Tuesday, May 31, 2011

At Least the Wheels on the Taxi Go Round and Round

Alright folks - one of the most difficult things to contend with here in Gabs is the transportation that gets us from Point A to Point B and back again. Sunday was, by far, our most trying day yet. Before I get to Sunday, however, let me tell you about Friday night. There is a mall not too far from our house called Riverwalk. Typically, we walk there, but after dark it’s just a little too far and a little too dangerous for four white girls to be walking about. With that being the case, we walk out to the road, hail a taxi, get in, and start negotiating the price. First, he says he’s going to charge us 60 Pula (1 Pula = 7 CAD. You do the math; I’m an English major.) which is atrocious because we normally pay 30 Pula. So we just laugh at him, tell him no way and that we are only paying 30. After he agrees to that, the next thing out of his mouth (and this is no word of a lie) is ‘so, which one of you can I marry?’ Yes, friends, that is our life here in Gabs. Just to add some context and hopefully a few more laughs to your blog reading experience, I’ll give you a few more details of this particular cab ride. First, we ask him how many cows he has because, you see, Botswana still has a very traditional way of doing things meaning that dowries are still paid to the wife’s family. On average eight cows would be given to a local girl’s family and the number would go up the farther north the woman is from. Considering we are from Canada, we figured at least 150 cows would be required before any of us would agree to marry our cab driver. Cattle are also a traditional means of telling how wealthy a man is. This particular cab driver told us he owned about ten cows (honestly, I don’t think he owned any) and so we proceeded to tell him that wasn’t nearly enough to marry a Canadian girl. We’ve also been told in situations like this one to tell men that they wouldn’t like Canadian girls because we don’t like to cook or clean and we are very mouthy. We told our enamoured taxi driver all of these things at which point he pretty much stopped talking to us more so, in my opinion, because he likely thought we were crazy. Good story, right?!

Alright, on to Sunday. We heard about a Farmer’s Market happening at the #1 Ladies Opera House and Café (yes, named after the books) and were really looking forward to some homemade African wares. Once again, we hail a cab and ask him if he knows where the market is that is supposed to be at the Opera House which is near Game City. He says ‘yes, let’s go’. We arrive at Game City (the biggest mall in Gaborone) and as he is pulling into the parking lot we remind him that this is not where we want to go, where we want to go is the market. To this he responds, ‘market, what market?’ And, once again folks, this is my life in Gabs. Our driver proceeds to ask random people on the street where this place is to no avail. Apparently no one knows where this place is. Finally, we get directions from a friend and tell the driver only to have him ask, ‘are the directions from a Motswana (person from Botswana)?’ We respond with an annoyed ‘no’ and tell him where to drive. When we finally get there, we realise why no one knows that this market and Opera House/Café exist; everyone there is white. It is definitely a Farmers’ Market of the North American variety. We enjoyed it none-the-less until the point that we realised we needed to find a way back into the city somehow. Everyone else had their own cars and so commenced our walk. Luckily, in our few weeks here, we’ve made a few friends. We called one of them, asked them to get us a cab company number and waited. The next fun part of our adventure included trying to explain where we were so that we could actually be picked up. That, my dear readers, was an epic fail! Thankfully, a man in a jeep took pity on us and asked if we needed a ride somewhere. He was from Botswana, white though, had a South African accent, and had family that he was planning to visit very soon in Canada. He was legit, our saviour. Once we’d been so kindly dropped off at Game City, we met our taxi who was, in fact, waiting out in the middle of nowhere for us, but we just weren’t at the same spot in that same middle of nowhere. He’s annoyed and charges us more than we should have paid, but, at this point, we just want to get home. Home we get and decide to chalk this all up to an experience and a few lessons learned. The main lesson being, never assume a taxi driver knows where he is going!

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