Here is the view out over the Town of Kasane from the steps of a District Council Meeting room – before the Warthogs came to visit.
later on in the day, we were at a four hour meeting held at the District Police Station and the baboons came to feed and play. It is rather distracting to concentrate when baboons are sliding down poles and hanging off the windows while you are sitting in an unair-conditioned room for four straight hours in 39 degree heat. Even the locals were swooning. I will write more about our meetings later…
now I also want to tell you that the locals will explain to you that the litter in their yard is because the elephants were in their garbage – that beats the raccoons! Not sure I would want to walk outside my house and find an elephant going through my trash can.
This is the way we ended our busy but successful day today. This picture was taken from the balcony of the Hotel Mowanda where we are staying. After concluding our busy day, Oscar, Toutie and I adjourned to the deck to watch the sunset. It was worth the climb for me up the staircase but don’t tell the men I said that. Oscar is trying to reform my independent ways and get me to allow gentlemen to help me. Toutie is trying to instill even a smidgen of romance into my soul. .although I think that either one is bound to fail,It was Toutie’s idea to watch the sunset over the Chobe. I would give Oscar better odds on instilling any kind of change. Already since arriving in Botswana I have actually allowed men to lift my suitcases for me. I know for a fact that I will never turn into a romantic.
It will be a short post tonight as I am truly exhausted. It is time to crawl into my four poster African bed and sleep for tomorrow will be another busy day of making site visits to BONASO members. I seemed to have passed any number of tests today at our District Coalition meeting. Although English is the main language spoken, about 2/3 of the meeting today was a mixture of English and Setswana. Surprisingly enough I was able to continue to follow the general intent of the discussions which seemed to impress some of the participants. I also have to thank my Father as I proved my worth by being the only one in the room who was able to actually get the air conditioning going. Now that really earned me brownie points. Thanks Dad!
So good night for now and I will leave you with some pictures!
It is just passed 6:30 am here in Kasane, I am showered and dressed ready to go meet the boss for breakfast at 7:15. Today will be a very busy day with meetings with all the District Coalitions – which are both government and service providers. I would never want you to think that I am just running around having a good time. I am also working very hard. Mary N has asked that I write about me work and I definitely will but it is complicated and today will be a true learning experience for me as I need to listen very careful to what is being said by all the attendees. A huge part of my job is stakeholder relations, advocacy and communication work along with all of the other program management/organizational development work. Today I get to focus on what I love most – building stakeholder relationships and advocacy. It is a thrill to have to learn all new political systems, stakeholder systems and needs and how BONASO needs to evolve to resume its mantle of leadership for all HIV/AIDS service providers. This is no small order and a task that will keep Oscar and I very busy for the next 15 months for sure.
Well my first work related trip is now under way and of course it started with a bang. We will see if Oscar ever takes me anywhere again. Having been dropped off at the WUSC office first thing this morning by Tabuche so I could attend at least the first part of an Organizational Development Advisor meeting I can came to work dressed for the office not travelling.
Here the work dress code is significantly more formal than back home. In fact, Oscar referred to it as formal wear. I am expected to represent my organization so I must dress appropriately. This coming from a man who is consistently dressed in jeans. In fact the one day he wore a suit to the office I had to remark on how handsome he was. Yet his standard is that I must look the part. It is now a familiar joke with us. But I am happy to say that when Oscar collected me and my suitcase at the WUSC office to head to the airport, even with my professional wear my suitcase is half the size of his. He claims that his is full of books and papers – we will see.
We were delivered to the airport by Lawrence who poor man must mediate between Oscar and I constantly. Half of our drive to the airport was about dress code. Lawrence of course stayed entirely neutral. The light hearted banter continued into the airport while we waited to be checked in. The poor gentleman checking us in could only grin at times – I think that it is safe to say that Oscar and I will likely cause scenes where we travel together.
Proceeding through security clearance was a whole other story. Oscar proceeded me and to be honest I thought that I was going to end up stripping down and walking naked through the scanner. Oscar proceed with no issue other than what identity card he need to show and the removal of this belt. I on the other hand had to keep removing items. First my belt, which really is holding up my pants as I am continuing to lose weight. Next my watch and the clasp holding my hair up. Still it was beeping – the only thing left on my body that contained metal was my bra – we had a debate about that. Do women here not wear bras with metal clasps and under-wire? When I threatened to remove mine to prove that is where the metal was, they graciously allowed me to proceed through. It took me 10 minutes in the ladies room to put myself back together.
