South Africa & Botswana questions

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Apr 27th, 2005, 04:00 AM
  #21
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Ok, like I said, I will try to influence the group (I forgot we are not meeting til Thursday). I have heard your input, but so I'll be armed with the best possible knowledge, please compare for me Chobe with the other game parks suggested - Hluhluwe-Imfolozi and Kruger Park. The impression I've had from reading other threads is that Chobe is something special and that we would be "settling" if we went to one of the other ones. That is what the others on the trip think as well - they think if we're going to a game park, Chobe is the one to see.
Also, what are your thoughts on dropping Chobe and Victoria Falls (3 nights) and going to Durban instead for 2 nights and adding the extra night to Cape Town? I never really did (nor did the other students) understand from our trip leader exactly what we were going to experience on the Durban portion, so most of us don't really know what we'll be missing if we drop it.
I do understand your passsion about giving advice, but I come to these boards for fun and learning. I am more excited about this trip than you can possibly imagine and I have a positive attitude about it. I know your intentions are good and that you want me to have a good trip. But part of the fun of the trip is in the anticipation and planning. Please don't dash me again! I thought this would be a place to talk about the trip with others who would be supportive and encouraging. How about a little of THAT? Even if we ARE rushed and it's not YOUR ideal itinerary, to tell me to just stay home because we won't have fun is a bit extreme! I've been on some truly crazy trips and would I have rather stayed home? NO WAY! Isn't anybody excited for me???
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Apr 27th, 2005, 05:30 AM
  #22
 
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Karen, I'm sorry if you think some of us have been rude. But consider this: I asked you specifically about your plans to learn about governments, whether you'd actually meet with officials, or just visit the Union Buildings. You didn't reply to that. I asked what you meant concerning learning about culture, and again got no reply. You never told us that it was someone else's money. I don't think you can fault us for our remarks, made without the benefit of all your knowledge, which we did ask you to share.

And whoever's money it is, I still think he/she/they/it could spend it more fruitfully. I hope it isn't my tax money.

But I do wish you a happy trip, even so.
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Apr 27th, 2005, 05:57 AM
  #23
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Celia - I did not understand that you were asking me to answer those questions on the board. You suggested that I make a list of priorities and how we plan to implement those things - we did that. I thought that was your suggestion to our group, not a question you wanted answered here - I apologize for the misunderstanding. The group agreed that our priorities were to meet with government officials to discuss issues they considered important. We also wanted to meet with NGOs and business leaders. And we were interested in meeting with military leaders. We wanted to talk about the progress in the AIDS/HIV fight, the state of bilateral relations with the U.S., regional issues in sub-Saharan Africa, and any other issues the hosts believed important. And we made it clear to the embassies that we wanted to minimize the amount of time spent in a conference room listening to briefings - that we'd rather get out and see, for instance, an AIDS clinic, meet with a business leader at his business, etc. It was not my intent to be non-responsive. I thought you were offering food for thought.
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Apr 27th, 2005, 06:09 AM
  #24
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And yes, it is your tax money. And as part of the program, I wrote a 10-page paper on the Botswana economy, put together a presentation on the AGOA trade bill, did a study on South Africa's plans to expand its nuclear power program, and helped create mock briefings for the "new ambassadors" to South Africa and Botswana, providing country overviews. I also read hundreds of pages on various sub-Saharan Africa issues, to include the history of the region and the lingering impact of slavery, political turbulence, ethnic issues, poverty, AIDS, and various other issues. I heard briefings from the US Agency for International Development on US aid programs to Africa, State Department officials, two former ambassadors to south African countries, and several other guest speakers. Plus (one of my favorites) we had a lecture on African art and made a visit to the Smithsonian African Museum of Art. And this was just ONE of my classes this year. My overall program was in US strategic studies - and I happen to think the tax money was quite well spent. The people in the program (mostly military) are future leaders of this nation (how I got there, I don't know!). If I may be a name-dropper, Colin Powell was a graduate of this program. It is outstanding, it is rigorous, and I have benefited immensely.
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Apr 27th, 2005, 06:14 AM
  #25
 
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Good luck with your group negotiations!
I suggest you print out this thread and circulate it directly. Let us take the heat...and thanks for asking us! We all love Africa, and have a wide wide range of professional, educational, cultural and travel experience. (not to toot our own horns too much....)

First of all, I think you need to be proactive because letting embassies/ the government arrange your trip is a good way to both waste time and see only what they want you to see. Your group needs time to wander around and meet people in other circumstances. (Imagine what would happen if a group visited Washington DC and only talked to people from the current administration or those the admin wanted foreigners to see? Good Grief!! ) No slurs intended on the South African or Botswanan governments...but bureaucrats and politicians see things in their own special way everywhere.

