Rugby at Mokolodi

Jetske and Peter
Jetske and Peter in their Blue Bulls attire enjoying a drink before we hopped into the safari vehicles to take us to the Boma

Saturday I got to spend a lovely day with the Truemans when they extended the invitation for me to join them in attending a rugby event at the Mokolodi Game Reserve. Only in Africa can you watch international rugby matches on a big screen tv in a Boma in the middle of the bush. Talk about adventure. Rugby players might be considered tough predators so traveling through African bush & wildlife to watch a game some how doesn’t seem so strange after all. Perhaps I have been in Africa too long now and have simply adjusted to a new normal.

The Boma at Mokolodi
The Boma at Mokolodi

While Peter’s favorite team, the South African Blue Bulls were not playing, an excellent match was on tap between the South African team, the Springboks against the Australian Wallabies. Personally, my favorite rugby team are the Welsh Dragons whose home is the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. And I will be honest, my preference is based solely on the fact that some members of the team graciously dropped their pants for me one evening as they were returning to the Stadium from a run and a love affair was born….but that is a whole other story!

So the day began with arrival at the reception area of Mokolodi where we needed to sign in and wait for other participants to arrive. 014

 

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Shortly before we were hustled into the safari trucks for our trip to the Boma we were treated to juice or mimosa. Great, just what I need alcohol before climbing tiny steps into a safari vehicle! Fortunately, we only had a few minutes in which to imbibe so there was no chance to risk a swinging from the side of a safari truck on this adventure.

The Boma is located in a restricted area within the center of the preserve  and it is an enjoyable dusty bouncing ride to get there.

On our way to the Boma
On our way to the Boma

When we arrived at the Boma, the big screen tv was on and one of my  other favorite rugby teams was playing, the New Zealand All Blacks. Now that is a tough team! So while others were mingling and drinking curtsy of the bar, I got to watch the final 30 minutes of that game.

Then we got down to the serious business of eating brunch before the featured game of the Springboks and Wallabies came on.

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With full bellies it was soon time to settle in our chairs in front of the massive screen to watch the game

Springbok Captain during the national anthem
Springbok Captain during the national anthem

 

The Wallabies
The Wallabies

As the trouble maker that I am I had earlier decided to cheer for the Wallabies as pretty much everyone else in the Boma were firmly supporting the Springboks. While the Wallabies were considered to be the underdogs. Sadly, the Wallabies did not win but it was a good game with some great offensive and defensive playing. While there was plenty of rough stuff on the screen, there certainly wasn’t any blood spilled in the Boma.

All in all it was a great game and a wonderful day spent in the company of the Truemans. We even had some animal sightings on the drive back to reception area proving that somehow giraffes and rugby do go together here in the Southern region of Africa.

 

 

 

 

Finding culture in Molepolole

Molepolole is the largest village in Botswana and is located about 50 kms west of Gabs in the South East district of Kweneng. It is known as the home of the Bakwena tribe. And yesterday it was the site of the Dithubaruba Cultural Festival which is held to promote the understanding and appreciation of Kweneng cultural heritage.

The cultural festival included a full line of activities ranging from traditional song and dance (mmino le dipina tsa setso), a traditional harvest festival (dikgafela), poetry (lobebe lwa poko), traditional games and riddles (metshameko ya setso) and Setapa (tribal dancing) until the early hours of Sunday . The actual site of the festival in Molepolole was the   Kwa-ga-Makgosi or ko Ntsweng (Ntsweng Heritage Site).

Buche was conscripted to transport Sheila and I to and from the festival which was about an hour’s drive either way. Let’s just say that for once given the distance and my recent teasing of Buche, he and Sheila took full advantage of having me in a confined space to inflict some reciprocal teasing torture 🙂 Their favorite topic was to taunt me into trying to pronounce the local village names as we passed through and then make fun of my pronunciation. Fortunately I am far more stubborn than either one of them and I refused to participate.

One of the great things about traveling with Buche is his knowledge of local areas, culture, history and facts. The man is like a walking cultural encyclopedia. And he is only to happy to answer my fifty thousand questions about everything. So other than pretending deafness to teasing taunts it was an incredibly enjoyable trip to and from Molepolole.

