This entry is not as light as I thought – and the lights are off frequently

Gaborone Travel Blog

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My new bed in the new room

It is Wednesday night and the friend from my hometown, Alex, will be arriving tomorrow morning. She’s probably already boarded the plane and is on her way to this other end of the world. Whenever I look at a map and realize the distance, the term “other end of the world” comes to mind. But what does it mean? To me, it is just a physical position. In my mind, I am very much with family and friends at home. When I look around myself, there are so many similar things: people being in love, driving big or small cars, worrying about birthday cakes for their kids, going out for dinner or to their work…the sorrows are similar and the laughter we share is mutual. It still amazes me: I travel so far, but the core of it all is a common bond.

Now that is not to say there are no differences, and it is not to say that these can’t freak me out once in a while. I collected a couple of things during the last days:

When we were leaving Francistown last Friday, we agreed to get going at 9:00 AM.

Future roommate's bed
Mma Mtunzi had wanted 8:30 but we overruled her. Well…we got going by 10:30 AM because Mma Mtunzi and Florah had gone for some more shopping. When Dipuo and I called at 9:15 they said they were going to come “soon”. At 9:45 it was “in a minute” and they were here by 10:00. By that time I was quite pissed and I told Mma Mtunzi when she asked me the obligatory “How are you”. She apologized but didn’t really seem to mind. I have heard about different definitions of time in Africa and Europe, but still…she could simply have said it will be an hour and then I would not have waited stupidly in the reception hall.

The next issue was how to store all the things they had bought in Francistown. The trunk had been completely filled upon arrival. Now we had an additional two blankets, an iron, a water-heater, another suitcase, more clothes, more shoes, and more food. Florah was in charge of packing and after half an hour she had managed to squeeze it all into the VW Polo.

View of new room from the door
Between Dipuo and me on the back bench was a wall of laptops and bags and clothing so I could hardly see her. The floors were covered with plastic bags full of food. I don’t know why they had to do so much shopping there. You can get it all in Gabs. And when I asked others they also said that things are not cheaper in Francistown. So, I simply did not get it. But the ride back was long….6 hours. I’m telling you…

Once I returned to the guest house I opened my room and nothing was in there. I was quite shocked, looked at the living room, nothing. No one else was there and I tried to call Regina but she did not answer. I immediately took off to the offices of the DED and met Ofenze, the secretary while boarding her car to leave for the weekend. I asked her and she said I was lucky I still met her. Yes, she had switched my stuff to another room and here was the key.

Two Pinotages
I am still wondering when else she did intend to give it to me…I didn’t mind being relocated but the way it was done was not okay. The reason for this was the arrival of a new development worker, Franz. He last worked in Kabul (Afghanistan) and has many, many stories to tell (among them his imprisonment for several days because someone who ran into his car died; taxi rides as a holiday; etc.). He is really likeable guy in his fifties, very calm with a Bavarian accent, witty and funny.


Saturday night, I went clubbing with Judith and Stefan, two German interns here and Dorvik and Micha, a Mauritian and his girlfriend. It was quite a night out, we tried several clubs, ended up in the “Fashion Lounge” outside of Gabs, paid 5 euros entrance fee only to come into an almost empty dance club, had quite a couple of beers and danced.

A white
The place filled up around 1:30 AM and later came the Swaziland and Botswana Rugby teams that had played each other that afternoon (Botswana had won) �" funny thing was, almost every player in the Swaziland team was white. The night became longer and longer and by 5 AM, a very nice and friendly cab driver dropped me off at the guest house. It was fun.

Sunday was another lazy day…you can imagine I needed that.


The week at work so far has been calm. I am doing my work but sometimes the way Botswana and things in Botswana work get in the way…I am to revise a booklet on labour law in the centre’s “Know your law” series. It was originally published in 2002.

Another red
I checked which laws I need (Employment Act, Employment of Non-citizens Act, Trade Dispute Act, Workmen’s Compensation Act, Apprenticeship and Industrial Training Act). Then I tried the government website because it has a link to the laws of Botswana…only that access is restricted. I then called the Attorney General’s Chambers. They told me that they have all laws on their website (which I had checked before). I re-checked and did indeed find a search engine. This search engine however is useless because it only lets you search for day/month/year and Act/Bill/Statutory Law. You can not search for terms/words. Then I called the Labour Department which referred me to the Government Printing Office. I asked our driver to get the laws for me.

The next day I was informed that the driver would be busy the whole day. So, I decided to go there myself since it was said to be located right at the Main Mall.

