Cabled Baby Vest

Although this looks like a quick knit to the uninitiated, this project was actually quite labour intensive. I'd like to say that I enjoyed the process of cabling every 5 rows, but I think I would have preferred a bit more variation in the pattern, although I am very pleased with the end result.
The yarn is a lovely Bamboo Cotton which feels very soft to touch, provides some warmth, but isn't too hot that it can still be worn throughout most of the year in milder climates. I also like the colour - a soft purple which (I think) is a more funky up-dated version of traditional baby pink for bubs.
This vest also called for a three-way bind off. Patterns that use this have always scared me in the past, but thanks to some wonderful instructions from The Purl Bee (who also provided the pattern) this also turned out quite well.
Full instructions for this pattern can be found here.

Oliver Mtukudzi

I went to my first music concert in Gaborone on Friday night. It was, overall, an amazing experience. The music was wonderful, the crowd estatic and all for 150 pula (AUS$30) pretty good value.

Oliver Mtukduzi is a Zimbabwian musician who plays 'modern african' with a decidedly jazz bent. He's incredibly popular in southern Africa. Not only is he a charasmatic and talented musician but his music speaks peacefully for tolerance and the preservation of human rights, something that resonants strongly with crowds in these parts.

The headline act as Steve Dyer and his band. Steve Dyer is the white guy on the right in the picture above. But it was his backup Saxaphonist that I was particularly taken by. Some of the best Sax playing that I've heard, ever.
Unfortunately I forgot to tape Oliver Mtukudzi playing, I was totally spellbound by the music. I was also trying to stay on my feet. People here aren't great about personal space at the best of times, preferring to stand against you, rather than near you in a crowd or queue. Get people excited about music and all thought of personal space is lost. Listening to Mtukudzi required a full body effort, not only to stay on my feet, but also to sway to the beat 'African style' to prevent collisions with elbows, hips and shoulders.


This is Home

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Home inspired by a blog and art project called "This is Home" being done over here. The graphic submissions are in and I thought I'd post a few here. What really struck me by these submissions (aside from their creativity) is that, like me, for many people Home is not a place or destination, but more of an idea and emotion. A feeling that you get when you are surrounded by the love of friends and family.

(by Juliette Crane)
(by Cindy Krikawa)

(by F. Inton)

(by Fiona Binnett)

(by Mariana Swart)

This last submission really struck me. Botswana and Africa are still feel very foreign to me. I am, in general, finding the transition from Boston to Gaborone difficult, and it was somehow nice to be reminded that somewhere in the world there is someone who feels connected to this place and loves it enough to call it home.



Where: Trans-Siberian Railway (Beijing)
When: June 2005

The Trans-Mongolian comes to a rest 7 days and 7 nights after leaving Moscow in Beijing. There is so much to love about Beijing. Enormous six lane through roads lined with skyscrapers give you a taste of the emerging power that is China. This is the side of China that the government would like you to see. But behind the buildings is, for me, real Beijing. Tiny streets and laneways filled with outdoor butchers, hairdressers and cleaners... this is a city where cramped accommodation still mean that many people live their lives out on the streets. It makes for wonderful 'window shopping'.

And the food. I spent a full day wandering around the markets in Beijing. All manner of fruits and vegetables out on display, and if you get hungry there is every kind of meat available for tasting - chicken, beef, pork and the more unusual snake, scorpion and cockroach (yum?). The memory of buying tea from a man in the vegetable market still brings back the tastes, sounds and smells of that afternoon. The store owner had hundreds of greens teas including jasmine and toasted-rice green tea. My nose was in sensory heaven and the Grade A Jasmine tea that I eventually bought was so sweet and light and delicate - so much better than anything available in Australia.

But at the end of three days in Beijing I was ready for home. My three week adventure crossing two continents overland had come to an end.


Public Health Announcements

In Australia we have TAC ads telling us to "wipe off 5" and "if you drink then drive you're a bloody idiot". Here they have messages about HIV/AIDS. It's taken me a little while to get used to being bombarded with messages about 'knowing my sexual network', circumcision and being empowered to 'get tested'. What's more, some of the signs are really quite funny. The marketing strategy for designing a successful HIV/AIDS prevention programme in a country where the majority of the locals are observant Christian and at least outwardly sexually conservative, and yet have multiple concurrent partners with only a 20% marriage rate must be a real challenge. The result - bring out the sports stars. They always work, right?


