Facilitating in the Bush

I am currently trying to figure out how to add my experience from last weekend in the bush to my resume. How does one actually capture the unique challenges and skills adaptation that one has to make when you are literally facilitating in the bush????

Perhaps after reading this entry you will have some suggestions for my resume update!

Saturday morning started early for me after the late night. But it started in an amazing way that can only be experienced in the bush. I got up and opened my bedroom door at shortly after 5 am so I could watch the animals come to the watering hole to begin their day. And come they did.

Following a very cold shower, no shampoo and an attempt to wash my very fine hair with a bar of soap, it was time to head to the dining room/workshop facility.

Outside view of the meeting room
Outside view of the meeting room

As you can see, not a wall in sight! A facilitator’s nightmare for sure. Plus, there was only one electrical outlet and the only power you could access was if you actually requested them to turn on the generator. The next hour was spent figuring out how to actually proceed for the day based on the resources (or lack there of) available.

As I usually one capable of thinking quickly on my feet, I came up with a Plan B that I thought would work. I also had the wonderful assistance of Lawrence and the Kuru ladies to assist with set up. The next hurdle was that the meeting was scheduled to begin at 8:00 am. Remember that this building was also the dining area for the lodge and campers. Breakfast was served at 8:00 am…you get the picture. I was caught between trying to grab some breakfast and greeting those arriving for the strategic planning session. So it was a slightly stressful start to the day for me to say the least.

After downing a yoghurt and a bit of granola, it was time for the facilitator to do her job! Due to the language issue, I had planned on a large part of the strategic planning work to be done in groups so there would be less need to translate back and forth between the languages. However, I had counted on the use of laptops to record the group decisions so that report back could be faster and require less translation….but all of that had to be re-thought based on the facility and lack of power.

Oh well, when facilitating in the bush one works with what one has. After a quick welcome and brief explanation of the process for the day, we were off and running with strategic planning!

Strategic Planning under way
Strategic Planning under way
Group work under way!
Group work under way!
Proving that break out groups can work anywhere!
Proving that break out groups can work anywhere!
Giving new meaning to working in the bush!
Giving new meaning to working in the bush!

Thankfully, Bush people are happy to work under any conditions so all were happy to spread out far and wide to find spaces to tackle their assignments, coming back under the main roof for report backs and instructions for the next task. All in all, the progress was remarkable and far exceeded my expectations. In fact, I don’t think that I have ever worked with a more diligent group who whole-heartedly embraced their assignments once explained to them through a translator. Even without the access to resources, we were progressing right on schedule. Recognizing the need to keep momentum going, I constantly adapted each of the assignments and kept the agenda moving.

Obviously, our team work and good spirits attracted attention. About mid-morning our strategic planning group received three additional participants who stuck around for at least an hour and distracted not only me but just about everyone else with their antics!

This could only happen in the bush!
This could only happen in the bush!

I have now been facilitating or participating in workshops and had warthogs, baboons and ostriches drop by for a visit. Please tell me how I could ever reflect this on my resume????

These ostriches actually stuck around for a long time, entertaining us with their dances and even settling in for a bit of a nap in the fire pit approximately two feet from the building. Perhaps they would be interested me in coming out to facilitate for them 🙂

IMG_0828

Proof of a good day's work
Proof of a good day’s work

Friday night in the Bush

After eating dinner in the open dining room which would be utilized the next morning for our workshop, Lawrence and I headed for the truck to go meet some friends. On the way to the truck I was fully distracted by a very large animal sound coming from the bush less than 10 feet from me. While Lawrence headed straight for the safety of the truck, I headed for the sound.

Typical me, here I was wandering into the bush in the pitch black of the night towards some kind of large animal trying to make a noise similar to it. Well, guess what? My efforts were not wasted. By attempting to replica the snorting/expelling of air sound I was hearing, I was rewarded with another version coming from the bush. The pattern became, take a couple of steps, make the sound, listen for the answer which always came and then do it all again. Eventually I was about two feet from the actual bush where my conversationalist was. By now I was convinced that it was a Wildebeest with whom I was conversing.  Not exactly sure what I was saying to him but it obviously was appealing to him.

