Occupational Hazards

I am just returning home from Day 2 of our Maatla All Partner meetings which are being held at Mokolodi Game Preserve. After two days I feel like there are some things that I genuinely need to get off my chest and to point out what have been some of the occupational hazards of the last couple of days.

First, as I have now noted a couple of times the meetings are being held at a Game Preserve which means you need to load into safari vehicles in order to be transported to the conference centre which is at the top of a very large hill in a remote area of the game park. Day 1 Agenda clearly indicated that business attire was necessary as we engaging in discussions with outside partners, particular Ministry. Now, I am a rather practical person – don’t anyone dare comment!!!!

I chose to wear a business pant suit and very sensible flat shoes. However, the vast majority of the women in attendance showed up in not only dresses, but high heels as well. I wish that I had brought my camera with me so I could actually document the loading and off-loading of the safari vehicles. In some cases the heels came off and the ladders were climbed in bare feet; in others, the women simply gingerly ascended and descended in their heels and skirts. It just goes to show that attire is taken very seriously here. There is simply no casual dressing for work or work related functions. I have worked for Cabinet Ministers, Premiers, and Prime Ministers. I think that I have always dressed very well and professionally but let me tell you Botswana has taught me a thing or two about dress codes.

The second occupational hazard encountered was during our deliberations yesterday morning there were approximately 65 people in the conference room so two of the doors were left open to reveal both the specular view of the hills and game preserve but to also allow air and people flow. It would seem that our topic of discussion was of interest to others as at about 11 am a baboon presented himself in the open door to check us out. The poor lady who was seated closest to that door was clearly apprehensive that she might have rather intimate contact with the baboon. Fortunately once it discovered that we were actually discussing rather boring issues of HIV and AIDS it chose to leave.

My additional encounter with the lovely wildlife of Mokolodi came today as I made a visit to the ladies room. It would appear that not all wildlife at the park have been taught to read. In fact I had to share my use of the toilet with the largest insect that I think I have ever seen and I am pretty certain it was not a female either! Yet my adaptation to Africa is still going well. I was able to do what I needed to do and depart the stall without creating any type of conflict. Which was a relief in so many ways!!!

And my last observation dealing with occupational hazards came this afternoon as we were discussing statistics/trends including male circumcision. It was noted that one of the reasons that uptake on the program is low are myths that are discouraging men from the procedure. A new one that I learned about was that there are those who believe that the foreskin which is removed is sent to America and used to make belts or shoes….yes, you read that right. As my friend who just had his removed last week sat next me during this meeting was razed that his was now being made into goods, I put in my order for a new belt!!!!! There is nothing else that I can add to that….

In closing, I want to note that my friend Erin (fellow ODA and Gender Advisor) and I were able to open the meeting this morning with a prayer of remembrance for December 6th. Every meeting here starts with a prayer and we took the opportunity to use this ritual to commemorate the women who have lost their lives or live in fear of violence. Just further proof that no matter where you are, you can make a difference. As I chaired a session this afternoon on Gender Integration and Mainstreaming I had a difficult time controlling the discussion as those participating were passionate, articulate and committed to change. As a result we brought forward a clear recommendation for addressing the issues and effecting change as part of the Maatla Project. A good afternoon’s work on a very symbolic day!

Dec 6


December 6th – a day not to be forgotten – The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women

Even though I am half way around the World this date can not possible escape me.

Today, as I went to the first of three day meetings held in the conference centre at the Mokolodi Game Park, I wore my purple ribbon to honour the purple ribbon campaign against violence. On our drive to the Game Park this morning our entire discussion in our vehicle focussed on gender based violence. And of the sixty five people attending the Maatla meetings about twenty actually inquired about my purple ribbon pin. Most importantly, a group of us tomorrow will take five minutes to light a candle in memory of all the women who have been victims of domestic or gender based violence.

For those not familiar with the significance of December 6th (http://www.swc-cfc.gc.ca/dates/vaw-vff/index-eng.html) , it is the Anniversary of the Montreal Massacre. On Dec 6, 1989, a man walked into the University of Montreal’s School of Engineering with a semi-automatic weapon and opened fire on women. In total 14 women lost their lives that day,while another 9 were injured just because they were women. That day in history will be forever engraved in my mind and my spirit. He targeted these women because he believed that women were responsible for him not being accepted for the Engineering Program.

