A rainy weekend with a sunny finish

Gaborone Travel Blog

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False alarm

It is Sunday, late afternoon and I just returned from having a drink (Malawi shanty – a lemonade with water and ginger ale, very refreshing!) with Regina at the Mokolodi Nature Reserve Lodge in the sun. I did not anticipate this weekend to end like this: gorgeous nature, blue sky, some puffy clouds, comfortable chairs and the sun sending warm rays of sun onto my arms and face…

 

It all started Friday, a day off since May 1st has been a holiday and the president extended it to Friday. Fair enough. My plans of sleeping long were quickly finished at 7 AM by a resounding alarm.

Nina, Joey and I
Our house’s alarm system had gone off and in no time the security people were here. The others explained to me that this had happened before, just false alarm. It was a bit scary, especially since I only just now discovered the “Emergency”-button in every room in the house with which you can call the security. I had not felt I needed that here so far and still do not consider this a dangerous place…

 

Since I had gotten up anyway I stayed awake and saw that the sky had turned to grey. No sun to be seen at all. It was chilly and I realized that I must have forgotten my favourite dark blue rugby sweater somewhere after the demonstration. I don’t believe one of my co-workers has it, so I suppose it is gone. Too bad, really. So I wore the brown sweater in the photo instead.

 

I went to an Internet café where I posted my latest entries.

At the bus terminal
The people there are really nice and I was very surprised when I listened in to their conversations (young people mostly): They discussed the crisis in Zimbabwe which really is present everywhere here in Southern Africa and they discussed why the president of Botswana is not being elected by the people but rather by parliament (which, whether by coincidence or not, is the case with Germany’s chancellor as well!). They also shared fears of what the president will become: a true democrat or a dictator (they did not phrase it that way). It is a discussion which I have read about in the papers, too. Seretse Khama Ian Khama is a Lt. General and he has surrounded himself with ex-generals or other military personnel once he took office. I am in no position to give an opinion here, I witnessed him at the workshop opening and he seemed alright to me…but that has nothing to say. Many Batswana believe he will be a good president, mainly because he is the son of the late Sir Seretse Khama, first president of independent Botswana.
Malenyanong Hills
Time will tell, I guess.

 

Once finished with my emails and posting, I took a combi to the River Walk Mall where I had a cup of coffee in one of Gabs’ few coffee places where you can get decent coffee. I read the Naguib Mahfouz book that I mentioned earlier (a terrific read!), sipped my coffee and relaxed. While the weather grew greyer and colder, I hopped on another combi bus and made everyone laugh out loud there. For the first time, this 10-seater bus (like a mini-van), was filled to the last place. So the guy riding with it and collecting the 25 c it costs to ride it waived me inside and pointed to the back of the bus. I only saw the floor left. So, I sat on the floor. The whole bus started laughing and my neighbour was friendly enough to point to the expandable chairs that were attached to the benches…I quickly moved up there and shared the laugh with them…being another foreigner or white man who has no idea how things work…But I am learning quickly!

 

I arrived just in time before the rain started and it never quite stopped.

Cape Vulture info
I spent the evening reading and talking with the other house guests. Yukiko and Regina and I sat until late at night over some wine and discussed all sorts of issues from cultural differences to living abroad. Regina’s family will arrive in 1 ½ weeks and she is so excited to finally see her husband and two daughters again. The daughters (16 and 14) will stay here for the two years, her husband works as an independent doctor and therefore will return after 3 weeks.

 

I again tried to catch some sleep which is not so easy with a bad mattress in your bed and two small children in the house, especially one of whom is prone to screaming around and slamming the doors at 7 AM.

See the diplomatic licence plate!
Don’t get me wrong, I still like these kids and they are really cute, as you can see from the photos, but sometimes they can cause a headache…I guess that’s kids.

 

Saturday was a day full of rain. Regina and I had thought about driving about 50 km south of Gabs to a village called Otse where you find the highest hill in Botswana, Otse Hill (almost 1500 m). The weather was so bad that we decided not to go. Instead we went in her new car (the former French ambassador’s private Mitsubishi Pajero) to a bike shop where she had her bike adjusted and the Pagenstecher family with Nina and Joey were also coming in their car. The bike place was located at the bus station and the poverty there strikes you.

Tree in rocks
You see many small vending stations and people offering whatever they have. It has been the first time in Bots that I have noticed it so strongly. It is in stark contrast to the glittery glass palaces along the main roads. It is a shame to see in such a rich country…

 

I continued my ride with the Pagenstechers and we went to one of the malls at the outskirts, Game City Mall. It never stopped raining…I went to look at the book shops there and I did find them. Their selection was very poor though and I was extremely disappointed. I am a book lover and I wanted to get myself some more reading material from the region. I might eventually end up buying “Constitutional Law of Botswana” (of which they had 10 copies), but I was much more interested in fiction from the region. Not much to be had there.

