Pretty Pictures

I realize this blog is sorely lacking in photos, but I can’t seem to get them to post from my virus-ridden computer.  That said, I’m posting heaps onto another site. Got to and search me: or Suzannah Kelly.I like pretty pictures.


One More….

One more sign, also thanks to Abdi…

On the door of a monestary in Thailand:

“You are not allowed to enter a woman here, even if dressed like a man.”

African Signs

I get endless pleasure from English signs here, like the one at the lion and rhino park regarding the brown hyaena that reads “Mainly active at knight.” 

My friend, Abdi, went to Mozambique and took a photo of the following sign (I can’t post pictures from this ancient computer onto my blog – but will as soon as I solve the problem):

“THEFT from Chameleon Backpackers hand Guesthouse by our GUESTS has reached epidemic proportions.  In a spate of disappearances we have lost valuable wall hangings, woven baskets, pillows, blankets, towels, cutlery (continuously) and finally the hot water bottle to keep the breakfast eggs warm.

As a result of this we have no option but to increase the proces of our accomodation from 1 August 2006. This distresses us a great deal as we try to maintain our low prices to provide good, clean accommodation at affordable prices.  We want to break this cycle so PLEASE, if you see someone BORROWING something please report it immediately to Reception or Management as the impact affects all our guests.

So next time you wonder why there is no sharp knives in the kitchen, no towel in your room or blanket to keep you warm, it is because someone has decided it was included in the room price.  Let us stamp out theft together to keep ALL our belongings safe.


Jackie, Bossie and team”

Here are a few more:

In a restaurant in
“Open seven days a week and weekends.”

On the grounds of a private school in
South Africa
“No trespassing without permission.”

On a window of a Nigerian shop:
“Why go elsewhere to be cheated when you can come here?”

On a poster in

“Are you an adult who cannot read? If so, we can help.”

In a hotel in
“Visitors are expected to complain at the office between the hours of 9.00 am and 11.00am

On a river in the Democratic

Republic of
“Take note: When this sign is submerged, the river is impassable.”

In a Zimbabwean restaurant:
“Customers who find our waitresses rude ought to see the manager.”

A sign seen on a hand dryer in a
public toilet:
“Risk of electric shock – Do not activate with wet hands.”

In a
Botswana jewellery shop
“Ears pierced while you wait.”

On one of the buildings of a
Sierra Leone hospital
“Mental Health Prevention Centre.”

In a maternity ward of a clinic in
“No children allowed!”

In a cemetery in
“Persons are prohibited from picking flowers from any but their own graves.”

In a
“It is forbidden to steal towels, please. If you are not a person to do such a thing, please don’t read this notice.”

A sign posted in an Algerian tourist camping park:
“It is strictly forbidden on our camping site that people of different sex, for instance a man and woman, live together in one tent unless they are married to each other for that purpose.”

In a Namibian nightclub:
“Ladies are not allowed to have children in the bar.”

In a graveyard in Mabvuku, Zimbabwe
‘Ane nharo nga’amuke…

Fear and Condoms in Jo’burg

I have been asked to write an article for the next newsletter (that I’m also editing and writing most of).  The idea is that each volunteer should submit a piece about his or her placement.  This is my first draft:

“You should carry around condoms in case you get raped.” 

          I received a lot of advice about coming to Johannesburg to work with an NGO.  Mostly the advice was to miss the plane.  One voice of support came from my sister-in-law who said that as I want to become a foreign correspondent and report from the likes of the West Bank and the Darfur region, that I “should get used to living in places like that.”


Of course Johannesburg and the surrounding region are a far cry from a war zone, but when you hear dozens of horror stories, they start to have an impact.  I did not know what to expect from my internship, but I did know I was supposed to be afraid.  As someone who does not fear easily, I was delighted to discover the perception many North Americans have of South Africa is inaccurate and unfair.


That perception of a hopeless situation goes beyond crime to other fundamental issues such as race, poverty and the future of disadvantaged children.  While I have met a fair few South Africans who also see a dire situation and a country in decline, my time with OLSET has shown me a different and, I submit, more accurate perspective of the country and its future. 