We arrive at the cultural festival mid-day after a couple of stops in Gaborone to accomplish some tasks. Just as we were being dropped off by our chauffeur the traditional harvest festival was beginning. As a Canadian, harvest festivals, primarily thanksgiving are important celebrations which are held in the fall. Seeing a spring harvest festival was definitely a new adventure for me.

The ladies dressed in their traditional outfits preparing to begin the Harvest Festival
The ladies dressed in their traditional outfits preparing to begin the Harvest Festival
Beginning the festivities
Beginning the festivities

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During the dance Sheila and I decided to try to find a seat so that we could sit and enjoy the celebrations. As it turned out the only seats readily available were in the VIP tent. Deciding that we qualified as VIPs in our own minds if nobody else’s, we nonchalantly strolled over and claimed two front row chairs from which to enjoy the dance! Golly aren’t we?

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I wish that I had the balance to carry pots on my head!
I wish that I had the balance to carry pots on my head!
The District Elders graciously sharing their seats with us
The District Elders graciously sharing their seats with us

Although it was easy for anyone in the VIP tent to discern that we really didn’t belong there, not one person chased us out or made us feel unwelcome. In fact, I was the recipient of many smiles and welcomes. Talk about hospitality.

Following the hour long harvest celebration we were then treated to incredible musical performances by local musicians who literally had everyone cheering, dancing and thoroughly enjoying their performances.

A local musician
A local musician

I loved this performer! So did everyone else – he literally brought almost everyone to their feet

Happy fans!
Happy fans!

I was so tempted to go join these captivated dancers but decided that I was better off keeping my VIP seat which gave me a front row seat and protect from the sun and wind.

Tiny dancers
Tiny dancers

It was a true miracle that I stayed seated because every where I looked there was some one dancing enthusiastically to the excellent music. I particularly loved watching this elder relish the music

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He was soon joined by the most charismatic woman in danceIMG_1716

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These two incredibly energetic dancers outlasted two different performers. And the urge to dance was definitely contagious

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The final performer for this section of the program was certainly playing a unique instrument and had an equally compelling voice.

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Following these musical performances it was time for the VIPs sans Sheila and Cheryl to exit the VIP tent and head for the tent where they were being feed traditional foods for lunch. For everyone else it was time to line up at the traditional cook area for their plates of traditional food.

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During the lunch break Sheila and I took the opportunity to explore the many stalls set up containing local art and crafts.

Local pottery decorated with pumpkin seeds
Local pottery decorated with pumpkin seeds

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The art displays were great showing just how much local talent there really is. This really was a cultural festival displaying remarkable musical talent, dancing, arts, crafts and without a doubt incredible fashion every where you looked. Both Sheila and I saw at least a dozen different dresses made in traditional styles in German print that we wanted. Even the men got into the fashion fun of the day.

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Don't you love his tail?
Don’t you love his tail?

Following the lunch break it time for the festivities to begin again with traditional chanting and dancing

More traditional dancing
More traditional dancing

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Soon it was time to say goodbye and return to Gabs having thoroughly enjoyed the portion of the Dithubaruba Cultural Festival that we attended.

Buche’s crazy cow story

Well, the Saint has done it again!

The man never ceases to amaze me in many ways and when you have almost daily contact with someone for a year you really get to know them well….yet, he can still surprise me!

Today we were making our regular trip to Riverwalk Mall on a Friday afternoon. I like to spend a couple of hours at this mall every few weeks as it has three major grocery stores (Pick n Pay; Super Spar; and a Woolies). All which carry different items that I like. Plus the mall has my hairdresser, a fantastic book and magazine store and other great shops I occasionally visit. I also love having Buche take me there and pick me up as it gives me a chance to purchase heavy grocery items which I don’t have to lug across Death Highway’s four lanes of speeding traffic.

Like any trip with Buche and I, you can only wish to be a passenger in the back seat to enjoy the hilarious conversations that we have. Today proved once again that I really do need my own reality tv show and camera crew following me around. I am sure that I could hit ratings gold with my own show as I simply end up in situations and conversations that no one else ever seems to have the privilege of.

As we took our regular route to Riverwalk which is a back road shortcut which takes you through a non-developed area which is on the fringe of the Village of Tlokweng. As this land is comprised mostly of open spaces containing some grasslands and shrubs, it is a frequent hangout of cows, bulls, donkeys and goats all roaming free in search of grass to graze on.

