Canadian Winter? Bring it

Guys… I’m Canada bound in 1 days. IN 1 DAY!!!
Holy Crapoleeee. It’s been 6 months of Africa. 6 months of self discovery, of my body trying to acclimatize and continually failing, new environments, new (and continuing) challenges, and 6 months of my constant physical/mental/emotional state of being uncomfortable… I can’t even believe that this will be my very last blog post from Mochudi. Mostly this comes as a relief (we all know how inconsistent these posts have been)… but I’m also conflicted… Yes it means I’m going back to see all of you!!! YAY!!! My Canadian family, whom I have missed SO MUCH! But it also means I am leaving my (temporary) life here.. leaving the bubble of Stepping Stones… the kids, the staff… both which have come to also become family. But I’m not going to dwell on the goodbyes, not yet… not until Friday when we are actually on that 25 hour flight. YES 24 HOURS OF FLIGHT! How? Well it means…(thanks to Shila’s adding abilities)
Gaborone (Bots) -> Johannesburg (South Africa) = 1 hour
Joburg -> Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) = 5 hours 30 mins
Addis -> Rome (Italy) = 6 hours
Rome -> Toronto = 9 hours 45 mins
Toronto -> Halifax = 2 hours
Basically this week the conversation between Shila and I has revolved around the need for some circulation socks….because WOW are our ankles going to be swollen after that adventure. And I’m willing to bet it WILL be an adventure.. Most of you know that when I travel, it rarely goes as planned… I’ll end up staying with some random in the middle of no where in no time.. but let’s just wait and see…
So because I’ve really sucked on blog writing the past couple of weeks, here’s a little recap for y’all:
A couple of Sundays ago, I attempted to write a catch up blog… it ended with me sitting less than 6 inches away from my GLORIOUS fan, praying the power doesn’t continue it’s sunday outage streak…then I got a little reminiscent and started to think about how funny it was 4 months ago when the power would go out all and all night and we thought that was bad. At least that was during winter. Now it’s summer… almost 40 degrees out every single day, and when a fan is literally the only thing that keeps us alive and that power goes it, it is GAME OVER. Nothing can be accomplished. Especially when our house is completely wooden panelled. Our house is a sauna. I never thought the day would come where I don’t get a decent sleep if I’m not cuddling a couple frozen water bottles. Not only is our house hot, work is hot, outside is hot, waiting for rides is hot, combies are hot, the wind blowing is hot… my god there is not a time when we aren’t sweating. Everyday I look forward to a nice cool shower, but then I remember even our water is hot!!! There is no relief. I keep debating purchasing a kiddie pool, but then I tell myself, we’re leaving soon, I can make it…
I know you guys are currently suffering through the start of a very cold Canadian winter and some (or most) of you would trade climates with me in a second, but the truth is I can’t wait to roll around in that snow!! Dying from the heat here, it’s quite funny when we ask locals how the heck they get through it and they tell us to go to “the shades”… sounds like a magical place doesn’t it? Well when Batswana say “the shades” what they really mean is “go outside, find a tree and sit underneath it for a bit”. That’s the Botswana secret. Unfortunately, we don’t have any shady trees on our plot, but I definitely found the frozen water bottles all over my body, even sleeping with a wet towel, helps a TON!
Thankfully over the past week, the weather has settled down, at least a little. It’s rained a TON (like 3 times) but thats a lot here! It’s beautiful. We even got to witness a sandstorm! Really cool stuff….. lightning and wind, I really got a craving to start storm chasing. Unfortunately the storm did quite the damage in the city and in our village, the power went out basically ALL DAY yesterday! I couldn’t believe how many billboards got torn to shreds. Check it:
Broken Toe
Unfortunately with all of the rain, the ants start coming out. Not just the little old ants either… flesh
eating, swarming, GIANT ants! …. okay okay not that bad…. but they do swarm, and they do bite! and for what ever reason, they’re always setting up for battle on our pathway to our house = OUCH! Locking our gate has become a war zone. I even broke my toe kicking them off
😦 Thanks for the going away present Mochudi…
Some things at SSI:
Last week I got to participate in the “Step Up, Step Out” camp for the the Leadership participants at SSI. The camp was set up at the Presidents Farm (ohh so fancy right?) and was run through the partnership of Our Lady Kharma Trust and SSI. Dinah and I got to run a Teamwork and Delegation station, which was really interactive and great. The whole goal of the camp was to have participants “Step Up” to be leaders and “Step Out” of their comfort zones. It was very successful and a ton of fun! So much fun, we even set the Presidents Farm on fire!!!! YIKES… it was already insanely hot, add a bush fire in there, we were ROASTING! Everyone jumped the gun and started throwin some dirt at it and we got that fire out in no time! WOO
Unfortunately this is our last week, so I’ve been pushing like crazy to get all of my Study Skill Activities Curriculum set up for take over. Wow it has taken a ton of time to get everything organized and formatted, especially when my ENTIRE USB got wiped during a power outage… that made me a little nervous, but I used my limited IT skills and fixed that right up. It’s actually quite amazing how nothing seems to phase me anymore.. In Mochudi nothing has gone according to plan, ever, and I certainly don’t expect it to our last week…
Because this is our last week.. I’ve had to start saying some goodbyes… telling my readers that we only have a couple more sessions left has been heartbreaking 😦 Fortunately I have made sure their reading will continue with some trusted volunteers at SSI…
There was a solar eclipse at work!! Or so we thought… the amazing phenomenon, which I will probably witness once in my life, was caused by some ice crystals… check it out on wiki (lol): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halo_(optical_phenomenon)
CIMG0487
I’ve been cooking with the kids! So much fun!!! and HOT wow… so far we made some omelettes and some toasted pb, banana and honey sandwiches… Tomorrow we’re going to make some healthy banana muffins as a demonstration for one of our Donars – Barclays.
Village Livin:
A couple saturdays ago Shila and I sniped tickets to Trevor Noah! Trevor is a South African Comedian who just got back from a tour in the states. We watched all of his stand ups and were so excited to hear he was coming to Gabs!! The whole performance was…. interesting. The opening acts included a local rapper, a graphiti artist on stage, a mens dance group who also liked to light things on fire and jump through them… followed by the first class tickets showing up to the show an hour late, after Trevor had already started his act….the whole thing screamed BOTSWANA.
WE SAW THOR AND CATCHING FIRE!!!! WOW I AM IN LOVE WITH BOTH!!!!
Shila and I had a Mochudi adventure… visiting our Bots grandmother, and taking Kemelo with us to visit the Mochudi Museum, which has been on our to-do list for MONTHS!!! Guess what… it wasn’t open, typical Bots weird hours…but we got to climb some cool rocks, tress and stuff.
rainstorm
We were caught in a rain storm!!!! After a nice little jaunt to Gabs, when we decided to hitch back home it started POURING RAIN. Thunder, lightning… the whole shebang…We were waiting in the rain, freezing (although refreshed), and hiding under this transport truck parked on the side of the road for a good 30 minutes before we finally got a ride. I’m surprised ANYONE would stop for us, we were a pour looking soaked couple.
We went to MOUNTAIN VALLEY! Sounds cool hey? It’s this little braai/bar about 30 min outside the city. While I’m not much for buying raw meat at a bar, Shila is super into it, but it was really cool to do it at a legit nice little spot. We met up with a couple of ex-pats we recently met and they were great! Some food, some drinks, some pool, it was great! After our braai adventure we hit up some open mic and Shila attempted some Canadian Indie music…
Last Friday we had a nice little dinner we some fellow volunteers… 2 whom are in Mochudi (MAN I WISH WE KNEW SOONER!) They are absolutely great. One volunteer had her friend over from a village like 7 hours away, and I had already met him on Couchsurfing! WOW I love that online community… that has happened three times being here, too cool. The day we all hit up the Hunger Gamer – Catching Fire and it was wonderful. Although our time with these new ex-pats has been short, I’m definitely gonna miss them! They’re some really cool cats.
I finished packing… :S So weird… really SO SO SO weird. I basically cut down the majority of my clothes and plan on coming home with half the stuff I left with. The whole cleansing thing feels so nice, but at the same time, I really don’t know what I’m going to wear for those last 2 weeks of debrief :S Some of the other Yippers get to have a nice weekend at home before heading back to the nish, get cleaned up, and swop their luggage.. but unfortunately thats not the case for me. The Op Shop’s gonna get some serious business from me that weekend hahaha
Lastly a big shout out to my little bro… Usually we celebrate his birthday one province away from each other, but this time I was a little farther 😦birthday dog
So Internet friends, this is the last blog I will be posting from Botswana…I can’t believe it. This whole experience has been nothing short of life changing. I have been mentally pushed like never before. I have learned so much about the world, life, and mostly myself. It is so bittersweet to have to say goodbye to these magical kids who have been such an inspiration, made such an impact, and who will forever be in my heart….
Wish us luck for the 25 hour endeavour back to Canadian grounds, hopefully this time I won’t be shoved in the corner on the plane. I will be seeing most of you so so sooon !! I can’t wait 🙂
Top 7 things I’m excited for:
1) SNOW – you can bet that the second we land and I see snow I’m gonna be rolling all around in that. Polar Dip = YUP
2) BEAR BEAR !!!! I can’t even describe the amounts I have missed my little fluffy guy
3) Moms Lasagne
4) Nana’s Apple Pie
5) Temperature Regulation and a decent full sleep
6) NO BUGS!!!! no cockroaches, no ants, no moths, no centipedes, no beetles!!!
7) No power outages
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Laughter is the best medicine

