Saturday, September 02, 2006

Gaborone, Botswana: last entry from here

My stay in Botswana has finally come to an end and although I leave with some regret, I know that life goes on and I have to move on as well. It was a very emotional farewell yesterday. I kept myself busy for most of the day, doing all kinds of things that needed doing and some I’m sure could be left but it helped to pass the time.

Yesterday was the culmination of events of the last two months ending with the student’s graduation which I will write more about but I wanted to get this last entry in before I have to turn over my computer to Thandi who wanted to purchase it for she and her family. She was very happy because she got it for 2000 Pula less than she thought I asked for and about 5000 Pula less than the store. She’s happy and I know that she and her family will put it to good use. Of course that will mean that I have to get another one for me before I start back at school. I am giving my cell phone to Tshepo who had hers stolen last week on her way home from work. She really is such a sweet young woman with the deepest dimples I have ever seen. Maggie who teaches floral design will be inheriting one of my many handbags, one that she particularly liked. Even with all the give aways, I’m still close to my weight limit of 200 lbs (between the two of us). How is that possible? Its all the tablecloths and bedspreads I’ve been buying!!

I have to leave the farewell party for another time because I’m sure that if I start writing, I’ll burst into tears. I did read a verse from the book the Prophet which has to be my all-time favourite book. The verse is titled “Joy and Sorrow.” This is the verse:

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that hold your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter's oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, "Joy is greater than sorrow," and others say, "Nay, sorrow is the greater."
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

We leave this evening at 6:40pm and by tomorrow I will be back in Canada. My next post will be my re-entry experience (plus the events of the last week). This experience will be with me for the rest of my life. I know it has changed the way I look at the world and it is a humbling experience to see that so many live with so little and yet they can feel fulfilled. It’s a lesson I hope that I’ve learned well – that happiness and contentment comes not from the things you have but from who you are. I will continue to aspire to be a better person than I was the day before (I think I’m paraphrasing what was said by Waldo Emerson).

With much love to all the people in Botswana who have touched my life and inspired me to be a better person than I was the day before.

1. September 2nd, 2006 by Karima
Dear Sandra,
It sounds like you have been deeply touched by your experiences and by the warmth of the Botswana people. We’ve noticed that you are turning into something of a philosopher/poet.
Thank you for sharing your journey with us through your stories. We look forward to hearing your experiences first hand at WUSC’s Annual General Assembly in November.
Have a safe trip back,
Karima, Sherry and Marie-Eve

2. September 2nd, 2006 by Pat Mohr
Sandra you touch me deeply within my heart. I will treasure these journals, especially today’s.
Weepingly yours (and excited to be seeing you again),

3. August 1st, 2007 by vimal
it was really touching.Liked ur pathos and emotions and respect that.It would have been better had I read it last year when u wrote it.I read it while researching about Canandian universities.I also wish to study in USA or Canada one day (i m an Indian) Hope i will also feel the same way while leaving the university as u felt last year.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Okavanga Delta, Botswana: Leopard sighting at Little Kwara

This morning we had our porridge and went off on a mokoro (a kind of dugout canoe using a pole to navigate) trip into the delta. We launched out of Kwara (we are Little Kwara) which was older than ours. Martin had a handgun and I asked what that was for. He said “Just in case…” I really didn’t want to know just in case what but we soon saw what “Just in case..” meant.
As soon as we left, in the mokoro, we saw about 5 hippos in the water so we stayed in the shallows. Not that they won’t go into the shallows. They can live on land and water but prefer the water and will only come out at nights when it’s a bit cooler. After buffaloes, hippos are the most dangerous of the jungle animals because they need no particular reason to charge at you and they are known to eat morkoros - or more specifically the occupants of mokoros - for lunch or dinner or whatever else. They don’t exactly eat you but they can hurt or kill you and then leave you for the crocodiles to finish you off as soon as you bail out of the mokoro. The top of the mokoro sits about 6 inches above the water so any sudden movements and you are capsized. Since I was sitting in the front, Martin said that if I wanted to talk to him or Robin, I should turn only my neck, not my whole body or we’ll capsize for sure. Can you believe how still I stayed? If I had a question, I would ask it without turning even when I knew that Martin could not hear me well. I started to worry that he would lean forward to hear me and tip us over so I shut up – for a time anyway.

We paddled over to a small island (not a true island – depending on the amount of rain in the rainy season. Right now it’s an island because the rain was plentiful this year. This is a good thing for the delta area which depends on the rains to sustain the environment.

Martin took us on a nature walk for about two hours and there was not a plant he could not recognize. The man is brilliant. I asked him how he knew all this stuff and he said his father is a guide in the Delta and he learned guiding from his father. We were about 1 km from where the lions killed the buffalo so we were looking very carefully for any sudden movements. I don’t know why because quite frankly if a lion decided to stalk us, we would not have a tiny chance. Some of the trees looked like you could tie a hammock under and have a peaceful nap but it is dangerous to do that. Elephants can come along and scratch their backs on the bark or even strip the bark off some of the very hard trees. There is one tree in the forest that is called a leadwood tree because of the incredible hardness but there is another parasitic tree that is called the strangler fig which can wrap itself around almost any tree and sap the life out of it. The deadwood tree can be known to live for about 1000 years and when it dies, it can remain standing for another 500 years and after it falls can remain on the ground for almost 300 years before starting decay. I saw a similar tree like that in Mount Alishan in Taiwan.

We got back to the camp in time for breakfast and then it was preparation to leave the delta for Maun where we would fly back to Gaborone. I forgot to mention that yesterday when we went into the powerboat, it was into the Moremi Game Reserve where I wanted to see but didn’t think we’d have time to go so it was nice to see it by boat.