I see a land of hope full of bright and ambitious children who want only to be given the guidance to achieve their impressive goals.  I have interviewed six year-olds who want to become security guards and policemen so they can put an end to the rampant theft.  Their classmates speak of becoming doctors, lawyers and teachers.  Most of these children bus or taxi to school from Soweto and nearby informal settlements.  Of course crime, poverty and racism still permeate the world they live in, but these things seem no longer to be foregone conclusions.  The children I have met want to end those cycles, and from what I have seen, OLSET is helping them to do that. 

            The focus on multilingualism, different cultures, personal rights and responsibilities, safety, and of course, English helps children interact with one another and with the broader curriculum.  Having interviewed teachers and administrators, it is also clear the English in Action program helps students and teachers interact, as well as improving communication between staff members themselves.  Teachers tell me of how the program has helped foster a more caring and effective learning environment.  In doing so, it helps produce more honest police officers, dedicated teachers, and driven lawyers and doctors.  It creates a brighter South Africa.


I concede I am no education specialist; these are merely the observations of a novice journalist and fist-time NGO intern.  My previous job was as a radio reporter for the largest private news station in British Columbia, Canada.  My skills in both radio and television production brought me half-way around the world to help train OLSET staff how to shoot and edit videos. 


The Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs sent me through a program called Young Professionals International (YPI).  YPI is “a program designed to help internationally focused young Canadians .. kickstart their careers .. [by providing them] with a first, career-related international work experience.”[1] Basically, the federal government funds implementing organizations to create and supervise internships. Those groups organize placements with host organizations on the ground, in this case, OLSET. 

             My implementing organization is the Commonwealth ofLearning; it encourages the development of open and distance learning (ODL) in Commonwealth countries.  The general idea is that technology can be used to reach far more people in an effective manner than people alone can.  Radio learning fits into this concept perfectly.

Media, be it print journalism or educational radio programming, has immense power.  It is power that is in this case being used for the good of this country and beyond.  As a journalist, I am accustomed to being skeptical and cynical, to looking for the flaws in the system.  I admit, however, I have completely bought into the OLSET agenda.  These are good people and I am proud to count myself among them for these six months. 


Fear and condoms not required.    

[1] Young Professionals International Website  September 1, 2006. 

Dr Beetroot

For those of you who followed the recent news of the HIV / AIDS conference in Toronto, and heard about South Africa’s fine display of advanced treatments, this entry is for you. Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang in an interview on SABC (South African Broadcasting Corp) upon her arrival back home, slightly paraphrased:

John Pearlman (I think): “What is your response to people who call you a raving lunatic for putting up a display on HIV and AIDS that showed garlic and beetroot as effective treatments for HIV?”

Dr. Beetroot: “South African journalism is so irresponsible. That was taken completely out of context. People did not tell the whole story. There was not just garlic and beetroot on that table…”

[At this point the hopeful listener might expect something along the lines of “there was also extensive information on anti retroviral therapy and voluntary counseling and testing.” Not so much…]

Dr Beetroot: “…there were also potatoes.”

So in honour of the good doctor, here is a recent list of the Minister of Health’s Lexicon of Medical Terms:

Artery: The study of paintings

Bacteria: Back door to the cafeteria

Barium: What you do with dead patients

Caesarean Section: A suburb in Rome

Cat scan: A search for a kitty

D & C: Where Washington is

Dilate: To live longer

Enema: Not your friend

Fester: Quicker

Impotent: Distinguished and well-known

Labour pain: Getting hurt at work

Medical Staff: Doctor’s walking stick

Morbid: Higher offer

Nitrates: Cheaper than day rates

Out Patient: A person who has fainted

Post Operative: A letter courier

Seizure: A Roman Emperor

Terminal Illness: When you get sick at the airport

Tumor: Another couple

Urine: opposite of “you’re out”

Another lovely tidbit about South Africa’s politicians includes the fact that the Minister of Transport failed a recent driving test.

I won’t even go into the hundreds of people who rallied outside the court everyday while Jacob Zuma was being tried for corruption, having recently beaten the infamous rape charge. (He’s the one who said it was alright that he had unprotected sex / rape with someone who is publicly HIV positive because he had a hot shower afterwards.) The court threw out the case this week on some technicalities and a lack of preparedness on the part of the prosecution. Many many people here want to see Zuma as the next president. A lot.

Ah African politics. Nothing will shock me after this. Sponsorship scandal….ha!