An example of wandering road warriors
An example of wandering road warriors

I always love seeing the cows as the dairy princess in me refuses to die 😉 So today when we were about half way through that stretch of road, I noted that there weren’t any cows visible. Well, I couldn’t have triggered a funnier conversation….

Buche’s explanation for the missing cows was an amazing fact that I have not heard in my year here in Gaborone.

It is a natural part of life here in Gabs to have all manner of livestock wandering the streets, alleys and parking lots of downtown Gaborone. I frequently have to navigate through roaming livestock on my way home from Game City Mall while carrying groceries.

Due to this country being mostly desert and the lack of rainfall, livestock are regularly set free by their owners to roam and graze keeping themselves alive on what ever they can find to eat. This particular stretch of road and area is often a favorite grazing spot and it is not uncommon to see large herds of cattle on the side of the road or crossing nonchalantly in front of you.

With the distinct lack of presence of them today, Buche informed me that sometimes the cows act “crazy” and need to be rounded up by certain people in the nearby village of Tlokweng. Okay, first no matter how hard I tried to get him to explain what he meant by “crazy” I couldn’t get a clear explanation! I can only picture some cows drunk off of the many abandoned alcohol bottles littering the landscape across Gaborone after  each weekend. Or perhaps, like me they are out dancing around kicking a cloud of dust with their dancing antics.

Clearly, he couldn’t be referring to mad cow disease…..,

So eventually I moved on from giggling and trying to get him to explain “crazy cows” to where do you actually take a crazy cow? IMG_0864

This was more easily explained. Apparently there are people in the village of Tlokweng ( a world all of its own I think) that actually fence in a small area and then go on the hunt for cattle who are roaming and acting “crazy”. Apparently the acting crazy bit is the key to all of this as somehow those cows are more of a nuisance and need to be taken off the streets. Are we talking cows or street kids here????

Once crazy cows are identified, they are walked to the enclosures where they are sized up for their beef content. Now this where Buche was very clear. While the rescuers (or thieves) of these cows are eyeing them up for a nice meal or two, their – up to this point inattentive owners – suddenly appear out of nowhere to claim them back. Apparently cow owners here in Gabs have psychic powers and know exactly when their cows have been kidnapped for being crazy! Okay, those are my words, not Buche’s. And would actually be fun to around when the face off over the ownership of the crazy cows take place 🙂

So there is your glimpse into just a tiny portion of my conversation with Buche today…you really need to plant a bug on us so you too can enjoy our wild and wacky but totally serious conversations too.

 

 

Buche and Cheryl tourist day out

With my final weeks ticking down before I leave Gaborone and Botswana to return to life as I know it in Canada, I am doing all that I can to make the most of my remaining time.

Today, I got to have a perfect day out with Buche. A couple of weeks ago Buche and I were discussing my leaving. During our conversation I told him that although I have seen a large majority of the country, I have not been so good about exploring closer to home. He quickly rhymed off a long list of places surrounding Gaborone that I could only tell him that I hadn’t visited.

So I issued him a challenge – when he was able to arrange his schedule I wanted him to take me out for a sightseeing tour. Not so much of challenge you might say but of course I complicated it. No visiting any tourist sites that he normally takes anyone else! I wanted him to take me somewhere special that he truly wanted me to see as an important part of Botswana.

All I can say is that he certainly didn’t disappoint me and we truly had the perfect outing!

Where did he take me? Well, the list included a few places.

The first destination on our itinerary was the village of Manyana

Manyana
Outskirts of the village of Manyana

The village of Manyana is located about an hour south west of Gaborone. It is famous for being the home of rock paintings which date back over 2000 years.

Finding the site was a little bit of a challenge however! Along our drive Buche, ever the gentleman, spied an older woman by the side of the road looking for a drive. He stopped and picked her up as she was heading towards the village of Manyana too to attend a funeral. During the twenty minute drive the rest of the way to the village, I am happy to note that I completely behaved myself and didn’t embarrass Buche even once 🙂

Once we arrived in the village, Buche stopped to ask directions….I know! Amazing! And he actually stopped and asked directions a few different times. I made sure to tell him on our way home that men in North America seldom ever stop and ask for directions. He was completely surprised and wondered how anyone found where they were going? Oh, the culturally differences.