We left for the airstrip with a bit of sadness because the time in the delta was too short. Suddenly we heard the radio buzzing with “Kwara, Kwara...” Our driver Steve stopped in his tracks to respond so obviously it was urgent. The were speaking in Setswana so I couldn’t understand a word they were saying. Steve turned around and said “hold on to your seat!! A leopard was sighted!” He was so excited that it was hard for us not to be too. We took off like speeding bullets into the tall grasses and about 200 metres from us was a young leopard!! They are usually not out at this time of day but there he was (Martin spotted the grass moving and knew where to locate him). He was a bit far and I used my now familiar “Psst” call and he turned and looked at me. Then as if he knew that we were leaving, he stopped long enough for me to take another perfect picture. He bid us farewell and walked off into the tall grass with what I was sure was a little sadness in his face. What a way to finish a most fabulous 6 days. I could not ask for anything more than what I got.
1. September 2nd, 2006 by Pat Mohr
“Psst” — I love your blog!
Love, Pat

2. September 2nd, 2006 by Brent
I can’t wait to the see the photos of your adventure!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Okavanga, Botswana: Babies and more babies

We made our way to the main tent about 615am and fortunately for us, the elephant from last night found a much more interesting place so we could actually leave our tent. We had hot porridge from a campfire pot (although they do have a fully functional kitchen making as great food as I myself would make). It was so creamy and delicious and with hot milk, it was positively yummy. Yummy oatmeal sounds like a bit of an oxymoron but it’s true.



I knew that nothing could top the day I had yesterday but I was wrong. On our way to the early morning drive, the six of us ( a family of 4 from the UK living in Botswana), Martin and Richard decided that we would go back to lat night’s scene to see what had happened. There we found not six lions well satiated and contently laying around their kill. But there was a pleasant surprise waiting for us. In the midst of all the gory scene were two of the most beautiful lion cubs I have ever seen. Richard said they are only about 3-4 weeks old. They were laying beside what I thought was their mother but looking slightly away from the camera. I used Izabel’s call again and as soon as I said a soft Psst, they looked over my way and I got another postcard perfect picture except mine is better because I didn’t set up an unmanned camera and leave it to take an automatic picture. I was there in person, taking the picture about 15 feet away from them. I definitely have to post all my pictures on a webpage. Those little darlings were perfect. I literally could stare at them all day. Martin said that if one of us got up now and walked out in the middle of the pride (that’s what a group of lions are called), they would likely not attack us because they are too full. None of us were willing to test out that theory so we watched the babies for quite a while. That was certainly more entertaining than the scene nearby. Now this may be too gory for some of you so choose to skip over if you want to. I’ll put it in italics so that it’s easier to skip over.

The buffalo was laying there, the testicles gone from the scene the night before. It was dismembered and the intestines eaten. The lungs were strewn over by the head waiting to be eaten later I suppose. The liver was by the rear hind legs. Then there was the mounds of grass from the intestine laying about 18 inches away from where the belly used to be. Part of the back rump was eaten, so there was a gaping hole about the size about a basketball. Thn there was part of the face missing, the top lip being completely eaten down to the teeth and gums. One ear was gone and there was a pool of dried blood at the belly area. The top back leg was in the air from rigor mortis I guess but it showed the missing belly area. Okay so how many of you read it? If you did, you have to write a comment on the blog admitting that you your curiosity got the better of you and even though you were warned that it was going to be gory, you were like a moth to a flame. Couldn’t resist, eh? It’s like driving by an accident and not looking. How’s that for good writing? Remember to admit to reading this on the blog!!

I continued to watch the baby lions for about 30 minutes then we drove off looking for other things. Well to say the sightings were spectacular would be an understatement. We saw a tsessebe (another kind of antelope which is the largest kind), lots of Kalahari sand (where it is virtually impossible to find a stone or a rock), an abundance of mopani trees (from which the mopani worm comes from that I ate or at least tasted), many, many acacia trees in bloom, some red lechwes (antelope), two groups of zebras, carmine bee eater birds, weaver birds (who make their nests on the West side of trees so if you ever lose your bearings, you can just look at the nests on the trees and find your directions), yellowheaded hornbills, steenbok (another kind of small antelope), a blue wildebeest (animal whose head is actually a navy blue in colour), little bee eater birds, a hoopoe bird with a crest on the head, a green pigeon (didn’t know there were green pigeons) and I saved the best for last – a journey (that’s what you call a whole group) of giraffes.
The best part was that there were a few baby giraffes. Nothing cuter than baby anything and these were no different. We found these on our way back to the camp and after we saw them, we forgot all about breakfast (it was now about 10am). It was the perfect African safari scene – one that you would expect to see on National Geographic or some such show. We stayed way too long and took way too many pictures but it was worth missing breakfast. In fact we didn’t really miss breakfast. They waited for us to come back to camp and then served it. And what a breakfast!! There was hot and cold and if you didn’t feel satisfied after that (impossible not to overeat), then there must be something wrong with you.

We went back to the tent for a shower and rest till lunch which was at 3:30pm. Who could eat lunch? I willing had a small plate of salad and that was about what most of us could manage. Then it was off to the afternoon boat cruise in the delta. Lots of flora and fauna. The water in the delta is very clear and apparently very drinkable although I didn’t drink any. Wouldn’t want to get sick at this late date so I’ll stick with tap water which is very safe to drink here.
As it was getting dark, we made it over to a heronry (where lots of herons bed down for the night) and I took some pictures of birds I had never heard about let alone seen. We had a perfect sunset on our way back but it quickly got dark so Martin was navigating in almost pitch blackness except for the headlights of the motor boat. It is quite disconcerting to see all the channels and know that we could easily get lost but he sure knew those waters. It was with a sense of relief (for me) that we made it back to the docks. I asked Martin how he knew where to go and he said by the trees. Well they all look the same to me in the dark – shadows with branches. I don’t know how he could distinguish one from the other but he could.

