Reason #2 – Paris Bus Drivers

While Paris is certainly one of the most walkable cities in the world, it also has one of the best bus systems as well. And I love to take the bus as it gives you ample opportunity for adventuresome exploring of new routes and neighborhoods. Why go underground on the metro when you can visually see where you are going and find exciting new places to discover.

The added bonus of the Paris bus system for me is that Parisian bus drivers are definitely giving the Pompiers (The Paris Fire and Rescue Crew) a run for their money in the cute and sexy department. And I can personally verify that they love to flirt! What more could a woman ask for!

While I can count the number of times as less than 10 that I have been on the Paris metro system, I am on and off of probably two to four different buses most days so I can count myself an authority. And for you men out there wondering about the sexist nature of this blog post, I can also tell you that there is a rapidly growing number of  young and attractive female bus drivers as well.

Sure there can be an occasional grumpy bus driver, but I am averaging at least one flirtatious encounter a day if not more. For the small price of a transit ticket you get so much more! My only frustration is that while I am trying to practice and increase my French language skills, many of these utterly adorable men are eager to show off their English language skills.

And not to be forgotten, are their incredible driving skills on top of their flirting and enjoying being a knight in shining armour. These bus drivers maneuver huge buses down tiny narrow streets with less than an inch to spare on either side.    They have nerves of steel and cute smiles to match!

I would highly recommend that if you are visiting Paris, you hop on a bus and see just where it takes you – if you are like me it will always end in fun!

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Reasons why I love Paris – #1- Vive la Revolution!

Paris is one of those cities that divides people. You either love it or hate it! It is a very personal choice. I personally love it, although even I have eye rolling moments where the love affair swings perilously close to the other emotion. To celebrate why I love it so much I am launching my own personal list of reasons why I truly love Paris. Please keep in mind that there is no specific order to this list other than my own stream of consciousness and random events.

This personal blog moment was brought to you as a result of my sojourn Monday night at a Cafe on rue de Rennes. It was a cool and rainy evening as we sat outside on the Cafe terrace under the cover of an awning  enjoying the best Camembert cheese and baguette I think that I ever have had the pleasure of eating. Now this scenario in and of itself is a reason to love Paris. Sitting in the company of friends, eating and drinking and watching the movie of Paris life stroll by.

Ah, but it gets so much better. As those of us learning the language struggle to frame coherent french sentences intermixed with English words or those from other languages (as we are a multicultural gathering) the discussion turns to one of the most gloriously unique of French topics: Manifestations!

For those who are unfamiliar with French ways, there is no more frequent or celebrated activity than to strike, which enviably means marching through the streets of Paris descending upon either the National Assembly or some other significant French institution.

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These strikes or manifestations as they are referred to here in country, often at times have a rather parade like quality to them. This is because the French believe in the right to protest!!!! Hallelujah!!! There is no belief in just quietly taking what comes and conforming to the will of the political or economic powers that be. No, it is the right of citizen of the Republic to express their opinion. If only Canadians could get the hang of this concept……

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It is no wonder I love it here, the non-conformist that I am. And what better addition to the philosophy of manifestation and revolution than the fact that you can actually sit in a Cafe and discuss the whole concept whilst dreaming up possible reasons for which you would lead a revolution. Let me tell you that I came up with a few of my very own while a very nice French gentleman sitting next to me could not resist fist pumping and joyous expressing “Vive la Revolution!” in support of me.

Oh, I do so love Paris and a good revolutionary discussion!

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 🙂 

 

 

Dancing the night away

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Saturday night was my last night of dancing here in Gabs before I board my plane back to Canada midweek. In the company of my closest friends I thoroughly enjoyed my dance party at Calabash, my favorite dance spot here.

Surrounded by people who love to dance as much as I do it was the perfect way to celebrate my time in Gabs. It was also the first time that my very diverse group of friends actually all got a chance to meet each other. I can happily report that everyone got along wonderfully and of course, I had no lack of dance partners.