Back to our adventure, following our first set of directions Buche easily found the base of the hill we were heading for and where our guest needed to be dropped off coincidentally. Saying goodbye to her, Buche then asked for directions again to ensure that we found the entrance to the heritage site.

Following this set of directions we set off down a clay and sand track around the base of the hill.

Our road
Our road

We soon saw some farmers harvesting their crops

Harvesting cabbages
Harvesting cabbages

As we continued down the track, Buche began to seriously question if we were heading in the right direction. Stopping again when we came across a goat herder and his feisty adorable herd, it was time to ask directions again! and of course Buche’s instinct was right on. We had been given bad directions.

So we turned around and headed back the way that we came with me still thoroughly enjoying the view. Although we were soon caught up in a traffic jam as we got back to the outskirts of the village…

Who has the right of way?
Who has the right of way? I think the horns win….

It soon became apparent that our ultimate destination was closer than we thought. Had we simply turned left exactly where we had dropped off our former passenger we would have been right where we needed to be. Fortunately, Buche’s perseverance paid off and we arrived at our destination.

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The site of the rock paintings is a 8 meter high rock. The paintings are spread out over five separate areas of the rock cliff face. On site is a government guide whose job it is to protect the heritage site and provide you with a guided historical tour of the site. Honestly, without the guide you would never have been able to find the rock paintings on your own as they are so faint and far apart.

However, the guide we had was so incredible at his job. He proudly informed us that these paintings were done by Bushmen over 2000 years ago as they migrated through the area hunting. Part of the ceremony after a good hunting kill was an elaborate ritual involving the spiritual leader and the men of the tribe. As the spiritual leader entered into a trance and the men danced visions would come to him which he described. Part of the visions resulted in the creation of the paintings using a combination of minerals, animal blood and rocks.

The first paintings he showed us – Buche was seeing them for the first time too! – was a painting of an antelope. See if you can pick it out in the photo

2000 year old Rock painting of an antelope
2000 year old Rock painting of an antelope

Close by was another far more visible painting whose symbolism we were told still had not been identified by experts.

Look for the distinctive black dots
Look for the distinctive black dots

The next hour was spent climbing around the rock face visiting all of the painting sites and learning the history of the rocks and caves.

Can you see the giraffes?
Can you see the giraffes?
Stick man
Stick man
Another stick man who is really well-endowed!
Another stick man who is really well-endowed!

The guide quizzed me on this stick figure asking me if I thought it was female or male? He was proud to show me that African men were really well endowed even 2000 years ago – or at least in their imagination they were.

Entrance to a cave
Entrance to a cave

This is the entrance to what is called Mma Kgosi cave, a histrocial site thought to be the cave where the Kwena Queen mother hid during the battle of Dimawe  in 1852 while her husband and tribesmen fought against the Boers. Getting into these caves is definitely a tight squeeze and you are not allowed to enter for preservation reasons. I was glad that I didn’t have to go in!

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Gemsboke painting
More rock paintings
More men!
More men!
Hunter carrying his kill
Hunter carrying his kill
A whole herd
A whole herd
View from half-way up the rock face
View from half-way up the rock face

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Once I made it safely back to flat ground with the assistance of Buche and waving good bye to the crowd of Rock Dassies who live on the rock but are too shy to be photographed, the guide joined us in Buche’s car to make the trip to another interesting site. A tree.

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This enormous fig tree is now a protected heritage site because it was the historical site of where David Livingstone converted local tribes to Christianity and practiced western medicine. As I told you about in December when I visited Zanzibar, Livingstone was a medical missionary who also worked tirelessly to abolish slavery in Africa.

Under this very tree, Livingstone preached to convert locals to Christianity while he also doled out western medicines. I loved this tree and could have happily moved into it

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What a tree! Buche looks so tiny standing next to it. 

After leaving Manyana, Buche continued our driving tour of Western Bots, we drove through the entire western districts on our way back to Gaborone. But Buche had one more surprise up his sleeve. 

A visit to the famous village of Gabane, which is known for its pottery. Let’s just say that I love pottery and Buche proved exactly how patient he truly is as he patiently roamed the shop with me as I picked out my purchases and asked a million questions. We even got the chance to visit the back rooms and watch the pottery makers in action. 

