Sunday in Botswana

Okay, I know that I haven’t posted any pictures yet. It seems that the ones that I have been taking are too large to post…new camera still figuring it out. I promise that I will get my act together for our visit to the larger Game Reserve tomorrow. I know that you are all waiting patiently for them. David and Haley also have been taking pictures where ever we go and they will share theirs with me later on in the week. Once I have them, I promise to share immediately. Thank you for your patience.

I actually took great video today at Bahurutshe Cultural Lodge which featured African song, dance, culture and food. Take my word for it, it was a fantastic experience. I even got my first chance to dance African style. I also took great pride in making this fantastic noise in imitate of the women dancing and singing. This noise is very hard to describe but it is used in celebrating and trust me, you will all hear me make it when I come home to Canada. The drive to and from this Cultural Centre was also amazing. The landscape is so beautiful even though we are at the dry part of the year and there is very little green left. Apparently the rains are coming and soon the land will blossom even more. I can only imagine what it will look like as spring and summer truly set in. What continues to interest me is the fact that their soil and sand are almost as red as PEI’s. The land is fertile and almost anything can be grown but rain is desperately needed before anything can be planted. Animals roam free to eat where ever they can find it and as you drive down the road you literally see donkeys, goats, cattle and sheep everywhere. Driving home as we approached Kgale Hill, I live at the foot of, we saw two baboons running along side of us as we drove by. Welcome to Africa! and to think, those baboons are living not more than 1/2 mile from where I live and as I type my front door is wide open….let’s hope one doesn’t wander in to share my single bed as there really is no space left thanks to the dog and cats.

The post tonight will be brief as I am truly tired from all of the travelling, orientation and sightseeing. I am becoming a true native as I can’t wait to come home and have a nap each day with my incredibly dirty feet. Plus my three room mates woke me up last night sneaking in the tiny crack of the open window. The dog came first and broke a pot with a plant in it and then the cats followed. What a mess which I am sure the housekeeper will blame on me……

Tomorrow will be another full day, although still a holiday here, I have two huge binders of information that I need to read, perhaps by the pool, and then we are off to the larger game reserve located just on the outskirts of Gaborone. In fact it is not far from where I live at all. Just the other side of Kgale Hill. I will happily report back tomorrow night along with pictures, I promise.



A more relaxing day

Dumela mma/rra (Hello in Setswana)!

Well, it is Saturday on a long weekend and thankfully a day not jammed packed with bureaucracy, orientation or setswana lessons, which although fun – Friday afternoon after a long busy week is not an ideal time to learn the basics of a totally foreign language.  It was a morning to finally sleep in and then off to the Mall across the street – I won’t tell you how I have to cross a four lane highway to get there. It is a huge mall with pretty much everything I need. After a panicked trip home to call Visa Canada I had to make a second trip back to complete my grocery shopping.

The late afternoon and evening were spent at the Gaborone Game Park. We arrived for late afternoon which other than early morning is the best time to see the animals. For the first twenty minutes or so we only saw a few small animals and then all of a sudden we started to see lots of animals including Zebras, Impalas, warthogs, monkeys, ostriches and many others that I can’t begin to name. I had my first real surreal moment as I stood in the picnic area drinking a glass of red South African wine as we waited for our food to cook on the bbq and the monkeys came venturing forth to see what food could be gained. It finally occurred to me that this would never, ever happen in PEI!

Back to the Immigration office

Yesterday morning we returned to the Immigration Office again, this time bright and early about 7:20 am hoping to beat the mad rush…we were sadly disappointed. We walked into an already full waiting room and very long que. With the wickets set to up at 7:30 we got into long at the wicket we had gone to the afternoon before.

Very much like France, this country ques for everything it seems. But unlike France the ques are not necessarily orderly. This one in particular seemed to be insane. We stood, and stood, and stood… 8:00 am a couple of wickets had opened but they were not the ones that we needed in order to secure our Visa Exemptions. The crowd was growing and becoming increasingly more restless.  This was the Friday before the Independence Day weekend with both Monday and Tuesday being public holidays. Everyone was in a rush to have their visa applications submitted before the long weekend.

Out from behind the wickets and the office area came an official looking gentleman. All staff at the Ministry of Immigration wear uniforms that look that similar to Canada’s naval uniforms of navy pants/skirts and white shirts with epaulets. This gentleman began to enquire who was waiting for what service. He then told us all to remain in the lines in which we were already in. 15 minutes later, out came someone else to reorganize us. This time we were separated up into lines for each actual wicket.  20 minutes later with no one still getting service we were given new instructions on how to que. This meant that there was a mad dash for the front of the line in which I was in….as a short person I am assuming that no one actually saw me…in fact I was pummelled by at least 5 different women and their immense handbags as they pushed and shoved to the wicket. Fortunately there was a lovely kind gentleman in line behind me with whom I had been talking. He graciously moved into a position to protect me from being trampled by the stampede. Thank heavens for gentlemen!

The trampling was not for nothing at least. My Visa Exemption is now in process but unfortunately the couple that came from Canada at the same time as me have not been so lucky. They are living common-law and so there are many more hoops that they must jump through it would seem before their visa exemption application will be completed.

