Coffee and the Patriarchy


This morning at church I was craving coffee. Nope, let’s rephrase that. Every hour of the day, every day in Botswana I am craving coffee. This morning it was especially bad. I was wallowing in self-pity, cursing the Commonwealth for making tea a big deal, but not coffee, and feeling saucy about the concept of a church that doesn’t have delicious, free coffee after the service. I decided I would take a hike over to the nearest mall, where I could get a nice big cup of coffee after the service and pick up some groceries while I was at it. I also wanted something nice because I was still mad about the security guard who got frustrated when I wouldn’t come over and talk to him (“Hey beautiful, pass by, talk to me!”) while I was on my way to church.

Maybe we need some more context here on the coffee situation. It’s incredibly difficult to find filtered coffee in Gaborone. For the most part people just drink instant coffee if they drink it at all. I’m cheap, so I didn’t want to buy a water kettle at the beginning of the semester (about a $12 investment, but 120 pula sounds like a lot), and now it is too late in the semester for me to justify the purchase, so I have gotten in the habit of making instant coffee using warm water from the sink, which will never really be warm enough to taste like coffee. And instant coffee will always taste gross, even with hot water. You can get coffee if you look for it, but it’s a long walk from campus to anywhere that serves filtered coffee. I’m going to literally cry in Starbucks when I get back to the U.S..

As I left church, I was in a great mood. It had been a really interesting service and the thought of real coffee never fails to make me incredibly happy. As I walked, I heard the usual chorus of taxis honking and people yelling things out their windows at me. I’ve gotten used to it. A combi drove past and a man leaned out the window and yelled “Hello sister, I want to have your number!” I ignored him and kept walking. There was a red light up ahead, and the combi had to stop, so I slowed my walking pace way down so I wouldn’t catch up to the man leering at me out of the back window, still yelling at me to come talk to him. Eventually the light turned green and I breathed a sigh of relief, ready to go get a nice cup of coffee and forget about annoying men. As I approached the gate to the UB campus, where I was going to cross the street and head in the opposite direction to the coffee shop, I saw the man again. He had gotten off at the combi stop and was waiting on the sidewalk, smiling at me while he talked to someone on the corner.

There goes my relaxing coffee.

I quickly turned into the UB campus so I wouldn’t have to talk to the guy, and headed back to my room to make a cup of lukewarm instant coffee instead. As I walked across campus I was mad. Like fuming with anger. But also sadness. I hate that we live in a world where a creepy man can keep me from walking to get a cup of coffee. Realistically I probably still could have gone and I would have been totally safe. Men here really like to catcall, and they are great at making me feel gross in my own skin, but I usually still feel relatively safe. Still, in that situation I would have wanted to have someone else with me if I were going to walk to the coffee shop and I didn’t want to risk an uncomfortable situation alone.

When I returned to my room I was pleasantly surprised to find the hot water heater in the bathroom working better than usual, so my instant coffee was almost hot enough to feel real, but it still tasted like defeat. It tasted like the patriarchy.

Later this afternoon I am going to a music and art festival with a bunch of people from our program and that should be really fun. If I’m lucky, maybe I can find somewhere to get a cup of coffee while we are out.

Update: I got coffee and we found a Mexican fast food place near the central business district later in the day, so I’m much happier!

One Comment Add yours

  1. Carol says:

    Glad you got your coffee eventually, and even more glad that you didn’t try the first time. I know a great church where you can get good coffee and hear a choir sing about God using female pronouns. You are learning more where you are, though.


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