By Emily Ullmann
(Title by Dianne Lake)
The Yale Globalist has a tradition of trips to exciting locations that enable on-the-ground reporting of hard-hitting issues. It also had a tradition of border crossings that are, shall we say, interesting. Yesterday the Glo trip southern Africa split for week 2 of the trip, with eight staying in Johannesburg and five (including myself) heading to Gaborone, Botswana. We all flew to Johannesburg together, with the Jo’burg team remaining at the beautiful, homey Pension Idube before the Bots team headed to the bus station.
After a few minor problems with our tickets, we finally boarded onto the bus for the seven-hour ride. After some Christian soap operas and proselytizing on-the-bus sermons, most of us began to doze off, passing small towns, open fields, and crocodile farms on the way.
Hour five brought a brief stopover at a gas station and minimart with everything from cookies and chips to raw meat and eggs to wigs.
Hour six brought the moment we’d been waiting for: the border crossing. Maybe I should first provide some background information. Convinced that the bus company required it, the five of us had all gone to Yale’s health center to attend the Africa travel clinic and get yellow fever vaccinations. We all had our proof of vaccination booklets and passports ready to go as we rolled up to the border, at which point we were told to disembark
Now nearly 8:30pm, it was completely dark as we crossed paved roads and empty lots on foot with hopes of arriving in the right place and getting the necessary stamps to legally enter the country. Unsure of the where to go, we blindly stumbled from building to building, half expecting to miss our bus and half expecting to be detained.
We finally made it through (never needing to show our yellow fever packets) before the bus company employee told us we had to kneel down to the Botswana customs officers. The five of us glanced around, first at the officers and then at each other. Stuttering and confused we paused, mouths gaping.
“We have to…bow down?”
The bus employee burst into laughter along with the customs officers. Gasping for breath midst hysterical laughs, the woman explained, “no, we’re just joking. You can get right on the bus.”
At the sixteenth hour of a travel day that had begun at 4am, we chuckled along with them, utterly dazed and confused for the final thirty minutes of the ride.
We finally rolled into Gaborone at around 9pm, checking into our hotel and grabbing a late dinner at Bimbo’s–yes, you got that right–a 24-hour fast food chicken place. (In case you’re wondering, Danny says he loves bimbo’s!).
With a full stomachs and comfy beds, we took the chance to recharge before our first attempts at exploring what seems to be known as Gabs, Bots (aka Gaborone, Botswana).