Past Travels - Mongolia

Where: Mongolia
When: June 2005

Continuing on from last week... The Trans-Mongolian (trans-siberian) stops at Ulaan Bataar, six days and seven nights after leaving Moscow. Ulaan Baatar is a strange city. The Mongols are fiercely patriotic and traditional nomads and yet they are as eager as the rest of the world to embrace development and progress. This had led to some unusual developments. For example, in the suburbs of Ulaan Baatar most families still choose to live in the traditional nomadic tent, the Yurt. As the train cut through the suburbs of Mongolia on its way to the centre we were surrounded by row after row of allotments all containing Yurt, Satellite dish and 4WD car.
But despite their reputation as being the great conquerors of the Asian continent, so tyrannical that the Chinese built a wall for protection, the Mongols are really incredibly generous and hospitable people. The Mongolian steppes quickly give way to desert. This is a harsh land of extreme heat and cold and in both Ulaan Baatar and the rural farm where our group stayed for 3 days we were greeted with love and kindness.

Mongolia surprised me with its beauty. It was a highlight of my trip. I had no expectations and was completely overwhelmed by the landscape, the people and the sensitive way this country is embracing change whilst continuing to respect and uphold its traditions. The only downside was the food. If you make the trip expect goats meat with dumplings most nights with fermented horse milk (Kumis) to drink. This is not a country for vegetarians.
Four days was not nearly enough to even scratch the surface of this country. But after a short rest in Ulaan Baatar we boarded the train for the last leg of the journey, across the Gobi and into Beijing.


No1. Ladies Opera House

I have a small confession to make. I perhaps wrote Gaborone off too early as having "no eating establishments". It's true that there are not many - but there are a few - hidden behind the desert scrub, over cattle grids and down dusty roads seemingly going nowhere. If you follow one of these roads on a beautiful spring Sunday morning you might happen upon the No1. Ladies Opera House.
Open from 10am-2pm serving a Buffet-style brunch complete with eggs and bacon made to order, waffles, cheese, scones tea, coffee and Mimosa's for those in a celebratory mood.
Turns out we were in the mood for a celebration. Allison, my new house-mate, was having a birthday. No oven in our temporary house so instead a cake was designed from elaborately stacked "Chocolate Crackles". Happy Birthday's were sung, toasts were made and then we got onto the business of passing a sunny Sunday afternoon in Gabs.


There's no MacDonalds in Botswana

There is Nando's and KFC and Chicken Licken' (notice the theme) but no MacDonalds. And there's actually not many of the Chicken-themed fast food restaurants either. Instead at lunch people eat "buffet" style from the street sellers. These pictures are taken at the Main Mall at lunchtime. People cook the food in their homes and then transport it in big silver catering trays and set up along the mall. Line up, grab a polystyrene tray (the environmental message hasn't made it to Botswana either), and fill up with beans, salad and... chicken stew.



There are three car horn sounds in Botswana. It took me three days of walking between work and my house to recognise them without looking. There is the 'beep' of the Kombi - the public transport system here - asking if you want to be picked up. There is the 'beep' of the private taxi, also asking if you want to be picked up (incidentally they will continue to pick people up until the taxi is full). And there is the 'beep' of the young man who wants to know your name and giggle. Mostly I choose not to respond to any and am content to walk.
But walking also has its challenges, which are somehow caged in a 1950s style etiquette. Yesterday while getting some lunch I was asked "Excuse me Ma, If you don't mind, would it be alright if I walked you up to the mall today?" Almost too sweet to refuse.



My new house doesn't have TV. There is also no internet. Consequently I have become a very productive knitter. I started this back in Boston but I was a bit too ambitious and ran out of yarn before the end. It required several hours of unpicking to get back to a place where I could knit up the last repeat without a problem.
It's my first attempt at a lace pattern and, I think, I'm happy with the result. My stitches were very uneven before blocking but now seem to have evened out nicely and all that it left if to sew in the loose ends.
I'm still comtemplating whether I should keep this or give it to the person it was originally intended. Until then, no finished pictures.


Past Travels - Trans-Siberian Railway

Trip: Trans-Siberian Railway
When: June 2005

The trans-siberian railway technically starts in Moscow, although most people begin their journey in St Petersburg, adding an additional "night" to the travel-time. There are three major routes over the continent:

Trans-Siberian: Moscow - Vladivostok
Trans-Manchurian: Moscow - Beijing, via northern China
Trans-Mongolian: Moscow - Beijing, via Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia

Whatever route you choose, it is a beast of a journey, the entire trip taking 7 days and 7 nights to complete. I did the trans-Mongolian stopping at Moscow (Day 2), Irkutsk (Day 4), Ulaan Bataar (Day 6) and Beijing. This is the only trip I have done with a tour group. I choose to use Intrepid Tours; we ended up being a group of eight people between the ages of 23 and 60 and all managed to get along well, although no lasting friendships were made. Travelling by myself it was the right choice, but I still have huge reservations about travel groups like Intrepid. It is now reasonably easy to organise the train tickets and visas yourself and with a little work it is not too difficult to arrange local guides to pick you up from the train station when you choose to disembark.

