Tanzania Here I Come!

There is nothing excites me more than heading to the airport for destinations unknown. Having Tabuche to take me there makes it even better. I have come to enjoy having him treat me like a lady. When I come back to Canada I am not sure if I will ever be able to carry my own suitcase in and out of an airport….
The only thing that I will say about my trip through security is that I have another bra that has made it on to the no-fly list! I swear that this one must have been made with titanium as it sent the scanner into overdrive. After a visit to a room along with a female security guard and a wand they were finally assured that I wasn’t packing metal other than what was in my bra.
Sitting in the departure lounge I watched as one of the largest beetles I think I have ever since ambled its way across the floor and right underneath the suitcase of a man sitting in the row of seats across from me. I was thankful that both my cloth African purse and pack were safely on the seat next to me. I also have to say that the purchase of these two items were the smartest I made early on in my stay. The purse is perfect for carrying my wallet and other items close to my body as you wear it across your shoulder and chest. The backpack is perfect for carrying around my laptop so that no one knows that I have it on me. I have finally found the perfect combination of carry-ons for travelling with!
This time going through Joburg (Johannesburg) airport I was fresh as a daisy with time to kill waiting for my connecting flight to Dar Es Salaam. When I had come through Joburg on my 48 hour sojourn to Botswana, I was not in any shape to explore and enjoy the incredible shops in the Joburg airport. This time I wasted no time headed to the concourse and African shops. It was gratifying to know that even though I had last traversed this airport after 48 hours of non-stop travelling, yet I easily knew exactly where to go and how to get ahead of the crowds for passport control and security.
After converting some pula into South African Rands, I was set to explore the shops called out of Africa. They are a treasure trove of delights from all of the Southern African countries and beyond. In fact, I was able to buy a new set of blue Moroccan earrings. My first pair are now about 25 years old and were purchased in the Marrakesh souk and are still one of my favorite pair of earrings to wear. My other purchase in Out of Africa were silver charms for my Mother and I. We will need to fight over who gets the hippo and who gets the giraffe. These charms will go on our silver charm bracelets which I started the Christmas that we spent in Polperro (Cornwall England) in 2001. Each time we travel to the UK or Europe a new meaningful charm is added to our bracelets. Now we have African animals to hang next to our Eiffel towers, Welsh lovespoons and Celtic crosses. Talk about an eclectic mix but at least I also have hedgehog and ladybug charms too, so the hippo or giraffe won’t be lonely.
Luckily I stopped shopping there! After wandering through the duty free store and admiring the Tanzanite jewellery, I came across a stunning pair of South African diamond earrings. They were 1 caret square cut stones that sparkled like I have never seen before. After a quick conversion of Rands to Canadian dollars I was able to move on without purchasing the $3100 earrings. Thankfully, I was just as happy with the 55 Rand Moroccan earrings instead. But a girl can dream can’t she????

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Christmas in Zanzibar!!!!!

Two more sleeps before I head out on my special Christmas trip to Dar es Saleem, Tanzania and Zanzibar Island. I say go big or stay home so I chose one of the most exotic locations in Africa to visit for Christmas. In fact I have wanted to visited Zanzibar for a long time and never thought that I would be able to afford to make the trip. As it is not that far from Botswana I decided to splurge and go for it. I may only live in Africa once so I want to make the most of it.

So you can see exactly where I am going in relation to Botswana, here are maps:

Tanzania is home to Mount Kilimanjaro but I won’t be going that far north.  As you can see, Dar es Saleem is a sea port city right on the Indian Ocean. It is a vibrant and bustling city of commerce as it is on many of World’s main shipping routes. I am going to browse the amazing markets where you can buy anything from food, or crafts to a love potion. Who knows what I might come with ……

Here is a great website that you can check that will give you a flavour of some of the things I can do while in Dar : http://migrationology.com/2012/04/things-to-do-in-dar-es-salaam-tanzania/

But my real destination is Zanzibar Island or Spice Island as it is commonly referred to. The island is part of an archipelago and it sits about 25 kms off of Tanzania. I will be on the Island from Dec 23 until Dec 28 and I can’t wait to get there. I am staying in Stone Town which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Like Constantinople (Istanbul, Turkey) Zanzibar has been a pivotal hub of many different civilizations in this part of the world.

The architecture reflects the Persian, Arab, Indian, Portuguese and British history.  I first heard about the island through the memoirs of an Arab Princess, who lived on Zanzibar and wrote her memoirs after living a very exotic life. Her story can be found here: http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/ruete/arabian/arabian.html

Here are some more links that will give you an idea of the paradise that I am travelling to:

http://migrationology.com/2011/04/40-things-to-do-in-zanzibar-1/

http://migrationology.com/2011/04/40-things-to-do-in-zanzibar-2/

I can’t wait to explore the Spice plantations, the amazing architecture of Stone Town and of course the beaches. So stayed tuned for some great posts of pictures and stories because I am sure that I will have a few to share with you after Christmas. My only issue is that the two men in my life are fighting over who gets to take me to the airport on Thursday morning. I think that Tabuche won that round as he claimed the honour first but Lawrence says that he is going to come to see me off too….what is a girl to do????

Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Today I received an incredible present that turned a gruelling day into a happy one. The special gift was a package of Christmas cards and letters from my friends and colleagues at Veterans Affairs Canada, Policy Division. They proved that although I am gone, I am not so easily forgotten.

To Mike, Ken, Barb, Jo, Rhonda, Mary thank you so very much for your thoughtfulness!!!! I can not begin to express how much it meant to me.

While I am loving being here in Botswana, I have had an incredibly difficult month at work which you would never know from my blog postings. Your thoughtfulness and kindness could not have been better timed.

Your cards and notes made me smile and laugh – yes, Jo I am up to no good as usual.

Being an international volunteer is exciting and fun but at times it is daunting, exhausting and overwhelming. Knowing that people actually care about you and how you are feeling/coping is really important. It gives you the strength to pick yourself up again and get on with the job no matter how daunting the task.

So thank you from the bottom of my heart for reminding me that I still have a place in your thoughts!

The Ritual of Tea

It is eleven hours since I last posted and I have to admit that I took a little time to relax today in the pool before the rain and thunder came and forced me inside.

While Canada is looking promising for a white Christmas, I am guaranteed to be pool and beach side. Just have to keep rubbing it in, sorry!!! Actually I am sitting here sweating because it is so hot. I just finished preparing my dinner which always makes my kitchen/study area extra warm. So there you see, there are downsides to the heat….but I will take it over snow any day.

Before preparing my meal, I was on skype with my parents for our Sunday visit. In talking to them and telling them about my week, I was reminded that I had some observations that I particularly wanted to share with some of my fellow tea drinkers. Having brought a stash of David’s Tea with me when I arrived(which has since depleted itself – help!!!), I was happy to find that tea is serious business here.

Botswana was once a British Protectorate and the First President was married to an English woman. This is the only explanation that I can make for how seriously this Country and citizens take the tea ritual. Starting off, Oscar didn’t even blink twice on my first day of work and I insisted on a kettle so I could make tea. In fact he promptly brought one from home for me to use which I did until one day when I plugged it in and fire came out the wall….I had to wait until an electrician came to fix the wiring in our kitchen.

I am certainly not the only one who needs a cup of tea to make it through the day. When ever you go for a meeting there is always an elaborate tea ritual. The ritual certainly gets more elaborate the higher up you are. Whenever I attend meetings at the Ministry (Canadian government pay attention) there are staff specifically employed to bring you tea. It usually arrives on a very nice tray and consists of both Five Roses (black tea) and Rooibos (thank heavens they have caffeine free or the country would suffer if I was forced to drink black tea). And there is ALWAYS a plate of biscuits (cookies as we refer to them in Canada).

When the tea tray arrives, almost every meeting comes screeching to a halt and no one settles until they have got their tea and biscuits. Often the battle for the biscuits are very competitive. Fortunately, I seldom ever eat the cookies, only if it is a very very long meeting and I am starving. However, others make a mad dash for their favourites. It is really very funny to watch.

The larger the meeting, the more fascinating the ritual is. When it is a large group of people and the meeting is all morning, afternoon or all day, tea break becomes sacrosanct. During these occasions the tea ritual is elevated to also include sandwiches and other types of snacks including juice and all so important biscuits. Trust me, I have learned from very personal experience that you do not mess with this ritual.

Never ever delay tea break so you can continue a presentation or discussion- if you do so it is at risk of your life – seriously!!!

NEVER, EVER think that you can save time and money by skipping the tea break at an all morning or afternoon meeting. I will not tell what happened when I witnessed this one. I just know that I will never ever suggest saving money by skipping tea break for anything that I might organize.

And never just offer tea without biscuits. Really people what are you thinking??????

To reinforce this I will end this post by telling you about my breakfast yesterday morning. I love Saturday mornings that allow me to get up and saunter across the death walk to Cafe Dijo for breakfast. This is a fantastic cafe located in the shopping complex almost directly across from where I live. It is frequented by locals and ex-pats equally and truly offers some of the best food around in a cafe environment. It opens early and closes at 4 pm on weekdays, 1 pm on Saturday and is closed all day Sunday. So I am very limited as to when I can actually go there with Saturday morning or lunch being my only opportunities.

