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.
Everyone keeps asking me if I am experiencing massive culture shock from returning to Canada after a year in Africa. The honest truth is not at all!
I am simply not the type of person who ever has an issue with this. Where ever I go seems to feel like home for me and once I move on to somewhere else, it simply assumes the same feeling of home for me. I guess this is a lucky thing for me as I seem to pack up and migrate to new places so often during the course of my life.
However, this week I did make myself laugh. During my first day back to work I eventually was in need of relieving my bladder. As I stood up from my desk I found myself patting my bra to ascertain if I had stored the obligatory stash of Kleenex there as back up in case there was no requisite toilet paper in the necessary…old habits die hard obviously.
As I chuckled to myself that since I am now back in Canada I no longer had to worry about always carrying an emergency stash of toilet paper. I also was deliriously happy thinking as I entered our area restrooms that each and every one of the toilet stalls would not only have toilet paper but would also have a functioning door and working lock! Wow, definitely my idea of heaven.
So I will enjoy the pleasures that a Canadian restroom brings but I will still be secretly longing for the chaos and adventure of African toilets. What can I say, I am a sucker for punishment 🙂
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’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!
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 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!
Ok, perhaps I did not make myself as clear as I could have yesterday in my post about returning to Canada. So let’s set the record straight as I have been inundated with emails.
Cheryl’s African Adventure is continuing and will continue for many years to come! I am simply returning to Canada for a period of time to spend some much needed time with loved ones there and yes, earn some more income to supplement my nomadic ways.
As for this blog, it will certainly continue while I am residing in Canada as there is no doubt that my newly acquired African ways will cause some grand moments of hilarity as I readjust to life in Canada and tiny PEI. Plus, I have a very strong suspicion that part of Africa will be making the adjustment to Canadian life with me.
Buche says he is coming with me if I can teach him how to drive on winter roads and get him a job as a truck driver. His daughter Nancy also wants to come to Canada which means Buche’s wife is going to be left all alone here in Botswana holding down the fort.
Lawrence has been planning for months on coming back to Canada with me although I am trying to convince him that it is not the land of milk and honey that he thinks it is. Plus, he would never survive the cold or the food!
But he and Chenai have concocted a plan to officially adopt me….I am not exactly sure how that will work out…I am 48 years old; Lawrence is 32 and Chenai is in her twenties. Maybe it will be the start of a new African adopt a Canadian senior program 🙂 Regardless, I have to be back in Zimbabwe for their wedding (oops! hope I haven’t ruined the surprise!) as I will be Lawrence’s Best Man and godmother when the time comes.
As for Sheila, she would handcuff me here if at all possible. Whether she remains here in Botswana, returns to Kenya or some other African country we will have annual dance dates no matter where she is. Plus she is going to continue to feed my Kanga addiction.
No doubt Peter and Jetske will be happy for a return to peace & quiet at Peter’s Place. I hopefully I will be able to plan my trips back far enough in advance that I can reserve Bird Cottage for my return stays. This place truly is home for me and if you saw the way that I take over Jetske’s kitchen you would understand. Peter don’t take my Cheryl sign down yet! Plus who ever lives here next is going to have Gabby the cat constantly at their window and doors. Apartment 2 is now Gabby’s permanent napping spot.
As for Tanyala, she is insisting that I stay right here. She doesn’t want a new resident in #2. I have been trying to lure her to come with me. I am not sure that I can live life with out her to clean up after my messes or sleep at night without her making my bed so perfectly. Unfortunately I think that I blew it because a few weeks ago I showed her pictures of polar bears (she had never seen them before) and that pretty much sealed the deal that she had no desire to put up with a Canadian winter. Sorry Mom! I thought I had the perfect housekeeper to share between us. If only Canada wasn’t so cold and snowy.
And these are only a small number of reasons why my life in Africa is in no danger of coming to an end just because I am temporarily returning to Canada. So calm down everyone! Cheryl’s African adventures are here to stay just I will be covering a lot more territory.
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.
Okay, first of all I am putting my girlfriends back home on notice – at least one of you need to be prepared to go dancing with me when I return to the northern hemisphere. My bets are on my friends Alexa and Linda, lets see if they are up to the challenge 🙂
Now to last night and this morning because it really was all the same thing. The original plan for the evening was to meet and go to the new Tyler Perry movie (note: if you haven’t seen it don’t go!) and have a drink after. As the week progressed we got a tip on a great new spot to dance the night away from 11:30 onwards. Since it has been a couple of weekends since we have had a good dance outing there was simply no way to resist.
