Archives - ‘Botswana’

Go with the flow

April 27, 2016 | Angela, DVM, WUSC, Botswana, International Student Management (ISM) Program Assistant

As my internship in Botswana is coming to an end in about two weeks, I’m constantly answering the question “when do you leave?” So, I’m always reminded of how much time I have left in the country. Around the mid-way point of my placement and a bit after it, my mind could not leave the notion of time running out and the worry of whether I was spending my time the right way or not. I would ask myself “what have I done so far”, and “have I experienced what I wanted to/needed to?”

What I learned from thinking this way, was that I had a whole list of expectations for my internship and myself. These expectations ranged from the work I would be doing, the people I would be meeting, the places I would visit, and things I would see. A lot of those expectations were not met and this reality accompanied with the notion of time running out set me into a state of regret and self-doubt. I think that’s where I felt the lowest in my internship. I would ask questions like “what did I do wrong” or “why didn’t I take this chance” “should I have planned more” and so on.

After some tough love from my close friends and family I snapped out of my gloomy mindset. I stopped analyzing things and I let go of my previous expectations of how my experience “should be”. I changed my outlook and let myself move forward by just going with the flow. If something happened that didn’t meet my expectations, I didn’t resist it or face it negatively. To give an example, for the longest time I was hung up on the fact that there are not a lot of other expats in the area for me to interact with. I was upset that I didn’t have a group to socialize with because that is what I pictured before my arrival. But my family brought up a good point in asking “what if that’s not why you’re there” or in other words “what if I don’t need a group of expats to enjoy my trip”. Sometimes we think we are aware of what we need so we search for those things with a tunnel vision. I’ve learned that thinking with a one track mind, rather than seeing the value in what I’ve already been presented leads to unnecessary negative feelings.

Moving forward with this open state of mind, I ended up having some of the best moments during my placement. After this bump in the road, suddenly the little things that I was unhappy about didn’t bother me anymore. Prior to this mindset, when I said to people that I had about two weeks left in Botswana, I felt a feeling of doubt, regret, worry, stress, sadness, and frustration all in one. Now when I say how much time I have left in the country I don’t feel bothered because I know that I’ve accomplished a lot during my ~12 week stay. In sum, I would say that we do not know what a stay abroad has in store for us before we get there. No matter how many times we travel, we can’t say what we will learn or how we will grow. However, there is always positive token that we can go home with, it’s just a matter of understanding what that token is.

A Day in the Life of Stepping Stones

August 14, 2015 | Alex, DVM, WUSC, Botswana, Stepping Stones International

As we’re starting to near the end of our journey here in Botswana, and I’m still loving every bit of working at Stepping Stones. Since getting into more of a groove at work, things have become much more manageable since taking over for the leadership department, although they have not become any less chaotic. It’s just more of a controlled chaos that I have become accustomed to. But as our colleagues have told us many times before, that’s just the way things work here. I’ve been extremely busy at work with the sessions I have been running for the leadership participants, reviewing the curriculum for the leadership program, as well as beginning to develop a sports program for the in school participants to do on Saturdays. There has definitely not been a lack of work to go around, which I truly am thankful for. I can tell that I’m starting to get some incredibly valuable experience that I will hopefully be able to use in the future.

The sessions with the participants have been adventures in and of themselves. It’s one of the things about working with youth from another culture, you never really know what to expect. Not all of the participants speak perfect English, which has made it difficult for me to convey the instructions effectively. There has been many cases where I’ve had to repeat myself several times to each group in order for them to completely understand the instructions, and even then, they won’t answer my questions exactly the way that I was expecting them to. It has led to many instances where you get some, shall we call them, interesting responses that force you to stifle a laugh.

This does happen both ways though. There have been circumstances where the participants have not been able to convey the answers the way that they want to. It could be something as simple as me asking for them to explain why they had answered either yes or no to a particular question that I had just asked them. Usually the question why has been followed by an exasperated “Eish, Alex!” to show that they aren’t really sure how they should answer me. The best part about all of it though is that no one ever gets frustrated by the language barrier. Obviously it would be easier for us all to be able to communicate effectively in the same language, but we all just seem to laugh it off and move forward.

