Tuesday, 26 July 2011
My time in Ethiopia was truly the experience of a lifetime. Who my age has the chance to attend a UN meeting, listening to the opinions of representatives from organizations like the African Union, and having conversations with diplomats over lunch? I feel so lucky to have had to opportunity.
I arrived in Addis Ababa exhausted after a full day of traveling, to a very comfortable hotel room. There was a sign in the lobby welcoming me and the other UN Women representatives, a little bit surreal.
The early the next morning in the pouring rain a van took me and a few other representatives to the retreat where the meeting would be taking place in Adama (aka Nazareth) two hours away. My first impression was that it was much more like Egypt than Botswana. I couldn’t stop taking pictures of the way they constructed the concrete buildings, with sticks supporting it. It’s truly unique; I’ll attempt to attach a photo here.
We jumped right in to the meetings, and I was glad I had done so much research beforehand. After the welcomes and introductions, we learned about the progress of the campaign so far. There were about twenty representatives in attendance, as well as UN Women support and translators. It was a little surreal to me that when someone decided to make their speech in French or Arabic, all I had to do was put the head phones in front of me on and I could listen in English.
The work that those involved are doing is so important, although sometimes it’s hard to see how it benefits the specific women suffering from violence in Africa. I have to remind myself that it’s campaigns like these that force the laws in the member states to change, be created, or better enforced, which in turn can help to punish and prevent specific acts of violence against individual women, as one example.
The location was amazing, everything was green because of the rainy season, and the retreat was an oasis. I really would have liked to go outside of the hotel to see more of the city, but my time was so short, and almost entirely scheduled. At the meals I was able to try injera, a local yeast flat bread. It’s eaten with stew, and the grain it’s made with is specific to Ethiopia. It has a very unique taste; I would recommend you try it if you ever have the chance!
I was able to take more pictures on the way back, and me and some other representatives had fun trying to get a decent picture of a “tuktuk”, little blue three-wheeled auto rickshaws, which have recently been imported from India. One of the translators told me more about Ethiopia (like their different time system, which has the day begin at 6 am), while I couldn’t stop staring out of the windows. I saw women in neTela, the white gauzy shawls, Ethiopia orthodox churches, and men plowing the fields with oxen.
Coming from Botswana, I couldn’t get over how Green everything was. I commented that it was so beautiful, and a Kenyan representative laughed, telling me I must not have been anywhere beautiful. Since I’m from Alberta, we all know this is the opposite of true! From what I experienced, it’s a beautiful and unique country that I hope to return to one day.
Tuesday, 5 July 2011
On Canada Day we invited some new friends over for a semi-traditional Braai (bbq). I alternated between worrying we wouldn’t have enough food, and worried we wouldn’t have too much, but it turned out perfectly. The menu included steaks, sausage, chicken, chili, lasagne, paap, sempe, chakala and buns. Our Motswana friends schooled us with their dance skills with a Canadian flag as our backdrop. We plastered everyone with Canadian flag tattoos and pushed our maple syrup candies. What more could you ask of Canada Day in Botswana?
The next two weeks are filled with traveling. On Friday morning I leave for Maun, in Northern Botswana. A friend from school is placed at an orphanage/day care in the area. Our plan is to visit her, see some wildlife, and relax.
Big news everyone! I have an exciting trip next week! I’ll be traveling to Adama, Ethiopia to represent the SADC Gender Unit at a UN Women meeting on the Africa UNite Campaign to End Gender Based Violence. I hardly need to express to you all that this is the trip and opportunity of a lifetime. I’m both nervous and excited! I’ll only be there for two days, with a day of travel on either end, so I’m sure it will be over before I know it. I hope in that short time I can at least get an impression of the country, and learn as much as possible at the meeting.
The night I return from Ethiopia is the beginning of the extra long weekend in Botswana, and I’ll go from the airplane to an overnight bus to Kasane in the North East. After a day safari on land and water, we’ll cross the border into Zimbabwe. “But isn’t that a dangerous country Angela?” You might ask. While their dictator Robert Mugabe oppresses the people, it’s not a dangerous place for visitors. The people who live in the area depend on tourism. I’m looking forward to meeting some of them and hearing their stories. In my next blog, I’ll share what I’ve learned. Our main reason for going is to see the world famous Victoria Falls, watch for my pictures on facebook.
I hope you all enjoyed your Canada Day, once again, thank you for reading!
Wednesday, 22 June 2011
We’d heard to Apartheid Museum was fantastic, definitely not to be missed; very interactive and a learning experience. We ended up at the Hector Pieterson Museum, entirely on the Soweto uprising. It was poorly set up and outdated. We made the best of it and learned something.