In fact, as evidenced by the picture above the ubiquitous dance circle on the Calabash dance floor always formed around our group. While my group of friends was large many people we did not know continued to attach themselves to our group throughout the night at times causing lots of laughter and mayhem, right Naki?

Naki and her new admirer
Naki and her new admirer

Naki’s new friend tried throughout the night to impress her with his considerable dance moves but she wasn’t having it. She is a smart girl…although my friend Lawrence found it hard to believe that the girl on dance floor with me really is a chartered accountant. Naki is serious by day, a happy dancer at night! Any wonder we are such good friends. Fortunately fun was had by all!

Naki and Moira (the brat ;)
Naki and Moira (the brat 😉

 

Agatha the Dance Queen
Agatha the Dance Queen

 

Richard, Lawrence and guess who?
Richard, Lawrence and guess who?

 

Erin and Segale
Erin and Segale

 

Lawrence and Sheila
Lawrence and Sheila

 

Go Richard
Go Richard

 

Sheila, Lawrence and Noelene
Sheila, Lawrence and Noelene

 

Aren't Segale and Richard handsome?
Aren’t Segale and Richard handsome?

As you can see fun was had by all with lots of dancing, laughter and fun. I couldn’t have had a better last Saturday night of booty shaking…it turns out that I have been twerking long before Miley Cyrus. Thanks Africa!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pula

Pula is one of the most important words in Setswana. It is commonly known to be the name of the currency in Botswana.

However, it hold far greater significance. It literally means “rain” which in a desert country is critically important and why the term pula is often used as a toast and blessing.

Last night we experienced our first pula of the summer season. Sheila and I had just parted company after an incredibly enjoyable afternoon and evening together and the sky was lighting up with a wonderful display of lightning. All day Africans were saying that they could smell rain and sure enough the sky eventually opened up.

Evidence of the first rain
Evidence of the first rain at Peter’s Place

Gabby and I took this picture of the remaining puddles at 6:00 am this morning. Thanks to the storm, I did spend the night without power. A fact that made it a lot easier for me to clear out my fridge this morning in preparation for my departure back to Canada on Wednesday.

But the only benefits of the rain were not just for the trees, plants and general well-being…….it sparked the re-opening of the pool at Peter’s Place, yippee!!!!

Pool time!!!
Pool time!!!

Although I had been praying fervently that the pool would not be uncovered and ready for action before I left, as I was afraid that it would make my leaving that much more difficult, I am thrilled now. After a morning of baking to use up my remaining chocolate chips and pre-packing organization I was hot and sweaty now that summer is officially here. The day time temperatures are now in the 30’s range 🙂

Drawn to the action poolside and the contradictory comments of my landlords….Peter said I couldn’t swim yet; Jetske said I could! before I knew it I had my toes in, then my legs. And now I have my swimsuit on as I type and as soon as I finish this post I am diving in.

I figure what better way to spend the afternoon then in the pool as it will relax me and help me limber up for my final night of dancing in Gabs for now. In the company of my girlfriends, Erin, Sheila, Naki, Agatha, Nancy, and a few of my guy friends we are planning on spending the entire night on the dance floor. My toes and booty will be ready after an afternoon poolside 🙂

And I won’t worry about leaving on Wednesday yet….it might be Buche’s and Jetske’s job to haul me away from the pool so that I make my flight back to Canada on time or not! Right now the pool is beckoning me and I can’t say no!

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.

 

 

 

 

Springtime in Gabs

I love springtime in Gabs!!!!

Although it is very different from springtime in Canada you can definitely see the change in seasons. Many of the trees are dropping their dry dead leaves while others are bursting with blooms and blossoms. The orange tree outside of my apartment on my private terrace is now fully in bloom!

Orange blossoms outside my door
Orange blossoms outside my door

Every time I am outside and take in a deep breath, I can smell the surrounding citrus trees in blossom which is a heavenly scent to me. It actually reminds of being in Morocco during blossom time. While Gabs still has a way to go before it is the sensory overload that you experience in Morocco where all of your senses truly come alive, it is making me so happy to experience. It is nice that my final weeks in Gabs will be filled with things that make me happy and glad to be living here.

