School registration began on Monday. Unlike the normal 15 minutes required for online registration I have always used in the U.S. in Botswana we do it old school. This means standing in line, meeting professors, and begging leaneancy. Being a first year graduate student my classes were preset, so I didn’t have to make my own schedule. This saved a couple of days, because there were only a handful of master schedules for the entire school and most people just went from department to department asking the schedule. I didn’t notice many people being vocally upset at the long process, only a couple of people I met expressed frustration. This does not mean that a lot of people don’t like the system, but are simply familiar with it and the processes.
But school registration was not my only concern, I have also been trying to open a bank account at Barclays Bank. I was misinformed by several people that I HAD to have a residency permit to do this. This is not my only experience with people giving me misinformation when I feel that they could have easily told me they don’t know. For as many questions I ask around here I have yet for someone to tell me they don’t know an answer. I have not figured out why this is yet, but I am looking into it….perhaps I am asking questions the wrong way, maybe I should try being more specific. As it turns out Barclays will open an account for me.
So I also need to register with the Botswana Government to get my Residency Permit. I had filled out all the necessary paperwork before I left and brought it with me, but I was promptly told none of this would do because “it does not have a rubber stamp on it.” Fair enough. So part of my redux of registration is getting a chest X-ray to show I do not have pulmonary TB. I was given a referral by the Univ. Botswana Clinic (free), then walked to the Princess Marina Hospital (15 min) showed my referral form at the main counter (I had made no prior appointment) and paid the non-citizen charge of 30 Pula (about $5 US). I then went to the X-ray department, gave them my receipt and was told to wait (5 minutes). I was then given my X-ray (2 minutes) and told to come pick it up on Monday after 2 PM. So within 30 minutes I had finished an unscheduled hospital chest X-ray referral and paid $5 US.
Because talking about this is just too good, here is some more info that will make you wonder what is going on with U.S. health care. In Botswana, as a non-citizen, I would have to pay 50 Pula (about $8 US) to see a doctor and 80 Pula (about 12 US) to see a specialist. Dental cleanings cost around $50 US from a private dentist who went to U. Pen. and he does root canals on pre-molars for around $170 US. Oh, and an ambulance ride is a flat fee of 5 Pula (about 85 cents). Pula, the nominal currency unit in Botswana means “Rain.” Pula, like the U.S. dollar, have 100 denominal units in a Pula. These, equivalent to our “cents,” are called Thebe, which means “raindrop.” This is poetic.
So all this registration business is at various stages, but I would not be where I am without an unanticipated advantage. My last name “Sowa” turns out to be Tswana. There is even a village in the western Kalahari called “Sowa Town/ Sowa Pan” and soda ash is mined there. So when people handling my various registration documents run across my name, and then double check that they are looking at the right papers, and then confirm with me a few times my name is, in fact, “Sowa” I get, what I suppose, is a better than routine treatment than foreigners are used to.