How do you pack for business meetings in the bushveld?

I am currently facing a challenge that I would never ever feel in Canada…what on earth do I pack for a week long work meeting held in the bushveld?

How does one dress for work in a sub-tropical woodland where there are crocodiles, black rhinos, white rhinos, hippos, elephants, giraffes, wildebeests, lions (white maned and black), leopards, cheetahs to only name a few? It top it all off you are in a country where dress code is taken incredibly seriously!

Yesterday, in speaking with my contact at the Ministry of Health, a lovely gentleman named Rra Busang I was assured that the normal business attire of dresses and jackets were being relaxed to more casual wear. What a relief to know that I don’t have to drag heels, dresses and suit jackets to the bush! It did seem a little absurd that in the middle of freely roaming wildlife I would be expected to wear heels but it would have made easier pickings for the lions or crocs!

So now I am trying to figure out what business casual means…who invented dress codes any way?  As the sole representative of Bonaso and Canada in an indirect way, I feel that it is very important to reflect the appropriate image of not too dressy or too casual. Would anyone with fashion sense like to come help me pack please? Who knew when I accepted the ODA position that I would have to spend this much time on figuring out what to wear. Thank heavens I love wearing dresses because they are easy to pack, wear and sweat in!

Okay, I have a suitcase to fill and a bus to catch at 9:00 am Sunday morning! hmm, I wonder what colors catch a crocodile or lion’s eye…..



Tabuche scores high again!

Yesterday, Tabuche continued to show his favouritism for me. Yesterday morning I had asked him to pick me up at 3:30 from work so I could come home early and get some things accomplished before he was to pick me up for my evening outing.

At about 3:15, I got a text from him. He was delayed at the airport waiting for a client whose plane was late arriving. With the heavy traffic that had been around all week he knew that he couldn’t make it to my office on time. So he was arranging for one of the drivers that he uses on rare occasions to pick me up.  This driver’s name is Peter and he had picked me up for Tabuche one other day a couple months ago. It was a disaster!

Peter, formerly was a head chef at very prominent Gaborone eateries. And I am sure that he is probably a great chef. But he is one of the worse taxi drivers I have ever encountered. The first time he picked me up, he got lost twice, was 30 minutes late picking me up, and had to ask me directions three times just to find my work site. So you can imagine my sense of dread when Tabuche told me that Peter was coming for me!

I had pretty much written off the chance of getting home early and getting anything done. True to form, Peter arrived at the Bonaso office, stopped outside the door, waited for two minutes when one of the office staff went out to ask who he was looking for, he promptly backed up and left the compound! I saw the car leaving, recognized it and thought okay,  here we go again!

Just as I was about to call Tabuche 10 minutes later, back comes Peter! I promptly gathered my laptop and other items needed for next week and headed for the door. As I climbed into the car,  Peter was so pleased with himself that I didn’t have the heart to question him as to why he left? In fact, I just wanted to get home so I didn’t want to confuse the poor man any more than he already is so I simply pretended that all was well.

As we were at least proceeding in the correct direction of my place why rock the boat! However, the nervousness came creeping back as he turned way too soon for my neighbourhood. Unable to sit quietly and not question his direction, I simply inquired if he knew where I lived? His response, “oh, yes! I remember very well!”

By now, very evil thoughts were percolating in my head. He couldn’t know where I lived or he wouldn’t of turned when he did. Again, not one to remain silent I told him that I was not familiar with this route to my place so if he got lost I could not be of assistance. That is when I saw the sweat break out on his forehead. And I knew that I was in trouble!

In stead of him turning around and getting back on the highway, he kept going in through the housing divisions. Once again wishing goodbye to my two hours of time off, I settled back for what I figured would be a long hot frustrating drive. Just as I was resigned to being lost for an hour we hit a neighbourhood that Tabuche had driven me through once in an effort to avoid traffic. Recognizing where I now was thankfully I could gently direct Peter to my place. You can not begin to imagine my sense of relief as we finally rounded the corner to home!

Last night when Tabuche picked me up at 6:00 pm it took a few minutes for our conversation to turn to my trip home that afternoon. When I told him what had happened, the two of us could only laugh like kids! He asked me if I had asked Peter why he had left? or turned when he did? I simply told him “no” that I was too afraid to confuse him and simply wanted to eventually make it home!  I don’t think Tabuche will ever send Peter to pick me up again!

