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 🙂