Oh how I love the time of the year when everything I own decides to just give in and break.

I guess there’s no better way for letting go of possessions than when they all conspire against me in the same week of Mayhem.
Now, those who know me are aware that this seems to be a regular occurrence. I’m not talking about “oh my hair elastic broke for the third time this week”, I’m talking about my iPod touch, my back up iPod, my 3 favourite pants (for those of you who don’t know, that means African pants, belly dancing pants, my elephant pants) wearing out to the point where even I feel embarrassed wearing them, my one pair of flip-flops (they did have a  good run though), my toms (with insanely massive holes in both the heel and the toe… i still wear these though), my water bottle latch (which used to be super convenient is now just a burden), my backpack zipper (which is very key), speaking of key – my house key, my habitat shirt – no dyed an awkward pink with questionable brown stains that could ALMOST pass as tie-dye but don’t, my favourite bracelet – beads EVERYWHERE, my Macbook power cord is on its way out the window – give me 4 more weeks!!!…I won’t even mention the fact that there seems to be some type of red devil sock that ALWAYS creeps into my laundry (which, because of the sun here can only be washed in hot water) and dyes EVERYTHING a stupid shade of pink. Isn’t that a nice picture for you all.. Kate, the one that is either wearing the ugliest pink coloured everything, or the clothes with tons of holes and tears in them…. today I even had a kid at SSI laugh at how ratty my shoes are…I think the idea that I will return to Canada with nothing more than a carry on is becoming reality.
Generally I’m a pretty patient (exceptionally so after spending some time in Africa), and easy going, rational person…. but COME ON!!!!!! Just cut me a little slack here. For all of THAT to happen in less than 2 weeks time, MY breaking point is creeping up.
Sorry for my rampage, hopefully it brought at least a little smile to your face… I know writing it definitely brought one to mine. Laughing about it really is the only way to get through it.
So on to business… quite a lot has actually gone on the past couple of weeks at work and at home. It’s been a whirlwind of things since returning from Cape Town.
I guess there’s the obvious – Halloween… my absolute favourite favourite holiday ever, oh how I love Halloween! All of October I have been a little on edge about this. I made homemade spider web decorations out of garbage bags, took the whole month to download a couple of halloween movies, posted in numerous international forums about any halloween happenings in Gabs…. then the day finally came…. and it went. As the month went on, it all just seemed less important. Friends all posted their halloween costumes, and I’ll admit for a second there was a bit of jealously, but Halloween just isn’t a thing here, so it just didn’t really matter anymore. I did however get the kids to paint some squashes … this way we could wash them off and us them for food later on… (which ended up being a very patriotic activity!) and showed them Hotel Transylvania (which I LOVE!… and they did too!)
SSI has been quite busy lately having the Standard 7s off from school (for 3-4 months!… so crazy). So the staff has put together their Standard 7 schedule daily from 10-3. Each week I get to run some leadership and team building exercises, have a nutrition session (which includes cooking yummy healthy food!), and help them plan and prepare for their st 7 party at the end of the month! WOOO so many things!
This month is already insanely hectic. We have 24 days left to round up all of our projects, creating the study skills/life skills curriculum, and continue with our scheduled activities. Because we’re so busy I have a feeling this week is going to FLYYYYY.
On the home front….
On Saturday I woke up to my other roomies carrying around a three week old puppy!  Unfortunately this isn’t as wonderful as it sounds. The 19 year old living on our plot, who frequently needs to borrow transport money to get to school, who is gone for days at a time, who doesn’t seem to have his life together in the least, co-bought (yes… co-bought) a 3 week old pit bull.
The initial reaction – WOW! A three week baby pup, who is ADORABLE and just wants to snuggle all the time and play with my feet and is the cutest thing in the whole wide world is going to be in our lives! So exciting! THEN, quite quickly, the questions followed – how is it going to be cared for? who is taking care of this dog? How does he have money to feed it? Will he be home more?… sadly the answers were not the ones we hoped for. Apparently the dog was bought for one reason – to become a guard dog. In the owners mind set, having a guard dog means you feed it next to nothing, treat it awfully, and never let it have a human reaction with anyone other than the owner and frequent visitors, in order to install aggression. This was not cool for us when we find out while we were gone Sunshine (what we named her) was placed in a 2 foot space in the garage while her owner disappeared for 16 hours. The girls and I basically took on this puppy ourselves, buying her food, keeping her company, playing with her, and discussed all weekend what we should do. After 2 days of negotiations with both owners we were able to settle on an agreed price and the dog loving Canadians split on this beautiful pup. We are happy to report that Sunshine is in an amazing home with one of our dog loving (literally he has 7 other dogs) co-workers! YAYYYY!!!!! That was one stressful situation!
Apparently our neighbour is also planning on investing this week on some… sorry 200 chicks, to grow and sell…. there’s another story right there.
Other things:
– Our power cuts have not been resolved as we thought 😦 On Sunday Mochudi received a pretty big power cut… all sunday was spent lying on my bed covered in sweat, too hot to move.
-There was a bird in our house…Shila woke up in the middle of the night hearing some flapping (i guess she assumed it was a giant cockroach…) luckily it was just a BIRD and it had moved into my room.. Shila bravely and strategically used the broom to open the window for this little guy. We still don’t know how a bird would get into a room with no open windows and the door shut… #mochudiprobs
-I found my new favourite place in the world, just kidding, in Mochudi… Behind our house there is a giant mountain… okay, hill, but one day I finally felt super adventurous and decided to climb it. The top was unbelievable…. the perfect spot for a little meditation, especially after a long day. Everyday after work I try to get there. On Sunday I took the roomies up there and Shila lead us in some yoga… yoga on a mountain, so cool…. I wish I had climbed it earlier.
AND!!! there was a solar eclipse today….CIMG0487

Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing

So I just get back from a trip to Namibia and here I am blogging about another one!!! Although this adventure was one that has been planned for and building up and up and up for about 4 months now and boy did it exceed my expectations!