And I learned from one of my dinner companions last night that in fact Tabuche had denied her from making a two minute pit stop to withdraw money from an ATM. The reason he told her that he didn’t have time to let her get money was that he was picking me up and he wouldn’t keep me waiting!  I felt guilty of course but I think that people are starting to realize that the bond Tabuche and I have is very special and not even his other regular clients can come between us 🙂

Beware of Crocodiles

I had a very enjoyable evening out last night, excellent food and company. In fact I met a lovely couple for the first time. She is Motswana and he is from Poland. As everyone was conversing over dinner, there were seven of us so there was a lot of conversing, Tommy from Poland brought up this interesting piece of news.

He asked if anyone had heard the news reports of the flooding on the Limpopo River? This the river that flows by where I am going to be staying on the border of Botswana and South Africa. I had of course heard of the flooding during our heavy rainfall last week. However, what I wasn’t aware of was this part of the story.

Apparently the heavy flooding of the river has resulted in 15 – 18 thousand crocodiles on a farm by the river escaping. Yes, that is 15,000 or more crocodiles on the loose in the Limpopo River!!!! If you don’t believe me check out this article

Guess I don’t have to worry about be eating by a Lion. It is more likely that I will be eaten by a crocodile or two. Well, at least it will be an adventure!

Capacity Building

It is Friday afternoon here in Gaborone and I have left the office early today. When I arrived home I checked the temperatures with Jetske – on the front stoop it is 40 degrees; at the pool it is 44 degrees!

I am not hitting the swimming pool again today for a couple of reasons. One, I am heading out for the evening soon and because of the heat it just isn’t worth struggling into the swimsuit, swimming in a hot pool and showering again. Two, I have been told all day that the outfit I am wearing makes me look like a young woman! there is no way I am taking it off! 🙂

Today was an interesting day at the office, in fact it has been an interesting week. As many of you know I have come to Botswana to provide capacity building for HIV and AIDS Service providers. It is a huge task and one that I am not expected to tackle alone. And I have really learned to take my wins where I can get them.

Yesterday when I returned to my office after being out all morning, I was rather sorry that I had returned. In fact, I was tempted to call Tabuche to come get me by 1:00 pm. The source of my anguish, the Bonaso office. I am sure that I stated before that this organization and office really are rebuilding from scratch. My role is to build capacity and my title is Organizational Development Advisor.

This week I have had several moments that caused me to doubt my organizational abilities! But on the other hand, I have received proof that all is not in vain. I have been here four months. Some days it feels so much longer. Yesterday was one of those days. You see, the office still does not telephones, our IT and other infrastructure is shaky at best, we can’t accomplish even basic office functions without some kind of crisis in which everyone comes to me to figure it out! So in those moments I feel like a complete failure. How can I build capacity in HIV and AIDS service providers and train in advocacy when I can’t even get an office up and running?

When I returned to the office yesterday it was to the crisis situation of a printer/photocopier not working and the appearance of no one wanting to take the initiative to get it fixed. The office has only the one printer/photocopier so without it we basically can’t accomplish anything. After getting pieces of the story from two of the office staff, I responded to a text message from Oscar with what can only be described as despair. He was in a painful meeting and I made his pain worse but asking him to see if we could get the funds from our funding source to fix the photocopier. Fortunately, he was already on the case and that is what kept me from calling Tabuche to come get me!

As I prepared today to be out of the office for the next week, everyone expressed how much they are going to miss me. They view me as the glue that is currently keeping the office together. That is a huge responsibility and I often feel that I am not living up to the task. I am also concerned that if I was doing my job properly they would be able to handle these situations on their own. Perhaps they can but they just trust me to solve anything that comes up. So I am hoping that this coming week will give them the opportunity to stand on their own two feet without relying on me. Then I will know that I at least accomplished some capacity building.

On the positive side I have accomplished the main objective that I had set when I started out on this journey. That was to empower at least one woman to have a better life. I am in the process of doing just that. Sadie, is our office cleaning woman. She is smart, resourceful, has fantastic instincts and makes less than 800 Pulas a month (that is less $100 Canadian Dollars) on which she supports herself and a young son. Because she is such a hard worker she is finished her cleaning tasks by no later than 9 am every morning.