The fourteen women so brutally murdered were: Anne-Marie Edward, Anne-Marie Lemay, Annie St. Arneault, Annie Turcotte, Barbara Daigneault,
Barbara Maria Klueznick, Genevieve Bergeron, Helen Colgan, Maud Haviernick, Maryse Laganiere, Maryse Leclair, Michele Richard, Natalie Croteau and Sonia

Although December 6th is specifically a Canadian day of mourning for the women whose lives have been cut short by violence, the issue of gender based violence is international. Each year, I hope that we as individuals, communities, societies and the human race can take some steps forward in ensuring the end of violence against women. This means educating both young boys and girls that violence is never appropriate or a solution. It is never okay to physically, verbally or mentally abuse anyone.

On November 25th, I participated in the opening event of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence here in Botswana. Tomorrow I will remember and cry for all of the women and girls who live their lives in fear of violence and for those whose lives were ended as a result of gender based violence.

So I ask you to join me in either privately lighting a candle of remembrance or attending a memorial service in your area. For those in PEI, here are the details http://peiacsw.wordpress.com/2012-2013-purple-ribbon-campaign/2012-memorial-services-for-victims-of-violence/. Stopping violence is everyone’s job but it is also just as important to stop and remember those who could not walk away and lost their lives because of it for that could anyone’s story, yours, your Mother’s, your sister’s, your aunt, your Grandmother or friend. No woman deserves to die just because she is a woman.

Bugs, bugs and more bugs

okay, yes – I love living in Africa. I have even enjoyed the cool wet weekend but I simply can’t tolerant with good grace the bugs any longer. As I type I am surrounded by buzzing flies. I will take the blame for them as I sit with my windows and door open, of course the flies will come in as they please.

While I love just about any and all animals, bugs are not and never will be one of my favourites, except for ladybugs and butterflies.

A couple of weeks ago when I was constantly working late, one night I came home and was ready to just simply fall into bed. As I went to pull back my sheets I encountered at least four different species of bugs – none of which I could identify. A first for me, I simply swept them aside and crawled into bed. I was simply too tired to even care who I was sharing a bed with.

This weekend because of the cool weather and rain it seemed like every bug was eager to find a dry, cosy home. Yesterday I chased a spider the size of my hand around my room attempting to kill it. Alas, it went out under the crack between my front door and step. Bye spider.

I commonly find this guy hanging out in my rooms

my new room mate
my new room mate

Lovely, is he? Apparently he is a house gecko. He is transparent because he never sees the sun cause he is hanging out at Cheryl’s place, huh! I have been told he is good to have in the house because he will eat lots of the bugs including mosquitoes.

Wish I had known that sooner as I am constantly putting him outside.

This morning I woke up with some kind of bug bite on my little finger that is now so red, swollen and itchy that I have completely covered it in band aids to keep from scratching at it. Before I head off for my week full of meetings (no office time this week!) I am going hunting for my transparent friend to bring him back inside.

Oh, how times and attitudes change…..

Chobe Sunset

Thanks to the cool (still only 21 degrees) day and intermittent rain, I can stay inside and catch up on my to do list. The Motswana men in my life are working very hard to try to turn me into a romantic. First, Thoutie in Kasane and Tabuche here in Gabs. Their insistence that I watch the sunsets has meant that I have witnessed some truly magical moments here in Sub-Sahara Africa.

During my last trip to Kasane, Thoutie was not around but I took the time during the Thursday evening while Oscar and I sat writing the Minister’s speech on the second story deck of the Mowana to watch, enjoy and photograph the specular sunset over the Chobe River. And today I finally have time to post the pictures. I hope that you enjoy it too:

Chobe Sunset
Chobe Sunset
Sun Downer time!
Sun Downer time!
Bathed in beauty
Bathed in beauty
Almost there
Almost there






And now you understand what magic the sunset over water is here and why I am happy that I can share the experience with you through these photos.

A week of poems

Well, I am a lucky person this week as I was the recipient of two poems and a few messages from friends and colleagues back home in PEI. Thank you so much to everyone who took the time to respond to Anouk’s call for letters! Your thoughts and words were truly appreciated and I have to say that the timing couldn’t have been better for me. It was exactly the kind of pick me up that I was in need of this week.

Very special among the messages was a poem written by my talented mother. For those who don’t know, she is a playwright, author and writer of poetry when the muse catches her. I want to share the one that she wrote specially for me:

Cheryl has journeyed to the Garden of Eden

Surrounded by as many exotic trees, birds & animals as she could need em

She cruises down the river with hippos

Each evening at home she jumps in the pool for a dip-o

She will be dressing the hippos in pink tutus

& painting the elephants toenails for YouTube

& don’t you suppose that very very soon

There will be a suffragette movement among the baboons?

