Botswana – Passport — The North Star Reports, sponsored by The Middle Ground Journal. By Eli Megahan


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  By Alvaro1984 18 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to contribute to The North Star Reports — HLIANG@CSS.EDU

For all of the North Star Reports, see

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:

The North Star Reports will share brief dispatches from our student interns, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. Student interns have reported from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing presentations on theatrical representations of historical trauma, historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and different perceptions of current events from around the world. We will post their dispatches, and report on their interactions with the North Star Reports students and teachers.

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

(c) 2012-present The Middle Ground Journal. See Submission Guidelines page for the journal’s not-for-profit educational open-access policy.


Filed under North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

26 responses to “Botswana – Passport — The North Star Reports, sponsored by The Middle Ground Journal. By Eli Megahan

  1. Mindy Aubin

    Wow, this was an awesome story and I would LOVE to hear about how the bus ride went! I could only imagine your feeling when you weren’t able to fly back home. I get paranoid about that kind of stuff and when I went to Mexico all I wanted was for my passport to get me on the plane, I new it would, but theres so many stories that I get freaked out about it. At least you happened to pick the right hotel to stay at. I bet you wondered what the outcome would be if you hadn’t found that way home.

  2. Neil Vierzba

    A very interesting story. Talk about a scary situation. I’m interested in hearing about how the bus ride was. A very great article.

  3. Rachel Rees

    I would love to hear more about the people you met on the bus! I don’t think I would be brave enough to take the bus let alone travel by myself. I think it is great you have such courage because it led you to meet new people whom I am sure told great stories. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Jenna M

    Really interesting story and I would love to hear more about your adventure home! I can’t even imagine being stuck in a situation like that for I would have totally lost my mind! I’m glad you made it home safely and thanks for sharing your story.

  5. Jonia G

    Reading the title, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I must say, it’s very interesting and I hope that you when you got home, you had a lovely time. I agree with the other commenters, hearing more about the bus ride would be interesting. Either way, thank you for sharing such an interesting story from your life. (I’m guessing since it’s on here, you won’t face any charges…. right?)

  6. Nick Kaplan

    This article sounds more like the opening scene to a movie than a real life trip. Must have been pretty intense and scary! Good thing it worked out in the end and you were not stranded in a foreign country.

  7. Miranda King

    This seems like quite the adventure. I can’t imagine being denied and having nothing to fall back on. I would have been terrified. I’m sure the bus ride was a memory you will never forget.

  8. Kyle Hellmann

    That would be a very scary experience! Thank you for sharing, and it makes me realize that we do not live in a perfect world, where things always don’t turn out as expected. I’m glad that you didn’t run into any further trouble

  9. Alayna McCawley

    Wow! This story captured my full attention; I felt like I was reading an intense book and wanted to hear what happened next. I’d be interested in hearing about what happened next and how the bus trip went. It sounds like you had quite the experience and I’m glad you eventually made it back regardless of the setbacks you experienced! In life it seems as though the most unexpected situations have the greatest impact on our lives– I hope this experience holds a positive place in your life.

  10. Cali Stabe

    Wow thats the last thing you want to happen when all you want to do is get home, passports and foreign countries i have also had an issue with, it is awful! Im glad everything worked out in the end and you made it home safe!

  11. Chelsea Bastyr

    This seems like it should be in a movie! I can’t believe everything you went through to come home! All because of a silly mistake. I’m interested to know how the bus ride went and some of the conversations you may have had with people on it. I can’t imagine the panic you felt! I’m happy you made it home safe!

  12. Maija

    I wish I knew the rest of the story, as I’m sure it was also very interesting! I could not imagine being in the same situation, or handling it as well. I hope everything ended up being fine!

  13. Zach Dahlman

    Really sorry about the passport people dont realize how much and how long it takes to get one. other than that very interesting story and im curious about that bus ride. My imagination was running wild!

  14. Wow! A very exciting story! One that i’m sure you will always remember. Sounds like you had really had to learn how to “roll with the punches.” A great read, thank you for sharing.

  15. Wow! What an eventful trip! One that I’m sure you will never forget. Sounds like you really had to learn how to “roll with the punches” and navigate your way through quite a mess, a good life skill to have when facing adversity. Great read, thanks for sharing!

  16. Katie Hass

    Wow! What an experience. And what an ending to the article. I hope the ride wasn’t too terribly exciting and that everything went okay! There are quite a few lessons to be learned from this article and I thank you for sharing!

  17. Mickie Keuning

    That’s quite the story! I’m sure it’s something you will never forget and an interesting life experience. It was nice reading about the lady that told you about the 6 am bus. Makes me know that there are people out there always willing to help.

  18. Morgan Young

    Wow! It sounds like you had quite the eventful journey trying to find your way home! I’m glad the receptionist had the kindness to let you know about the bus. I’m sure you met quite a few interesting people on that bus!

  19. Chelsey L

    Wow this was a very interesting read. I would have been scared to death if I was in your position. It sounds like everything worked out though. Do you think you will go back there again (as long as you don’t wash your passport)?

  20. Zach Friederichs

    That sounds like quite the adventure! At least you made the best of it and got to experience something that most others won’t ever get. I wonder what would happen if a bus like that gets stopped and questioned?

  21. What! This is not acceptable. They left us hanging! Well, I really like your story, and I was with you on every single word. I am actually from Zimbabwe so I will get you for what you said about smuggling Zimbabweans hahaha – I am kidding. I have been to Botswana before and it is a very great country and I do agree with you on people travelling in buses illegally. I met a few on my trip.

  22. Becca

    I can’t imagine being in that position! I would like to know how the story ended, but I would assume that it ended without much excitement. You now have quite a story to tell!

  23. Ashley Svihel

    Wow sounds like you had quite a bumpy ride returning home. I know if I was in that situation it would not have been solved with such ease and not that quickly either. I’m glad to her you returned home safe and sound and even with a one of a kind story to back your experience. Really interesting article!

  24. Eleni Birhane

    Interesting experience. I bet you were terrified, it does not feel good to be stranded anywhere. I wonder why the embassy approved your passport and the airline did not? Why would they punch your passport if it would render it invalid? I would also love to hear about your bus ride home. It is often the unexpected things that are the most interesting.

  25. Nicholas Burski

    I enjoyed the article very much so thank you for sharing! I would be incredibly interested to hear about how that bus ride went as well! I think it is great that you made some friends and I could not imagine what you were feeling during the entire process. The fact that the embassy was good with your passport and the airport was not seems like something that needs to be worked out. Situations like yours where you wanted to double check to see if it was good I would bet are common so having agreed upon standards should be a priority. Either way it is good to hear that everything ended up working out for you in the end and you even got some new friends! Thank you for the read!

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