Potty Training

Everyone keeps asking me if I am experiencing massive culture shock from returning to Canada after a year in Africa. The honest truth is not at all!

I am simply not the type of person who ever has an issue with this. Where ever I go seems to feel like home for me and once I move on to somewhere else, it simply assumes the same feeling of home for me. I guess this is a lucky thing for me as I seem to pack up and migrate to new places so often during the course of my life.

However, this week I did make myself laugh. During my first day back to work I eventually was in need of relieving my bladder. As I stood up from my desk I found myself patting my bra to ascertain if I had stored the obligatory stash of Kleenex there as back up in case there was no requisite toilet paper in the necessary…old habits die hard obviously.

As I chuckled to myself that since I am now back in Canada I no longer had to worry about always carrying an emergency stash of toilet paper. I also was deliriously happy thinking as I entered our area restrooms that each and every one of the toilet stalls would not only have toilet paper but would also have a functioning door and working lock! Wow, definitely my idea of heaven.

So I will enjoy the pleasures that a Canadian restroom brings but I will still be secretly longing for the chaos and adventure of African toilets. What can I say, I am a sucker for punishment 🙂

 

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Home Again

Well this week was certainly a whirlwind of activity.

After putting in an incredibly busy day on Monday, tending to car and apartment acquisitions, settling into my friend Alexa’s house as my temporary accommodations until I can move into my new place and liberate my belongings from storage, it was time to go back to work on Tuesday.

As I already noted in my previous blog, I could not have had a more welcoming reception by my friends and colleagues. While working in public service can be extremely stressful these days, I am incredibly lucky to work with a fantastic crew. The sense of team work, support and fun within my work section is amazing. While our Directorate tends to be one of the busiest in the department with often being tasked to handle urgent crises by the handful, we always conquer the impossible but working together and laughing whenever possible.

This week while sitting in my well decorated cubicle, I had a constant smile on my face as I listened to the familiar banter and good nature ribbing that takes place among our considerable smaller policy team. Although everyone was working under incredibly tight and stressful deadlines there was still time to laugh and affectionately abuse each other over our cubicle walls. I had truly missed the feeling of awesome teamwork and genuine friendship that our policy team is composed of. It actually feels wonderful to back as part of the team.

While I might have temporarily left Lawrence and Buche for greener pastures, I am reunited once again with my other favorite men, Andrew and Trevor. Long before I had Buche and Lawrence, Trevor and Andrew were enduring me on a daily basis. This week I proudly informed them that they had better get use to being blog fodder.

Trevor had promised to give me a week of grace before the torment started, sadly he didn’t make it. Let’s just say that when I first joined this work team four years ago, Trevor who is a lawyer along with a fellow coworker welcomed me by turning my cubicle into a crime scene. For anyone who knows me well, they can attest to the fact that I could not possible rest until I found out the guilty parties. My investigative talents can easily equal CSI when necessary. What has ensured over the subsequent years between Trevor and I has been a constant game of torment and one-up manship.

As for Andrew, he is such a great guy and so easy to torment. I spent a year as a his policy mentor when he was learning the ropes and it is hard to say whether the good that I taught him outweighs the evil. Although I am happy to note that he did turn out to be a great policy analyst! I also conditioned him to bribe me with my favorite york peppermint patties. Which somehow I end up having to pay forward to Trevor as a user fee for using his highly functional three hole punch. Oh, the office politics.

All of this to say, while I certainly miss Africa, Buche and Lawrence to name a few, I am happily back at home in the bosom of friends and colleagues who are equally capable of keeping my life interesting. No doubt the simple fact that I am now sitting in between these two guys will give me lots of opportunities for mayhem and fun.

My welcome back to VAC

I am a lucky girl indeed.

While I had landed back on PEI last Thursday afternoon, it was today that I actually returned to my workplace at Veterans Affairs Canada. After days of running around moving my worldly possessions, car shopping and apartment hunting I was actually looking forward to sitting still for a few moments at my desk.

This morning after going through the signing in process that all Canadian federal government employees must endure to enter their secure work sites, I was taken to my new old work station where I was greeted by this wonderful thoughtful sight as my friends and colleagues had gone to considerable effort to welcome me back. 

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I certainly could not have felt more welcome or missed! It is nice to know that even though I was far away having an adventure of a life time that my friends and co-workers truly did miss me and welcome me home with open arms. How lucky can one person be? I know that I truly am.  My coworkers even loved my bright purple and pink African jacket and had left a brand new mug along with a special package of David’s Tea. 

As for culture shock, I am happy to report that I have not suffered even one twinge of it except to remember when I am driving which side of the road I really need to be on. The only shock around me is what I am causing in other people but that is just a normal every day occurrence for me 🙂 

 

 

I am back!

Literally and figuratively, ha! In Canada I mean!

Last Wednesday I boarded a plane in Gaborone and traveled for 31 hours straight before landing on Prince Edward Island, the land of my birth. All in all it was a relatively uneventful trip.

