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Friday, August 18, 2006

Gaborone, Botswana: Proposal submitted

We made the final changes to our proposal and submitted it this morning. Then it was off to Riverwalk Mall to buy some flowers for three floral arrangements that Maggie has to do for a funeral. There are an awful lot of funerals in Botswana. Many people are dying from HIV/AIDS and vehicle accidents. We also bought some paper to print the graduation diplomas for the students’ graduation on August 31st.

We got back to the centre and I was furiously working on the menu pricing (preparing the documents and making hard copies to keep in the office for when people call for catering). I worked on the design of the actual diplomas and printed a tet copy. I found out the paper used in printers here are not the standard 8 x 11 sheets. They are a little longer so the documents were not printing very well. I decided to measure the paper but do you think I could find a ruler? That was very frustrating because short of guessing, and printing multiple copies and wasting ink which was just replaced yesterday (there was no ink in the printer since I got here at the beginning of July), there is no other way to do this. I now have to find a ruler.

I thought we were leaving early today since there were only a few students but then Mitho and I remembered that we have to be at GABZ FM for 7:30am on Monday so we needed to make notes about what we’re going to say. She is a bit nervous but I’m okay so far. The confidence may come from having worked in the TV studio at Red River College teaching courses live on the internet for the last 3 years.

I’m not sure if this is a good thing but the staff today were saying that I’m working them really hard. I thought about that for an hour or so and had to ask what they meant. They all agreed that it was a good thing. They said that they needed someone like me to help them with direction. They have lots of good intentions but didn’t know how to go about starting many of the things they wanted to do so we strategized about implementing some of the changes to make things more efficient. I’m now being thought of as the efficiency expert able to get things done and willing to work as hard as I expect everyone else to.

This week saw the culmination of several weeks work coming to fruition. I have most of the programme for the Open Day worked out. We just have to confirm our Keynote speaker and the person to give the vote of thanks. We decided that I would MC the event but each teacher would call their own students’ names and hand out the certificates. What a relief. These are some of the names: Malegbogo Gaobothoko, Nametso Kgampi, Tiroyamodimo Leletile, Gotata Lekgatho, Kedibone Lesele, Obakeng Molefe, Mmaoratwa Moepedi, Thamiso Oromeng, Tshepo Radeba and Pholoso Tshenyego. Even if I could try to make phonetic spellings for the 100 or so, I don’t think I could manage all the necessary clicks of the tongue and rather than mess up people’s names at such an important day for them, I’ll defer to the teachers. Now do you see why I’m taking the easy way out? You try saying some of these names. Not many of them have shortened their names so you’d better learn them. We spent some time discussing the menu for the evening and how we were going to get everything done. We want to have the event at the centre but the space is a bit small. We’re considering doing it outdoors and since it’ll be from 5:30 to 7:30 we’ll have candles and floral arrangements on the food table outside. It doesn’t usually rain at this time of year and hopefully the weather will cooperate and stay somewhat warm. With the plans we are making, I think the evening will be quite lovely. The students want to know if they’ll have grad gowns but we have no money to afford to rent gowns for them and they definitely cannot afford it themselves. We told them to wear their most impressive outfits for the evening.

They are getting quite excited and it’s such a nice feeling to see them that way. I left long after I said I would but went home and dropped off my backpack which I have taken to walking with just about everywhere. And the darn computer is so heavy that it’s a good thing I don’t have to walk with a briefcase. I’ve taken to carrying around my camera, a notebook, a pen, chap stick, money of course, my laptop and the battery, an adapter for South African plugs and one for Botswana plugs because there is no standard plug in any one place. Then there is my passport, cell phone, highlighter, headphones sometimes my little thermos of coffee, an apple and whatever else I can fit into the backpack. No wonder the stupid thing feels so heavy on my back.

I went out to find the lady with the crocheted bedspread and by the time I got to her a little after 5, she was packing up to go home. She didn’t notice me until I was right at her spot and then she burst out into a big grin (I think it was a grin of relief that I came back and she didn’t lose her 300 pula sale after all). I bought the bedspread and she showed me that shawl she made. It wasn’t what I was looking for so I drew her a picture of what I wanted. I have to tell you that I am no artist. In fact some of my drawings are so bad that I was even told that.

This is a real story. Robin and I were in a restaurant in Taipei a few years ago. I had a Chinese phrase book so I ordered a shrimp fried rice. It was very fresh and very delicious (when we ordered the fried rice, the restaurant owner ran next door and bought and cleaned the shrimp from the vendor next door) and served us the best fried rice we had in a long time. The next day we went back to the same restaurant but this time I forgot my phrase book so I tried explaining in English what I wanted. The woman’s English was limited and she didn’t know what I was saying so I took out a piece of paper and drew a shrimp or a reasonable facsimile of a shrimp. She still couldn’t understand so I just ordered chow fan (fried rice) and she brought a veggie one. She was quite disappointed at not being able to understand what I wanted so later she asked me to write the word on a piece of paper. I wrote the word shrimp and she started laughing. She said “I know. I know this. Next time I have this for you. But your drawing is terrible.” How is that for an ego crushing sentence? She was right though because later on that evening, we went out with my friend Holly to dinner with some friends and I was telling the story so they all asked me to draw the shrimp and they all agreed that my interpretation of a shrimp was terrible. Lesson learned. Many people learning English can probably understand the written word much better than the spoken and definitely much better than what was a bad cave drawing. Did they have shrimps in the cave days?

