Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Local Brew, Chibuku

Thabiso’s taste was of variable consistency

Sitting with Herbert and Malebogo in the living room, I ask them what their plans are for today. This question is met with a puzzled look - it doesn’t work like that in Botswana. There’s literally nothing to do but meet other people. Your social life is your life (work excluded from current discussion). So, Thabiso and I head out in his car, first to a short meeting in town.

Unlike SA, it’s just bugs and rats being killed in Botswana!

They have different ideas as to the meaning of “congestion” or distance in Botswana. A ten minute drive is far away, and a queue of ten cars or more at a junction with robots (traffic lights) is a severe tailback. How little they realise what they’re in for as car ownership increases. Apparently Botswana is one of the main export markets for Land Rovers, BMWs and other relatively expensive cars. There are few bad cars on the road – I guess this is to with the new-found wealth that came from discovering diamonds (Africa’s best quality, some say), and being a young country. People don’t tend to have cars, but if they do have one, it will be fairly modern.

The Mall is quiet mid-week in the morning

Thabiso’s meeting is in an office on the mall, so I leave him there and pop out to buy a newspaper from one of the sellers on the street, before returning to air-conditioned luxury to read it. This was my second experiment with Botswanan (which I’m told is not a word – so sue me!) newspapers, and I have to say, not much more encouraging. For a start, it’s tomorrow’s newspaper – available in the morning the day before. Then it is filled with the usual selection of boring regional political stories, along with splashing of agricultural and industrial stories.

The newspaper did not hold my attention for long

Nasha in professional mode, still getting girls’ phone numbers

This done we head over to his brother’s place, Dicksy.

Dusty highways out in the suburbs

I thought Thabiso was proposing I stay here at Dicksy’s place, but as half of the house has been converted into a bar, this was not an appealing prospect, although it turned out this was never the idea.


Zimbabweian music in the background

We’re here to say hello and to try the local brew, Chibuku, aka Shake Shake. This comes in a tetrapak carton, and looks suspiciously like a box of milk, which would be an unpleasant surprise if you mixed the two up. When purchased from the brewery, the grain-based drink, which tastes remarkably like porridge with sour milk, is relatively mild. The professionals, however, leave the carton to ferment for up to 10 days before drinking it, every day of which allows the drink to gain in strength and sourness.

Chibuku. I give it a go. Dicksy explains how you drink it – you hold your thumb over a perforation inside the folds at the top, then give the box a good shake. This done, you open up, and drink!

It’s actually not unpleasant, but not anything I’d order out of choice. As I said before – porridge with sour milk. I drink a token half-cup full, and then pass it on.

In it goes

Thabiso tries some, resulting in some amusing facial expressions, before we both resign and hand the carton over to Dicksy’s friend, who is only too pleased to receive it.


Apparently Chibuku is cheap, costing about 3P per cart. The other thing to watch is that it supposedly keeps fermenting in your stomach, or perhaps takes a while to absorb, so by the time you realise how much you’ve drunk, it’s too late!

Drinks over, Dicksy gives me a tour, first of his back yard, where he runs a Mini workshop and has four dogs, one of which goes for my ankle. What is it about Botswanan dogs? I’ve never met such vicious dogs in my life!! He explains it as being because he’s got a whole trolley full of cow legs sitting waiting to be cooked up for their food:

Mum’s been to Iceland

Would Sir like it Carpaccio or Roasted?

Traditional cooking pot waiting to be used

Next, with Thabiso busy on the phone, we drive around the local neighbourhood, very short distances at a time (why do we not walk?!), visiting everyone Dicksy knows, in particular in the Chibuku joints.

A surreal yet enjoyable introduction to local Botswana life!

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