I'm going to skip over Moscow. Red Square is nice and the Kremlin, although very expensive, is fun to see but I never felt comfortable in Moscow. The place has a seedy feel and the people were, quite frankly, rude. But the Trans-Siberian...
Although the route has become somewhat of a tourist destination, it still has the romance and charm of old-style train travel. Bring a book and a map and watch as hills give way to steppes and tundra. Every four hours the train stops for 20 minutes and as the train guards walk up and down the train checking the train is still in working order, everyone disembarks for a stretch and to buy provisions from the stall holders. The stalls at these stations were one of my favourite things about the trip. Each station sold a different item - strawberries, bread, cucumbers - whatever was in season in the area. Apart from books and looking out the window there was plenty of vodka drunk with the locals on the train and the promise of delicious Brost, beetroot soup, from the dining cart at dinner.

After five nights and four days we disembarked in Irkutsk, eastern Siberia, stretched our legs and enjoyed the beautiful microclimate at Lake Bakal before heading onto Mongolia.


Past Travels - St Petersburg.

Trawling through the pictures I have stored on my computer at the moment I realised that I've traveled to quite a few places and have some photos that I'd love to share. I also discovered a new feature (well new to me) on my computer that allows me to make collages of my photos. So on that note, a new feature of this blog will be a post on some of my past travels. This is not meant to be an extensive travel log, nor necessarily a guide to these towns and place. It is more a place for me to remember and show my photos.

So without any further ramblings I begin with St Peterburg and the trans-siberian.

Trip: St Petersburg - Beijing (trans-siberian)

When: June 2005

St Petersburg deserves to be on everyone's list of places to visit. It looks like Europe with old Renaissance buildings and wide cobbled streets, but the atmosphere is decidedly Russian. St Petersburg was the former imperial city of the Russian Tsars and although when I visited, the city was a little run-down - chicken wire holding up building walls in some places and uniform Soviet-era cars - the grandeur of the buildings was still quite breath-taking.

The highlight for me was definitely the Hermitage. This enormous art museum has one of the biggest art collections in the world. The Romanovs' amassed a staggering amount of art work and there is now a rotating collection of the 3 million pieces (!) that form part of the collection. As a lover of art and old buildings I spent 2 days wandering the halls and soaking it all in. It is impossible to see it all - the Western European Art alone is housed in 120 rooms. If you want a sneak preview of the rooms, Alexander Sokurov's 2002 film Russian Ark is set in the museum.

The fountains at the Summer Palace (Crimea) and the raising of the bridges are also highlights. The Crimea is a little like Versaille, only there is this enormous fountain leading down to the river. You can see how big it is from some of my photos. This fountain is completely run using hydro power - no electricity at all. The raising of the bridges is a phenomenon all to itself. St Petersburg is built on some fairly low lying islands. In winter the rivers freeze, but in summer the waterways are still used by thousands of commercial boats. In order to allow the boats to pass freely between 1am-3am all the bridges in St Petersburg are raised. This has become somewhat of a tourist attraction. In June the sun doesn't ever really set in St Petersburg and against a dusky sky the bridges and river take on an almost ethereal appearance. As soon as the bridges are up literally hundreds of boats fill the riverway passing from the great Russian interior out into the sea.

Next stop was Moscow and the trans-siberian...


The Gaborone Yacht Club

Tucked away behind a barbed-wire fence and down a dusty ungraded road is the Gaborone Yacht Club. I'm fairly sure that the name is a joke, although the 'club' is next to the water and keeps a few kayaks for members. On a Friday night it's where the expats flock. And who can blame them, drinking a G&T on the patio seems to be a perfect way to celebrate a sunset like this.


This is Home

I've been thinking a lot about the concept of 'home' recently. It started way back in March when I flew back to Boston from Japan. Catching the bus back into town from the airport I was suddenly struck by the realisation that, although I was going back to my 'house', I didn't feel like I was returning 'home'. The realisation that I was 'home-less', in the most literal definition of the word, was not the liberating experience one might think and has since prompted many discussions with friends about concepts of 'home' and what home means to them.

