More Care Packages!

So lucky this week - two gifts arriving on separate days. This one bringing back memories from a few months ago when I went to the Auchentellar exhibition at the Leopold Museum in Vienna. The gift - a poster advertising the event. Looking forward to ironing it out and putting it on my wall.

Since starting this post on Friday Botswana has been struck by thunderstorms which have put both home and work internet out of action. Currently I'm quickly posting at the local Italian restaurant. Because...

I am an aunty again!

Welcome to the world Otto Murray!

It's the eve of Independence Day celebrations in Botswana. I'm taking the rest of the week off and heading to Madikwe Game Reserve in South Africa. See you next week!


We Heart Books Giveaway

Just a quick post and plug for We Heart Books, who are giving away this book by Wilkins Farago on their site this week. All you have to do is visit Wilkins Farago Website, choose the book that you like the most and leave a comment on We Heart Books blog saying which book you like the best. Easy huh?

We Heart Books is an awesome blog for people looking for books for the small people in their lives. Katie (my sister) and Lou do an amazing job and I am more than happy to plug their site. I especially love the When We Were Little posts on Sundays, which review books from their, and guest bloggers, childhoods. It is so lovely to re-discover books that you loved - all the memories come flooding back and it is as if you were sitting, snuggled up in bed reading them for the first time again.

Go on - check them out!


  • From the Merriam-webster Online Dictionary

  • Now:
  • Pronunciation: \ˈnau\
  • Function: adverb
  • Etymology: Middle English, from Old English nū; akin to Old High German now, Latin nunc, Greek nyn
  • Date: before 12th century
1 a : at the present time or moment b : in the time immediately before the present "thought of them just now" c : in the time immediately to follow : "come in now"

In Botswana:

Now: \nau\
1. at sometime in the future, perhaps.
Just Now: \jus nau\
1. soon
Now Now: \nau nau\
1. Very soon, it may be urgent
Now-Now Now-Now Now-Now: \nau-nau nau-nau nau-nau\
1. Probably I should have told you five minutes ago and we should have done something about it then


Advanced Style

Advanced Style is fast becoming one of my favourite blogs. The blog is based in New York, but does receive submissions from around the world. I love the concept - celebrating fashion and style at all ages. You can see how much joy and excitement these men and women get from having their pictures taken and being recognised by 'someone'.

One of my favourite blogs to date is the one below.

Mary, who I met on the street the other day looking sharp in Nanette Lepore, came to visit me at The New Museum with her friend Doris. I asked them about how they met, and the two let me in on a little of their history.

Mary: We've been friends for about 30 years.
Doris: We worked together at the Whitney Art Museum.
Mary: I was fired for insubordination.
Doris: I offered to help her fight for her job--
Mary: And she had a very high position there! But I didn't want her to have to fight for it, because of my boss. He was nicknamed "Lobotomy."

As Mary and Doris have advanced in age, they've maintained an appreciation for each other's fashion sense, and still firmly believe in looking their best every day.


Granny Squares

Is this is sign that crochet is truly making a come-back onto the fashion scene?

Cate Blanchett stepped out at the 'Screen Worlds' red-carpet opening in Melbourne last week wearing a Granny Square inspired dress by designer 'Romance was Born'. To be honest, I don't really like it. But in general I like Cate Blanchett's original style and how she chooses to actively promote up-and-coming Australian designers. And it did get me to visit the 'Romance was Born' website, where I found that they also have designed a granny square bag, which I think I like much more.


Friday Night

Flickr: Mamabaig

Last night I helped a girl walk away from a car crash that should have "sent her to heaven", as the policeman said. It was a Friday night and she had been drinking. She sped around a corner, over corrected on a turn and sent her car, at unknown speed, rolling into an open drain 1 metre deep.

She was lucky for so many reasons.
She was lucky there was no one else driving in the opposite direction.
Lucky she was the only one in the car.
Lucky that she had friends 5 minutes away who hadn't been drinking
Lucky that the police took an hour to come, by which stage she had left for the hospital.
Lucky that no one breathalysed her.
Lucky that the doctor didn't ask her how much she'd been drinking.
Lucky she was in a new car with dual air bags.
Lucky that the only reminder of last night will be a scar just above her eye. A scar caused by airbags that stopped her from cracking her head on the windscreen.
She is lucky to have her life.

Lots of expats drink drive in Botswana and last night I couldn't help thinking, what is it about living away from 'home' that makes people think it is okay to drink and drive? Most expats come from countries where there is such stigma attached to drink driving that people will take away your keys and threaten to call the police if you even consider getting in a car after drinking. And yet, here, away from home there is an attitude of immortality; being Cowboys above and beyond both the laws of nature and country laws.
I was so cross with this girl. I am glad that she is okay. I am glad that my medical training allowed me to briefly compartmentalise my emotions and get on with what was required - treating her shock, assessing her injuries (none), and getting her to hospital for stitches. But for the first time I really realised that if you drink and drive you are not only endangering those on the road around you, but you jeopardise relationships with friends and family. The girl, K, walked away with her life, but she damaged friendships last night. Many, I think, won't recover.
And friends aren't that easy to come by in Gabs.