Oh, I left out the best part. As Oscar and entered the waiting area I spoke to two white young gentleman as I thought I saw them using Canadian passports. So I inquired if they were Canadians. Their response was no they were Americans. Oscars rejoiner was that I was just newly arrived from Canada was looking for homeboys – see the trouble we were are going to get into travelling together! It simply won’t be safe for Africa or anyone we encounter. It turns out the Americans are two 4th year medical students doing a two month internship in HIV and AIDS at a Gabs hospital.
Now to the best part of the journey – our plane – I have video . When Oscar saw what we would be flying in he was very vocal to say that it was awful. I on the other hand figured that it was just the type small puddle jumper that we Atlantic Canadians are use to taking between Halifax and Charlottetown. How wrong I was! During the check in process, Oscar who really is a gentleman when he is not baiting me asked for front row seats so I had room to stretch out my ankle. When he saw the plane he knew what we were getting into.
This plane is tiny and free seating. Okay you know a plane is tiny when even I have to hunch right over to make my way down the aisle. Once you get to a seat you can’t sit right away because all of your snacks are strewn on the seat. No body can get by you until you sit down – it took a long time to board the plane. Than once I stopped laughing, I had to start all over again. We were sitting near the back and before take off the co-pilot knelt on the floor at the front of the plane and gave the safety speech.We could not hear a thing – lets hope it doesn’t go down. I told Oscar that he really knows how to show a girl a good time.
Less than an hour after arriving in Kasane, Oscar had arranged for us to leave on a game drive through Chobe Park – the pictures speak for themselves. I can not begin to describe the experience of being less than two feet from an elephant and less than 20 feet from resting lions. This only a taste of what we saw, I promise to post more pictures and video when I return to Gabs. Would someone please pinch me, I can’t believe that I am living this life!
I was just sound a sleep in bed resting up for what will be hectic days and was woken up by the sound of thunder. The sky had been cloudy most of today, the first time since I arrived. It was welcomed as it was not so hot today as it has been. When would you ever have heard me say that 30 degrees was not hot? The thunder and accompanying lighting filled the night sky for about 10 minutes and than the rain came. Now I see why they call it “the rain’.
It literally pours, the sound drumming on the tile roofs of the houses and cascades down in a torrent. The sound is memorizing and almost deafening in volume. And than it stops just as quickly as it came. The night air is fresher and quieter. Locals will be happy as they have been wanting the rain ever since I arrived. Now it is quiet I can return to bed and finish my night’s rest.
Wow! This morning I or should I say Tabuche encountered our first MAJOR traffic jam while heading to the office. It was totally insane – I have never seen anything like it, not even in Paris or Casablanca which both have crazy drivers.
There has been some traffic in the mornings but nothing compared to what I was use to in Toronto or other larger cities. As we approached our last roundabout before turning down the main street off which is located the subdivision containing my office Tabuche exclaimed. He never exclaims! I looked up and saw a major back up of traffic but what was unusual was it was also completed backed up in our left turn lane to get to my office. And the traffic was simply not moving.
After idling for about 15 minutes, Tabuche shut off the car and prepared for a good long wait. However, about 10 minutes later we were able to creep forward. At first Tabuche and I supposed that maybe it was parents dropping off children at the school which is located just below my office. My thought was if that was it make the little buggers walk so the rest of the traffic can move through. Tabuche didn’t know what to make of this…I had to eventually explain that I didn’t really mean it…of course he will never know that I did!
But after continuing to just creep along I figured that it must be an accident. As we finally made our way around the left hand turn and got onto the side road we had a full view of the chaos. There were five lanes of traffic where there should only be two. Three or four vehicles were all angling trying to get into the same spot to drive forward. Cars were driving up over the sandy shoulders. I know that I can not even begin to describe the scene of chaos other than I turned to Tabuche and said “and this is why I don’t want to buy a car and drive in Gaborone”.
Once we made the left hand turn again which took us right by the school we were finally able to see that yes, there had been an accident and everyone and their dog was trying to steer around it and didn’t care how they did it. Thanks to calmness and a sense of purpose Tabuche was able to fairly easily navigate through the never-ending chaos and jockeying for position and slipped up a side street to take a back route to my office. I arrived only 15 minutes thanks to his expert driving (we are usually 15 minutes early in the event we hit traffic so all was well).
