Sunday, March 29

Mochudi Wrap-Up

We returned to UB one week ago today, on my birthday. I didn’t post at all this last week because I was recovering from not sleeping very much and eating so much crap food.

Christmas in March

We left Mochudi around 2:00 p.m., giving my mom more than enough time to send me off for a four-hour church service with my little sister that morning. The walk to church took about a half hour. When we got there, there were about 10 little girls and 10 teenage girls sweeping the floor. Keraba picked up a broom and started helping them and she told me to stand outside. When they finished cleaning, the younger girls stayed inside with an adult who came later for Sunday School. The teenagers went outside and sat on a few rickety benches under some shade. Chickens and dogs roamed about while they read from the Bible and sang, and another adult came later and preached to them a little bit. She requested that I pray for them, but that would have just been too weird.

During the actual service, the teenagers and adolescents all sat on one side of the church and elder women and children all sat on the other, women in the back, children in the front. I was asked to stand up and introduce myself. At the end of the marathon of singing, reading from the Bible, and preaching, the two Sunday School/Bible Study teachers brought two huge boxes with “Samaritan’s Purse” in big bold letters on them to the front of the church. One of the women explained (in Setswana and then in English directly to me) that these were Christmas gifts sent from ‘my country.’ There were five churches in the village whose churchgoers received these gifts. Certain children were called to the front and given boxes wrapped in Santa Claus paper with the label “Girl” or “Boy.”


I mentioned my host family’s fat complex in my most recent post. The dead-beat aunt was relatively overweight, so was the old lady. The mother and old man were fairly fit. My 13-year-old sister, Keraba, was not thin, like everyone else in the family, but she definitely was not fat. Even if she were fat, she wouldn’t have deserved the treatment about her weight that she got from her aunt and mother. Their awfully American fish stick diet + the media’s narrow beauty ideals + no exercise or encouragement to exercise + family members telling you you’re fat = one sad adolescence for Keraba.

At UB, the overwhelming majority of students are very tall and very thin. This does not stop people from calling themselves and each other fat. All the time. A lot of people could use a good dose of loving their bodies.

The Commute

Mochudi is about an hour away from Gabs. During the week, the other CIEE students and I continued to go to class. Most of us start class at 8:00 a.m. This meant that we always got up between 4:30 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. I got up at 5:00 a.m. most morning. My mom would boil water for my bath, then wake me up. I would get washed up and ready to leave, then eat whatever unhealthy breakfast she prepared for me while she got washed up and ready for work. Then at about 5:45 a.m., we would both go walk out to the main road, wait for a car – any car – to drive by, and she would hail it down for me. I wish I had a video or photo to share of my mom hailing these cars. She would get in the middle of the road, stick her arm straight out to the side, then quickly flop her hand up and down.

This is how I got to UB every day. Other students’ parents allowed them to take the public bus. My mom was convinced that the bus was not close enough to our house for me to take in the morning. I did however take the bus home every night. The bus left from the bus rank (station) in Gaborone. We took a combis to the bus rank for P2.70, then a bus from Gaborone straight to Mochudi for P8. The busses were always packed, especially the later in the day it was. People were always standing in the aisles. I stood my first bus ride, for almost the entire hour.

Once we got off the bus in Mochudi, we went our separate ways – there were usually at least three of us on the bus together. Taxi drivers begin yelling numbers of taxi routes at you, you find yours and go sit in the taxi. You sit in the taxi until it is full; each passenger pays P3, regardless of destination. I took taxi route six to Boseja Bar every night; I lived next door to the bar.

Over All

Living in Mochudi was a great experience and another essential aspect of my time in Botswana. I could have done without sharing a bed and nightgowns with my host mom. It was important for us to see what people go through every day using the public transportation system, for school and work. The homestay came at a time when all of us were in comfort zones here in Grad Village at UB, so we were pushed out of them and learned about culture in rural Botswana. It showed us just how different Gaborone is from the rest of Botswana, similar to how our trip to Maun and the Delta showed us this.

Next post:
Weekend recap and pictures of the UB campus

Tuesday, March 17

Village Life

The fam

When I got dropped off at my home in Mochudi on Saturday morning, I met my grandparents, mom and aunt. In general, everyone looks older than they actually are here, so an age estimate would be way off. The family refers to the grandparents as “the old man” and “the old lady.” The old lady went to Johannesburg on Saturday and has not returned. It’s unclear why she’s there. The old man sits and watches TV all day long. The aunt brings him regular meals. And then he goes to bed. The rest of the family does not talk to him much. I later met my two sisters, Teboga and Keraba.

