You’ll have to excuse both the length of this post and the time between my first post and this one. To make it bearable, I provided subtitles. Like I mentioned before, the Botswana internet is not like U.S. internet. And just last week UB IT came and fixed the Ethernet in my room. My posts will be much more regular from now on. Also, at the end of this post you will find a list of “Key Terms” which I hope will be helpful.
Students on strike
I guess it’s more than a little ironic that soon after I posted to not worry about me and assume I’m safe and healthy students went on strike at the University of Botswana, international students were temporarily housed in hotel in a nearby village, and the school closed for two weeks.
Many Batswana college students are provided ‘scholarships’ from the government in order to go to school. Almost all their tuition is covered by the government. Once they graduate, many have to pay these scholarships back. When students reach their fifth year of college or start repeating courses, the government stops paying them to go to school. The global economic crisis is affecting the Botswana diamond industry, which is normally Botswana’s main source of revenue.
People do not have as much money as before the crisis → People are not buying diamonds → Diamond export rate is lower than ever → People are losing their mining job → Botswana does not have as much money coming in → UB students are not paid to school, especially fifth year students
The strike started pretty calm. About 1,000 out of the 15,000 UB students marched through campus chanting Setswana and holding signs and posters. However it did not take long for the situation to get out of hand. Students vandalized the campus, dragged people out of classrooms, etc. Four Americans actually went home because of a combination of Batswana getting violent with them and their home university wanting them out of the situation and back home. A brick was thrown threw one of my friend’s bedroom windows while she was in the room.
Impromptu Okavango Delta trip
When the school closing was announced, we all moved back on campus. Short vacation (spring break) was cancelled and the semester was extended by a week. Originally CIEE had a four-day trip to the Okavango Delta planned for the week after finals. Since school got cancelled, our program director, Batsi, decided we should change the Delta trip to the newly-free week. We had a couple hours to throw some clothes in a bag and we hopped on a flight to Maun.
From Maun we took a couple safari trucks to our campsite in the Delta. We stayed in two-person tents and got up every morning around 5 a.m. to take game drives pretty much all day long. We saw elephants, giraffes, hippos, monkeys, baboons, crocodiles, impala, zebras, a leopard, and a red painted frog.
Namibia – getting there
After our Okavango trip, we still had several days until school was scheduled to start again on the 16th. Three CIEE friends and I decided to get out of Bots and go to Namibia. We relied on my Lonely Planet guide to Botswana and Namibia for all our travel needs. We intended to go to a lodge in the Caprivi Strip that, according to the guide, offered three-day mokoro (traditional canoe) trips. We took a six-hour long bus ride to Shakara for P69.50. From Shakara, a man drove us to the border; it took about 10 minutes to get there. Then the four of us literally walked across the Namibian border.
Per instruction from the customs officers, we waited for a “taxi” to pick us up. This taxi was a truck which three of us sat in the back of while one of us, JJ, rode shotgun. Luckily the back of the truck was covered. This came in handy when it started pouring rain. We were in the back of this truck for about four or five hours. The man who was driving took us to a lodge in Rundu.
Before reaching Rundu, we went to an airport in Divindu which consisted of one propeller plane in the middle of a field and a man sitting in a tree. At this point, we decided a back of a truck wasn’t so bad.
The next morning, we got an actual taxi to the bus station in Rundu. When we pulled up, people started swarming our car, opening our doors, asking where we were headed, and offering prices. We ended up in a combi we were told would only have nine people in it. This turned into eighteen people. We spent ten hours in that combi.
Being with good friends and being able to laugh at situations like these make the dehydration, strange smells, and heat bearable. Also, we saw so much scenery driving across the entire country!
Namibia – Swakopmund
The combi went straight to our final destination, Swakopmund. Swakopmund is a half German, half African city on the Atlantic coast of Namibia. It is definitely a tourist destination.
We stayed at a hostel/bed and breakfast called The Alternative Space. This place was gorgeous. It looked like it belonged in Greece, not Namibia. There are only four rooms, hardwood floor, white walls, Namibian art everywhere (mostly nudes), a lounge complete with a fireplace, TV and DVD player, handmade pottery for sale, a library with books about art, German culture, architecture and travel. Our rooms had champagne and chocolates waiting for us. This place was amazing! It was N$250 – 250 Namibian dollars a night = $25.00 a night
After arriving, we went straight to dinner; moreover, we went straight to the ocean. It was absolutely breathtaking. The restaurant was right on the beach. We had the most delicious seafood. Exhausted, we went straight to bed when we got back to the Space. The next day we went quadbiking and sandboarding on the dunes. The day after that, we went skydiving.
Return to UB
The four of us split up on Valentine’s Day. JJ and Maggie went to Walvis Bay while Jami and I headed home to Gabs. We took a four-hour shuttle from Swakopmund to Windhoek, the Namibian capital, and spent the night at a hostel called The Cardboard Box. Then Sunday morning we took a shuttle from Windhoek to Gaborone.
Going back to school has been weird. I had a break from so many things that I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to: people staring at me, professors praising me, local students talking about me …to name a few.
The professors didn’t even acknowledge the strike. They just went right back into lecturing. There have been a few rumors about the strike happening again, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.
Batswana: the people of Botswana
Motswana: an individual person from Botswana
Setswana: the language spoken in Botswana
Tswana: refers to the culture in Botswana
Gaborone: capital of Botswana, pronounced /ˌxabəˈroʊne/
Bots: short for Botswana
Gabs: short for Gaborone
UB: University of Botswana
Pula: Botswana currency The exchange rate is $7.50 - $8.00 for P1. Their coins are called “thebe.”
Combi/khombi: those white Volkswagen vans that you see in documentaries about Africa
Riverwalk, Game City, Main Mall: local malls
CIEE: the study abroad program that 11 students and I are in. CIEE is run through Spelman College in Atlanta, GA. It stands for “Council on International Educational Exchange.” Other international students are on different programs (ex. ACM) or are here independently.
Batsi: CIEE Program Director. His job is basically to make sure everyone in CIEE is hunky-dory. He is from Zimbabwe, but has been a resident in Botswana for about 10 years. He’s awesome. Full name: Batsirai Chidzodzo
c/o Batsirai Chidzodzo
University of Botswana
Office # 039
Private Bag 0022
(I really like getting mail. ☺)
Pictures coming soon!