This last week Shila and I reunited with 4 other Coady interns in CAPE TOWN! And Holy CRAP this city surpassed every single review, blog, book I read before getting there. Just wow. Every where you look I swear you could send the picture in to National Geographic, it’s THAT beautiful. A city protected by massive mountains, half swallowed by the ocean, beauty surrounds it.
Just a couple things from the week (I’m sure the pictures will do it more justice than words ever could)…
Our fantastic fellow Coady interns in Zambia worked their magic and arranged for us to stay in a stunning, chic loft right in the heart of the city! This place was A MAZ ING.With a beautiful balcony, we had a great view of the city, our own fully equipped kitchen (allowing us to buy some groceries, saving some mula!), 2 unreal, legit showers… and Shila and I went back to sharing a room and had some reminiscent moments thinking of our first month in Bots 😛 With 7 of us chipping it, the place was super affordable and we couldn’t have been more lucky! Quite hilariously, while all of us Yippers have only been around each other for 3 weeks during orientation, to meet up with them and catch up on all of our adventures felt like we’d known each other forever. It was great to have some familiar faces around for a bit 🙂 We LOVE LOVE LOVE our fellow Coadies!
No wonder Cape town was voted one of the best places for young people to live… this city had upscale, world renowned restaurants, cafes, shops around each corner! Right across the street we had a brilliant little eatery, Clarks, which we soon adapted as our go to for food  (when it was open, this is haha), around the corner was a sweet little pub, Brewers Union, with great beer, fun people, live music, garden lights, amazing hotdogs and even better cupcakes! To sum up it all up… we are REALLY well all week long.
Okay, now for my kinetics grad voice to come out – WOW… Cape Town literally blew my mind at how accessible and active the city is! In terms of accessibility, EVERYTHING was wheel chair friendly. From the Hop-on Hop-off city tour bus, to the quite steep bridge walkway (with a friendly elevator directly to the top of the ramp), the aquarium, the beach… EVERYTHING! I was beaming all week at of the things! Now lets talk active… there is virtually no way you could ever be bored in Cape Town. There are 4 mountains you can climb, all with different routes of varying difficulty, you can rent bikes EVERYWHERE, people jog/walk EVERYWHERE, there were free yoga sessions on the beach, beautiful mountain biking trails through the vineyards… Along the water we passed at least 4 different jungle gyms for kids to play on (all different themes), off leash dog parks, even an OUTDOOR gym overlooking the gym. YES outdoor gym, fully equipped. I couldn’t get over it… guys I’m serious when I say I will be back to this place.
Okay enough of that… what did we actually do in Cape Town?
  • We hit up a great aquarium, with a touch tank (super cool!) and caught the penguin feeding AND the shark feeding ! Pretty cool, and very knowledgable staff too.
  • Took a little ferry ride to Robben Island, an island full of some major history… We toured the old maximum security prison and saw Mandela’s cell  – pretty intense stuff
  • Hopped a train along the INSANELY beautiful shoreline to see some hilarious African Penguins
  • Took on Table Mountain – the hard route (that was a mistake) At 2 and a half hours we finally made it up, thanks to Blakes constant motivational, sometimes questionable quotes…To get up there we had to climb through a ton of clouds – such a cool experience. It was from this experience that I realized just how short my legs really are… not idea for climbing giant rocky staircases.
  • Spent a day touring the city and all of the *fun* museums… Art museums, planetariums (full of cool dino bones …and for some reason a lot of rat information), gardens… we did it all! Even the Castle of Good Hope… which I’m sorry Kulula Airline Magazine and Internet friends, this castle is NOT haunted, nor in the least bit scary. Imagine my disappointment, a ghost hunter enthusiast, when I ASK the tourist desk about the hauntings and I get laughed at… This put a major damper on the day, especially after I hyped it up so much to the other interns 😦
  • Checked out the food markets and craft markets… yum yum yum Nutella crepe? yes pleasssse…
  • SHARK DIVING!!!! WE DID IT. I think since day one of orientation we all made a pact and we finally did it! Woah was it ever cool. A 5 am departure and lots of waiver forms later, we got slicked up in our wetsuits, hopped in the freezing ocean into a little cage and waited as they lured a GIANT shark (3.7 meters!) super close to us! The water visibility was brutal, but the shark was literally 2 feet away from us most of the time…. super neat stuff
  • Went up Signal Hill to check out the beautiful sunset
  • Journeyed to Cape of Good Hope, where the Atlantic and Indian Ocean meet, probably my favourite view all week. After a little hike we were basically chillen on a crazy high cliff… really wish I brought some climbing ropes with me.
  • I fell in love with Cape Town…and gelato.
After a week of feeling on top of the world Shila and I trekked back to the heat, back to the slowed down lifestyle and back to Bots. A cab, a plane, a cab, a bus, a cab and 16 hours later, we finally arrived back to reality….
Here’s reality for you… there are 26 days left… 26 DAYS LEFT. It feels like I just wrote my one month in blog… what happppeneddddd??? Time is seriously flying… and Shila and I really biting the bullet here, with tons of SSI stuff going in the next month, planning our goodbyes, and trying to take in the rest of Bots, there is so much to doooo.
Sorry this post is a week or say late… this week has been insanely crazy. The Standard 7 kids are finished their break meaning we have a full day of activities, everyday, and the internet has been less than willing to upload my Cape Town pics 😦
Our Trip to Roben Island:
LETS SEE SOME SHARKS!!!

The Table Mountain challenge…

Touring the City

LOVED this restaurant! They farm their own herbs, vegetables, even fish! We were definitely sold.

Off to Cape of Good Hope….

Penguins, haircuts and more….

The Ocean Breathes Salty

I think I’m definitely starting to feel the “African” Lifestyle finally catch up to me. I know that I usually do slack on my blogging, but its become apparent that the whole stress free, laid back way of living has really taken over most aspects of my life in Bots. At first the slowed down pace of things really was a major challenge not only in the workplace, but everywhere we went, and everything we did. The other day in the city, Shila and I especially commented on our movements, comparing ourselves to big elephants, sauntering through the grocery store. Taking 2 hours to get somewhere doesn’t really seem to affect my headspace anymore, it’s really just the way it is. It’s this type of living that is making me both a little nervous and excited to return to Canada’s fast, efficient pace. More importantly I’m interested to see if it will be particularly challenging, or if it will overwhelmingly wonderful, perhaps (or most definitely) it will be stressful.

This new adaptation of mine and grown patience really is a blessing. A couple weekends ago I  embarked on a solo adventure to Namibia, which meant a whole 12 hours of driving! Schooling in the Nish I have become used to the annual (some times semi-annual) car trips back to the 613… however, we have the luxury of AC and didn’t suffer the risk of hitting ostriches, goats, or cattle…

YES my adventure was full of ostrich, goats, cattle, and amongst those – new places, new cultures, new friends and as with any travel adventure, full of challenges. Before leaving Botswana behind me, I participated in my first (of many I’m sure) couch surfing experience. For those of you who have never heard of this PLEASE PLEASE I urge you to check it out, and PARTICIPATE!! It is such an amazing online community, full of amazing people who are full of life and love – https://www.couchsurfing.org/ ….back to the post….