Glimpses of Knitting

As promised a little glimpse of what I've been up to. Most of my knitting is destined for presents so I'm reluctant to show full shots. But this shot captures some of my first attempts at crochet. I have a few pieces of yarn leftover from bigger projects and I'm having fun experimenting with different designs with the thought of perhaps turning them into brooches - perhaps with some old funky buttons in the middle. Perfect for a hat, bag or jacket.


Funeral Protector

I'm a little bit quiet this week. Internet has been malfunctioning at work. A thunder storm last week seems to have put everything into chaos.
This is another reality of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Botswana. With a prevalence rate of around 30% most people have a friend or family member affected by HIV. While anti-retrovirals have done much to stem the mortality rate from the virus, people still die. Most jobs have a funeral allowance written into the contract, income insurance protects "loved ones even when your gone" and there is something called "Funeral Protector", which I can only imagine is 'funeral insruance'.

On a brighter note, with all the time I have at the moment I'm spending lots of time knitting. Will try to snap a few photos tonight to show-off some of the things that I'm making.


More Animals

Baby (!) Rhino

Female Odu

Male Odu

Warthog (Akuna Matata)

After Saturday's taste of some African animals at the Gabs Game Reserve, on Sunday I spent a few hours at Mokolodi. Mokolodi is much bigger than Gabs Game Reserve, but still too small for predators. Driving around in a borrowed 4WD watching Impala and Wilderbeast chomping on grass was nice, but the true 'treat' came at the end when I nearly ran over the Rhinos asleep beside the road.


For Rowan

My nephew Rowan loves David Attenborough at the moment. Yesterday I went to the Gaborone Game Reserve for a late afternoon picnic where we saw some Impala.



Anyone who reads this blog even a little bit will notice that there's been a few changes going on. After changing my picture to some Peonies, I've gone back to a picture of Botswana. My sister, in a way that sister's can only do, commented that the Peonies looked like a funeral ad. Nice! But honest at least. Personally I love Peonies and this picture reminds me of the Montreal Botanical Gardens (which are amazing) and traveling over the summer and all things lovely. Apparently it doesn't really do that for anyone else. Of course I could have ignored her comment, but she is my big sister, which made any attempt at ignoring her futile. I would have looked at those Peonies everyday and thought "does it really look like a funeral Ad? Really? No. But maybe?" So a Botswana sunset it is. Maybe it will change again. I am open to all suggestions and comments.
Thought I would quickly share photos of lunch yesterday. This is pretty standard Setswana lunch. Pap served with chicken, gravy and vegetables. Yesterday's vegetables were spinach (hot) and beetroot (cold). The menu doesn't change very much - the variation comes in the type of vegetable served - you get two teaspoons of vegetables and so far I have had mashed pumpkin, salad, canned corn, spinach, beetroot, coleslaw and potatoes. Potatoes are a vegetable, not a starch here.

You can also change your carbohydrate, although I generally stick to Pap. Pap is maize, I think. It's a porridge type mixture that is made over the stove with lots of stirring and mixing. It's the stuff that's being made in the all the documentaries you see on TV about African villages. You know, where the women are all pounding something cooking on the open fire? Well that's Pap, or a variation on the theme. It's a gelatinous, porridge. Like oat porridge when you've left it standing too long and it gets cold and jelly-like. It tastes like it looks (bland), but seems better than the brownish-Pap, which is made with black-eyed peas, or the white corn porridge, which has whole pieces of corn in it and for some reason make me sick.
Served with a soft drink the price is 21 pula (AUS$4). Pap fills you up. The nutritional content is probably incredibly small, I'm not sure if you even digest the stuff. But it sits in your stomach and keeps to full throughout the day.



This weekend I:
Read - No1 Ladies Detective Agency
Watched - 7 pounds
Ate - BBQ chicken, corn and salad at a 'Braii' (BBQ)
Drank - Gin and Tonic
Visited - The Norware Pottery School Teapot Exhibition

And sneezed and coughed through a packet of tissues!


I nearly got cross today. Nearly. But I didn't. Kind of.

Moko, who is really very nice, came into my office muttering something about holidays in December and people going away and needing to have doctors to cover the clinics. To which I didn't respond. But internally the clogs were beginning to turn. You see, I've been asking for my annual leave forms for over a week now. And each time someone says "Yes Ma, we'll print it out for you straight away". Well straight away doesn't necessarily mean the same thing here and seeing that I had already verbally stated to at least half a dozen people that I would be taking annual leave over Christmas and New Year I didn't think much of it. But then verbal agreement and a stamped, dated and signed form also mean very different things here. And then Moko arrived mumbling something about annual leave and him being owed 24 days and Dr Michael having two weeks already planned.