I've been to Chobe, and it is emphatically NOT my favorite park in the region. Chobe is famous for its large herds of elephants, and this is wonderful. Also lots of lions. But the rest of the game is much better elsewhere. I think Chobe gets its reputaion from those elephants and its proximity to Vic Falls. That proximity means it is also crowded with tourist (relatively speaking). But most people here would choose a trip to a SA game reserve over Chobe. You would be far better off going to Kruger (or some other SA Park recommended by others on this board). If you visit Mokolodi, the numbers are lower, and the animals are rescues who cannot be released to the wild or animals from captive breeding programs (like the famous Mokolodi rhino, which are helping to repopulate parks where it is considered safe to release them. You can take bushwalks-- like the rhino tracking walk I mentioned. And this is an amazing and unique experience. I did this with a friend last year, and he picked it as his very FAVORITE experience of the trip, despite the fact that we spent the rest of the time in some of the very best camps in Botswana, including Mombo. It was one of my favorites too, even though I have been fortunate enough to make many trips to some of the best names/camps in Southern Africa. Honest!

Also, Vic Falls is a small town around a big falls...I know some people love sights like this...but the Falls isn't going anywhere...while people and other wildlife do change. I often tell people that unless they are really into waterfalls, they might enjoy other sights and activities much more. For example, I could understand if you group chose to use the time you would have gone to Vic Falls with a visit to Kruger instead. That's what I personally would chose with an itinerary like yours. That way you'll see one of the greatest of parks.
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Apr 27th, 2005, 06:31 AM
  #26
 
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OK, I cannot resist this conversation anymore!

I applaud your efforts to learn more about my home region and its issues.

But your agenda is very broad! You can spend a week and not even scratch the suface of one of the issues on your list - let alone all of them - Aids, military, US bi-lateral relations, sub-sahara issues, economics, small business, problems, culture, etc.

And then you want to do a safari as well! And see the Victoria Falls!

I trust the embassies understand your goals a lot better than I do. Otherwise you will find yourself driving around in a Kombi from place to meet with officials who will tell you exactly want you want to hear.

My I suggest an alternative?

1. Contact some grassroot organizations in JHB such as the National Association of People with AIDS (NAPWA). Or the Aids Consortium. If AIDS is not your main concern, then contact the Small Business Asssociation in Soweto for example.

2. Let them talk to you about real issues and show you around.

3. Ask NAPWA to arrange homestays in Soweto or Alexandria. Then you will truly learn about the issues - which may surprise you!

4. Fly to Victoria Falls and have a local operator arrange a short safari as well (maybe to Chobe).

5. Then visit Gaberone and arrange homestays. NAPWA can help you with contacts. Learn about the economic & health issues in Botswana which is the same yet different from South Africa.

6. Return to JHB and fly home.

Why do you want to include Cape Town or Durban? Sightseeing only? I would scrap both on this trip as your main focus is not tourism, right?
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Apr 27th, 2005, 07:45 AM
  #27
 
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Amen to the remarks of Climbhighsleeplow!
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Apr 27th, 2005, 07:52 AM
  #28
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Wow - great ideas. Wish I'd had these earlier. I sent out an email to the team with some of your suggestions and learned that the dean of the school is reviewing our itinerary with an eye toward making sure it "meets educational objectives" - and also that it may be too late to make significant changes. But... yes, I will add these latest thoughts to the pot!
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Apr 27th, 2005, 08:55 AM
  #29
 
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Karen, it occurred to me after I wrote that one might think I oppose use of tax money to send students to Africa. I don't mean that at all -- I think it's a great use of tax money. Also, as a former recipient of USAID largesse, I don't want to bite the hand that once fed me! All I meant to imply was that this particular trip doesn't seem to me to use the money as wisely as it could be used.

I'm sorry if I was offensive.
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Apr 27th, 2005, 09:48 AM
  #30
 
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althom

Just a few more points:

1. NAPWA and others really appreciate any interest especially from international groups and they will treat you extremely well.

2. Another excellent contact will be the University of the Witwatersrand http://www.wits.ac.za/
I went to Stellenbosch University and I don't often do shoutouts for other universities but WITS is renowned for research into many of the issues on your agenda - and you Dean should be delighted with this partnership.

If you can somehow connect with some of their charity chapters you will learn much.

3. You will never forget the people you meet during homestays in Soweto and elsewhere! And then you can take their issues to the embassy officials who you've made arrangements with. This will make for really interesting meetings!

So the game plan is simple - spend some time with the locals first, note the issues and then get the perspectives from the officials.

All of this will make for a trip report that I am willing to pay money for!
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Apr 27th, 2005, 10:21 AM
  #31
 
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althom1122 - It certainly sounds like the program is "rigorous", but what people here are trying to tell you is to guard against generating more heat than light.

Sweating through a whirlwind schedule of office visits, receiving lines, NGOs, government officials, etc. may not mean you'll leave knowing anymore than you could have, had you stayed home and used the phone, internet, and library.

