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.
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!
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?
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.
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?
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.
I loved this performer! So did everyone else – he literally brought almost everyone to their feet
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.
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
He was soon joined by the most charismatic woman in dance
These two incredibly energetic dancers outlasted two different performers. And the urge to dance was definitely contagious
The final performer for this section of the program was certainly playing a unique instrument and had an equally compelling voice.
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.
During the lunch break Sheila and I took the opportunity to explore the many stalls set up containing local art and crafts.
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.
Following the lunch break it time for the festivities to begin again with traditional chanting and dancing
Soon it was time to say goodbye and return to Gabs having thoroughly enjoyed the portion of the Dithubaruba Cultural Festival that we attended.
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.
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.
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?
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?
There was even a wonderful cultural display set up describing the initiation of young women in Southern African cultures.
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.
Oh, and not to be forgotten, evidence that the “crazy” cows had passed through
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.
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
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.
We soon saw some farmers harvesting their crops
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…
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.
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
Close by was another far more visible painting whose symbolism we were told still had not been identified by experts.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
My, what poop spitting form!
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
After so serious coaching from Bale, she was ready for her first attempt
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 🙂
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!
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.
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.
Once the majority of the invited guests had arrived, Chenai called Richard to get him to bring the birthday boy home. Let’s just say that he was utterly speechless when they drove up! Loved it!
I had the pleasure of dragging him out of the car…I didn’t even give him a chance to put his sandals on. The first order of the day was blowing the candles out on his birthday cake and then the festivities were in full swing with plenty of food, music, a wicked birthday punch that turned everyone’s tongue red and lots of dancing.
One thing that I can say is that boys from Zimbabwe certainly get silly when it is party time…..
All in all it was a memorable afternoon and evening and a birthday that Lawrence will never forget