I entered the bus terminal in Johannesburg and it also felt safe. Many security people, nothing to worry about. I ate a quick lunch and then waited for the boarding of my bus with Intercape. The bus was supposed to leave at 2 PM, boarding to begin at 1:30 PM. Well, we waited. The bus did not arrive until shortly prior to 2 PM and then boarding took forever because in an intensive procedure the lady at the counter had to double and triple check each ticket. People were fighting over places in line in order to get better seating in the Western style bus. By the time I boarded there were hardly any seats left, so I sat down beside a Matswana lady in her 50ies I guess. It was funny, because, in a way, she looked to me like I imagined Mma Ramotswe (Alexander McCall-Smith’s heroine in his “No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency”-series which is set in Gaborone): traditionally built (rather round), glasses, a gentle look. I don’t know…She was very silent though and it was impossible to strike up a conversation, so I concentrated (once we left the station at 2:30 PM) on the surroundings, which looked not that unfamiliar as well. It is amazing how, on first sight, many of the world’s places look similar. I could have driven in southward direction along the river Rhine for a while, that’s how it looked. Certainly, trees were different and if you looked closer you saw the terrain is different, too. But still, this world is so similar in many aspects.
The bus stopped somewhere at a gas station at around 5:00 PM only to start driving again without announcement after 2 minutes and some passengers having left the bus and lit a cigarette – obviously we had stopped at the wrong station, but nobody bothered to explain. We then stopped, after we had collected the passengers outside the bus, 15 minutes later at another station for half an hour. I was not hungry by then, so I did not run into the chicken store they had and did not buy, like most of the rest of the bus, something to eat there. My Mma Ramotswe neighbour was devouring a half a chicken, fries and some more chicken wings when we continued the ride...made me thinking of Mma Ramotswe’s love for food.
By 6:30 PM we reached the border between South Africa and Botswana. We left the bus, passed South African immigration and then went by foot over the border to the Botswana authorities. I applied for a 90 days visa, but the lady officer, who had been very excited once she saw my German passport (because she was able to tick off another country in her statistics form!), granted me 80 days, I don’t know exactly why but I did not bother to ask her because I will leave the country before that anyway to travel to Zambia or once more to South Africa. We were then handed our luggage and had to pass customs. There, they opened every single suitcase, so it was taking forever. They inquired about my laptop and purpose of stay (I did not say I would be working for Ditshwanelo, because they will apply for a work visa once I started working there), but then left my backpack untouched, for which I was thankful because it had been hard to pack.
On the continued ride to Gaborone “Mma Ramotswe” all of a sudden was very talkative and inquired what I was going to do in Botswana, advised me to take the train on my return route, and then talked about her son, who studied economics in Brazil and was now attending Harvard University, and to whose graduation they would travel later this year. When I, stupidly, asked whether that would be her first time in the US, she looked at me like I was crazy and said she’d been there very often. It was quite eye opening for me: Here I was, with my image of Africa and Africans as not having all these opportunities that we are having, and she proved to me that I would have to broaden my perception. It took another interesting turn when she asked me about my future plans and I mentioned, among other options, government: she started lecturing me that government was not a good place to work in because the people there are all bad and lazy people and that I should seek honest work…
The seemingly never ending bus ride finally ended on time (8:51 PM) at a Shell station in Gaborone’s city centre where I was picked up by Gabi, an energetic German full time employee at Friedrich Ebert Stiftung who had also arranged for a couple of things for me. She drove me to the intern’s apartment where I met Judith, who has also been so instrumental in making me arrive feeling more at home than previously anticipated. Judith had cooked dinner for us and we sat and talked for a bit. She is a German student of politics and will finish her studies probably next year. The other intern, Stefan, was not there and will return on Monday and the third person living in the place, Francois from Mauritius, arrived at 10 PM, a nice guy, too. We talked till 11 PM and then I really had to get to bed.