Posts Tagged ‘Africa’

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.


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!

‘Ghan’ to Ghana- 3 Weeks In

July 15, 2013 | Kaitlyn, Uniterra, Ghana, National Education Campaign Coalition (GNECC)

23 days in the grand scheme of things seems like a relatively short period of time, but when travelling to Africa and settling into a completely different world, it seems like a life time. First things first, Ghana is amazing. The culture is vivacious, the people are lively and the atmosphere is beautifully chaotic. No amount of research can prepare you for an experience like the one that I am having thus far. It is truly a world unlike one I could have ever imagined, and that I am still having difficulty wrapping my head around.

First things first, the food situation. As a vegetarian who has never eaten a spicy plate of food in her entire life, eating has been a challenge to say the least. To any fellow travelers who may be reading this, BRING PEANUT BUTTER. Everything, and I mean everything, has meat or fish in it and you can bet your bottom dollar that it will be spicy. The options are very limited here and ordering vegetarian will surely be accompanied with 101 questions and misunderstandings. To count, I’d say 75% of the food that I have ordered without meat, and with heaps of clarification, has been served with meat. At home I also enjoy fish, but here, not so much. The fish comes as a literal fish on your plate, eyeballs, bones, scales and all. No thanks. With that said, the fruits and vegetables here are to die for. There is no better way to enjoy fruits and veggies then to pick them up fresh every day after work on my short walk home from the trotro (the bus system, which we will discuss next). The fruit is beyond sweet and delicious, full of flavor and always juicy. The veggies are equally amazing and accessible at virtually any corner you turn for just a portion of the price that we would be paying in Canada.

The water is also different in Ghana than anything I have ever seen before. Because the tap water (if the taps decide to work that day) is not drinkable water, all consumable water comes in either water bottles (which are on the pricier end) or in water sachets. The water sachets are easily comparable to a sealed zip lock bag and when you want water you just tear off the corner with your teeth. We use these for practically everything, from cooking, to drinking, to brushing out teeth. Because they are far less expensive they seem to be the norm here, though the mass amounts of garbage that they produce are unsettling.

Garbage management is not yet something that Ghana has been able to get a grasp on, and I find it difficult to constantly throw recycling in the trash, as well as see it floating around the streets and stuck in the ditches. The ditches and sewer systems are also different here in Ghana. They are simply dug out trenches that line the sides of the road, so watching where you walk and steering clear of the large holes is something that has become normal now. I now see the importance of them though as the rainy season has just began. When it rains here, it rains. For hours on end, harder and stronger then I have ever seen rain come down before. It’s a good thing I packed a raincoat, even though the locals think that I am crazy for wearing it in 35-degree weather.

The traffic in Ghana is also unlike anything I have ever experienced. We have all been stuck in rush hour before but I have never seen rush hour that lasts all day, everyday, on all roads. Not to mention the fact that driving rules here simply do not apply. If a driver feels like taking the scenic route along the lawn and over the curb then he will do it without blinking, and when he blinks he often hits other cars or comes close to other people. In that case, about 16 horns go off and everyone carries on with their day, even if a dent was made. Cutting people off is not seen as something bad and the aggressive driving can easily be compared to a casual game of bumper cars. The traffic situation proves more than ever that patience truly is a virtue. Access to getting around in Ghana is quite easy though. The amount of cabs that line the streets along with the trotro bus system make going places easy, once you get the hang of it.

The trotro can be explained as something along the lines of an airport van that squishes anywhere from 24-30 people (with no strategy as to where people who get off first will sit). When someone at the very far back left needs off, the whole line of people in the persons way gets off too, its actually quite entertaining. The trotro fair depends on how far you need to go and the route can be different every time no matter how many times you take it. Also, another interesting thing about Ghana is the lack of street signs, both stop signs and street names. There is no such thing as stopping at an intersection, more like who ever can cut off more people to get where they are going first. And to get to specific locations you need to know your landmarks, without them you will be useless (as I have learned the hard way, many times). But despite the chaos, once you get the hang of the system it’s actually proven to be quite functional and handy to get around.

The houses here are similar to those at home (the ones we are staying in at least). It is a large house, though every house, no matter how large or valuable, has some sort of fence with barbed wire and usually a security guard. My house is great, despite the on going blackouts and the occasional (daily occasion) lack of running water. I have gotten used to showering out of a bucket, where I also do my laundry. I currently live with 1 other Canadian and 3 Australians, everyone is great and I couldn’t have asked for better girls to experience the country with. Other houses around the country vary from brick infrastructures to sheets of metal bound together with wood and ropes, utilizing any resources possible to keep the heat and heavy rains out as much as possible.

As for my placement, everything has been going amazing as well. I am learning new things everyday and I am constantly being surprised with the innovation and strategies that are being utilized by my NGO. I am often hesitant to try new approaches, with the ethnocentric view that the way I am used to things is the best way, but I am happy to be continual proven wrong, much to my surprise. From being here just over two weeks I have been able to open my mind in ways I would have never imagined and for that I owe a huge thank you to everyone at GNECC (Ghana National Education Campaign Coalition). I have already made life long friends and I can only hope to continue meeting new people, growing to new heights and embracing the remarkable Ghanaian cultural as much as possible in the time I have left.

As the Ghanaians would say- God Bless.