business trips, dinner, drama, food, great assignment, inspirational, living abroad

B0ts

I was going to wait until the internet connection at home is better to blog about my recent trip to B0tswana but it looks like it ain’t gonna get any better. The pictures will have to wait, though.

I took the day of on Thursday in preparation for my flight that night. A major drama actually took place that morning – major as in HUGE. Needless to say that I left Malaysia with a heavy heart. If it had been a personal trip, I would have cancelled but it was work and I had to fulfill the commitment I made. But suffice to say that drama now has been sorted out.

The drama during the day probably tired me out because I slept even before they served supper on the flight to Jo’burg from Spore *lol* That was good tho because I sure didn’t want to stay awake on a 10-hour flight. It was a good thing that I had slept about 6 hours on and off because it made me too groggy to be stressed out about the turbulence we experienced. On a scale of 1 to 10, I would give the shaking a 7. The plane literally swayed from left to right for what seemed like an eternity (maybe 10 minutes). At one point, we felt the plane “drop” (I believe this is what people call the plane being caught in an air pocket?). I actually woke up a few seconds before it happened. The turbulence was THAT bad. But I have experienced worst. I was on a plane to Sabah, I believe, and the plan “dropped” 3x in succession with about 5 seconds of breaks in between “drops”. I actually let out a nervous gasp on the third drop and the lady next to me was looking panicky herself. I must have scared her more *lol*

Anyway, that was the not so good part about the trip. There’s actually another one but I’ll save that for later.

The flight on the whole was not so bad. Me and the rest of the entourage got to Jo’berg airport feeling a little groggy despite the long walk lugging our heavy hand luggages. Did I tell you we were warned against checking in our bags? Valuables and, worse, bags and their contents have gone missing at Jo’berg especially for passengers whose final destinations are to other african countries. One staff of l_k_w didn’t get his luggage until the day he was to leave the country. Boleh? Ghetto giler k?! You wouldn’t think that something like that can happen in such a modern airport. I mean, I can tolerate things being “removed” from the luggage but for the entire luggage to go missing? The scary part is it happens to so many people on a daily basis. Macam tak ada undang-undang je 😛

Note: Just to show you how serious it is, I googled jo’berg airport lost baggage and found a NYT article on the subject. Here is what the article said:

In Africa, Johan Breytenbach, an analyst on iJET’s Africa team, said that theft at the Johannesburg airport, Africa’s busiest with more than 13 million passengers a year, occurs daily – NYT

Anyway, we arrived in Gab0r0ne about 10am. After a short briefing by one of the l_k_w staff, we were taken straight to our hotel. We were warned that our hotel room would be “cute” (i.e small). But the rooms turned out to be cosy and pretty. I loved my room and I loved the idea of having the tv “suspended” like tvs in hospital rooms. The only bummer was that the rooms didn’t have any phones. It would not have been so bad if we had roaming. None of the services – nope, not even cel-to-the-com – have roaming there. So we had to knock on each other’s room to communicate/make plans/etc.

After I showered, I heard a knock on my door. It was the kakak from B*H. She asked me if I wanted to see the town with her. Frankly, I was scared to go out but because she had asked, I said yes. I mean, we had six hours to kill before dinner, so what the heck? I was with her and she looked super confident, so off we went. I’m glad we did because we managed to see a bit of Gab0r0ne, its people and shopping areas.

We learned that cars in B0ts are cheap so no one rides a motorcycle there. They’d rather walk than ride a bike. I’m joking. But the truth is, I didn’t see any bikers at all. I saw many people either in cars or walking, though.

Just like in Shah Alam, there are actual taxis and teksi sapu in Gab0r0ne. If you ask the drivers if they have receipts, they’ll say yes even if a notepad is all they have to write your “receipt” on. Cute, huh?

I notice that Gab didn’t have many places in town selling crafts. That made looking for small souvenirs difficult. They had all the wood carvings which are nice but not exactly practical for travelers who can’t check in their bags. What they had in abundance were mini marts and shops selling clothes and shoes for “cheap”. Fruits and veggies are cheap and so is beef or chicken. But other things can be pricey because they have to be imported from next-door-neighbour-with-the-port S.Africa.

The kakak and I were impressed with the fact that we didn’t see beggars on the street at the three shopping areas we went to. We were starred at a lot – being non-Africans – but no one came up to us for money or anything. But I suppose Africans in Gab0r0ne are getting more used to seeing Asians now that the Chinese have set up businesses there. You’ll be amazed with the number of Chinese restaurants and shops which have mushroomed at Gab0r0ne. There’s one halal Chinese restaurant just next door to one of the l_k_w’s campuses. The food there, apparently, is brilliant.