Finally, my friend Lawrence who had been blithely hanging out in the truck made it obvious that it was time to stop talking wildebeest and get in. So much for my romantic interlude in the bush…or so I thought 🙂

After a late night on Friday hanging out with Lawrence’s friends in the tiny village of D’kar, we made our way back to the Lodge. Making the long journey down the 10 km track after midnight was a bit of a challenge I have to admit. And Lawrence and I had  our familiar fight. A couple of kms into the sand track was a large gate separating the top farm land from the game preserve. To put it more succiently, separating the large cats (cheetahs & leopards) from the cows.

Lawrence, who was doing all of the driving wanted to be the one to get out and open and close this gate. This made no sense to me as I was more than capable to do it. Somehow he thought it would be better if the big cats ate him instead of me. When in fact I was the one who wanted to meet face to face with them and wasn’t the least bit fearful…in fact, my mother keeps cautioning me not to bring one home with me when I return to Canada in December.

All this to say, I gladly walked around the bush at night, opening & closing gates as we drove through them. Watching the amazing sky filled with more twinkling stars than I have ever seen in my entire life. You could stand mesmerized for hours just looking up at the indigo night sky filled with sparkling diamonds. All the while listening to the sounds of the bush alive at night with those animals out seeking their nourishment. All in all it was a specular end to a long day.

Dqae Qare San Lodge

So my weekend in the Bush was spent at Dqae Qare San Lodge ( http://www.dqae.org/).

It is a beautiful lodge which is actually owned and run by the San people (or as they prefer to be called, Bush men). It was located down a 10 km long sand track and the lodge actually sits on a 7500 hectares (18,500 acres) protected game reserve and includes a wide variety of game including giraffe, eland, zebra, wildebeest, hartebeest, kudu, impala, warthog and other small game.  It also has a number of cheetah plus leopard and brown hyena.

 

The road to the Lodge
The road to the Lodge

The lodge has no electricity but does have a solar powered generator that they turn on for a couple hours most days. The rooms we were in were spacious and lots of candles to light at night as the generator always went off at 10 pm!

The Lodge
The Lodge

And I just have to post it again! I need to build Lawrence’s capacity to pack lighter for the bush 🙂 I could pack lighter too, if I didn’t need sun protection lotion & insect repellent. But at least I can still squeeze everything into a small suitcase…shoes and all…I still don’t know what all he had in his LARGE suitcase.

Who says girls pack more than guys?????
Who says girls pack more than guys?????

 

From my room, I could lie in my bed with the large wooden door (top half ) open and watch the watering hole which was about 50 metres from my room. In fact, I left the top half of my door open a lot and I was informed that at night I really needed to keep it closed as any kind of game could actually wander into my room including the cheetahs, which I heard from my room one night but didn’t see.

The watering hole from my room!
The watering hole from my room!

While the campers had hot water, for some reasons the hot water in the rooms was not functioning so I got to have cold showers every day which do cool you down in the extreme heat. My only problem was that I forgot to bring shampoo and had to go three days without washing my fine hair! But no one seemed to notice but me.

However, the space that I was facilitating was what presented the biggest challenge. It was a beautiful open space that was used as a lounge/dining area. It was basically wide open to the perusal and just dropping by of the wild game!

The Conference Centre
The Conference Centre
Strategic Planning in full swing
Strategic Planning in full swing

 

A Facilitator in action!
A Facilitator in action!

So you can see – no walls! I actually sent the flip chart behind flying over the wall at least three times. Saying that working in the room was challenge was an understatement. My next posting will be all about that! Facilitating in the Bush.

We also had a swimming pool which I of course headed for when I could. I even taught Mr Zimbabwe how to actually swim. And no, he didn’t have a swimsuit in that HUGE suitcase but he bought some in Ghantzi.

