other project supplies with us. 

I think I still hold the L2L record for taking the heaviest load without paying any baggage fees, set last trip in late 2011 when I hauled 170 lbs (77 kg) of equipment and very few personal belongings from Idaho to Maseru.  This year, I carried a mere 150 lbs (68 kg) because I had other volunteers helping to carry some pretty heavy loads as well.

Among my many tips to maximize the amount of equipment I can take for free:  Fly on an airline that lets you take two 50 lb. bags free on international flights, maximize your carry-on with a "laptop" bag almost as big as a regular carry-on, wear a multi-pocket vest loaded down with 10 lbs of gear, carry rain gear and heavy clothing in your hand  (I've been snowed on in Lesotho during their summer, so warm clothes are a must any time of year), and buy toiletries and undergarments once in-country.  And be in good shape, because, even after you've checked those 100 lbs through to your destination, you still have 50-70 lbs of stuff to lug with you through multiple airports, on planes, and to ground transport.

Unfortunately, coming back this year, I carried almost as much weight as I took.  That was because I brought back a couple XO laptops, for repairs I couldn't do in Lesotho, a dozen defunct batteries, and a full set of Lesotho textbooks for grades 1-7.  I'm planning to pass those out to volunteers who will help us compile and/or create appropriate lessons for the XOs that will closely follow the curriculum.
Sherrie and Jen had a great idea for protecting sensitive equipment in their luggage.  They brought an inflatable foam camping pad to sleep on.  With it compressed flat and lining their bag, they packed equipment inside.  Then, they inflated the pad - instant firm padding around everything.  It was ingenious.
- Janissa
Up next - Trip Report #2: Lost Luggage and Stolen Equipment

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