After meeting the old man, the old lady, mom and aunt, my mom and aunt brought me to what I thought was my room. It has a double bed, lots of clothes and luggage piled up along the walls, two huge armoires and two vanities. I later found out that, besides being filled with the mom’s clothes, the armoires are filled with products that the mom sells. To get a little extra money, she sells perfumes, cosmetics, and purses like an Avon lady. She is the sole provider for the family. [I mentioned in the previous post that she is a secretary for the BDF in Gabs. She has had this job for 21 years.] Her husband died in 2006 because of medical reasons that I’m not entirely clear on. The aunt, old man, and - I’m assuming - the old lady stay at home all day.

The mom and aunt do not speak English very well at all. I know very little Setswana. Whenever I do, they laugh at me. I’m not sure why – if it’s because they think I sound awful or if it’s silly for me to be speaking their language or what.

The old man and the old lady share a bedroom. Tabego and Keraba share a bedroom with two single beds, but Teboga is only at home in Mochudi on the weekends because she lives on campus at UB. The aunt has her own bedroom. The mom has her own bedroom, which I am sharing with her. This means I am sharing a bed with her. A double bed. She steals the covers. And even though I definitely brought my own pajamas, my mom gave me one of her nightgowns to wear. And slippers.

'Til Death

After I dropped my stuff off and was home for all of five minutes, my mom, Josephine, and I were off to a wedding. Not a big white wedding. Not even a traditional Botswana wedding, but close. It wasn’t like usual wedding in Botswana because it was the groom’s 2nd marriage. For ceremonies like weddings and funerals in Botswana, everyone in the village is invited. An invitation is unnecessary. If you know the cousin of the friend of the brother of the bride’s neighbor’s friend, you can go. Everyone is welcome. My mom and I arrived at about 11:30 a.m. and immediately went to work. There were about 30 women in various locations of the reception site preparing food for the meal everyone would enjoy upon the bride and groom’s arrival. [The actual wedding ceremony did not happen where the reception happened.] I helped at the braai pit where they were cooking rice, sorghum (porridge), and beef, and in both kitchens where I mixed about 10 gallons of juice, mixed a green salad for 100, and chopped and cleaned vegetables upon vegetables.

While all the women were working, all the men were sitting outside drinking and talking. It’s just how it works here. Actually… that’s how it works at home a lot too. Huh.

I was the only CIEE student there for about an hour, and then JJ came and helped in the kitchen(s) too. Then more CIEE students came - Alex, A.C., Krystal and Michael - but got to relax at the tables under the tent while JJ and I continued to prepare food.

Noteworthy: JJ and I did not drink any water or any other type of drink the entire time we were working. It was only after we plated out hundreds of plates of food and then sat down to eat ourselves that my mom brought us drinks. We were just a little dehydrated.

The procession of the bridal party into the reception was a sight to see. I wish I had brought my camera there. Everyone standing by and watching sang as the bridal party and wedding attendees danced in. Many of the women were wearing custom-made traditional dresses all made of fabric with the same print. This particular print meant they were from Francistown. They danced themselves into a circle with the bride and groom in the center. They literally danced all the way to their seats. Just like at weddings at home, the bridal party was seated separate from everyone else. After this happened, JJ and I and all the other working women brought food out to a table by the bridal party and returned to the kitchen. We were still working while everyone was giving speeches; they were in Setswana, so we wouldn’t have picked up much any way.

After the wedding, people were coming and going for hours. JJ and I cleaned. People sat around and drank and danced. There was supposed to be a braai at 10:00 p.m., but it started raining the braai didn’t really happen. We just continued to drink and dance. My mom and I went home at about midnight, which is when I found out I would be wearing her nightgown, sleeping in a bed with her, and bathing with water boiled on the stovetop.

Home Sweet Home

Because hot water does not come out of their tap, whenever you need to take a bath – they only have a bathtub and no shower capabilities – you have to boil a pot of water on the stove, pour it in the bathtub, then run the cold water and mix it with the boiling water to get that nice warm temperature. Needless to say, when I come back to UB every day for classes, I shower in my apartment.

The kitchen does not have a sink. It has a faucet with a huge bowl underneath it. The same technique of mixing boiling hot water with cold tap water is used to wash dishes. Then after you wash the dishes, you take the bowl outside and dump it down a drain on the side of the house.

The tap water is safe, but gross. They do not drink water. Ever. The whole weekend I was pretty dehydrated. When I got to school on Monday morning, I pounded a few water bottles back and kept drinking water all day until I had to take go back to Mochudi. I did the same today.


On Sunday, Josephine and I went to church. She goes to a Dutch reform church across from the kgotla. There were four sections to sit in: youth, men, women, and coed adults (I don’t know what else to call this section and I tried to ask my mom why we were sitting with men but she just didn’t understand me). The service actually ran kind of similar to that of a Catholic mass: two readings, a gospel, a sermon, a collection and singing.
- They sang and clapped and danced their way up to the alter for the collection. When the collection was done, they announced how much each section contributed. Ex. “Youth: P42.50!!!!” (Applause)
- The service was three hours long. This is probably because we sang the same songs over and over again. We probably sang half the time we were there.
- There was no choir or piano. Two people in our little coed section had small leather pillows with straps/handles which they clapped in the other hand to keep the beat. A man in our section was ringing an instrument similar to a bell.
- A woman led the service.

