Botswana is a new country for me and I couldn’t wait to see what it was like. Landing in the early morning on the tiny strip that serves as an international airport I looked up at that huge African sky once more and felt a warm feeling. Your granny is South African and so when I was growing up we spent a lot of time in this part of the world. The colours, the smells, the flora and the pace of life are very similar and it rekindles childhood feelings of holidays and family.
Batswana (the collective noun for a group of people from Botswana) are incredibly laid back and jovial. It is a country with relatively few problems compared to many of its neighbours – a high GDP, no civil unrest, good (and improving) infrastructure funded by the money from diamonds – but they do have the continent’s current epidemic, HIV. It is a problem here as it is in many African countries, but the government manages to pay for 80% of treatment and looks to be doing a great job of educating the population too, a sure sign that things will improve.
I’m staying in the Gaborone Sun hotel and Casino, which is great and yesterday it felt more like I was on holiday than on a business trip. I sat around the pool in the afternoon, swam, went to the gym and managed to get sunburn on my shoulders. Work has started today, but is still at a leisurely pace and in a nice setting. The flights in and out of the country are not too regular, so I have to stay one extra day, which I think I will use to look around the city and maybe go around one of the game parks, although I am assured that they are no better than the safari parks in the UK, so might just be depressing.
The people here are incredibly friendly and there is a general feeling of happiness when you are out and about. When I booked my hotel from the UK I spoke to a woman called Pearl who had me laughing out loud. We were haggling over the price with her telling me that I sounded as if I could afford to pay the full price and me telling her I was very poor. Eventually she agreed to give me the room for half price if I brought her some chocolates from England. I saw her today and gave her a box of Cadburys and she was so happy. It made my day. Small gestures that mean a lot to people and make you feel warm inside.