The zebras will wear purple ribbons on their p.j’s

& the cheetah girls will be dancing pussycat dj’s.

To crown it al the forest will sing

When she runs the campaign for a Lion King!

She has knights in shining amour at her call and a Saint to boot!

Meanwhile she eats her fill of exotic meat & fruit.

She claims to be spoiled and treated like a princess

But as to her Father & I, we must insist

She has been, is and always will be, our PRINCESS!

Thank you Mom! It is wonderful and you are the only one that I know that could put suffragette and baboons in the same sentence. I love it!

My second poem of the week came last night from the multi-talented Peter. In honour of #3, Miss USA, Adrienne who leaves to return to the US today we were all presented with this poem written in honour of us last night.



Plot 22290

The home of 4 girls and a hero


The place remains a haven for 6 days a week

Calm, quiet and even the owls can sleep


And THEN each Saturday night

The 4 wicked witches on their brooms take flight.


Out comes the vodka by the bottle, trays of ice and a tree of lemon

And, oh the language, has such venom


The hero finds a place to hide, with 1 dog, 9 birds, 2 tortoises, 2 cats and 2 fish

Just how long will this party last they wish


As the hours go past, the screaming becomes more intense,

The neighbours take refuge in holes dug behind the fence


And suddenly all is quiet, deadly silence, and the darkness does thicken,

Then comes the sound of breaking bones and the crunching of dead chicken


All remaining live animals take refuge in the trees

The hero appears from between the leaves – “Three more vodkas please”.


But the witch from the attic must say good bye and fly away,

Hopefully she will not leave the buggered Toyota in the driveway.


Their names are legendary, and for those who wish to know more

Simply 1 – 2 – 3 and 4


Oh but for those who have shared the Saturday Night

We will miss you all, when you take flight.

Lyricist - Peter Trueman
Lyricist – Peter Trueman


And now you have proof that the curmudgeonly Peter secretly loves having a house full of women that he can tease, laugh at and spoil. The poor man is stuck with me for another 13 months so I can only imagine what his parting words will be for me then…..

Peter’s Place

Peter’s Place has been a beehive of activity today. Yesterday when I arrived home there was an undeniable stench in the air. Having grown up on a farm I am not unused to quaint smells but this one even permeated my apartment. Tracking down the origin of the scent was not hard, all I had to do was follow my nose to Peter’s workshop that is located just behind my abode and on the way to my favourite hang out the pool.

The source of the odour was waterproof treatment and the items being treated had a special purpose. Since arriving at Peter’s Place two months ago, Jetske has often remarked that she would love an outdoor shower poolside. Peter swore that he would not put one in….guess who won!  As I mentioned before, Botswana but in particular Gaborone is experiencing a real drought. Water restrictions are in place and that not only means that water must be used sparingly, it also means that water pressure is incredibly low.

Being in the only self-contained unit – not only do I have the most privacy but also the best access to water – I only have to compete with Tanyla and the Gardener for my water supply, I am not really affected by the low water pressure. However, those in the big house which contains Peter and Jetske’s living quarters along with the other two self-contained apartments have been drastically feeling the effects.

So at about 5:30 this morning the erection of the outdoor shower at the pool began. It’s construction was only briefly interrupted when shortly before noon the power went off in my unit. Peter can to investigate and it was soon back on. Construction poolside resumed even though it is a cool and rainy day. Of course I have documented it for you:

The amazing team at work
The amazing team at work
The Master Craftsman
The Master Craftsman
Our new shower
Our new shower


An inside view
An inside view
Miss Barbardos and mine only concern!
Miss Barbados and mine only concern!

While I am very excited to be able to rinse off when I come out of pool and under the moonlight it will be a wonderful experience, both Natasha (Miss Barbados as Peter only refers to her) and I are a little concerned about modesty. You see that the shower’s two main walls consist of greenery only!  Heaven help us if the gardener decides to do an aggressive pruning….But like I said before, I am now in Africa and it is not the same as North America that is for sure. I am now prone to wandering around with very little clothes on as it is. This will just continue the slippery slope, no pun intended. Who knows, maybe by the time I am on my way back to Canada I will have turned into a full on nudist thanks to Peter and Jetske.

If it wasn’t so cool today (21 degrees), I am sure that there would be a line up to try it out. But as it cold water only,I am willing to wait for a hot sunny day before I hit our new shower. And there will be no pictures of that, even though Jetske kindly offered to document for me!