2006.04.10: April 10, 2006: Headlines: COS - Lesotho: The Advocate: Marty Smith serves as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Lesotho

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Lesotho: Peace Corps Lesotho : The Peace Corps in Lesotho: 2006.04.10: April 10, 2006: Headlines: COS - Lesotho: The Advocate: Marty Smith serves as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Lesotho

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Marty Smith serves as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Lesotho

Marty Smith serves as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Lesotho

"There is nothing in the world like Peace Corps for the amount of immersion into a foreign culture that it lets you have," Smith said. "I understand that even more now, but when I was thinking of applying many years ago, it was definitely a big factor."

Marty Smith serves as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Lesotho

Northridge grad learning while he teaches
Peace Corps volunteer serving in Lesotho
Advocate Reporter

Caption: Marty Smith, left, is pictured with Sister Crecentia, the principal of St. Mary's High School in Roma, Lesotho.

NEWARK -- Marty Smith didn't even know how to pronounce Lesotho before he left the United States to serve as a Peace Corps volunteer in the small African nation.

Completely surrounded by South Africa, the developing country has a relatively low profile on the global stage. The economic effects of being surrounded by a much wealthier nation and the impact of apartheid from South Africa have played a major role in shaping the psyche of Basotho, the people of Lesotho.

"They are very proud to be from Lesotho," said Smith, a 1999 graduate of Northridge High School, via e-mail. "So it was unexpected to immediately deal with 'I am from Lesotho and you are crazy American guy.'"

After graduating from Miami University of Ohio with a degree in journalism, Smith, now 24, went through a considerable amount of training, including lessons in Sesotho, the language of the country, before he left in June of 2004. When he originally applied to the Peace Corps, he was hoping to work in the agriculture field, as he grew up on a farm. But instead he is teaching English and computer skills at St. Mary's High School, an all-girls school in Roma, Lesotho.

"There is nothing in the world like Peace Corps for the amount of immersion into a foreign culture that it lets you have," Smith said. "I understand that even more now, but when I was thinking of applying many years ago, it was definitely a big factor."

During his training, they talked about "African time" and the required adjustment that clock-watching Americans have to make. Smith was unsure how he would make that adjustment. "I have to say that one can get used to African time," Smith said. "Patience is not so much a virtue as a necessity."

Smith, son of Mark and Linda Smith of Utica, recently was visited by his mother and his siblings, Jacob, 19, Melissa, 16, and Joshua, 12. The family spent two weeks in Lesotho. "We loved it," said Linda Smith, a teacher at Homer Elementary. "It was an interesting learning experience. On the other hand, the poverty is overwhelming and hard to handle. Unless you see it, you can't understand it."

The life expectancy in Lesotho is only 37 years, in part because 30 percent of the population has AIDS. It has the third highest prevalence rate in the world, behind only Swaziland and Botswana. During Smith's time there, the deaths of people who suffered from AIDS have been attributed to tuberculosis or even the common cold.

"While this may technically be true, it completely removes HIV from the picture and this blew, and still does, me away," Smith said. "It is a disease that is banished to a darkened corner of the house and only comes out to go to the clinic when things are already too far along, or for the trip to the funeral home."

Smith will finish out his service in Lesotho in mid-June and plans to return home in August.

L.B. Whyde can be reached at (740) 328-8513 or lwhyde@newarkadvocate.com.

When this story was posted in April 2006, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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