Even with the barrier in communication, the cultural dialogue that I have been able to have with these participants has been phenomenal. I never thought that would be having those sorts of discussions with the participants before I left, but it turns out I was wrong. We’ve had to tackle some pretty heavy issues such as rape and HIV/AIDS. We also finished a discussion about women’s rights and equality which have led to some differing opinions to say the least. The discussions have at times brought a lively debate which has made those sessions incredible, even if I personally don’t agree with everything that was being said by some of the participants. It was fantastic to see because you saw both a discussion being had with all opinions being respected, which is probably the most effective way to invoke the thoughts that will be needed to make significant change to ensure that marginalized groups will be able to be free from that marginalization. It’s also been incredibly powerful because I have seen some of the participants come out of their shells and be brave enough to say “this is my opinion, and I don’t care what anyone else thinks.” When you see a kid do that is able to be brave enough to do that, no matter what the opinion of everyone else is, it’s one of the most incredible things that anyone can ever see.

So that’s where I stand so far at work. A lot of working with the participants which has been remarkably rewarding to this point. It’s all been amazing so far, and I’m sure it will be just as amazing for the last little bit of my stay here.

The Botswana Effect

August 5, 2015 | Aretha, POL, WUSC, Botswana, Botswana Substance Abuse Support Network

It’s over. This crazy ride of stumbling my way through a different way of life on the opposite side of the globe has come to an end. Looking back at this journey, I honestly did not expect to get as much out of this experience as I did. Spending three months in the developing world has taught me a lot about the way the world works in terms of the relationships between the “haves” and the “have-nots” or in Botswana’s case the “seemingly have-nots”. My eyes have been opened in a way that no 2 or 3 week vacation could have managed to do. It has been such a privilege to work and truly live like a Motswana, appreciating and diving headfirst into the culture, all the while trying to process and understand it. Proudly through this process, the Setswana culture has been ingrained in me to the point where I have been fervently touting it off as my own, in my heart I truly feel like a Motswana. Botswana has become a home to me, my heart is there, and “home is where the heart is”. It’s crazy to remember my first week in Botswana, I would sulk and lay in bed, completely out of my comfort zone, not wanting to be there and thinking I made a mistake in coming. Fast forward three months when I had to begrudgingly drag myself onto the plane with my sunglasses on so no one could see the tears in my eyes, knowing that I was leaving the country a completely different person than the one I came as. The transformation I have gone through is incredible.

In my time here, Botswana has given me the richest “hands-on” learning experience I have ever received in my life. I have learned so much from being here and working with my host organization. My eyes have been opened to the world of small NGOs working in fields that aren’t the most popular and through that I’ve seen what it’s like to be the underdog in nearly every sense–working in Substance Abuse in an African country as opposed to more “popular causes” like HIV/AIDS and Poverty Reduction has changed my outlook on a lot of processes in the field of development and forced me to getting into the pattern of brainstorming solutions rather than merely “accepting the problems in the system”. I learned how to truly advocate for something and the importance of passion and purpose in what you choose as your profession in order to truly shine—a lesson that has come in perfect timing as I prepare to enter into my fourth year. On the flip side of this, I also learned the importance of rest and of taking care of myself—an important lesson being in North America where “the deadline” can often seem to precede one’s wellbeing in a ranking of importance.

Overall, I think the most important thing I have learned in my time here is that my “bubble” of comfortable life in Canada is not the “bubble” the rest of the world abides in, and since that “bubble” has been popped, I am free to think big thoughts, have big ideas and dream big dreams, because I know after this experience that my “big picture thinking” can do this world a lot of good. I love Botswana, I am so grateful for it and the people that I have met here. I know that being here for 3 months I am susceptible to to “The Botswana Effect” as I have coined it, a phenomenon where in which a person that comes for a short time such as mine is prone to come back, because once you’ve been to Botswana—you know it’s worth coming back to. And boy, do I know that it’s worth coming back to!