On our drive home tonight I continued to amuse Tabuche. After an exhausting day I was more than a little tired. As we were zooming along I notices some animals grazing by the roadside…not unusual here as livestock roams free to graze on whatever nourishment that they can find. I could only see tails swishing and assumed that it was calves roaming and started to tell Tabuche how I love cattle and grew up on a farm. He just smiled at me and agreed and then politely pointed out that they are actually donkeys. I will never live that one down.
Well I really earned my Pulas today as Oscar tossed me gleefully into the fires and I loved it. This job will certainly be a challenge but it will also be a wonderful learning environment for me. I was promoted three times today to what they call Deputy Chief (Oscar is Chief) and than fired just as many times including once by the computer network installer who wanted to send me back to Canada…no I won’t say what I did to deserve that…
Oscar and I are off to Zasane tomorrow after some nail-biting this afternoon about whether our funder would actually pay for the trip or not. Oscar played ball, won and we are off with his promise to try to take me over the border to Zimbabwe to Victoria Falls http://www.zambiatourism.com/travel/places/victoria.htm. How great of a boss is that! Chobe Park and Victoria Falls all in my first week of employment.
Good bye for now, I am not sure whether I will be able to access internet when I am up North and travelling. So the next post may not be until Sunday evening but I promise that it will be a good one!
As you in Canada spend a quiet day with your families and loved ones, I am also reflecting about those things for which I am grateful:
In no particular order
Air conditioning – as I made the daily migration at 2:30 this afternoon from my temporary office to the boardroom which has an air conditioner I am truly grateful for this invention as the temperature is once again 36 or 37 degrees outside. As I look at the control that reads it is cooling to 16 degrees and I am still covered in a dewy shine I can only imagine what it would be like if there was no air conditioning in that building or my cosy apartment.
Tabuche, my personal driver – He is a saint for driving me I swear. He is kind, honest, reliable, incredible punctual and patient as I ask him fifteen thousand questions on the way to and from work, after all he is a captive audience. He even texts and calls me when I am late leaving my office – See Mary Nicholson, that is what you need in order to leave on time.
Okay, this one is pretty petty but I adore having my laundry and ironing done for me. I have this amazing magic hamper. I put the dirty clothes in and two days later they are clean, ironed better than I ever could and hung in my closet. It is truly magic…this must be how men feel all of the time! Maybe I will never be able to come back to Canada unless someone promises me clean pressed clothes. The only downside to this is that they also iron my long dresses….now I can’t walk in them because they are at least a good foot longer than I am tall so I am constantly tripping. Oh well, the sacrifice is worth it.
I am truly grateful that I get the opportunity to live in and explore this amazing country. When I said that I wanted to live in African and started looking for opportunities, Botswana was not even on my radar. Now I can not begin to tell you how happy I am to have come here. It is like a match made in heaven. Yes, like everywhere else on this earth, it has its good points and it’s bad. But I can not imagine being anywhere else – not even Morocco which has always been my paradise. Botswana does not have the sensory overload that Morocco offers but it offers something so much better – it feels like home in every sense of the word. The people, the landscape, the culture, the work and the life. I am so very thankful to be here. An example of the amazing culture can be seen in the video that I took at the Cultural Center, unfortunately the video is too large to load on this page but you can click this link and watch it on YouTube: http://youtu.be/akl9DBeVUIQ
My boss, Oscar and work colleagues, Lawrence and Mash Letang. They have been so incredibly welcoming to me and I can not begin to thank them enough for that. In fact Lawrence, our finance guru worked this weekend cleaning up an office with an air conditioner for me. And Oscar, you are going to hear lots about Oscar in this blog. Envision this – a male Cheryl! When he enters the office it is like a vortex of activity has hit, his voice booms, his cell phone rings constantly, he moving from place to place and he is calling out for one or all of us. He is never still, or at least I haven’t seen it yet. I now call him the Big Boss or Master which makes him laugh. He is brilliant, kind, a gentleman, even more frank than me and a shit disturber. Like Botswana, having him as a boss is like a match made in heaven. We will be an incredible team along with Lawrence and Mash Letang and soon to be one other person. Civil society and government in Botswana won’t know what hit them when the A Team kicks into full action.