Recipe for a heart attack

CIEE gave all our host families P800 each to cover food and any other costs involving hosting us for a week. After church, Josephine and I walked to Spar, one of Botswana’s major super markets to get “food for me.” That’s how she described it. When we got there, she asked me what I eat. If you know me, and I hope you do if you’re reading my blog, you know that I am open with trying new food and I eat a variety of things at home. I told her that I’ll eat whatever she eats. I don’t think she really understood me. Sometimes when I say things, she just blankly stares at me. Then she said, “Ok, what you eat?” I really just want to be able to eat as much traditional food as possible; I’ll never be able to eat it again in my life. So of course she buys the most American food possible: frozen chips (British English for French fries), frozen fish sticks, frozen burgers, ice cream, processed cheese slices. And then some normal items: corn flakes, yogurt, juice, “brown” bread, lettuce, milk, apples, bananas and custard, canned fruit and dairy cream to make this rich, sugary parfait that was also served at the wedding reception.

Next post: commuting back and forth between Mochudi and Gaborone, my host family's fat complex, and more!

Friday, March 13

Home stay

Tomorrow will be the first day of my nine day home stay in a village an hour outside of Gaborone: Mochudi! I have not met the family that I am staying with. All 12 CIEE members are staying with separate families in the same village. Some of us are closer to each other than others. I, for example, am five minutes walking distance from a friend who is staying with a single mother, a teacher, who has a 12-year-old son.

Here is the information I was given about my family:

- Mma Modimakwane
- Mom and dad in their 60s and 70s
- Christina, 47-year-old daughter
- Josephine, 40-year-old daughter, works in Gabs with the Botswana Defence Force
- Josephine's daughters are 18 and 13. The 18-year-old studies Accounting at UB and lives on campus. The 13-year-old is in Form 1 in Mochudi.
- Electricity
- Piped water
- Indoor bathroom/toilet

We will be with our families from tomorrow morning until Monday morning, when we will be taking an hour-long combi route back to UB for class. This means we will be getting up at sunrise and picking up combis starting at about 6:00 a.m. Then after class, we will return to our families to help around the house with chores or with preparing dinner or whatever else needs to be done. Bedtime is most likely sunset.

We will go to the cattle post at least once, some of us more than others. We will go to church once or twice, since we will be with them for two Sundays.

The female students have to wear long skirts and dresses all week; the male students - pants.

On the last Sunday of our home stay, Batsi said there is usually a party thrown for the students. That Sunday will be my birthday, so I'm pretty pumped for that. Maybe they'll kill a chicken for me, or give me a couple cattle.


I am more than halfway through with my time here in Botswana. I figured you might be curious about what classes are like here.

Although I am on a study abroad trip, I have to admit there hasn’t been a whole lot of studying going on. My UB classes are not at all rigorous. We don’t have readings or assignments every week like we do in the U.S. It is a completely different teaching style. The amount of material we have covered in most of my courses so far would’ve been covered in half the time at home. Professors not only talk ridiculously slowly, as do most Batswana, but they are redundant.

Class participation is dismal. There are probably a lot of factors feeding into lack of class participation and discussion, but I believe one of the big reasons is because when students in public primary (elementary) schools get answers wrong or act up at all, teachers beat them. They often whip them with whips meant for horses. Also, the whole government paying students to attend school thing creates some apathy in many students.

The Media in Botswana
Year: 1
Hours a week: 2
Class size: 60 - 70
Professor: She asks me at least twice every class period how something that she’s lecturing about works in the U.S. I am the only American, let alone international student in the class, so I preface my answers to her questions with something to the effect of, “Well, I’m only one person from the U.S., so my view of this is different from others, but…”
Why I’m taking it: I wanted to be able to make my own inferences about the differences between media in the U.S. and media in Botswana and how the media and culture and society interact here. Access to a TV and radio would’ve helped with that.
Class organization: The professor lectures for the 1st hour of class. Her lectures lead me to believe that she does not come to class prepared because she talks about whatever she wants in a very unorganized way. Then assigned groups present on various topics, such as if Btv (Botswana’s only [government-owned] news station) accurately represents Botswana and serve Batswana well. Group presentations are supposed to take the entire 2nd hour. Groups usually last about a ½ hour, probably because they did the research the night before. And by ‘research,’ I mean print something off of Wikipedia only to read straight from it in class. The professor then criticizes them and takes over and lectures on what the group’s topic.