**Also, last post I told you I would update you on our week long trip to Zambia and Zimbabwe and I don’t skim out on my promises! Our trip was fabulous! After an 11 hour bus ride, a trek on foot across the Botswana/Zimbabwe border and an hour long taxi ride we found ourselves in the beautiful town of Victoria Falls. We went to see Victoria Falls from both Zimbabwe and Zambia (as the falls are right on the border of the two countries) and I tell you, who knew water falling down some rocks could be so incredible! I cried as soon as I saw the falls, it was such a glorious sight, and a reminder of how incredible this earth is! The four of us WUSC interns that travelled together also took advantage of the presence of the Zambezi River (the fourth largest in Africa) that flowed in the region as we white water rafted on it, bungee jumped into it, zip lined over it, fished on it, took a beautiful sunset cruise over it (where in which we saw crocodiles, a family of hippos, and a huge herd of elephants—I definitely cried again that night). It was so cool seeing a different part of Southern Africa (equipped with the ever beautiful “Southern African sunset”) and it sparked my interest in travelling through even more countries on this glorious continent! I am so grateful for my time here and all I have gained in being here, I can’t wait to return and experience more, learn more and find more parts of this world to fall in love with.

Gosiame, and all the best.

It’s Not Goodbye, It’s Just See You Later

August 5, 2015 | Alex, DVM, WUSC, Botswana, Stepping Stones International

Well this is a blog that I knew all along that I would have to write, but not one I ever pictured myself writing. Our time in Mochudi is drawing ever closer to its end, and I have to say, it’s an unbelievably bitter-sweet feeling. On the one hand, I am looking forward to seeing friends and family for the first time in three months. But on the other, I’m leaving behind what I have felt to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. That may seem like an exaggeration to some who may think that this was simply a three month internship and not something that I should be getting overly sentimental about, but Stepping Stones and Mochudi have been an integral part of my life for the past few months. It’s definitely not going to be easy to walk away.

I don’t want to make this a thank you letter by any means, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how much the people that I have met while I have been here have been a crucial part of why I have felt so at home. Whether it’s the staff or other volunteers, all who I have seen trying to make whatever small difference they can and who have all been as welcoming as they have been. Stepping Stones has felt like a tight knit community in that sense. Everyone has had open arms from day one, and they’re all going to be missed dearly.

The work itself, as I’ve mentioned before has been incredibly rewarding. Not only that, but the work has been just that – work. Lisa has been incredible in the sense that she trusted us from the beginning to take on major roles within the organization.  It has led to positions like the one that I currently occupy (which would normally be occupied by a staff member) being held by a short term intern from Canada who, for all they knew, could have been completely useless (which, I hope I wasn’t). Sure this will be something that I can put on my resume, and that’s great, but at the same time it was so much more than that. It was something that I can use as life experience as well. Learning to roll with the punches, and come in with even fewer expectations than I had for my time here. It also led to my realization that this is the sort of thing that I want to do for the rest of my life. Maybe I’m just speaking in the moment and these feelings will change over time, but for now, it’s something that couldn’t be truer.

Now this isn’t all to say that I haven’t learned some lessons the hard way while being in Botswana. For example, our patience has been tested here more than it ever could have back home. They don’t call it “African time” for nothing. There’s been long waits and things that haven’t gone exactly according to plan, but we’ve persevered and made it through the whole experience, in my opinion, for the better.

In all, the best way I can sum all of my feelings up is to say that the one thing that has been reiterated to me while in Mochudi is that you need to love fast and openly with as many people as you can. I know, it feels like I’m typing that for Hallmark just as much as you feel like you’re reading something from Hallmark. But it’s true. And I hope it’s something that I can carry on for the rest of my life.