The work that I will get to do, especially the gender equality work. I have always been thankful that I grew up in a country where women’s lives and access to education and work are more progressive than some other places in the world. Now I am in a country and a continent that sworn to take action on behalf of women and children to increase access to health care, education and protection from gender based violence. As a self identified feminist, former staff member of the Status of Women and long time human rights volunteer this work is incredibly important to me and I hope that I can make a difference for just one woman if at all possible. The importance of the work I am now doing hit home for this afternoon when I read this quote: ” Two pandemics threaten the health, lives and rights of women throughout the world: one is HIV & AIDS and the other is gender-based violence against women and girls. Violence against women and girls is a major contributor to death and illness among women, as well as social isolation, loss of economic productivity, and loss of personal freedom. Research confirms that violence, and particularly intimate partner violence, also is a leading factor in the increasing “feminization” of the global AIDS pandemic, resulting in disproportionately higher rates of HIV infection among women and girls. Simultaneously, evidence confirms HIV & AIDS as both a cause and a consequence of the gender-based violence, stigma and discrimination that women and girls face in their families and communities, in peace and in conflict settings, by state and non-state actors, and within and outside of intimate partnerships”. Please wear a purple ribbon for me on December 6th and do your share to prevent gender-based violence. I have never missed marking Dec 6th since it happened and this year I have already been invited to participate in a similar program here in Botswana in late November.
And finally, the most important thing for which I am truly grateful – my incredible support system which includes far too many to personally name each one but you know exactly who you are. I am so thankful to have your love and that you support me no matter what crazy idea I am pursuing. My Mom told me yesterday on the phone that she thinks that I am the happiest that I have ever been and I agree with her. But that happiness doesn’t just come from being on this grand adventure in a wonderful country. It comes because of all of the love and support I know that I have and it is only a phone call or email away. I have spent a life time developing that support system and I haven’t always been that great at keeping in touch when I am off being independent which I do frequently. This time I now truly know the value of what I have and will never again take it for granted. Yes, Noelle as my oldest and best friend I have finally learned how to communicate just how much I love you and others! To those who are always there for me please know that even though half the world separates us you will always be right here with me. Ke a go rata – I love you!
This morning I had a lazy start to the day after getting up early yesterday morning and heading over the Game City Mall at 9 am for a full four-hour stint of roaming, shopping and then the Thanksgiving celebration. As I didn’t need to vacate my unit by 9 am this morning so Tanynela could come in and tidy up; I puttered around and somehow seemed to take a long time to accomplish anything.
After a relaxing morning spent puttering and reading documents for work, I decided to go exploring further a field. And that meant taking a Combi! Fully prepared this time with full sun protection including a hat and light wrap off I set. My destination was Main Mall, which is located in downtown Gabs right beside the Government Enclave. I have heard a lot about this area including that it has an African artists market, it was close to the National Museum and there was a tourist information centre close by. Win, win – while the intent was good – the actualization was something different.
Okay, first I cheated as I took a special (shared) taxi to the Main Mall. I resorted to this after every Combi that can to my closest stop was jammed to the gills with bodies. Good grief, doesn’t anyone stay at home on Sunday any more. After a less crowded but equally hot ride down town to Main Mall, I arrived at what was basically a deserted mall. Sure there were a few people around and about 1/3 of the stores were open but not a traditional stall in sight.
Not to be defeated, I walked the entire length of the mall and saw what I wasn’t missing. Nobody hangs around down town Gabs on a Sunday. Determined to make the best of it, I headed off to the National Museum. At least it would give me relief from the blazing African sun and I could soak up some culture. Well, again the best of plans was foiled. After having to cross streets at actual cross walks, which I have been told is more dangerous than simply jaywalking, I saunter up to the reception kiosk of the museum. After exchanging dumela mma greetings, I produce my pulas and ask for one admission. The response is that the museum is currently closed due to no power – guess I should have called ahead!
Oh well, there is always the tourism information centre to be visited as I am on a mad quest for an actual city of Gabs map. Off I go again…..and you guessed it! Also closed. Well, by now I have had enough of down town and the blazing sun so I amble off (it is impossible to rush or even walk faster here as it so dang hot during the middle of the day) to the combi stand willing to take my chances.