We returned to the competition around 1pm and the program said that it was to end at 4pm. Didn’t happen. We sat and waited, and waited, and waited. We bought some supper from the concession at 7pm, because we were told that we weren’t able to leave the area after dark, too dangerous. So we drank more tea in the bleachers and waited. Finally, at 10:30pm, Tshepi and Mike danced. As Canadians who are used to schedules being kept, it was definitely a lesson in patience! We were glad we finally got to see our friends dance, they were fantastic. If there was more support in Botswana for the arts, I’m sure they would be able to do it professionally.
My time in Joburg made me appreciate how relaxed things are in Botswana. It’s not crowded and rushed, and the people are much friendlier. It has become familiar, like an old friend. I was relieved to return on Sunday. In August, I’m also looking forward to getting to know the new and exciting South Africa, starting with Cape Town.
Sunday, 12 June 2011
Last weekend we went to Pretoria, and it wasn’t how I expected it to be. I’m sure it was because of the area of town we were staying in, but it didn’t feel as dangerous as I had heard. We stayed at a hostel, and met some people from Italy, New Zealand, Finland and an America couple. We invited them to stay with us for a few nights before they carried on to Northern Botswana. They started their travels through Central and South America last November, and plan to eventually end up on the east side of Russia within a year, almost all by land. I’m envious of their round the world trip, it’s something I would eventually like to do.
In Pretoria, it was nice to walk and actually end up somewhere. We soaked up some culture at the Art Museum and some sun in the gardens of the Union Buildings, their parliament.
The next day we decided to visit the Cradle of Human Kind and did a tour of the Sterkfontein Caves, such an amazing place. It was where Mrs. Ples and Little Foot, two skeletons of our 2 million year old ancestors have been found. We were able to enter the caves and go 60 meters below the surface and see where they had excavated the amazing discoveries. The feeling of being so close to our ancient past was indescribable. There’s a lake deep in the caves, nobody knows how far or deep it goes, and at least one life has been lost so far trying to find out.
On the way home, about an hour into our eight hour bus ride the bus broke down, so we waited for an hour by the side of a road for the mechanic. He looked at it whatever the problem was and sent us on our way. An hour later, the bus was forced to pull over again, and we waited for a replacement bus, which they were sending from… Pretoria. The bus attendant assured as that they “usually” make it to the border before it closes at midnight. Luckily we did, and eleven hours into our trip we were home sweet home.
This past weekend has been relaxing, after out hectic go go go schedule of the last few weeks. On Friday night we cheered on a friend’s sister at Botswana Idol. I assure you it’s much less glamorous than it sounds, but a lot of fun!
Next weekend we plan to go to Joburg for Tshepiso’s dance competition, and I’m sure I’ll have many more stories to tell.
Enough of that for today! Let me tell you what I’ve been up to since I last wrote. This weekend was fantastic. It started off not too different from a weekend in Canada, seeing the Hangover 2 and heading out for a friends going away party at a pub here, Bull and Bush. It’s always nice to meet new people here.
The next day we decided to climb Kgale hill, a massive pile of rocks overlooking Gabs. On our walk to the base, we saw a group of baboons from about a hundred meters away. It almost deterred us from climbing, but after asking a man who passed us on the road if baboons were dangerous, and getting laughter as a response, we figured it would be ok. It was a struggle to the top, more like a rock climb than a hike. We later discovered we took the hard route, but the view was worth it. We could see all of Gabs, the Gaborone dam, and so much more. Such a beautiful country! I’m sure it won’t be our last visit to the top.
My friend Tshepiso, who I met in Canada through Canada World Youth, invited my roommates and I over for a traditional lunch. It has been so great to see some of the Batswana friends I made in Canada, almost 5 years later. Tshepiso showed us how to make Sorghum, a powdered grain, is made into porridge. We watched her make another dish made of bean leaves called ---- and a dish made of beans and corn called ---. With some of the famous beef of this country and the spiciest spaghetti ever made, it was a fantastic meal, with great company. We were able to meet Tshepiso’s family and friends, we felt very lucky to have such an experience. The generosity and hospitality of Batswana is amazing.
Now, you’ll have to excuse me as the workshop is about to start. As always, thanks for reading, and Sala Sentle, stay well.
Wednesday, 18 May 2011
I imagined it to be more like my experience in Mozambique than it is. Botswana is much more well off, because of their lack of conflict coming out of colonialism, their strong economy due to cattle and diamonds, and a relatively uncorrupt government.