I had observed over the past couple of months that she was quick to greet visitors when there was no one else to do so. She happily sat at the reception desk when our admin assistant was out of the office. You could tell that she was aspiring to a better living for her and her son. So as a capacity builder I am helping her. In fact, I have secured the support of everyone in the office. In December we taught her how to use a computer. She had never had access to one before. I told her that when she finished her cleaning duties that she could change out of her uniform and remain at the reception desk.

She now spends most of the day acting as a our receptionist. She prepares the infamous tea tray when Oscar and I are holding meetings with visitors in our board room. And a couple of weeks ago I found an online course for her to complete that provides the basis training for a receptionist. The deal was that during her and my lunch hour ( I am always working through lunch while everyone but Sadie is out) she could work on the assignments and I would grade them. By the way, Mr. Wedge, can you please send me some of your gold stars!

She completed all of the assignments in record time and with straight A+ grades. She is a natural for this type of position. On Monday, I found an on-line typing course for her. Today, when I sat with her I was amazed by the progress that she is making. She was disappointed that I wasn’t going to be in the office next week. So I came  up with a list of things for her to do while I was gone. I am confident that in another month or two she will be ready with both the skills and the letter of reference from Oscar and I to find a position as a receptionist. Hopefully, we can pull a miracle out of a hat to find funding to officially employ her ourselves. If we can’t, then I will help her find a new position as sad as we will be to lose her.

Today, she told me what a difference that I have made in her life and future. She never would of had this opportunity if I hadn’t been at Bonaso. So while I question my abilities to get a functional office up and running with no money in a foreign continent, I do know that by simply focussing on one person at a time in the midst of chaos, change can happen.


Hot vs Cold

On Thursday, Prince Edward Island experienced the coldest day in 66 years. With wind chill it was close to minus 40. While here in Gaborone it was close to 40 degrees. In fact, when I came home from work it felt to hot to even go for a swim! Today’s forecast in Gaborone is projected to be even hotter.

Temperatures across Canada are setting record lows. I read on-line that a town in Saskatchewan set a record on Wednesday of minus 55. When I told Tabuche this and how cold it was on PEI yesterday his response (in all seriousness)  was “are people still alive”?

So to all of my Canadian friends and loved ones. Stay warm!

But I do have to confess that I would much rather be sweating here than experiencing the coldest winter in Canada. In fact, I have been causing a fair bit of chaos (of course) for the last couple of weeks around Gabs. Last week I went to Barclay’s Bank with Lawrence as it is one of the banks here that I can actually access my Canadian bank accounts. Well, I finished long before Lawrence concluded his business for Bonaso.

So I wandered outside. It was a nice day, warm but not too hot. There lots of clouds and the sun was not shining directly on me. It was perfect. Well, first Lawrence came zooming out to haul me back in side and he told me to sit and wait for him. You can guess how I responded to that!

Okay, at first I went meekly but the last thing that I wanted to do was sit and patiently wait in the lovely metal rows of chairs in the bank. So when Lawrence was busy back at the counter, I headed for the door again. Standing outside soaking in the lovely temperatures and the busyness of the area,  I was then approached by a police officer. After exchanging greetings in Setswana, he got right to the point. “What was I doing standing there?” Thinking that he thought my behaviour suspicious for lurking outside of a major bank, I quickly assured him that I was just waiting for someone to conclude their business inside in the bank.

Well, just Lawrence, he wanted to escort me right back inside. He expressed real concern that I was standing outside in the heat when I should be inside in air conditioned comfort. I explained this to him: If I was back in Canada I would likely be experiencing knee deep snow, I would be wearing heavy winter boots, a hat (okay, not likely for me but he doesn’t know that!), a scarf, heavy gloves and an even heavier winter coat. Why would I not be enjoying the seasonable temperatures of Gaborone. After hearing that diatribe he assured me that he could now understand my perspective and wished well in Gaborone!

I have also been chastened by Tabuche a couple of times this past week for waiting for him outside. Until he heard about the record cold temperatures, I don’t think he quite comprehended why I am happy to be outside here. And I even have to admit that yesterday’s heat and no clouds ensured that I was waiting in covered shade for Tabuche when he came to take me home! He was very pleased that I was behaving so well!