There were so many things that I could have said about what I thought about his idea and how things operate here and whether my role in the organisation was really supposed to be "substitute physician", which is what it is currently. But I calmly looked at him and said "I took this position on the provision and understanding that I would be returning to Australia over Christmas and New Year. I am happy to help out at any other time, but won't be in the country in the last two weeks of December." It is possible that sparks flew out of my eyes and I morphed into a fire-breathing dragon as I said that. I felt like me, but Moko looked a little shocked, bashful and then quietly left my office mumbling that he would sort thing out with the other doctors.



I'm traditionally not much of a bird person. But, I have become fascinated by the birds in Botswana. They have the most vivid colours. Against the backdrop of the dusty scrub and Acacia bushes the colours really 'pop' and look so lovely. Today I spotted some turquoise breasted birds (wrens??) scavenging in the dirt and was mystified for a good five minutes. This gold breasted bird held my attention a couple of days ago. I am told that as it cools in the northern hemisphere there will be a veritable riot of bird activity here, especially once the rains begin. Never thought I would say this, but I'm slightly excited.


Her Story, Told by Me

Photo by Mike Blythe (Flickr)

I've thought a lot about whether I should tell this story. In the end I decided that I should. This is Africa and this is an African story. Nothing will change in the telling of this story, although sharing it gives this woman a voice. And a voice is important.

As a prelude it is worth mentioning Zimbabwe. Hyperinflation, economic meltdown and human rights abuses have characterised Zimbabwean governance for over a decade. In March this year the Zimbabwean dollar was removed from currency. The South African Rand and American dollar are now used in an attempt to stabilise hyperinflation. Although the South African government has relaxed the Zimbabwe-South African border it offers no formal assistance to refugees. There are also refugee camps offering some support on the Botswanan border, although in general the Botswanan government and Motswanans are hostile to Zimbabwean refugees. If Zimbabweans make it to Gaborone they are on their own and risk being herded up, put into buses and taken back to the border. Prejudice and racism are widespread. The Zimbabwean refugees are blamed for petty crime, burglaries, taking Motswanan jobs, taking their women and anything else vaguely derogatory.

So with this background I begin a story about her. She is Zimbabwean and she is poor. Possibly she was always poor, but now she is very poor. I was told that she used to sell fresh vegetables and fruit door-to-door, carrying a tray of fruit on her back and walking the wealthier neighbourhoods of Gaborone barefoot. This was her second job, her first was washing clothes for a Motswanan. She worked up until the day she gave birth to her daughter. Then she lost her job. The Motswanans keep their newborns inside for 60 days after birth. If they survive they are brought out to greet the world amongst great celebration. To be seen with a newborn outside of the house is considered unlucky to you, your child and those who see you. She could also no longer sell fruit.

Three months later she presented to a friend of mine from Gaborone and offered her 200 pula for the baby. Two hundred pula is a little less than AUS$40. She had no support in Gaborone, no money and was eating Pap (maize porridge) once a day. I became involved as a doctor to assess the baby and the mother. With no legal rights in Botswana she was too scared to attend a clinic in case they reported her and sent her back to Zimbabwe. I am pleased that I can say the baby was fine. A little hungry and perhaps a little dehydrated, but healthy and clearly bonding with her mum. We gave the mother food, offered her baby clothes and cleaning products and constant access to my medical services. We offered to try to find her a job. Then we sent her on her way and hoped for the best.

This is Africa and this is an African story. There are thousands of stories like this and to single one person out to help somehow seems like removing a grain of sand from the desert and expecting it to become an Oasis. But it is something. It is worth adding that this lady and her baby were living in a single room of a house with four other mothers and their children. Each paid 150 pula/month to use the room (750 pula/month for the room). This does not include water or electricity. The women choose to pay extra (50 pula/month each) for water. I pay 2700 pula/month for a double room in a house with a lounge room, dining room, kitchen, running water, electricity, cable TV, internet, air-conditioning, bathroom, pool, lock-up garage, security and a full-time maid who on top of the usual "house-cleaning work" washes my dishes, cleans and irons my clothes and when my shelves get too messy, refolds and stacks my clothes neatly. Someone is getting a raw deal and it isn't me.

There is not much I can do for this women, but in telling her story I give her a voice.


Past Travels - London

I'm moving away from the exotic to what, for many Australians, is a staple travel destination. I have a love-hate relationship with London. I've visited many times, lived there a few. It's a city that I'm drawn to. And yet. London and I don't completely gel. The first time I visited (excluding when I lived there as a baby and can't remember a thing) I was backpacking on the cheap. I spent a month living in a hostel with six other roommates, working as a secretary for the NHS. It was February. I earnt 10 pounds an hour and was saving for my european travels. It is possible that I wouldn't have enjoyed living anywhere during those circumstances. The last time I was there was this summer and an all together different experience. The weather behaved, I caught up with some old friends, ate, drank, spent an afternoon on the terrace overlooking the Thames, did lots of people watching and generally had a wonderful time. And yet I left thinking, that the reason London was so nice was becuase I got to see old friends and eat, drink and generally be merry.

Here is my love-hate list:

Borough Market
Free Museums
Tate Modern
Victoria and Albert
Friends who live there
Black Cabs (if you can afford them, they are wonderful)

Bad weather
Noone smiles