Posts Tagged ‘WUSC’

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!

Enjoying Ghanaian Time

July 16, 2012 | Kaitlyn, Uniterra, Ghana, National Education Campaign Coalition (GNECC)

Though time is never of the essence in Ghana, for me the time is absolutely flying by. Being in Ghana has been nothing short of amazing experiences in the past two months. Before coming to Ghana we prepared, prepared, prepared. And when I got to Ghana, thanks to WUSC, I even further prepared, prepared, prepared. But nothing that I was told to prepare for could possibly explain the feelings and experiences that I was about to embark on and have been presented with thus far.

After various lessons, including an in depth history of Ghana, as well as personal lessons in Twi, I was ready to get out and start exploring. Ghana can easily be described as beautifully chaotic, but to a new comer more chaotic than anything. I was first welcomed into the warm arms of Ghanaians when I finally arrived at my internship workplace—The Ghana National Education Campaign Coalition (GNECC). After being introduced to my fellow colleagues, I was placed in my office and ready to work.

The Ghana National Education Campaign Coalition is a network of civil society organizations, professional groupings, educational/ research institutions and other practitioners interested in promoting quality basic education for all. My duty, as a research and documentation officer, is to work on the Stop Violence Against Girls in School campaign coordinated by ActionAid Ghana. I was, and still am, beyond pleased to be working on such an important and powerful campaign where I am given ample opportunities to learn and grow both personally and professionally. With working on the SVAGS campaign, both in the office and in the actual field, I have been opened up to the realities of Ghanaian society, both the good and the bad.

Being behind the scenes of a developing country I have been exposed to many aspects of development that I had never considered when simply studying a textbook in the past. Education is an absolute necessity and through working with GNECC I continue to learn about both the struggles and triumphs of various organizations all working towards the same cause—educating the children of the future. GNECC has presented me with opportunities to participate and observe in various workshops and conferences where prioritizing, compromising, and most importantly, budgeting, were debated and decided upon. Working in Ghana for such an amazing organization has given me a first hand opportunity to experience realities that all organizations have to face.

Apart from my internship placement at GNECC, I have taken advantage of the amazing sites of Ghana. With only a total of three months to see an entire country, various fellow interns and myself have not wasted a second. We find ourselves on new adventures every weekend, the moment we get off work. Thus far we have been to all of the major regions and we are continuing to explore. We started off with a bang heading to the Northern region on a 27 hour journey to see the elephants and safari. It was a stressful journey to Mole National Park, but seeing the elephants was one hundred percent worth it. Next stop was the Eastern Cape Coast to see the world-renowned slave castles and beaches. Again, beyond amazing and a real life look into the history of the slave trade. Along the way we did a canopy walk above the treetops of the Kakum National Park rainforest and even got to touch and straddle a crocodile. Other places we voyaged out to see include the Eastern Volta Region to climb the highest peak in Ghana and swim in the tallest waterfall, as well as Takoradi, a Western coastal region where we enjoyed a long weekend lounging on the beach. We have also made time to explore downtown Accra and visit the various cultural markets.

Ghana has been a remarkable experience for me to say the least. I have grown as an individual and my mind has been opened up in ways I would have never thought imaginable. I have created amazing relationships with life long friends and gained professional experience abroad that is guaranteed to help prepare me for my future. But most of all, Ghana has genuinely taught me both literally and metaphorically speaking, to always stop and smells the flowers.

…and then there was light…

January 27, 2012 | Zoë, Academic Tutor, JRS, Malawi

It’s hard to try to explain anything about my life in Malawi. I have trouble believing that I’m the one actually living it most days. There is a part of me that remains in denial, cannot believe I am in Africa, as if I’m still in Canada and this has been some elaborate reality television prank. But I’m here, and I’m usually glad for it. I have finally set up home in Dowa, which is about 8km away from the Dzaleka Refugee camp where I work as an academic tutor for the refugees taking part in an online university diploma program. When asked whether Dowa (pronounced with drawn out syllables as dough-uh) is a village or a city, you will get all kinds of answers. A better way to imagine it is to think of it as an area, with mini villages and neighborhoods throughout. The Gloucester of Malawi.

I’ve tried to break down my daily schedule here to give a sense what a day in my life is like.

People are awake and doing things around 4 am, and are taken aback when their desire to talk to me at 5:30-6:00 clashes with my indulgent desire to sleep into 6:30. Oh the idle pleasures of the mzungu (white person). When i do get out of bed, i stumble about, trying to avoid the bugs on my floor, taking the various medications necessary for this exotic adventure, and trying to remember how I got here. Oh, I use a currently unplugged refrigerator as a cupboard. It’s really handy, as otherwise my things get filled with salamanders (true story), although I am trying not to get too attached, as there will likely come a day when my roommates have something they want to keep cold.

Transportation is neither particularly safe nor reliable, so I try to walk to camp every day. According to my roommate Chloe’s pedometer, the walk is over 8km and takes us about an hour and a half, as it is mostly hills and not much pavement. Cute goats though. Along the way, children scream and squeal, overwhelmed at the hilarious sight of the mzungus. Some ask for money, but most are just tickled to get to look at me and my alien self.

