February 24-25th, 2020 – Days 571-572
Wake up to Rra Dijo licking my ear. It’s a hot one today, so I throw on my hat and sundress and take him out for a walk so he can go to the bathroom.
Gather my things, feed Rra Dijo and water my garden. My corn plants and watermelon are growing like crazy! I decide that tonight before I leave for the bus to Gaborone that I will put up the shade netting over my garden to keep critters out while I’m gone.
Bucket bath and take out my suitcases. Tonight I’m taking the night bus to Gaborone to meet with Goaba, and we will head to Francistown tomorrow.
Leave Rra Dijo sleeping in the living room and bike to work. I ask Catherine if she will water my garden while I’m gone and she says of course she will.
“Abigail! You are looking like a hippy today,” Mabe tells me. We all laugh together. I ask him if he will take care of Rra Dijo while I am gone and he says no problem, he will pick him up from my house tonight after work. Cool.
Head home, I have much to do today before the trip. Catherine texts me and asks me to explain what a hippy is. She’s heard this term before, and then also asks what an afro is. I send her pictures of afros and hippies and explain what it’s all about.
Rra Dijo and I go for another walk around the block. He lies down to take a nap in the shade under the tree in my yard while I work in the garden.
Finally, the shade netting is installed! The sun is so powerful here that my plants are actually burning from the sun. I also suspect that the birds are eating my plants, so it will help to keep them out.
I hear whimpering and look over and see that Rocket is at the gate and wants to play with Dijo. We all go for a walk together and they chase one another around the yard. They sure do love one another, sometimes in non-heterosexual ways, and I’m totally here for it. Go for it, Rra Dijo! Explore your sexuality.
My mint plant is also growing quite well on the front porch. I make a salad for dinner of watermelon, feta, mint and vinaigrette dressing while the boys play out front.
Mabe comes to pick up Rra Dijo. He is so happy to see Mabe he hops right in the front seat of the car and then climbs onto the dashboard and insists on sitting on the dash while Mabe drives away. Bye, buddy!
YIKES, I need to wash my clothes before I leave for the bus tonight. I call Danny and ask him if he will drive me to the bus stop. He says he’ll be at my house at 9:30 pm. Cool.
Use my stored water and fill the bathtub to scrub clothes. I scrub all the clothes I’ll need and wash my sheets. I get everything hung up before the sun goes down. Hopefully it’ll be dry by the time I have to leave!
I have been tasked with helping with the MYAA (Month of Youth Against AIDS) activities in the beginning of March when I return, and the Ministry of Health has asked me to send them a proposed budget and activities. I work on that for an hour and send it over to them based on all of the meetings we have had. I’m stressed out about it but decide not to go crazy over it.
Pack my bags. Throw an apple and some toilet paper in my purse. Danny arrives at 9:30 pm, right on time. We reminisce about the first time I took the night bus and I was SO SO SO nervous he had to talk with me to calm me down, and how easy it is now.
Climb on the bus, I’m exhausted! I can’t believe I made it. What a busy week I’ve had! I learn that my seat is in the middle of the very back row of the bus. The good news is that I have enough legroom for the first time in my life. The bad news is that I won’t be able to sleep unless I sleep on someone’s shoulder. I’m also directly in the middle of a family who keeps leaning over one another to talk to each other. Okay, fine.
A few hours goes by. I don’t sleep. We stop in Werda and they let us get off the bus for a minute to run into the bush and pee. I REALLY have to go. I know it’s not safe to run into someone’s yard behind a tree and pull my pants down at night, but it’s the only option, so I go for it. I stay within the vicinity of a few other women who are also peeing behind a house. Climb back on the bus.
When the bus starts moving, I see another seat open up and take that one. I still can’t fall asleep though.
We arrive in Gaborone early, at 4:30 am. The taxis don’t start until 5 am, so I sit on the bus and wait for them to open up. I always wondered if Gabs is the last stop why everyone doesn’t always get off the bus, but this time I realized that it’s because they’re waiting for taxis and it’s a safe place to wait.
Soon, 5 am hits and I text Goaba to let her know I’m in Gaborone. I tell her I’m even more exhausted than I was before. We are supposed to take the bus 5 hours north to Francistown this morning, but I’m too tired to take another bus right now after this overnight bus ride! She says I can come to her brother’s house, and she has asked the housekeeper to sleep on the floor with her brother’s son so that her and I can use the bed to nap before our bus.
Oh no! I don’t want the housekeeper to sleep on the floor!! I tell her I like to sleep on the floor and don’t mind, but she assures me it’s okay and gives me directions to the house.
I see taxis starting to line up, so I climb off the bus and grab my bag. Immediately, a taxi driver walks up to me to ask if I want a ride.
“Ehhh Rra, Ke kopa taxi mo block 6” I say to him (yes, sir, I need a taxi to go to block 6).
His eyes widen as he realizes I can speak Setswana.