Back to the camp for dinner and bed. Long exciting day and the fresh air really makes you want to sleep at the end of the day. Wonderful experience.
1. September 2nd, 2006 by Pat Mohr
I read the entire blog — as always. The gory scene did not freak me out. It would have had I been there, of course. I’m so enjoying my safari alongside you guys! Love, Pat

2. September 2nd, 2006 by The Coloma's
Great Blog…. Come home already!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Maun, Botswana: Okavanga Delta - a piece of paradise

This morning we went on our last game drive at 6am. I was so looking forward to it and it did not disappoint!! We arrived Chobe and after a few minutes drive of seeing nothing the driver was radioed by another driver that he had seen a leopard. We chased off to the location and there in an almost dried waterhole was a young leopard in all it splendour posing as if for a picture. It was a bit too far away for me to get as good a picture as I wanted to I used Izabel’s call (Pssst – I swear it works!! You should try it next time you’re out in the wild or at the zoo) and he strolled around for a bit, circled a tree just behind our vehicle, leapt up into the tree and posed among the branches for a perfect postcard picture. I’m going to have to add that to my collection of pictures for my babies.
The acacias were in bloom and the smell was very nice. When I was young, I used to read Harlequin romances and many of them were set in Africa among the acacia trees. Now I know what they are. Apparently Noah built his ark with the umbrella thorn acacia.
Elephant dung was everywhere. The locals burn the dry dung for keeping mosquitoes away. I bet it would probably keep everything else away!! The elephant eats about 22 hours a day consuming about 360 kgs of food and drinking about 180 litres of water. We saw some honey birds. They are interesting. They eat honey from the combs and when they can’t reach the honeycombs, they will whistle when people are around and guide them to the honeycombs. People will of course try to harvest the honey from the combs and in the meantime, the honey birds will get some of the honey. Hence the name honeybird. I thought someone named a bird after me – honey bird. Obviously I was wrong.

Our guide today was the same one from the boat cruise yesterday. His name is Mbala. The names here are different. They don’t always have vowel sounds. He said that many North Americans and Europeans say Mabala but it’s M-bala as it sounds without the “a” vowel sound. He is very knowledgeable about guiding and actually studied at Mokolodi (where I’m taking the students on Monday for a game drive). Chobe Park is the largest park in Botswana – about 11,700 ms. Considering how small the country is, over 30 percent of the land is used for parks.

After the game drive, we went back to the hotel to get ready to go to the airport for our trip to Little Kwara in the Okavanga Delta. We arrived in Maun about 30 minutes late and left in a chartered single engine plane that seats 4 people including the pilot. Robin and I were the only passengers so that means that I can finally say that I have my own chartered plane. Yeh heh.

The pilot asked who wanted to sit in the front seat and I didn’t even give Robin a chance to think about it. I jumped in first and the pilot disappointingly said that I couldn’t fly the plane although I would have no clue how to.

The delta is huge and this is interesting. The waters of the delta start in the highlands of Angola and through Zambia and will usually a river flows into a larger body of water like a sea but this one flows into the sands of the Kalahari Desert. We arrived at Little Kwara about 30 minutes late and a 4x4 overlander was waiting for us at the airstrip. A vehicle has to wait there for passengers because there are wild animals which can attack. The vehicles are built for safaris. The guide’s chair is in front of the hood of the vehicle and he sits there on the lookout for wild animals. The guide’s name is Martin and the driver’s name is Richard.

Instead of going to the camp, we were whisked off to our afternoon game drive. Talk about exciting. We literally did not even have time to catch our breath and we were off. We drove around for about an hour and saw nothing. Then the driver got a call on radio to say that another vehicle had spotted a leopard so off we went in hot pursuit of the leopard. After driving around for about half an hour, we saw nothing that looked like a leopard – not even a spotted bird.
Richard suggested that we go to where he had seen some lions a few days before so we agreed that we would go. He gave us a little pep talk about safety, saying that the animals are not tame even if we get close to them so if we see any, we are to remain in the vehicle, keep our voices down and no sudden movements. He drove over some rough terrain and finally in the distance we saw two lions sitting on a tiny hill – well more like a bump in the grass.

We drove up silently – as silently as you could drive in a 4x4 (which is neither silent or invisible). There in front of my eyes was not one, not two, but 6 lions. I could hardly believe my eyes. Two male lions were laying on their backs, legs spread wide open basking in the sun, three female lions were soaking up the sun and one young male was eyeing the females. It was an incredible sight but not as incredible as what was to come later. We stayed there quietly watching them for about 45 minutes then it was tea time so we drove off about 300 metres, got out of the 4x4, got out a little table, complete with tablecloth, wine, wine glasses and a few snacks and had our afternoon tea out in the open sky knowing that at any moment we could have to leap back into the vehicle if the lions decided to move. Fortunately they decided to rest and we had our wine after which time, some of us marked our territory behind some bushes (if you can decipher that) and we were off again to have a last look at the lions.

We were told that male lions are a bit lazy and it’s the females who do most of the hunting while the males will wait and eat the kill. The males will only do any work if the prey is too big for the female lions to take down. The males will also eat first even if they didn’t do the killing and the females have to wait until the males are fully satisfied before they can get to eat. Sometimes if the kill is too small, the females get nothing and can go hungry for days. Does this sound familiar? Don’t answer. Lions lose their prey more times than they get them and they are not always efficient at catching their prey. They are also not known for having a plan so they can wander around aimlessly for days trying to stalk their prey.

