I hate airports. I don't mind flying but the whole getting to the airport, going through security and then getting onto the plane gives me the 'willy's'. Airports seem to be a place where all my silly fears and insecurities collide and expand making me feel awful. Firstly, I hate being late. The thought of missing a plane or being called over the loudspeaker instantly sends butterflies to my stomach. I have been known to arrive at airports hours too early, rather than risk having to rush at the last minute.*

Secondly, I like to be in control. The whole handing over your passport, luggage, "self" to an airline and expect them to get you to the right place at the (a-hem) right time, with everything left the same way as you packed it, is a leap of faith that makes me feel uneasy.

Thirdly, I have no trust in the security people. I don't mean in terms of keeping the "nasties" off the plane. Post September-11 'Airport Security' has become somewhat of a growth market for poorly-educated, presumably not very bright men and women. And these people have p-o-w-e-r. They can take your stuff, they can ask you to empty the contents of your carry-on for the world to see. They can ask you to take off your clothes**. In the States they take your fingerprints and photograph as if you are a criminal. And there is nothing you can do - because if you question it, their response could quite likely be to take away your ticket and stop you from flying.

Lastly, I think they are some of the loneliest places in the world. So many good-byes, so many long empty corridors, so many hours to wander around waiting for your connection. Especially when you have a layover when its 3am local time and the corridors are empty, the shops shut and just a sole cleaning man keeping the departure gates company. Once I've got over the anxiety of actually getting to the airport I'm always left with an overwhelming sense of sadness about the place. So cold and, well, lonely.

Thankfully, I have no such problems with planes and once I'm on the plane I usually settle down and start getting excited about where I'm going to and the movies and my book.

So good-bye Botswana. Hello Berlin.

* I'm slightly worried about today in this regard as my lovely housemate who is taking me to the airport has said that it doesn't really matter when you arrive in Gabs, she once arrived for an international flight 5 minutes before it was due to leave and they let her on.

** I was once flagged as a 'suspicious person' on a trip (I flew to the states from London for 5 days with visas for Russia, Mongolia and China). Every flight I took I was "randomly selected" by airport security for additional security searches. After the third time the phrase "randomly selected" didn't mean very much.



Something is wrong with my computer, or the Internet connection. Or both.
I can't attach anything - photos, links. Formatting is also out the window.

Hmm.. but Design Sponge doesn't seem to be having any of these problems and today they are celebrating all things wonderful and arty in Flinders Lane.
Yep, the beautiful New York Design blog has come to Melbourne.

PS - I fixed it!

And in the process of fixing I discovered something new about my computer. Apparently the "preferences" section of the Internet where you select different security options works. And 'java plug-ins' are needed for formatting and attaching pictures using Blogger. Who woulda' thunk it? I switched these off in a vain attempt to get something else to work on the Internet this morning and, well, that stopped gmail and blogger working properly.

But back to Design*Sponge. Check out their post on Flinders Lane in Melbourne. Such beautiful pictures and unique art. On my list of places to revisit in December.


My Week

I'm busy packing and sending boxes and saying good-byes. Good-byes to friends and, of course, good-byes to all my favourite Gabs haunts. Today lunch at the Nursery, followed by dinner at the Beef Baron (where, not surprisingly they cook delicious steak). On Wednesday it's Quiz night at the pub, Thursday it's Italian and Friday I'm off. Phew - exhausted just thinking about it!

Photo by Freckled Beauty on Flickr

While looking for an appropriate picture on Flickr I stumbled on Freckled Beauties blog. She takes lovely pictures and blogs about things that she makes. These luggage tags were made for an up-coming trip and I'm a little jealous that I don't have any like this to put on my suitcases on Friday.


My African Dream

Last night I attended the finale of My African Dream - Botswana's version of 'You've got Talent'. It was a swish affair at the GICC (Gaborone International Convention Centre) with a three-course buffet meal, drinks and, of course talent. Everyone tried incredibly hard and there were a few knock-out performances, including some incredible Beyonce-style dancing by a seven-year-old.