To learn to swim he needed the motivation in the cooler!
To learn to swim he needed the motivation in the cooler!
Proof that my capacity building skills include swim instructor
Proof that my capacity building skills include swim instructor

 

Okay, unfortunately that is all I have time to write today…the social butterfly is off for a posh dinner at the Grand Palm!

 

 

Post Script – Driving to the Kalahari

Due to internet connectivity, I didn’t get to finish my early posting about the drive through the Kalahari. Along with the domestic animals such as cows, donkeys, goats (lots and lots of goats), sheep and wild horses, we also experience some great wild life.

Two foxes and a springbok ran in front of our truck as we were driving. We also saw a very large group of ostrich running through the plains.

Ostrich were to become a theme for the weekend. Stay tuned if you want to read that story!

Driving to the Kalahari

Now to the fun stuff…although I am struggling with the internet. The connection is intermittent and I want to be sure to get something fun up on my blog before I hit the swimming pool for the second time today.

Let me start with the journey to the Kalahari desert. We left while it was still very dark out and our main concerns were being extremely careful to not hit livestock, wild animals or people on the road. With only the light from our vehicle and a quarter moon it was difficult to see any distance ahead. And as I noted before, livestock hangs out on the side of or right in the middle of the road at an alarming frequency.

My job as navigator was to spot possible harzards, warn Lawrence and when we got abreast of them…he also expected me (as he knows that I grew up on a farm like he did) to soundly lecture the creature to get off the road. In some cases, this approach worked in others not so well. You see, the most dangerous animal when you are driving here in Botswana is the donkey. Yes, I said the donkey!

These animals have breed prolifically and now roaming at will every where you go in Botswana. Unlike some of the other creatures who have no shame in sauntering out slowly in front of your vehicle or taking their time crossing, donkeys seem to love to stand for hours on the road! Nothing seems to disturb them or chase them off. There is a reason why they are know for being stubborn.

A not so bad donkey!
A not so evil donkey!

The drive up the highway, other than avoiding hitting something, was wonderful. The landscape is beautiful. The nicest that I have seen in Botswana. We first climbed through the hills just on the outskirts of Gaborone which are beautiful any time of day or night. Then we passed a major town, Jwaneng before getting into the Kalahari.

Ah, the Kalahari. It is said to be the birthplace of man and it truly feels like the Garden of Eden to me. Somehow the land, people and wildlife spoke to a visceral life force in me. Touching me in a way that Africa had not yet touched me. The Kalahari felt like home to me.

To steal a description for you from a guidebook:

“The Tswana call it the Kgalagadi: Land of Thirst. And this is dry, parched country. If not a land of sand dunes, then it’s certainly a land painted by a sand palette: blood and mud reds and bleached bone yellow; dust that bites you back as you taste it in the morning. But come the nights this hard end of the colour wheel shifts into its cooler, sometimes white-cold shades: indigo nights that fade to deepest black, and blue stars ice-speckling the impossibly long horizon. Indeed the local San (Bushmen) insist that here you can hear ‘the stars in song’ behind the dark.”

I really could not have described it better myself. I know what many of you are thinking…how can you love some place with unrelenting heat, blowing sand , electricity only in the major settlement areas , little water, dust and several hundred kms between towns? I do and will probably never be able to explain it to anyone else.

But it is what has drawn me to live and work in Africa since the tender age of 14. It is what calls me back every time I visit an  African country. It is the proud, strong, resilient Africa where the land and people blend so seamlessly. It is a land of strength and survival. It is land of utter beauty found in some many ways. It is Africa. It is home.

My only regret is that I do not have a descent camera that allows me to capture the true magic of the Kalahari but here are some of the pictures that I took with my meagre Canon powershot.

A desert road
A desert road

 

Road harzards
Road 

hazards 

Even the desert provides food
Even the desert provides food

 

The varying landscape along the way
The varying landscape along the way

 

Driving hundreds of kms with nothing in sight but landscape and wildlife
Driving hundreds of kms with nothing in sight but landscape and wildlife

 

And of course, donkeys
And of course, donkeys