The Botswana Buying Game

So far the majority of our time in
Gabs has been spent trying to buy stuff.
Tops on our priority list were a car, a place to live, a bed, a fridge,
a washing machine, a table with chairs followed by all the other tons of
household stuff one needs for basic living. Its hard to believe how expensive
stuff is here. Something like a cheap plastic pasta strainer could be $15.
Anything electronic is super expensive. You can expect everything else to be
about the same or slightly more expensive than in the US but much lower
quality.  Most expats try to buy
everything they need used from another expat who is leaving the country. We’ve
been trying to do this as well. There is no craigslist here – but people use
facebook for everything here including selling things. Even the government has
a facebook page which it uses as the major means of communication with the
public! The issue with buying things from expats is that somewhere along the
line people got the wrong idea about how to sell used goods. Everyone tries to
sell things for almost the same price they paid for it! Expats have this idea
that the things they own are better taken care of so they should be able to
sell something as if it was new…..even if its 10 years old! After wasting a lot
of time driving around to random people’s houses looking at a lot of overpriced
junk, we’ve decided paying a bit more for new appliances that we know will work
was probably the best bet. So far we have gotten a new bed, washing machine and
microwave. We are still holding out to see if we can find a good used
fridge….but just about to break down and get a new one. We still can’t get over that all housing in Gabs comes COMPLETELY empty – even if just renting an apartment you have to furnish your own stove, fridge, microwave, washer along with all other furniture! .

Car buying is another crazy
experience here. Everyone gets used cars because new ones are insanely
expensive due to heavy import taxes. The standard is to buy used cars imported
from Japan, China, Sri Lanka and Singapore. All sorts of vehicles in all sorts
of conditions arrive into Durban, South Africa then are shipped over land into
Botswana. They can be anywhere from 5-20 years old. You can pretty much
guarantee that the odometers are spun back so its difficult to know what
condition the car is in. We decided we needed a 4wd that was also automatic to
allow us to do longer road trips and self drives into game parks. For about a
week I called every ad I could find for an automatic 4wd and every one had
already been sold. We went to a fairly sketchy looking used car lot and found a 2003
Mitsubishi Pajero which had just arrived the day before. It was a great size –
4wd, 4 door, spacious inside but small enough to get around town easily. The
only problem was the color – Pink. Garret wasn’t pleased but it was everything
we had wanted and at the best price we had seen – $3,400. We knew we should
have a mechanic look at it before buying but we just were so hot and tired from
driving around that we agreed to purchase the car with the word of the owner
that if we found anything wrong within 30 days we could bring it back to be
fixed. So we bought ourselves a Pink Pajero! It is a great little car – Garrett
has learned to like the fact that it is super easy to find in the parking lots
and that it is really easy to park in the tiny spaces they have in Gabs. But as
we should have expected, when we did have a mechanic look over the car, he
found some major problems. We thought we were totally hosed. But miraculously,
like promised the owner of the dealership has agreed to fix the car for us!
Viva la Pink Princess!

We looked for houses for about 2
weeks before deciding on a place. We had our hearts set on finding a house with
a pool and a yard for skippy but we couldn’t find anything close enough to the
hospital within our budget. Good places go really fast! It felt like we were
back in the Denver real-estate market! We decided to settle on a small condo in a newly constructed complex. It actually isn’t even finished yet! It
has two buildings with 4 units each and a pool in the center. Its about a 5 min
drive/15 min walk to the hospital. There is a small outside space for Skippy,
but its so hot outside that he likes to stay indoors most of the time anyway.
We will continue to look for a house since we are able to move out of this
place anytime if we give a month’s notice. There still is a possibility that
the government could come through with free housing for us….but I’m not holding
my breath at this point!

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