So the night started off with Buche delivering me to Riverwalk Mall where we were meeting up pre-movie. Last night was a gorgeous full moon and as we were driving I couldn’t help but ooh and awhhh as it was so huge and low in the sky at that point. Thus prompting a serious discussion on the moon including comparisons between how it looks in different areas of Africa and Canada. Here it comes up some nights as reddish or orange but the color only lasts for about 10 minutes. Whereas in Canada, particularly the East Coast we get very colorful moons in Autumn that last all night long. The other notable difference between moons here and there is that here as the moon rises it appears smaller and smaller. Back home in Canada it never seems to rise as high in the sky as it does here and appears to remain relatively the same size through the night.
Buche’s advice was that I check it out throughout what he knew would be my long night of escapades. So just like the good girl that I am, I did at 1o:30, 11:30 and 2:30 am! He was right of course, the higher it rose the smaller it seemed. What a smart man both for knowing about the moon and Cheryl’s tendency to be out and about long into the night having fun.
And how would you know that I had fun last night?
I almost forgot my shoes in Tshepo’s taxi at 3:00 am – thankfully I am blessed with him and Buche in my life here. While Buche ensures that I am safe and sound on his watch, Tshepo is equally consciousness. Always when he returns me home at night after a weekend late night outing he pulls completely into my yard and insists on waiting until I have made the walk to my door. Only once I have the door opened will he let me open the gate so he can back out where he waits again to ensure that the gate is safely completely closed with no intruders before he leaves. Last night I actually got out of the car and started the walk without my shoes. (I had worn wedge heels which are not the best for dancing in but were perfect with my dress). Luckily, I have Tshepo looking out for me and I am not sure that bright pink wedge heels would look that good on him 🙂 I am also starting to think that that African saying of “it takes a village to raise a child” actually applies to me as well. “It takes a entire African community to take care of Cheryl”
Those bright pink shoes once retrieved from Tshepo’s cab only made it as far as the chair on my terrace just outside my door where I found them at 5:30 am! I must have put them on the chair when I was unlocking my door and forgotten about them…what can I say it was 3:00 am. Also, I had a kitty waiting for me which also distracted me. Miss Gabby was either locked out of the main house or simply was waiting for me to finally come home so she could come in on my bed. That is why I also discovered my shoes at 5:30 am as she insisted on leaving the apartment then. Thankfully I found them before Peter did, not sure he would ever have let me live that one down.
The next sign that I really had fun was the trail of clothes from my front door through my apartment. Starting with the shoes outside the door. My purse just inside the door on my new desk. My pashima at the foot of my bed. My sweater dress in the kitchen and unmentionables in the bathroom. Now my Dad can tell you I have a long history of announcing my arrival home by a trail of clothing. Often when I was young you could mark my procession through our house by following the discarded trial of apparel. Let’s just say that some traits never totally disappear no matter how old you get. Although I seldom do that any more, last night proved to be a definite reoccurrence. Thankfully I live alone….my friend Kim back home in PEI who is slightly older than me had a similar experience about a year ago. She only made it as far as her couch and her husband came down the next morning and discovered her jeans on top of her kitchen table….thankfully I have not achieved that yet! Sorry to out you, Kim!
I am a very light sleeper and seldom ever sleep more than two consecutive hours at a time. Thanks to the amazing Jetske and the renovations, I now have beautiful and highly functional blinds on my windows. These blinds ensure that my rooms are sufficiently dark that I don’t automatically wake up now with the advent of dawn. Having expended so much energy dancing last night I was thankful to tumble into bed. If Miss Gabby hadn’t of woken me at 5ish to be let out I would have slept through dawn. In fact, I went back to sleep and even when somebody got the bright idea at Game City Mall to blast music at 7:oo am this morning, I simply rolled over and went back to sleep until almost 9 am.
And the fifth sign that I really had fun last night….my twinkle toes are so raw and sore from dancing that today is definitely a barefoot day….which is good given that recent history has proven that I would likely just forget them somewhere anyways!
As those closest to me know, I am not a fan of Valentine’s Day but this year there was lots of love in the air making it a very nice day.
Starting with coming home last night to a valentine’s gift on my bed from the Consul herself. She is the kindest most thoughtful person. The package contained some yummy snacks for Lawrence and I to take on the road tomorrow morning…we are leaving my place at 4:00 am to begin our drive. So thoughtful!