So I tried not to make this last blog post overly sentimental, as much as it may seem like I did just the opposite, but this is how I feel right before I leave. I’m going to miss so many things about Mochudi and Stepping Stones. The people, the relaxed nature of the town, the work that is being done here, and the overall atmosphere that surrounds the entire village are all things that I don’t think will be replicated exactly, wherever I go. Hopefully I’ll be back someday in the near future. But for now, I’m going to miss this place more than words could ever describe.

Living as Lorato

July 21, 2015 | Tess, POL, WUSC, Botswana, Stepping Stones International

We now have less than a month to go of our internship, and nothing is as I expected it would be. When doing my research last year, I noticed that many of the past interns had said that they felt that they were falling into a steady routine by the two-thirds mark. But at this point, I feel like I am falling out of the rhythms of work and life I’ve established over the past two months. The other interns and I have been so entrenched in our work life that we have neglected our traveling. So, with work as busy as ever, we have crammed an internship’s worth of travel plans into our last month.

Next week, we will be going on a rhino expedition in South Africa, then, in our second last week, we will be visiting the great Victoria Falls – the quintessential tourist destination in the area. This leaves us with less than two weeks left of work, which is just as well because it seems as though we are slowly getting burnt out: we’ve been pushing ourselves 110% at our internship and it is catching up to us. I am very happy with my workload, but it will be nice to take a break from early mornings and late nights traveling to and from schools across South Botswana teaching students about child sexual abuse.

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Life in Botswana has been great so far. I am extremely lucky to live, work, and spend my time with my roommates – or, as a Motswana corrected me, my brothers. It is challenging to be a foreign woman here; the locals here in the village are not used to seeing someone like me, and they assume that I am Chinese. I take it in good humour, but it is hard not to correct them, or be unoffended when they try to ‘speak Chinese’ (think chingchonghaiiii! to get an idea) to me as I walk past alone. This, coupled with unwanted male attention, is very uncomfortable, and so (thank you, my brothers!) I hardly travel unaccompanied. As someone who is stubbornly independent, this has been quite the learning curve. Mochudi is teaching me a lesson in racial diversity, that’s for sure!

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Despite the lack of consistent power, the constant crowing of roosters, the discomfort of traveling alone, and the quiet death of my hair dryer, Botswana manages to surprise me in small beautiful moments. The sunsets here are breathtaking, and the friendliness of Batswana reminds me that I have been adopted into their large familial network. The open night sky welcomes us home every night, and the simple pleasure of curling up in a cozy – and safe! – house with a book in hand is something I look forward to.

Before we departed, I know a common concern amongst interns was the “authentic experience” – how can I truly experience my destination country? Now though, I realise that every experience I have is legitimate, every experience is valid. I lived some experiences due to my status as a foreigner, but that does not make my time here less valid, it does not make my experience any less authentic. As someone who is not a Motswana, as someone who does not know or truly understand the nuances of being a local, I have to accept my identity as an outsider and try my best to experience all that Botswana has to offer.

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After discovering that a fellow intern had been given a Setswana name – Tau, meaning lion! – I was eager to receive my own. My Motswana co-worker christened me Lorato, love. I was also given another name, Tandi, which is Lorato’s Zulu translation. While the earning of our names is a lighthearted workplace joke, it also speaks to the building and shaping of a new identity here. Lorato Tandi is a verbal marker of my own rebuilding and reshaping, a sign of how I have changed over the course of my mandate.

We have come to the point in our journey where we can almost taste home, and it is strangely relieving but also unsettling. In less than a month, I will be back to the comfortable life that I had been so eager to leave a few months ago. I can only wonder what it will be like to shed Lorato Tandi. Or maybe I will never truly leave her behind.

