Botswana – Passport — The North Star Reports, sponsored by The Middle Ground Journal
Last summer, I returned to Francistown, Botswana, where I spent much of my adolescence and where my parents still reside. It was my first trip home in over two years. Understandably, I was quite excited. Of all my experiences during my visit, the one that remains the most memorable involves a damaged passport, security guards, and a bus filled with illegal immigrants.
My passport was damaged by way of washing machine. I had foolishly forgotten to empty my pockets before doing laundry. Reasoning that it would be safer to obtain a new passport rather than take my chances with a damaged one, I planned a trip to the nearest town with an embassy: Gaborone. My trip to Gaborone proved to be far more exciting than anticipated. I left Francistown early Monday morning and arrived at the embassy around 10:00 a.m. After filling out all necessary paperwork, I grabbed some lunch and browsed some nearby shops for nothing in particular. My old passport was returned to me punched. I reasoned that I would still be able to use it for traveling as it technically did not expire for another eight years.
In the late afternoon, I began making my way back to the airport. I waited in the lobby and when I noticed a line beginning to form, made my way to the gate.
At security, however, I was abruptly stopped and pulled aside while the guards conversed in a language I did not recognize. Perplexed, I inquired what precisely was the issue. I was told that my passport, which did not expire for another eight years, had been rendered invalid due to it being punched. This meant, of course, that I could not board the plane home.
This was rather worrisome as I’d only planned to spend the afternoon in Gaborone and had not brought enough money for a hotel and had no means of staying the extra two weeks it would take for my new passport to arrive. Furthermore, due to the cancellation of my passport, I had no acceptable form of ID. I needed a passport for any form of travel. This, coupled with the fact that Gaborone is not exactly the safest city, sent me into a panic.
With my phone’s battery about to die (and without a charger), I left the airport and made attempts to find a safe, cheap place to spend the night and regroup. This proved difficult as every place I tried within my price range was full. Thus, I resorted to walking around the city until I finally found a place in the early morning, at around 3:00 a.m.
I asked the receptionist if she knew of any way I could return home that would not require a passport. She leaned in and said very quietly that if I was up for it I could play with fire and catch a bus at 6:00 a.m. Said bus would not check for ID as it would be taking a more scenic route so as to smuggle in Zimbabweans entering illegally.
I took the bus and made some new friends in the process.
[map credit: see http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Location_Botswana_AU_Africa.svg By Alvaro1984 18 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]
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The North Star Reports: The Middle Ground Journal’s collaborative outreach program with K-12 classes around the world. We acknowledge North Star Academy of Duluth, Minnesota as our inaugural partner school, and the flagship of our K-12 outreach program. We also welcome Duluth East High School, Duluth Denfeld High School, and other schools around the world. The North Star Reports has flourished since 2012. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:
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Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA
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