Posts Tagged ‘travel’

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.

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!

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.

A way out.

April 15, 2015 | Jahaan, ECH, G@W, India, Labour Research Services

My internship has come to a close…well; at least I thought it had. Upon arriving at the airport, I was prohibited from boarding because of mistakes made with the processing of my visa back in Canada… the dates were swapped, which, when dealing with immigration, can almost never be a good thing.

In dealing with the fact that I need to find a way out of India, I have realized something crucial in this journey of attempting to figure out how the world truly works; both in our host country, and in Canada as well.

This country is absolutely brilliant. I mean, the organized chaos is so wonderfully confusing and, the fact that as students we were living more ‘privileged’ lives, we were able to explore and see things that many people within India, unfortunately, have not had the opportunity to see themselves. Among this, I was able to enjoy things that seemed so simple to me; for instance, riding the auto every day. But these things aren’t accessible to all people, and mean more than a ‘bollywood-style’ cruise down a wicked bazaar in India, but are often a deeper reflection of life. In this instance, perhaps the auto experience should have rather been a reflection of the realities of the drivers’ life… I this didn’t cross my mind every single drive; I became blind to it at certain points. Just like I became blind to the children knocking at the car door, or the beggars on every block of every street.

Anyway, in this entire experience there have been a few times where tricky and difficult situations have come up where there was definitely potential for something to go wrong. Having to be out extremely late, alone, having uncomfortable discussions with a driver. Or, being stared at and approached in ways that I’m not used to. And, now, being yelled at and kicked out of an airport by officials at an odd hour… these were all things that really truly scared me. I realized in each of those moments that we are blessed insofar that we have ‘a way out’. Although I definitely tried to live as authentically as I could, the reality is that my experience was an intern experience and that I constantly had the safety and security of knowing that if something were to go wrong, I could go home. And, the safety and comfort of knowing that ‘home’ was x amounts of days away.

I was in the airport and when I was attempting to deal with this situation, one of the officials said to me “..This isn’t Canada”. This hit me hard and reminded me of how lucky I am to be able to escape something that could very well be extremely difficult otherwise.

This country is wonderful; at least, the experience I had in it (call it what you may) was. And although my experience was perhaps not as authentic as possible, at least I am able to acknowledge this difference. The fact is that one of the greater issues is that the people who actually live their day-to-day lives in India don’t have the same security net that we do, and that is a scary thing. That is something that needs to change. I’m happy to have at least been able to realize this.

Namaste from India

February 17, 2015 | Jahaan, ECH, G@W, India, Labour Research Services

I have officially been in India for about a month and a half - half of this internship is already over.

There have been numerous times where I have wanted to write my first blog post for the Faculty of Social Sciences but I refused to do so because for the majority of my experience here in India, I have been confused about what I am feeling - not only about my specific experience, but also about the country in general.

I have decided to write my post now because, although I’m still overwhelmingly confused about this country, I have a fair grasp about my personal internship and how this experience has already contributed to my own personal and academic growth.

Coming to India I genuinely had no idea what to expect. I am the first intern to come to India with the organization Gender at Work and, as such, I really had nothing to base my internship off of, other than the Terms of Reference that I received prior to departure and, of course, the organizations website. The work sounded wonderful to me, I was told I would be working on compiling a report on the challenges to the implementation of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, India (2013). It sounded almost too good to be true, and so in that regard, I was skeptical about how my experience would turn out to be once I arrived in Hyderabad.

It has been incredible - better than what I had expected. I have a strong passion for gender studies and it has been great to be able to do some tangible work in the field and to finally see how these types of power dynamics influence the lives of real women in real societies. More often than not we simply ‘hear’ about the stories of assault and harassment that occur in countries like India but never did I think that I would be able to first hand hear about these experiences from women themselves. It’s also been interesting to see the differences in our conceptions of ‘gender studies’ and ‘gender issues’ between here and in Canada. In Canada, majority of our feminist discourse now surrounds LGBTQ rights and intersectionality whereas, here, it seems as if we’re still stuck on women even being classified as equal. It’s been difficult to adjust to this - that’s for sure. I have also had the opportunity to travel India with Gender at Work in order to interview relevant NGO’s, organizations, corporations, women, advocates, and lawyers. In turn, I have met some amazing and incredibly accomplished men and women. I have attained a newfound appreciation for the type of work that is being done in these communities and have realized that this is the type of work that I want to focus in the future.

Ultimately, I am still confused about how it is possible for a country that operates on so many fundamental and deeply rooted issues and injustices to also be as wonderfully incredible as it is. It genuinely doesn’t make sense to me and I have a feeling I won’t be able to figure it out in the next month and a half. All I know is that I am passionate about this work, and that I am so happy that I have been given the opportunity to come here.