Wednesday, 22 June 2011

The Joburg Fiasco

During a recent trip to Joburg, I realized how much I appreciate Botswana and Batswana. We took a bus to Joburg to see our friends Tshepiso and Mike compete in a dance competition. We rented a van and found a cute little B and B to stay in. We got in the first night quite late, and the next morning we were greeted with a wonderful breakfast. And it was mostly downhill from there. The competition was in Soweto, a township about half an hour away. We went at 11am to find out what time Tshepi and Mike were dancing. They said they didn’t know, but most likely after lunch. We decided to take the time to see the Apartheid Museum, which we were told was in the area. Tshepi’s aunt graciously offered to drive us.

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 It was poorly set up and outdated.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

"Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known" - Carl Sagan

Hard to believe I’ve been here 5 weeks! I almost feel like a Motswana already, and I have the braids to show for it. Yesterday we had a woman, Audrey, and her friend come to braid our hair, using the extensions that are so popular here. They plaited faster than I thought was humanly possible, and were done in about 3 hours.

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.

Wrote this at the end of May, sorry it took so long to post!

As I type this up, I am waiting for a workshop on Private Sector Involvement in SADC to begin. Everyone on my team is at a meeting this week in Namibia, so I was the only one left to attend. This was a bit of a challenge for me, finding my way out here and not knowing anything on the subject, but I’ve succeeded so far. Although this is a minor example, one of my favourite parts about traveling (in retrospect) is finding new hurtles to cross that I didn’t know I was capable of. It might be uncomfortable and confusing while it’s happening, but looking back, I realize they’ve helped me grow as a person, in whatever small way. It may be cliché, but the quotation “a ship is safe in the harbour, but that is not where it is meant to be” guides me. You can spend your life doing what is comfortable and easy, but it’s much more rewarding to find yourself outside of your comfort zone.

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.