Pottery making in Gabane
Pottery making in Gabane

So Buche earns a gold star! He not only rose to my challenge, he absolutely exceeded it. Since he did so well, I have now challenged him to do it again, only better! I bet he can. What do you think?

A Silly African Game

Impala poop contest

During my last day on Safari in the Delta we were instructed in a common game here in Botswana – Impala Poop Spitting! 

Yes, you read that correctly!!!!

Impala Poop Spitting

Impala poop consists of tiny perfectly formed round balls. Which apparently are perfect for spitting. Why anyone would want to is totally beyond me. But apparently as they only consist of digested grass it is not unhygienic to actually handle the poo balls and putting them in your mouth is not an issue……ya, right!

All judgments aside here is a pictorial primer on how to play the “Impala Poop Spitting” game:

As Bale demonstrates in the photo above, you take an impala poop ball and either place it between your lips. Pursing your lips to hold it in place and then you blow it up and out as far as you can. Or you can place it directly on your tongue (yuck!!!) and use a combination of your tongue and blowing to launch the poop ball as far as you can.

Where did it land?
Demonstrating techniques

Once you have successfully launched the poop missile, it is then necessary to keep a close watch to determine where the tiny ball of poop actually lands.

Where did it land?
Where did it land?

So once the demonstration was concluded it was time to begin the contest. Let’s just say that not all of us were stupid enough to participate 🙂 but there were several takers.

First up was Dave, an Australian Bio-chemical engineer who currently lives on a tiny Russian island. He proved to have excellent technique and actually outperformed Bale.

Dave's impala poop technique
Dave’s impressive impala poop technique

My, what poop spitting form!

not impressed

So then the challenge was on! Beat that distance anyone? Dave’s wife stand next to him decided to hold on to her poop balls and not participate. However, ……

My travel mate, Risa decided to rise to the challenge

Risa getting ready

After so serious coaching from Bale, she was ready for her first attempt

Giving new meaning to deep breathing
Are you sure I won’t swallow it?

 

Risa way to go

Way to go Risa!

 

But the undisputed winner was Dave with him impressive technique and distance. Although he was firmly informed by his wife that there would be absolutely no kissing until his lips and mouth were thoroughly disinfected.  So much for their romantic safari getaway 😉

I actually consider myself a winner as well because I was smart enough not participate. For once I simply enjoyed a spectator role even though Bale and PD threatened to send me back to camp in another safari truck or on foot because I wouldn’t play. Let me tell you, I have handled my share of poop during my life time. My African adventures didn’t need impala poop spitting to make them complete 🙂

My African Adventure is far from over!

Ok, perhaps I did not make myself as clear as I could have yesterday in my post about returning to Canada. So let’s set the record straight as I have been inundated with emails.

Cheryl’s African Adventure is continuing and will continue for many years to come! I am simply returning to Canada for a period of time to spend some much needed time with loved ones there and yes, earn some more income to supplement my nomadic ways.

As for this blog, it will certainly continue while I am residing in Canada as there is no doubt that my newly acquired African ways will cause some grand moments of hilarity as I readjust to life in Canada and tiny PEI. Plus, I have a very strong suspicion that part of Africa will be making the adjustment to Canadian life with me.

Buche says he is coming with me if I can teach him how to drive on winter roads and get him a job as a truck driver. His daughter Nancy also wants to come to Canada which means Buche’s wife is going to be left all alone here in Botswana holding down the fort.

Lawrence has been planning for months on coming back to Canada with me although I am trying to convince him that it is not the land of milk and honey that he thinks it is. Plus, he would never survive the cold or the food!

But he and Chenai have concocted a plan to officially adopt me….I am not exactly sure how that will work out…I am 48 years old; Lawrence is 32 and Chenai is in her twenties. Maybe it will be the start of a new African adopt a Canadian senior program 🙂 Regardless, I have to be back in Zimbabwe for their wedding (oops! hope I haven’t ruined the surprise!) as I will be Lawrence’s Best Man and godmother when the time comes.

As for Sheila, she would handcuff me here if at all possible. Whether she remains here in Botswana, returns to Kenya or some other African country we will have annual dance dates no matter where she is. Plus she is going to continue to feed my Kanga addiction.

