Thursday, May 12, 2011

Dumela Gaborone

O my we go!

I am in Gabs and finally have decent access to the internet. With that said, here, my wonderful followers, is my first blog post from Botswana. I'm not going to lie to you; the 36.5 hours in transit was horrid. The planes were packed and hot. I got sick to my stomach about half way through the flight from Vancouver to London and it stayed with me the entire trip and for pretty much my first two days in Gabs. On the bright side, I feel quite normal now and am settling in nicely.

I arrived in Gabs minus one suitcase (as was to be expected). Of course, it was the one with all of my clothing, but perhaps that was better than it being the one full of school supplies. You see, when I finally got my bag (only a day later) the lock was missing and it was clear that the suitcase had been rummaged through. Luckily, no one wanted any of my belongings. Had it been

the suitcase full of supplies, I may have had a different story to tell. On a semi-related note, everything I have read has said that the people of Gabs are pleasant and most willing to help when asked. On the contrary, when I had to report my bag missing, the woman was far from pleasant. In fact, I am pretty sure she was making fun of me with her colleague. The reason I say ‘pretty sure’ is because she was speaking Setswana, but even though that was the case, I understood the gist of what she was saying. Needless to say, my first experience with a Batswana was not welcoming at all. It may very well have had something to do with the fact that she had a lot of difficulty with the man in front of me, so much difficulty, in fact, that she threatened to call the police. Fun stuff upon my arrival in Bots!

On to the house…which is wonderful. It’s likely one of the nicest houses in Gabs, living room, dining room, kitchen, 2 ½ bathrooms, 3 bedrooms, hot running water, fully functioning electricity, and…

an electric fence complete with barbed wire all around the premises. Security is a real issue here. Robbery and petty theft are the main worries here. With that said, we have the electric fence I mentioned in addition to a solid iron security gate and solid cement wall that surrounds the yard just below the electric part of the fence. We have to keep the blinds closed so people cannot see in and most importantly, never use our laptops in clear view of anyone. When out and about in the city, it’s very important to keep cameras, cell phones, laptops secured and unadvertised (as in not walking around like a tourist with a fancy camera hanging from my neck). If I let people know I have it, they’re likely going to find a way to steal it. Other than that though, Gabs is really quite safe. Serious crime is not an issue and the punishment for burglary is quite harsh. Basically, as we were told by the Botswana Police, ‘security starts with us’. So, I won’t be stupid, I’ll pay attention, and hopefully won’t have anything stolen. J I’m living in the house with 2 other Canadians who have different placements in Gabs. So far, so great! I think the next 3+ months will be wonderful.

Events thus far…

I’ve been in orientation until today. Monday was get-myself-legally-entitled-to-be-in-the-country day. The first step was the Police Station for passport authentification and then on to Immigration for an Exemption Permit. Now, I am official allowed to be here until August 18th.

In the afternoon, the group of us went to Mokolodi Game Reserve for lunch, a tour of the reptile gardens, and a mini-safari! It was incredible. Doug (the dreamy reptile handler from Zimbabwe) showed us a number of venomous and non-venomous snakes native to Botswana along with some lizards, tortoises, birds, and monkeys! The monkeys are soooo cute. On the safari, we saw impalas, warthogs, ostriches, giraffes, and hippos in the distance. In the next few weeks, they are supposed to be getting new cheetahs that people are able to go in and pet. Me thinks a return trip may be in order just to experience that (and perhaps see Doug again). Ha!