NINE

July 21, 2015 | Aretha, POL, WUSC, Botswana, Botswana Substance Abuse Support Network

Dumelang! (Hi, everyone)

It’s week 9 in Botswana. NINE. Can you believe it? Why has the time gone so quickly? Can it stop please? Before coming on this internship reading previous faculty blog posts, I remember the same sentiment being expressed at this point in the internship. “Just one more month, please!” I would read over and over again, from intern to intern and country to country. “The three months is never enough”, “the time goes by too quickly”. Although, as of right now I find myself in the middle of missing home and those new Smores Frappuccinos at Starbucks and not ever wanting to leave the people that I have met in Botswana, the local food I (too) frequently enjoy or my host mother’s Rottweiler named Julie that I now call mine (and am completely in love with). This tension between wanting to be home and wanting to stay here has definitely been leveling me out these past couple weeks and in a way has helped me live in the moment.

Life working at my host organization BOSASNet (Botswana Substance Abuse Support Network) has been incredible. As conversations with my colleagues are more and more frequently laced with statements of “Eish! We’re going to really miss you around here” and “Can you please stay forever” I am forced to reflect on all that this organization has done for me. I know I gushed about them in my last post but I can never gush enough about them, they have continued to see strengths in me that I haven’t seen in myself and work with them—for example I am now the regular presenter on BOSASNet’s radio slot on one of Gaborone’s (the city we’re located in) most popular radio stations. How cool is that? They saw strength in my presenting skills and they gave me an opportunity to work with it and strengthen it even more! And now, since that door has been opened, who knows you could be hearing my voice on a radio near you! This is only one example of the many doors my organization has been able to open for me. I can’t wait to get home and beef up my resume because there is a lot to add to it after this internship! I didn’t think I would be getting so rich of a work experience and I have to thank the Faculty of Social Sciences, WUSC—My Canadian Host NGO, and BOSASNet because together they’ve really given me an experience of a lifetime.

With just over two weeks left in my internship, I have so much to jam pack into my time left here. To think, I haven’t taken the opportunity to travel and see more of Southern Africa yet! Luckily, I will finally be taking leave to go with the other WUSC interns in Botswana to go to Zimbabwe! I’m incredibly excited to get to see yet another part of this incredible continent, and us WUSC interns in Botswana have been working incredibly hard, we deserve to have a little fun! I can’t wait to tell you all about it in my next (and unfortunately last) blog post—well hopefully I’ll be able to stop crying enough to be able to write a blog post in the first place!

Gosiame (Go well) Everyone!

Dumela from Botswana! Le Kae? (How’s it going?)

July 21, 2015 | Alex, DVM, WUSC, Botswana, Stepping Stones International

We’re well in to our adventure in Botswana and I can’t believe how quickly the time has gone by. It seems like just yesterday that we were leaving the Ottawa airport to begin the incredibly long journey to get here. The journey has definitely been worth it. There was definitely some time that we needed to get acclimated to the culture and customs in the country, and it hasn’t come without some bumps in the road, but it’s been an experience that we will undoubtly never forget.

The country has been able to provide us with some fantastic experiences. Pretty much every person that we’ve met here so far has been nothing but amazing to us, and it’s been much easier for us to acclimate to the country than I may have thought. Plus it helps that the malls in Gaborone have been able to provide us with nearly all the amenities that we would get back home. Of course this doesn’t come without some things that we desperately miss. For example, a stable internet connection, or not being stuffed into public transport like sardines in a can (seriously, whose idea was it to put the big white guy in the row with the least room?). Even with those things though, the people and the atmosphere that we have experienced here has more than made up for those incredibly insignificant shortcomings.

As far as work goes, we’ve been working at Stepping Stones International and I cannot say enough good things about the organization. It is an organization which works with the Batswana youth to empower themselves and to help them achieve success in whichever endeavors they choose. Currently I am working in the leadership office, which works with youth aged 15-26 to improve their leadership skills. Now I have said that I am currently working in the leadership office, and that is true. But one shock that I got when I first arrived at Stepping Stones was that I would not only be helping to support the people in the leadership department, but that I would be running the entire department for the majority of the time that I would be here. Obviously this caught me a little off guard, but the one thing that I’ve learned while being here is that you have to be able to roll with the punches and adapt to ever evolving situations.

