A quick trip to Botswana through the eyes of a Jamaican
South Africa is bordered by 6 countries. Namibia is furthest west. Then (from west to east) there’s Botswana, Zimbabwe, Swaziland with Mozambique on the Indian Ocean coast. Lesotho is landlocked within South Africa.
Last week we went to Botswana from Jozi through the Tlokweng Gate border.
We took the 5 hour drive to Botswana’s capital, Gaborone, driving the southern African road from the route that Blackberry Maps gave us. The app followed us as we drove and except for one off-road that for some reason it thinks is the main road (but is really a back road that added half an hour extra to our drive there), the journey was smooth sailing. No country roads as we know them in Jamaica, no back tracks, no dirt lanes…pure paved concrete road the entire way On a bus, the ride can take you up to 8 hours for 250 Rand. Local minibus’ (called ‘taxis’ here) also travel the route for about 100 Rand (approx. 900 J’can dollars).
The border crossing was quite easy and didn’t take us more than ½ hour on both the Botswana and South African side. We paid a small customs fee for the car and unless you have a card you can pay with make sure you have local Botswana currency, the Pula. It cost us 140-something Pula (around 150 Rand). There’s a Bureau de Change (cambio) you can go to before you enter Botswana immigration to take care of this.
We were not there for a long time but there are a few things I noticed in our time there:
The men look like they could be Jamaican, definitely more than South Africans. In South Africa, the faces that you see don’t really have ‘Jamaican features’, there are some looks that are straight up Mzansi. A black South African among Jamaicans is very likely to look different while I didn’t think this was true from what I saw in Gaborone.
The word for the currency of Botswana ,’Pula’, literally means rain. We couldn’t come up with a good reason among ourselves so we settled on it having some relation to “make it rain” 🙂
It is not uncommon for grown men to hold hands. You will NEVER see this in Jamaica as it would be seen as gay, but when we stopped to ask 2 supermarket security guards for directions, one grabbed the others hand when they were disagreeing and held onto it for the rest of the convo. I’ve only seen it once in SA so far but we are told that it is common to see 2 grown heterosexual African or Indian men walking holding hands.
The Pula is worth more than the Rand but only by a little bit, less than 1 unit. This means the Pula is stronger than the Jamaican Dollar too.
We stopped at River Walk Mall, and I don’t know if this is a big or small mall for them, but no mall in Kingston can really stand up beside it. We passed a coffee shop, a pizza place, a bar/bistro type vibes, an all you can eat Brazilian buffet, a game shop and a multiple theatre cinema equipped with game machines and the likes for extra fun. They have The Body Shop! Come on! Apart from the game shop and the movie theatre everything else was open and packed at 5pm on a Monday evening.
I asked a bartender how many languages other than English he spoke and he said only one, whereas in South Africa people are generally multi-lingual. The official languages of Botswana are Tswana and English.
Women still had babies tied to their backs and kids were still in their school uniforms on the way home. Weaves are big there too…the hot girl thing is no joke and yes we saw white folks.
Second African country I’ve been too, and so far its the second African country I can say seems more advanced than Jamaica structurally and economically. Its such a shame the idea that we have of the continent in the West when from what I’ve seen in these 3 months, Jamaica is much more backward than these countries.