No doubt Peter and Jetske will be happy for a return to peace & quiet at Peter’s Place. I hopefully I will be able to plan my trips back far enough in advance that I can reserve Bird Cottage for my return stays. This place truly is home for me and if you saw the way that I take over Jetske’s kitchen you would understand. Peter don’t take my Cheryl sign down yet! Plus who ever lives here next is going to have Gabby the cat constantly at their window and doors. Apartment 2 is now Gabby’s permanent napping spot.

As for Tanyala, she is insisting that I stay right here. She doesn’t want a new resident in #2. I have been trying to lure her to come with me. I am not sure that I can live life with out her to clean up after my messes or sleep at night without her making my bed so perfectly. Unfortunately I think that I blew it because a few weeks ago I showed her pictures of polar bears (she had never seen them before) and that pretty much sealed the deal that she had no desire to put up with a Canadian winter. Sorry Mom! I thought I had the perfect housekeeper to share between us. If only Canada wasn’t so cold and snowy.

And these are only a small number of reasons why my life in Africa is in no danger of coming to an end just because I am temporarily returning to Canada. So calm down everyone! Cheryl’s African adventures are here to stay just I will be covering a lot more territory.

The Countdown is on….

Well the news is out!

I have decided to return to Canada and my position with Veterans Affairs a little ahead of schedule. Beware work colleagues, I will back at my desk September 24th, the one year anniversary of my exit from VAC.

My, how the year has flown by and no doubt the DJM building in downtown Charlottetown has relished the utter peace and calm of having me absent. Enjoy the final six weeks while you can!

But just because I have booked a plane ticket and started the paperwork to return to my day job, it doesn’t mean that the fun and adventure in Africa is finished. In fact, I have lots of adventures planned for the next few weeks so don’t think that my life is going to become dull.

My life is never dull but Africa certainly provides for lots of interesting opportunities for adventure. Let’s see how much trouble I can get into in five weeks!

Identity crisis

Recently I have had experiences that have made me not only laugh, but to seriously consider who “Cheryl” really is.

When you take a journey like mine, you do so because you not only love the sense of adventure that moving to a new country and cultures brings; but also how you will grow and evolve in response to it.

August marks my 11th month of my  migration from Canada to living in Botswana and the Southern Africa region. It is amazing how time has flown by. I like to think that it has because I have adapted to my new life rather easily yet every day brings some new adventure, either large or small. And I rush head long into each and every one of them with far more enthusiasm than most people who I know. While I am always a willing participant in my adventures, I sometimes feel very sorry for those who have chosen to befriend me or sometimes are just unfortunate enough to be within my vicinity.

I am truly blessed because I have made such amazing friends here. In fact, not to gloat but I seem to have as my best friend Noelle puts it ” a horseshoe up my arse” at times. Throughout my life and nomadic tendencies to move frequently, I have always been able to establish wonderful friendships and support systems no matter where I end up. Here in Botswana has been no different. I have the most amazing network of friends that a person could possible want. What I give them in return seems to be a constant source of amusement. 

Sheila & I
Sheila & I during a dance date

A couple of weeks ago one of my dearest friends here, Sheila actually had the misfortune of riding in a combi with me. It might seem funny that we haven’t crossed this friendship mile stone before but with the amazing services of Buche and Tshepo who fearlessly deliver us to almost all of our social engagements we have never traveled any where together via combi. While a combi is ideal mode of transportation during the day time and when you are taking a fairly direct route, it is far safer and easier for us to travel by taxi when going out in the evenings.

Yet a couple of weeks ago we were unexpectedly together late afternoon and needing to get the bus rank…my favorite insane place in Gabs. So into a combi we got. Luckily it wasn’t jammed packed as yet and we were able to sit together on the very rear seat. For me it was nice for a change to have the company of someone I like sitting next to so I was happy to sit and chat during the journey. Not experiencing anything unusual I proceeded as normal…..forgetting that what is my normal is not necessarily Sheila’s.

As a bubbly friendly white woman living in a country where she is definitely a minority, I simply am so use to being stared at, laughed at or with & occasionally (okay not so occasionally) harassed that I no longer notice. While Sheila has experienced some of the unsolicited attention that I receive it has usually been in an evening setting where male attention to females is expected. What she had never really experienced is how I interact with the populous of Botswana on a daily level. It seems that it was an eye opening experience for her. Having people stare and listen to every word you speak was a new experience for her.