Every where you look are blossoms of varying bright colors of deep pink, purple, white and yellow. The other day when Buche was driving me downtown and we passed by some trees in full bloom in the center of the road I asked him what kind of trees were they? His response, he didn’t know. “They were foreign trees that don’t grow here”. Of course, I proceeded to argue with him that they were in fact growing here as I could physically see them with my eyes, ha! As the man with an answer for everything, he succinctly replied that “foreigners had planted them and they did not grow here naturally. As a foreigner I threatened to bring back a native tree from Canada to plant here too just so I could torment him about it.

But for now, I have given up trying to identify the different species of trees and shrubs in bloom…I have so little time left with Buche that I don’t want to spend it arguing over tree identification. I can think of much better things to disagree on 😉 I am focused on making sure that my final couple of weeks with him are not boring so if he crys when he takes me to the airport it will be from relief that I am finally gone, not from heartbreak as he is threatening me.

So spring has finally come to Gabs and with it beauty and warmer temperatures. I am happy to be out and about, breathing in the amazing scents (and even experiencing the stuffy nose that goes with it) and enjoying the eye candy of gorgeous blooms ever where I look. And enjoying the 30 degree temperatures before I head back to an equally beautiful Canadian fall and much cooler temperatures. I am truly blessed because I will get to experience both! How much better could life get than that?

 

The Saint’s Blood pressure and me

Well I have finally done it! I have pushed the Saint beyond his limits. But it was so much fun!

What have I done now to the Saint?

I tread where others fear to go…..an African father’s view on his daughter’s love life.

What this adventure confirmed for me that fathers are the same around the world.

Yesterday I was teasing the father/daughter Buche duo about how alike they really are. For the past few weeks, I have been threatening Buche with enrolling him in my friend Erin’s yoga class so that he can learn the benefits of deep breathing and patience. While I sincerely believe that he saves his road rants especially for me it is equally fun to make him practice deep breathing while we are driving. I just love to torment the man, sorry Mom I know I promised not too.

Well, yesterday I discovered that his daughter had a lot more in common with her father than I realized. We had arranged to meet and I must have received five text messages from her pre-our arrival to meet her. The last one coming just as we were pulling in the parking lot to which her father told me to not respond to her. So Nancy inherited her un-Saint like lack of patience from her father, as her mother is one of the nicest most serene women I know.

As the trouble maker that I am, I couldn’t resist having fun teasing both of them. And boy was it fun 🙂

But I really struck gold when Nancy and I were talking about her impending weekend trip to Kasane with a girlfriend – she is getting to stay at my favorite resort, the Mowana. I, of course had to give her the names of some of my male friends in the area. Then I explained to her father how they were all nice young men who would love to take his beautiful daughter out on a date. Pay dirt!!!!!

It seems that Saint Papa prefers for his little girl to stay a little girl for just a while longer. While Nancy giggled and absorbed her father’s reactions, I worked poor Buche into such a lather until he firmly declared that if his twenty year old daughter was going to start dating now, he was going to move to his house in the village. End of story! No, actually the Saint’s last word was that she would be only allowed to date and consider getting married once she turns 25.

All in all, it was amazingly entertaining time. I didn’t know that I could get his blood pressure to rise so high. Now I know for certain that he is counting down the days until he delivers me to the airport even though he declares not. But who could blame him? 😉

 

A day on the Gabs waterfront

Gaborone Waterfront
Gaborone Waterfront

For living in a totally land locked country and being a water lover, I seem to have the inordinate luck of spending lots of quality time along side of bodies of water here in Botswana.

Saturday was one of those days were I spent pretty much the whole day and evening at Gaborone’s waterfront. Although whether you can entirely describe it as a waterfront or not is open for debate.

