It has been a little over a month since my last post. I apologize for the long break but it was a crazy final few weeks for me in this PhD program but I finally pulled through my 1st year and can somewhat breath even though I have started working full time also. Summertime was supposed to be about relaxing but for me its an opportunity to make some money by focusing all of my energy into work. Also my Kiwi friend drove down to my house from Canada which I totally forgot that he was coming. He told me vaguely a couple months ago and by the time he came I was in the busiest time of my life, and I had to show him SoCal but I think the 24/7 bumper to bumper traffic was a big turn off for him here. I told him there will always be traffic congestion here but you have to pick a specific time to go where the congestion is not as bad.
This post also is also going to be one of the many inflection point of my stories. People were asking me that I should focus on the other continents that I have been on so I will do that because I still have over a years worth of stories for Europe. Now the location of this story will take place in the motherland continent of Africa and in the country of Botswana. I did this trip during my Easter break in England. So I flew Ethiopian Airlines from Heathrow to Addis Abbaba which I was there for a day and then I flew to Johannesburg, South Africa which was 7 hours and will be in another blog for South Africa. My best friend/sister is from Botswana and so is her family around the area. My family equals her family and her family equals my family. Our bond are so tight that titanium could never ever scratch the surface we grew up together and always stay in touch even though we live 3000 miles apart now. Auntie Lebo was there to greet me in Jo-burg and I had an amazing time with her there.
At a tourist market there were some Batswana people showing their traditional dances and clothing. It was really cool and I was able to try to practice my Sestwana with them. Everyone out here assumed that I spoke Sestwana out here so I would be confused if someone was trying to make conversation with me because I do not really understand the language and then they would switch to English. People in Southern Africa speak so many languages that it is crazy like it is standard for people to know 3 languages at least and can speak up to 9 different languages and dialects. Being from the USA we are not really taught anything other than English which is a disservice to Americans. I took 4 years of Spanish in high school but never had to use is in Ohio. I really did not start learning languages deeply until I moved to China where I had to learn Mandarin to travel around, eat, and get the basic items that I needed, and then I picked up some German from taking a class in England and practiced as I traveled through Germany. As I traveled more and more I fully see how that English only attitude really put Americans at a disadvantage globally when travelling. Statistically only about 36% of Americans have passports which is very low for a developed country. Most countries requires that their citizens have a passport.
Being out in Botswana Reminded me of the Sonoran/Mohave Desert. It was dry and hot outside with sand blowing around everywhere. I always found it interesting when countries label their highways and roads because a lot of countries uses A-# for their roadways which I guess would mean Autoway or in USA terms a State Highway which has occasional traffic signals but there are minimal traffic control measures on these roadways. Or M meaning motorways which are equivalent to Freeways in the USA that have full access control for on and off ramps. Also their roads are designed with the drivers on the right just like the UK and their former colonies. Also their traffic signals operate different than in North America. In America we have a Standard Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) with the vehicle plates, signage, stripping , pedestrians crossing which is followed pretty much throughout North America since vehicles travel in between the three countries here. In the places here it varied on the region it seemed Botswana and SA had similar traffic systems and roundabouts. Their signal phases throw me off a little because their turning phases would have green/ yellow arrows that flickered instead of having a solid phase.
My journey started from Johannesburg I went to the coach station with Auntie and purchased a bus ticket to go from Jo-burg to Gaborone. The trip was about 7 hours by bus which probably equate 400 Km or 250 Miles. Eventually I arrived at the border and went to the bus station and was picked up by another aunt in Gabs. It was not that bad of a bus ride I could see the country side and all of the isolated rich communities in South Africa. It is quite astonishing how badly segregated South Africa is still to this day. I went to an outdoor mall in Gabs and it was really nice. There were people selling soccer jerseys, candy, and lots of other stores around.