But the winner was this 14 year old boy from Seretse, who sang Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. It was a lovely night and a great opportunity for some young Motswanas to shine on stage.


Botswana's Best: The Music


Music is a strong part of Botswana culture. Walking through Main Mall at lunchtime you float from church chorals, to traditional african drum beats and then onto what I'm going to term 'modern African'. Modern African incorporates the rhythmic drums of traditional dancing with electronic beats and rap singing. It gets into your bones and wills you to dance. It's infectious and even on a bad day you can't help but be uplifted.


Moving on

I booked my ticket. I leave 30th October, which coincidentally will be exactly three months to the day from when I moved to Botswana. Next stop - Berlin. Four continents in two years. If the thought sounds exhausting, well, it is. Berlin will mean a new job, new house, new language (yikes!) but also a new chapter of my life. Lots of exciting things in store!



I want to write about Zimbabwe. And yet I don't. I've posted a few times in the last month about the Zimbabwean refugees. I had some idea about what what going on in Zimbabwe but nothing prepared me for my visit to Victoria Falls. I actually wasn't all that keen to go to the 'Zim-side', I wanted to see the falls from Zambia. I didn't want to support Mugabe's government with my park entrance and visa fees. But our travel agent organised a tour to Zim, and it was too hard to change it once we got to Kanase. I'm not sure why I feel the need to point this out, because I still went, so clearly my political boycotting can be bought. Fairly cheaply too.

But I digress.

As soon as we reached Victoria Falls township it was clear that this was not the place it had once been. This is a town that once bustled. Victoria Falls Hotel was listed in the top 10 most luxurious hotels in the 1980s. There are still several five-star hotels located on the main street. They have guards outside, but no guests. The place is a ghost town. The streets were empty of cars, excluding the tourist safari vans, and locals walked around with bare feet, sitting under trees playing board games made from old cardboard and bottle tops.

First stop was a Baubab tree that is 1800 years old. David Livingstone, who is credited with "discovering" the falls, talks about this tree in his journal. It's pretty famous as trees go and everyone stops for the requisite picture (the tree is huge - approximately 10m wide). From out of the bush came these men.

It reminded me of Cambodia, only they were more desperate.

Many of them didn't want money. They wanted my socks. And my pen. And my t-shirt. Would I trade my socks for such-and-such. What about a pen for a sister who needs it for school?

These men were so desperate that even after we got back into the minivan they kept trying to make a sale. The door was closed on them by our tour guide, their hands still reaching inside in case we might suddenly change our minds.

It's hard not to be affected by such desperation.

But then the falls. Magnificent even at the end of the dry season. The surrounding area is a national park and there are no gaudy signs or tacky tourist stands to prevent you from fully enjoying the natural beauty of the place. There are well maintained paths stopping at various vantage points so you can meditate, take pictures and marvel. The falls provide an otherwise arid area with a humidity and mist that allows green (green!) plants to grow and the whole place is, well, a wonder of the world.

I know that I'm getting a bit prophetic but it is perhaps the contrast between the falls and the township that is so stark. We 'lunched' (sic) at Victoria Falls Hotel. This place is really the only place to eat in the town now, so most tour groups stop here. The once exclusive hotel has been reduced to serving lunch to backpackers.

There is still very much an old-world colonial charm to this place. The lunch terrace looks over manicured lawns, out to the gorge and the bridge separating Zambia and Zimbabwe. When the falls have more water, mist drifts up from the gorge in large billowing clouds obscuring the bridge. It is still a very special place to have lunch. And yet. There are locals outside asking for my socks and my pens for artwork that must have taken hours, if not day to finish. Most of the people eating lunch were white with a smattering of middle-class African tourists. I couldn't hep wondering if this is what Mugabe envisaged.

Botswana's Best: Sunsets

The pictures speak for themselves. I'm not sure if it's the dust, the dry heat or the proximity to the equator but every night there is a glorious sunset to be oodled over with a Gin and Tonic.

Every cloud has a Silver lining, Kasane.
Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa

Pair of African Sea-Eagles watch the sunset, Kasane.