Well back to my tablecloth story. I asked the lady to make a shawl for me but this time I took a round table cloth and folded it in half and said that was what I wanted the shawl to look like and then I took one of the sweaters and said that’s what I wanted the neck to look like, then I took a border of a tablecloth and said that’s what I wanted the tie at the neck to look like except that it should be like a ribbon. By this time the lady is probably regretting that she sold me a tablecloth in the first place. I’m not fussy. I just know what I want and I find a way to get it. I came home from a mentally exhausting but very good week of work. Maybe I should listen to the women at the centre when they say that I should spend some more time here. Only thing that I am self funded so I’d have to find a real job that pays real money. Not a bad idea but I have to finish school.

I’m going to do something totally mindless like doing my nails. I’m still getting cable so I’ll watch some food or Travel TV. I’m tired of BBC and CNN. Same thing, isn’t it? I miss my CBC and CTV and I miss the weather channel. And Young and Restless. Anyone know what’s happening there? I miss high speed internet most of all. This satellite thing is bad but dial up is worse. I miss high speed and I miss free local calls.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Gaborone, Botswana: Another fruitful day

This morning on my way to work, I stopped by the vendors in the market by the hospital (the same one whose picture I took yesterday) and I gave her a copy of the pictures I took her and her mom. She was really surprised when I said I had something for her. She loved the pictures (3 of them). In about 20 seconds, there were about 8 other vendors coming over to see the pictures and wanting theirs taken. So I had to do the rounds in the marketplace clicking away at pictures for all of them.

I was leaving and the girl asked me if I was going to the Main Mall. I said I was going in that direction because my school is close to it. She said she would walk with me. I asked her her name and she gave me her Setswana name but said I could call her Kelly. We walked towards Main Mall and we talked about her life. She’s only 20 and finished school but did not do very well in Form 5 (her words). She said that most of the time, when she had difficulty in school and asked the teacher for help, the teacher would tell her to go and read the book. These were her exact words: “How can I understand any better if I read the book because it is the book that I don’t understand.” She said the teachers get impatient with the students who are having difficulty and don’t want to help. They spend a lot of time in the staffroom drinking tea so the students are left on their own much of the time. She said the only course she ever did well in was Food and Nutrition.

I told her about Sedibeng and about the catering program and instead of going to the market like she was supposed to, she came with me to Sedibeng to see if she could enrol in school. Thandi was busy and couldn’t talk to her then so she said she would come back at 2:30. She was there at exactly 2:30 to talk to Thandi. She was very excited about getting into the program. I hope she does. She wanted to know why I was helping her. I said I that for me education is important and she was too young to be selling in the market. She should have a future.

She thanked me for coming into her life and most of all for wanting to help her without expecting anything in return. Having been a teacher for some time, it was unfortunate to hear that students are still being treated like that. I don’t suppose the teacher would like it if their child was being treated like that in school.

We spent most of today working on a proposal for funding for the centre. It’s the one I started two nights ago and we completed it late this afternoon. Mitho will take it home and read it for any last changes and we submit it tomorrow. I don’t think I’ve ever worked on a proposal in such a short time frame and without a scope. So it’s like baking a cake but you don’t know what kind of cake and what ingredients to use so you go from your experience of other cakes you have baked and hope that it’s what the person wants. If we get all of some of the funding for this, we’ll be able to continue operating the programs. By the time I was finished, I was feeling a bit of brain overload. We’ll review it tonight and tomorrow we’ll make the final edits and submit it. I got a ride home with Mitho and I asked her to drop me off at the head of the street and I would walk the rest of the way. As she was turning into the street, I saw some women selling crocheted tablecloths and sweaters. I had seen them a few days after I arrived here but did not know they were located so close to where I am now living.