Yesterday morning I headed off after a night of dancing and very little sleep to enjoy breakfast before I got into the whirlwind of activities planned for the day. After ordering French toast and real maple syrup along with camomile tea at the counter I went and sat outside in the courtyard that they have tables set up. Within a couple of minutes my pot of steaming hot camomile tea arrived for me to sip while I waited for my breakfast to be prepared. And there on the cup and saucer placed in front of me was also Cafe Dijo’s signature shortbread biscuit. Who cares if it is not even 8 am and maple syrup is on the way, I munched on the cookie while I sipped my tea and listened to the birds.

And that folks is the tea ritual here in Africa. Fortunately I have access to yummy Rooibos tea which comes from South Africa to drink while I wait desperately for my stock of David’s Tea to arrive. I have two shipments coming. One from my parents who promptly went and got some Organic Detox tea to send me when they heard my pitiful cries for mercy. They sent the package about five weeks ago.

The second shipment is a huge box which was ordered and shipped to the WUSC Ottawa Office – I have now co-opted about five other people to drinking David’s Tea. Our Regional Director and Country Director are in Ottawa and returning to Botswana mid to late week and are charged with the couriering of the David’s Tea package.  I will likely be gone on my trip and won’t get my fix until I return just before New Years.

Oh well, at least I know some is coming. By the way, I made the mistake of looking on the David’s Tea website the other day and saw their newest addition – Mint Chocolate Rooibos!!!!! If there is anyone out there who loves me they will send me some. I know that it will take a month and half to get here but oh, I can tell that it will be worth the wait.  Here is hoping that someone actually loves me!

 

 

Festive Season

Here in Botswana the holiday season or rather I should say, the whole month of December is called “Festive Season”. I wasn’t sure what that meant until I got to experience it first hand.

Starting with the last weekend of November everyone here started to party! Most noticeable for me was what was taking place just down the street from our house. At the top of our street is a bottle (liquor) store located in a mini mall with a large parking lot. What happens here at the end of every month is quite interesting. First, I will explain that everyone here is generally only paid once a month. That means that month end here is insane. There are incredibly long line-ups for everything: ATMs, gas stations, buying air time for cell phones, etc. I have learned to never shop unless critical at month end. And in December people are given an extra pay cheque called the “13” pay.

So month end also signals parties in the parking lot of the bottle stores. Yes, they buy their beer or whatever at the bottle store and then just stay put in the parking lot in very large crowds to drink it. So since the advent of December and Festive Season, there have been non stop parties in the parking lot and else where. As people kept pointing out to me yesterday, I have been out dancing every Friday night for about the last three weeks! Which is true and has made me very happy. I may not like Christmas but I love to dance so I am happy to leap on that bandwagon! Although I have to admit that I am starting to wear out  from all of my non-stop activity. I am definitely going to need my vacation to just catch up on sleep and rest from participating in Festive Season activities.

Festive season also means that businesses, schools, etc close early so everyone can go home to their villages to be with family and basically just party. Schools closed the first week in December and will not re-open until mid-January. Businesses and non-profit organizations started closing last week and apparently by the end of this week Gaborone will be almost completely empty. Like everyone else, I too will be gone off on vacation. Even Tabuche will be leaving on December 22 to go to his home village with his daughter for the holidays. He will not be resting and partying like everyone else but working on his Father’s farm assisting him with what ever needs to be done. I told you, the man is a saint.

Even though I am not a fan of Christmas and it really could come and go without any attention from me, I have received some lovely Christmas presents. Jetske has been leaving lovely things in my apartment for the last week and I came home the other day to this beautiful decoration on my living room table.

My Christmas tree
My Christmas tree

There is also a stocking filled with goodies hanging on my bookcase/multi-media cabinet. I will open that when I come home on December 30th.

I also received this beautiful present from my parents which Jetske ensured was up where I could enjoy it everyday.

My christmas present from home
My Christmas present from home

It reminds me of home and the lighthouses that I love so much. It gives me a little taste of home in Gaborone. Okay, even though it is only 8:30 am here on Sunday morning I need to get going because there is lots that I have to do today.

Princess Update!

Okay, I have pictures of Princess but none yet of Tabuche. He took my camera home and captured these pictures but none of him! As you can see from the pictures she is a going concern…perhaps she does take after me. Except she sleeps all day (I can’t nap even if I try) and then wants to go out and play all evening…yes, that does sound like me.

 

Wait until I get a mouse!
Wait until I get a mouse!

 

lying wait
lying in wait
I can fly!
I got it!

 

 

Don't I look innocent?
Don’t I look innocent?

 

I never stop
I never stop

 

ready for another nap
ready for another nap

 

So now you can see one spoiled little kitty, who got a special present from her Auntie Cheryl today. Tabuche and his wife might not sleep tonight because it is a ball with a bell in it….hopefully, he will still be driving me tomorrow morning.

Weekend Report

 

I know, I have been negligent. I have no excuse other than it has been a very busy weekend. In fact, Friday was a whirlwind of activity that carried over into Saturday.