All of us living in Mochudi (where Stepping Stones is located) have already made so many meaningful connections with the people that we have met here at Stepping Stones, connections that I truly hope that we will all be able to keep when we return. The people we have been working with have been some of the kindest and most welcoming people I have ever been around. Not once have we felt like we haven’t been an integral part of the organization or that the work we do goes unnoticed or unappreciated. Lisa, the director of Stepping Stones, has ensured that we have enough work so that we aren’t wanting to claw our own eyes out from sheer boredom – something that we greatly appreciate.

The work that I have been doing has primarily been working with the leadership participants who in and of themselves have made my experience been truly exceptional so far. They’re all fantastic kids who have so much potential. Depending on their interests, I try to find workshops or training for them to develop skills they may need in order to succeed in the workplace and to help them find a job that they truly enjoy. It’s fantastic work and it has been most-likely one of (if not the) most rewarding experience of my life so far.

I still can’t really believe that this is something that I am actually doing. I tried to come in with as few expectations as possible and yet still things have caught me off guard. But I feel that’s just par for the course for this kind of trip. I hope to be posting again within the next couple of weeks for those who are interested in seeing exactly what we get up to next. Until then, everyone stay safe and don’t get in to too much trouble while I’m gone!

Another Best Day

July 20, 2015 | Tess, POL, WUSC, Botswana, Stepping Stones International

Greetings from Mochudi, Botswana!

So much has happened in the past four weeks, I cannot believe how much my life has been transformed in such a short time. When I first arrived in Gaborone, my first week was filled with what we called “best days”. We explored the city’s confusing and loud public transport system, we made amazing friends who took us out to experience the night life, we learned Setswana greetings, we ate such good food; “another best day” is what we said, falling exhausted and happy into bed. You could say we were honeymooning, falling in love with our new home country fast and hard.

Mochudi, our small but lively village outside of Gaborone, was a shock to our systems at first. I was to be hosted by a family a half hour walk away from work. It was fine at first, but it was lonely in their guest house by myself. I also learned a lesson about being a foreign woman walking alone on the streets: harassment is a guaranteed occurrence. I brushed off our program coordinator’s comment about being “promised thousands of cattle in marriage” as a joke, but I soon realised that being shouted at on the street, asked on dates, grabbed by men on public transport (and other uncomfortable experiences) was to be a reality. Mochudi was so unlike home – where I shared an apartment with roommates I love, where I could walk wherever I wanted (mostly) whenever I pleased. As soon as I learned that there was a vacancy in the house where the other interns lived, I packed my bags and got ready to move.

My current home, lovingly nicknamed the “White House”, houses three of the most amazing roommates I could ask for. We are three Canadians and one American; together we have turned into a little family: cooking over bonfires, exploring Gaborone, and bonding over work stress. My previously stressful commute to and from work has been replaced by a pleasant thirty-second walk, it is right next door! When speaking to my Motswana co-worker, he mentioned that in the presence of my roommates, all well-built men, no local would dare try anything with me. To the relief of my mother, I have been very safe and well looked after since my arrival at the White House.

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Mochudi can be very beautiful. I have been going for walks with my roommates at sunrise and at sunset, the sky lit up in bright oranges and pinks, and you can hear the distant sounds of the village waking up or winding down. Cow bells, roosters, the consistent honking of public transport drivers, and children (often yelling one long string of “Howareyou?I’mfine!”), make up Mochudi’s soundtrack.
The sky at night is another thing altogether. Having been a city girl all my life, I have limited experience with open skies away from light pollution. The other night, the power went out and there was no moon in the sky. I had to step outside and appreciate the spectacular show that the stars put on for me. Happily though, the electricity was up and running in no time – I can’t say the same for the past weeks, when the power had the habit of disappearing for hours at a time – and I settled back into our warm living room.

