Gaborone (September 13- 15, 2016)
If you are looking for white people in Botswana, Gaborone (Gabs) will probably be your best bet. Gabs is the capital and is probably one of the few places that has multiple activities to offer, besides a lonely grocery store and few shops. Decked out with multiple malls, there isn’t much more to do here.
Lonely Planet featured Botswana the vacation destination of 2016. Because the country is slowly running out of diamonds, the government is relying more on tourism to bring in money, hence they bumped up accommodation prices. We stayed in Gabs for 1 night and paid $21.50 for an outside of town location with no frills, pretty much only bed and shower. Expect this rate throughout the country. The hostel was very clean though.
Even though we only spent one night here, we did come into Gabs multiple times. Mostly for transportation transfers, but we’d always grocery shop because the options in the other towns are limited. If you have dietary needs or want a distinct item, I’d recommend you get this in Gabs before moving on. We stocked up before going to Kanye.
Kanye (September 15- 27 and October 1- 14, 2016)
This is a town 2 hours removed from Gabs. Transportation was super cheap. For a 2 hour combi (small bus) ride, we paid $1.80. In Kanye, we stayed with our friend who was volunteering for Peace Corps. We even got to visit a school since our friend was teaching there. She’d already resided here for 1 year and had plenty of experiences and cultural insights to share. And there was plenty of cultural shock for me. I’ve never experienced something this extreme. Where I felt uncomfortable leaving the home! I’ve gotten a kiss blown to me from a bus driver. An old stranger stated I’ll be his wife as he passed by. Constant staring and hollering from majority of males. Any young, white female should mentally prepare for this if you stay in a Botswana town. The only way to avoid this is being with elders. They respect older people and won’t catcall if they think you are with your parents. I’d even tried holding hands with my male travel partner to get them to stop. Only slightly effective tactic. Probably because they believe in ‘side dishes’ or ‘little houses’, meaning that you have a mistress, even if you have a girlfriend or a wife.
Females in this society are blamed for everything and often mistreated. Rape is acceptable in this society. I know this because our Peace Corps friend teaches sex education in high school. A cab driver opened a conversation about Aids, which Botswana has the 3rd highest rate for. He claimed the spread of this disease was all due to the females having multiple partners, denying any fault of males. The sad part is that girls will sleep with older guys to get material items, hard for them to get otherwise, and condoms are frowned upon, because it dulls pleasure. This causes many of these young girls to get pregnant and drop out of school. Not only are abortions illegal and punished by death, as soon as the girl is a mother, she is considered an adult, it doesn’t matter if she’s 12; whereas older women won’t be viewed as adults if they don’t have a child. This encourages birthing even without proper means of taking care of the child. Women have a harder time getting financial stability. A woman is the father’s child until she’s married, then becomes the “husband’s child” by law. If the husband passes away, then she will become the child of her brother or some other male figure. Denying them many rights.
Though females are treated like crap, animals have it worse. I’ve seen kids throwing rocks at cows. I heard stories about pets being abused by other community members. I’ve never seen a stray dog in Botswana, but hear them at night. There is just a lack of respect for the vulnerable.
Now you think “at least in your home your safe from being bothered.” Ha! This religious country pushes their views on anybody. Our friend, who is staying here, holds non-Christian views. This one guy would project his voice over the property wall while she was in the kitchen cooking, trying to convert her. She tried to be friendly about the situation, saying she is not interested, but this is not understood here. He constantly pressed on and attempted this conversion 3 times during our stay, attempts lasting 10 minutes or more. This is not the way to persuade a person. Only closes them off to possibilities and giving religion a bad name.
I want to move on from the rant and talk about something positive. Botswana is the poster child for development. After the discovery of diamonds, the government spent a lot of the profits on developing the country. Many of the homes now have running water and electricity. Yes, water might run out biweekly for hours or days at the time, depending on the location, and electricity can shut off for hours, overall the living conditions are decent. If staying with locals, expect to take a bucket bath for showers are luxury features. What’s a bucket bath? You are in an empty tub with one bucket full of water and are pouring the water over you with a cup, completing your shampoo routine this way. This method is much more environment friendly than a shower that on average goes through 5 gallons of water per minute. Other luxury items like washing machines, laundry machines, etc. don’t exist in regular homes either.
While we stayed in Botswana, the country was celebrating Bots50, for the country’s 50th anniversary. Very cool for them, but that brings me right back to another rant. I’m sorry. The government gave out millions of dollars for town to decorate themselves for the festivity. Majority of decorations were limited to piles of rocks being painted in the colors of the flag. This money could have been spent much wiser on improving unemployment rates or education instead of sloppy “art”.
There is much more I could add to the topic of Botswana, but will leave it be. Feel free to ask if you are curious! Despite my disagreement of Lonely Planet’s choice for 2016 concerning this mostly boring country, if you think that you shouldn’t visit Botswana because what I’ve said so far; I want to let you know that there is a valid reason for visiting. Safari! I went on a safari here and will tell you all about my experience in my next post. I nearly died….. So be sure to come back for my next post!
Cost breakdown of Gaborone (2 days with total cost of $127.40. Average daily cost is $63.70.)
- Hostel: $21.52 (1 night)
- Transportation: $100.83
- Bus: $87.75 (initial buses to town)
- Taxi: $13.08
- Food: $5.05 (1 meal)
Cost breakdown of Kanye (24 days with total cost of $172.26. Average daily cost is $7.18.)
- Transportation: $12.50
- Bus: $8.32
- Taxi: $4.18
- Food: $159.76
- Meals: $10.05 (2 meals)
- Groceries: $149.71
Side note: In Kanye, we bought the groceries for our friend as well, since she let us stay for free. Hence a third of the grocery bill should be adjusted off to account for 1 person only.