A couple of weeks ago, Erin informed Sheila and I that there was going to be an African Market on the Gaborone waterfront. My initial response was great! but does Gaborone have a waterfront and where is it? Not even Buche had heard of an area in Gabs called the waterfront.

Being a professional taxi driver you would think that he would immediately know where it was and how to get there. After all makes a living driving confused foreigners around Gabs. In fact his rather dry reply to my query about the location of the waterfront netted this response from Buche, “you are always on the go, know everybody and find out about events and places I have never heard of”. Gee, thanks Buche! I think?

So with both my curiosity peaked and my competitive nature setting in so that I could discover exactly where the waterfront in question was before Buche, I set out to beat the Saint Buche in uncovering the location. Fortunately, my friend Erin made it painfully easy for me but gave me lots of opportunity to lord it over Buche 🙂 She was able to forward me this poster advertising the event which provide the exact location of our destination.

african_marketplace_fb (1)So having beat the Saint in figuring out the exact location I got very excited about visiting the waterfront and the African market. However there was a slight moment of trepidation following our conversation on Friday afternoon as the waterfront looked to be smack dab in the middle of “crazy” cow country. But after a moment rational thought took over and I felt confident that as a long resident on a dairy farm I could confidently handle a “crazy” cow if I needed to.

So bright and early Saturday morning Buche came to pick me up to deliver me to the Bojanala Water Front and the African market. Might I also add that he was also the recipient of homemade blueberry muffins which were suppose to be his family’s snack for Church on Sunday. Although later in the day when I saw him, I found out that the muffins had no chance of making it to church as all family members had rapidly consumed them. At least the Saint had actually shared them with his wife and daughter or he would have been in big trouble.

Now back to the waterfront….as we drove into the bush as Buche calls it…something that we do argue about. He defines the bush as no city lights or noise. I define the bush as remote, wild and full of wild animals, “crazy” cows don’t count 🙂

As we drove past Sanitas, the garden center and restaurant that I frequent as sense of excitement grew. I always loving discovering new places, especially ones on the water. However, I was slightly disappointed once I actually arrived. Just like it is pictured above the waterfront is simply a man made body of water that is so closely located to Riverwalk Mall as the crow flies you really can’t call it either bush or waterfront.

However the African Market was far from disappointing.

Welcome to the African Market
Welcome to the African Market

It was jammed packed with fantastic stalls featuring colourful African art, clothing, footwear, various and sundry other items. And of course, yummy food and produce. Better yet it was an enjoyable time spent with my girlfriends with everyone making at least one purchase. Do you like Sheila’s new shoes?

Sheila's funky African shoes
Sheila’s funky  new African shoes
Do you suppose a metal giraffe or zebra would fit in my luggage????
Do you suppose a metal giraffe or zebra would fit in my luggage????
There was lots of great music
There was lots of great music

I am happy to admit that the kids weren’t the only ones dancing to the musical entertainment. Did you really think that I could hear great music and not shake my booty?

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There was even a wonderful cultural display set up describing the initiation of young women in Southern African cultures.

A traditional Southern African dress
A traditional Southern African dress and headdress
A more contemporary dress - I wondered if I could sneak away with it
A more contemporary dress – I wondered if I could sneak away with it because I love it!
A very modern dress with traditional beadwork and button work
A very modern dress with traditional beadwork and button work
up close view
up close view of the bead work

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Besides the great displays and stalls full of jewelry, art, pottery, and clothing, there was also yummy food and fresh produce for sale.

They were also hard at work preparing seswaa, a very popular traditional meat dish made for most special occasions. The stew is made by boiling meat with onion and pepper. It is cooked in a three-legged iron pot, simmered until soft. The meat stew is served over thick polenta or pap.

Perparing seswaa
preparing seswaa

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Oh, and not to be forgotten, evidence that the “crazy” cows had passed through

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The lovely girl time continued after leaving the waterfront when we went to Sanitas for lunch. Erin and I concluded the day by going to the Gaborone Dam to watch the sunset and spend the evening dancing there outside under the stars. All in all a truly lovely day on by the water in Gabs.