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Work has been very good to me! In my first two weeks, I solidified my mandate and was invited to attend some conferences with the director of my organisation. It was an amazing experience, and I met many influential people involved in the women’s rights movement in Southern Africa. A curious thing that I have found is the integration of religion in everyday life here. I had the opportunity to have lunch with a radical feminist human rights activist about how she managed to stay faithful to her Christianity and yet still participate in the women’s rights movement, the LGBTQI+ movement, the sex workers’ movement, the anti-colonial movement, etc. She explained that religion to her is really just a framework to help her better the world, she didn’t think the dogmatism and conservatism of a lot of religious people served any real purpose. This is something that I found very different from back home, where being religious and being a radical feminist is often seen as incompatible.

I have also been traveling the region to help facilitate Peer-Education training for a Child Protection Protection against Child Sexual Abuse project funded by the European Union. It has been exhausting taking public transport – it once took two and a half hours to get to a village a twenty-minute drive away – but my partner in this project has been very helpful at teaching me new things about Botswana during our long commutes. As a young person, he has a unique view on culture and gender issues, something that I appreciate greatly. Here in Botswana, a student is paid an allowance to attend a post-secondary institution, on top of being provided free tuition and accommodation. It can be a challenge to relate to his life, but I value the moments when I have re-evaluate my own privileged existence.

I had been warned about the pace of work here, which had been described to me as very laid-back. As someone who is very much Type-A, my director told me that by the time I leave Botswana, I will have relaxed into a Type-B+! As a life-long task-oriented planner of things, it will be good for me to learn how to ‘go-with-the-flow’ a little more. I’m slowly learning that deadlines are flexible, and spontaneity can be a wonderful thing!

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I have done some traveling with work, but I have mostly been in and around Gaborone and Mochudi. It has been extremely exciting to explore, and I have been enjoying my time so far. Our American roommate has coordinated a rhino expedition for us in South Africa sometime in July, and we are planning on heading into Victoria Falls also sometime next month. We want to explore as much as we can here, but we keep finding events keeping us in town! We have hiked so many amazing hills – we accomplished a 15K trek our first weekend! – I attended my first wedding, I went on a pub crawl, I did a game drive at the Mokolodi Nature Reserve. Botswana is an oxymoron of sorts: a friend here explained that it is a good place to live a ‘simple life’, but there is also no shortage of things to do here, it’s a matter of looking for it carefully.

Despite my full schedule, I have had lots of time for introspective thinking. I have found moments of clarity, gaining perspective on my far away and hectic day-to-day schedule in Ottawa. I am constantly inspired, and I am learning more about myself and this beautiful country every day.

Basking in Botswana!

July 7, 2015 | Aretha, POL, WUSC, Botswana, Botswana Substance Abuse Support Network

Dumela!

It is so surreal to be writing this blog post—like the very ones I would read in anticipation for this internship—in Gaborone (Hab-or-oh-nee), Botswana! I have been living, learning and interning as a Resource Mobilization and Marketing Assistant for BOSASNet (Botswana Substance Abuse Support Network) for the better part of 6 weeks, and what an incredible 6 weeks it has been!

Upon arrival in Botswana, I struggled with adjusting to the new way of life, although it’s not too much different from my day-to-day life in Canada, the differences that did exist (however small some of them were) hit me like a ton of bricks and it was difficult to digest (I mean, there was no Starbucks in sight! Hello!!). Luckily, my “hard adjustment” phase passed very quickly as I had realized I had too much to learn, see and do in Botswana and moping around would take away from the precious time I had to do it! And boy, have I learned and seen a lot in my time here so far! There are so many things about this country and more so—its people that I haven’t really seen before neither in my life in Canada or my previous travel outside of Canada such as the widespread docile nature of the people, the homogeneity of values/belief systems,  and language (almost 80% of Batswana speak the same tribal language—Setswana), the extent that young Batswana are development minded and want to contribute to seeing their country succeed is incredible (the percentage of those that study abroad in the first world and return is remarkably high) and all these are very few of the observations I have made during my short time here. Being in Botswana has been enlightening on an even further dimension for me—being an African myself; although I have roots in Nigeria (a country quite different from Botswana), I have learned a lot by just being on this continent, comparing and contrasting views that I have as a Nigerian to views that Batswana have and seeing the ways in which they see eye to eye, the common threads that can be found. All these observations and more have been enlightening to say the very least, I can only hope that I am growing from what I have seen and learned here.