Anyway, the female lions got up and started to wander off so we decided to follow them. They really didn’t look like they had a plan and frankly neither did we. We followed them knowing full well that they don’t plan their kill. The male lions soon followed ambling along the path that we were on. Then we spotted some impalas and thought the lions would go after them but impalas are very fast so it would be difficult for lions to outrun them unless they are young and at this time of year, they are either pregnant or almost a yearling.
We kept following them and really I don’t know how Martin was seeing them. All I was seeing (and it was very dark) was tall grass when he shone his flashlight but he knew what to look for. We rounded a corner of the path and there was a male lion lying in our path so we had to stop. Man was I quiet. The thing was about 6-8 feet in front of us. We were so quiet that you could hear a blade of grass rustle which is what I suddenly heard right beside my door. It was a lion walking about 6 inches from where I was sitting – in an open vehicle!!! Talk about holding my breath!!! I was so startled that I wanted to yell but that was the very thing not to do. I made not a single sound. In fact none of us in the vehicle made any sounds. Martin by this time was in the front passenger seat because it was too dangerous for him to be sitting in his seat in front of the bumper.

Suddenly from the left of the vehicle we heard water splashing and rustling in the bushes and we turned in time to see a buffalo charging directly in the path of our 4x4. That was a death sentence because if that didn’t kill us, the lions in hot pursuit of the buffalo would have had a human feast with the eight of us. Martin shone the flashlight in the eyes of the buffalo which had a frightened look on its face. Who wouldn’t if you had 4 lions chasing you? The two males in front of us sprang up and joined the chase. The buffalo just cleared the back side of our vehicle and ran for its very life. We turned around and followed the chase and what a chase!!. What we saw was either a spectacular law of the jungle or a gross scene of killing and carnage. I chose the former.

So this is what happened next. The buffalo continued to run but one male lion sprang onto his back and sunk his teeth into the hide. The weight of the lion slowed down the buffalo enough to have the other male lion jump on his back from the other side. That slowed him down some more so that the female lions were now grabbing his tail, his sides and whatever else they could sink their teeth into. They stayed far away from his head because the horns can wound them quite seriously.

If they could make him fall, they would be able to kill him but as long as he was standing, he could still overpower them. But there were now 6 lions on this buffalo so he was not going to have an easy time of it. After about half an hour of fighting them off, they got off and jumped him again and the force dropped him to the ground. Then they were all over him knowing that his horns were not really a danger to them but still staying far enough away from them. One of the males positioned himself behind the neck and bit hard. One of the females somehow got between the back legs and held on to the testicles and bit hard. I knew it was hard because I could actually hear the crunching sound as she tried to chew it off. Another male cut off the bull’s air supply by smothering him. Between the six lions the bull didn’t stand a chance of survival. We were about 10 feet from all of this and had a front row view of everything.

Finally after about 45 minutes, the bull was dead. We watched for a few more minutes as they tried to rip chunks from him then we left wondering if we had indeed witnessed what we thought we saw. Then the adrenaline rush set in when we really comprehended the danger we were in. We got back to the camp slightly speechless from the day’s events and were also ready for a good dinner. Our hostess Mel met us at the gate of the camp well lit by lamplight. She asked if we wanted to eat dinner first or go to our tent so we opted for the tent first. She gave us the safety talk about absolutely not venturing out of the cabin alone at night. If there is an emergency, there is a whistle close to the bed and we have to blow it and light a lamp while the other camps have to extinguish theirs so she can know which camp has the emergency. It was getting a bit scary especially when everything is pitch black except for the starlight and we still had not seen our tent. So off we went with our flashlights in the company of Richard who looked like he was going on an elephant hunt in the dark. Well indeed it was an elephant sighting – right in the path to our tent so needless to say, we all hightailed it back to the main eating area and decided that it was dinner after all and the tent could wait.

Dinner was very gourmet and it was no camp fare. It was in fact better than anything you’d get at any high end restaurant anyplace and it was all fresh cooked – buns, soup, meat, everything….

After dinner we tried for the tent again and this time we were successful. I was sure glad that the elephant found something more interesting than the outside of our tent. But this tent was no ordinary tent. It was tenting 5 star style. Teak furniture – everything from the towel rack that sits on the floor, to the vanity, to the bed frames, to the chairs on the veranda. Yes our tent had a veranda. It is built on a platform made of teak and has a claw-footed bathtub, double sinks, a shower sort of outside (wooden slats covered with a tarp), two beds and two additional veranda chairs on the inside. This is living. I have to describe the doors though. All of them have screens – only screens – including the toilet, the shower, the veranda and the door going outside. So privacy is not something you cherish. When I say screens, I mean that instead of wood, the doors are covered with mesh like you get in summer screens for your windows. Imagine that you are in the toilet or shower and there is no door. That’s what it’s like. Mmmm hmmm. And imagine that someone walks in to your tent – say the maid or the plumber and you say “Wait a minute” but he or she can see right into your tent. Yep. That’s about it. Might as well be no door. Well I had a shower and fell into bed to be fast asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow (this obviously written when I woke up). Nothing could top this day.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Chobe Park, Botswana: Game drive, daycare & boat cruise

It was another early morning rising. I got up at about 5am and was really looking forward to the morning game drive. The guide said that there are different animals in the mornings than there are in the afternoons. I couldn’t imagine what I would see but I was looking forward to the adventure.

We had tea and a muffin and left about 6am to return at about 9am. We saw some of the ones we saw on the first game drive but this morning we spotted a seven lions – one of which crossed about 50 metres from us. These animals are not tame but the way we were acting, you’d think they couldn’t hurt us. We saw banded mongoose – I know mongoose from Guyana but didn’t even know they had several types. Gamebok, kudu, impala, elephants, giraffes, buffaloes and the two rare finds were a sable which is hard to locate and three painted wild dogs running in the wild. They were the same types that I saw in Ghanzi but those were in a fenced and protected game reserve and these were running wild. Even the guide got excited when he saw tehm. He said he had not seen any of them for years and to find one on a game drive is rare. They started chasing a buffalo and the buffalo started to run but suddenly stopped in its tracks and started charging after the dogs. They ran away and went after another buffalo. The buffaloes are the most dangerous of the animals and will charge at you for no reason and with no warning especially if they are wounded. The dogs did not fare any better with the second buffalo but it was watch them circling the buffalo. They spread out in a triangular formation and worked together to attack the buffalo. They didn’t manage to do anything because the buffalo is vicious. That sighting was worth the morning’s drive.

