Tuesday, August 14, 2012

My Current Post

Well, I don't usually participate in the FS Blog Roundup, but I thought with it being bidding season and all, I will do my duty and provide my personal top 10 (5 pros + 5 cons) about my current post, Gaborone, Botswana.

Remember, these are MY OPINIONS: Your results may vary.

I've made sure to only work on this blog posting when I'm in a particularly optimistic mood. So, here goes:

5 Pros about Gaborone, Botswana

1) Topping the list of good things about Gaborone Botswana, is the weather! It's a dry climate which means EVERY DAY is a good hair day, and my skin has never looked better! Contrary to my initial imaginings about Africa being hot all the time, here in Botswana we actually have seasons, which I prefer to the nearly imperceptible "change" of seasons I experienced living 2 years in Hawaii. It is winter now and we have nightly lows in the 30s/40s and daytime highs in the 70s/80s, again, "dry heat". Glorious. We have heat and A/C, and a fireplace.

1.5) Cheap domestic help. I know, you can get that a lot of places. But it's still nice!

2) Laid-back pace of life. This is a safe, peaceful place. No one is in a hurry here. At work, we are very busy working 7:30-5:00 M-Th. (very early start!) but we close at 1:30 p.m. every Friday. You will have ample time to take up hobbies, such as horseback riding, swimming, gardening, reading, catching up on movie-watching, etc. ... unless you work long hours and have a two-year-old and one on the way ...

3) Modern conveniences.  A responsible, democratic government has used diamond revenue (Botswana is a top world supplier of diamonds) to make this country prosper. There are many upscale grocery stores, with all kinds of imported foods from all over the world. I've said this before and I'll say it again: There are actually WAY MORE things and way more variety (imports) available in the stores here than there were in Buenos Aires. All kinds of American products, I've even bought A&W root beer! There is fresh, reasonably priced produce in abundance. You can drink the water straight from the tap. The housing is generally very good, I am very happy with my place (pictures are scattered in posts on this blog). I live close enough to work that I can drive home every day to have lunch with Nile. It's pretty easy and comfortable to live here.

4) It's a clean city. The streets are wide, clean, and well-kept. Not a lot of litter to speak of at all. No crazy, random congestion like I pictured in Africa. It mostly looks like Arizona, with many fancy cars (my 1999 Rav 4 is quite honestly one of the oldest cars I see on the road here) shopping centers and small malls, etc.

5) Good primary care doctors.  First, you don't need any shots to come here. You can take malaria prophylaxis if you go on safari up north to the Okavango Delta. There are good dentists to choose from, one particularly great pediatrician among many good ones available, good general practice doctors, etc. The Ob/Gyn I'm seeing here is AMAZING. Please see routine 3D baby pics in a recent post. You can quickly medevac to Pretoria, South Africa (30 min or 50 min flight, depending on plane size), for anything serious.

5 Cons about Gaborone, Botswana

1) Topping the list of cons about Gaborone, Botswana, is the lack of things to do. This is still a small city of 200,00 in a small country of 2 million. Outside Gaborone is a lot of desert, but also a lot of amazing wildlife. There are safaris, camping, and birding. If you are outdoorsy, you'll like it. There are some festivals/events/farmer's markets that are organized that one should take advantage of. A few gyms and a few classes (yoga, Pilates). Sadly, no adult ballet for me. There is children's dance, karate, etc. Other than outdoorsy stuff, unless you have big bucks to go on the luxury safaris in Botswana, or visit Mauritius; or medium bucks for a holiday in Cape Town, Namibia, or Mozambique, you might get bored.  I got a resident rate for my parents' safari during their visit in April (low season). The 3 day/2 night stay, including the flight up to the Okavango Delta, at a resident rate cost a "mere" $3,000 .... Of course, there are people here with larger salaries than mine who enjoy many of their holidays on safari. Just not a possibility for me financially, or with a small child -- the majority of lodges don't allow children due to the danger of wild animals and the threat of malaria where many lodges are located. If you are not the low-budget camping type or don't like long drives (4-6+ hours to many of the closest camping areas), it might be hard to find things to do.

