Shakawe Adventure and Cultural Illiteracy

3 Oct

Botswana celebrated its independence this weekend, and so I had a 4-day weekend. After looking into a few options for things to do, another Canadian volunteer, Julia, and I decided to go visit Heather and Kelsey in Shakawe. We would take the 5:30am bus from Ghanzi Saturday morning, and hopefully get to Shakawe around lunch time. 

Friday afternoon Julia texted me saying that she was sick with a fever and wouldn’t be able to travel with me. So, I was on my own to navigate getting halfway across Botswana (sorry Mom, didn’t tell you this so that you wouldn’t worry!) For an extra little celebration, I was taken out to the bar and the club in Ghanzi – quite an experience! I will have to publish a list of the 10 best (or worst) pick-up lines I got, because boy were they interesting. But, as the rest of my weekend will show, for every man with a creepy pick-up line, there are 10 genuinely nice people that just want to help out. 

So, Saturday morning I arrived at the bus station and see a huge crowd on the platform for the bus to Maun. When the bus came, all hell broke loose. It was very difficult but I somehow ended up on the bus, and someone was nice enough to give me a seat next to them. After an uneventful bus ride, I got off at Sehitwa shortly after 8 – we had missed the connecting bus to Shakawe. 

So I waited. The 9 o’clock bus was completely full and drove by. Then the 10 o’clock. I was told that since it was the long weekend, this is how it would be all day. Great. So I was foreign, confused, and stranded in a random town in the middle of the desert in Botswana. Oh, and my phone was dead. So I did what anyone would do in my situation – I stuck my hand out and tried to hitch a lift. 

A woman saw me trying to hitch, and asked me where I was going. She was also from Ghanzi and going to Shakawe, and she told me that she would be my friend and she would get me there with her. A couple of men saw this and clearly took pity on me, because they also started helping me by talking to drivers that stopped and yelling at the ones that didn’t (I asked them what they were yelling, and it was something along the lines of “You won’t even stop for the white girl?!”) After about 45 minutes, my new friend Brenda and I got lucky. Two men were driving with 2 kids all the way to Shakawe and had room for us. Oh, and the car was air conditioned. 

I used Brenda’s phone to text the girls, and I successfully arrived in Shakawe around 1:30. We just relaxed during the afternoon, and planned on going to the Miss Independence Beauty Pageant at night. The event was advertised as starting at 7, so we arrived at 9:30. And were way too early. They were still setting up. We did luck out though, because there were some children’s dance groups practicing and they were AMAZING! I am going to try and upload some video later, but there was one group of 4 boys (probably around the ages of 9 or 10) who had so much swag, and were of course hamming it up for us. The event finally got started around 11:30, and was still going strong around 2am when we decided to leave. 

Sunday morning we were told that there was going to be a big Independence Day celebration with traditional song and dance at the kgotla. When we arrived, the host noticed us immediately and told us that we were welcome and to come in closer. We were on the outside of one of 3 tents. We moved towards the middle tent, and saw 3 empty seats. We asked if we could sit there, and no one objected so we sat down. About 15 minutes later, the host came over and asked us our names. Then, they said they were going to introduce the community’s elders and VIP guests. Heather, Kelsey and I looked at each other like “Ohhhhh no, what have we done?!” We were introduced to everyone that was there (around 200 people!). And had to stand up. Twice. Then at the very end, the councillor (I think kind of the same as an MP in Canada) thanked us for being there and asked us if we were coming for lunch. We all must have looked very clueless because he was like “Great, you get to come in my car!”

So we drove with the councillor and the host to the VIP lunch. After lunch they asked us if we were going to the football(soccer) game since it was the final game of the tournament, and we said sure. So we piled into the councillor’s car and went to the football field. When we got there, they got special chairs for us to sit in – we were the only ones in chairs other than the beauty pageant winners, the councillor, and the chief! We were beyond embarrassed. But it only got worse. The councillor and the others got up and we were told to follow them. Then we were introduced to both soccer teams. And we had to shake their hands. Every. Single. Player. Plus the coaches. Plus the managers. Then it gets worse. We were brought into the middle of the field for the first kick. Heather, Kelsey and I just kept looking at each other and awkwardly giggling because we did not even know how we had gotten into this position. All because we are culturally illiterate (as Heather put it) and sat in the wrong seats in the morning. 

Thankfully our awkward day was over when the game was and we just relaxed for the night. Sunday, we had a nice relaxing day and went to a braai, hosted by an expat couple. Monday morning I caught a bus to Sehitwa and hitched a lift safely back to Ghanzi. Now I am headed off to Kang (halfway between Ghanzi and Gaborone) for 3 weeks, and I am hoping for some relaxation!

2 Responses to “Shakawe Adventure and Cultural Illiteracy”

  1. marnie rice at 9:20 pm #

    Kyla- Wow That’s quite a story! I think you’ve even outdone me in terms of adventures on your own! But I do hope you’re very cautious about who you will ride with– especially if you are alone or with just 1 other girl (oops, I mean young woman). Sounds like you’re really, really getting a first-hand look at the culture.
    Stay safe.
    Aunt Marnie

  2. Sharyn at 11:55 am #

    Glad you are safe and enjoying the full cultural experiences! Not feeling so good about you hitchhiking in Botswana.

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