Adventures of Navigating to a Mall That’s Not A Mall

December 20, Day 507

The alarm goes off at 6 am. I sleep until 6:30 am because this bed is so comfortable!

I’m supposed to check out of this hotel today and take the bus to Molepolole to visit my host family for a few days. But, frankly, I’m still tired and can’t do it today.

I have realized being in this hotel room just how much low grade stress I carry around every day not being able to rely on basic needs like power and water. I of course do not mind that the power and water goes out so frequently at my house; this is what I signed up for.

It’s that I have become aware of the extra stress it adds to ensure that I’m prepared all the time when it happens. When the water goes out, you don’t know if it will be out for 2 hours or 2 days. One time it was out for 2 weeks. You have to always be prepared and ready to switch up your entire day to accommodate it.

I have become aware laying in this hotel room, with the security of knowing that I have power and water, that I am carrying this constant stress with me. I need another day of being able to just wash my hair and know water will come out of the faucet when I turn it on before traveling to Molepolole back to that life.

I get dressed and am out the door by 7 am and stop at the front desk and ask if I can stay for another night if I pay for it out of my own pocket. The woman says yes, I can stay.

Woo hoo!

Stop at Café Dijo and order a vegetable quiche and some coffee.

Walk to the combi stop where the receptionist from the Peace Corps medical office says I need to go to get to my medical appointment. She says I need to take the combi to BBS Mall.

I find the right combi and climb on. I’m the first person on the combi, so I take a seat in the front row next to the window. The combi driver walks by with a soda in his hand, and then I watch as he does a double take and has an expression like “what the heck is she doing here?” on his face. He stops and leans into the combi door.

“Hello, Madam, o wa kae?” he asks. (where are you going?)

“Dumela, Rra. Ke a ko BBS Mall,” I reply (I’m going to BBS Mall)

“You are indeed on the right bus!” he says.

The bus fills up a bit, and we take off. I put my purse on the floor and hold onto the strap so that no one can reach through the window and take it.

After a long ride around Gabs, we finally arrive at BBS Mall. I am surprised to discover that it’s not actually a mall, it’s more like a random open parking lot on the side of a highway. I have no idea where I’m going. The receptionist said it would be obvious which way to go once I got here. I look at the ground, and I see a worn out path on the dirt where people have been walking and decide to follow it.

Sure enough, it leads to the medical office where I am going.

Find the right office and wait. My doctor tells me several times that I have a small womb. He mentioned this last time, too. I’ve never heard so much talk about my womb before!

“Is this a good thing or a bad thing that you keep telling me I have a small womb?!” I ask the doctor.

“Oh! It simply means that it has not been occupied before,” he says, laughing.

“This is true!” I reply.

I leave the office and walk back to the combi stop. Just as I arrive, I see there is a combi headed to where I am going. The driver waves to me, indicating he will wait for me while I hurry to his bus.

I make a run for it and stare at the side of the combi. Where is the door? He waves to me and tells me I’m on the wrong side of the van.

ARGH! I’ve been here almost two years and for some reason my brain STILL cannot adjust to what side of the car the driver is on. I’ve gotten used to being on the left side of the road, but the steering wheel being on the right side of the car still throws me off. Usually when someone beeps and waves to me as they drive by, I can’t tell who is waving because I don’t know which side of the car to look on.

I remember a few months ago I went to visit another volunteer in Kanye. She climbed into the backseat of the taxi, and I climbed into the front seat. As I sat there, I suddenly realized she was yelling my name.

“Abbie”

“Abbie!”

“ABBIE!” she yelled.

“Yes?” I replied.

“YOU ARE SITTING IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT!” she said.

Oh! I had sat right in the driver’s seat and didn’t realize it. The poor driver was standing outside the door looking very confused and amused. I felt like a bonehead.

Anyways, so I realize that I’m on the wrong side of the combi and run around and climb into the backseat. No one ever wants to sit in the last row of the combi because you have to squeeze 4 people into it instead of 3. Usually my big bum takes up a lot of space, too, so it’s uncomfortable for everyone.