I went across the road to see the things. There was a little boy there – less than 2. I gave him one of my Canada pins and as he reached for it, I noticed that he was pinned to the chain link fence with a huge safety pin on a piece of rope. His mom was selling the tablecloths and she has to bring him to the marketplace (which was really the side of the road) with her because she has nowhere to leave him. They are from Zimbabwe and because of the economic crisis, they come to Botswana as refugees. Since they are not legally allowed to work here, they do what they can to survive so they make large quantities of tablecloths, doilies and sweaters to sell. I wanted a very large bedspread but I didn’t have 300 pulas (less than $60) on me so I said I would come back tomorrow to buy it. The look on her face said she was about to lose a sale but I’m going back to get it because it is beautiful. I also wanted her to make me an oval shawl. She said that was 70 pulas (less than $14) and I just about fell over. She thought I meant it was too much so she was willing to reduce the price but mostly I was stunned that it was only 70 pulas. If any of wants me to buy one for you, let me know and I can get it. She said it takes her 14 days to make a bedspread that is 120” x 112” . I don’t know how she do it so fast. Then again, they probably don’t sell that many.

I went home to wait for Lisa to drop by to see the house. She’ll be house sitting when I’m gone. She couldn’t make it so I called Kathy and told her that I wanted to take her out to dinner as a great big THANK YOU for all that she’s done for me since I’ve been here. We went to our favourite Indian restaurant and had our usual Saag paneer, masala dosa, masala chai and two pieces of barfi each. It was yummy. We had a great visit and talked about friendship which is what we both agreed we now have with each other. I hope to see her in Canada next month. That was my long day.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Gaborone, Botswana: Mall farm vs. game farm

I don’t know if anyone cares but today is the 29th anniversary since Elvis died. Just a bit of trivia.

This was another cold day walking to work this morning. I have to admit that when I heard that I was going to Botswana, I really thought it was going to be hot or at worst, warm but this cold weather is baffling me. It was snowing again in South Africa today so I guess I can thank goodness that I’m not there. It was cold enough to see my breath this morning on the way to work at 7:45am.

I found what I thought was a foot path a few days ago which is a short cut to work. This morning though I was nearly knocked over by a car using the path as a short cut to avoid rush hour traffic (which is not really much of a rush hour except for the combis which are always in a rush even when it’s not rush hour. They have an interesting way of signalling to potential passengers. If they see you walking down the sidewalk, they start honking before they even reach the bus stop and if you so much as make the least bit of eye contact with them, they practically drag you into their minibus even if there is no space. At first I would look when I heard the honking then I figured out what the unwritten protocol.

On the way this morning, I chose a slightly different path and saw two women in the market just outside the Princess Marina Hospital. They were getting ready for the day’s work of preparing food for sale at lunch. I passed by after I said Dumela (Greetings or Hello) and then returned to ask if I could take a picture of them preparing their food. They wanted to know why I would want a picture of them and I explained that I love to visit market places because it’s really where you see real living and real life. I sat with them for a few minutes talking. I think they were surprised but quite interested in talking to me.

I walked along the road and there were several vendors selling morning coffee and fat cakes which are like the bakes we make in Guyana. For the last two days they were smelling so good when I passed by that this morning I couldn’t resist. So I asked one of the vendors how much a fat cake was and he said it was 60 thebe (about 10 cents). I asked for 10 and he reiterated that they were 60 thebe not 6. I said I still wanted 10 and he had this big grin on his face – probably thinking that this was a good start to his day. I took them to work and everyone had a piece. Well not everyone – about 25 of us.

Then it was a busy couple of two hours before Mitho and I went over to the WUSC office to have a meeting with Kathy regarding my placement. We talked about the contributions I have made to the centre and some of the challenges that I have observed. Those comments will be part of my final report to my faculty advisor. I think I’m going to have to extrapolate some of the content of the blog and put that in my report because I really don’t think Joe will want to read 100 pages of my blog (so far it’s 74 pages). I have to decide which parts of the report goes to which people. I think WUSC would find some feedback useful in planning for next year’s interns and volunteers and Sedibeng could use some of the information as part of their strategic planning.

We got back to the centre and we had some great news. The radio station GABZ FM called and wants to do an interview with us on Monday. I was pretty excited. I told Mitho to do a good job when she goes but she asked me to go too so we’re off to the radio station for our interviews. If anyone is interested and can manage with the time difference, you can go on the internet and search for GABZ FM ib Botswana and listen in to the interview. I am hopeful that employers will hear all the good things we are trying to do and call to hire our students or even to offer some training partnership sites. This could be the big break we are looking for and I’ll try to get as much mileage out of it.

The other bit of good news was that Baagi contacted his friend at the Cresta Hotel and he is interested in talking to us but will be away next week so we’ll talk to him the following week. Then I worked on the catering menus and we should have those ready for posting on the website. We also got a large catering order for 50 people for lunch for 4 days. It was good day.

Later in the afternoon, Mitho and I worked on the funding proposal that has to be submitted by Friday. I worked on a lot of it last night and we did some more today. Mitho took it home and will identify some of the most critical needs of the centre. I would say we desperately need a finance person to streamline some of the accounts payables and receivables. I have not had enough time to do much of that but with the orders for catering and floral arrangements increasing , we need to have the finances in place.