The Variables of Power

Some of you are aware that Gaborone, and actually much of the country has been experiencing rather dramatic power outages over the past few days. Coming from the land of snow and ice, sweating in the heat really does beat freezing your a** in the cold.

This logic led me to contemplate how your take on something can be so dramatically different depending on your current circumstances. Like most Canadians I love snow days, but I dread power outages that last for too long leaving you freezing and peeing who know where.

Now flip that to living in Africa. The lack of power is far more easily assimilated – at least for me! If you had asked my colleagues yesterday they were moaning about it just like a Canadian would. I on the other hand have not felt that impacted by the power blips. It has been pretty much life as usual for me.

My second take on the power variable comes a result of a major meeting I attended this morning at NACA (the National Aids Coordinating Agency). I was attending the meeting on Oscar’s behalf – poor man can’t be in two places at once can he???  The meeting was the CCM (no, for all of you government employees reading this not the ccm you are thinking of!). It is the Country Coordinating Mechanism meeting for Global Funding. The purpose of the monthly meetings are to track the current projects taking place in the Southern Africa region including Botswana in the area of HIV/AIDS, Tuberculous and Malaria.

It is a very high level meeting and those sitting around the table hold the voting power to change funding and projects in Botswana in these three high risk health areas. This is a very different type of power!

I have to admit that of all of the meetings that I have attended since arriving in Botswana four months ago and believe me there have been many! This meeting left an incredibly positive impression on me. Okay, it was an hour later getting started as a quorum is required to proceed with the meeting. In fact, the only people tardy in their arrival were the Ministers or their alternates. While we waited for the quorum to be made up, I sat between GoB Program Coordinator of Orphans & Vulnerable Children and NACA’s lead HIV/AIDS policy analyst. I was more than happy to spend an hour discussing issues and policy with these two individuals along with the others who joined our conversation.

Once the meeting started, I was truly impressed by the quality of the Chairman. Not only was he handsome, distinguished, and very intelligent. He was the most effective, articulate chairman that I think I have ever seen. He represents the Botswana Business Coalition and man, is he impressive. In fact, when the discussion turned to “burn rates” – how fast funding is being dispersed and used – my eyes didn’t even start to glaze over with the bean-counters explanations. As the chair, he kept the meeting running smoothly, allowed discussion, appropriate voting, summations and referral of action items. Wow! what a package!

Actually as I looked around the room I was truly impressed for the first time since arriving at the men in the room. In fact most of them were as articulate and intelligent as the Chairman. Plus, it didn’t hurt that there were several other handsome men in suits. Eye candy always help when you are considering weighty issues like funding challenges.

So I will leave you with this thought – power, whether it be what is lacking or what is present, is all in your perception.

Fornication does pay off!

I came home this evening to a wonderful surprise on my terrace table. It seems that all of the fornication by the pool was not in vain. Somebody was more than just show, grunts and heavy breathing. He was actually capable of getting the job done even though he faced a large challenge (see blog post

Baby David Livingston
Baby David Livingston

Apparently this is the third or fourth baby that has emerged from eggs laid in back behind the pool and my apartment. So it seems that when Mma Ramotswe was doing her pacing back through the pool and in behind my apartment that she wasn’t just trying to avoid the ever horny David Livingston, she was actually checking on her eggs that were getting ready to hatch.

Jetske has had her brother pick up the other babies to reunite them with Momma. I would vote to keep this little cutie around except it is a boy and that means that he will likely be as horny as his Papa. Like former Peter’s Place resident #1, aka, Natasha or Miss Barbados says no one wants to listen to the noise that ensues once David Livingston got lucky which was frequently.

So as cute as he is, the peace and quiet of Peter’s Place will be preserved and a sign will be going up by the pool that stipulates “No Fornication By The Pool” “All offenders will be removed from the Property”

Just like his Papa!
Just like his Papa!



Here I go, Again!

Well, here I go again! Off on yet another adventure. One could suppose that my blog title is appropriate. Equally appropriate is the motto that I adopted when I came to Botswana – “Have suitcase, will travel”.