After breakfast I called Kostis to see if we could visit the daycare at Kubu Lodge. He met us at the hotel and took us by combi to the daycare. Can I just tell you about this combi experience? The vehicle would normally seat 11 people but I counted 19 of us and had one woman moved over like the conductor (I call him that but mosly he is the man hanging out of the combi trying to get additional fares even though the vehicle cannot take one more person. Packed like sardines would be a total understatement. Imagine if they were trying for a world record. They’d probably fit 60 or 70.

We arrived at the daycare and for some reason I thought it was an orphanage but it’s for vulnerable children not orphaned children. I mean that some of them may be orphaned but they are living with a family member. They range in age from 2 ½ to 6. I gave them each a Canadian flag and they were running around in a giant circle waving their flags. It would make a good poster for some CIDA project. CIDA if you want to use the picture, just ask and I’ll send it to you. The little ones go to school for 8am where they are served breakfast for many, there is nothing at home to eat). Then they get some structured play time and activities and then it’s lunch. They leave the centre about 5pm to go home.

Sometimes the parents or guardians forget to pick them up so they have to be taken home. I asked what they would be doing if they didn’t have the daycare to come to and Kostis said that they’d likely be home drunk because it keeps them quiet or sleeping if there is no food to eat. Some of the young girls – as young as 5 - are sexually assaulted and the perpetrators are not punished. You can get some serious jail time for killing an elephant or some other wild animal but for raping a woman or girl, they crime although punishable, is hardly ever investigated. Sad to think that the life of a woman is worth less than the life of an animal. It was indeed shocking to hear that.

Let me describe the daycare such as it is. The space was donated by the lady that owns Kubu Lodge. It’s actually two garages converted into a daycare. The furniture is minimal but the kids have a safe place to go to everyday and at least two meals to eat. They are given clothes when they arrive at the centre but they have to change before going home because the family may take the clothes and sell it for alcohol. The daycare started out with 3 kids a few months ago and they are now up to 21. People in the community hear about the daycare and bring their children. Distribution of wealth is so unequal. It’s the few Have’s and the many Have Nots.

We got a taxi back to the hotel. Not a taxi exactly. We stood at the side of the road and Kostis waved any vehicle that passed. A car finally stopped and gave us a ride into town for 5 pula total (a taxi quoted us the tourist price of 40 pula). I read in a tour book that in Botswana, many people use their cars as personal taxis and it’s perfectly safe to hitchhike as long as you pay the driver – usually the same rate as you would pay in public transport. I gave him 10 pula and told him to have a good day and he had this big grin and said that he was indeed going to have a good day after the 5 pula tip that he got.

In the afternoon we went on a the boat cruise that we missed yesterday. Everyone said that it was better than the game drive but I didn’t think so. I loved the overland one rather than being in the water because I could get closer to the animals. We saw a number of hippos – I estimate about 75. A could of crocodiles thrown in and a water antelope (I thought there was only one type) called a red lechwe (pronounced lee-chee). There were lots of birds and that was pretty. Can I remember all of them? Lets see – open-billed stork, white egret, snakebird (because when it’s swimming in the water, the neck looks like a snake), black egret, francolins, African jancana, Egyptian ducks, starlings, lilac-breasted roller (Botswana’s national bird and it has 7 colours). That was quite a collection of birds but I still prefer the game drive because I could still see the birds mostly because we were driving beside the river.

It was dinner and bed. The fresh air was so invigorating and the day so stimulating that I fell into bed as soon as my head hit the pillow (journal entry written later).

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe: What beauty!!!


I wanted to go on a boat cruise this afternoon but we planned a day at Victoria Falls and we did not return in time to go on the cruise (although our driver gave it a good boy scout try by driving at a breakneck speed to get back to the hotel in time for 3:30pm. Missed the cruise but we had a great day anyway.

I got up early (about 5:30am) and headed down by the river to take some pictures at daybreak. My pictures are looking quite good even if I do say so myself. I’m trying to upload them onto my hotmail site for pictures but I cannot figure out how other people can view them without going to the trouble of setting up a hotmail account. I have not had time to figure all of it but as soon as I do, I’ll send the URL.

Okay so our driver arrived at 7:30 which is the time we said we wanted to leave so we could get back in time for the cruise. The driver explained that he had to pick up 4 more people so I hopped in the front seat so I could interrogate (ummm, I mean talk) to him about the falls and whatever other information he could give me. We ended up with 6 more people and the van got quite crowded but I was okay in the front with the driver. We ended up splitting up into two vehicles at the Zim (that’s how we Africans call Zimbabwe) border so eventually we were all comfortable. There was an awful surprise waiting for us at the border. The queue was about 8 deep and we got our USD$30 each to pay for the Zim visa. Only thing is – get this – Canadians have to pay USD$65 each. Yes that is USD$130 just to enter the country for the day (or for a single entry visa). I just had to ask. I was told that since March, many people from Zim have applied for Canadian visas and have to pay an application fee but if they don’t get a visa, they don’t get a refund of the fee. It’s pretty costly for them because their money is worth so little. And most times they don’t get a visa to enter Canada.

