January 6, Day 524
Alarm goes off at 6 am. Up and at ‘em!
Get up and pack up my bags. It’s time to travel back to my village.
Take my suitcases and head downstairs to the lobby to pay and check out of my room.
Decide to walk to the breakfast buffet and grab some food for the road. The same waiter from the hot sauce debacle greets me and asks if I would like a cup of coffee for takeaway to take with me.
Sure! Thanks buddy.
I’m in a rush and don’t have time to stop and eat. The buses in Botswana don’t take reservations for the most part and leave right on time. So, I have to make sure to get a seat and find space for my suitcases before it leaves.
I stuff a croissant and two hardboiled eggs into my purse.
Grab my coffee and I start walking with the coffee and my suitcases towards the bus rank. I find my bus and put my suitcases in the boot underneath the bus.
Oh crap, I forgot to buy airtime!! I’ve been using Wi-Fi at the hotel for the past few days and won’t have Wi-Fi again for a long time. That means I have to buy airtime before I get on the bus in case an emergency happens and I need to use my phone.
Usually, when I have a little bit of data left on my phone I log into the Barclays app and buy more airtime electronically. I forgot to do that, which means my phone won’t work for anything. That means I have to find someone who is selling a little paper coupon for airtime that has a scratch off code you can enter that will register the airtime to your phone.
I walk over to the woman sitting underneath the blue tarp near my bus.
“Dumela, Mpho,” she says.
“Dumela, Mma. How did you know my name is Mpho?!” I reply.
“I didn’t, you just look like your Setswana name would be Mpho!” the woman replies.
Unfortunately, she doesn’t have any airtime, but tells me she is from Serowe and part of the Bangwato tribe.
“We are known for having big butts!” she tells me and we laugh.
I walk a few rows of buses down and find a nice elderly woman who is selling airtime. She asks for 10 pula and I dig into my purse.
Darnit, my stupid croissant is in the purse and making a mess. There are croissant flakes from the crust ALL over my purse and I cannot find the 10 pula note.
I dig through my purse fast, afraid that my bus will leave any minute. I see an older man who was staring at me walking by before approach me.
“Hello mama! You must marry me!” the man says. I can smell the alcohol on his breath.
Here we go, I think to myself. I have no time for this today.
“Sorry, Rra, not interested,” I say.
He insists on knowing my name and then tells me his name is Titanic.
“You must give me your phone number,” Titanic says.
“No, I’m sorry, I don’t give out my phone number,” I reply.
“But you must. I will come to your village and marry you. You need an African man.”
I’m in a rush, and he’s distracting me while I look for the 10 pula. The woman is growing impatient, rightfully so.
“Rra, please leave me alone. I’m not interested. I’m in a rush,” I say.
He continues asking for my number and asking me to marry him. He is relentless.
Finally, I stop and look him in the eye.
“RRA, GA KE BATLA,” I tell him.
“Ga ke batla” translates to “I don’t want”, which is a very direct way to tell someone to go away. I find many Batswana avoid confrontation for the most part. By being confrontational, the man finally understands I mean business and to leave me alone.
He walks away and I find the 10 pula note (finally!) and walk back to the bus.
Sit down in my seat and clean my purse out and finally relax. I made it!
The bus takes off. The woman collecting tickets asks us all to pray and sets guidelines for the bus ride in Setswana. I bow my head with everyone and have no idea what she’s saying, but it’s probably the most respectful thing to do.
As we leave Gaborone, the bus stops for a long while so that someone can load a bunch of children’s plastic tables to the front of the bus next to the driver. Here I was worried about my two suitcases taking up too much room!
Finally, tables are loaded.
We go to take off, and I see smoke coming from the front of the bus. It’s pretty thick and smells strong.
The driver makes an announcement in Setswana, but I have no idea what he just said. I see some people still sitting on the bus, so I decide to stay and remain alert, watching the actions of what everyone does since I can’t understand what they’re saying.
Wait… are those flames coming from the hood of the bus?
More people get off the bus.
I decide to stick with it and see what happens.
The driver makes another announcement. I begin to worry that this bus going to my village will in fact, not make it.
“Mma, can you tell me what is going on?” I ask the woman in the row across from me.
“The driver has gone to buy a piece for the bus and is coming back,” she tells me.
Another 30 minutes passes. Finally, we get the bus started and people pile back into their seats.
Woo hoo! Another bus, another fire and we are all fine. These buses can run forever, I swear.
A few hours later, we stop in Jwaneng. I get off and use the bathroom, and then sit on the bus and eat an apple and the hardboiled eggs.
We begin moving again and I notice a LOT of moths flying in the air as we head further south in Botswana.
I have noticed that there is some sort of major moth migration that happens about once a year in Bots. Last year, we had a work trip to a nearby village and had to camp in someone’s yard overnight. I remember waking up and going to the bathroom in their house, and seeing that the shower was covered in THOUSANDS of dead moths on the ground.
And the moths are so pervasive, too! Moths get into everything; into the lights, through the cracks of the windows, into doorways, all over the floor.
I guess this is the time of year for the great moth migration.
As we continue driving, I see another bus driving towards us and the driver puts his hand out the window to signal to our driver that there are cops checking for speeding in the next village ahead. I have noticed most bus drivers have a universal signaling system to one another to warn one another.
I watch the landscape change as we driver further south and I am blown away by how green the area is. I’ve never seen this much green growing in this desert before! That’s good news for all the wandering livestock who were starving just a few months ago.
About 5 hours later, we arrive in my village. I climb off the bus and find a taxi driver. We load up my things into the taxi and he drives me home. I’m home just before dusk, which gives me time to unpack and enjoy the rest of the evening.
It’s so good to be home!
Just as I open the door, I see thousands of dead moths and cockroaches all over the living room and bathroom floor. It’s clear that they found an entrance through the screen window crack in the bathroom and took over while I was gone.
I put my things down and do a walk to check out the bug situation around the house. As I step outside, I notice that a piece of the roof fell off and landed on my tomato plants. The wind must have knocked it off because sometimes we do get some powerful wind storms.
As I approach the rear of my house, I see something balled up, about the size of a golf ball on the ground in front of my rear door.
What is that?
First rule of living in Africa; you never touch something you don’t know with your hands.
I grab a stick and poke at it to ensure it’s dead. Whatever it is, it’s dead. I unravel it and realize it’s a gigantic scorpion.
What the heck?!!
This terrifies me that a scorpion like this was wandering around my house and could have been inside. I leave it outside and also discover giant beetles about the size of the palm of my hand by the garden.
I suppose a critter taking over your house comes with the territory when you live in Africa. None of them are alive, and my house is in fairly good shape, so I decide not to worry about it.
Go inside and sweep up the moths and insects and clean up.
Unpack my things.
Crawl into bed, watch a movie.
I’m happy to be home. I’m still feeling very down, and maybe not ready to face the community yet, but I’m happy to be here.
With Catherine gone from the office and not working at the DAC anymore after the New Year, I have to start at a new organization. Baitshepi at BOCAIP has so wonderfully told me that I can come and work with her, but I must admit that it is daunting to start over new at a new organization after just spending the last year building trust and work relationships at the DAC office. I think that’s really behind why I’ve been avoiding coming back.
I miss Catherine, and I am not ready to move on. It is a VERY big deal when a volunteer has to change organizations. I’m just not in the head space to take on starting a new job with a new counterpart, even though I love Baitshepi.
The truth is, I don’t know where I belong.
So, for now all I can do is go to bed. Then I will spend the weekend getting myself ready to start anew on Monday at a new organization.