The big news around the Bonaso office just before Christmas was an invitation that came in from the Government of Botswana’s Ministry of Health, Department of Primary Care. It was for a week long planning meeting in Zanzibar. Oscar and Lawrence had teased me that I might as well stay in Zanzibar following my vacation so that I could participate in this meeting.

What I couldn’t understand was how and why the Government of Botswana was holding their government meeting in Zanzibar! Well, it turns out that this Zanzibar is much closer to home than Zanzibar, Tanzania. The Botswana Zanzibar is actually a border crossing in the eastern region of Botswana connecting it with South Africa and Zimbabwe. After googling it for quite some time I finally learned that the region is known as Tuli Block. Here is a link so you can learn more about it

It is situated on the banks of the Limpopo River and it is largely farms, game reserves and bush. Apparently, I am going to be smack dab in the bush, oh yippee!!! Hopefully, I will have access to running water 😉 I have also be told that the largest population of big cats is also in this area as they follow the game that drinks at the river. The cat population includes lions, cheetahs and leopards. I am bound and determined to get up close and personal with a lion, maybe even give it a hug. Tabuche swears that I will be eaten if I try and that he will really miss me!

I will actually be working hard while I am there, and the fact that Bonaso has been invited to participate in these meetings is testament to the progress that we are making.  I will be the sole representative and the meeting’s goal is to assess and make recommendations on each of the 14 DMSAC Plans (District Multi-sectorial Aids Committees) which are part of the Government of Botswana’s Ministries of Health and Local Government.

It will be excellent experience for me, and Oscar’s intent in sending me is that I will be able to build capacity within the government sector to accurately assess and make recommendations that empower the civil society organizations to work more cooperatively and effectively with local government structures. A tall order but one that I am happy to work on.

My only concern is what kind of lasting impact that I may have on GoB bureaucrats. The Ministry has arranged for us all to travel on a bus together Sunday to the lodge in the bush where we will be staying for the entire week, returning on Saturday. Take one ‘Cheryl’ and place her in the presence of 30 Batswana government employees for a whole entire week with only the bush and wild animals to escape to, what do you think might happen? It should make for some interesting blogs when I return to Gaborone 😉


No longer #2!
No longer #2!

It seems that I am extremely clueless. Peter, when he is home, spends 98% of his time in his workshop crafting, fixing, building and hiding out from the female population that at times takes over Peter’s Place.

It is the tradition that he makes a sign for each long term resident at Peter’s Place. Apparently mine has been up for a while and I was too clueless to even notice it. Just like me! Even better he actually remembered my name so hopefully that means that I have graduated from being referred to as #2 or Miss Canada to Cheryl! Exciting times at Peter’s Place.

As you can see we are having another break in the rain for the moment but it is likely to return again by this afternoon. All is well at Peter’s Place. I have had lots of company this morning in #2 as the creatures are happy to be able to be outside and roaming without getting drenched.

Miss Cleopatra
Miss Cleopatra

Since it has been days of rain, I am going to grab the chance to hit the swimming pool while there is a little sunshine and no rain. The outside temperature is just right. A blessed relief from the heat and humidity that has been around ever since I returned to Gaborone from Zanzibar.  But the rains have made Peter’s Place greenery perk right up!

The red brick road to the pool from #2
The red brick road to the pool from #2

I am going to follow the path from my terrace to the pool! For those of you shivering and cold, build a snowman for me while I dip in the pool, please 🙂

On a brighter note!

After my earlier rant, I was able to head off to Game City mall to do errands and grab groceries between the down pours of rain.

One of the things that I love about Africa is that your feet can get really dirty!!! I know, I have talked about this before but I just want to reiterate. With the heavy downpours that have been happening for the last couple of days, I fully expected when I  walked through the ally ways to the death highway that the sand/soil would be replaced by huge puddles and mud.  So as I got ready to leave, I rolled up my pant legs and wore my crocs so if I had to wade through puddles at least I wasn’t ruining shoes or clothing.

Sadly, there weren’t any huge puddles to wade through. It has been so dry here in Gaborone the rain is almost immediately sinking in to the ground. Other than a couple of soft slightly muddy spots, Cheryl didn’t get to play in the puddles. But my toes were slightly dirty when I came home. My return home was obviously good timing as within 5 minutes of being home, the downpours recommenced.