December 2, Day 489
Wake up nice and early. Time to head to Hereford!
Get the water for coffee boiling and eat the last two eggs in my cupboard for breakfast.
Start packing my bags. I’ll be sleeping in a tent outside of a school, so I pack my sleeping bag, bucket for bathing, water, enough food for 5 days, sunscreen, a towel and a sun hat.
Get it all in a pile in my living room.
Get dressed for work and decide to dress casually since we’ll be driving for 3 hours to Hereford and camping. Jeans and a nice shirt with sneakers should do the trick.
Start walking to the office and about halfway there, I realize I need water now now or I will overheat and I forgot my water bottle at home.
Stop at my favorite “Three Angels” tuck-shop and there is a young girl, about 14 years old, working at the counter behind the metal screen window.
“Dumela! Ke kopa metsi,” I tell her. (Hello! I would like some water)
She nods and then steps away for a minute and comes back bringing a cup of water from the faucet. How sweet of her! I should have clarified that I wanted to buy a bottle of water because I can’t drink water from the faucet.
“Oh, thank you! I would like to buy a bottle of water,” I say, pointing to the bottles of water in the fridge behind her.
She again nods and then walks away into the house behind the tuck shop.
Huh? I don’t know why she left. I stand and wait.
After a few minutes, another woman walks in behind the counter. The girl’s mother, I assume.
“Dumela, Mme, ke batla metsi,” I say, pointing to the bottle of water next to her. She understands and I pay for it.
As I walk away from the shop I see the girl walk back into the tuck shop with a few bottles of water in her hand. I hold up my bottle of water and give her thumbs up to indicate that I’ve been taken care of.
“Ke a leboga!” I yell (thank you).
Arrive at work, and it’s really bustling today. Mr. Kole from the Men’s Sector is there organizing things with Bontle. Catherine has returned from leave and I am SO SO happy to see her and immediately run to give her a hug.
“Careful of the red blanket on the floor!” she says, laughing as I hug her.
I didn’t see the big blanket on the floor and realize Catherine’s 5-year old daughter Anaya is at work today and is taking a nap on the floor under the blanket. She has decided she doesn’t like the air conditioner and is dramatically wrapping herself into the blanket like an Eskimo.
“Mommy, PLEASE, turn off the air conditioning!” Anaya says.
I shoot Catherine a look of panic. It’s 100 degrees outside and I’m overheating. I might melt if we turn the air off!
“Sorry, I have to pick my battles,” Catherine says, and turns off the air conditioner.
Mr. Kole leaves and I sit down with the ladies to catch up. We calculate the supplies ordered for the trip and how we will make them work with the number of people. We decide that I will go to Hereford with Mabe and communicate with her. She will order more supplies if needed and when I return on Thursday she will go to Hereford on Thursday and we will switch places.
Mabe told me he wanted to leave around 11 am, but it’s now noon and there’s no Mabe. Bontle leaves to go with him to collect food and meat to bring for everyone on the trip.
After a few hours I decide to go home and take a nap and fix my tent.
Walk home, pass out immediately and sleep for an hour.
When I wake up it’s now late afternoon. Where the heck is Mabe? I call him.
“Abigail! I am still collecting food with Bontle. I will be there soon,” he says.
“Okay no problem, Mabe.”
Go out on the porch and video chat with Colden while he teaches me how to fix the tent zipper. Voila! It’s fixed.
Around 7 pm Mabe arrives at my house. It takes 3 hours to drive to Hereford, so this means that it will be dark by the time we arrive. He is in a rush and has worked hard all day. The entire truck is filled to the brim with bags of maize meal, butternut squash, onions, dishwashing detergent and meat.
Load up my things and Mabe tells me that we need to stop at his house in the next village to pick up his things.
As we drive I notice that there are very dark clouds that have formed and are clearly headed this way. Mabe is driving very, very fast.
“Mabe, please don’t kill me!” I say.