My first impressions of the people here are that they are extremely polite people. Greetings are essential. “dumela mma” for a woman, or “dumela raa” for a man, can go a long way in trying to get information from someone, or just a smile. Botswana is truly bilingual, or at least the capital is. English and Setswana are spoken equally as often, and switching between the two comes easy for almost everyone.
I have my own room in the house that I share with Cassie from Montreal, and Brandy from Brandon, Manitoba. It’s quite comfortable, and very secure. If anyone wanted to get in to the house without our permission they’d need to get passed the electric fence with dead-bolted gate, the locked front door and the security system. Doubtful!
We do our own cooking and we can find almost all the food we’re used to at the grocery store down the street. The price of groceries is only slightly less back in Canada, although meat is significantly cheaper.
Work so far has felt like the coops I’m used to doing. I’m working at the Southern African Development Community, in the Gender Unit. SADC is made up of 14 of the Southern-most countries in Africa, and collaborate on things like trade, science and technology, and most importantly to me, gender issues.
The ladies on my team-work towards gender equality in Southern Africa, not an easy task. Some of the challenges they face are battling the traditional gender roles that see women as the property of men, gender based violence in conflict zones, and even some of the problems we face in Canada such as unequal pay. After a few days on the job I’m already feeling like I’ve learned so much, and I’m sure I haven’t even scratched the surface. I’m looking forward to the next few months.
The government workers here have been on strike for the last month, and almost everyone has returned to work so far except for people in health care and education, as far as I’ve been told. These two sectors refused to return to work after a court order, and as a result, all were fired on Monday. In the past few days the students have started to strike, and it’s caused some riots in towns outside of Gaborone, and from what I hear, some clashed with the police. There are rumours that a teacher has been stabbed and a police offer was killed, but haven’t been confirmed. I don’t know if news travels slower here, or if I’m just out of the loop. In any case, I haven’t seen anything change here in Gaborone, and I feel completely safe, so no need to worry about me.
As part of our orientation we were taken on a Safari at Mokolodi Game Reserve. We saw all kinds of snakes from baby pythons to fill grown Cobras, in their enclosures of course. We saw monkeys, baboons, and rehabilitated vultures, and on our drive around we saw warthogs, ostriches and my favourite… giraffes! They really are the most amazing creatures, somehow graceful and elegant, moving quickly but appearing as if in slow motion. I hope to get the chance to see more wildlife while I’m here.
Some of you have seen the picture up on facebook already, but I forgot to mention one of my roommates, Charlotte. Charlotte is a GIANT spider living in Brandy’s closet, who has since disappeared. I can only hope I don’t wake up to find her in my bed!
Nights are quiet here so far, it gets dark around 6, and we’ve been told it’s not a good idea to venture out alone in the dark. It makes for long evenings at home, and I pass the time by cooking, writing, reading, and watching movies with the roommates. I may have to take up another hobby!
The days start early, most people arrive at work at 8, and stay until 4:30 or 5. Getting to work was quite a challenge at first. People take combis and taxis that follow a route instead of a bus, and it costs about 50 cents per ride. I catch one close to my house that takes me to the taxi rank, and from there I have to ask which taxi will be going to “SADC house”, it changes everyday, but I’m starting to recognize some of the drivers. On my first morning going to work, I asked a well meaning man which taxi I should take, and he directed me to one. Turns out it was going right back in the direction I came from. Luckily I’d left early and I was only a few minutes late.
All being said, life here is just different enough from Canada to be exciting and challenging. I think I’m going to like it here.
This will not be my first visit to Sub Saharan Africa. I traveled to Mozambique with Canada World Youth in December of 2006, and spent 3 months in Manhica, a town an hour from the capital city. It was a life changing learning experience, and one of the reasons I am eager to return, albeit with different expectations. This time will be a much more formal experience, and I expect that living in the capital city will be much different.
I am very interested in learning more about gender issues that people, and women in particular, face in Southern Africa. During my time in Mozambique, one of the women who had the most impact on me was my neighbour, Regina. With five children under the age of ten and a baby tied to her back, Regina cooked three meals a day while still managing to operate a small shop near the entrance of their house every day of the year, with a smile on her face throughout. The issues women face in sub Saharan Africa are much different than those I am familiar with, and I look forward to learning more about them.
With less than a month to go before departure, my focus is beginning to shift to leaving. As I finish exams and start to pack my things away in boxes, my mind is already turned to Botswana and this new challenge. I look forward to learning some Setswana, contributing and learning at my placement, and getting to know the people and culture.
Until next time – Sala sentle, stay well.
(You can find my official SWB blog at http://www.studentswithoutborders.ca/angela-dore/angela-dore-biography-2/ )