Oddly enough the beauty Milena and I stayed with, I had previously connected with over the site and then about a month later met in person through a friend of a friend, oh how small the world is! Dinah is absolutely brilliant. She has been nothing short of my guardian angel over the past couple of weeks. Not only did she provide Milena and I with a super great double bed and place to crash for a couple hours before our early rides came, she set me up with my ride to and from Gabs and even gave me contacts in the places I was heading. I owe her one major block of cheese and a couple bottles of wine.

Dinah’s friends picked me up at 3:30 am… yes AM. I understand the whole “we want to leave early so we can get there early” thing… but if you’re going to leave at 3:30 in the morning, should you not just go big and leave at 9 pm or something? It’s not like you’re getting much sleep in before that anyways. Anyways, no complaints here, I was lucky enough not to have my own seat in a beautiful, spacious car … so they picked me up and we were on our way. Through Dinah I’m pretty sure I met my Botswana family. In the car there was a couple who had 2 boys around my age and another woman with a couple kids my age as well. In Botswana it is very common to refer to elders (by blood or not) as Auntie and Uncle, and so these 3 people quickly became just that. After our original intro’s and some quick chit chat I dozed off… only to be awakened by Uncle Jackson yelling Africaans at me. Explaining to him multiple times that I in fact, do not speak Africaan’s, he thought it was hilarious to assume that I did anyways. Our first stop (at 6 in the morning) was at a gas station for coffee. Knowing I wanted more sleep stuck with my pear and rusks. When I got back to the car, Uncle jackson opens his trunk and offers me some hardboiled eggs, steak, chicken and some type of sandwich…. After a nice egg, a boarder crossing and some ten hours later we made it to Windhoek!

In Windhoek I met up with my second surfer Anna, who was amazing! She offered me my own room, AND a SHOWER!!! I was pretty wiped from the trip up when I got there, so after a beautiful shower, Anna and I bonded over some travel stories and spanish soaps – My heart beats for Lola…. man oh man, was this show addicting!! The next day Anna and her family took me around the city, to Zoo Park, where my heart fluttered the moment I saw green green green grass and massive trees!! I miss the Canadian woods SO much! After a short tour (too short really) I hopped on a combi to the Coast. During this four hour ride I met an interesting woman, a grade 2 teacher, a mother of two 20 years, and who was apparently, and enthusiastically, looking for a white daughter in law… The 4 hour ride was accompanied by her multiple attempts to set me up with her son. This involved taking my picture, sending it to him, texting my phone, constantly winking at me… The next few days involved me ignoring Pauline’s multiple attempts at getting me to talk to her son on the phone…and as such, this became my awkward story number 1.

Arriving in Windhoek, I was meeting up with another surfer… and shame on me for not doing my research here…. Somehow I had it in my head that the lady I would be staying with was a 31 year old mom of 2, from Britain and white….key word here being WHITE. Waiting for my ride after my arrival, and feeling a little sketched out by my surroundings, I reassured myself saying – its okay, Martha (a white mom) will be here soon… WELL imagine my surprise when Martha (who was… NOT white, NOT a mom, but a 30 year old Namibian party girl with a British accent) came strolling by in a taxi, yelling for me to get in. Note to self – pay a bit more attention to online profiles and realize they may not be 100% accurate.

Aside from all of that Martha was GREAT. She was super easy to talk to, really took me in like we’d been best friends for years… literally. All night was spent listening to Martha’s drama with this friend she was originally supposed to be spending time with in Swakop…I think I heard the SAME story, same argument and her defence, over 30 times from top to bottom (I am NOT exaggerating here.). While I am certainly grateful for Martha taking me in, showing me around the actual village community in Swakop, meeting her whole family, and sharing her bed with me…. each seemed to come with extra baggage. Meeting Martha’s family meant discussing the drama again another 10 times… sharing a bed with Martha meant that she slept diagonal (WHO SLEEPS DIAGONALLY IN A DOUBLE BED?) while I huddled in the corner, with little blankets, thankful for Martha’s body heat (her whole body was basically on top of mine most of the night). Waking up and not partaking in a bath, I got sassed hard by Martha. According to her, in Africa they shower everyday, and to not do so was just gross.. In a super hot climate, I honestly don’t know why they first thing they want to do is sit in a mega hot bath. With a little more talk about the drama between her and her friend, I was beyond ready to leave.

 

The rest of the weekend was full of ocean toe dips (anyone in nova see me waving on the other side of the ocean??), meeting other travellers, horse back rides through the desert, and my FAVOURITE part – sand surfing. Words can’t even describe, pictures do no justice, to just how beautiful the sand dunes are.

 

Some Memorable Moments:

 

-coming home to anna’s in windhoek and the lizard on the floor her cat, Sushi, had ripped in half…

-guinea fouls like to hang out way up in the trees

-my horse was the SLOWEST horse in the world.. but had the most badass face mask

-watching vultures pick apart a dead cow… not the greatest moments, but really cool to learn that the chief vulture will take out one eye before the rest of the pack can touch it (according to Jackson anyway…)

-the combi that literally broke down 4 times before we actually got back to windhoek

-ordering a beautiful chicken wrap where they drizzled (or drowned) the shell with balsamic… eating the whole thing, my face and hands covered in balsamic, THEN they bring me the knife and fork….oops

Here are some pictures from the trip… there are WAY more that are refusing to upload… i’ve been at it for almost a week now 😦

I do apologize for how long this post has taken me and how much is missing from it! This week Shila and I will be on an adventure to Cape Town to meet up with other Coady YIPPERS!! So the next blog will be wayyyy worth your while 😉

 

 

There’s nothing like the smell of DOOM in the morning.

Morning …(lets hope not)… routine. Wake Up. 20 minute cardio. Make some oatmeal. Kill the scorpion in the tub. Watch Shila rinse the tub. Eat the oatmeal. A little Seinfeld. Off to Stepping Stones.

Ahh I really do hope that this does not become a regular routine, I could most certainly do without the scorpion… on the plus side, at least its the brown one, the non-poisonous one… we think?

While I know that I literally just blogged a couple of days ago, quite a few things have happened in the those few days. First things first ….ANOTHER CANADIAN HAS HIT MOCHUDI!!! WOOOOP. Milena from Uniterra has finally joined our family at Stepping Stones AND she brought CHERRY BLASTERS!! Was I ever excited 🙂 It has been pretty interesting introducing her to the ways of Botswana, and even more interesting to realize that where she is now is where we were just over 3 months ago! All of the questions, concerns, and WOW moments have been pretty much spot on with the ones we had. It’s pretty profound to really see how far Shila and I have both come in 3 months.

Not only she absolutely the luckiest volunteer in the world to ever enter Mochudi with Shila and I as mentors 😛 The first night at our place she was welcomed by a HUGE thunderstorm! Needless to say Friday night was filled with candle light, white wine, bonding and the beautiful sound of African rain.

