This weekend, Rachel and I made the 1-hour combi ride to Gabane on Saturday to check out the famous Pelegano Pottery Village. After a late night at a friend’s going away party, we headed to the bus rank around 11:30am. As I’ve said before, the bus rank is always an experience. I attempted to take some pics there this weekend, but no picture can capture the atmosphere. Also, it’s kinda hard to take a pic while trying to hide your camera.

We arrived in Gabane, jumped off our combi, and headed down the first dirt road we found.


Luckily, we found a guy (who does tiling) who knew where Pelegano Pottery was, and he sent us in the right direction.


The pottery was gorgeous, and Rachel and I now have more gifts to take home! We were talking with the woman at the pottery shop, Katherine, for a while, and it turns out that she knew one of the doctors at the clinic because he had brought the Teen HIV Club to Gabane for one of their meetings and had made pottery with her. We also met a sculptor, Elijah, from Francistown/Zimbabwe, who showed us some of his work and then took us up on the hill behind the Village so that we could see the whole town. He is very passionate about the situation in Zimbabwe, and much of his work reflects that. Elijah was just commissioned by South Africa to create a “Future of South Africa” sculpture for the 2010 World Cup in Joburg.


After this awesome view as the sun was just barely starting to set, we went back down the hill with Elijah, who walked us back through the town to the combis.

Many of the houses looked similar to what we had seen in Kanye and Mochudi, but the atmosphere and layout was definitely different. Gabane is more spread out with wider streets and deeper sands. The yards are much larger, and the houses aren’t built as close to the hills.  There also weren’t as many people out and walking around by the houses as in Mochudi. And in Mochudi, many of the houses were on narrow roads which followed the slow incline of the hills, and there were plenty of people milling around.


It was great to get out and to see another town, and hopefully we’ll be able to see a few more before we leave!

We did have an interesting conversation on the way back to Gabs with a mother and her teenage daughter sitting in front of us. Rachel, as always, struck up a conversation with the people around us about HIV/AIDS to get their opinions/insights. Her first question was about the HIV/AIDS media campaign and the billboards/posters/radio spots that are ubiquitous. Combi stops, highway billboards, everywhere you look there are slogans: ”Be a real man. Get tested.” and the like:


When Rachel asked the mother’s opinion of this media campaign, the mother had no idea what we were talking about. “You know, like the big billboards everywhere?” But she had no idea. The mother, who is from Serowe, had an opinion on the HIV epidemic and African culture that I’ve heard from several people: she believes that Africans just sleep around too much. Simple as that. As we discussed that idea further, her daughter squirmed nervously in her seat. In Africa, young people, starting around age 16, begin to frequent bars in the area. Although the legal drinking age is 18, many underage teens can be found in bars, as these laws aren’t strictly enforced. The mother said this is where the young people meet each other, drink too much, and go home together. She believes alcohol is driving this epidemic, but doesn’t know what can be done to stop it. In the US, as I shared with her, teens aren’t allowed into bars because of strict enforcement of drinking laws. US teens may drink as much as, if not more than, African teens, but they’re doing it in homes with their friends, not meeting new people and going home with them. I’d be interested to see if there have been any studies done on this subject. We also talked with the daughter about what they learned about HIV in school, as she quietly told us that they knew methods of transmission and a few other topics. When Rachel asked if any of her classmates had HIV, she quickly said no.

I’ve noticed that there is still a strong stigma here, despite what we see in clinic everyday and the huge media campaign. For example, when the students at Maruapula, a wealthy private school down the road, came to visit the COE as part of their AIDS Awareness Week, they were all very interested and inquisitive and wanting to share what they’d learned, but when asked if anybody at their school had HIV or AIDS, there was a fast and universal response: NO. When we were at a concert at the University of Botswana the other night, we met a (slightly intoxicated) girl who was starting at the university next semester. When we told her where we were working, she said, “With THEM?” I said, “Of course, they’re adorable little kids.” “With THEM?” Although she was under the influence of alcohol, I think it caused her to say what she was really thinking, rather than to suddenly develop an aversion to HIV patients. I can understand why there is stigma against the adults who have acquired this disease, as many of them have had promiscuous sex, but by no means has every adult who has the disease been irresponsible or promiscuous. It is seen as being acquired by their own fault, through their own actions.  But the kids–What have they done?

3 Responses to “Gabane”

  1. Rachel Says:

    i love the pic of the fence!

  2. jhagan Says:

    Hi Lindsey and Rachel,

    My wife and I spent a year in Botswana as medical students, doing HIV research with the Botswana-Harvard AIDS institute in Gabs.

    We lived in Gabane, in the thatch house on the top of the hill. My wife somehow stumbled across your site, and recognized your photos of that unmistakable view from our back yard!

    If you don’t mind me asking about our old homestead, did you peek into the house? Did they fix the hole in the roof? Was anybody living there? We lived in that house for most of the year, until we were finally evicted by axe-wielding serial robbers. When we left, there was some talk by the owners of putting up a fence of some kind. Did you see if they got around to that?

    Anyway, it was wonderful to see someone else appreciate that wonderful little village (axe gang notwithstanding). If you ever get back there, I would highly recommend going to the Mountain Liquor Restaurant for a beer and a steak. Tell Noki and Gunner that Amy and Jose from the house on the hill say howzit.

    Jose Hagan

  3. jhagan Says:

    Also, I hope you don’t mind if we post a link to this post on our own blog from our Botswana trip. We’re delighted to see that our back yard has become an international tourist destination!


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