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Gaborone, Botswana
Follow me as I learn all about modern life in Gaborone Botswana.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Here You Can Go Home Again

Recently, a colleague kindly provided me with some background information on how property works here. Almost everyone in Botswana has what they call a "home village"; this is the area, run by a chief where they or their parents grew up. When people ask where you are from, they are really asking you about your home village. If you were to reply Gabarone or Francistown, the two biggest cities here, they would just look at you in confusion. In the village each family has plot of land - a compound - which has enough room for several small homes. Older people usually live in the village, and all of their adult children consider this compound their home. If something happens, job loss, illness or just fatigue with city life; the adult children can go home to their village compound (mama's house) and leave there. If they want to stay for a while they can build a small house within the compound or even request a neighboring plot of land from the village chief. All Batswana are basically entitled to land, they can apply to the government for a plot of land or they can request from their home village chief or another chief if they are so inclined. They do have to develop the land in order to keep it, and even if you purchase land from an individual you must develop the land or the government can take it back.

Homelessness is virtually unheard of, and according to my colleague, even the people in shanty towns in Gabs, are there by choice in a way - there to make and save money, because they can always go back to their home village. Apparently many mothers even encourage their adult children to move back "home". I have a lot of questions and thoughts about how that impacts people's choices here. For example, here single motherhood is the norm - marriages happen late if ever and stable monogamous relationships are not as common as any many other places. Perhaps the safety net of the family home has made people much more financially independent then other places and deprioritized the nuclear family. When I compare Botswana to India or even the US where homelessness and poverty are a real and present danger for many single mothers; I can see how this safety net is a big plus.

As for my home, I moved into a very nice two story townhouse and am now completely settled and ready for guests; except I still don't have internet or cable. I have a little garden space for a garden in the back where I'm planning on planting marigolds, eggplant and some collard green seeds that a friend is couriering into Bots for me. The townhouse has 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, and a huge open living room space; basically I'm swimming in space here. My last apartment would likely fit in the bottom floor of this current space and the smallest bathroom in my current place is at least twice the size of my last place. So if you're thinking about visiting me in Botswana your accomadations are totally taken care of. I actually spent several weeks trying to find a smaller place, but I couldn't find anything suitable in a smaller size - it's a complaint I've heard from quite a few expats. After I signed my lease I actually found a couple of apartment buildings that are more suitably sized for a single person, but they are all hidden and seem to go pretty quickly.

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