Quite tired
10 minutes walk. The description was not exactly right. After 1 hour of searching and repeated questioning of people I found it…only to find out that 4 out of 5 of the laws are out of print. I was informed that the printing press is currently not working and that I should check back in 3-4 weeks. Splendid. That was the morning. In the afternoon, I decided to try the university’s library. I walked 15 minutes there only to be informed that without my passport number I could not enter the building. I had not brought a passport. I talked and talked to the security until they let me in. Then, I tried to find the laws of Botswana. In vain. I asked a librarian, she took me to the head librarian who in turn led me back to the book shelves and showed me, very friendly, were I could find and how to use them. Then I asked her how I could copy them. Here’s the thing: I can only copy with a copy card. This copy card can be obtained by getting a paper for P5 at the Administration office (which is at the other end of campus) then coming back to the library, present that paper slip and a passport and then you will be issued the card. Unfortunately the admin office had already closed because it was 3:15. Ah, I didn’t have a passport with me anyway…

Things can be quite difficult here and you always have to calculate that you need much, much more time than intended. One (Motswana) colleague explained me his philosophy: “We are an hour ahead of the UK and six hours ahead of the US…why should we hurry?”

I am trying to take it as a lesson in patience. On the other hand I see that people are really trying to overcome these obstacles and to be more organized �" although in fact I guess many things are too organized! Ah, well…

It has increased my wish to be getting out of Gabs for a bit and just travel and see more of the country which will start on Sunday.


Another thing I wanted to mention is the energy crisis here in Southern Africa. Power shortages are happening more and more often now and the power is simply turned off. We had it yesterday morning for several hours it seems (a colleague said she had been in the office by 5 AM and no power at all). When I arrived at 7:30 we had to wait until 8:30 and then the power was on for 10 minutes until the net collapsed again for another 20 minutes. With skyrocketing prices for energy, a booming South African economy (South Africa is the main supplier of energy for Southern Africa) it has become increasingly difficult to maintain power at all times. Tonight I went bookstore and grocery shopping at one of the big malls and all of a sudden power was gone. The people in the bookshop reacted immediately by shutting the gate halfway in order to better check every leaving customers, the counters were equipped with candles and they had prepared sheets for billing without the cashier. The supermarket seemed to have some energy because some lights and cashiers were on but all freezers were down. I often wonder whether it won’t only be a matter of time until we’ll be experiencing this on a more frequent level in Europe or the US as well.


Apart from all this I am still feeling quite fine down here. Being the wine freak I am I try to test a lot of different wines from South Africa, mostly reds with my fellows in the guest house. The wines are very heavy, some with 15% or 15.5% vol but I have found quite a couple that I like. A specialty is the South African grape variety “Pinotage”. It is hard to get good wines of that grape in Europe, but here there some at least and the prices are okay: I have not paid more than 6 euros for a bottle (there are some higher priced ones that I want to try but this will have to wait a bit). One wine commentator said that if these wines don’t turn out good they taste like the rubber of car wheels…

Also, the DED has been quite generous in offering me a discount rate of P50 instead of P70 per night (5 euros instead of 7 euros) and I do not have to pay any nights that I don’t spend there, i.e. while I was in Francistown and also while I’ll be travelling next week. I found that offer very nice! The only thing bugging me currently is that another intern will arrive at the guest house tomorrow evening and we will have to share a room for a bit until another room will be free in the guest house. I’m not particularly keen on it but he booked much in advance and so I guess I should rather be thankful that I can stay on. Plus I will be travelling all next week and maybe it’ll be resolved once I return.

This has become longer than intended and I hope you still bear with me but I also wanted to share something I have come to like as quite insightful as well as funny: Regina’s “Phrasebook Setswana �" English”. It is in the 28th printing and I find it hilarious as well as sometimes very telling for its content. I’ll just quote a few things in case you ever get here and you know what I mean:


Under the heading “Household phrases”:

Go to the well. �" Ya sedibeng.

First phrases under “Cooking”:

Split up some wood. �" A go rathwe dikgong.

Is there still plenty of wood? �" A dikgong di sa le dintsi?

Bring some more wood. �" Lere tse dingwe dikgong.

On a journey:

Let the cart be inspanned. �" A kara e golegwe.

Let the wheels be greased. �" A e tshasiwe.

Tie up the horse to the post. �" Gokelela pitse mo sesaneng.

Rub it down, it has a good deal of sweat. �" E sole, e mohuhutso thata.

Those oxen do not pull. �" Dikgomo tseo ga di goge.

Whip them up! �" Di betse!


Do you take things which are not your own? �" A o tle o tseye dilo tse e seng tsa gago?

No, I don’t steal. �" Nnyaa, ga ke utswe.


Where shall we wash the clothes, at the river or at home? �" Re di tlhatswe dikhai, a kwa nokeng kgotsa mo gae?

General expressions:

My sister’s child is dead. �" Ngwana wa ga kgaitsadiake o sule.

He will be buried today. �" O tla a fitlhwa gompieno.

Do come to the funeral. �" A ko o tle phitlhong.

Good morning! �" Dumela!

Things of home

Are there any fowls? �" A go na le dikoko?

There are a few. �" Dingwenyana di teng.

Are they fat? �" A di none?

They are thin. �" Di a bopama.

Let the cock which is fat be killed. �" A mokoko o o nonneng o bolawe.

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My new bed in the new room
My new bed in the new room
Future roommates bed
Future roommate's bed
View of new room from the door
View of new room from the door
Two Pinotages
Two Pinotages
A white
A white
Another red
Another red
Quite tired
Quite tired
photo by: Niki-Travelfan