Now don’t you worry out there, our saturday was filled with a bit more excitement than just rain storms. IN FACT on Saturday, I finally got to play basketball! Was it the best thing ever?? YUP

Showing up to an outdoor university court in Gabs, I really had no idea what to expect. When we finally got there (Shila and Milena, being the amazing room mates they are came to support and per my personal cheerleaders 🙂 ) I was instantly welcomed by my team, handed a beautiful new Ravens jersey. I tell you, joining a basketball team in bots was probably the last thing I ever expected to do but WOW am I SO excited to apart of this team. Obviously I was quite rusty, but to my surprise I handled the heat and the pressure (they had me starting??) quite well. The team we played definitely weren’t lacking height… in fact in our pre game speech our coach kept referring to “the Great White”… and I’m like who the hell is the great white? Well turns out she’s this 6 foot giant… not sure where the white comes from, because she was definitely Batswana.

The thing that really got me the whole game, was truly how universal sports are. I was immediately welcomed onto this team, MY team, with open arms, no discrimination because of my skin or my height or my language. Three pointers are three pointers, a foul is a foul, you get shoved, you fall down, someone picks you up. I was only referred to Lakhoa (spit from the sea) ONCE and that was from the other team.  Yes our game started an hour late (as expected in bots), yes the court was outside, and yes it literally was 30 degrees (but felt like 100 on the court, especially running up and down and up and down) and I definitely ran out of water before the first quarter ended, but MY GOD was I lovin it!

My loving life high continued as we had a great dinner at O’Hannagans Irish Pub, where I indulged in a “Psycho Jack”  cocktail and a nice avo and cheese pita. More bonding times with our new roomie and co-workers. Followed by another beautiful yoga session, this time at our instructors house (which was BEAUTIFUL!)

In other news – I FINALLY finished by 1400 page Stephen King novel – Under the Dome! Some of you will vaguely remember me lugging this massive read back and forth from the library last summer. When I read that this book was becoming a tv series, executively produced by Spielberg, AND with major imput from King himself, I decided I needed to re-read and finish that beast. Well this weekend it finally happened and was it ever bittersweet. If you’re looking for a suspense filled, futuristic, sci-fi and weird humoured monster read, this one is for you. It was brilliant! Unfortunately the whole month long build up to the series was an utter letdown. Yes I understand that movies or series that are based on novels, are just that BASED on the novel… but COME ON. King approved and even made some of the changes himself, and I have no idea way. If you’ve read the book, don’t watch the series. If you haven’t… it might be an interesting watch with an interesting idea, but mind the acting (it’s just short of terrible).

SO there’s my spiel on Spielberg for the day. Check out the trailer and decide for yourself if you haven’t already – 

To end on a happy note – this morning at our SSI staff meeting we had an amazing woman from Botho Compassionate movement. During the presentation we learned that in 2012, Botswana ranked as the unhappiest place on earth. YIKES. It has improved a little since then but WOW. The organization is working hard to increase the level of compassion within communities, cities and the entire Botswana population.  Stepping Stones International has already taken the first step and signed the Charter for Compassion woooo. A huge point that was stressed during the presentation was how physical contact really can change a persons day, a persons life. The staff of SSI has been given the challenge to really increase the amount of physical contact given to the kids, ranging from proper, safe hugs to just a little hand squeeze. Their website is jam packed of great info about the movement, stats, and resources – http://compassionateaction.org/global-compassion-movement

I found this presentation quite interesting in more ways then one. The first thing that really hit me is, as I have said before, the lack of personal space I have felt in Botswana. From insanely crammed kombis, to handshakes that last an extended period of time, to handholding everywhere. In just over 3 months I know that my personal space bubble has been virtually completely depleted. When my team mate on the weekend took my hand and played with my fingers during my conversation, my instinct to pull away, feel awkward or uncomfortable has completely disappeared. I found it interesting that physical contact is a huge part of life here yet at the same time it doesn’t exist at all. As a Lokhoa, or white person in Mochudi – a rare sighting, everyone (kids especially) want to hold my hand, rub my skin, play with my hair, touch my face, all of it. They love the contact. But on the other hand, children who have contracted or who are born with HIV are treated like a disease themselves. Caretakers will often use different dishes and avoid all contact. It’s very rare to see a dad kiss his child, let alone play or hold their child. It’s almost as if there is the two extremes. There is no personal space, constant touching, but then there is also little positive contact within families and even less compassion.

Hmm still lots to think about on this front I guess, but my mind has been substantially active, considering it is monday at all…

Here are some more events I have yet to catch you up on:

– On Friday at SSI we spent the afternoon playing boardgames, which are super useful for the kids to build up their english vocab and adding/subtracting skills. Shila and I were automatically nominated to run the two most complicated games… Shila landed Monopoly and I took over Life. Wow this was a lot more difficult that I thought, but the kids definitely had fun choosing their careers and suing other players 100,000 bucks haha

– Literacy Updates – My star reader finally finished her first book of stories!!! Reading with her on Thursday, she had a really rough day, but she was SO determined to finish the last story. It was so inspiring to see her push through her awful day, through tired exam eyes to finish her book!

– Last week Shila and I had the brilliant privilege of taking a kombi with a flip down tv screen! We were liven the high life all the way to work! Showing last week was of the Botswana Initiation schools. While it was all in Setswana, it was quite the watch.kombi

-It took us over 2 hours to get into the city on Sunday !!! What a great way to introduce Milena to the ways of Botswana. But after all of the patience testing my patience could take, we made it, got some ice cream, chicken and berries and all was well again

 

Here are some more pics and a vid for you ( all taken by Shila btw… until I get my camera!! wooo)

The service list from the spa we went to… Caucasian hair eh?

Donated items we handed out to the kids

Thato’s game to teach the kids to count in multiples

I leave you with this… what sound does a fox make?

 


ONLY 2 Months and 18 days Left!!!

ANOTHER power cut at work…. you know what that means!!