Tuesday was really just training all day. We had a session where we learned a bit of basic Setswana and a session on Gender and Development in the country. Both were great; however, I would have liked to spend a lot more time learning the language. Tuesday afternoon was a lesson in public transit, and let me tell ya, it’s interesting. Combis are small buses that carry about 12 people. They are packed, hot, and cheap. Public taxis are not as packed, just as hot, but not quite as cheap. It’s really quite difficult to explain, but with time, we’ll have it all figured out. One thing I do know for sure is that the private taxi drivers (the ones we’ve used twice now to take us home from one of the malls) are really quite rude, that and they never know where they are going unless you can explain it to them. Things are just so different here, but it’s all about the experience and I’m just taking it all in! Wednesday we had a general session about the economics, culture, and geography of Botswana followed by a session on HIV/AIDS in Botswana. It’s amazing how far this country has come in terms of the treatment of patients. Where the fight against the pandemic is failing is in the area of prevention. In the afternoon on Wednesday, we made our way to the small museum here in Gabs. There is an Art Gallery as well, but we didn’t have time to see that. I’ll have to make my way back at some point.

As for today, Thursday, it is my first day of work. I don’t have a lot to do right now because the staff just finished one major part of the application process with the students. On Monday, I will hopefully be able to meet most of them and assist them with their study permit applications. First step for me, fill out an application so that I know what I’m talking about! There are potentially 47 students who will be traveling to Canadian schools this fall, all studying some form of Engineering, all sponsored by the Botswana government. It’s impeccable that here education is free for every Batswana all the way up until the end of their undergraduate degrees. If only education was as important to every government!

In conclusion (finally) Gabs is great. Not quite as developed as I envisioned, but really a nice city. I can buy pretty much anything here that I can buy in Canada. The weather is gorgeous, much like a “normal” Manitoba spring really. It is quite cool in the mornings and evenings and nice and warm in the afternoon. Of course, the daily high is a bit above that in Canada (around 24 degrees Celsius), but it really isn’t scorching hot at all. The glories of Winter in Bots!

On one last note, I just found out that Friday is only a half day, meaning I finish work at 12:00 noon! I work 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. every other day of the week so that is how I manage to work only 8:00 a.m. to noon on Friday! Score! I also just found out that I have to assist on a presentation to WUSC National Board Members who are visiting us tomorrow. Tossed right in and lovin’ it!

Go Siame for now!


  1. Heyyy! YAY! So excited to keep up with your blog! They have combis in botswana too! So cool. Be careful though, I got pushed off one once because I wasn't exiting fast enough! Sounds like the perfect hustle and bustle! Hmm...interesting about the Universities because in Peru its free too IF you get high enough marks to get into public univeristy and from what I understand a degree from a private university has more weight. Also, there are loads of strikes so much so that 3 year degrees can take 5-7 years to complete. That's Peru though. Would be interesting to see if its the same there? I'm happy to hear you're having a blast! Keef safe and enjoy it love!

  2. Hello!

    I am very happy to hear about Mokolodi, looks like things are still going well there! So you are currently not able to go pet Duma and Letotse? the "old" Cheetahs? They were starting to phase it out, but I thought they'd never do that because it was such a cash cow. That is good to hear! I recommend going on a rhino tracking, pretty awesome, and they're so rare, its a one in a million experience!

    How is your culture shock?


  3. I'm glad you arrived safely and you're enjoying things so far! I hope things continue to go well. Have fun and be safe! :-)

  4. Thanks Marie and thanks for taking the time to comment :)

  5. Love your blogs, Brandy! they take me right back to any typical day in my childhood..., unreliable electricity, alarms, even the cute vervet/green monkey (I had one as a pet-named 'George'). So glad you arrived safely and that you are settling in. Revel in every moment!

  6. Hi Gemma and Kate, for some reason your comments just showed up now. Strange. It could be because Blogger was having some issues a few days ago. Anyway the university situation seems pretty much the same Gem. Kate, the old cheetahs were phased out yes, and the new ones are supposed to be here soon, but since I have become accustomed to "Botswana Time" 'soon' could mean eons from now. As for culture shock, it's not bad. I knew a lot about Botswana and Africa in general before I came here. Everyday I learn something new and typically once a day my heart breaks a little, but I love it here and not a lot surprises me.

  7. Yemisi - Aw it's so great that you had a pet Vervet. It is quite the compliment for you to say that my blogs take you back in time so thank you for that. I hope you keep enjoying the reads!