Upon exiting the combi at the bus rank we moved through the swirling throng of movement that is the bus rank in pursuit of our destination. While we were walking side by side, I was the continual object of considerable attention…some pleasant, some not. I simply did what I always do, take it in stride literally with mostly a smile on my face. But a defining moment came when a guy kept calling out “English” to me and once he had my attention asked me where I was going? I just smiled and kept walking.

Sheila, on the other hand, put her hand on my arm, stopped me and said (I quote) “I forget that you are white!” However the experience of riding in a combi with me and then walking through the crowd finally brought home the fact that yes, we are very different. I am happy to say that this experience didn’t jeopardize our friendship but in fact made it stronger. She now understands that being in my shoes takes lots of patience and good humor at times to navigate in the real life world of Gabs and Africa in general. A fact that I rarely think about.

To be honest with you, I am surprised that she is willing to continue to accompany me places! That is true friendship. But it was a good reminder for me that although I feel like I fit in very well here, I am truly different from just about everyone that I encounter. While you can learn new cultures and perspectives, race you can never change and because of that you will always be perceived by most according to your visible race which you wear on your skin. Only when you are truly lucky will you find people who see not your skin color but who you truly are.

As I explained to Sheila during our discussion later on that day about our experience, I came to Africa partly so that I was in the social position of being a minority in a race and culture completely different from my own. Living in Canada where multiculturalism is synonymous with saying you are a Canadian, it is important for me to never forget that there are many people throughout the world who have limited access to resources, livelihood and many other things based simply on their race. I never want to take that for granted, nor practice a prejudicial attitude that inflicts it on anyone else.

 

11 months into my experience I can happily say that I truly have experienced acceptance for who I am almost everywhere that I have ventured. Yet, I have learned incredibly valuable lessons about social, cultural and race issues that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Oddly enough my worst experiences here in Gabs have been with fellow Canadians.

And oh, by the way, my friend Sheila can’t wait to travel an even greater distance on public transportation with me….it seems she enjoys the challenges and hilarity that travelling with me always seems to bring.

Hippo silly season

These pictures were just forwarded to me of a hippo having a swim in the pool at the Old Bridge Backpackers in Maun. It seems that hippos in the area are intent on partying!

Hippo Maun

 

Hippo in pool at Old Bridgw Bacpackers

 

My advise: watch where you swim in Botswana because you might have company!

My safari favorites

We truly lucked out with how many different species we got up close and personal with on our safari. It is highly unusual to have as many game sighting as we did in such a short period of time. Obviously it was a really good time of year to go on safari in the Okavango Delta area.

While I love seeing all of the animals, I can never get enough of my personal favorite, lion.

Lion brothers

 

IMG_1521

 

 

IMG_1522

 

IMG_1523The photo above is a real favorite of mine!

lion nap time

 

lion sleep

 

resting my eyes

 

serious napping

 

Our other amazing sighting were the Wild Dogs (sometimes referred to as Painted Dogs).  These are really rare to sight and we had the most amazing view of them. Finding them had been our goal for our early morning game drive. After driving about 1/2 hour in the direction that our guide and tracker believed they would be, we had stopped on the side of the track to watch three ostriches happily prancing around. The next thing we knew, the ostriches were taking off running full gallop which is quite the sight to see.

And then we looked up at the track in the sand ahead of us and saw the most incredible sight:

Here come the dogs!
Here come the dogs!

The wild dogs had found us! and they trotted right on by – 

Wild dogs on the move f2

They then nonchalantly sauntered by looking at us with slight curiosity.

painted dog

 

 

Wild dogs on the move 3

 

 

 

Wild dogs on the move 4

 

wild dogs

Wild dogs 2

 

wild dogs 3

 

Wild dogs 4

 

wild dogs leading the way

 

wild dogs leading the way 2

 

Once they had passed us by we could clearly see that their heads and necks were caked from the blood of what ever feast they had just devoured before meeting up with us. And boy did they smell awful!!!! Glad we didn’t happen upon the kill! To learn more about African wild dogs you can check out this link http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/african-hunting-dog/

Wild dogs side

 

Wild dog pack 2

 

Wild dog pack resting

 

WD pack at rest

 

WD pack leader female

 

This tiny little one sleeping all by herself is the female leader of the pack, just proving that women rule and beware of tiny females!