In terms of furniture, with these, I was sorted.
Not All That Glitters is Gold!!
My colleagues envied me because they believed that I had the best accommodation deal. The truth was that my seemingly wonderful one-roomed accommodation came with its own challenges!
The place was a compound where several people lived, and the landlord also lived there. Because he wanted to have as many tenants as possible, he only used two rooms with his wife and kids. The rest were let out which meant a lot of people at the compound but more money for him. Since he was not working, his house was his only source of income.
My room was in the better part of the compound which was inside the newly constructed 4 or 5 roomed house. When I was being shown around, I only saw the toilet and asked where the bathroom was. I was shocked to learn that there wasn’t any!
Say what?? Yes, there was NO bathroom. There was only one toilet which was located a few metres from the house. Oh, my word!!
What I had come to learn about living in Botswana was that having a bathroom was not essential. You could find a beautiful 5 or 6 roomed house or bigger with no bathing area as people washed in big metal dishes right inside the house. When I first heard about that practice, I was extremely shocked because I had never known people to live like that.
In Botswana, there are “Mazezuru” people who are in the trade of making these dishes which people use to wash inside the house and throw the water out afterward.
This was the biggest culture shock for me! In Zimbabwe, bathrooms and toilets are part of every house plan, especially in town dwellings. I had never come across a house without a bathroom before. In Zimbabwe, it is also common practice that the toilet can serve as a bathroom. It would just be constructed in such a way that when one bathes the water flows out into the right channels leading to the drainage pipes. After bathing, one would then dry the floor and leave it ready to be used as a toilet.
What a shock! No bathroom and a takeaway toilet!! This ablution was just a closet standing on its own and each time you walked in there everyone would see where you had gone to and how long you took in there. It took some adjusting. But, did I have a choice?? The only plus was the fact that there was clean running water. It was, of course, a tap outside the house, which was still acceptable.
At the end of the day, all I wanted was a place to lay my head and go to work. Again, luxury was not of the essence. I would have that back home in Zimbabwe. In Botswana, I had come to earn a living.
Moving into the new house
When I moved from the house in Tonota, I hired a taxi to ferry my belongings. I did not have any movable furniture but a few belongings. This meant that moving to a new house was not a major challenge. The few belongings I possessed had been made possible by the fact that, while I was hunting for a place to stay, I had also been preparing for my new home; so I had managed to buy an airbed, a stove, and some cooking utensils. All these could fit perfectly into the Toyota Corolla that I hired as transport.
When I found this new place, days into the month, I moved in immediately. I was also excited to use the new items I had bought and never used. It was like moving into a new mansion! Even though there was a long-distance toilet and no bathroom, I was still excited to move in. I, mostly, loved the idea that I could walk to work which was about a five-minute walk away. Transport costs had been eliminated and I could use that money for other things or just save it.
I bought a big plastic dish (for bathing) at once! It was not as big as the metal ones used by the locals, but big enough for me to kneel inside and take a ‘decent’ bath. It was the type that we use for laundry in Zimbabwe. With time, I mastered the art of bathing in a dish in my room daily. It was so hard at first as I would splash water all over the place and be forced to wipe the floor after bathing. I even had to buy a jug which I used to scoop water to wash my back and lessen the water splashed on the floor.
In Francistown, there were plenty of “Chinese” shops where items were hugely affordable to low-income earners. I considered myself as a low-income earner back then, in fact, there was nothing to consider: I was a low-income earner. In one of the shops, I bought a small blanket to use as a bathing tub mat.
At bath times I would spread this throw on the floor and place the dish on top of it then take my bath. After my bath, I would hang the mat blanket outside to dry in preparation for the next bath time. This routine worked perfectly because there was less or no water on the floor after bathing.
Because the toilet was located a few metres away from the house, it meant that going there to relieve oneself at night was out of the question. The most obvious solution to this problem was using a bucket at night. A friend told me of a trick to kill the urine stench through the night. She told me to put a bit of washing powder and some water in the bucket before use. I tried it and it worked!!
So, the room I was renting was basically a three-in-one: bedroom, bathroom, and toilet! I am laughing my lungs out as I write this!! It now sounds very funny but at the time I was not laughing because that was the reality that I had to embrace as the new normal.
Breaking rule number one!
Oh, and this three-in-one room came with rules! Rule number one was: no visitors, at all!! The landlord said to me: “I know you, Zimbabweans. When you get a place to stay in Francistown you start calling the whole community you left back home to tell them that you have found accommodation and they should come!” I found it very insulting to me and the whole of my country to be labeled in that manner and be treated like people who do not have any rights as humans because of where we came from.
However, I did not mind that rule because I was not thinking of bringing any visitors. I just needed a place to lay my head and go to work. Can you imagine that even the friends I worked with could not visit me!!
I got the taste of the landlord’s wrath when one day, out of the blue, my cousin called me around 1800hrs to tell me that he had arrived in Francistown and that he was at the bus rank. He wanted me to give him directions to my place! I was petrified! I could not leave him there to spend the night at the bus rank and I could not bring him to my place. He had traveled all the way from Zimuto, Masvingo.
How would I get out of this one? I was caught between a rock and a hard place. I was not permitted to have visitors and I could not leave him homeless overnight. I braved it and told him to wait for me as I lived close by; I went to collect him and all the time I was imagining how I was going to get him into the house without the landlord’s notice. I had made up my mind to just sneak him in. Since it was getting dark, I would use the night as my shield.
When we returned to the house, I prepared supper and after eating I set up for him to sleep in the lounge. The lady who was renting another bedroom and the lounge through which I passed to get to my room was away, so I actually put my cousin in someone else’s room!
In the morning, after we had just finished eating breakfast and were getting ready to leave, the landlord walked in. I was almost feeling I had got away with this one but was I wrong!!!
That day I was reduced to nothing by that man! Right in front of my cousin, he scolded me and accused me of trying to run his household. Every Zimbabwean was being scolded through me because he was addressing me as “You, Zimbabweans…” I had never been scolded like that in my entire life. And that man could shout!!!!
After he walked out of the house, my cousin and I just left the house and headed for town. No one spoke as we walked to my school. Fortunately, my cousin had only planned to spend one night in Francistown, do his shopping, and return to Zimbabwe on the overnight buses which left Francistown around 1500hrs.
I stayed in that house and endured the insults of the landlord, together with a female colleague who had also joined me in that house and rented a room which was next to mine, for over a year. My friend and I would laugh about his ‘madness’ and I suppose having someone to share my misery with sort of made the burden lighter. However, no one in the world can live with such a person forever, we all have our breaking points.
Getting fed up
My friend and I agreed that enough was enough and decided to find alternative accommodation. She found hers first and left. Was the landlord mad!!! The guy went ballistic!!! He did not like the idea of suddenly losing an income, but he could not respect the people who made that possible. He screamed for hours and even told me to also leave with my friend since I was the one who had brought her to him. I just ignored his tantrums but became more determined to leave the house.
I searched high and low for another house but finding a place where I would not incur transport costs was imperative. This made my search even more difficult as I was limited to certain areas of Francistown. Because I did not earn enough, it was important for me to ensure I did not add commuting expenses to my already strained budget. As luck would have it, I found a neat cottage in an area called Town Centre which was also within walking distance from my place of employment and affordable! The area was on the other side of town, a sort of low-density area near the CBD. I paid my deposit and rent and now had to find a way to tell my current landlord that I would be leaving at the end of that very month and we were already mid-month. I knew that the news would not be received well.