So I'm almost 2 weeks into my placement, and I have to say that by reading other IDSer blogs, it seems like I'm having quite a different experience than most. Although there are many things that make me realize that I am not actually in Canada, I am not nearly as Canada-deprived as some may think. I've decided to break it down into similarities and differences between Gaborone (or Gabs, or GC or whatever you want to call it) and the True North Strong and Free... which apparently has earthquakes and G20 riots while I've been away.
Similarity-- Style of Dress: Most people here in Gabs wear Western clothes. I was worried when I first arrived that I would a) stick out like a sore thumb or b) have to undergo a style overhaul. Neither of those are true. Most people that know me know that I practically live in jeans, and luckily most people here wear jeans as well. Although those who wear the big brand names (stuff like Adidas/Nike, Rocawear etc.) seem like the minority in my experience, everyone looks sort of the same, myself included. So in that regard, I'm pretty average here.
Difference-- Transportation: Getting around in Gabs is quite interesting. Most people in Gabs don't walk as a means of transportation, unless it's very close. Luckily, I am only a 20-minute walk from work, so I can get some exercise in that way (since the food here is something else, which I will further explain). However, most people use either combis or taxis. For P2.70 (Pula, which means rain, is the currency used in Botswana and 6 Pula is the equivalent of 1 CAD), you can take a combi. Combis are these VW minibus-looking things (like the car in "Little Miss Sunshine") that have seats, and you squish about 20 or 25 people. They don't have seatbelts of course, and you just sort of yell out when your stop is coming. It's the closest thing to a bus system here, since there are stops all along the main roads. The other option is a taxi, of which there are two kinds. Most people take shared taxis, which you can get from the taxi rank (sort of a bus terminal thing), which costs P3.20. It stops me a lot closer to my house than a combi would, and it's essentially a Canadian taxi. The difference is that each taxi is assigned to a different neighbourhood, so you share it with other passengers who get off where they need to. In areas where taxis or combis don't usually go (or if you're going really far away), you would take a special taxi. For P25-30 (it's negotiable), you call a taxi and it will take your right to your destination-- just like Canadian taxis. Everyone here has the numbers of a few good taxi drivers they have met, so that you always have a reliable person to call if it's late at night. I am getting used to the fact that seatbelts are like, non-existent here (combis don't have them and taxi seatbelts never work-- one of the guys at work calls them "decoration), but the transit system hasn't been too bad here.
Similarity-- Food: You can get everything here that you can in Canada food-wise. Although there are a few Botswana dishes, I feel like they are really bland and so I've been sticking to the basics-- pasta, spaghetti, eggs and/or rice for dinner. I also go out a lot for dinner, and so far I've had Thai food, Indian food, pizza, burgers and ribs. Most people eat American-style food here, and it's reasonably priced. Vegetables and imported brands (ex. Hellman's Mayonnaise) is more expensive though. All of the food is also safe to eat, since we can drink the tap water here. AND I have managed to avoid the great experience known as traveler's diarrhea, which is nice.
Difference-- Quantities of food: We eat. A lot. Batswana really love their food, especially their meat. Back in Canada, I will only have meat maybe twice or three times a week, and I hardly ever eat red meat. Here, beef is one of the big exports (after diamonds) and the cows are actual cows, not the breeded-for-excellence stuff back home. So everyone here has meat with everything, and there are many dishes that revolve around meat. It's taken some getting used to and it's probably not too good on your digestive system, but it tastes damn good. My body probably won't love it though, and I'm sure it'll start showing up places.
I've got a lot more that I'll update sometime, but everything here's been great for the most part. I live in the WUSC guesthouse with 4 other volunteers. There are also zillions of other WUSC volunteers here in Gabs, so I definitely have been getting my Canadian friend fix here. This past weekend, about 15 of us took a bus to Khama Rhino Sanctuary, 4 hours away in this town called Serowe. We got this big coach bus to take us the extra 30 km from Serowe to the Sanctuary for just 15 pula, which you could never do in Canada. Although we didn`t get to see any rhinos (they were hiding from the cold I think, since it`s winter here and our safari started at 6:30am), it was one of the coolest things I have ever seen. We saw tons of endangered species like the Springbox, some giraffes, a bunch of antelope and ox-looking animals, and even Zazoo from the Lion King! Actually, it`s called a gold hornbill or something like that, but either way it was amazing! I definitely want to go back when it`s warmer, as well as hit up the other safari spots in Botswana (they`re known for safari tourism). The only thing that I`m sort of bummed about is that almost every WUSC-er here (including all of my housemates) have gone to a World Cup match in nearby South Africa, but I haven`t been here long enough to get tickets or get time off work. But we watch multiple games here, and on the weekends we`ll go to local hangout spots and watch on the big screens. Botswana is definitely World Cup crazy, and we`ve even got a vuvuzela, which is that loud annoying instrument that people blow at the games. Do they even sell them in Canada?
Anyways, I'll update later, since my lunch break is almost done. I definitely want to blog about work, and just my every day life in Gabs.
But until then, shine on my friends!
-Yasmin aka Sethunya (that's my given Setswana name, which is the language of Botswana. Sethunya means flower)
And for the record: no, I don't pee in a hole. We live in a nice, normal house with hot water and an adequate toilet system. We even have a heater (which we eventually figured out how to use)!