Buche didn’t make me totally cry when we parted at the airport. I made all of my connections and Addis Ababa Airport was certainly an experience as a true African airport. I was only sorry that I could get my camera out and snap some shots but my hands were too full and too little time. I would definitely highly recommend Air Ethiopia as a great airline to fly from Africa to Toronto, Canada on.

Although 16 straight hours on an airplane can be slightly claustrophobic  if you are in the window seat as I was. But I survived. It wasn’t until I hit Toronto Pearson Airport and Air Canada that I had any travel difficulties. Let’s just say that at one point I very loudly yelled at the Air Canada employees who were totally rude, disorganized and clueless that they needed to go learn a thing or two from African airports. 🙂

Once I had my feet back on Canadian soil, it was time for the whirling dervish to kick into full throttle mode. Who cares that I hadn’t slept in almost 48 hours, after being in a land locked country for a year I simply needed to stick my feet in water that was not full of crocodiles, hippos and various or sundry dangerous wildlife. Fortunately, my parents live on the north shore of Prince Edward Island a simply five drive had me waterside with toes soaking in the salt water…who needs the Peter’s Place pool when you have the whole Atlantic Ocean? Fortunately, I arrived in PEI to Gab like weather as it was hot and sunny and perfect for swimming.

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I really did miss the beautiful harbour and seaside

North Rustico Harbour
North Rustico Harbour

 

Not the least bit tired it was time to go for a nice drive to drink in the beauty of my homeland which is so green compared to Botswana.

The green fields of PEI
The green fields of PEI

It is hard to believe that I had gone from this

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to this

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Both are equally beautiful in my eyes!

 

 

Excuse me, is that your bosom ringing?

All right, I will admit that I have picked up a habit or two in Africa that will be difficult to eliminate once I am back in Canada and will no doubt establish my uniqueness.

There is one habit in particular that is now deeply ingrained and It certainly causing some eyebrow raising here along with chuckles and jokes.

What is this habit?

It is simply that I use my African purse to the best possible advantage. No, not my handcrafted African purse but the other African purse that rural and market women generally use, my bra!

As Peter, my landlord puts it, because of my generous bust size there is room for a million pulas in there if I wanted. However, what I carry there most is my phone.

my phone
my phone

And let me state that I have a definite love-hate relationship with this phone. I hate it but I need it to function on a day to day basis but it is a total pain in the butt to use. Airtime here is incredibly expense compared to the cell phone plans you can get back in Canada. It takes me forever to type out a text message on the stupid keyboard. I desperately miss my blackberry and the ease of which I can email, text or bbm. Yes, I am a Princess and proud of it now thanks to Buche! 

As for my Nokia Torch phone, I am notorious for losing it, forgetting it or simply just leaving it behind. The only time that I ever appreciate it is when the power goes out and I need to use the flashlight on it to light my way.

In an effort to ensure that I stop misplacing it, sometimes for a couple of days at a time, I now carry it in my bra. Generally it fits there well making it accessible exactly when I need it and I haven’t lost it once since I developed this habit.

However, it does create moments of hilarity – or at least I think that they are funny – when it beeps or rings while hidden from view in my bosom and I am out in public. And let me tell you, it has rung in some very funny places, not just the grocery store, Buche’s car or the like. Again, just another reason why a reality camera following me around would yield footage fit for the Canadian show “Just for Laughs”.

I am eagerly anticipating my reunion with my blackberry in a week’s time. However, I am providing advance warning to my family, friends and co-workers – please do not be the slightest bit surprised if you are standing by me when my bosom rings. It is just Africa calling

 

 

 

Boundaries

One of the things that I am most looking forward to with being back in Canada is the return of personal space boundaries. Or at least ones that are marginally more like I am use to!

Although I absolutely love living in Africa, one of the things that has been the most challenging for me is the incredible lack of personal space.  For a vast country and continent which has ample space for all, the notion of personal space is almost nonexistent. While I am incredibly lucky living at Peter’s Place where I have all of the privacy and space that I could want, as soon as I step outside of the gates it all evaporates.

The moment you crawl inside a combi or bus, enter a store, walk in public or god forbid enter a public restroom the facade of personal space disappears completely. There is no possible way to describe just how little regard there is for anyone’s personal space, not just foreigners. In a combi or bus you are literally crawling over the top of others or vice versa. When trying to steady yourself you will grab a hold of what ever you can and should it happen to be a body part, no big deal.

Then there is the actual groping that takes place. I am now refusing to travel on buses because I am simply tired of having body parts groped that I didn’t even know that I had! The first time you could laugh off, the second and beyond it just isn’t funny anymore.

Shopping takes it to a whole new level and it is just isn’t other shoppers blocking aisles or cutting into line ups but the employees are equally guilty. They completely block aisles with their bodies, merchandise and other various sundries. Sometimes you have no choice but to simply turn around and go a long way around. Saying excuse me politely just falls on deaf ears. In fact, you quickly learn to not even bother.

And don’t make me even talk about using public restrooms again. I am sure that I have talked about that enough in this blog. Doors open and full on conversation, need I say more? Thought not 🙂

All of my life I have valued my personal space and I didn’t realize just how much until living here in Africa. Although I have also learned that I have much more open boundaries than I ever considered possible. It is all part of living somewhere new and challenging. When being immersed in a totally new and different culture, you learn what you can live with and what you can’t. I feel like my personal adapting skills have definitely improved in my year in Botswana.