2) Lack of good food. There are plenty of options of cooking ingredients in the stores if you want to get into cooking -- just remember, domestic help generally don't know how to cook typical Western fare. (I only know 3 people at work who have cooks, and they are part of the package deal with their house.) As I said, stores carry all the fresh fruits and veggies you can handle, often imported from faraway places in Europe, South America, and the Middle East. The prices are not insane, but they reflect that they're imports. If you don't cook, there are some restaurants that offer OK food and atmosphere. Now is a good time to come here, as several new malls and shopping centers just opened that have pretty good restaurants. Both groceries and eating out are expensive here. There is really no "fast" food -- not that you want McDonald's or Taco Bell every day, but sometimes you just want a quick, cheap meal. That is not to be found at all here. There are a few South African or British or something burger chains, but they are apparently far below the McDonald's standard. There is no cafeteria at our office. We have more of a "lunch wagon" that serves about 25 plate lunches per day (either beef or chicken with a couple sides -- same menu daily) and after that they have run out. The local staff call ahead to reserve their orders, so by 11:00 a.m. there is no chance you will get a meal at lunch time. This is the same lunch wagon that served caterpillars my first week in the office.

3) Not walkable. There are not many sidewalks, and there is nothing that is close to other things. There is no central, downtown, charming pedestrian area. There is a small central mall (you've read about it if you've read the "No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" series, set in Gaborone) but in a departure from the quaint depiction in the mystery series, the real Main Mall is a little bit sketchy. There are a few cafes in town; one attached to a brand new hotel and a few more outside a new shopping mall are promising; the others are ...

4) Traffic and inexperienced drivers. The traffic in this city is terrible for how small it is. It's not at all like the crazy African traffic I was imagining -- filthy streets crowded by pedestrians, bicyclists, rickshaw-type vehicles, donkeys, etc. In fact, as I said above, the roadways here very much resemble those in Arizona -- mostly wide, well-kept boulevards through residential and shopping areas, a dusty landscape with little if any litter on the side of the road. The problem is an inadequate infrastructure for how much the city has grown. There is also a railroad running through the Central Business District with only 3 roads that cross it downtown. This causes insane bottlenecks and endless bumper-to-bumper traffic during "rush hour" when folks are trying to get from one side of town to the other. Couple that with mostly first-generation drivers, and you have some serious, ridiculous, and frustrating traffic: People stop where there aren't stop signs, or don't where there are; there is confusion at four-way-stops; hesitation to switch lanes; or merging right in front of you without using a turn signal. Drunk driving is also a very serious problem here. You know the driving is bad if the President has to mention it in a formal address -- point 32 in the President's State of the Nation address last year references "too many instances of bad and inconsiderate driving on the roads."

5)  Cultural/language (?) barriers. Yes, I know, we encounter these everywhere in the world. And yes, they speak English here, but Setswana is often mixed in. There are also different levels of English speakers, so your average checkout clerk or waitron (as they call waitstaff), may not fully understand what you're saying and will give you a blank stare in response to your queries. Customer service is not a hallmark here, so it can be frustrating to get things done or to get straight answers on things. I know, typical in many countries, even our own. Patience is more than a virtue, it's an absolute necessity.

Again, the above are all entirely MY OPINIONS. I hope this helps some potential bidders. We would love to have you!


Sara said...

The pros make it sound great, like I'd want to be there. The cons make me think twice. :) I suppose that would be the same with anywhere, and the traffic is something we'll become accustomed to here.

Bfiles said...

this is great, thanks. Gaborone still sounds like a place I would love to be posted!

modestmuse said...

You're right Sara, I've never heard of a post with "good" traffic -- although I thought driving in Buenos Aires was fun!

B, maybe Gaborone is in your future! Although we only have 1 American in your coned section.