Dumelang! My name is Gontse Gareebine-Bass and I am a Motswana living and working abroad. My childhood pet name was Monang, meaning Mosquito. I was thin growing up and my Grandma would try to stop me from running because she was afraid I would break into a million pieces. Hahaha!
I am a Childcare and Youth Worker and I currently work as an assistant in a Steiner kindergarten in Norway. I more or less started working straight away after moving here in 2008. This was way before I got any formal education in childcare. Working with children and the youth is very interesting as every day is different, challenging and exciting all at the same time. Children need competent adults who are reliable, caring and committed to providing a safe environment for them to develop well, be it mentally or physically. In terms of future aspirations, I’d love to further my education so I can help children with special needs.
Before moving to Norway 11 years ago, I graduated with a Bachelor of Media Studies at the University of Botswana and worked as a journalist for a local newspaper, where I mostly reported on customary court cases, health issues and gender equality.
I am proud to say that I am now a qualified “Childcare and Youth Worker,” after recently passing all my examinations, all in Norwegian, of course. Whoop! Whoop! My new job title means that I can work with children aged 0-18, from kindergartens well into senior schools and youth clubs.
I would describe myself as easy-going and I take each day as it comes. I am very patient and very stubborn, apparently.
As far as hobbies go… I love aerobics, photography, music and dance. One other thing I enjoy most is travel. Travel. Beautiful word indeed. Not only does travel broaden your horizons, it also opens your mind to new cultures, religions, traditions, therefore expanding your knowledge and tolerance of others. I believe we all grow a little while travelling.
Here’s a quote that sums up my feelings on travel by Cesare Pavese, an Italian poet who was considered a major author of the 20th century in his home country.
“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things: air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.”
People will be surprised to know my sense of direction is shockingly bad. Terrible. It can be stressful as I get into a panic every time I get lost. For the first time in my life, I just googled “direction dyslexia” and it’s finally good to know there’s a name for it. Directional dyslexia or directional disorientation. Good to know I’m not alone.
My greatest achievement in life is my loving and giving son. He is my Sunshine.
I am originally from Serowe in the Central District but life moved me and my little family to Mochudi in the Kgatleng District. Mochudi is the hometown of Precious Ramotswe, the leading character in Alexander McCall Smith’s popular series, “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.”
I currently live in Nøtterøy, western Norway. After my big move to Norway, I was faced with a few challenges namely; learning a new language, adjusting to a completely different culture and climate, gaining diverse skills and making new friends. It was not a smooth ride but I’m still standing.
Nøtterøy is an island located on the Vestfold county, Norway. The population here is circa 27,000. Not easy to compare but both Mochudi and Nøtterøy are beautiful places in their own special ways.
The differences between Botswana and Norway…It is not always easy to leave loved ones behind, but I took a chance on love and moved here in 2008 to join my husband. In the early days of relocating here, I remember that what I missed the most was my closest family and friends and the Botswana food, or soul food as I fondly call it. Just give me a plate of papa, (maize-meal porridge) spinach and beef stew when I’m homesick and I’m cured for weeks. Lol!
Upon my arrival in Europe, I found myself for the first time in my life amid people who were cautious of strangers and this left me longing for home where we greet each other on the streets, on public transport and just have a good old chat despite not knowing each other. I’ve since worked my way around that here in Norway. I just go around grinning and greeting everyone, leaving most people confused. Hahaha! And life goes on!
Jokes aside though, there is a saying that “once you make friends with a Norwegian, you’ve gained a friend for life” and it is true. I also have a good support group of Batswana living in Norway. We meet occasionally to celebrate happy events such as birthdays, independence day, christenings and we help each other during sad events too.
Moving from one continent to another, in my case from sunny Africa to snowy Scandinavia was a big transition. I always tell people here that I come from a country where the sun shines 350 days of the year. My Botswana! Here in Norway, it is normal I’m afraid, to not see the sun for up to three weeks in a row! In some parts in the north of the country, it is dark 24 hours a day in the winter! And much colder than your household deep freezer! I could never live there! Thanks, but no thanks!
Despite the climate and culture shock in the beginning, life in Norway is fantastic, as a matter of fact. There are systems that are put in place and they work. I’ll give you a few examples. Public transport; if you are waiting for the 12 o’clock bus, my friend, that bus will arrive on time. Banks, doctor/health personnel appointments etc.; there are no long queues like in Botswana, where one can find themselves standing for many hours just to pay for services. I’ve only been to the bank once upon arriving here, 11 years ago, to open a bank account. Since then, I’ve done everything online from transferring funds and opening other bank accounts myself.
