just another day…

This morning, as I was driving out the dirt road towards Rurestse to Green Gem nursery, I passed by a truck full of workers in blue jackets.  This is a regular sight.  It’s a crew of workers hitching a ride out to someone’s farm or construction site to work for the day, wearing the blue jacket and pants sets that make obvious the meaning of “blue collar.”  The truck sits at a standstill just as the thinning tarmac deteriorates into red dirt, where the road bends and the small hills on the horizon sit in South Africa.  Upon seeing the truck and police officers, I had a quick thought to tell my hitchhiking passenger to put on her seat belt.  Smile and wave is my motto when it comes to traffic cops.  We approach the scene and it becomes obvious the men with AK47s aren’t concerned with seat belts today.  They are looking for illegal Zimbabweans.  My heart sinks.  “It’s the only thing the police are good at,” she says, the woman to whom I’m giving a lift, “busting Zimbabweans.”

It’s a complex issue that deserves more discussion at a later point.  To make a quick comment, it’s a bad situation in Zimbabwe with little money and jobs for a lot of its citizens.  They seek work elsewhere to support their families, and one place they come is Botswana.  Some have the proper papers, but some don’t.  It’s been a big long struggle in Zimbabwe, and many people are merely trying to make enough money to eat.  Where can they go and what happens to these people when they try to leave the country?  They are busted, deported in gigantic jail cell vehicles reminiscent of the trucks in Avatar that bulldoze the forest.  Some are back at work the next day, miraculously, others may have a more difficult deportation, but I’m not one who knows these things.  It’s difficult for a country who takes in immigrants or refugees as well, and to have a process and require permits allows the country to keep track of who is here, and is it too much to ask?  There are those who slip through the cracks and oftentimes suffer the consequences.

At the end of the day, giving a lift to eleven people this time- five in the cab with me and six in the back- we set out in a humid dusk through the greens and reds of trees and dirt for town.  I look out the window for buck that frequent the area.  A woman from the back tells the front seat passenger to put on her seat belt.  She scoffs, saying she’s not afraid of the police.  “We won’t get in trouble, we are with a white girl, the police are afraid of white people!”  followed by short cackles.  Just in case they really believe we just smile and wave our way through each and every encounter, I feel I must say, “That’s not true!  They still give white people tickets! I was given one last week for talking on my phone while driving.”  I feel the weight of the extra passengers pull on the transmission as I shift gears, bumping down the wide red sand road to town.

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