I realized that I have been terribly remiss in not posting a picture of the Saint Tabuche, who is not only the best driver in Africa but the best man in Africa! Sorry Lawrence!
Today was a big day for him as he got to appear before a government board to apply for his permanent license to operate a taxi business in Botswana. He has been operating on temporary permits which mean that every few months he has to appear before the panel and reapply. This permanent permit will mean that he has been recognized and will not have to reapply. As soon as he gets the official paperwork you can be sure that I will ensure that he celebrates this amazing achievement. I could not be happier or prouder.
The concept for today’s blog entry came from a conversation with someone yesterday who was horrified to learn that I was drinking tap water here in Gabs. While his concern, I am sure was for my personal health and safety, during his rant I realized that those of you back in Canada really do have some preconceived myths about Africa.
Back when I was a teenager my career aspiration for a while was to be a journalist living in Africa. My intent was not to be a Canadian coming here to report on the underdeveloped world but instead to tell the African side of the story. I have now realized that this blog allows me to fulfil that dream as well. So here we go:
Gabs is an incredible capital city. For all of those of you who have been following my journey and trolling the internet to have a better idea of where I was headed off too, you no doubt have built up a picture in your minds of what and how Gabs (Gaborone) looks like. It is a city unlike anywhere I have ever been. It is not an old city – we just celebrated independence day this weekend and in fact the city is one year younger than I am as it was established in 1966.
Yes, there are some modern buildings with more being built all the time. Yet none of them are really highrises. Perhaps the tallest would be 8 to 12 floors maximum. On average the ones that I have seen are about 6 floors high. Generally it is a clean, safe city that is spreading outwards. To my untrained eye it feels like a city of villages rather than an urban center. Although according to local websites and offering there is a definite city centre which is based around the train station and the government enclave (remember my two days at the Ministry of Immigration) which is located in what is called Kharma Crescent – how poetic is that given my experience at Immigration??
What further distinguishes Gabs is that there is no single shopping district, rather there are numerous shopping malls dotted all over the city with no real prominent downtown area. Apparently, Gaborone’s nomenclature confuses most new arrivals. Different parts of town are called Blocks, Extensions, Phases etc. and there can be multiple names for the same place. Below is a rough guide:
The Extensions – to the east of the railway line radiating out from the Government Enclave. Extensions 9 and 11 are probably the wealthiest parts of Gaborone. Extension 15, out near Riverwalk Mall is known as ‘the Village’
Gabs West – the inner blocks to the west of the railway line, inside the Western Bypass. Gabs West is sub-divided into Phases 1, 2, 4 and industrial. I live in Phase 4.
The Blocks – to the west of the railway line, outside the Western Bypass. The blocks number 5 – 10 running south to north (although Block 9 is an outlier being the southern most of the blocks, and there is a Block 3 directly north of the downtown area). Some maps (inc Google Maps) label the Blocks as high numbered Extensions (eg Block 8 is made up of Extensions 35 & 36) but everyone will refer to an area by its Block number.
The Central Business District refers to a patch of undeveloped land slap in the centre of the city that is only now (2012) being developed in to overly modern hotels and offices (inc the new Lansmore hotel)
Phakalane a new-build suburb 12km north of the centre of Gaborone – based around a golf estate – on the east side of the A1 Francistown road. South-west of Phakalane is the still to be developed Glen Valley
Gaborone North – a developing suburb out towards the airport to the west of Phakalane.
Broadhurst is an older suburb to the northeast of the centre. On the southern edge of Broadhurst are Partial and Maru-a-Pula
Tlokweng a poorer suburb to the east of the Notwane river.
And finally, to address his concerns, Gabs unlike some of the other places in Botswana has a very healthy sewer and water system. The Gaborone Water Utilities Corporation http://www.wuc.bw/index.php ensures that I have safe drinking water based on the World Health Organisations Drinking Water Quality Drinking Guidelines. Yes, before you ask, this corporation is wholly owned by the Botswana Government. It was established in 1970 by an Act of Parliament with a mandate to the supply and distribution of water. Sewage is taken care of by Gaborone City Council Sewerage Treatment Plant.
I did have wonderful pictures to show you of what the housing looked liked but with my camera not set properly I now have to retake them before I can upload. I hope that everyone has a great day!