Gaborone Yacht Club, Gaborone.

Chobe River, Kasane.


The Elections

Lining up to vote in Kasane.

Just thought I'd let you all know - as predicted Ian Khama won the national elections on Friday. It was a land-slide victory with The BDP (Botswana Democratic Party) winning 45 seats to the BNF (Botswana National Front) 4 and BCP (Botswana Congress Party) 5. So it's Khama for another fives years.

Botswana's Best: A Twitter Paradise

So I'm leaving in two weeks and I thought as a challenge to myself I would post about things that I like about this country and part of the world. Because, despite everything that has made this past 3 months difficult, this place deserves more than I have perhaps allowed it.

First up - the birds. It is impossible not to fall in love with Botswana's birds. At this time of year there are hundreds of different species migrating from the northern hemisphere. The city has the constant soundtrack of bird calls and the colours are magnificent. Even the most cynical people pretending to be 'too cool for school' have been known to quietly state that they saw 'such-and-such' a bird on the way to work.

1. African Skimmer 2. African Jacana (Jesus Bird) 3. Ostrich 4. African Sea Eagel 5. Helmeted Guineafowl (Chobe chicken)

6. Vulture

1. African Ibis 2. Open-billed Stalk 3. Egyptian Goose 4. Black Darter (Snake Bird) 5. Open-billed Stalk & Spoonbill 6. Spoonbill
1. Orange-breasted 2. Lilac-brested Roller 3. Glossy Starling 4. Cape Weaver 5. Vultures 6. Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill


My Weekend

A wonderful weekend by all accounts. Thought I'd quickly post a few pictures before tomorrow. Hope everyone enjoyed their weekends as much as I did mine.
The Falls

Rainbow Falls - good safety

Impala and Puku on the Chobe flats

Hungry, Hungry Hippos

African Sunset


Victoria Falls

Last tourist trip in Botswana before I leave. This weekend is the Botswana national elections (a surprisingly unexciting afair where 1.8 million Batswana go to the polls and vote the same guy back in). But they have public holiday for the casting of votes, which means a long weekend for expats. And so I'm flying up to Chobe National Park and Victoria Falls.

Have a good weekend.


Scottish Livingstone Hospital

The hospital where I work in Molepolole recently got an upgrade. Almost overnight the old missionary hospital was abandoned for the new, government-owned hospital across the road. The old buildings have been left, almost exactly as they were. It is possible to walk through the corridors of the old building and across the covered walk-ways. It's an eerie place, and yet beautiful at the same time. Slowly the bougainvillea, dust and rain are wearing this place down. But for now, time stands still and you can almost, not quite, but almost still feel the people who worked, lived, died and invariably prayed within these walls.


The Tuck Shop

When I was little the tuck shop was a place where you bought food when you had forgotten (or were lucky enough) to be able to buy your lunch from school. Sports clubs also had tuck shops where you could by drinks and pasties, but that was pretty much the only places that I ever saw or heard of them. I was quite surprised when I found that there are tuck shop's everywhere in Botswana. Here they function almost like a Milk Bar or corner store, rather than the school tuck shop that we know in Australia.

I've always been interested in the etymology of words. I think that they add depth and insight in a places culture and history. For instance, the best way to determine if Vitamin A deficiency is endemic to a region is to ask if the community has a specific word for "night blindness". This seemingly adhoc test has been proven to be more sensitive than many scientific approaches as Vitamin A is notoriously difficult to measure in the lab.

But I digress. The similar use of the word 'tuck shop' in Botswana and Australia made me reflect on our common colonial past and ponder where the word originated. Naturally I turned to the most accurate and knowledgeable place that I know - Wikipedia. Wiki says that the term "tuck" (closely related to the work "tucker") is probably slang for "to tuck into a meal". The Tuck Family operated several food businesses in England between 1780-1850 and there are documented paintings with 'Tuck' written over their doors (hence 'Tuck Shop'). Two of the brother's emigrated to Australia and set up food shops there, and the rest, implies Wiki, is history. But this doesn't really explain why the word is so prolific in southern Africa. Even after extensive searches I can't really find any more information on the net.