Given all the good things that have been happening this week, without a doubt the best thing today was talking to Izabel. She said she was going to a farm to see some animals and when her mom asked her if the farm was far she said “No mommy. It’s a mall farm.” How cute is that? A mall farm. That’s a farm in a mall. Picture that please. A petting zoo? Love it. And here I thought I was doing so great with my wild dog, lion and impala stories and all I have to do is go to West Edmonton Mall for my adventure!!

I even asked her to say hi to the other staff members which she did. Love you my sweetie baby. And love you my baby Hana although I didn’t get to talk to you yesterday. Hope you had a good morning at Kathy’s.

Comments
1. August 16th, 2006 by Sabena Ali
Who knew there was a safari right in Edmonton, Alberta and how many times have I passed it by without ever thinking of the poor animals?
Anyway, your adventures are so entertaining I can hardly wait for the next entry. Your time there is counting down so quickly and pretty soon you’ll leave the snow and cold to come back to the snow and cold. Are you sure you really don’t like the cold?
Keep warm and keep strong. How are the Jagger lips? :)

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Gaborone, Botswana: Incredibly busy and productive day

I must have woken up on the hard working side of the bed today because by 7:30 am I was ready for a full day’s work and I had to hold myself back till 8:00am because that’s when the centre opens. I took in three banana loaves that I baked last night so the catering students could have a treat.

I worked on several documents today and had most of them completed by 4:00pm. I composed several letters – a promotional letter that we can send to businesses in the area telling them about our services; letters to floral, restaurant and fabric suppliers asking for donations of remnants, extra veggies or flowers that cannot be sold but are still usable; a certificate of program completion. Then there are several documents in progress - a programme for our graduation/open house/website launch on August 31 (I’ve been nominated to be the Mistress of Ceremonies), a promotional brochure, and a proposal for funding for a social worker.

Besides that, the Inuit students and their chaperones and some WUSC staff came in for lunch today – 19 of them, plus the usual lunch customers making a total of about 30 people for lunch today. I put on my waitress hat (which I’ve recently discovered that I can wear too) and helped clean tables and serve. I’m not sure that I did a good job but the extra pair of hands came in useful. The catering students were complaining that I am too busy to spend any time with them.

In between all of this, Thandi and I went to pick up our business cards which look simple but impressive. Then at 3:00pm we had a meeting with Baagi Mmereki who is a Professor at U Botswana’s Department of Chemistry. I met him a few weeks ago and he said he had a friend at one of the big hotels in Gaborone which has several branches. I thought I would broker a meeting with our centre coordinator, the catering teacher and Baagi and it went very well. He was the first person to get one of our business cards so we hope this will bring us some luck. But just in case, we gave him a tour of the centre and showed him that in spite of our limited resources, we are doing great work. He now has enough information to take to his friend and with a great deal of good fortune we may have a new training partner for our catering students or at least a possible employer.

It was a very productive day and I can’t believe that as soon as I came home, I fed the animals and started on the funding proposal again. At least tonight I had some supper to eat. No dogs eating my dinner tonight. By the way Pat, thanks for the virtual samosas. There is a great restaurant here that makes them too. I need a break and I’ll treat myself to Food TV which I have for two more days then the cable will be cut off.

It’s suddenly gotten cold this afternoon after being quite warm this morning. I don’t know about this weather. They keep telling me this is unusual weather but I suppose after the blistering heat of the Kalahari, I’d rather layer up (that being said, there was the very cold Kalahari nights which layering up did NOT help). Off to have a nice cuppa….

Comments
1. August 15th, 2006 by PDS
I stopped by Prak’s today and he send his regards..Looks like the practice at his restaurant came in handy..
Take care
God bless
PDS

2. August 15th, 2006 by Robin Sukhan
Hi:
Just reading this entry made me tired. When I come there, I hope you will get a break. I am happy that you did not have cereal for supper. Take care.
RS

3. August 16th, 2006 by Pat Mohr
Just a short salute to say that I pray you and Robin have a wonderful time of reunion together.
God Bless,and Love,
Pat

4. August 16th, 2006 by Sharm, Trent and Sahana
No cable??? No Food TV??? What is going on???
ss

Monday, August 14, 2006

Gaborone, Botswana: Happy birthday Sunita

Tried skyping but it was a bust. So I’ve resorted to the blog to wish my daughter a happy birthday and by the time you get this, it’ll be your birth time. Have a happy day.

The group of Inuit students came to the centre today for a presentation from Cynthia on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights in Botswana. She works for an organization that deal with legal and health matters related to HIV/AIDS, matters such as the rights of employees living with it, rights of gay and lesbian communities, the prevention of the spread of HIV/AIDS though the prison population and the need to address some of the legislative issues. That was some of what I heard. Reynold and Ann also came for lunch and a tour so I showed them around and then everyone had lunch. It was a good day for selling rolls, lunch and soft drinks. The sales today were more than triple what we do on an average day.

