Alder, Greg*: The Mountain School (2013)
* RPCV Lesotho (2003-2006)
Discussion: Wednesday, September 16, 2015, 6:30-8:00 pm. Location at the home of Patrice Hudson, 4222 SE Morrison St in Portland, 503-866-7020. Participating in our discussion–in person–will be Greg Alder, the book’s author! Feel free to bring snacks to share.
Synopsis: The Kingdom of Lesotho is a mountainous enclave in southern Africa, and like mountain zones throughout the world it is isolated, steeped in tradition, and home to few outsiders. The people, known as Basotho, are respected in the area as the only tribe never to be defeated by European colonizers. Greg Alder arrives in Tšoeneng as the village’s first foreign resident since 1966. In that year, the Canadian priest who had been living there was robbed and murdered in his quarters. Set up as a Peace Corps teacher at the village’s secondary school, Alder finds himself incompetent in so many unexpected ways. How do you keep warm in this place where it snows but there is no electricity? For how long can dinners of cornmeal and leaves sustain you? Tšoeneng is a world apart from his home in America. But he persists in becoming familiar with the new lifestyle; he learns to speak the strange local tongue and is eventually invited to participate in initiation rites. Yet even as he seems accepted into the Tšoeneng fold, he sees how much of an outsider he will always remain—and perhaps want to remain. The Mountain School is insightful, candid, at times adaptive and at times rebellious. It is the ultimate tale of the transplant.