BLOG TIME! And I’d say it’s about time too. There has been so much happening over here lately, stories I know you will loveeeee.
Let’s start by clearing up the rumours here… YES I did get my hair braided… Yes it was blonde and basically down to my butt. How did this decision come about? Well as per usual,  I decided it was time I put my money where my mouth was and get it done and a lazy sunday was the perfect day. So a wonderful volunteer – Lyan – who, might I add, has the most beautiful, and creative braids I have EVER seen, decided to take the risk and try her skills on my soft, greasy, sensitive head.  About 8 hours, with sore hands, a sore but and back, and 80 pounds of extra hair on my head, I realized I had acted too spontaneously (as per usual) but HEY we did it! Things didn’t really hit the fan until I hit up the gym the next day. MY GOD. This was a challenge I didn’t even consider. How on earth do women with braids and 20 pounds of excess hair (okay I’m exaggerating here a little bit but still, EXCESS HAIR!!!)  jump, run, even MOVE with all of that going on up there. I couldn’t do my regular workout, jumping caused all the hair to flop around my face, crunches were hard because I had a big bun where I tried to put my head back. I could do NOTHING. Then, to add to my frustration, my left ear bud decided to quit on me. And that was enough for me.
When I got back to the office, I decided I should look into this matter… and folks you won’t even believe what I found! Article after article, explaining the trials and tribulations black women with braids face in trying to lead a physically active lifestyle. I kid you not. There are forums, discussions, help lines, hair style salutations, hair styles to avoid. WOW I did not even consider any of this to be a problem! Women here, or so it seems, have to decide between having beautiful braids or being active. I chose being active and shed the braids THAT night. I received TONS of sass from the women in my office, saying that it was ridiculous to go through all of that work to take them out. They certainly didn’t understand how I could NOT trade my lifestyle for my hair. They guaranteed I would get used to it, laughed at the fact I decided the gym was more important than my hair and thought my time would be better spent playing with my hair… HAHAHA was this ever an interesting conversation for a Kin Grad.
Seriously though check out this link by Sporty Afros and this blog I found by Blackexcellence
On a happier note … I was IN HEAVEN a couple weekends ago!!!!! Invited by a co-worker to some all-star basketball games on saturday night, I was REALLY excited to just get to watch some ball. Like EVERY event in Bots, a basketball game does not just mean a basketball game, just like a birthday party for a 2 year old is not really a birthday for a 2 year old… A basketball game in Gaborone, means every single radio station DJ will be there, the majority of recording artists in Gabs will be there, and basically the entire population ranging from 18-35 will be there. The courts in Gabs are outdoors (even at the university level). This surprised me, especially due to the fact that their season runs during Africa’s summer… can YOU SAY SCORCHING?? This reminded me of the time I went to Camp Olympia and we played on the outdoor court, and that afternoon they made us sit on the pavement listening to a speaker…literally turning my butt cherry red. Anyways, I was IN HEAVEN. Just to see Tall-ish, athletic men, put a smile on my face. Shila has gotten used to looking down at every man, and I’ve gotten used to eye level contact (We still haven’t figured out how the gene pool here has worked out this way). But back to the game – this place was CROWED! A live Dj, live game, and drinks in everyones hand… this was not something I expected heading to a basketball game. The level of play was decent, and the reffing was superb (mainly due to one of our SSI staff, Dorothy, who is looking to Ref at the professional level = pretty neat).  The other half of the courts quickly became a dance floor and to be honest, what more could you ask for? Games went on all night and the parties went on even longer. Not a bad way to spend a saturday night 🙂
Whats Goin on At SSI….
Unfortunately we have had to give quite a few farewells the past couple of weeks 😦 One to our German volunteer who has been here for a year and one to our Art Therapy Counsellor who has been here just under a year. While the majority of the kids seem super sad to see them go, BOY do they give great performances! The amount of talent and beautiful skills these kids have, they really are gifts to the world, and they blow me away every single time. Check out this vid Shila took …. mainly to showcase Fred’s unique dancing skills…https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=M7iFZ3-4VIs
Last week we had a couple of power outages … BOOO… especially considering the government has promised that the energy crises is over and that after August there would be no more power cuts. So I decided to use this time to basically organize every thing I could in our “office”. Right now everything looks beautiful ! Going through some of the paper work I found some pretty interesting things… including some old work from my kidddies and boy did we have a good laugh!
… here are some more things happening in my life….
I’m not sure exactly what it is but eggs in Africa seem to have an extended boiling rate… I hard boiled my eggs for 15 minutes in the morning, to only find them half cooked for lunch… this was a sad day.
I’ve acquired a new found friend at the gym… without much say I’m afraid, this was not my choice. He seems to wait outside until I get there, and then tries to impress me while he practices his karate moves and his dance moves on the hardwood
-Shila and I were offered a job to model as CEO’s for a Car Rental company by the owners, who believed that white women on their advertisements would “send the right message” and attract the right audience.
-We’ve met a beautiful Yoga teacher in the city and are able to get classes on sunday to help us wind down our weekend. But this chick means business, full of plank holds, and chaturang, Monday mornings I’m feelin my core for sure
-We have redecorated our place ! Shila and I splurged (but not really) on some bed sheets to throw over our hideous couches, we even Feng Shu’d the place. Our one wall poster is of our US vs Cockroaches score board. OH DID I MENTION WE HAVE COCKROACHES??? LIKE HUGE ONES. MASSIVE ONES. Like 3 inch cockroaches. I’m usually not phased when it comes to insects… but holy cow did I scream when I saw this thing fly out of my cupboard when I was getting some cereal. Currently the score is 2 – 1 for us. Shila and I have been debating in all seriousness, our extreme need for a cockroach killing stick. We may ask the lady up the street with tons of broken down wood materials to fashion on for us, at a fair price of course.
-Not only do we have cockroaches… but our insect population now includes scorpions.. as long as they are the brown ones we’re okay (we’ve heard)… only the black ones are poisonous.
Needless to say, one of our saturday afternoons consisted of us comparing and contrasting Raid vs Doom vs Blue Death and which one we should invest in to de-bug our house.
Our power metre was running low all week, to the point where it said “Low Cash” on saturday… a rating we have never seen. Refusing to lose power on a saturday night, and with our Landlord just MIA completely, we ventured up the road to figure out how to buy power. Let’s just say 3 trips back and fourth to the house then the store and  2 hours later… we figured it out and topped that baby up.
This past weekend was Shila’s bday and we decided to do something special! We headed for a full body massage… one which we both got 2 massage therapists EACH! Now that’s a lot of hands..,
ALSO a couple of weeks ago I got my first letter!! Thanks to my near and dear beautiful beloved Newfie Janet! Equipped with Spiderman paper and all, it was perfect. Thank you so much Janet! 😀

As the African’s Say … YESSSSHHHHH

OH HELLLO!!!

WOW these past couple of weeks have seriously just flew by!