When lunch was over for the Inuit students, Mme. Gilika gave a little talk about the centre and some of the students talked about their training. I was so proud of them, They were very shy when I asked them to talk but they did very well. Listening to their stories almost made me want to cry. One student talked about her family. Her mother and father are both uneducated and see no value in education. Her siblings are also uneducated and unemployed. She talked about failing Form V and coming to Sedibeng to find that she is loved and cared for by the staff. She said that this is the first time in her life that she’s had anyone care about her and she doesn’t want to leave but she knows she has to and she’s ready to go out and find work. Another student said she is an orphan and has no one to take care of her or to make sure she is okay until she came to the centre. Good thing I’m tough otherwise I’d be bawling my head off.

This afternoon we discussed distribution of a marketing letter I prepared. We are going to deliver them to businesses in the area because I’m sure that many people don’t know that we offer great lunches and catering.

We also discussed a floral arranging course modelled on a continuing education delivery where fee paying people can take a short course of about 8-10 hours on making their own arrangements. We’ll try it because people seem to be interested in it. I checked out our website and it looks great. We still have a few adjustments but it’s fluid so things will change often until we get it looking the way we want it.

I went to the market to buy some chicken and chips. I brought it home and left it on the counter while I went outside to pick up my laundry and yes you guessed it. The dogs ate my dinner so it was granola and milk for dinner. Is that like “the dog ate my homework” only worse. Anyone want to send me a virtual dinner? What the heck. It’s only dinner and granola is good once in a while for supper. Who am I kidding? Have you ever tried eating that Muesli stuff? It takes so long to chew that you’d probably use twice as many calories as is in the bowl of cereal. I could cook something but …. Tomorrow.

Comments
1. August 15th, 2006 by Robin Sukhan
Hi:
You could cook something or go to a restaurant for supper but I suppose you wanted to be home. Sounds like the speeches were quite emotional. I have two more sleeps before I leave for my trip there. Take care.
RS

2. August 15th, 2006 by Pat Mohr
Okay, my dear . . . close your eyes. I have just handed you one of the most delicious samosas you’ll every taste . . . mmmmmmmm . . . chock full of spicy potatoes, peas, peppers . . . and the most heavenly spices. Did you know that the crust is tenderly made with flour and butter? Thought you’d enjoy it! Bye now . . . Love, Pat

3. August 15th, 2006 by The Coloma's
Thanks for the birthday wishes. I had a good day. Mike is in Kelowna for his annual tournament, so we celebrated last week with Sharm, Trent, Sahana and about 12 others. It was fun.Keep blogging, it’s great a great way to keep on top of what you’re doing.
Miss you,Love Sunita, Mike and Izabel.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Kalahari Desert, Botswana: Weekend in Ghanzi at the 6th annual Kuru Dance Festival with the San people

I have not blogged for a few days and I’ve been getting some concerned and cryptic emails from family and friends. Pat I’m okay. Paul – no I did not hurt my hands gardening and can’t write L. I was away in Ghanzi if that’s an excuse!!
We left for Ghanzi on Friday morning. The scheduled time was 7am but we left closer to 8am. There were 9 of us – Kathy and her husband Geoff, me, Enthia and Melanie in one 4x4 and Lisa, Ona, Michael and Bridget in another 4x4. I could not imagine my little Acura RSX ever making it there and back. The highways were good but to get into the Tautona Lodge and the Kuru Game Farm was rough.
We stayed that the Tautona Lodge and as Kathy was explaining the accommodations – a big two bedroom guest house with a small kitchen, two hotel rooms in the main building and two tents about a km away in the bush – I was already mentally calculating how I was going to manoeuvre a room in the guest house or one of the hotel rooms. I think by now the group had already decided that I was not the tenting type – whatever that means. Roughing it for me is sleeping on a twin bed with insufficient covers and tenting? Whatever!!!
Motswana child
Ghanzi birdnest

Ghanzi birdnes close-up
The lodge was beautiful with a huge restaurant, two pools and several individual guest houses along with the main hotel building. I Enthia and Melanie decided that they would take one of the tents and I said that I would look at the other one before deciding if I wanted to consider sleeping there. We went down the dusty path in the 4x4 and arrived at the tents. Immediately as I saw it I decided to stay there. Imagine everyone’s surprise when I said that!!
In fact, when I came home tonight and called home, Subhadra’s comment was “What? Mom in a tent?” As unbelievable as that sounds, I did sleep in a tent. I felt like I was in the MASH 4077 – well a sort of reasonable simulation. Not quite. This was tenting African Style. The tent is an army tent set up on a wooden and concrete platform so that you have to walk up 4 steps to get to it. The platform is quite large – enough for the tent which is set back a bit so that there is a kind of veranda with 3 chairs and a table for sitting and looking at the wildlife at night and early mornings as they come to the watering hole to drink. There was even a shower with hot and cold water although there was no hot water so it was showering with cold water for me. No mirror to comb my hair or put on make-up. That’s roughing it!!
Roughing it!  This is the life

