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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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

 

 

 

Progress

Yesterday was a historic day!

An international convention enters into effect on Thursday that could eventually extend labour rights to as many as 100 million domestic workers across the globe, a constituency that has historically been bypassed by national laws.

The new Domestic Workers Convention, a binding agreement passed under the auspices of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in 2011, has thus far been ratified by nine countries. Those governments will now be tasked with ensuring that their national labour legislation both extends to domestic workers and ensures those workers a decent work environment.

 Such positions include maids, nannies, in-house cooks, caregivers and other labour in private homes – workers that have long been considered to be among the most exploited anywhere in the world. Proponents are not only lauding the convention’s specifics but also suggesting that the accord will do much to solidify the social and official understanding of domestic work as on par with any other employment.”  The full press release can be found at http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/09/domestic-workers-emerge-from-the-shadows/

While these conventions do not automatically guarantee rights or better treatment for the millions of domestic workers who have been traditionally a very marginalized group; it does give them a better platform on which to raise the significant issues that they face. One can hope that more than the current nine countries (Bolivia, Germany, Italy, Mauritius, Nicaragua, Paraguay, the Philippines, South Africa and Uruguay) will ratify this convention and begin to accord this sector with appropriate labour laws and protection from abuse.

For today, I am simply happy to know that finally this sector of vulnerable workers have achieved some degree of recognition and support. The fight for basic human rights must start somewhere and this at least is a significant step forward!

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

IMG_1679

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.

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!

 

 

A Success Story

As I began my African journey a year ago, one of the most important goal I had hoped to achieve was to help make a positive difference in at least one woman’s life here in Botswana.

I am really happy to announce mission accomplished!

For those of you who have been reading my blog for a while, you will be familiar with Sadie. Sadie was the cleaner at BONASO who showed incredible promise and desire to improve her opportunities in life. For many months I spent my lunch hour with Sadie giving her assignments, correcting homework and teaching her so that she could learn how to become a receptionist.

As a cleaner, she earns (when her boss decides to pay her which is not a given) the grand total of 800 pula a month (the grand total of $100 Canadian dollars) on which she supports herself and 8 year old son. As a receptionist, she will have the chance to earn up to 2,000 or 2,5000 Pula a month (up to $300 Canadian). And hopefully work for a boss who actually pays her salary every month. 

For the past four months she has shown the personal commitment to come to my apartment once a week for intensive tutoring and recently she successfully completed her certificate in Office Management Training and Skill Acquisition. Here she is proudly displaying her brand new certificate which we are getting framed!

Sadie and her certificate
Sadie and her certificate

 

I am so proud of her and her dedication to improve not only her life but that of her son as well. He is a handsome young man who shows that he is just as smart as his mom. Sadie worked incredibly hard to achieve this certificate and I am so happy that I could help her in this small way.

Being her cheerleader and supporting her learning has given me a true feeling of accomplishment. While I may have developed even stronger opinions than I came with about the many negative impacts of development work, Sadie’s success can not be ignored.

Had I not been here in Botswana and working in the same place as her, Sadie would never have achieved this certification. So that makes my time here in Botswana a success for both Sadie and me!

 

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.

The Art of Not Picking Up

Guys really!!!!  Has no one ever told you how not to behave to attract a woman????

Sometimes you really just make me shake my head in disbelief. And let me be absolutely clear that this behavior is indicative of men world wide and not just reserved for the men that I am encountering here in Botswana. Although the men here, with the exception of a very few who have personally stolen their way into my heart, are the worst at picking up that I have ever seen in my middle aged life!

On a daily basis I encounter various and sundry attempts by men who I think actually believe that they have a change of picking me up. A simple trip across death highway from my apartment to the Game City Mall usually nets me one to five pick up attempts. My mind doesn’t even want to contemplate what they think that they are going to do with me once they have successful lured me in. Although occasionally for a nanosecond as I am lugging incredibly heavy bags of groceries, I luxuriate in the thought of how nice it would be to actually take a pro-offered ride home. Then reality sets in.

While I am an old hat at ignoring come ons there are moments when some unique attempts can’t help but stand out. Last night sparked one those moments and thus this posting.

Yes, I was out dancing again! Having had such a fantastic time at the Calabash night club last Saturday dancing and bootie shaking, my friend Sheila who was not with me insisted on a chance to enjoy as well.  How could I resist?

Once again, I was the first one of the dance floor and within moments, just like last week, I was not alone for long. With the dance floor rapidly filling up I was never at a lost for one or more dance partners. Guys who had been attendance last Saturday night seemed to be thrilled that I had returned for a repeat performance. In fact, I am now positive that several guys actually were convinced that my return was directly a result of my desire to be swept up in their arms.

Although I had done nothing but actually return to the site of one of the best dance floors and DJs in Gaborone, several testosterone filled men sincerely believed they were the reason for my return. Fortunately for me, Sheila and I had not come alone without male accompaniment of our own. Flanked attentively by my Zimbabwean gentlemen, luckily I had nothing to worry about as they allow no guy to get within a foot or closer of me for any length of time unless I signaled that I am okay with it. You have got to love a personal bodyguard detail for which I am continually grateful for. Especially one comprised of such handsome gentlemen who love to dance as much as I do.

However, even thoroughly surrounded by my personal protection detail there were more guys than I can count willing to run the gauntlet and attempt to capture the crazy white woman burning up the dance floor. Frankly, I think that I need to hire a camera crew to actually film one of these evenings because it would make for hilarious reality television. There are those guys who think that they are being cool and simply dance their way into our dance group.

They come in with their cool moves (which sometimes aren’t nearly so cool as I am sure they believe in their minds). These guys often have staying power, hanging in there dancing in a way that can only be viewed as a male bird preening to attract the attention of the mate they have set their eye on. They continue to dance tenaciously on in the periphery of our group hoping to attract my attention. I have to admit that I admire their determination at times. In fact, these guys are not that bad except that some just go a little too overboard if they actually get a chance to dance with me. Let’s just say that personal space gets totally invaded and dance moves go from good to down right disgusting. Fortunately my dancing protection detail are never far away and always attentive so I am always safe from unwanted groping.

Ah, but the worst and therefore most hilarious pick up attempts are made by those who aren’t even dancing. These guys simply come straight onto the dance floor (you got to admire their determination) as I never leave it. They wade through the dancing throngs, come and simply plant themselves directly in front of me, which I have to admit is not an easy task for when I am dancing it is nonstop movement and I don’t stick to one tiny spot on a dance floor. These guys crack me up because they actually think that by simply bringing themselves to my attention by appearing before me that I am going to fall at their feet swept up in their magnificent maleness. Last night I was actually presented with a trio of three men at once attempting this maneuver. They appeared to be friends and I am not sure if they intended to share me or would have competed individually for my undivided attention should I decide to bestow it. In fact, my mind is still trying to figure out exactly what they hoped to achieve by presenting themselves to me in a non-dancing trio on the dance floor.

Guys, are there not some tips out there that you could read up on? Are you completely oblivious to what attracts a woman? Do you actually think that you are such a spectacular specimen of maleness that  a woman simply can’t resist you if she lays eyes on you? All I can say is that thanks to my higher standards and a wonderful protection detail I am in absolutely no danger of being swept off my feet and carried off into the sunset even if I was seeking some romance. But I am seriously considering a new business venture “Charm School” and lessons in successfully asking a girl out! It could be huge money making venture as it is sadly needed in this marketplace.