Tag Archives: travel

Workshop in Kang

30 Oct

I spent the majority of the month in October working at a skills workshop in Kang. The block training workshop was part of a government initiative to give marketable skills to students with physical and mental disabilities. I went with my supervisor and one of Gantsi Craft’s producers (and her adorable child) to teach a group of 12 students how to make ostrich eggshell jewelry. Other skills that were being taught at the workshop included recycled crafts, pottery, horticulture, hospitality and flower arrangement.

Here is the production process that we taught the students (please visit my Tumblr for pictures of each step!):

Step 1: Break the ostrich eggshell into shards.

Step 2: Break the shards into small squares and triangles. These new pieces (the beads) should each be approximately 0.5cm x 0.5cm. The shards are broken by pressing the outside edges of two shells against each other.

Step 3: Drill holes into the bead. This is one using a long stick with a nail on the end of it (called a drilling stick). The stick is rubbed very quickly between both hands (as if you are rubbing your hands together to keep them warm) while gently putting pressure downward.

Step 4: Widen the hole. This is done with a smaller version of the drilling stick.

Step 5: String the beads onto a plastic string.

Step 6: Cut the beads into equal-sized circles. Traditionally, this was done using a springbok (animal similar to an antelope) horn, but now producers use nail clippers to be more efficient.

Step 7: Smoothen the beads. This is done by laying the string of beads on a plank of wood, then rubbing the beads with a filing stone. Traditionally, producers used stones, but now they use the filing stones to be more efficient.

Step 8: Dyeing the beads. This step is optional, and producers only dye the beads they want coloured. Beads can be dyed tan, brown, or black, by frying them.

Step 9: Make jewelry! I didn’t post any pictures of this since I have used my beads to make some gifts and don’t want to spoil the surprise. However, producers have creative freedom over what pieces to create and many pieces are inspired by animals and nature. I highly recommend that you all check out Gantsi Craft’s website and take a look at all the wonderful jewelry!


Since I had never been taught how to make our ostrich eggshell products and none of the students spoke English, I was pretty much useless in helping to facilitate. It was pretty frustrating knowing that I wasn’t contributing anything, but I still really enjoyed learning the process. I think that it was valuable for me to attend, since by learning the production process, I now have a greater understanding of our producers and of our products, which will help me with all my other work this year. In all, I am very happy that I had the opportunity to go, as I learned a lot and made many new friends, but I am excited to finally be back in Ghanzi, and I am settling into my new house.

Shakawe Adventure and Cultural Illiteracy

3 Oct

Botswana celebrated its independence this weekend, and so I had a 4-day weekend. After looking into a few options for things to do, another Canadian volunteer, Julia, and I decided to go visit Heather and Kelsey in Shakawe. We would take the 5:30am bus from Ghanzi Saturday morning, and hopefully get to Shakawe around lunch time. 

Friday afternoon Julia texted me saying that she was sick with a fever and wouldn’t be able to travel with me. So, I was on my own to navigate getting halfway across Botswana (sorry Mom, didn’t tell you this so that you wouldn’t worry!) For an extra little celebration, I was taken out to the bar and the club in Ghanzi – quite an experience! I will have to publish a list of the 10 best (or worst) pick-up lines I got, because boy were they interesting. But, as the rest of my weekend will show, for every man with a creepy pick-up line, there are 10 genuinely nice people that just want to help out. 

So, Saturday morning I arrived at the bus station and see a huge crowd on the platform for the bus to Maun. When the bus came, all hell broke loose. It was very difficult but I somehow ended up on the bus, and someone was nice enough to give me a seat next to them. After an uneventful bus ride, I got off at Sehitwa shortly after 8 – we had missed the connecting bus to Shakawe. 

So I waited. The 9 o’clock bus was completely full and drove by. Then the 10 o’clock. I was told that since it was the long weekend, this is how it would be all day. Great. So I was foreign, confused, and stranded in a random town in the middle of the desert in Botswana. Oh, and my phone was dead. So I did what anyone would do in my situation – I stuck my hand out and tried to hitch a lift. 

A woman saw me trying to hitch, and asked me where I was going. She was also from Ghanzi and going to Shakawe, and she told me that she would be my friend and she would get me there with her. A couple of men saw this and clearly took pity on me, because they also started helping me by talking to drivers that stopped and yelling at the ones that didn’t (I asked them what they were yelling, and it was something along the lines of “You won’t even stop for the white girl?!”) After about 45 minutes, my new friend Brenda and I got lucky. Two men were driving with 2 kids all the way to Shakawe and had room for us. Oh, and the car was air conditioned. 