My tent-such as it is on a teak platform
Can I just describe how peaceful it was? The others went back to the main lodge and we stayed back and unpacked. I sat on the veranda and watched a kudu (an animal like a deer with very long curly horns) walking by – just enjoying the company. There were the sound of birds some of which I could identify as a laughing dove and some others which I didn’t know. The dove actually sounds like it’s laughing. In fact one morning I thought someone was outside laughing. I wanted to spend the rest of the night there but I’d miss the first night of the Kuru Dance Festival so I went up to the main lodge for dinner at the restaurant. There were lots of people at the lodge that night because they were attending the festival too. Otably absent from the tenting experience was the sound of anything motorized. What a great experience.
We got to the festival about 7:45pm. There was a huge sign at the gate advertising the festival and right beside it was an equally huge sign saying NO ALCOHOL. No one is allowed to take alcohol on the property. The culture of the San people is slowly being destroyed because of development. Their land has been taken from them and they are facing many of the challenges that our Aboriginal people are facing in Canada. I found a good article that explains some of the history. It’s titled SITUATION REPORT: THE SAN: SOUTHERN AFRICA'S FORGOTTEN PEOPLE at http://www.iss.co.za/AF/current/sanmay02.htm .
Freezing in the Kalahari

Cooooollllllld!!

A nice fire to warm us up

There is a tendency to blame the colonial effects but some of the people of Botswana feel the same way – that the San people should move with progress - and if that means giving up some of their culture for survival, then that needs to be done. They are now working on game farms on land that used to belong to them and the problems with alcohol abuse, HIV and poverty are real for many of them. Hence the sign outside the gate.

We had to travel down a dirt road for about 7kms but it sure felt at times like it was 70 kms. If you’ve ever gone on a roller coaster ride and just about popped out of your seat, then you’ll be able to imagine how the ride felt. When we got there it was very dark but there were millions of stars in the sky and it was a full moon so by 8:30pm the moon was slowly rising in the night sky. Some of the dancers were beckoning to the moon and I wish I could understand what the dance was about.
There were groups from Namibia, South Africa and our group of Inuit students from Nunavut. The Nunavut students did an introduction and I think the crowd was pleased. It was so cold that night and the dancers were dressed only in their leather skins (just like we see in the movies only better – much better). I don’t think they typically dress like that but they do for special occasions like the festival.
Fire at the Kuru festival
I used to hear that a desert gets extremely hot during the day and very cold at nights; who ever said that certainly knew what they were talking about. I was shivering and I was at least dressed warm. Some of the others in my group were only dressed in rubber slippers and light coats so they were very cold. After about 2 hours the MC asked us to come close to the fire (we were fenced off before) and man, was I ever relieved. The fire was looking so inviting from where I was sitting that he must have heard my telepathic message. I think we were all sending him the same message. When I’m that cold, it’s hard to concentrate and find any pleasure in anything the dancers were doing. I was in the Kalahari Desert and all I could think about at that moment was “if only I had an extra sweater or my winter coat”. It did not feel exotic or romantic or anything else but cold, very cold.
After I moved closer to the fire and warmed up sufficiently, I could actually pay attention and enjoy the dance. There were several healing dances and some of the dancers went into trances and fell on the ground writhing until another dancer would come along and help them. It was so amazing to watch the dancers wriggling on the ground, the body stiffening and another dancer stroking the tranced body as if to rid it of whatever is wrong. One of the healers was holding a woman by the shoulder and stroking her arms, shoulders and back – again to rid her of whatever ailed her. It’s hard to explain unless you are there and I am not doing the ceremony justice by my description. The healing dances reminded me of a “sweat” I attended about two summers ago just outside of Anola, Manitoba. That was my first experience at a sweat lodge and it was a very spiritual experience for me. If you’re claustrophobic, you may have some difficulty with it but I was fine even though I think I’m slightly claustrophobic. Guests are not allowed to join the healing dances unless invited to do so and if you need healing, there is an elder who will do the healing ritual.
We left the ceremony about 11:00pm and it was back to the tent for a night’s sleep. Lisa and I shared the tent but we were smart and raided Kathy’s second bedroom of all the blankets and duvets or for sure we would freeze to death and I wouldn’t be blogging tonight.
Ghanzi is remote with no/limited cell phone service and certainly no internet. So I went to bed after I made notes in my notebook for blogging. ON the way back to the hotel, we saw two lions. They are on the game farm which is part of the Tautona Lodge but they are in a caged area.
I forgot to mention that on the way to Ghanzi we saw a large number of vultures in a tree. There were so many in one tree that they looked like giant gourds on the tree. Kathy said that there must be some road-kill somewhere around. I wanted to stop to take a picture of the vultures so Geoff stopped the car for me to do so. We drove off and then we saw the road-kill – a small donkey (they wander on the highways and get killed) which was fodder for the vultures. Kathy explained how the vultures get to the gut through the anus of the animal. The look on Enthia’s face when she saw the partly eaten donkey was too much. I don’t need to get more graphic. I’m sure that description presents sufficient of a mental picture.
On to an entirely different topic. There were a zillion stars in the sky that night and it’s a long time since I’ve seen such a night sky. Reminded me of when I was a child in Guyana and my sister and brother and I used to lie on the front steps at night (the step was built on the outside of the house). We’d have our pillows and a blanket big enough to cover all three of us and keep us warm from the Atlantic breeze and we would try to count the stars in the sky. Some were very bright and some used to twinkle but we never managed to count all of them. The moon was very bright by the time we got back to the tent and the sounds of the night were priceless. I wanted to stay out on the veranda but I was extremely tired and wanted to get up early to go down to the watering hole.
On Saturday morning I got up later than I wanted to – about 7am but by that time most of the animals had visited the watering hole and gone on their day’s activities. I did manage to see an impala as I was walking up to the main lodge at about 7:30am. I went to Kathy’s cottage but the door was still locked so I went to the restaurant and had a cup of coffee which I drank by the pool. I wanted to take it back to my tent but by the time I walked one km with a cup of coffee in a teacup, I wouldn’t have any left. So I suffered through by the pool.
Rare wild dogs - but we got to see them!