“Don’t worry, I’m not in the business of killing people,” He says, laughing. “I know this vehicle very well, and I know how to push it without danger.”
I trust him. As we turn onto the dirt road that leads to his village, it suddenly becomes extremely windy. It is so windy that the truck is rocking back and forth against the wind and we can hardly see. The white sand is blowing in the air and it looks like it is snowing outside.
“Wow, this looks just like a snowstorm!” I say. Mabe asks me about snow and what it’s like to drive in.
Arrive at his house and Mabe makes a run for it through the wind to his house to get his things while I wait in the car.
Load up his stuff and hit the road again.
We drive for another two hours through the storm. Mabe is hungry for a snack and we stop in Werda, but the store is closed since it is about 9 pm. He takes me to a bar across the street, and I’m very confused. We walk behind the bar and there is a secret back entrance. Inside is a woman selling bags of Simba chips and we both buy a small bag.
Get back on the road. The road to Hereford is a very bad gravel road that you have to drive on for about 55 kilometers. We carefully navigate the bumps and turns to get there.
Arrive at the school around 10 pm. We are both tired and exhausted and find a group of about 15 people there already, sitting around a fire outside next to the school.
I walk over and greet everyone with a big smile, but no one greets me back. This is unusual, especially in Botswana where greetings are important.
I sit, awkwardly wondering why no one is talking to me.
Finally, a woman named Masala speaks to me.
“Abigail, you are late. We are all hungry and were waiting for you,” she says.
“Oh, I’m so sorry! I didn’t realize anyone was waiting on us,” I say.
“Well you should have told us you were running late because we are all hungry,” she replies.
“I’m so sorry that happened, no one called me to tell me you were waiting?” I say.
She says nothing and I walk back to the truck to unload the food. I wish I could say that I wasn’t angry about that treatment, but I am. Everyone is a government employee, which means they receive a monetary allowance on a travel day to buy food for themselves.
Instead, they chose to pocket the money and rely on what my government office was supplying for FREE that was supposed to be for the rest of the week. They’re trying to make money off of this trip, and for some reason it is my fault that their plan isn’t working.
Additionally, the store closed at 5 pm in Hereford, and instead of calling me and telling me they were waiting for me or recognizing that we weren’t there and going to the store to get something for themselves before it closed, they all sat hungry and angry. In my opinion, it is up to us to take care of ourselves.
Okay, so that’s how this trip is going to be I guess.
Mabe drives me to the other end of the school and we unload our things from the car. He is upset with how we were treated, too, and is hurt that after working so hard all day to collect supplies, no one is grateful for his hard work. I assure him he did a good job and it will be okay.
Immediately, a group of men crowd around my bags of food, eyeing them, and ask if I want help. Of course, no one else brought any food for themselves the way I did because they’re trying to take advantage of the government system and pocket the money the government gives them for food.
I would usually share what I have, but I don’t have any other way of getting food and can’t eat the food we brought for them since it’s mostly meat.
I tell them I’m okay, I don’t need help carrying my bags of food and they all leave. It starts to rain.
Yikes! I need to set up my tent right now.
Find a spot and put the tent up and carry my bags into the tent. The zipper on the door breaks again.
CRAP. This part of the desert is ripe for scorpions and snakes. I find a rock in the rain and try to fix the zipper again. It won’t work.
I decide to take a cold shower and go to bed. I walk into the bathroom and it is absolutely filthy. There is mud and dirt and bugs everywhere and the toilet doesn’t work, but there is one shower and it needs to be cleaned.
Baitshepi is in there and says she will help to clean, she asks me to help. We don’t have any cleaning supplies or mops, so we take buckets of water and throw them on the floor to try and wash out the dirt and scrub the best we can.
She says she wants to bath, and so I resolve to go to my tent and wait until she’s done.
Go back to the bathroom a few minutes later and take a cold shower.
Get into my pajamas, plug my phone to charge and fall asleep in my tent. At least it’s not raining anymore.