Orientation to life in Botswana

Well, I got through my first evening and full day in Botswana with major incident…sort of….

Last night we were taken out to dinner by two of the WUSC field staff and then were picked up bright and early this morning for a full day of orientation and activity. After getting a wonderful night’s sleep I was up and enjoyed breakfast on my private terrace listening to the sounds of birds and the wind in the trees. There is a huge mountain range almost next to where I am living and I feel like am not in a city at all.

The activities for today including filling out forms, visiting apartments as the other couple from Canada have not found accommodations as yet. Visiting these apartments made me realize even more how lucky I am to have found the place I am in. It is perfect for me and even last night as I was dropped off after dinner I felt like I was coming home. Tonight my landlady Jetkse gave me dog and kitty treats to keep in my apartment as I have regular company! The landlord and lady will be away for the weekend so while the housekeeper will feed the cats and dogs, I am told that they will likely be hanging out in my apartment with me when I am home.

We were taken to lunch today by the entire WUSC staff at a traditional African eatery and we sat outside in the shade in 36 degree heat but we were not too hot. The way the air feels here is so different from back home in Canada. Yes, it is hot when you are in the direct sun for long periods of time but that is what umbrellas are for and almost every place has some type of shade. The food was excellent, portions are huge here and you really do want to have a nap after you eat lunch. However, no rest for the wicked.

We spent the entire afternoon after lunch at the Immigration Office attempting to arrange our volunteer exemption visas. But first we had our pictures taken on the sidewalk outside of the Ministry building. Some of the many services that you can find on the sidewalk are street vendors selling food for lunch and apparently visa photos! You sat in a plastic chair while a woman held a white cloth behind your head and the photographer took your picture with a camera. Then you waited while the picture developed and he cut them down to size.

Next we ventured inside to the Ministry office to que and que we did for a couple of hours only to reach the counter and be told that the Revenue Office on the other side of the building had closed 1/2 hour before so therefore they could not provide us with any services. We are going back there for 7:30 tomorrow morning so that we can avoid the long line ups and get our exemption visas in process.

Tomorrow will be another full day of activity and orientation. And this weekend is a long weekend due to public holidays celebrating Botswana’s independence. Yet the caring WUSC staff are lining up activities to amuse us Canadians until Wednesday when we will have two more days of orientation before we actually start work with our organizations next Friday.

As for major incidents, I have already been described by several of the WUSC staff as unique…but none of them have refused to accompany me any where as yet. So far today, I made an entire school bus of young boys laugh and yell out the windows, danced with a man on the sidewalk and had a very silly exchange with a lovely young boy in the Immigration Office. All in a good days work for Cheryl .

Okay, it is now 7 pm my time. I need to eat supper and go to bed. Tomorrow is another very early and full day. The work day here starts at 7:30 in the morning and goes until 4:30 pm. So for all of your public servants complaining about your day it is easy compared to a day here. I am just lucky that I am a morning person so there will not be any adjustment for me.

Good night!

Day 3 of travel

Well, I definitely have to admit that 48 hours of constant travel with two all night flights is enough to burst almost anyone’s balloon….but not mine, of course.

After my post yesterday afternoon from the Frankfurt Airport where I first had to pay to use internet and than suffer the agony of typing on a keyboard laid out for German users. Let’s just say that it is frustrating to be trying to type out messages watching the clock tick down and a keyboard that is meant for another language. Following that lovely adventure I sought greener pastures, or should I say fresher body odors.

Frankfurt Airport comes equipped with shower facilities that you can pay to use and by  yesterday afternoon I was ready for both a shower and fresh clothing. My commentary on this experience will be expressed in one sentence only:

one of the most bizarre travelling experiences I have “ever” had is standing naked in the shower listening to someone barking out airport announcements in German.  Enough said!  While it was lovely to be clean, somehow it just felt utterly strange.

This was later followed by an eleven hour flight from Germany to Johannesburg, South Africa in which I had the great fortune of an empty seat next to me. Remember the stretching story from yesterday? Well, I put that flexibility to what I thought was good use and twisted my body up into a pretzel so that I could try to sleep with my feet elevated.  Picture this please, one very large bum angled into the back corner of one seat so that my two legs could be bent and twisted up over the very large, unmovable and extremely hard armrest to rest in the seat next to me. This was a pose worthy of any yogi master and caused more than one of my fellow passengers to stop and stare.

At 7:30 am South Africa time, I disembarked on the continent of Africa and my heart truly sang. For all of those who doubted whether I knew what I was getting myself into let me tell you one more time – this is truly where I want to be for the next phase of my life. The feel of the African sun and breeze felt oh so familiar and welcoming. It was like coming home only I have never been this far south on the African continent before.