I think I first became aware of the difference between 'house' and 'home' when I finally moved out of my parents house after university. Gradually over a period of months 'home' moved from Mum and Dads to Carlton and then North Melbourne. Their house, my old home, slowly became "mum and dads". It's a transition that I am sure everyone goes through, and for me, the switch from saying "going home" to "going to mum and dads" was as much for simplicity and to prevent confusion than anything else. But the change was none-the-less significant.

Moving to Boston, 'home' took on a new meaning that, more-or-less, encompassed the whole of Australia, rather than one city, or even a house. For the people that I spoke with it became a vague concept of a landmass straddling the Indian and Pacific Oceans. And for me it also changed. For the first time 'home', my home, had no physical structure but became a tangled web of people, places and smells. Home was Sunday dinner, good coffee, Brunswick Street, summer, trams, talking nephews and pregnant friends. But it was only after the bus ride back into Boston that I became consciously aware of the difference between 'house' and 'home'.

With all this thinking about house and home and having just moved into a new place in Botswana I was really surprised to come across this site today. This is home is a project by Christa and Jen which is documenting exactly this idea - what does home mean to you? They write:

If home is where the heart is, where is yours? A visual exploration of the
concept of 'home,' across continents, oceans and neighborhoods.

Until the 28th of August they are collecting phrases and images of what home means to you. At the end of the month they will compile readers favourites into a series of postcards. Head over to their site and check out some of the submissions already made. I'm also interested in what 'home' means to you, leave your comments below.

This is my new house, definitely not yet my 'home'. :)

Watching from the side line

This is the soccer oval opposite the hospital. Just out of view to the left are three concrete Volleyball courts. Every night when I leave the hospital there are people training on the oval and courts. I'm not sure who they are, but lots of people like this man (and me) stop and watch as they go about their drills and exercises.

I'm slowly getting used to living in Gabs. Yesterday I moved into my house - its a 3 bedroom apartment in the Village Apartments compound I'm sharing with two American girls. It's not flash my any means and reminds me a lot of cheap student housing - the walls need a paint, the carpet is coming up - but it appears to be fairly standard for Gaborone. The place has had different expats moving in and out over the last few years. It is clear that it has been temporary living for most people - the furniture is cheap and the walls are bare. On the weekend I'm planning buying a few things to make if feel more "homey".


From the Botswana HIV/AIDS Handbook 2008

Lots of reading going on at the moment. Reading protocols, reading handbooks, reading more protocols. Feel like I have an never-ending jumble of inclusion and exclusion criteria in my head. Today I'm reading the Botswana HIV/AIDS Handbook. It's a fairly mundane read articulating treatment regimes, definitions for when to start and stop treatment etc etc. But one thing caught my eye, and perhaps gives a small insight into the uphill battle that is being faced in trying to reduce the burden of HIV in this country.

Sexual myths and misconceptions often interfere with safe sex messages, and

must be addressed candidly with patients. Such myths include the following:

o A woman with a wet or well-lubricated vagina is promiscuous, and

application of agents to decrease such wetness—which results in “dry

sex”—is necessary to prevent the impression of promiscuity.

o Self-masturbation is unnatural, or a cause of loss of fertility or energy.

o Sex with a virgin or infant will cure HIV infection.

o Condoms have worms or spread HIV.

o Condoms have large pores which permit HIV transmission.

o Showering after unprotected intercourse will prevent HIV infection.

Have a good weekend!



It's been a bumpy few days. My arrival in Botswana was less than welcoming. A driver picked me up from the airport (very good, positive feelings all round) - and then dropped me off at the hotel saying "see you Monday". It's safe to say that Gaborone isn't the most happening of places on the weekend and with no clear idea of where I was in relation to the rest of the city it was a little isolating. To top it all off - no money. VISA runs a monopoly on the ATMs in Botswana and unless you have a VISA electronic card the ATMs refuse to give you money. So, with only Mastercard and Cirrus as my trusty plastic and American dollars in cash, which no one wanted to touch on the weekend, I was left to wonder the streets and eat at the hotel restaurant.
So far work has also been a little disappointing. The Botswanan's are polite, but distant and have a habit of not informing you about what is going on. I'm still not really sure what I'm doing here, although I have read the protocol of the '1066' trial that I'm supposed to be working on. Was told today that we can go ahead and recruit people, but the trial has strict inclusion criteria and after 4 months they haven't recruited anyone. Hmm...
On the up side the weather is lovely and I'm getting lots of time to think about my next move, which may be sooner than expected.