I strike gold after the third attempt. After at least three packed to the gills combies had pulled up, disgorged and refilled, I finally make it into one headed for “The Station”. Thanks to the new friend that I made at the combi stop I was able to squeeze into the combi in the last jump seat. Now part of my combi training had instructed me into which seats are best in a combi. Given that almost every combi that I have actually made it into have been holding the requisite 12 to 15 passengers, beggars can’t be chosers. But being in the jump seat means that you are in the collapsible seat right by the door so every time the combi stops, which is frequently, to disgorge passengers you must jump out, wait for them to exit, hope that whoever is getting in leaves a seat for you. Luckily for me I was able to get back in every time. In fact my new friend jumped out at one point after the front seat next the driver had emptied out and signaled me to get in there with her. It was a more relaxing drive to the “Station” as I didn’t have to jump out anymore.
Having finally made my way to the “Station” which has an atmosphere that can only be equated to the street markets of Paris but over a much larger space and jammed filled with parked and moving vehicles, bodies and stalls. It is an experience in and of itself. Once I am feeling more cocky I will actually take pictures while I am there to share with you all. For now, I don’t want to pull out my camera and appear to be a totally vulnerable being begging to be robbed.
After making my way through the throng from where my combi let me off, headed in the general direction of the combi rank which will take me home, I decided to wander into the Railway Centre Mall and in doing so, I truly found paradise. As I stepped in to the mall I saw a large store at one end called “Food Lovers”. Having been told about this store yesterday during the drive to the game park I knew what I had found! It is a grocery store specially for those with western tastes. As I entered into the fruit and veggie section I could only look and drool. Finally, here was every kind of fruit and vegetable you could ever ask for. After wandering through and picking up a few items I headed out into the mall itself.
My trip to paradise continued as I soon happened upon Milky Lane. Again, having been told yesterday about this tasty site I couldn’t have been happier to find it. This shop gives Frosty Treat and DQ a run for its money with a little Tims thrown in. After consuming a nicecream cone which helped to soothe my parched throat I set up to explore the rest of the mall. This mall will no doubt become a regular haunt as it has some really great stores and I know I will be back to buy groceries here. Although even with my two smaller sized bags of goods it was still difficult clambering into and out of the two combies I need to take back home. By the time I actually entered my apartment I was truly hot and sweaty and just needed to turn on the air con and relax for 15 minutes.
Happy Thankgiving or as they say thanks in Setswana – Ke a leboga!
Well, I have just returned from celebrating Thanksgiving with other Canadian and wanna be Canadians at a braai in the Game Preserve. When we arrived for 3 pm this afternoon it appeared that we were not the only ones planning on having a party at one of the Game preserve’s picnic sites. The line up for registration was long and the parking lot was jammed packed. Thankfully, Chillie, WUSC’s Country Coordinator was able to save the day as he was already in the line up and was able to register our vehicles and pay the fee. Thank you Chillie.
Meanwhile others were already inside and had staked out a great spot. As we drove by the other picnic sites it was clear that everyone was in the mood for a party. I had been told last week that this was the place to have a great party and we certainly experienced that first hand today. Everyone brought food and as usual when Canadians get together there is always way too much to eat. Chillie saved the day once again and took over as chief bbq chef and did a fantastic job. The kids ran around playing and we all talked, and talked, and talked. It was a wonderful opportunity to met the other WUSC volunteers including those posted out in the rural areas who came into Gabs specifically to attend our Thanksgiving Braai. Fun was had by all and the kids got a special treat of riding in the back of one of the pick-up trucks through the preserve on the way back to the main gate and parking lot where they transferred into their safe rides home.
One thing that I love about this country is that my feet are constantly filthy! Yes, I said filthy and I love it. Much to my mother’s consternation I have spent my whole entire life trying to run around barefoot, even in the winter when I could get away with it. Here I am constantly in my sandals or barefoot. With the red sand/dust your toes are never the colour that god made them. I even get to go to bed with dirty toes as my housekeeper doesn’t seem to mind in the least that the sheets get dirty. I am truly being spoiled! One more reason to love Botswana.
I hope that you all have a wonderful traditional Thanksgiving tomorrow! Even though I ate beef and chicken not turkey (yes, Noelle, no turkey) our thanksgiving was a wonderful example of how it doesn’t matter what you eat but who you share it with makes it the holiday. Talk to you tomorrow!