Here’s what’s been going on at SSI:
This week the kids are FINALLY back to school! Which means SSI staff is back to our regular schedule and we are too too too excited. This means I finally get a fresh start with my study skills sessions, yayyy 🙂
To celebrate the kids last “summer” holiday, SSI held a fun fair, which was a staff/participant fun day. We created 6 stations, with different challenges for all of the kids, mine – Eating apples tied to a string without the use of hands/arms. And boy was this one pretty funny to run !! Although the kids often found very cleaver and creative ways to go about doing this… such as having someone else hold the apple with their cheek, back, stomach or hold the string still for them, some even had 2 attack it at the same time. It’s always interesting for me every time to witness the culture difference when it comes to physical contact and space. Living here I’ve learned there is virtually no such thing as “personal space”. Kids grow up in houses with one room, to share amongst 5, 6, even 10 brothers and sisters, everyone holds hands and its perfectly natural to see two 70 year old men walking down the road doing so. At my station for example, eating an apple together, face to face, boy and boy, girl and girl, boy and girl, it just is never an issue. I love it and hate it. I think it’s been a great experience to be exposed to such. To share a room with basically a stranger for a month, to ride in a combi sharing sweat with a total stranger without hesitation, to having a swarm of preschoolers grabbing every inch of your body… that’s just daily living here. Although I must say, to finally be able to come home and have that personal bubble inflated again every night is absolute heaven.
At the end of the funfair the kids were pleasantly surprised to find that the staff were in charge of serving THEM lunch… which was a very special lunch indeed. We set up tables with juice and silverware – something they consider to be very very fancy! Some of them had never used a fork and knife before… Serving them fancy food (which they consider to be spaghetti) and cleaning up after them, they definitely felt pampered at the end of the day…
What else has been up with SSI? EVERYTHING.
Learning About Visual ImpairmentsOur fabulous Utah Psychologist, Dr. Julia Hood, sadly had to leave us last week, but before she did she left an absolutely priceless gift – her brilliant, extensive SSI participant research. During her presentation SSI staff was informed of the  wide variety of kids we have, all unique, all with different learning styles, learning disabilities, spacial variability, awareness. Often at Stepping Stones we see the same kids who tend to “act out”, or misbehave more than the others… and we learned that this is often a coping mechanism or an attempt to hide their weakness and divert attention away from this fact. Not only are we now fully equipped with a psychological/educational assessments of each kid, but we also have tons of resources and ideas of the best ways to really focus on the learning needs of these kids. SO EXCITING!! While she informed us that each kid during her assessments expressed that they feel SAFE at SSI and they know that the people and staff here all care and are concerned for them, which is quite heartwarming… its also different to know that for some of these kids SSI is the only place they receive that care and concern and is the only place where they do feel safe.  I love knowing that at Stepping Stones they feel supported, loved, cared for, and safe, but at the end of the end it is hard to watch them leave the only place they feel this safety.
MORE AND MORE AND MORE LEARNING
Currently, the educational staff at SSI have been blessed to have Lisa’s (our founder and director) sister Megan (also from Utah) with a Masters in Literacy and heavy educational background to cram us full of helpful info and train us extensively in literacy tutoring! So while the kids have been around all day, we’ve been working virtually every space moment to assess their literacy, and boy oh boy were the results shocking!!!
Individually we would work with a participant to read levelled passages, timing their reading rate and their accuracy rates. We found that there was only ONE Stepping Stones participant, in grade 7, reading at a grade 7 level. Some of the kids are reading 6 grades below their level… that means we have kids in grade 9 reading at a grade 1 level = YIKES! To remind you all, and I do have to remind myself, this is their 2nd language, but still English is essential to their future success.
While the results we quite shocking, it is absolutely amazing to have the actually determined what levels kids are reading at, how we can group them to maximize their learning, and the individual needs of each student!
More than Lucky….
Showcasing Their Song "Unshakeable"The past couple of weeks we have had the absolute pleasure of having SSI’s legend Luckymore Kwapa working with the kids to record some music. Luckymore is a past SSI participant who was the winner of the MAD 2012 Judges’ Choice Award. He has an amazing voice, and such an engaging character, with a smile that literally lights up any room… Check out the article on SSI’s page to read more about him http://www.steppingstonesintl.org/newsite/?p=1019 .
 Life outside the SSI Bubble…
nonoskidsWe went to a birthday party… a two year old, who is apparently terrified of white people, and as you can see from the photo, made that fairly obvious… Our co-worker invited us to her home village – a 2 hour commute outside of our village to her daughters birthday…
WOW was this one interesting. Initially she wanted us to leave around 9 am to get there for 11 to eat lunch at around 1, BUT because we didn’t know where to go, we left with another co-worker… and to give you an example of botswana time… we got to the party at around 4:30, about 4 hours later than our planned arrival time… but hey we made it. There was a jumping castle – which I was forbid to go on 😦 a live dj, TONS of people, cake and food! Not your average 2 year olds birthday party. After lots of dancing and traditional beer, we managed to get a ride back without spending the night in the middle of the desert 🙂
Walking to the gym after work, I managed to lose 1 shoe… just one. I spent the whole hour, walking there, retracing my streps, debating whether a goat or kids would have got to it first, mad both of them didn’t drop so at least someone would have a pair of shoes… only to find my shoe directly outside my organization…. way to go Kate
The lady that works at the gym thinks my name is Kater … I haven’t the heart to correct her…
We fixed our shower head! woooo… after long debates and attempts to get a wrench (this was an effort) we managed to tighten it up and get some water flowen! woo !
It took me 3 days, but i finally downloaded Grown Ups ! Getten ready for the new one!! … ( I wrote this blog awhile ago and apparently it was terrible 😦 but i can still enjoy the old one!)
I FOUND A BOOK STORE IN GABS!!! so so soooo exciting … until I went in last weekend to get the book I had been contemplating all week and they couldn’t find a price for it and basically refused to sell it to me…
On a positive note and nerd alert… I JUST found out that my all time fav Stephen King book that I lugged around last summer – Under the Dome,  is now a hit TV series!! AND I managed to download it (in a couple days) so I can read that 🙂
I FOUND CLEAN SKINLESS, BONELESS CHICKEN IN GABS! I carried a 30 dollar, 30 piece, tray of frozen chicken around with me for hours. Heavy, but worth every pound. ALSO they had frozen berries – perfect for the blender we just bought… mmm smoothies… NUTELLA! yum yum yumm AND maple syrup. I am in food heaven 🙂
I made muffins last weekend! Check out this recipe – Chocolate Chip Banana Coconut muffins ! SOSOSOSO good! Check out this recipe – Chocolate Monkey Muffins …Both me and Shila can vouch.

clubbin

Last weekend Shila and I headed into the city to hit up a homecoming party for the evicted Botswana star from Big Brother Africa. Both of us, super pumped, were mildly disappointed when the place WAS packed… like worse than HSDP PACKED (for you x men readers). Nooooo chance we even got in there… so we headed to our fav club trekerzz (the only bar we’ve been in) for a little dancing de-stress. The night started off with some good old karaoke, followed with some d-floor dancin. Unfortunately they didn’t take my requests for Tupac or Biggie songs… As per usual, Shila and I get quite the attention, being the only white people there, but we have managed to surround ourselves with a great group of Bots friends… My fav awkward “complement (?)” of the night whispered into my ear …”hey, i like your arms, thats all I’m going to say” .
Needless to say, the next day was spent yearning for a delivery pizza (which just doesn’t exist in Mochudi) and realizing the fact that yes, it is possible to throw up THROUGH YOUR NOSE… ouch that was a tough lesson to learn…
And always… I’ll leave you with my current number one Africa hit…
I hope you enjoy as much as I do… 🙂
 

Mafikizolo’s in G-City !!!

WOW! a Whole two months come and gone, thought I’d have a darker tan by now…. haha maybe once the summer comes… but in all seriousness I can not believe that it’s been two months already! While it seems like it was forever ago I was boarding a plane to get here, each day seems to zoom by and before I know it the sun is down and another day has come and gone.

