Okay, today was a real adventure. In the capable hands of my new friend, Kgomotso a University of Botswana Engineering student, I received instruction in how to use a combi.
A combi is the cheapest form of transportation here in Gabs. They are white vans that technically seat 12 but I am told they often carry up to 16 passengers. They are described in our volunteer handbook as “hot and uncomfortable, but they are fast and cheap”.
The adventure started with being dropped off at my new work location at 10:30 am. Kgomotso than had the responsibility of helping me figure out and actually take the combi combination – no pun intended – that I would need to travel everyday to and from work.
First I want to say that when I dressed for the day this morning at 6:00 am I dressed in comfortable clothing and footwear as I knew this adventure was on the agenda for the day. I also slather on 60 UVB sunscreen before I leave the house…..
Nothing prepared me or my skin for standing outside in the middle of the day waiting 40 minutes for a combi that wasn’t carrying 16 passengers. Poor Kgomotso, who had never done this route before – leave it to Cheryl to have such a completed route between home and work- started to feel incredibly stressed. Today is the first day after a very long holiday weekend and not all systems are running as they should. After waiting almost 45 minutes with no protection from the sun, our only hope was to grab a lift. This means flagging down a passing driver, telling them where you are going and jumping in if they are headed that way. And of course, paying them.
Finally we arrive at the “Station”. The Station is the transportation hub and it is where buses, combis, shared taxis and special taxis all converge. And converge they do over a massive area which includes both a shopping center and outside market/retailers. Wow is all I can say! If it wasn’t for my guide I would never have found the next combi route that I needed to take.
The time is now close to 12:30. I am parched, hot and sweating in places that I didn’t know could sweat. We are seated in the front seat of the combi waiting for it to full up before we can leave. The WUSC office is calling to find out where we are at as they have lunch waiting. I haven’t even gone a 1/3 of my route yet!
The combi finally leaves the “Station” and I am heading for Kgale Hill. I can see the hill, I think oh, this is not far at all…..well, this combi route takes you off of the main Lobaste Road and into the villages as I call them. It is almost 1 pm and WUSC is calling again! Finally the Combi pulls over into a vacant lot and I am told by my guide that we now switch to another combi.
During the switch I of course Dumela Rra/mma everyone as I walk by them and the conversations begin. Oh, where are you from? what are you doing here? what is your name? what is your Swetswana name? I tell them I don’t have one! So immediately the four men that I am talking to give me one. My new name is Olorato! I love it!
My guide, Kgomotso, was very impressed and told me that is was a special name and that I should be pleased with it. It means “lovely” and as a culturally expert explained to me later this afternoon, the O means that God made me lovely. I will take it!
The problem was that while I was socializing, the combi driver was waiting to take off..oops! Soon the combi was speeding towards my house but instead of getting off as was originally intended we stayed on so we could go right back to the “Station” because you guessed it, WUSC called again! We were declared missing in action. The time was now heading for past 2 pm. We arrive at the station and go looking for a shared taxi. A shared taxi which of course you share with other people and they have specific routes…again you have to really figure out which one to get into.
Finally we arrived back at the WUSC office at 2:15! What a ride, literally! I know that I was an absolute sight when I walked into the office, I have never felt so hot, sweaty and tired in my life. Then I had to eat my lunch which was saved for me while our guest presenter on local culture, customs and women’s rights spoke to us. He was brilliant and happily, once I had some water and food into me, I could focus and retain all of the wonderful information he imparted.
Okay, it is now time to end today’s blog. Even though I hit the pool for a swim when I got home at 6 pm! I am still hot and tired. It is time to clean up from cooking supper and go relax. Have a good night everyone!