When it comes to “fine dining”, Gab0r0ne has a lot to offer. On Friday night, we went to this place called Bull and Bush (or something), a steak place. Before you ask, beef in Gab0r0ne at least is halal so the muslim staff there have been happily wacking beef since they arrived. Portion sizes are huge. I ordered the finest fillet cut and still couldn’t finish it. I loved my meal but was disappointed that my side veggies were blended beyond recognition. They were probably delicious in their original form but after being blended? Yuck!

The B&B place was very “happening” on Friday night. They had a cute young caucasian Dj who played songs by Sean Kingston, Neyo, Chris Brown etc. People of all ages, shapes and sizes shaked their booty on the dance floor. One black guy was really good. I bet he does break dancing.

It would have been a great night if not for the fact that the so-called bouncers of the restaurant insisted that I pay for the “cover charge”. BS-lah. Mana ada cover charge. Sesuka hati mak bapak dia je nak suruh orang bayar. One of them actually grabbed my arm and bag so that I won’t run away. I told him sternly to take his hands of me and he did. He later came to our table and spoke to the l_k_w staff. I didn’t hear what they said.

To give you context to what took place. We had entered the place, sat down and made our orders. Then, one of the l_k_w staff asked us if we wanted to see the handicrafts outside. So we went and when we wanted to make our way in again, that was when I was stopped. Well, kalau betul ada cover charge, where’s your stamp to indicate that I have paid? There was none and there was actually no cover charge. Come on, it’s a freaking restaurant! So, that unfortunately had ruined an otherwise good night.

We wanted to dine outside (still within the restaurant compound), where they had picnic tables and a bar much like the one you see in Blood Diamond, but there were too many people already. The food, as I was saying, was nice but service can be a little slow. If you’re hungry, do have something light prior to leaving the house. But the waites and waitresses are well trained. They talk to you, ask you if your food is fine and if you’d like another drink etc. This service at your normal pizza-hut or kfc, ok? Not bad kan?

I wish I could take all of you to this plant nursery place which has a cafe in a beautiful garden we went to on Sunday, just a couple of hours before the event we were suppose to attend. There is a h-u-g-e fig tree in the middle of the garden which was nothing like I have ever seen in my life. Come to think of it, I don’t think I have ever seen a fig tree 😛

Another highlight of the garden is a tree house for the kids. There was a really cute, chubby boy (toddle) who was playing with his older brother and the older brother dug some dirt and put it on the lil brother’s head! I didn’t get a picture of that though.

The l_k_w staff said we must have coffee there, so we did. I had already taken breakfast but I wanted to order the tuna salad because I had a feeling we won’t have time to have lunch – which was true! The tuna salad was fresh. The tuna did not come from a tin and I can vouch for that. It tasted un-tin-like *lol* I shared the salad with the kakak and we cold hardly finish it.

At 3pm, the event we flew all the way from Msia to attend took place. It was a convo ceremony unlike anything I have ever seen. Students were singing songs like Hero, Simply the best, Wings beneath my wing between scroll presentations, boleh? I have a video but I don’t think I’m going to youtube it. Kalau nak tengok, see me personally.

The ceremony was over in about two hours or so. We then went to the press conference, did some interviews and went for dinner. We flew home the next morning. The flight home from Jo’berg was much, much better this time. No turbulence at all and I managed to see two movies – Resident Evil: Extinction and The Invasion.
I wish I had the time and money to go on a safari in Bots. I was told that Bots safari is the best in the African continent. Well, kalau umur panjang, I will get to go there again. Insya-allah.

My impression of Gab0rone? It has a lot of potential as a tourist spot. But the people of Bots must know how to “sell” the country. The simplest example? Produce more souvenirs that tourists can pick up and place safely in their bags. I’m talking about I’m talking about good quality souvenirs – fridge magnets, pens, etc. I found that these were sorely lacking.

I thought that Gab0r0ne was not so prepared for tourists. I wondered to myself, apart from the safari – that is probably 20km away from town – and the food, what else can a tourist like me see and do? I actually asked someone this question and they were a bit stumped for an answer.

I hope with the presence of a creative university in town, the country will be able to produce creative human resource who can transform the country into a vibrant economy. That the country is sponsoring the tertiary education of 90 per cent of its young people means that the country is heading in the right direction. I wish Batswana (people of Botswana) all the best!

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