By Chris Mazza:
Dumela (hello) everyone!
It has been just over a week since I arrived in Gaborone, and already I have enjoyed so many unique and exciting experiences! Luckily the people in the city are very friendly, as everyone has welcomed me with open arms and helped me out whenever necessary!
My travel from Canada to Gaborone included a long 19 hours of air time and two layovers in Ethiopia and Johannesburg. Transiting through the Addis Ababa airport in Ethiopia was quite stressful, as passengers were quickly rushed from our first flight to meet the connecting plane (which was about to take off in a matter of minutes). Everyone made it aboard safely, and I managed to get my first taste of the beautiful landscape that can be found across Africa. While travelling to JoBurg, I was able to enjoy two incredible moments as our plane flew over the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro, and we saw the sun rise over Egypt.
Once I arrived in Gaborone, I was greeted by Modise, a colleague from the Botswana National Olympic Committee, who took me to meet my new housemate, Simba (AKA Mr. Gabs…everyone seems to know him!). The drive through the city was beautiful, and along the way we were greeted by the various wildlife that roam freely along the roads!
The day I arrived was Simba’s birthday, so we spent just a few minutes at the house before making our way to Linga Longa, a local restaurant/bar to meet up with his friends and enjoy some local beverages and celebrate. Once again, everyone made me feel very welcome, which I will be forever grateful for, as this experience is understandably nerve-wracking!
The next day I experienced another first…sleeping until 6pm! The jet lag certainly hit me hard. On Friday I had my introduction with the BNOC, which was admittedly overwhelming as it was my first experience with the busy Gaborone business culture.
The first weekend in the city was spent visiting more local hotspots, my favourite of which is a barbecue joint called Ed-La’s. Here, I met more of Simba’s friends and enjoyed some of the best BBQ meat I’ve ever had! (don’t worry Dad, yours is still the best!)
During my first official week at the BNOC offices, we outlined a plan of action for my time here, where I will be working on creating a framework for long-term athlete development for the sport of swimming, as well as implementing a project to enhance local grassroots participation in swimming. Getting organized definitely helped to calm my nerves, and I am extremely excited to see what we can accomplish together! This week also included my first time using the combi, which is the equivalent to a bus, but much smaller. The combi is a large van that can fit approximately 12 people (or more, depending on whether or not the driver wants to squeeze a few more bodies in!), and is quite convenient as it costs me approximately 40 cents in CAD. I learned how to ask to be let off of the combi in Setswana (“ue tsware mo stopong” which was easy to learn because when spoken aloud, the beginning sounds like the soccer player Luis Suarez), which caught a few of the locals off-guard, as I clearly have a North American accent when speaking in Setswana!
While there were some speed bumps and cultural differences to overcome (including learning some common phrases of the local language, Setswana), the people that I am with each day have made this transition as easy as possible. It was definitely difficult to leave my family and friends in Canada, but I am thrilled to begin the experience of a lifetime, and cannot wait to further indulge in the region’s amazing culture!
P.S. There is a small mountain just outside the city that I would like to hike up, and the 50th anniversary of Botswana’s independence is coming up at the end of September…so pictures will follow!
Cheers and Salan Sentle (stay well)!