I also loved the tag that she pinned to the package. It stated:
Once in a while in the middle of an ordinary life Love gives us a Fairytale – Unknown-
Then just after mid-night I got a wonderful text message that was so thoughtful and sweet! I am not divulging the sender but it wasn’t romantic gesture but a wonderful show of love.
My morning drive was full of love too! Tabuche has never driven so carefully and gently ever. The reason why – Princess was in the car. He was dropping her off at the vet clinic right after dropping me off at work. She had been in the carrier since 11 pm the night before and she was very talkative. Of course her and I had to have a conversation. Poor Tabuche could barely get a word in edge wise but he did and ever one showed just how much he truly loved this little kitten. Princess of course was happy to hear the sound of his voice. There is no doubt that the love affair is mutual! I could not have asked for a better home for the wayward kitten.
She is beautiful, still very tiny but her green eyes are gorgeous and take up half of her face. She is cuddly and loving. I stuck my finger into between the wires to stroke her and she licked my finger. Tabuche warned me that she bites him and then licks but I only got licks. I think that just like me she likes to torment him just a little 🙂
When he picked me up from work tonight he had just gotten her from the clinic. She was still very groggy from the drugs and spent much of the short ride home with her head in the water dish attached to the door. When we pulled into Tabuche’s yard there was a reception committee to greet her. Mma Buche came first, then his daughter. The dogs were barking and no one could wait for her to let out of the carrier. Of course that honor went to Tabuche and no kitten has ever been lifted so gently and lovingly. Princess still very wobbly from the drugs had to make the rounds of being picked up and cuddled only to be passed on to the next family member.
Watching the whole family love this little waif kitten was the very best Valentine’s present I could ever get! The outpouring of love for Princess was so amazing. And it included them all thanking me for bringing her into their lives. Princess is the luckiest kitten in Botswana. For a four week kitten who was stuck in a tree and jumped through an electric fence on her journey to find a home, I think that if she could talk she would certainly say that it was worth it!
For me, I can go back to Canada in 10 months time knowing that the scared little lost kitten is living the life of luxury and being loved like no other kitten I have ever seen. And that my friends makes this a wonderful day of love!
On my next blog posting I had meant to tackle the serious of topic of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. I know! Thrilling topics but ones that are very important to the work that I am doing here in Botswana. Particularly after the meetings that I participated in last week.
In every one of the 30 District Health Plans that we reviewed the issue of rising rates of teenage pregnancy were identified.Back on my first trip to the Chobe District of Botswana that I made two weeks after arriving here four months ago, I attended my first DMSAC meeting (District Multi-sectoral Aids Committee). During this four hour meeting in a room with no air conditioning and baboons playing outside I got my first indications that teenage pregnancy was a major concern.
Last week my instincts were not only confirmed but backed up with district statistics. The M & E (monitoring & evaluation) side of me was blissfully happy! Not that it was an issue but now that I had the data to support my concerns and a platform to leverage program change to address the issue. Could it get any better than that? Also in the room was the National Aids Coordinator from NACA who is responsible for coordinating civil society efforts within the government and National Strategy framework. Being typical Cheryl, I made sure that I secured agreement from him that this was a serious national issue and one that needed to be addressed by all levels of government and society.
He absolutely agreed with me and we are going to sit down next week to plan out our advocacy approach to secure Presidential support for a change in the National Strategic Plan. This is a big deal because 1) it is officially the President who has responsible for the National Strategic AIDS Strategy; 2) teenage pregnancy is about so much more than health issues. It is culturally, education, economic, gender, legal…I think you get the picture. Changing the ship’s direction (or Country’s) at this point in time is almost impossible. The National Strategy runs to 2016. The economy can not continue to support the escalation in costs to the health system that HIV and Aids requires. The President has been very clear about that and he is very correct.
I know, you are all thinking that makes it impossible odds. Actually, for me it makes it my focus. Oscar brought me to Bonaso to do and build capacity in advocacy. I have never met an impossible challenge that I backed down from and when it involves a generation of young women you can be guaranteed that there is no way in hell I am going to let this go. While I love my role as Organizational Development Advisor because every day I am using the varied and multiple skills that I felt were drying up in Canada. On any given day, I go from providing technical advice, guidance and creating systems in finance, human resources, data bases, governance, m & e, communications, strategic leadership, inter-agency collaboration, the list goes on. My absolute love is and always will be policy work, which includes advocacy for policy changes. Throw in the opportunity to make a difference or build capacity in gender issues and I am one truly happy camper. So stay tuned! I will keep you posted my progress and road blocks.