I discover this interesting article the other day on the CBC website http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2013/08/28/bc-personal-space-closeness.html  It certainly made me feel better that I had even been grappling with this cultural adaptation. It seems that I am pretty normal after all.

Tell me, what are your personal space boundaries? Could you live in Africa?

It is Fringe Time!

It is Fringe Festival time on PEI. So there will be lots of great theater to take in this coming weekend. And I can highly recommend one of the plays in particular.

Labrador mat

While I am still firmly ensconced in Botswana enjoying my final weeks in Africa (for now) and tormenting Buche, it is show time for my Mom and her production of “I Am What I Am”.

Her award winning play is based on the true story of Lydia Brooks Blake Campbell, a Metis woman from Labrador in the 1800’s.  The play is a wonderful one woman show in which Lydia, played by Marisa Boudreault, tells her story in her own words. It is a brilliant piece of play writing if you ask me. My absolute favorite of the plays that my mom, Marjorie Hooper Dalziel has written…and there have been a few. 

This play is also featuring a very special touch – the very godlike voice of my friend, Mike Wedge, who truly does think he is God sometimes.  No doubt he will have a very swelled head after this weekend as he becomes a shining star for providing the voice of the Deer God. Let’s hope that fame doesn’t ruin him 😉

You can catch performances of “I Am What I Am” during the Island Fringe Festival running August 29 to 31 in downtown Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.  Performances  will be Thursday, August 29th @ 6pm; Friday, August 30th @ 5pm and Saturday, August 31st @ 3:30pm. All performances will take place at Confederation Landing alongside the water.  So you can grab a Cow’s Ice Cream and enjoy the show!

Additional information about the Fringe Festival is available at  http://www.islandfringe.com/

I hope that some of you will take in the performances and cheer extra loud so that it will seem like I am there!

Happy Fringe Festival!

 

 

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!

Happy Canada Day!

I was able to start my Canada Day celebration in Botswana with a steaming mug of “Oh Canada!” David’s Tea curtsy of my very thoughtful friend Mike. It is a little taste of Canada because it is rooibos tea that has been sweetened with maple syrup and sprinkled with delicious maple leaf candies. He included it in a wonderful care package that I received months ago so I had planned on saving some specially for today. Nothing says Canada like maple syrup!

While I might be far away from Canada and loving living in Africa, I will always be a Canadian. A former premier of Prince Edward Island, the land of my birth coined this phrase “I am an Islander first, Maritimer second and then a Canadian”.  And now I can add in an adopted African as well.

While my plans for Canada Day in Botswana are relatively quiet for me and involving relaxing in the afternoon sun poolside, today is also a holiday for some in Botswana as it is Sir Seretse Khama Day.

July 1 is the birthday of Sir Seretse Khama, the man who led the nation of Botswana out of colonialism and laid the foundation for a modern democracy in his country. Khama was born in 1921, when Botswana was still known as Bechuanaland, a British protectorate. He was the eldest son of Khama III, the kgosi or king of the Bamangwato people. Upon his father’s death, Seretse Khama became kgosi at the age of four, with his uncle, Tshekedi Khama, acting as his guardian and regent. Khama was educated at boarding schools in South Africa and began college there, but finished his education in England. It was there he met and married Ruth Williams, a white Englishwoman. Shortly thereafter, he returned to his home country with his wife.
The interracial marriage caused an outcry both among tribal leaders and the pro-apartheid leadership of Bechuanaland’s powerful neighbor, South Africa. Khama was able to win his own people over, but South African authorities were profoundly threatened by the marriage of a black tribal leader to a white woman. They stirred up a dispute with England regarding the legitimacy of Khama’s claims to chieftancy. Due to this pressure from South Africa, Khama and his wife were exiled to England in 1951, and the following year, this exile was declared permanent. By 1956, however, public outcry about the way they had been treated resulted in the couple’s return to Bechuanaland.
Khama formed the Bechuanaland Democratic Party and became the last colonial prime minister of Bechuanaland, serving in that post from 1965-66. He was also honored with knighthood in 1966. On September 30, 1966, Bechuanaland became the independent country of Botswana, with Khama as its president. He held this post until his death in 1980. When Botswana became independent, it was widely assumed the country would have to be dependent on one of its wealthier neighbors, for Botswana was so poor that its tax base seemed too small to support the country. Yet through Khama’s initiatives, Botswana was able to develop an independent, export-based economy.
Sir Seretse Khama Day is a national holiday, honored across Botswana as a day to remember Khama’s contributions to his homeland. In celebrations in Serowe, which is Botswana’s capital as well as Khama’s birthplace, people proceed from various points to the main town center, where musical and religious groups have gathered. Traditional dances, such as the tsutsube, are performed. Speeches and ceremonies are made at the city’s statue honoring Khama, and a wreath is laid at his grave in the royal cemetery.” taken from http://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/Botswana+Sir+Seretse+Khama+Day

So Happy Canada Day and Sir Seretse Khama Day everyone!