Two vultures
Turns out the book shop at River Walk Mall, which I thought has a small selection, has the best variety of them all…from there we went to “Liquorama”, a liquor store where I bought a cider that I had gotten to know through Sandra: “Savannah Dry” from Stellenbosch in South Africa. It is available for 50 c per bottle and very refreshing if you stick a lemon slice from our lemon tree into it. I also bought a bottle of South African Shiraz to share; the winery’s name is “Allesverloren”, which translates into “Lost everything”. We had the wine in the evening and it was good.

 

I did some writing and reading (finished Mahfouz and started Muhammad Yunus’ autobiography) during the rest of the day, not being able to leave the house because of the rain. It was very frustrating and depressing, too.

Otse Hill with a donkey cart
There is really nothing you can do when it rains and you don’t have a car. After dinner I watched the 9 o’clock news and to my surprise I was on national telly for 5 seconds when they showed some clips from the Access to Justice workshop. Right after they had interviewed my boss, they showed some attendants and there I was, looking concentrated and scribbling something (I bet it wasn’t connected to the speeches I listened to!). WOW. That made my day. Ha.

 

The night was awful, it rained so heavily and the thunder was so loud and rolling, I had never heard anything like that before. Check out the video to see the rain stream down the roof at 4 AM in the morning. I really feared it would rain through the roof (which must have happened before according to the house mates). It seems like our constant shouting of “PULA!” (rain) at the assemblies had had its impact.

Otse shacks
I fell back asleep when the rain diminished, but was woken up by screaming Joey at 7:30…sometimes…it’s hard to contain myself…

 

It had stopped raining, but the sky was grey and it was chilly. Regina suggested that we go to the Gaborone Yacht Club right at the Gaborone Dam. The dam stores enough water for the city and the yacht club was a nice place she said. So we went there and were lucky to have her 4x4 car because the way was pretty muddy. The place really is nice, reminded me of a lake in Italy and we’ll return with her family for a picknick once they arrived. There is one thing that is bothering me, though. On the way there, we passed one of the poorest quarters of Gabs.

Donkey in Otse
People there really live in shacks. These single-roomed shacks made of simple bricks with a toilet brick shack in the court, often without windows, start right beside ministerial glass palaces and the entrance to the yacht club is right across the street. I don’t know how a rich country like Botswana can tolerate that! The contrasts of rich and poor are enormous in this country.

 

We decided to take the risk and drive to Otse today, because there was some sun peeking out of the sky by noon and also little patches of blue. It was well worth the ride! The sky became blue with a few clouds, the sun warmed us and we arrived there in no time. We saw Otse Hill (at least we think the one on the photo is it) and then continued to Manyelanong Game Reserve, a tiny reserve that harbours the Cape Vulture, a rare bird. From 300 in the 1960s the group has diminished to about 80. You see them circling around the Manyelanong Hills (which literally translate to “place of excrementing vultures”). The hills’ original reddish colour had indeed been whitened by the bird excrements, but it made it look even more interesting. We saw the majestic birds circling above our heads and felt like being in the real bush. It was very nice. Just the right thing after these two depressing days of rain. We looked at Otse, too, many poor houses, just a village but cleaner than Gabs’ run down quarters. Like I mentioned before, the poverty is striking and it makes me sad. There is so much to be done.

 

We then returned to the capital via the Mokolodi Nature Reserve…it was an intense day, with positives and negatives. I still feel much better prepared to go back to work tomorrow than I did this morning.

 

Observation of the day: Batswana are very friendly and almost everyone greets you on the way. Handshakes last much longer than our short European handshakes: You keep your counterparts’ hand in your hand for quite a bit while you continue talking. Also, with quite some Batswana there are some strange hand movements involved, turning the hand upwards around the thumbs and then downwards again. Hard to explain. At first it is startling, now I have already grown to like it.    

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False alarm
False alarm
Nina, Joey and I
Nina, Joey and I
At the bus terminal
At the bus terminal
Malenyanong Hills
Malenyanong Hills
Cape Vulture info
Cape Vulture info
See the diplomatic licence plate!
See the diplomatic licence plate!
Tree in rocks
Tree in rocks
Two vultures
Two vultures
Otse Hill with a donkey cart
Otse Hill with a donkey cart
Otse shacks
Otse shacks
Donkey in Otse
Donkey in Otse
Gaborone
photo by: strangemystic