There were Botswana exclusive snacks call nik nakks which were so good. If you go to the stores out here they have so many local brands of food and there are markets like Spars which is from the UK. There are also big chains like KFC and McDonalds there. The streets of Gaborone were full of dynamic activities. I enjoyed being there and people did not even look at me like I was an outsider, like when I travel to other places in the world or even in my home country. Everyone looks like me in Botswana which is a different experience being the majority and not a minority like in the USA. Also looking at the currency is interesting. Botswana uses the Pula currency which has pictures of their political leaders. It is an amazing that I had the opportunity to hold money that had the face of African leaders. In America we do not have any type of representation in that way which makes it so much more exciting for me to see here. In the USA the history of other minority groups in the country are vaguely sugar coated taught or not even mentioned, they try to erase our history and make it seem like my people’s history only started at slavery and forward, which is the narrative is that driven in school from K-12. It does not help that only 3.5% of Americans travel abroad especially with African Americans. There was a lot of things that I did not even know until I traveled like the huge presence of African Diasporas in the other western countries. I realized that the countries that England Colonized in Africa would have an African diaspora there like Nigerians, Jamaicans, etc. In France the African Countries from Algeria, Cameroon, Morocco, etc. Pretty much the diaspora follows for all of the countries like Italy, Dutch, Germany, Belgium, Spain, and Portugal. I learned so much more about my origins and tribes from the years of me travelling overseas and in the motherland.
The food in Botswana was flavorful too. There were a lot of bean dishes that are mixed with a seasoned type of chicken and pap which is a sticky type of grain similar to a grits but thicker and stickier. They also had some type of worm dish I think was called a mopone worm. These worms are exclusive to the southern region of Africa and are spiky and stick on trees. It has a taste on its own but it is a good taste.
Botswana is full of rich history starting back to the begging of time for man even though it was not called Botswana before the colonial era. I think they went by Bechuanaland before but the issue is that with the colonization the Europeans split Africa into jigsaw pieces that mainly just drew boundaries based on how they felt like it without knowing or caring what tribes and groups of people resided in the areas. The culture is a very old culture and peaceful even during the times of Europe was colonizing the world. They also became colonized. Eventually in the 1950s-1960s the three founders of Botswana went to the Queen of England and declared their Independence and Botswana became its own country. The 1960s there were a lot of things going on from African nations gaining their independence from the European countries and the civil rights movements that were going on in the USA.
A few days later I took a bus from Gabs to Francistown which is at the border near Zimbabwe and Zambia it was about a 4 hour trip. IF your ordering snacks for the trip people are handing them through the window and you just give them the cash. Everyone was talking with me in Setswana and looking at me like how do I not know how to speak it. I would ask them do they think I look like a local and they would say yes you look just like you are from here I found it really funny and heartwarming. I am in a foreign country and people treat me way nicer than the treatment I have back in my home country. They do not have the racial issues or equity issues in Botswana since it is a African nation ran by Africans and people are not being taken advantage of there. Their government controls all of the mining companies and sells the diamond to foreign investors and support their people with that revenue. The government provides free healthcare to everyone there. The wealth gap between people in Botswana in virtually not high. Most people live pretty modest and similar there is not a super poor segment of the population and a super rich segment of the population like in South Africa or in America.
The USA is where I was born and raised, but I have always felt that it is hard to call it my true belonging because of the blatant disrespect people have towards other ethic groups here even thought all of my immediate family were born and raised here and the extreme wealth inequality which is entirely correlated to race and the discriminatory laws throughout the history of the country. We always have these delicate racial issues that people would just ignore if it did not affect them and currently with our current president it brought out a bunch of stored up hate which is pulling our country backwards after so many sacrifices were made for marginalized groups of people to have equal rights. Maybe these issues only exist in countries that have a mix of different groups of people in them rather than mostly homogeneous countries, but then again it is hard to compare the USA to other countries because of the unique way the country formed. After spending time in the motherland I always think that if I am here I do not have to worry about these kinds of issues but then they have special cultures too that I am not a part of since I have such a western upbringing. Its like a identity crises that I feel like I face with not being looked at as full Americans and not being a full African either. When I would travel to countries that had a large African diaspora I would get questions of where my family origins were from and I cannot give a sure answer, and its a question that you do not get in the USA which made me think like we are a group of people that are missing a large part of our identity. I don’t know if other African Americans have the same feelings as me or not because most of the time nobody talks about things like this or the fact that a lot of Americans do not travel especially with minority groups. A lot of Americans believe that the whole world is a deathtrap and they only safe country is the USA. I always hear subtle things in the media about them saying Americans feel like this and that about whatever issue it is, but we all know what demographic they are speaking of when they generalize a statement like that. There are other subliminal terminologies that are used to describe other ethic groups here which everyone knows even if they deny being aware of it, but it always gives that feeling that we are a second tier group of Americans.
