Friday, November 5, 2010

What In the World Is a Tuck Shop?

The Tuck Shop right across the street from where I work.

I first noticed Tuck Shops my first week in Botswana. I was on a bus with 56 other volunteers and we were on our way to Molepolole for our two month pre-service training. We all had been sheltered in a hotel for that first week and really had not seen much. The other volunteers were chatting and laughing, but nervous tension hung in the air. That day we were going to get assigned to our host families.

As the bus crested a small hill, we descended into the village. There were people walking the streets and little shops and stores. One of these shops had a small sign that said "Tuck Shop."

"Does anyone know what a tuck shop is?" asked one volunteer.

"Maybe it's like a laundry mat," offered another volunteer.

"Maybe it's a fabric store," said another.

I was just about to offer up my own misguided opinion when another volunteer smiled and said, "I know what a tuck shop is. You walk in the door, put both hands in the air and they will tuck your shirt in for you."

We all shared a small laugh and the bus continued on.

As it turns out, we were all wrong. A tuck shop is a small store that might sell mobile phone airtime, candy, milk, soft drinks, and even prepared food. These "mini markets" are often run by one or a few women. In many small villages there are not many stores and there might not even be a grocery store. Tuck shops ingeniously meet people's need for food and other small items when getting to a store is impractical or impossible.

One way to think of them is that they are the "7-11's" of Botswana. If you need milk, a coke, airtime, or maybe a quick snack, just walk over to the closest tuck shop and you can get it.