Work usually starts around 8:30. The work is not easy, but can be very satisfying. My supervisor has allowed that I have more control over the structure of my day. This is a much more flexible environment than I am used to in Canada and I still am having trouble adjusting. Typically my work involves sitting down with the students individually and going over their assignments/forum posts for their current course (appropriately) Intercultural Communication. I am working the second year university students, so they are very independent and rarely ask for my help. Regardless, I try to gently insert myself in as minimally annoying way as is possible. Jokes are involved (issues with cross-cultural senses of humor decrease daily).

It can sometimes be difficult to establish myself as a figure of semi-authority and respect, so that the students want my help. The refugee students are mostly from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC or, affectionately, Dr Congo), with a few from Burundi and Rwanda. In the camp there are also refugees from Ethiopia and Somalia, but none who’ve been accepted into the JRS HEM (Jesuit Refugee Service Higher Educations at the Margins) program. Anyways, as the students have told me (both in conversation and in reading their papers on identity), women in Africa typically take a subordinate role to men, so it is different from them to be looking to myself and my female colleagues for advice.

After a casual lunch in our preferred ‘restaurant’ in camp, where the girls eat beans and ‘chapatti’ and I scarf the African version of doughnuts (sometimes called a fritter or mandazi) and chai (to soften the occasionally tough treat), there is a shorter afternoon session. Usually the internet stalls up from its not-so-speedy-but-very-manageable- morning version to a version that is mostly unusable. The students and I are still very lucky to have daily access to this internet, which is powered by an advanced solar power system on top of the building.

I am finished around 4:30 every day. Sometimes I can grab a minibus right home, which is ideal. Other times I wait for over an hour, pacing and worrying about the consequences of being outside after
dark. Rations for the refugees have been delayed a week, so I am surrounded by starving people. Usually I feel pretty safe, but I have had some…tense encounters with some people who view me as a rich person who is deliberately choosing not to help them. I can empathize, despite having no real concept of the kind of desperation that would accompany hunger. This, and other issues of meeting basic human needs within the camp, causes me a great deal of internal conflict. I want to be helping, am trying to help, yet here I am, providing education, while people starve and their homes collapse in the rains. It makes it difficult to feel like I am helping at all. Anyways, I am trying not to be a defeatist. The camp is incredibly developed in comparison with many refugee camps worldwide and most people are glad to have the support of JRS. I cannot curse my metaphorical candle for providing insufficient light, lest I allow darkness to win. Maybe.

Ideally, I am home for no later than 5:30, as it gets dark by about 6:30. We’ve all been strongly advised against being outside after dark meaning, as yet, I do not even know what Malawi looks like after 7. I’ll have some night escapes in the future but, for the time being, I am so exhausted after work I really have no desire to go anywhere. What I look forward to after work is trying to wash the grime off my body (for 2 minutes I am clean and then the cycle restarts). I have limited clothing so am usually caught trying
weigh the benefits of feeling clean and comfortable for the evening against using up all my clothes and having to do more laundry. Other than my ‘delicates’, I am able to have my laundry washed by hand by the niece of the woman I live with for about 2 dollars. Having a non-family member look after my chores feels very strange to me. I become extremely self-conscious of my ‘white privilege’, even when having different people to look after different chores is very common in African Culture. It’s one of a few typical ways for the younger members in a family to earn money (like an allowance). Still…

With an hour and a half before dinner at 7:00, I usually do mini-chores, sit down, and try to decompress. My audio novels on my laptop brought me a considerable amount of pleasure for the first few weeks I was here. However, they have expired from the library, as they only have a 2 week limit. I intend to try a mission to make Ottawa’s public library accommodate me here in Malawi. Mission Not Entirely Improbable.

For dinner, the host family is really trying to accommodate us, even creating what they call “irish potatoes” (mashed) and “spahghett) (spaghetti) to go with our various pieces of goat and cow. There is always a vegetable component (called relish regardless of what vegetable is used), but I have learned this does not sit well with my stomach. There goes my green consumption. I really appreciate the effort, even if my craving for the abundant food selections of home sometimes leaves me in a bittersweet reverie. Being a ‘foodie’ is both a privilege and a curse. Every meal has a starch (usually rice as they know we prefer it to nsima), some protein (meat or eggs), and the greens. The other interns and I usually have a stash of a seasonal fruit in the back for later; I regret that mango season is coming to a close.

After dinner, around 7:30-8:00, I usually speak on the phone (most often mother). It helps me center myself and reconnect to home. Apparently Canada is still cold in my absence. Well, I’ll be…

Somewhere thereafter (8:00-8:30) I try to prepare for the next day. Clothes, bag, snacks. More pills, and then a mad dash into bed. On a good day, there will only have been a minor power outage. On a less
good day, I will have been relying on my flashlight and glowbugs to orient myself. Note to future interns, I scoffed at the suggestions of a head lamp, but it would be really useful. Stay tuned for an upcoming list I will make of all the essential things to pack for Malawi. Anyways, flashlight on, I turn off the lights and go to bed, hoping rain will come during the night and keep the otherwise…chatty? boisterous…dogs quiet, but not enough that I will have to tread an unbearably muddy path the next day.

Being here, I want to be better than I am. I try to be present, but I get caught up, planning the future. Hoping. Wishing. Dreaming. It’s a challenge of self, so hopefully I like what I find out.