Gaborone, Please Like Me
Gaborone, please like me. I have been here for two months now, and already we have an up and down relationship. Please hang in there while I adjust to my new home. You see, I come from a faraway city in a faraway land: Bangkok, Thailand.
The City of Gaborone
My husband asks me to look away from the window as we land in Gaborone because as I see spots of bush and houses, a stark contrast to the bustling city and bright lights of Bangkok, because he knows I am going to start crying. He was right. The view from the plane upon landing at night is breathtakingly charming to a person who is coming to Gaborone on holiday, but too different for someone leaving her city home forever.
As I step out of the airport, I do not focus on how deliciously clean the air is—that is a perk I appreciate later in my days in Gaborone. Instead, I complain about how the air is too clean for me to breathe. I make choking noises for effect—missing the pollution. My husband, a true Motswana, breathes in the crisp air, happy to leave behind the humidity in Bangkok. Of course, I do not agree with him so I complain about how the city is so deafeningly quiet. I put my hands on my ears, again, for dramatic effect.
As my homesickness trickles away slowly, I begin to appreciate the benefits of living in Gaborone. Gaborone is a beautiful, clean, and organized city. Driving here is a pleasure. Drivers are well mannered, the streets are clean, and there are no motorcycle taxis cutting cars off every 10 seconds like in Bangkok. Also, traffic here is non-existent in my opinion—an opinion my new friends and family disagree with. However, when travelling 2 hours to a destination that is only 20 minutes away is common for a person, that person will welcome the traffic of Gaborone. Also, did I mention how clean the air is?
The People of Gaborone
Batswana are friendly and light-hearted—always cheerful, frequently poking fun. For example, many Batswana women have complimented me on my outfit or my accessories. However, in many instances, they continue by laughing and saying, “ If it were my size, I would have taken it.” or “You should give it to me.”. The first time this happened, I nearly cried because I did not know what to say back. I have never before been requested the task of giving a stranger my outfit as I was wearing it. Now I know it is just Batswana merrily making conversation and spreading happiness.
The people here are also very cultured. Most people in Gaborone know at least two languages, striking a balance between Setswana (or their home language) and English with ease. I am greatly impressed by this, but what left me awestruck about Batswana is the experience my family and I had at Sir Seretse Khama airport.
We were catching the early morning flight to Kasane from Gaborone. We were a group of ten tourists with an age-range of 10 to 70 years and with passports from three different countries. One of us left our mobile phone at immigration. We realized this after the staff already took great pains to do whatever they could to help us make that flight. A staff member tells us kindly to enter the plane and he will try and get the phone for us. As one of us quietly bids his phone farewell, considering we are seconds from take-off, the airhostess delivers the phone to its rightful owner. I am told that in no other country in Africa would the phone have been returned safely, and I believe it.
The Food of Gaborone
I was introduced to the only Thai restaurant in Gaborone within the first three days of my arrival here. My Motswana family enjoys the food there regularly, but my local Thai taste buds yearned for authentic herbs and spices. When my search for Thai herbs was unsuccessful, I was told to ‘relax’ (a verb that I have heard more times here in one week than I have my entire life) and to grow the herbs myself, sourcing my own happiness. The DYI culture here perpetuates on all levels, highlighting resourcefulness that one may not find in other populations. One DYI activity that I especially love is the braai—how it brings family and friends together and how it can convert casual meat-eaters like myself to full-time addicts. Not to mention, the sauces here come with a spiciness that can satiate even my Thai expectations.
In conclusion, Gaborone, please like me. I like you.
By: Amornrat Sachdev
Pictures source: Web