For one of the first times ever, I know enough Setswana to hold an entire conversation and haggle with the taxi driver. He insists that I am going far away and should pay more than 30 pula, I tell him no, it’s supposed to only be 30 pula. He agrees. He seems confused on what my deal is. That’s fine.
We drive far into Gabs, further than I’ve ever been. He gets lost. I give him the directions but he does not understand them. So, I call Goaba and she talks with him on the phone while we drive back and forth. Finally we figure out where the house is.
Goaba is standing by the gate in the street in her bathrobe, waiting for us and greets us with a big wave, smiling.
“Rra, you are very bad at directions!” she tells the taxi driver. “And I hope you didn’t charge her more than 30 pula just because she’s legkoa!”
I laugh and inform her that he tried, but we agreed on 30 pula.
I pay him, and we walk inside. Everyone is still sleeping. Goaba has a beautiful bed for us, just waiting for me to sleep on it. Wonderful!! Just what I needed!! It seems the housekeeper is already up for the day, so I don’t feel so horrible about taking her bed, though I would have been happy to sleep on the floor.
Fall asleep. My side of the bed is by the window and I can feel a breeze. I have a deep sleep for about 4 hours.
Wake up and Goaba is reading a book. She says I can go and bath and we prepare boiling water for our baths. She also went shopping and got some eggs and beans for us.
I take a quick bucket bath to freshen up and get dressed for the next leg of our trip. Gaborone is about the middle of Botswana, and we are traveling far north to Zimbabwe. Tonight we will stay in Francistown, the second largest city in Botswana, at my friend Cathie’s house and then travel to Zimbabwe the next day.
I make eggs while Goaba is bathing and chat with the housekeeper, who is with one of the kids watching TV in the living room. Goaba gets dressed and we make our plates of eggs and baked beans for fuel for the long trip. I tell her I must go to the Peace Corps office today on the way to the bus station because the Peace Corps medical office has told me they have hand sanitizer for all of the Peace Corps volunteers in my region because of something called Corona virus. I am the designated volunteer in the region in the event of an evacuation, so they asked me to distribute the hand sanitizer to all of the volunteers.
Goaba has her car and we load up our things and have the housekeeper take pictures of us in our backpacks before we leave.
“Now I can be just like a PCV!” Goaba says. She bought her hiking backpack just for this trip and is excited to use it, just like the PCVs who travel around with their big backpacks.
We drive over to the mall and walk to the Peace Corps office. The medical office is busy and they ask us to wait upstairs, so Goaba and I go upstairs and hang out with a few other volunteers and wait for our turn.
Finally they call me down and hand me a bag filled with sun block, vitamins, malaria medication (which I don’t need since I live below the malaria line, but will need when we go to Zimbabwe) and 8 bottles of hand sanitizer. How in the heck am I going to fit all of this in my bag????
I give the sun block to Goaba and offer to share my malaria meds with her on our trip.
We decide to go to the grocery store and buy some food for our journey. Often there are no restaurants along the way, so we must have water and food with us. And wine! We need plenty of wine to bring with us, too.
We walk around the mall and Goaba says she needs to buy some sunglasses for our vacation. She tries on different glasses and I take pictures so we can see which ones look the best on her.
Finally, we finish and then call her brother. He is going to pick up Goaba’s car from the mall and take it while she is away.
Her brother arrives, and it is great to see him. I met him when I spent Christmas with Goaba’s family and he’s really nice. He really gets a kick out of our gigantic backpacks and wishes us well.
Finally, it’s noon and it’s time to get the bus to Francistown. We walk across the mall to the bus rank and look for a bus to Francistown. We find a nice bus that is getting ready to leave. Woo hoo!
We take the bus and chat the whole way. The bus ride flies by when you get to chat with Goaba.
Soon, the bus arrives in Francistown and I text Cathie to tell her we have arrived. Every time I’ve been to Francistown, I’ve had to pay 25 pula for a special taxi. Goaba laughs and says no way are we paying 25 pula! She says we can probably take a 5 pula shared taxi there and insists we can make it.
Climb off the bus, grab our bags, and we are hungry so we decide to buy bananas to snack on in the bus rank while we look for a taxi.
We find our way to the 5-pula taxi, and sure enough, Goaba negotiates for us to take a 5-pula taxi to Cathie’s house. Climb in, and he drops us off at the corner of her street. Close enough!
Cathie greets us with big hugs and smiles. She has prepared a delicious fresh dinner of pasta and tomato bruschetta mix and it’s fabulous. We are told that there is a bus heading to Kasane, the most northern part of Botswana, at 6 am tomorrow. So, we decide to call for a taxi to have him pick us up at 5:30 am tomorrow morning. Arranging for a taxi to arrive at a specific time is a risky move in Botswana if you don’t know and trust the taxi driver, but we decide to go for it.
We take showers and roll out our sleeping bags on the floor of Cathie’s living room, and fall asleep.