I suppose I could fill you in on a couple of things!
Well the 15th and 16th are both public holidays in Bots, and we definitely took advantage of this and headed up to the infamous Victoria Falls! Our 5 days of vaca however, we not even close to restful! These 5 days consisted of two 12 hour bus rides, daily 5 am wake ups, beautiful showers, a boat safari, a game drive, white water rafting, a boat cruise, elephant walks, tours of the falls, tons of new friends, laughs and full bellies! We jam packed as much as possible and man was it epic!
Deciding to join us on this journey was Julia – an American volunteer from Utah, with a very impressive PhD in psychology! The three of us experienced 5 full days of non-stop EXCITEMENT!  (seriously hope someone gets that reference…)
Freshly showered, my adrenaline needs satisfied, and fully equipped with a badass Zimbabwe passport stamp, I returned to Stepping Stones revived and refreshed!
Last week was a short one, two and a half days long – not a bad way to come back after a little vaca. Unfortunately last week was also the last week of our beloved volunteer Cherlyn. Originally reigning from Singapore, Cherlyn participated in a  two month placement with Stepping Stones from UPenn and we LOVE her!  Glad to say she went out with a bang though!
This past Friday was officially my first birthday away from Canadian comforts – family, friends, cakes and presents, but wow was it a memorable one! At Stepping Stones I was showered with birthday wishes and birthday hugs from everyone! All of the kids sang me a birthday song and brought me in for a big group hug – SO MUCH LOVE ❤ Cherlyn even gave me her last two White Chocolate Nestle Capachino packets she regularly brags about haha – THANKS CHERLYN!! That afternoon one of SSI’s tutors was getting married, and thus we were invited to our very first African Wedding!! So exciting! The event was full of dancing, dress changes – the bride and her bridesmaids change three times in a span of 3 hours1, tons of traditional food and lots of signing! Elizabeth looked absolutely stunning, and I am so grateful to have been apart of at least one of her special days ! Weddings here consist of the ceremony, a brides day (the ceremony we attended, which is hosted by the brides family), and a grooms day (the exact same ceremony but hosted by the grooms family). So basically TWO Weddings! I couldn’t imagine paying for one, but TWO? They love it though, a full weekend of love, beauty, and fun!
That night Cherlyn, Shila and I went to the city and hit up Caravela, a Portuguese restaurant Cherlyn desperately wanted to see before we left. Two desserts, sparklers and candles later, I was one happy bday girl 🙂
Shila and I resumed the night under the “go with the flow” attitude and boy was it was wild one! The question should be where did the night NOT take us? Long story short… we ended up at an absolutely beautiful safari lodge (with rhinos and zulus and elephants occupying the bushes) called Mokolodi Nature Reserve for a couple of drinks, followed by our first botswana club experience. We actually we’re escorted by a pretty well known rapper in Bots which was pretty sweet. AND i met a fellow ex-pat in the peace core from the states AND we just happened to be out celebrating the same birthday! How wild???
So… what’s new at Stepping Stones?
At the beginning of the month SSI brought in Beverly Jean Daniel, a professor at Humber College and consultant in Toronto. For two weeks she evaluated our Life Skills and Study Skills program and the curriculums. WOW can this lady really get down to business. For two weeks she buckled down and got through tons of stuff. Before leaving she gave us a great presentation basically surrounding the importance of using positive talk and using a strength based approach to everything we do. In a program such as Stepping Stones, were the participants are seen as vulnerable, orphaned, undereducated, facing poverty and malnutrition  it’s pretty easy to get sucked into what they don’t have, but what we need to start doing and emphasize is what is is that they do have. These are street smart, kind, resourceful, independent, motivated kids who attend Stepping Stones hoping for guidance in achieving their goals and their dreams. Those are the positive traits and skills that should be focused on when working with these kids. For example, when using “positive talk”, there should be no wrong answers, kids should feel free to answer questions without the worry of being shut down and told that their answer is “wrong”, their answer should open up a discussion and pathway to further their thinking. It was absolutely wonderful having Beverly at Stepping Stones and there is no doubt that her work with us will be implemented and has positively affected the Stepping Stones community.
ALSO, last saturday (the morning after my birthday…) I unexpectedly and unknowingly found myself at a Men Care Father’s meeting at Stepping Stones. Men Care is a father’s program that provides support for expecting, new, current fathers. The group meets on saturdays where fathers can discuss concerns, questions, share stories..ect. Check out the group – www.men-care.org.
Now this is a program Shila is working with, but I’m pretty happy I actually got to see the group in action  (she’s always bragging about how great it is!) About 10 fathers, all new fathers, some brand brand new, gathered and discussed topics like breastfeeding, diapers, sleeping patterns, supporting the mother, c-section and teething! While I may not know a lot (or anything really) on these topics, it was very interesting to hear the cultural differences of the whole thing. For example, when a baby is born here, the mother can request that the father stay away from the child for three months. That means that dad never actually sees the baby until it is three months old! This is due to a superstition or belief that the father can make the baby quite sick and the baby needs time to build up immunity. Also, if the mother and father aren’t officially married, the father has absolutely no say with anything for the baby. The mother and mothers side retains all the rights of the child – education, feeding, housing, everything. It isn’t until they are married that the father has equal say in the matters of the child.
While there were some huge cultural differences, it was super heart warming to see the dad’s interact with each other, discuss stories, issues, concerns and fell support from one another.
More wonderful happenings at SSI:
Last week we had the opportunity to visit a couple of the houses SSI is building YAH SSI builds houses too. Working with donors all of the world, SSI fundraises to build houses for families in need. A super basic two roomed house costs anywhere between $5,000 – 10,000 Canadian. While SSI builds for those in the community with the greatest needs – some single parent families have 16 kids, some were sleeping outside because they just didn’t have a house, some are Stepping Stones kids! Luckily the houses we got to see being built were going to SSI kids that we adore. It was so great to meet their families and watch everyone get involved to put their house up.
Another cool project SSI has been funding is a neat colourful little bakery. All of the walls are up and every things ready to except for the appliances! SSI is waiting on donors for this… Shila and I hope it will be soon because we would kill for a nice little bakery to hang out in after work!
Side note adventures:
-today my water bottle decided to fully empty in my backpack… leaving me to walk with soaked grey sweatpants, assumptions and stares aside, i was pretty uncomfortable all day
-while at the Boma in Vic Falls, a dude went around giving face paintings, and I wasn’t really feelin it, but Shila went for it, and it looked pretty badass, then he said to Julia “I’ll give you something beautiful” so she was down and got a nice little sunset, he came to me and I told him I wasn’t really down, and he responded with “nooo I’ll give you something pretty” so i was all “okay, fine”… little did I know he would paint a frigen WARTHOG on my face. A WARTHOG. The UGLIEST animal in Africa…
-our neighbour likes to creep outside our windows. Apparently he assumes that we lock him out of the house, when in fact, the door is open and we are waiting for him to come in. Instead of actually checking the door, he stares into our windows, frantically waving his arms, or banging on the windows or loudly calling our names until we wake up or until we answer him… can’t wait to move out of here
-I successfully did two laundry loads over the weekend with absolutely no issues at all! WOOO
-A fellow SSI volunteer from Germany heard it was my birthday and surprised me this morning with a massive bottle of champaign and a chocolate bar
-Leaving our lodge in Kasane last weekend at 4:30 am to catch our 5 am bus, Shila and I found ourselves locked in the hotel. Either they just lock the whole hotel down for the night (highly unlikely due to the major safety risks of this) or their security just decided to have a nap when we needed out… what ever the case, the result was Shila angrily and repeatedly banging the bell at the front desk and me lurking around the staff rooms yelling for people, and eventually we came to the conclusion we just had to hop this 8 foot wall the barbed wire that encased us… badass moments
-white water rafting they failed to mention the fact that not only would we be climbing DOWN a MASSIVE mountain, that in order to get our lunch and the free beer we needed to climb back UP that mountain, AFTER a good two hours of hardcore class 5 rapids…. my god I felt like a plug
-I successfully made some chocolate chip cookies on the weekend! YESSSS fulfilled my baking needs, at least temporarily… I whole heartedly miss baking SO  SO SO SO MUCH
-I am so happy I have the power of sport here. When ever, where ever I am, at SSI at the Mocolodi, whether there’s a language barrier or not, power of sport always brings people together! I love being able to hop in for a game of football or volleyball or badminton without any issues.
– we do not have bikes yet 😦 So sad. at this point, not sure if we’ll ever get them… maybe just have to make the helmet a walking helmet at this point
-My Toms are pretty much done for… hopefully the pair that they give for every pair bought holds up better for the kids in Africa than they did for me 😦
-I feng shui’d my room this past weekend and man I can’t tell you how much more comfortable I am and how much better I sleep! Wish I didn’t it sooner… it’s amazing how your body, mind and spirit can really feel the atmosphere around it
-I have one episode left of AD, Shila got me into it. Watch it every morning while i eat my froot loops 🙂
-got my hair stuck in a tree branch for 30 seconds… NO ONE EVER SAW IT
ALSO the one and the first African song I know is by Mafikizolo…. and guess who is coming to G-city tomorrow??? Probably made my WHOLE week!!!!
So I will leave you with this….hope you enjoy as much as I do 🙂