The day started with the continuation of a major rain and wind storm that has been sweeping through our area. My walk to work this morning was in wind and rain, but my walk home today was in the middle of our first official winter storm in PEI.
While the very cute hat that I wore to work adequately protected my hair from being dripping wet this morning, it wasn’t up to the job of providing any warmth at all during my trudge home through snow covered streets with winds gusting to 100 km per hour and the icy cold snow blowing in my ears and eyes. Luckily there was zero traffic so I wasn’t in danger of being run over by a vehicle as the police have asked everyone to stay off of the roads as driving is too dangerous.
It is only the 4th of December and already this is the third snowfall that we have experienced so far this winter. I can only imagine what is in store for the coming months. All I can say is that Jetske has been reporting to me that temperatures have been soaring in Gaborone into the 40s while we have been experiencing windchill levels of -15 to -18 degrees on a regular basis. And now the snow storms have started in earnest knocking out power and closing offices, schools and other essential services.
I would happily take the 40 degree African heat (even with the five days without water) that Botswana offers over a winter storm Maritime style. Jetske, do you want to trade homes?
This morning was a very rude reminder that I am no longer living the good life in the desert of Botswana.
I woke up to an outside temperature of -5 degrees. Brrrr is all that I can say.
So as I was getting dressed for the walk to work (it is only two blocks) and the day, instead of reaching for my usual wardrobe of dresses or skirts, only dress pants would do thanks to the below freezing temperatures. My short walk to work was brisk but lovely and I arrived with frozen hands as I forgot to grab a pair of gloves to wear.
Oh the joys of Canadian weather. While fall is one of my favorite seasons of the year with it’s sunny days, brightly colored leaves, crisp mornings, the smell of wood fires in the air and who can forget my favorite holiday, Halloween, this year my body and soul are not quite so enthusiastic. I guess you could say that I am truly missing not only my friends and family in Botswana but the sunshine and heat as well. But I am Canadian through and through and unlike my good friend, Buche I don’t need to bundle up too much against the colder temperatures. I just need to adjust my perspective….Jetske, can I meet you in the pool????
Although I left Botswana almost four weeks ago…it is so hard to believe that… this weekend I finally got to settle in to my new home – for now 😉
While I am truly grateful for my kind friend Alexa, who took in this homeless waif while I navigated the drama filled environment of apartment/condo rental, I am delighted to be able to stop living out of a suitcase and access my warmer Canadian clothing. And to put the drama of dealing with real estate agents behind me.
My new home is not the original place that I had planned on renting….let’s just say that the motto “buyer beware” is so appropriate as you should never sign on the dot lined line until you can visually inspect a place. Thankfully, I was smart enough not to fall for the sales pitch and as a result am now happily ensconced in an apartment fit for an African Princess.
As I was lying in bed last night after a whirlwind weekend of moving and unpacking (barely scratching that surface) I realized that my new bedroom which comes complete with a huge walk-in (through) closet and en-suite master bathroom with both a walk-in shower and deep soaker tub was in fact larger than my entire Bird Cottage at Peter’s Place in Gaborone. It just doesn’t come with a housekeeper and laundry services but I do have underground parking and lots of other amenities.
While the recent renovations at Bird Cottage in Gaborone left me with a substantially larger closet in which my ever expanding wardrobe had to be stuffed, my new walk in closet is more than adequate to accommodate both my African wardrobe and all 4 seasons of my Canadian wardrobes. It is every woman’s dream let me tell you!
So now that I have some place to call home I can promise more regular postings again. To bad I can’t just find someone to unpack for me, then I would truly be a happy African Princess living in downtown Charlottetown, PEI.
Thanks to my amazing friend Sheila, who is now running up Kgale Hill three times a week and participating in a Botswana Defense Force exercise program at the top of hill, I can now show the view from Kgale Hill.
I love Kgale and the surrounding hills. Since arriving at Peter’s Place one year ago and developing an immediate love for the beauty of the hills, the love affair has only grown. Kgale Hill stands as my own personal beacon showing me the way home no matter where in the city I am. And as you get closer to the hill it’s beauty changes throughout the day from the glow of early morning sunrise through sunset and the dark of night.
I hope that you enjoy these pictures of Kgale Hill and beyond.
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.
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!!!!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
With full bellies it was soon time to settle in our chairs in front of the massive screen to watch the game
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.
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?
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!
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!