I still prefer a combi to any other bus I’ve taken in Botswana. Sprinter vans have an absurd amount of headroom, which is odd because you’re sitting and don’t need 10 feet above you. Combis have no headroom, but more leg room. I like that.

The combi arrives back at the mall near the Peace Corps office, and I start walking to the office.

As I walk down the long walkway through the buildings, I hear a man walking behind me.

“Sorry?” he says.

“Sorry?” he says again (I assume people say sorry not because they’re sorry for something, but because they really mean “Hi! Sorry to bother you!”)

“Dumela, Rra,” I say, turning around.

“Hello! Where are you from? And I don’t mean what village do you live in in Botswana, I mean what country are you from,” he says.

“I am from the United States,” I reply.

“Oh! How are you finding the heat?” He asks.

“It’s fine. We have lots of hot places in the US, too. We have deserts. It’s hot in the summer just like here, so it’s no problem. I enjoy it,” I say.

“Yes, but you are clearly struggling. Look at your skin, it is completely destroyed!” he says, pointing to the freckles on my arm.

“Ha ha, no, those are freckles. That’s a normal reaction to the sun. My skin is not destroyed and it’s not a rash, they are normal for some people,” I reply.

We part ways, and I arrive at the Peace Corps medical office. I pick up my Yellow Fever card just in case they require proof of immunization when I travel next week out of the country.

Walk back to the mall, and I am suddenly starving and very thirsty. I decide to stop at Wimpy, which is the closest thing here to a diner. Sit down and order a grilled cheese with tomato and a Coke.

I’m SO THIRSTY.

I forgot that drinks are usually served after a meal, almost as a desert. Usually people eat without drinking, and then sip a soda afterwards. But I am so parched I feel like I might collapse as I wait for my drink. In the US, the server usually brings the drink while you’re waiting for the meal and I enjoy sipping on it as I eat.

I quickly adjust my expectations and remind myself to calm down and be patient; I’ll be fine.

He brings the food, and I feel like I can’t eat because I’m so thirsty. So, I ask him if he can please bring the drink. He does, and I transform back into a human being again and enjoy the meal.

Afterwards, I walk around the mall aimlessly until I realize that I’m just tired and need a nap. Why force myself to do anything if I don’t want to?

I stop at Woolworth’s Food and buy some ravioli, fancy soda, salad and salt and vinegar popcorn to bring back to my room.

What a treat!

Back at my room, I call my host mother and tell her I’ll be coming tomorrow instead. I really need a day to myself. I might be a talkative person, but I’m really an introvert on the MBTI scale. I need time to myself to recharge my batteries.

Fall asleep for three hours.

Just as I wake up, I see a woman walking towards my room. I see her take out a key and unlock the door.

I quickly get up and bolt to the door before she can walk into the room.

She opens the door and looks shocked. I think maybe she’s a member of the housekeeping staff.

“Hello, Mma. Can I help you?” I ask.

“Oh! I was coming to close the windows in your room, but I see now that you are here,” she says.

I thank her for coming by and tell her I’ll close them.

Talk to Colden for a bit.

Go outside and sit on the chairs and write for a while until the bugs start eating me alive.

Go inside and write while listening to Christmas music.

Suddenly, there’s a knock on the door.

I open the door and see the woman from the front desk. She tells me that the credit card machine is down, and asks me to pay using e-wallet. I don’t have that service, so I offer to pay via cash or do a transfer on my Barclays mobile app.

She leaves to get the correct banking details, and returns. The internet is slow, so we hang out and talk and get to know one another while I work to transfer the money on my mobile app. She tells me she could never live so far away from her mother. She lives with her mother in her village and talks to her every day.

We chat for a while and finally the payment goes through. She tells me she will be working tomorrow morning and will make sure to wish me well when I go. I’m so grateful for this wonderful past few nights that I’ve been able to relax.

She leaves, and I watch Christmas movies and fall asleep.

Boroko 🌙

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