Use your in-country time for that which you can only do in-country. All the posters here are giving you thoughtful and heartfelt advice, no tongue lashing intended.
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Apr 27th, 2005, 03:31 PM
  #32
 
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Excellent, excellent ideas here. I hope they help you work with this unruly group!

Imagine how much more valuable your conversations with officials will be if you meet grassroots orgs and real people first.
You will be in a position to have a completely different conversation with the officials. That would be valuable...without this perspective, meetings with "officials" will be less than valuable. (Again, imagine those briefings that go on in Washington DC ...and any other capital. It's been going on for centuries...does the term Potemkin Village mean anything to you?

Good luck in your discussions...looks like you can make an ally of the Dean. AND while your air arrangements may be hard to change, the land travel and meeting should still be flexible.
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Apr 27th, 2005, 03:54 PM
  #33
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I should know more tomorrow or Friday. You all have definitely given me some great ideas and food for thought - I love the possibility of meeting with grassroots organizations - real people. There was much consternation today about maybe having to change the itinerary. Also, I forgot to mention one other thing about the reason for keeping Chobe in the trip - we're supposed to meet with members of the Botswana Defense Forces in that area (someone reminded me of that today!). Anyway, I'll keep you posted (so to speak!).
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May 2nd, 2005, 10:21 AM
  #34
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Looks like we won't be able to do the homestay. I thought it was a great idea, but the school has safety concerns and standard policies and that sort of thing (my guess is they're being over-protective but I guess I can't blame them - they're responsible for us). Also, I still haven't gotten final word on whether there's an itinerary change, but we did get some additional info from both embassies on the activities they've got planned for us. Some of them sound pretty good, especially in Botswana. I'm concerned that the SA portion is too many briefings in conference rooms (WHICH IS EXACTLY WHAT WE TOLD THEM WE DON'T WANT! I expressed frustration with that and the SA point of contact on our end is going back to the embassy to make it clear that we want to EXPERIENCE SA, not sit in a conference room for briefings!). Anyway, in case you're interested, here's what's on tap (at this point):
- Briefings on SA politics, HIV/AIDS, the security service
- A meeting with a SA lieutenant general for talks on military activities
- Meeting with the director for US Agency for International Development
- Tour of a naval base in Cape Town
- Parliament visit
- Robbens Island tour
- In Gabarone, quick visit on arrival day to the Mokolodi Nature Reserve
- Visit to Southern African Trade Hub
- Visit to Law Enforcement training center
- Visit to voluntary AIDS testing center
- Briefing on SADC
- Visit to Botswana Defense Force headquarters and also BDF post in Kasane for briefing on anti-poaching unit
- Game drive and/or boat trip at Chobe
- Quick visit to Victoria Falls with working lunch with U.S. defense attache in Zambia
One thing I really want to try to work in is a stop at the Apartheid Museum. I think somewhere in the schedule we're going to get to Soweto, but it wasn't on the list they sent us.
Anyway, we're getting close - thanks again for your thoughts. My apologies for the earlier misunderstanding - I was listening to your advice, but had very limited ability to influence the details of the trip. When we get there, we may have some flexibility to make specific requests. Will post a trip report when I return. Hopefully, there will be a few minutes SOMEWHERE to buy some great African souvenirs.
Thanks again for all your comments.
Karen
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May 2nd, 2005, 11:04 PM
  #35
 
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I like your insistence on getting out of conference rooms! Why not ask that the briefing take place at a "real place" rather than a conference room? For example, that the AIDS briefing take place at (or on the bus on the way to) an AIDS education or treatment center, or that the law enforcement briefing is at the law enforcement training center. Push them to be creative about briefing you on the run/fly to real places-- tell them instead of hearing about their success stories or pilot projects, you want to see them and have the briefings there. Then push for discussions that include the (nonbureaucratic) people at those places.

Good luck!
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May 6th, 2005, 06:47 AM
  #36
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After all this discussion, we finally depart tomorrow! I am so excited and am busy this morning with packing and last-minute details.
I was very vocal in our final meeting yesterday about not wanting to spend time in coference rooms (again)! I pushed to have any briefings they were going to give us done on the bus ENROUTE to places (as in a drive through Soweto) rather than in a conference room. Also
we discussed trying to get briefings done over breakfast or something like that. So... we'll see - and I'll post a trip report when I return. Thanks again for all the discussion here! It's been fun. I am expecting a very busy trip, but one, I hope, that is also exhilarating and eye-opening. Be back in touch soon.
Karen
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May 6th, 2005, 07:18 AM
  #37
 
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Good luck and can't wait to hear about it!
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May 6th, 2005, 12:29 PM
  #38
 
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Good luck in your wishes for double duty briefings. Have a great trip and like Kavey (and lots of others I expect) I'm really looking forward to hear your thoughts on your trip.
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