Friday was our final day of the Maatla All Partner meetings held at Mokolodi Game Preserve. There was a huge rain storm Thursday night and Friday morning dawned cool and rainy. Given my previous experience at Mokolodi and mud puddles I was rather uneager to return. Plus, I was really meeting out as I had been in all day meetings continuously since Monday morning.

Sucking it up (buttercup), I headed off for Day 3 at Mokolodi. Given that it was still raining and my ankle was not happy about climbing the ladders into the huge safari vehicles I chose to ride up front in the truck. Honestly I don’t think that it was any better!!! There was a change in our venue for the day so it was a long, very bumpy ride to the BOMA shelter…I use the term shelter loosely. It was in a remote part of park and literally had only one part wall. It was shaped like the traditional Kgotla, which is a roundhouse where meetings are held by the Chief.

The highlight of the morning was a trip to the ladies room…always an adventure at Mokolodi…and there was sign of the back of each toilet that stated: “Please ensure the back of toilet is in place as small animals can drown in the tank”. Just want you want to read as you are about to relieve your bladder. Fortunately I was able to pee in peace with no one watching me!

After a morning of hard work we climbed back into the safari vehicles and headed off to another site where we were to spend the afternoon complete with a braai lunch and team building activities. The clouds had cleared and it was now hot and sunny. After eating I was in desperate need of some alone time so I headed off for a walk by the lake to watch the wildlife. As I was making good progress striding the beach, I heard some one frantically calling behind me to come back because there might be crocodiles. I quickly decided that I preferred the crocodiles to returning to the boisterous crowd. The result was a wonderful twenty walk – crocodile free – with lots of bird watching. I was so glad that I ventured out on my own.

Returning to the picnic site I watched a team building exercise involving the local Motswanas tied in pairs with the use of only one arm each creating snowflakes…you know like we use to do when we were little by folding the paper and cutting out patterns. It really was funny to watch because not one of the people participating had ever even seen a snowflake let alone done crafts like this. Of course when it came time to judge the results, I just had to get my two cents worth in. Of course the team I was cheering for were declared the winner after a great deal of deliberations by the judging panel of whom 2/3 had also never seen snow.

The next team building activity I participated in….I probably shouldn’t have! Two teams competed against each other and you had to again use only one hand and create a christmas tree out of construction paper and craft supplies. Ours didn’t go quite to plan and we ended up with a very Charlie Brown christmas tree which in fact I rather liked but almost everyone made fun of. Needless to say we didn’t win and Lawrence will never compete in a craft competition with me ever again.  Now everyone knows that I don’t have a single creative bone in my body.

The drive out of the game park was uneventful after a long day and week. The only special thing was that my knight in shining armour, Lawrence made me switch seats with him so he could be on the outside of the vehicle. I had noticed him wincing a lot and assumed that he was experiencing discomfort when in fact he was worried about me getting scratched by the enormous thorns that adorn the aptly named thorn trees. Having been scratched by one just after arriving in Botswana it is not an experience I want to repeat (except I landed in one when we were stuck in the mud puddle) so I have gotten good about ducking out of the way when I am in a safari vehicle. However, Lawrence was totally traumatized and insisted that we switch seats so he could prevent me from getting scratched. Now who doesn’t love a man who will sacrifice themselves to keep you from getting hurt. That action earned him lots of brownie points and he now back on an equal level with Tabuche! There is nothing like good healthy competition of men taking care of you.

I was barely home an hour Friday when it was time to head back out to the Zahara concert held at the courtyard of Botswanacraft. Zahara, is an Africasole singer from South Africa and she is a huge star in all of Africa. After a very long week I was more than ready for a evening of dancing until I dropped which of course I did. At least this time I was prepared by wearing as little amount of clothing as I could get away with and flat shoes (no heels this time because dancing barefoot on a stone surface hurts). After dancing for two hours down in front of the stage which was jammed packed I was regretting not having put my hair up, fortunately Haley, who came from Canada the same time I did had a spare hair elastic. Throwing my hair up in a ponytail cooled me down enough to invigorate me for at least another two hours of dancing. Let me tell that dancing outside in the warm African evenings is hot work and a great workout.

I won’t bore you with the details of the rest of my weekend but let’s just say that there is no rest for the wicked. However I did find out that there is a way to stop  my perpetual motion. The combination of late nights, little sleep, the hot African sun, a pool, and a large orange inflatable seem to be the right combination for this Pisces to actually doze off – granted it was only for 15 minutes. So now you know that miracles can happen! Who knows what else is possible!

 

<a href=”

” title=”December 5 International Volunteer Day”>December 5 International Volunteer Day

This message was a part of an email that I received yesterday. If you are interested watch and you will see four members of our Botswana WUSC office saying thank you to us in Setswana. They are the first thank you after the message.

It is certainly nice to feel appreciated!