The Zim government thinks that it is a money making endeavour for Canada and the hefty entry visa fee for Zim is their way of balancing the scales of justice. So does that mean that I can ask the Canadian government for a refund of my visa fees? Since they collect the visa application fees, how come I have to pay it at the other end? Anyway, it’s a good thing I had enough money because the other horrible surprise was at the Victoria Falls hotel where we had lunch. Robin ordered a Caesar salad and what he got for USD$15 was a plate of iceberg lettuce with two olives. I’m not even kidding. For USD$15 I got a half chicken breast and a few strips of carrots. I could have eaten my money and been much fuller. Guess the final bill. It was $11,400 Zim $$. Too funny. It’s almost as bad as the Italian lire.

Except for those criminally offensive high prices, we had a great time at the falls. It’s as beautiful as everyone says it is. From the Zim side, I could get a full view of the falls and people from the Zambia side can see the gorge. I think we had a better view but then again, I wasn’t at the other side. I took lots of pictures and those are beautiful too. I do however have to boast that the Kaiteur Falls deep in the rainforest of Guyana is spectacular. For those of you who don’t know, it is the highest SINGLE DROP water Falls in the world – about 838 feet in a single drop – meaning no ledges or breaks. Try going over that in a barrel!!

We saw so many baboons. It’s interesting to see them in a zoo and they look cute and harmless but seeing a whole pack of them running around me, walking beside me and chasing each other is a bit intimidating because they can get aggressive if they think you have something they want. Fortunately they were not aggressive and the baby ones were the cutest – sitting on their mommy’s backs (this information is for Izabel). When I go back to Winnipeg, I’ll get an album of pictures for my two babies and they can take it to their daycares for Show and Tell and they can tell their friends that their Nani went to Africa and saw lots of wild animals. I do hope that these pictures will create some interest for them in wanting to see and experience the world.

While lunching – if you could call it that – at the Vic Falls hotel, we had a great view (likely what we were paying for and if we kept staring we wouldn’t notice the lack of food on the plate) of the bridge that goes from Zimbabwe to Zambia. The bridge by itself is quite a lovely view but if you so desire, you can pay to bungee jump off the bridge. That’s like paying to kill yourself. Thanks but I can think of more interesting ways to spend my money like going to the Vic. Falls craft market. Our driver Abraham told us that when we go to the market, we would be told a price and we have to negotiate or else we’d be seen as silly. I wanted a hair comb and I was offered one for the special price of USD$22. The thing was made from bull horns which are plentiful. I looked indignant and he went down to $15. By the time I left the market 15 minutes later, I bought it for $5. It was fun to bargain but I felt bad after. On the way to the market, we had to stop on the road and three very ragged kids came to the car to ask for money. They had just finished garbage picking and pulled out a few bones that they were chewing on. The driver drove away before I could give them some money but I’m not sure what they would have done with the money.

I have to mention this and it may offend some people but it was so glaring that it’s worth mentioning. When we were at the hotel, every single person (except for me and Robin) eating there was white and I mean every person, and every single server was black. Our driver Abraham was telling us about an incident at the Vic Falls hotel. He said that a few years ago, he was at the hotel with some people who he had driven to the Falls. He was told by one of the staff that he was not allowed to eat at the hotel – it was only for Whites. He told the people he took there that he was not allowed to stay and eat with them and they were angry that a staff would say that to him. He said he told the server that he brings a lot of guests to the hotel and if he couldn’t eat there, he would take them someplace else. Not a real threat because many tourists want to say that they have eaten at the hotel. The surprising thing about the whole incident was that the server telling this to Abraham (who is black) is also black. Abraham thinks that he may have been mistaken for a Ndebele (one of the two predominant tribes in Zim) by a server who may have been a Shona (another tribe). Zim. President Robert Mugabe is a Shona. Apparently the two tribes do not get along and one is always looking for ways to make life difficult for the other.

After speeding back to the hotel for the boat cruise which we missed by half an hour, we sat by the pool and had a drink – non-alcoholic PacMan. I can’t even remember what was in it but it tasted like ice cubes.

Dinner at the Commissioner’s restaurant and then it was bedtime after another full day. Tomorrow we are going to visit the daycare that was started by Kostis from Greece. Co-incidentally, the daycare is located at the Kubu Lodge where we picked up one of the couples today. I peeked into the yard but the kids must have gone home already. Tomorrow we’ll visit and I have to remember to take my Canadian flags and pins.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Kasane, Botswana: First game drive – impalas, kudus, elephants, giraffes…

and that was just the beginning.

We left Gaborone this morning at about 11:15am for Kasane. Mitho gave us a ride to the airport and the flight was very uneventful. That’s the way I like to fly – totally uneventful. Kasane airport is small compared to some of the airports I’ve been to – Heathrow. Sao Paulo, Kennedy, Mexico City and Hong Kong. We were supposed to be met by a representative from the Chobe Marina Lodge but after waiting for a few minutes, we realized that no one was meeting much less greeting us. This did not bode well for the next few days. We asked at information and a man overheard us. He said he was supposed to meet some people and they did not arrive so he offered us a ride to the hotel. He was dressed in some kind of safari outfit so of course we thought that was enough to make it safe to go with him. It was indeed safe. You can tell he is used to driving around tourists because he even told us how long it would take to get to the hotel – 12 minutes.

We got to the hotel and checked in about 1:45 if I have to explain the hotel, I would describe it as a piece of paradise I asked the travel agent in Gaborone to get me something reasonable but no tents. This is what she got me. All inclusive at a posh hotel right on the Chobe River with three restaurants, a multi-level pool complete with bar, a cascading waterfall that runs UNDER the hotel, a chalet that sleeps 6 overlooking the river and a gardener’s dream in terms of the grounds. It impressed the heck out of me and it’s a far cry from the tents at Ghanzi. There was a beautiful restaurant called Mokoros (which is actually the name of a dugout canoe used in the Okavanga Delta). They had a huge buffet and I was starving by 2pm. Off to the room which was again huge. Two bedrooms and two bathrooms, a living room with a sofa bed and a nice size apartment sized kitchen.