After a four hour stop over in Johannesburg, it was on to one last plane and a 30 minute flight to “Gabs” as we locals call it. And this time walking off the plane onto the tarmac the feeling of being where I belonged felt even stronger. This is the Africa that you see on tv, in movies and read about in books. The sun is even hotter here than South Africa, the dust blows on the wind and call of the savanna is in the air. As I entered the terminal with everyone else I immediately sensed the bonds of community and culture. Children run barefoot through the housing sites kicking up dust that it is almost as red as PEI‘s. Women sell fresh fruit and veggies at the side of the street off of little tables. Men lounge under the canopy of leafy trees to escape the heat of the sun. Cows and other domestic animals graze there as well. While Gabs is a capital city, it is so typically African that other than the row upon row of houses and the occasional mall you could pretend that you really are in a smaller African village. For me, that is part of the magic of Africa.

Since arriving here, I have been warmly greeted by everyone I met, and the woman who passed me through customs and passport verification declared herself to my first friend in Botswana – please don’t ask me to write out the phrase as I don’t start language classes until next week. She made me repeat it at least four times and with each time both her’s and my smiles increased. Here everyone smiles at you and look for you to smile back. There is no coldness here, community is community and your colour, race, sex or appeareance does not seem to matter in the least. You are here and you are part of the community – it is as simple as that. As I related my new friend story at supper this evening I was told, be careful who you give your phone number to – and no it is not for the reasons that you think – it is because, yes, they will call you and ask you to join them for supper or what ever is on the agenda. Your are welcomed into their lives, culture and community. And once you are part of that, there is no pretending you are not. You become included in pretty much all social activities.

The generousity is astounding. My flight was early arriving and my WUSC contact was not at the gate when I came out. Once it became clear that I was looking for someone I could not find, concerned and generous shuttle drivers were offering the use of their cell phones for me to use to call my contact. Would that have happened in Canada, possibly yes but far less likely. Here in Botswana it is simply a fact of life.

It is time for bed for me as I haven’t slept really in well over 48 hours or longer considering the frenzy of packing up my house and moving last weekend. Tomorrow I will start posting pictures and stories from Botswana. I have the  most incredible little apartment that includes the use of swimming pool, my own private terrace, two cats, a dog and two tortises. I also begin my orientation process tomorrow so there will be lots to share.

Have a good nite everyone! Tonight will be my first night sleeping in Africa and my lovely landlady even left me a special African liquor which is alot like Baileys to drink before bed to help me sleep.  All is well with the World!


Day 2 – single girls got have fun

Well, I made it to Frankfurt, Germanz.  Prior to leaving Toronto i got to enjoy great people watching. It is amazing to note the differences in people and their behaviour as you change from one continent to another. In Toronto, everyone was rushing to and fro in all haste and dressed in their sunday best.

Frankfurt airport is a complete other story. one can only describe the airport as utilitarian. After spending all night upright in a plane seat i was ready to get moving off the plane. well, this girl maybe 47 but she still can find a couple of men who practically fight to help her with her luggage. Both the man next and in front of me were eager to grab my suitcase down from above and help me off the plane with it. A girl loves a gentleman!

but this girl didn’t stop there. After disembarking, grabbing breakfast/lunch depending on which time yone your are feeding your body on i went in search of a quiet corner to rest and nap. Well, i found it and after an hour of rest i was readz to be on the move again. For those of you who know me well, you know how flexible i really am. Well, upon waking and after having been in active since yesterday a really good stretch was in order.  Being so flexible, i can and do stretch out pretty much every part of my body . What i did’t realize was that while i napped my quiet corner filled up with lots of male bodies who than got to watch the cheryl cirque show. Pretty much the only stretch i didnät do were the splits…..Frankfurt airport may never let me back in…

Time to sign off for today. i fly all night again tonight from Germany to Johannesburg, south africa. then on to Gaborone, botswana. So tomorrow I will really be on African time….i can already feel the shift in my body, mind and soul.  Every moment i can feel myself grow happier! talk to you all tomorrow, Cheryl

1st leg of Travel completed!

Well, I am finally underway! The fun has begun. I just completed the 1st leg of my 48 hour journey. As I sit comfortably here at Toronto Pearson airport, I wonder was I really living in such an insane vortex of activity the past couple of months. Perhaps I am already easing into Africa time.

When I woke up this morning I knew it was going to be a wonderful day. The time of departure had finally come. As I stood at the check-in counter at the Charlottetown Airport earlier this afternoon, my sense of joy and excitment came rushing back. For those who experienced the squeals of joy when I got the infamous phone call of acceptance you know how I feel.  As I looked at my boarding passes for Toronto, Frankfurt, Johannesburg and Gaborone I had black and white proof that my dream really was happening.

I have to admit that for a person who likes to quietly, yes, I said quietly sneak out of town I was somewhat overwhelmed by the farewells, hugs, cards, presents and good wishes that have seen me off on my adventure. To everyone who shared in my joy, moments of misery (you know who you are!) and all of the myriad of details it takes to close your life in one part of the world to open it in another, Thank You!!!!  Your support, friendships, and love certainly gave me the energy and enthusiasm to handle everything on my plate.

Well it is time to head to my boarding gate to be ready for my first night of flying. Can anyone tell me why you land at one end of a huge airport and your connecting flight is at the total opposite end of the building requiring you to walk at least 3 miles in order to transfer from one flight to another? At least it is exercise before I am held captive in a massive airplane with hundreds of other bodies……

Good night and see you tomorrow with greetings from Frankfurt, Germany.