Close-up of the wild dog
We got to the game farm about 9:30am. There were speeches and they were sooooo long and dare I say it on the blog? - booooorrrriiiing, that by the time the dancing started, we were more than relieved. The first set of dancers were preschoolers and they were the cutest group. They were very good and not at all shy about dancing. It was good to see them learning their traditional dances and I do hope that they’ll continue to learn and practice their culture. I took some beautiful pictures but that required a video camera to capture the essence of the dancing. One of the little ones looked like Izabel.
The dances on Saturday were more interpretive dances, many of them featuring hunters hunting for wild animals in the forest/jungle. They were quite similar even though the dancers came from different parts of Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. The Canadians showed how to do a kind of Inuit game where two people imitate the sound of the wind or the sound of a dog sled and which ever one laughs first, loses. I had to come all the way to Botswana to learn about Inuit culture. That’s pretty telling – how little we know about the place we live in. Now that will make me want to learn about them although I’m not promising to do any volunteer work in the Artic. The Kalahari desert is about all I can manage and that’s from someone coming from Winnipeg.

Dancer


Little dancer

More little dancers

Women in ceremonial costumes


Cactus, cactus everywhere


Grass hut


Rooster dancer


Beautiful dancer
Well let me just say if you’ve never experienced a desert at high noon, don’t wish for it. This was not even the heart of the desert and it was blistering hot. The heat from the sun added to the refection from the sand was stifling hot and definitely no good for someone like me who has an allergy to sunlight. When I was diagnosed with that over 20 years ago, I thought it was a joke. How can anyone be allergic to sunlight? It’s possible and I am living testament to that. If I am careful, I would turn into a giant rash or hive. Careful means that I have to use sunblock and stay out of the sun. Reflected sunlight is as bad as direct sunlight and not only did I not have sunblock but the sun was blistering from above and reflecting from ground level. I managed to find a bit of shade for about an hour then it was trying to play hide and seek from the sun for the next few hours.
I did not turn into a giant rash but I can feel the itchy patches on my fingers, arms and neck. My eyelids are slightly swollen and my lips can give Mick Jagger a run for his money. I won’t need any collagen injections for a while. It’s hard to believe that the desert was so cold the night before and so hot on Saturday. The dancers were sitting in the hot sun and I don’t know how they could handle the heat. I was dying and went through what seemed like a gallon of water and a stick of chapstick and by the time I got back to the hotel, my skin looked like a crocodile’s. It was so dry that I was itching just from the dryness. Impossible to imagine anyone living in that heat but when the Inuit students explained that it was very cold in Canada, I’m sure the San people couldn’t imagine anyone living in that kind of cold. If you want to read further about the festival go to http://www.travel-wise.com/travel-here/botswana-travel-directory/sights-attractions/dance.aspx
This is not necessarily the best site but does explain some of the festival activities.
Kathy missed some of the morning’s activities because when we got to the farm, there was a sick baby who was throwing up for quite some time and she offered to take the baby and mother to the hospital. The baby was named after Karim who is the WUSC intern doing his internship at the game farm. Anyway the doctor said the baby was okay. There is a high infant mortality rate among the San people so when a baby gets sick it could be fatal. The San people are also facing high incidences of HIV/AIDS and they are not always willing to get tested.
On the way back to the hotel on Saturday afternoon, I saw some trees with yellow blossoms and asked what they were. It was unusual because almost everything looks dry and parched. They were acacia trees with the lovely yellow blossoms. I also forgot to mention the painted wild dogs that we saw Saturday morning. They are the mot endangered species in Africa. Geoff explained that there are only about 1500 left in the wild because they were hunted and killed because they were mistaken for ordinary wild dogs. They are considered the most efficient predators and can make a lion look like a simpleton when it comes to killing and gutting a prey. I took a picture of a few of them at the lodge’s game reserve. I’m seriously going to have to upload some of my pictures so everyone can see them. I have so many that I’m going to have to decide which ones to keep and which ones to discard.
Finger piano



