Guest Post: 25 Years On
My mum wrote this post while she was here last month. I was trying to sort out the pictures to go into it and still haven’t managed to, but here’s the post. I’ll add the images at some point when I get back but I thought you might like to see Gabs through another pair of eyes…
So – after all the waiting here I am at last, back in Gaborone. First difference – the airport. In December 1984, we were on one of the last flights out of the old airport, now I was arriving in the ‘new’ airport – bigger, still not big, but growing.
Driving away from the airport I suddenly yelled,
“Stop! I must photograph the traffic lights!”
Daughter, laughing, said,
“Why? They’re everywhere! And by the way, they’re robots,” she added.
But she was right. They are everywhere. As are roadworks, and billboards, advertising anything and everything – another new development.
Other things that struck me almost immediately – much more traffic, two-lane roads, a fly-over, many more buildings, more little booths at the side of the road (not selling fruit any longer, instead selling sweets, t-shirts, cold drinks and “airtime”).
What else has changed? The Mall is all built up, and full of stalls of curio sellers, the President’s Hotel has had a face lift, the cinema has gone! But the Gaborone Hardware Store is still there (although different inside), the bookshop, the post office and Standard Bank are still in the same places. The Cathedral is the same, and I’d forgotten how much I like the tapestries they have on the walls. Most of all, the people are still the same, friendly, open, full of laughter, calm and unhurried. The pace at which things get done hasn’t changed either.*
It took me quite a while to work out where ‘the Village’ actually is. Daughter assured me that Riverwalk (another Mall!**) is on the edge of it. The Village is now joined seamlessly to the town (sorry, city!), as is Tlokweng, which was a traditional village near the border with South Africa, very definitely separate.
On the A1 (the A1! The roads have numbers now!) Mahalapye and Palapye have grown enormously. They have huge cross roads with traffic lights (sorry – robots), malls alongside the main roads and many, many billboards.
However, you can still say, “Go up the road to Palapye, then turn left and continue until you get to Serowe.” A bit like saying, when in London, “Go up the road to Birmingham, then turn right and continue until you get to Manchester.”
There are also still donkeys, goats and cattle wandering randomly across the roads. The villages we’ve passed have fewer traditional round thatched huts and more brick or breeze block built houses with corrugated roofs – much less picturesque but, I imagine, more convenient to live in. Although I would think not as cool inside. We didn’t see anyone pounding corn or mealies as we used to.
The young men’s appearances seem to have changed more than the young women’s. Corn rows and dreadlocks are abundant on the men but the women do still do intricate braided styles. Perhaps that is because it is the capital and we’ve not spent much time in the smaller towns and villages.
Gaborone claims to be ‘the fastest growing city in Africa,’ and I can well believe it. I can see that many of these changes have improved life for the Batswana (more medical facilities for example) but I can’t help missing the old, smaller Gaborone which has lived in my head for the last 25 years.
*Ask daughter about driving licences and visa!
**There are at least three major Malls now!