After a great lunch and dropping off baggage to the room, it was a game drive from 3:30 – just after sunset. I really didn’t know what to expect so I was going with an open mind. Oh MY GOD!!! I could hardly describe the experience. Our driver Gibson took us to the Chobe Park which is about 11,000 square kms. It is the largest park in Botswana and about 5 kms from Kasane. I used to watch TV and see African safaris but I never thought in a million years that I would ever actually experience one and Botswana is one of the few places in Africa that you can still see much of the environment protected from copious amounts of tourists. Of course you couldn’t tell that from the convoy of vehicles that were in the park for the game drive. We looked like we were in the zoo and the animals were looking at us – likely thinking “what are those creatures? Look at them. Look how they have those metal things dangling from their necks and look at the way they are pointing and making strange noises.”

Now for the actual game drive. We got into the park and the first thing you notice is how dry and deforested everything looks. That’s from the elephants looking for food in the dry season (now). They eat as much as 300 kgs of food each day and drink about 200 litres of water.

We saw the first herd of elephants (about 5) and I got so excited that I quickly got out my camera and started clicking away. Little was I to know that it was just the beginning!!! I felt like a kid going to the zoo for the first time but this is no zoo and the animals are not in a cage. They are free to roam and we are the ones needing protection if we get too stupid. Then it was a bachelor herd of impalas. I am now certain that if I ever see another impala anywhere, I’ll be able to recognize by dark tan colour with the black stripes on the behind. There were kudus with the humps and sort of greyish brown. There were lots of buffalos. They are the most dangerous of all the animals in the park, the hippos being the second dangerous. We went down by the river and saw some hippos in the water but we could only see the backs because they were mostly submerged – occasionally spouting jets of water from their heads. There were lots more elephants by the water and the herd had several baby ones. And this part is for Izabel. The baby elephants were not sitting in their mommy’s laps. They were walking beside the mommies but on the inside of the pack because the mommies protect them. The babies have lots of mommies because all the mommies take care of each other’s babies.

The herd usually has one male elephant, which is huge – about 3 ½ meters high and weighs 6000 kgs. Females are about 2 ½ meters and weighs about 3500 kgs. When the male gets too old to take care of the herd, it leaves and there is a fight between the males from the bachelor pack to see who gets to lead the herd. When the old males leave the herd, they go off n their own and will eventually lose their teeth, and die of starvation because they can no longer feed themselves. There are no female herds because the females will never leave their families and by staying together, they help to protect the baby elephants from predators. There were a few male herds, grazing and sometimes fighting among each other but mostly they stay by themselves. The young males from the family herd can stay until they are about a year or two old then they have to leave too and either join another bachelor herd or form their own. The lone male with the females will impregnate all the eligible females but he also has to be strong enough to fight off the other males who may want to take over his herd. The gestation period is about 22 months and the new babies are about 120 kgs. When born. The babies will hold on to the mother’s tail with their trunks so that the mother can protect them. They really are cute to look at especially when they are travelling and the young ones are in between the big ones being well protected by all the other females.

We drove on some more and I really wanted to see a zebra but Gibson said that we won’t see any because they only come when the rainy season starts because they need the grass which is almost non-existent now. We saw some lions but they were so far away that we would need binoculars to see them and them only barely. Disappointing but I could say that I saw some lions. Up close would be better and certainly chasing something would be even more special. We were lucky to see some giraffes. Not some - in fact we saw two. They are huge and they’re not in a zoo!! They were just wandering around and stopped right in front of my camera for a perfect photo opp. I was using Izabel’s call – Psst - and it seemed to work like a charm. I knew that kid was smart. On our way out of the park, guess what? ZEBRAS!!! A small herd but zebras. I called out Psst and they stopped again for a photo opp. It was a perfect ending to the game drive. I was satisfied that if I didn’t see anything else for the rest of the trip, I’d be happy because I saw zebras and giraffes. I can go to Las Vegas to see lions – in cages mind you – but I can see them. Seriously, this place is so amazing that I could hardly believe I’m here.

We went back to the hotel just after dusk with a nice satisfied feeling. It was cold in the vehicle driving back. As soon as the sun sets, the cold air seems to descend as if in waiting. Dinner was at the Commissioner’s restaurant where we could have a buffet dinner with a braai (a BBQ) of chicken, Bream (a bony fish from the Chobe River), kudu and warthog sausage. We could have chosen to eat upstairs where the servers will serve you but we stayed downstairs where it’s outdoors on a beautiful balcony overlooking the Chobe River. If you want a perfect vacation which is part honeymoon/adventure/safari/luxury/family vacation, this is definitely the place (if you can afford it). I may be working for a very long time to pay for these few days but hey, what are credit cards for? You don’t really have to pay the money when you use the card, do you? Robin says that we have never carried a balance on the credit card so that must mean that they don’t charge us. Yeh!! Right!! It’s time for a good night’s sleep after all that fresh air and wild animal sightings. It was a good day altogether.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Gaborone, Botswana: Like a kid in a candy store; Like Christmas in August

Robin arrived on Saturday without incident. I received an email from Orbitz to say the flight from London was going to be late so I was really hoping that he would not miss his flight to Gaborone. Fortunately he had enough time to do make the connections and arrived safely.

I was up early and by 7:30am I was dressed and ready to be picked up for the airport at 10am. So after pacing around for an hour, I walked to the Main Mall and went to the Cresta President Hotel for a toast and coffee. Really I was checking out the place to see if our students could find employment there when I meet with the Kitchen Manager on the week of the 28th.

