Monday, May 16, 2022

What they don’t tell you about coming overseas!

Bonn: First of all, the thing that we Batswana women are most concerned about is keeping up appearances.

Those who have come before us should therefore, as ladies, warn us beforehand to pack all our hair products, including our hair relaxers and weave-ons.

It is only when you get here that you realise that there aren’t enough markets catering for the black women with black features.

The first questions about hair come to mind when all the few black ladies you meet have terrible hair, terrible hair in this case refers to a weaveÔÇôon that looks like a worn out rag.
Since you are in the developing world, you naturally assume that the people you have met look that way by choice, that is until you decide you need a change of hair style.

It’s not easy, in fact it’s close to impossible to find an afro hair salon, and even if you do, it’s incredibly expensive. Just to plait one’s hair would cost an equivalent of 500 pula.

The other thing that’s hard for a woman of colour to find is cosmetics, as in make-up for the skin tones known to black people. It’s difficult to walk into a cosmetics shop and ask for make-up.
In fact, the Revlon’s and the Clinique’s here don’t have ‘dark skin’ tones. You are given a map and told to hunt down one shop where they sell the MAC products, the only ones that have colours for dark skin tones.

They also don’t tell you about the excellent transport system that the developed world has. You don’t have to take too long waiting for a bus or a train to take you to work; if you take a train you can avoid traffic, instead of waiting for twenty minutes for a combi when you are already late. To make it worse, you sit next to four people on a three people seat and one of them clearly hasn’t had a bath for a week. Not to mention the fact that the combi will make twenty stops before you get to where you are going, which would normally be fifteen minutes by car.

And what of the cycling? Back home, if you are a grown man wearing a suit and riding to work everyday people will think you are mad, but here people cycle everywhere. It’s also a good form of exercise, I guess.

Another tricky thing about being here is your mind takes too long to register that Ôé¼3 is actually more than 26 pula when you convert it to your local currency. So when you go into a shop you marvel at how cheap everything is until you sit down and revisit your budget.

However, the one thing I’m personally impressed with here is the quality of their beer and how beer is generally cheap around the country. The good customer service in some pubs and restaurants is also worth noting. Not to rub it in, but beer is so cheap you can get it for P4 at a pub.
But as a foreigner, you are always surprised by the mass portions of food served at restaurants. For that price in Botswana you will not get a portion that size.

They also didn’t tell me how weird it is to sleep at 10pm and the sun is still out; in fact it becomes harder for your mind to adjust to the fact that just because the sun is out doesn’t mean it’s daytime.

For someone like me who judges men a lot, I’m impressed by how the men in Germany are always so neatly dressed. I truly believe nothing is as attractive or good to look at than a man in a pressed suit. It’s also clear that they work out to keep up with their hectic work schedules.

One other thing that I am not used to seeing back home is men walking their kids without women present. Apparently, a man can take a year’s leave off work to take care of the kids after the woman goes back to work. I don’t see that happening in my country; Batswana men are just too spoilt.
The one thing I am yet to see though is a nation that could match Batswana in terms of hospitality and friendliness. It’s very much disheartening to see depressed people every morning on your way to work and not even say hello to the people sitting next to you. Batswana take that for granted but once you don’t have it you realise just how much of a difference it could make to your day.

I almost forgot to mention that coming here for me was also like reliving a dream. All the castles I have read about in books and seen in movies have come to life, the cute cottages, the beer, the working conditions.

Travelling really does open up your mind and changes your perspective. Everybody should do it. As for me, no matter how lovely, beautiful a place is, it still can’t beat home.

Before I forget, I am still amazed at the fact that the cabs here are all Mercedes Benzes in top notch conditions.

How cool is that?


Read this week's paper