Although exploring and observing the way of Batswana outside of the workplace has taught me a lot, it hasn’t been the only source of my newfound knowledge as I have been here, my host organization BOSASNet has also taught me about myself, about the country and most directly, about the devastating effects of substance abuse. BOSASNet has my heart. This organization is the only one of its kind in the country and their work is crucial to this nation. BOSASNet runs 3 central programs: An outpatient rehabilitation centre facilitated by 6 substance abuse counsellors and 1 clinical program manager, a training program in which they train students to become certified substance abuse counsellors (I have recently completed a course in their program), lastly they run an outreach program in which they coordinate and facilitate presentations, events for corporations and schools among other organizations as a means to educate about and prevent substance abuse in the county. Their mission is to see a substance abuse free Botswana and they are working full force to achieve that goal. This organization has provided an amazing learning environment for me. They have given me opportunities to write for newspapers and be on the radio, and even give presentations and facilitate an event for a large corporation in Botswana.  I am humbled by the way they give me a say in affairs that affect their organization, they don’t treat me like a “stereotypical ‘get my coffee’ intern” (although there have been a lot of “get my coffee” jokes around the office) but they treat me like I am a part of their family, and I definitely feel like I have gained a family here in Botswana. I have been able to ask questions, grow, laugh, make mistakes, laugh some more—about my mistakes, and most importantly learn, because hey, that’s what I’m here for right?

All in all, so far my experience in Botswana has been one for the history books, and I still have so much time left here! I can’t wait to see what excitement is waiting for me with each coming day.

Un stage qui tire à sa fin

November 25, 2014 | Stéphanie, DVM, Uniterra, Botswana, Stepping Stones

C’est incroyable de penser que j’entame ma dernière semaine de stage et que je vis au Botswana depuis déjà trois mois! Je trouve difficile d’exprimer les divers sentiments que je ressens lorsque je réfléchis à mon expérience.

J’ai dû m’habituer à la culture, à l’environnement, à la langue et à la chaleur. Une fois que ces défis ont été surmontés, je dois dire que je me suis facilement intégrée à ce pays. J’ai créé des relations proches avec mes collègues ainsi que les participants à l’ONG Stepping Stones International. Malgré les quelques défis avec lesquels l’organisation doit composer, c’est vraiment une ONG qui a beaucoup de succès dans la communauté. Étant quelqu’un qui a toujours aimé les enfants, je trouve très valorisant de travailler avec des jeunes vulnérables et à risque. J’ai pu jouer un rôle important au sein de l’organisation, en aidant à développer un nouveau programme qui aidera un groupe de 25 participants, âgés de 13 à 15 ans, à améliorer leur compréhension de l’anglais.

Aucun livre ou cours magistral ne pourrait remplacer ce stage. C’est réellement une expérience unique et que je crois fermement que chaque étudiant devrait en faire l’expérience, surtout s’il étudie en Développement international et mondialisation. En entamant mon dernier semestre de mon baccalauréat, je me sens davantage préparée pour le monde du travail. Plusieurs employeurs cherchent des employés ayant de l’expérience de travail à l’international et je crois que j’ai réussi à accumuler des connaissances et des compétences recherchées, dont la logistique et la gérance d’une ONG ainsi que la participation active dans la communauté. De plus, ce stage m’a permis de déterminer ce que je voulais faire avec mon diplôme. Sans ce séjour outre- mer, je n’aurais pas pu confirmer mes aspirations futures.

Les relations que j’ai créées, les voyages que j’ai faits et les choses que j’ai apprises durant mon stage m’ont permis de vivre une expérience enrichissante comme nulle autre et elle me sera toujours très chère. Maintenant, je me prépare à entreprendre le cours intensif et à revoir les gens qui m’attendent à la maison.

Stéphanie