November 5, Day 462
Oh my gosh, I’m late!
I look at the clock and it’s only 5:30 am. I am not late.
It’s just insanely bright outside for this early in the morning.
Go back to sleep and wake up again at 6:15 am. I can hear the thousands of roosters in the village doing their thing and men chanting in the distance. There must be a funeral nearby, which would explain the singing.
Time to finish packing my bags to go to Gabs.
Make breakfast. Brew the coffee. Meditate.
Pack my bag. We have to bring our fire extinguishers with us to get them serviced. This bad boy is heavy and it’s HUGE. I opt to bring my giant hiking backpack and put it inside there.
Turn off the gas tank to my house.
No Olive today. He must be having fun with one of his other girlfriends in the village.
CRAP. As usual, I forgot to go to the ATM to get cash for a bus ticket. Instead of freaking myself out about it, I opt to use some of the cash I have for paying my rent (the housing woman won’t ever draw up the paperwork for me to pay the rent, but I know she will one day. So, I keep the rent money separate so I won’t spend it).
Gather my things and start walking to the bus rank. It’s about 3 kilometers away.
As I’m walking, a taxi cab pulls up next to me. I recognize the driver as the man who drives me home from the grocery store sometimes for only 5 pula. He’s a good guy.
“Get in,” he says.
“Okay. This is a 5 pula taxi?” I ask.
“Yes,” he replies.
Taxis are usually two prices in Botswana: 5 pula and 25 pula. A 5 pula taxi means that you have to share it with people who are going along the same route as you. Usually the taxi stops at bus stops along the route. A 25 pula taxi is called a “special taxi” and it takes you from your point to your destination with no sharing. I always check before I get into the car what kind of taxi it is.
Climb in the car. We chat and both decide it’s hot today. Weather is always a good neutral topic to discuss. Pick up another woman further down the road.
He drops me at the bus rank and I thank him for his help.
The bus to Gabs is not really a big bus, it’s a sprinter van. That’s basically a van that seats 18 people with a ton of unusual headroom that no one needs. There’s no legroom, but the roof is very tall for whatever reason, as if I’m going to stand while the van is moving?
If I were ever to speak to the person who designed a sprinter van I’d give them a real piece of my mind. Why in the world would you design a van with ZERO legroom and tiny seats, but then a TON of head room? Who does that benefit?
The answer is no one. I repeat, NO ONE benefits from a sprinter van.
I’ve had hours and hours of sitting on sprinter vans to determine the best seat in the house. If you’re over 5 feet tall, then it’s uncomfortable to sit sideways with no legroom between seats. Even the aisle seats are off the table.
I have decided that the best seat on the van is the middle seat in the rear row of the van. Your legs go into the aisle of the van and your lower back isn’t crushed by sitting sideways. Unless you get someone with a big bag of potatoes that they put on the floor in front of you, you’re good to go in that seat.
I attempt to put my backpack in the little trunk of the sprinter, but the guy running the van says to bring it on with me. I unlock my bag and take out the fire extinguisher and put it on the shelf above the seats. Then, I put my backpack underneath the last row of the van on the floor.
I get my favorite back row seat. Woo hoo! This is going to be a good ride.
A woman climbs on to the van and chooses the seat next to me. She sits down and taps me on the shoulder.
“I think I have seen you before. Were you at the AIDS Candlelight Vigil in McCarthy’s Rust a few months ago?” She asks.
“Yes! That was me. I was wearing a traditional African dress that day. I work in the DAC office, and that was our event,” I say.
“Oh yes! I remember you well. Nice to meet you,” she says.
This is what I love about my region of Botswana. Sure, I could have been placed in the North with elephants and zebras running by every day on the Okavango Delta. But, I don’t know if people would be as nice to me there as they are here.
Deep in the desert of the south I always sense a special camaraderie. Things are a little bit more old fashioned down here and people look out for one another. There is a sense of “we are all in it together. I look out for you, you look out for me.”
I dig that. Safety, it’s a good thing.
I recognize the guy working on the bus as the same guy I owed 15 pula to last time I took this sprinter van. There was a language barrier misunderstanding and he let me go. I make a mental note to offer to pay him what I owe from last time.
The van takes off. I space out for a few hours.
He comes around to collect money for our ride and I offer to pay him what I owe. He laughs out loud and said he can’t believe I remember him! He doesn’t want the money, but appreciates that I remember.
Stop in Werda. I get out to get some ma fresh (French fries) and beat the crowd. The bus ticket dude finds me inside the restaurant and asks me to order an iPhone for him.
“Sure, if you give me the money, I can order one for you. But why don’t you just buy one in Gabs?” I ask.
“Oh no, they’re too expensive in Gabs. You can get one from America and send it here,” he says.
“Yes I could. But, they’re the same price as what you pay in Gabs. Why take the chance of sending it in the mail when you could just pick one up in Gabs?”
He mumbles something and walks away.
Use the pit latrine. Get back on the bus. Space out.
When we arrive in Sekoma, an elderly woman and a young girl, maybe 3 years old, gets on the bus. No one gets up to give her a seat, so she resolves to sit down on the floor with the little girl.
The little girl sits on the floor in front of me and stares. I feel something tickling my toes and look down. She is secretly trying to touch me, which happens to me often believe it or not. Some people haven’t seen a white person before and find a way to touch me just to see what I feel like. This little girl is touching my toes.
I wink at her and she giggles. We smile and wave at one another.
They get off at the next stop.
Continue to space out for the next few hours.
The bus arrives in Gabs, and I’m starving. Walk into the mall and decide that I don’t want a big meal, but something to hold me over for a few hours.
Get a chicken pie and stop to eat it.
Walk back out to the bus rank to the taxi station. I speak only in Setswana, and that must have done the trick, because for once in my life they actually agree to the correct price and don’t try to rip me off.
Drive to the place I’m staying and thank the taxi driver.
Check in. We are staying at a rehab facility run by nuns. It’s super nice, I always enjoy staying here. They come to clean our rooms and the facility is well maintained.The only possible thing to complain about is that the beds are rock hard. But I don’t mind sleeping on hard surfaces.
The nun at the check in desk asks me who my roommate is. I tell her I don’t have a roommate and she gives me my own room. Sweet!
Get into the room. Lay down to relax.
A few minutes later there is a knock on the door. I open it to find my friend Rachel. Apparently she is now my roommate, which I don’t mind at all because she is a lovely person who does not snore.
Rachel and I catch up and head over to the first Peace Corps training session at 5 pm.
They talk. We listen. They tell us breakfast is at 6 am tomorrow, followed by our test in Setswana at 7. Cool.
Go to dinner. They have some vegetarian curry dogs for us vegetarians that I am slightly skeptical about, but enjoy. That was thoughtful.
Back to the room. Get myself together and head up to Hallie’s room. We open a bottle of wine and chat into the night.
Head back to my room. Bed.