Jayanthi and Jim took me to the airport and when we invited them for dinner that night, they declined saying that Robin might be too tired. We unpacked the suitcases and I was like a kid in a candy store with all the things he brought for the centre. It was a full and heavy suitcase and I was trying to imagine the look on the faces of the staff and students when they see all of it.

We left a few minutes later and went out to get a combi to the Riverwalk Mall. I had no idea which to take so I went over to the women selling the crocheted things and by the time I had asked for directions, I found myself with a large bedspread and a sweater. We walked on the wrong road, turned back and walked on the right road and found out when we finally got to the combi stop that there were no combis that go to Riverwalk Mall. We would have to take two. By the time we had done all this, we were half way to the mall so we walked the rest of the way. In the meantime Robin is thinking that I am deliberately starving him while I take a walk to the mall because I forgot to say that the restaurant we were going to eat at was at the mall. He was probably thinking he had to come all the way to Africa to face starvation. Fortunately we arrived in time to have a cool drink because by this time, the midday sun was hot, hot, hot. We walked around the mall and shopped and then had an early dinner by 5pm. He wanted to walk back home but by the time we would have finished another one hour trek, we’d be mugged or something worse because it would be dark. I didn’t fancy being mugged so I declined. Besides I walked enough for the day.

Sunday morning we went back to the crochet women and bought 4 shawls (which they’ll be making before we leave, a tablecloth and another bedspread. That was definitely more sales in two or three days than they would have done in a month but the things are so beautifully done. I wish I could buy it all but that would be a lot of things to bring home besides the two teak tables I bought. What was I thinking of anyway? We didn’t really go to buy more things. We were on our way to Gabrone Sun for breakfast but by the time we got there, it was 10:30am and I felt more like brunch than eggs and toast. We sat by the pool and ordered our grilled veggie sandwiches and samosas (yummy Pat) and had a few cups of coffee. Then it was back to the house where I worked on the backyard a bit.
We went out with Jayanthi and Jim to a Halal Chinese (for real!!) restaurant. The food was very good but honestly I have never been to a Chinese Halal restaurant. That means they don’t serve any prok products. There are a lot of Halal restaurants here although I didn’t think there was a large Muslim population. Most people are Christians but many business owners are South Indian and many are Muslims so they can decide how they want to prepare and/or sell their meats.

This morning I got up early because we had to be at the radio station for 7:30 for our interview at 8am. We of course arrived at 7:15. We went on the air at 8:10am and talked for about 20 minutes. We managed to cover all the points we wanted to make. It was hard to know how things went but Robin was in the studio with us and he said it went well and we sounded very natural. When I got back to the centre the students and staff who were huddled around a little portable radio hugged and kissed me and said how proud they were of all the things I said about the centre. I hope it’ll be good publicity for us.

We unpacked the suitcase of the things Robin brought and I’m telling you, I have never heard hoots and hollers like I heard today. If I could have recorded it, I would have. I think that feeling will stay with me for a very long time. The students wanted to know how Papa Sandra knew what to buy. I said I gave specific instructions. We had enough things for the kitchen to have extras so we cleaned out some of the cupboards, organized some of the shelves, moved around some things and installed locks on some of the cupboard doors. This was work day for Robin. He even got a couple of blisters in the palm of his hand to prove it. I did say he’d have his share of work to do when he got here and he sure did. Everyone was wondering if Papa Sandra would mind if Mama Sandra stayed in Botswana for another year or so.

I spent the afternoon printing the invitations. Some of the names are so foreign to me that I had to be very careful when I was typing them because I wouldn’t know if I made a spelling mistake. We invited the Mayor and the media so hopefully we’ll get some coverage. I then worked on the programme and same thing. I typed the names of the graduates but have no idea if the names are correct so I gave it to the teachers to check the spelling of their students because I’ll be using the same list to print the certificates.

I made a TO DO list for the grad ceremonies and a list of all the invitees so that next year it won’t be such a hassle to get the work done. I was in a bit of a rush today because we leave for Kasane tomorrow and I wanted to get as much work done as I can before I go because we’ll be there till Sunday. Kasane is on the border of Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe and it’s about 80 kms from Victoria Falls. I’m looking forward to seeing the Falls. I met a man Kostis in Ghanzi and he happens to live in Kasane where he is working with a Greek NGO to run an orphanage for children of HIV parents. I will go visit the orphanage because I think it’s similar to the one in Palapye that Katherine was running. I wanted to visit but didn’t get a chance to do so before she returned to Canada. Anyway, it is essential that we take anti-malaria pills when we go to Kasane and the Okavanga Delta. The mosquitoes are so big that they will bite you through your clothes. This is the winter so they shouldn’t be too bad. I have my malaria pills and my insect repellent but if the mosquitoes are anything like the ones in Winnipeg or Guyana, they’ll think insect repellent is a drink served at happy hour.
Not sure about internet access so I may not be able to blog but I will be keeping an ejournal, so I’ll have lots to say when I get back if I can’t post from there. For those of you who read the blog with your morning/evening coffee, you’ll have withdrawal same as if you gave up your coffee for 5 days. Stay happy and safe everyone until I blog again… which could be tomorrow evening or Monday evening. Tomorrow afternoon when we arrive there is some kind of boat cruise that is supposed to be spectacular so I’m looking forward to that. If I see a zebra, I’ll be happy. Anything else will be a bonus. Okay a giraffe would be nice too. Rhinos are alright but the elephants will have to be in a very large herd to impress me. A baby zebra will impress the heck out of me. Apparently each zebra’s stripe is different. I’ll have to check it out and let you know.
Going on a tiger hunt.
Going on a tiger hunt.
I’m not scared, I’m not scared…..

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.

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….

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

2. August 15th, 2006 by Robin Sukhan
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.

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,

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

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.

1. August 15th, 2006 by Robin Sukhan
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.

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 .
Freezing in the Kalahari


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.


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
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:// 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.
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.
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.