When you have a doctor’s appointment at 10 o’clock, your name will be called in the waiting-room at 10. If there is a delay (and it is rare), it is a maximum of 30 minutes and you’ll get a sincere apology.
Mobile phone companies compete to be the best; therefore, the networks are up and running 97% of the time. Customer satisfaction guaranteed. These are just some of the everyday services that I feel we still struggle with in Botswana and I wish to see some positive changes soon.
Childhood memories – Growing up, my grandmother kept a really beautiful garden with flowers in all sorts of colours. The flowers would in return attract butterflies in all colours of the rainbow. After the rain, the sweet earthy smell of wet sand (just googled it and got the word petrichor) would fill my nostrils and my lungs. The butterflies would come and we would just stare in awe at their beauty. It is still the most beautiful memory I have of my childhood.
The person who inspires me? I am inspired by my son to become a better person. Seeing life through his eyes is just beautiful.
What do I do for entertainment? Well, ever since I was blessed with a son four years ago, there’s never a dull moment in my life. Every day is hectic as much as it is playful and fulfilling.
How has Botswana changed over the years?I am impressed at how much Botswana has developed in the past 11 years. There is so much infrastructure that I can’t wrap my head around it especially the shopping malls cropping up everywhere. I know it comes from a sense of developing the country and job creation and so on, but we are a small population of two million and the competition must be tough on all those big shopping centres. It is painful to see businesses closing down shortly after grand openings. Somebody not doing their research?
My love for travel started a long time ago in Botswana, where I was a tourist in my own country. While awaiting admission into the University of Botswana after I completed high school at Gaborone Senior School, I lived and worked in Maun, the tourism capital of Botswana. Maun, the gateway to the Okavango Delta. Okavango Delta. The largest inland delta in the world. Imagine how lucky and excited I felt.
This was where my journalism journey started way before my formal training. I met a photographer who knew a newspaper editor who knew a publisher and before I knew it, I was on the phone to my Mom in Gaborone shouting happily down the line that “Yes! I got my very first byline!
Having the opportunity to live and work in Maun for just over a year (writing, photography and commercial advertising) gave me unforgettable travels into camps so lush my eyes popped. The fauna and the flora that we are richly blessed with, especially in northern Botswana, is pristine and breathtaking, to say the least. I can never get enough of it.
The diversity and the multiculturalism of the people in and around Maun are enriching in themselves. That is the reason I keep coming back for more despite having moved from Botswana over a decade ago.
Where else I’ve been to in Botswana?I have been lucky enough to see the the Boteti River and Lake Ngami flooding again after long dry spells, bringing with them life to Maun and surrounding villages, once again becoming the sustenance for the local people. On one occasion while visiting Seronga, a small village located at the beginning of the Okavango Delta, I caught an impressive tigerfish this biiiiig, to the amazement and cheering of many menfolk who witnessed the catch! It must have been my lucky day as I am yet to catch anything bigger than that.
My love for nature, perhaps luck and being at the right place at the right time, fuelled me to explore the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Lekhubu Island, Mabuasehube and Khutse Game Reserves, Nxai and Makgadikgadi Pans National Parks, Moremi Game Reserve, Okavango Delta, Linyanti Concession and Tsodilo Hills, to name a few, repeatedly, over the years. Moving from Africa has not curbed it as I take any opportunity there is to go on safari whenever I come down for a visit.
With all that said, I’ll leave you with this little quote:
“The only man I envy is the man who has not yet been to Africa – for he has so much to look forward to.” Richard Mullins.
How I discovered YourBotswana – I first came across YourBotswana on Facebook. It was love at first sight as the writing is done professionally. No grammar or spelling mistakes which are very common in local media.
I was motivated to submit my Friend of YourBotswana profile because when living away from home, one risks losing “touch” and YourBotswana is very informative and such a joy to read, all the time.
Based on what I’ve seen so far of YourBotswana, I would love to see local businesses taking advantage of and using YourBotswana to promote and market their services both locally and internationally. It’s a chance not to be missed. It’s a no brainer! Together they can help each other to sell Botswana to the world. I would also love to see YourBotswana in print one day!
Thanks for reading my profile. Pula!