Another musical instrument
 We went back to the evening’s activities and this time we all dressed much warmer than Friday night but it was still cold. That evening was the musical evening. Unbelievably some of the instruments were made from 3 litre tin cans (like the ones that olive oil come in) and some of them were made with pieces of metal like flattened nails all assembled on a piece of wood and upturned at the end so that they can be tuned and strummed. They are called finger pianos and they are about 6 inches wide and 8 inches long. The sound is amplified with a large coffee can placed under the instrument. It’s quite innovative really. I listened to some of the music and then followed the night sounds coming from the bush.
What I found was as interesting as the music I just left and equally as pleasant to listen to and see. The dancers who were performing during the day had their camp with a number of tents – real tents with beds on the floor, not the kind I had – and they were happily continuing the day’s dancing long into the night. This was their time and I’m not sure if I was supposed to intrude but I did and soon I saw a whole lot of people who had attended during the day enjoying the night’s partying. They certainly looked like they were enjoying themselves and the warm fire was a great attraction for me. I felt that the rest of us were being a bit intrusive but they didn’t complain. They just kept clapping, singing and dancing, totally oblivious to us. Karim who was living with some of them on the farm was dancing his feet off. I had to do a double take to make sure it was him. He seemed so shy when we went to Jo’burg. The evening was over by about 10:45 and we went back to the lodge. On the way back, we could see the silhouettes of the lions sitting on their house enjoying the night sky.
On Sunday morning I got up a bit earlier but no sightings of the animals at the watering hole. We left the lodge about 10:45am and arrived back in Gaborone by about 5:30pm – just slightly behind the Inuit students who left the game farm this morning on the way back to Gaborone. It was a long dusty weekend but thoroughly enlightening. I now need to go and do some learning about our Inuit community in Canada.
Getting ready to leave

Another hut for sleeping
That was my weekend and for those of you craving my blog, you now have lots to read for a day or so. Of course I could mention that if you were paying attention, you would have noticed that I said I’d be in Ghanzi this weekend. I didn’t however mention that I would have no internet and no cell phone. The cell phone is such a nuisance. The Orange network should be renamed as the Lemon Network because it’s a real lemon – says it works but doesn’t really.
Running hot water sounds like heaven and thank goodness for a washing machine. I would not relish the idea of doing any of this laundry by hand. Thapelo texted me to say that the website is up and I can test it so I’ll do that tomorrow when I get to work. The address is http://http://www.sedibeng.org/ but I have to use the DNS settings till they work out some additional things. Don’t go on the site; you won’t be able to access it yet but soon though.
Comments
1. August 14th, 2006 by Pat Mohr
So relieved to see your blog today . . . and what a long and interesting one! Your weekend seemed quite the pot pourri of events and happenings. Good for you for sleeping in a tent. The night sky sounded wonderful. That was one of the joys for me when we went camping with our young children. Virginia and I and our granddaughters are going to take in a Summer Celebration at our church on Wednesday night . . . geared specifically as a fun thing for the kids.
Love, Pat
2. August 14th, 2006 by Sharm, Trent and SahanaHave not read your blog in a while, and had quite a bit to catch up on. This was quite a long entry, but there is a lot to tell. Sounds like your trip was an adventure.We had a good time in Edmonton. Hope to see those guys again at Christmas.We are glad to be home. It had been a long month of vacation, guests and vacation. It felt strange to have dinner alone (the 3 of us) tonight.Keep writing.xoxoss
3. August 15th, 2006 by Robin SukhanHi:
This is a long entry - three days in one but it is good. The trip was quite an experience. You previously spoke of the Kalahari desert but I don’t think that you imagined it could be extremely hot and cold - I know that you dislike the cold. You spoke of HIV/AIDS - the conference in Toronto is getting good coverage. Take care.
RS
4. August 15th, 2006 by Sabena AliI missed your entries the last few days and was disappointed when I didn’t see any new ones. Your last one certainly makes up for it. The night sky must’ve been something to see, eh? I remember those nights when we’d be star gazing and yes, shivering under the blanket. That you slept in a tent is absolutely amazing
You do know you’ll have to write a book soon, don’t you? I can’t begin to imagine the material you’ve stored for your own use later, but somewhere in there is enough of it for a least a travel log, think about it.
B