I ended up staying with another Aunt in Francis town for a few days and I had a blast seeing everyone. They were all so welcoming to me and wanted to put me in one of their nice hotels but I decided to stay at their house with them because I did not want to be isolated from the family and rather spent the time with them rather in the openness of the hotels. I was able to see this very nice hotel in Francistown where a lot of travelers would stay the night coming from Victoria Falls and then go to Kasane from there.
The Kasane trip was long as heck. It was about 500 KM or 350 miles roughly and the road between there and Francistown. I took a minibus there which cost probably like 80 Pula 10 Pula= 1 USD. I remember just being stuff on the bus which was crowded it probably had a capacity of 16 people and way more people was in that van. People would get on and off in various places along the route. There was not much in between but desert and a few small towns but there was a checkpoint about halfway where they would check everyone because we were entering a wildlife protection area. From that point on you would see wild elephants just walking around and other large birds. I remember that road being in such bad condition that the buses would have us bouncing everywhere some parts of the road the asphalt was completely worn to where the vehicles would drive off road on the ditches to maneuver around the poor road conditions. I was thinking being a civil engineer man I would love to work on these roads and have them repaired into acceptable standards. All of the bad roads contributes to poorer gas mileage for vehicles if they are oscillating vertically and have to decelerate and accelerate constantly because of the potholes in the roadway. Also poor road conditions will equate to spending more on vehicle repairs annually because cars are meant to operate on smooth pavement. Also I noticed that their bridges were being built by foreign companies from China which I could not understand why were they building the infrastructure there when the people of Botswana are capable enough to build their own bridges and roadways. I guess it all goes back to these international policies where these governments are throwing money at lower income countries with strings attached.
These are pictures of me and the family below which I had an amazing time with and I did not want to leave. I cannot wait until the next time I go back to Botswana!
I ended up doing a Safari with a tour group which was breathtaking. There were these old British group of people in the tour with me and they were acting aloof and demeaning. They were belittling Zimbabweans and saying that they should kick them out of England, because they were mad they had to pay a fee for a visa. Apparently they assumed that the guide and I could not understand English well because they were being really contemning towards African people, people there might not fully understand at what the visitors were hinting at since English isn’t everyone’s first language. I was stunned with all of the hate they exuded in front of me. I was mute in the beginning of the trip and was just listening to what they were saying and then I broke my silence and told them that I am here to enjoy myself in my homeland and they are guest and should act like it. I also told them that I do not want to hear their malevolent conversations. Then at at that point they knew from my English that I am American and then I added just to make them zip it that I actually lived in England and was doing my research for my thesis out there as an Civil Engineer fully funded from their government, and they were lost for words.
The tour guide was so nice and was an amazing person shown in the picture below. Over the course of the day I was able to get to know him really well. I was talking with him directly and telling him that it was my first time in my homeland and I really enjoyed being there and asking him about what he studied in school, where does people our age hangout at there, and what made him get into wildlife preservation. He drove us all around the whole day explaining about the animals and what the animals eat and how did they travel. I have seen baboons, lions, giraffes, zebras, hippos, elephants, and crocodiles. I had no idea that you could tell a giraffes’ gender from the color of their spots and that Botswana has the largest herd of elephants because they know that they are protected in Botswana from poaching. It is illegal to kill any animal in Botswana. I learned that hippos are the most viscous territorial animals on the land and they could easily snap an crocodile in two. Some reasons I always thought that they were just friendly lazy animals. Also I learned that their skin needs water to keep from blistering so they stay in shallow water. Also I learned that elephants have complicated family structures like human beings and they are very destructive to natural environments because of their size and amount of trees that they consume.
The humidity was off the charts there mosquitoes must of sense my new blood because they were coming at me with a vengeance. i put a ski mask on and a hoodie and tied it up to keep the mosquitoes from getting me and was walking in the dark heat outside looking crazy. The best pizza I had there was Debonairs’s pizza hands down. I was smashing that pizza and eating at Nando’s too. This area borders Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Botswana which is a really interesting thing since the river separates the countries.
Overall I feel like even though it was my first time in Botswana I feel like that was the place that I belonged in. I have not ever felt that way of any other place that I have visited even though I enjoyed the other countries and learning about their cultures but this one here I felt home.
Kasani is a the border of Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
Posted by De'Von Jackson on Saturday, April 1, 2017
Done elephant videos
Posted by De'Von Jackson on Monday, April 10, 2017