I used Brenda’s phone to text the girls, and I successfully arrived in Shakawe around 1:30. We just relaxed during the afternoon, and planned on going to the Miss Independence Beauty Pageant at night. The event was advertised as starting at 7, so we arrived at 9:30. And were way too early. They were still setting up. We did luck out though, because there were some children’s dance groups practicing and they were AMAZING! I am going to try and upload some video later, but there was one group of 4 boys (probably around the ages of 9 or 10) who had so much swag, and were of course hamming it up for us. The event finally got started around 11:30, and was still going strong around 2am when we decided to leave. 

Sunday morning we were told that there was going to be a big Independence Day celebration with traditional song and dance at the kgotla. When we arrived, the host noticed us immediately and told us that we were welcome and to come in closer. We were on the outside of one of 3 tents. We moved towards the middle tent, and saw 3 empty seats. We asked if we could sit there, and no one objected so we sat down. About 15 minutes later, the host came over and asked us our names. Then, they said they were going to introduce the community’s elders and VIP guests. Heather, Kelsey and I looked at each other like “Ohhhhh no, what have we done?!” We were introduced to everyone that was there (around 200 people!). And had to stand up. Twice. Then at the very end, the councillor (I think kind of the same as an MP in Canada) thanked us for being there and asked us if we were coming for lunch. We all must have looked very clueless because he was like “Great, you get to come in my car!”

So we drove with the councillor and the host to the VIP lunch. After lunch they asked us if we were going to the football(soccer) game since it was the final game of the tournament, and we said sure. So we piled into the councillor’s car and went to the football field. When we got there, they got special chairs for us to sit in – we were the only ones in chairs other than the beauty pageant winners, the councillor, and the chief! We were beyond embarrassed. But it only got worse. The councillor and the others got up and we were told to follow them. Then we were introduced to both soccer teams. And we had to shake their hands. Every. Single. Player. Plus the coaches. Plus the managers. Then it gets worse. We were brought into the middle of the field for the first kick. Heather, Kelsey and I just kept looking at each other and awkwardly giggling because we did not even know how we had gotten into this position. All because we are culturally illiterate (as Heather put it) and sat in the wrong seats in the morning. 

Thankfully our awkward day was over when the game was and we just relaxed for the night. Sunday, we had a nice relaxing day and went to a braai, hosted by an expat couple. Monday morning I caught a bus to Sehitwa and hitched a lift safely back to Ghanzi. Now I am headed off to Kang (halfway between Ghanzi and Gaborone) for 3 weeks, and I am hoping for some relaxation!

Arrival in the Kalahari Dessert

14 Sep

Hello all! I have officially in Ghanzi, which is in the heart of the Kalahari Dessert. After a 5-hour drive (uneventful except for all the ostriches on the roads!) we came to Gantsi Craft Trust, my place of work for the next 8 months.

Gantsi Craft Trust is a not for profit organization that seeks to empower San people through the production and sales of crafts.

My job responsibilities include:

  • Organize Product Development workshops (new product designs)
  • Ensure that craft produced is up to standard
  • Participate in craft purchasing in the office and in the settlements
  • Organize gender and natural resource workshops for craft producers
  • Compile natural resource data from settlements and organize the mapping of natural resources
  • Write reports on all above activities and assist with proposals

All of my coworkers have been very welcoming and I am excited to get started! They have just received some new funding for gender projects, which is one of my main interests (obviously, if you have ever read my blog before), so hopefully I will have lots of opportunities to contribute there.

And of course, since I’m in the field of development, everything was going too smoothly so far, so I had to get a curve ball! My accommodations were supposed to be the same as Sara and Dana’s last year, but the landlord never gave my organization confirmation and was seeming very unreliable. So, as of now I am living with a host family. I have some mixed feelings about this, as you can imagine. I was really looking forward to having more independence and having my own space by living on my own, but I am also excited to be able to blend into the community more smoothly in this set up. There are also 2 children living there, which of course I always love, so I can’t wait to meet them soon!

This will be temporary. I still think that I would prefer to be on my own, so I will live with this host family for a month while I look for other options, with help from my coworkers and another nearby Canadian.
All for now!

The Botswana Adventure Begins!

13 Sep

Hello friends, family and readers! My companions and I have safely made it to Gaborone (read Ha-bow-row-nay) and have had a couple days of orientation so far. We are staying with a Canadian expat and her family while we’re in the capital and make our way to our placements Friday.

Our trip included a layover in London, so we left the airport and did some exploring! We took the underground to downtown and saw that London 2012 was running some events! We walked along the marathon route to the London Eye. You can see the picture of me from the top with Big Ben in the background!

Our next stop was Big Ben then Westminister Abbey which were both very beautiful. We stopped for fish and chips at a pub on our way to Buckingham Palace where unfortunately we did not see any royals.

Then it was back to the airport for our long journey to South Africa then Botswana!

I am very happy to finally be here and am already starting to feel more comfortable than Monday. Yesterday we went to the Mokolodi Game Reserve, so I will post pictures and an update soon!