My best guess is that the word 'tuck' became popular as a word for snack foods and was then sent around the world as the British colonised the empire. These small shops gained popularity in southern Africa as places to sell small items, particularly in townships and villages where land ownership was forbidden during British colonial rule. In Botswana, these shops now sell everything - single cigarettes, cans of beer, cans of soft drink, 'air time' (prepaid phone time), sweets, fruit... almost anything that can be sold in singular form is sold there. And these ones that I snapped in a rural village just outside of Gaborone were all painted lovely colours as well!



This post is long and a bit of a rant. You have been warned.
Yesterday I handed in my resignation. I am sad and I am relieved. This job has been a learning experience, although not the one that I imagined when I boarded the plane in July.

I had high expectations for this job. Harvard-Botswana AIDS Institute with a big research engine with links to an even bigger research engine in Boston. My work was to be assisting with paediatric HIV trials associated with IMPAACT. IMPAACT is a massive international research group, supported by PEPFAR and NIH. I hoped to learn how these trials operate in resource-constrained settings. I also hoped to carve out some research of my own. I thought that these were not unreasonable expectations.

What I got was an office.

After six weeks of agitating for work, speaking to the 'big boss' in Boston and emailing various people a colleague managed to set me up with one day of clinical work at a district hospital working in the Paediatric Infectious Disease (HIV/AIDS) Clinic. This work had nothing to do with Harvard-Botswana HIV/AIDS Institute, or research, but it did give me an opportunity to learn about HIV/AIDS treatment in a clinical setting.

What about the research? Well, the IMPAACT trials were struggling to get through ethics review and my independent research was curtailed by a lack of enthusiasm from my superiors. I do not have the knowledge of Botswana's medical system nor the research know-how to set up a research project single-handedly. I am a junior researcher and, almost by definition, need support, guidance and encouragement. What I got were emails from 'busy people' too busy to "take on another mentee", or allow me access to their data for secondary or teritary research questions.

I am stubborn and even despite these set backs I tried to 'make it work'. I let one month become two and then three. I really wanted this to work. And I feel like I pushed every option and opportunity to its limit. It was only going down to Cape Town and the FIGO conference earlier this week that I realised how despondent and demotivated I had become. I finally accepted that I was not only wasting my time in Botswana, but also wasting valuable research dollars on my income.

And so I resigned. My last day is the 30th October.


Where are the Hunting Dogs?

When I posted some pictures a few weeks ago from Gaborone Game Reserve my nephew was unimpressed with the Impala, asking "Where are the Hunting Dogs?" Well at Madikwe we were lucky enough to spot them playing by one of the watering holes.
And guess what? They were still fighting over the last bits of dinner - yep, Impala!


Mosetla Bush Camp

As promised, more on my trip to Madikwe Game Reserve. Veronica and Scott were visiting from Uganda and we had a lovely 3 nights at Mosetla Bush Camp. The camp is in the middle of the Reserve and despite no electricity or running water it was definitely "glamping" and not "camping".

Inside a deliciously warm and comfortable bed and more Oil Lamps. Plus a "potty" in case you woke in the middle of the night and weren't game to walk across the camp to the long-drop and potentially meet a lion or two. Thankfully there I had no such need and didn't need to romanticise about being in the 1800's where 'going potty' was still all the rage.

Meals were cooked on the open fire. The Poikje (black pot) is a feature of South African cooking and out of this pot came the most lovely beef and vegetable stew.

Keeping to the 'glamping' theme - this was where communal dinner was served. Again lit my Oil Lamp. I felt slightly sorry for the man who had to light the 110 lights every night, but it did make the place look so nice.

More on the animals - there were lots! But the winner in my opinion was definitely the Giraffe. So clumsily elegant (is this possible?). I could watch them all day.



Three days of Safari in a rustic no-electricity, no running water lodge. Close enough to camping to make me feel like I was "roughing" it but still with the features of a luxury lodge. This is just a taste - more picture and stories to come. Tomorrow I'm off to Cape Town on "business".