Thursday, July 12, 2012
This past weekend I went to Palapye for our regional meeting. It was a blast being able to be surrounded by like-minded individuals once again. After discussing our probable projects, we drank, cooked, danced, and sang for the whole night and felt normal once again. It was wonderful!
All of these things paled in comparison to my astonishment at the travel system here in Botswana. Let me begin by saying that this transportation thing is something that is still very new to me and I’m learning to navigate the system, even three months in. Secondly, I’ve learned that nothing is set in stone. For example, I have asked at least 10 people what times the bus picks up from Gobojango to Bobonong and I have gotten at least 10 definitive answers. And with reason! The times that I’ve attempted to travel to Bobs, the bus never shows up on time (if at all!) and I’ve ended up settling for the next easiest option: hitchhiking.
Now before I go on, let me interject here and inform you that hitchhiking is a completely normal phenomenon here in Botswana. People look to it more as a business transaction than anything else, since you’re expected to pay the regular bus fare when they drop you off. In fact, there is a bus stop as well as a hitching post for those (frequent) times the bus driver decides he’s not coming back. Peace Corps doesn’t necessarily encourage hitching, though they do recognize that in some villages it is a must.
Okay, well as we were getting ready to leave Palapye, we discovered that our bus to Bobonong didn’t actually leave until around 11:30 so we thought we would try the hitching post. After car after car headed to Francistown, we finally decided to head back to the bus rank. We stood there as I watched and listened to everything going on around us.
Bus ranks here are a really interesting thing. They simply look like really big parking lots with tons of people congregating around them. Around the edges, people have stands (that appear to have been put together with whatever they could find) selling a multitude of goodies including hand-made beanies, t-shirts, sweets, peanuts, airtime for phones, fruit, and fried chicken. That’s right, you read correctly, already-bought, and re-sold packages of fried chicken from the local fast food restaurant Chicken Licken. When a bus pulls up, men and women carrying their products on their heads approach it and sell things to patrons through the windows. If you think I’m joking, just take a look at this picture!
Another thing that I’ve found pretty hilarious is that, even though people stand in a relatively neat line awaiting the bus, it turns into a free-for-all the moment the bus arrives. Needless to say it is quite the experience.
That’s it for now!