Thursday, 16 June 2011


Dumelang, my name is Lyndsay Chapman and I just finished my second year of Global Development Studies at Queen's University. After months of preparation and a couple days of traveling all across the world I'm finally here at Ditshwanelo in Kasane, Botswana. Ditshwanelo is a NGO, and the Botswana centre for Human rights. I'm going to be working with my partner Chloe here for the next three months on their land rights project .

While we were waiting for our work permits to be completed by our boss
we had the opportunity to have a conversation with one of our
colleagues, Susan, a fellow volunteer from a law institute in Gaborone
who has been volunteering with Ditshwanelo since January. We got to
talking about the differences between our countries and she mentioned
to us that she had always wanted to visit Canada. From my studies in
Canada I have, of course, been subject to some of the ways in which
people are taught to conceive of Canada and its position in the world. You
know the notion that Canada is some benevolent peacekeeper, a bastion
of human rights, could never do any harm. One that with any research
becomes increasingly ridiculous and manufactured.

While we were talking I mentioned where the name Canada came from,
Kanata, meaning village in Iroquois which in turn led
to a discussion about our indigenous populations. We mentioned our
reserve system and some of the colonial and modern injustices the
aboriginal peoples of Canada are subject to. Having taken some courses
this year on these subjects I learned a lot of new and frankly
appalling, things that are not mentioned usually about how the
government treats aboriginal peoples. Susan was rather surprised that
these sort of things happen in Canada. I always just assumed that the
insanely contrived notion of what it meant to be Canadian or what
Canada stood for only really affected us but it doesn't. How have we
managed to create this false notion that we are so good, so perfect
when we are not? How can we engage in meaningful collaboration if
there is this idea that we are above them, as false as it is? I feel
like we need people to work as opposite representatives, traveling
around and telling people all the bad things about Canada breaking
down those ideas, that privilege. Maybe once all that privilege has been broken down than we can start working on building real relationships with people around the world.

Until next time, Sala Sentle.

note:due to some technical difficulties I'm posting under Chloe's name but rest assured it is fact me who wrote this.

The team enjoying a bit of downtime after a hectic few days. We took a boat cruise along the Chobe River into Chobe National Park while we were in Kasane.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

And the adventure begins

It consistently amazes me the amount that you can learn from another person. On our first day of work Lyndsay and I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with one of our colleagues. We talked and talked and in a conversation about the pros and cons of tourism I wanted to share part of what she said that I have been thinking a lot about.

“The river is very sacred to my tribe for fishing and the waterlilly. If you pull the root its like a potato and you mix it with meat and it is very good. Now you cannot go and get it because the owners of the buildings and the developments will chase you out because those are there for the tourist. They are very beautiful to look at. There must be a balance so that not only the big guys benefit. It can’t be at the expense of the local people. Where we used to fish they build a fence and now you have to pay ten pula to go in that area. If someone can’t even pay ten pula in the market for meat and now they must pay ten for their fish. Something that used to be free. What are they supposed to do?

But the pros are now there are stores and so we don’t have to go to Namibia to buy our clothes. I can get them right here. But in general the tourism is good. It has brought lots of opportunities. Now I will see someone who failed prime three (the equivalent of middle school in Canada) and is now a guide for tourism and is making a good live. He is now making more then a schoolteacher. It is good to give the opportunity.”

I feel very lucky to have had this conversation and be able to write it down after so that I could remember the way she phrased things and to use her words. I am so happy that we will have the opportunity to work with her and as she said, “to exchange learning from each other.” Already in this one morning I feel like I have gained so much perspective. The culture in so rich that you can almost taste it in the way that she spoke.

In showing her pictures of Canada and explaining things that have always been so normal for me such as the four seasons. It was shocking to realize just how different things are and yet with these huge differences how at the same time how universal the human race is. The other day while walking around, we saw a group of kids playing and they followed after us giggling, while playing tag, testing us. I really value what Thomas noticed and think he put it really well saying “it doesn’t matter where in the world you are, kids will be kids.”

I think this is such a compelling statement and describes how I feel now when describing the differences to our colleague and seeing the marvel on her face, all that I could think of where the similarities. How extraordinary is it that all around the world people are people.

Going through the pictures from Canada I feel a great sense of national pride as well and appreciation to call such a beautiful place my home. In our conversation, she was saying that when she was a little girl she used to dream of going to Canada because even the name sounded beautiful. “Canada, you know when you can dream about such things.” How extremely lucky we are to be so well traveled, to see so much of the world. I feel far more appreciative for that then anything else. More so then having a house with hot water and a shower. It was incredible how blown away and in awe she was, saying “this is too much” again and again as I quickly flipped through outdoors club photos of fall colors, winter, mountain climbing, ice on the lake and describing snowshoes and cowboy hats. How it can be flat in Saskatchewan, snow in the mountains in Calgary and then green rainforest on Vancouver Island. I want more then anything to take her there.

Walking back to work after our lunch break still talking about culture and differences, she said, “ I now understand why it is so different here for you.” And when Lyndsay said “Yes, its been difficult adjusting.” Her response was “Yes, but everything can adapt. Even if you live by the railroad, you will eventually not hear the sound. And then if you leave you will find it difficult to sleep without the noise.”

And so it is for me already I was shocked lying in bed that night as the sound faded away.