Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Our New Home: Gaborone, Botswana (Wait, What?!?)

(written 9/2/2012)

Take a 16-hour flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg, stay over night at Johannesburg’s  O.R. Tambo International Airport, hop on a one hour flight in a propeller plane, and where do you end up? In Gaborone, Botswana, our home for the next two years!
As I’m writing this entry, I’m sitting on the front porch of our temporary home in Kgabo Close, listening to the wind in the trees and nervously checking for feet under our front gate at the end of the driveway. Every once in a while I’ll see a dark pair of shoes pause in front of the gate and someone peering through the crack in the gate. I can’t tell if these people outside are security guards, just curious, or (I hope not) thieves scoping out the new arrivals. Luckily, we are basically living inside a fortress with a pretty intense security system. However, after living in ultra-safe Shanghai, the danger of break-ins and robberies in Gaborone will still take some getting used to.

We’ve now been living in Botswana for two days and are slowing settling ourselves in, unpacking our bags, and figuring out what this place is all about. So far, we’ve been shopping for basic home essentials, walked to the gym right around the corner, joined co-workers for a few meals out (including Chinese, that was a bizarre experience!) and met a lot of the Embassy folks at a Marine party. We were able to arrange to purchase an SUV while still back in the States, but it will be sitting in our driveway for a few weeks until we can get our diplomatic resident permits and driver’s licenses sorted out. Until then, we’ll be leasing a car from the Embassy to drive after hours. Unfortunately, Scott isn’t working yet and will be stuck at home during the day until we can drive our own car.

We’ll be living in this house for about six weeks until the current occupant of our permanent home departs.  For now, our house is located on a small, quiet street just a couple of miles from the Embassy where we will soon start work.  With three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a pool, huge yard, and separate servants’ quarters, it seems absolutely enormous to us – as a couple, we’ve only ever lived in city apartments.  I am told that our next house will be even bigger… I don’t know what we’re going to do with all that space! The only solution is that we need plenty of visitors (hint, hint).  
We came with realistic expectations, and my overall impression of the city is pretty much what I anticipated. It is a small town, very quiet and peaceful (except for  a random break-in every once in a while). There are a handful of decent shopping malls with grocery stores, movie theaters and restaurants within a 20 minute drive from our house. The people are friendly but not overly so, and the service standards seem to be comparable to those in China: slow and unhurried. However, unlike China, the pace of life is also slow and unhurried. There is no nightlife and most stores shut down around five or six p.m.  Most socializing here is done in the home, and the Embassy community seems to be much more tight knit than in Shanghai given the lack of outside options for entertainment. I foresee us leaving on driving trips, especially on long weekends, because there simply is not a whole lot to do in town.

That being said, we’re looking forward to visiting the many nearby game reserves on weekends; several are within a few hours’ drive from Gaborone. We are also not far from Johannesburg and some other South African cities, where I imaging we will travel from time to time to get a taste of “big city” life every once in a while. Also on our immediate travel list are Cape Town, Durban, Egypt, Namibia, Victoria Falls, and Mozambique. I think we’ll be getting our money’s worth out of our new SUV by taking advantage of the location and exploring all that southern Africa has to offer. Africa, we have arrived!

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