I had slept late last night after having long skype conversations with my parents in Bangladesh and Bhaiya (brother) in Australia. Isn’t the world getting too small? When Wame knocked my window to call me for breakfast in the morning, I was still asleep. As I rubbed my eyes and told that I’d be ready in half an hour, he informed that my luggage has arrived. I was ecstatic; last night I had thought that my luggage was lost and was looking into procedures of claiming luggage. My brother sent me a very useful link about the baggage rules for delayed, damaged and lost luggage. Check it out here . Although, I thankfully don’t need to use it, very useful information: I think not a lot of people know that you can get compensated up to $3,300 for lost luggage and get reimbursed for reasonable purchases needed because of delayed luggage! I certainly did not know my rights when it comes to baggage rules!
I finally got to meet the other exchange students from other universities and countries who were also in the University of Botswana(UB) at present. It’s interesting how study abroad industry has flourished over the years at an astounding rate of 12% a year. As the world is becoming more globalized, there is more demand for graduates who have wider worldviews and diverse perspectives. Also, as the internet has facilitated communication system through skype, facebook etc. and information availability through blogs, tripadvisor and so on, the uncertainty of going to a different country has greatly decreased. If it was 15 years ago, I think my mother would never have been supportive to such experience because of all the uncertainties that the internet has diminished. Whereas it’s common sense that traveling and new experiences enrich individual’s insights, it was interesting to find that research has actually found that study abroad experiences boost creativity or cognitive processes involved in developing innovative solutions.
It was a great experience meeting exchange students not only from other universities in USA, but also from countries like Switzerland, Trinidad etc. Case Western University seems to have an interesting program for engineers who usually have fewer study abroad programs geared towards them when compared to students in social sciences and arts. They had a mandatory course offered that students could take as a study abroad class or a regular class. The students I talked to appreciated the course being offered through this system that enables them to fulfill required course credits while being at a different country providing enriching experiences.
After I retrieved my luggage, the day was relaxing. In the afternoon, I walked to the Riverwalk Mall with some other students. The mall is Western-styled with fast food chain, brand chains and superstores. If I was taken their blindfolded, I would not know which country the mall was in. This could easily be any other mall in any country. It was interesting to see the familiar Bata and Wimpy in the mall, that we have in Bangladesh. I was told that Gaborone doesn’t have McDonald’s, but has KFC. Fast food is increasingly becoming popular among the youth. This seems to be the identical story in every country in the world. Whereas this convergence of culture makes the world coming together and interaction easier, I have my doubts about the impacts of it. However, that is a long discussion for another day.
To sum it up, today was a much-needed relaxing day. Whenever, anyone asks our Resident Assistant Wame about what he did or what he plans to do, the kid always replies: “Just chilling”. As I sign off, that’s the best way I could think of describing my day: “Just chilling”!:)
The flight from Gaborone to Botswana was nice. I loved looking at the different terrain of African land through the aircraft window.
Figure: Aerial view before landing in Gabarone
Once I reach the Gaborone Airport, the huge Dumela sign “welcome”ed me.
Figure:Airport in Gaborone
A nice lady at the immigration looked into my on-arrival documents papers and frowned. Again, the same questions: “Where is the seal?” I was tired after this 30-something hours and almost wanted to say ‘Ask your embassy where the seal is; they sent me the document’. But, I used my better judgement not to speak my mind; this lady was just doing her job. I gave the smile I always give and said, ‘This is what they sent me’. ‘Do you know that you have to pay now for the visa fee?’ she asked. “I already paid the visa fee to the Washington DC embassy, ” I paused and then added, ” but I am fine paying again!” At this point, I guess I could trade one of my kidney to get the visa– double payment was nothing!
She asked me to wait. After a while, she came back and asked, ‘Do you remember how much you paid?’ Oh my god! I don’t remember; the visa application I sent seem so long time back! So many things have happened after that: Canadian visa process, my graduation, visit to Eastern Coast and Canada with parents, South African visa process… how can they expect me to remember how much I paid after all this? I opened my laptop to search for the document where I compiled the Botswana visa documents; after a long search, I found that I paid $107. I was so happy that I wanted to say “Eureka!”But the immigration officer wasn’t too excited; “Do you have a receipt?” she asked. “No, they never sent me one!” I said sheepishly. I had posted the embassy my documents; I presume they would have sent a receipt when they would have returned my passport. But, since I never got the chance to send my passport after visa approval, the question of receipt never came.
“I can pay it now!” I insisted; I just wanted this to be over!
“No, you cannot pay twice. Go to immigration head office tomorrow with this document and they will stamp the visa. I can’t verify the payment information since it’s a holiday today,” the officer handed me a document.
Okay, I have entry to the country! When I went to the luggage carousal, my luggage wasn’t there. The immigration process has taken around an hour; so I was not surprised. I asked one of the person, where I could look for my luggage. He said I’d have to talk to the South African Airlines office outside.
As I crossed the green channel, I saw a young boy waiting with the University of Botswana(UB). I was glad to see him; at least one thing happened properly: my pick-up was here! He was a student assistant from University of Botswana named Wame.
After looking through luggage room and searching for another half an hour, my luggage was still not there. I felt bad for making Wame wait; but of only the wait was worthwhile. But, nope…no luggage was there– I gave the airways offices Wame’s contact no. and they promised to contact that number once my luggage arrives.
The Botswana city looked very less crowded from me: I guess I had imagined to experience crowd and traffics. Instead, the streets were populated with sparse traffic and the landscape contained thorn trees and few buildings. I was too tired and frustrated to take any pictures.
On our way, Wame showed me the national stadium which looked all festive and colorful because of the African Youth Games that Botswana was hosting. As Wame took the room keys from Kevin(who I suppose is an RA), he asked whether I have a padlock to lock the room. Dr. Ice had asked us to get a padlock for the UB dorm room where our accommodation is arranged. I had diligently followed her instruction to buy the padlock but I realized I had put it in my main checked-in luggage which was missing. Wame was kind enough to lend me his extra padlock; later Dr. Marape bought be another padlock.
After I collected my cellphone from the supervisor of the other Ohio University group that was already in Botswana, I came back to my room to find that the travel adapter I had got (originally brought by my father from Bangladesh) was not adjusting to the electric connection in my room. It was only then that I felt completely helpless. Now that I think of it, I wonder whether it was because I am so dependent on electronics(i.e. laptop, internet, cellphone) or it was the limit of my patience of bearing all the misery that befell me in a matter of 40 hours. I somehow sent an email to my family of my safe arrival and sent a short email to Shomik before my laptop died out: “I am scared, Shomik…very scared…nothing is going right”…