Social Structures of Southern African Societies
Year: 3
Hours a week: originally, 3, but the professor decided to take it down a notch and make it 2. The class was MWF 3 – 4. It is always pretty hot here since it's Africa and all, but it is exceptionally hot in the afternoon. So halfway through the semester the professor took it upon himself to change the class time and location. Because all 70 of us did not have the same schedule (go figure), he had to split us up into two groups. Now he teaches two 2-hour sections of the same course.
Class size: When we were one class, there were 70ish. I still can’t tell how many are in my new section. Only 12 showed up the 1st time we had class at the new time this Monday.
So far: I can’t say I’ve learned much. One week, we watched a National Geographic documentary all three days of class.

Rural Sociology
Year: 3
Hours: 3
What keeps me going: I am the only international student in this class, too. So from day one, I talked to the other students. Now I am good friends with six other students in this class, especially one student, Tendani. She is the outgoing president of a club that she encouraged me to join (more about that later).
What’s weird: The professor writes the same things on the board and says the same things every class. I could probably give The Lecture at this point. We have done two group projects so far. For both group projects I worked with the same group of students, but we did not work as a group at all. Tendani did the entirety of both projects and presented the work to the class both times. She says she does it because she worries. I assume she means worries about her grades and doesn’t want anyone to have any influence on her grades except herself. But I did make it clear that I am willing to help her with these group projects.

UB Setswana
Year: 1
Hours: 5
Ee, ke itse Setswana.
(Yes, I know Setswana.)

CIEE Setswana / Language & Culture Practicum
Hours: 2
What we do: Scavenger hunt, 4 5-page papers, semester-long 2-person project, cultural excursions, homestay* …and learn Setswana

Gender Issues in African Literature
Year: 4
Hours: 2
Books: The Joys of Motherhood by Buchi Emecheta, Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee, Nehanda by Yvonne Vera, and Song of Lawino-Song of Ocol by Okot B'Bitek
The class is centered on the theme of motherhood and fatherhood within the context of gender roles in African societies. The books are from all different African countries: Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, and Namibia
Favorite class because: I am the only international student in this class but it's a completely different dynamic than the rest of the classes. It is a small, intimate class where discussion flows freely. I have learned the most from this class.

African Oral Narratives
Year: 3
Hours: 2
What’s weird: The students do not speak up when called upon to answer a question. I am the only international student in this class. I have spoken up and always get the same reaction: stares, mumbles, laughter. I’ll keep talking in class though. Sometimes it prompts other people to talk. I just can’t stand the silence anymore. It’s a 3rd year level class. Discussions shouldn’t be like pulling teeth.
Why I'm taking it: Oral narratives are an integral part of African culture and reading and learning about these narratives can help me better understand how the themes portrayed in these narratives are still played out today in culture and society.

Just because the courses aren’t all that challenging compared to what I am used to back home does not mean that I am not learning and growing as an individual. Simply living here for as long as I am and being immersed in a completely different culture than my own has taught me so much.

Monday, March 9

GMT +2

I haven't posted in a while because everything's been pretty calm in Gaborone and at UB. No strikes or anything.

Here's a few quick hits and photos of impala and monkeys. :)

Africa doesn't do Daylight Savings Time. So I am now one hour closer to everyone back home!

Leave your Skype name so we can chat it up.

Monday, March 2


My friends and I climbing Kgale Hill, the highest point in Gaborone We had a great view of the city from the top. It took three-four hours to climb up and down it.

Vintage propaganda at a local museum

Outside the museum

We were welcomed to the Cultural Village where we stayed for a night by elder women dancing and singing.

The night of Obama's Inauguration!

After a lecture on traditional leadership in Botswana

This is the gallery at Botswana Craft. All the baskets are handmade. The smaller ones take one to three months to weave and the larger ones on the floor can take up to a year. There are framed photos of the women who weave the baskets.

When we arrived at the Maun airport, there were safari trucks waiting for us that drove us to the game reserve.

Zebras we saw on one of our daily game drives

Our safari truck stuck in the mud


Sunset over the Delta


Maggie and Jami in the back of the truck on the way to Rundu

Walking across the border from Botswana to Namibia

Our first dinner in Swakopmund at the Lighthouse Restaurant, right on the Atlantic

Atlantic Ocean

A view of the courtyard at The Alternative Space, where we stayed in Namibia

Sand dunes that we went quadbiking and sandboarding on

Me on the sand dunes with the Atlantic behind me - on one of our quadbiking breaks

Our Ronald McDonald jumpsuits we wore to skydive in Swakop

A descent size bottle of wine that was on display at a restaurant in Swakop

This is a tapestry my friend, Michael, bought from a street vendor in Francistown.

Sunday, March 1

You’ll have to excuse both the length of this post and the time between my first post and this one. To make it bearable, I provided subtitles. Like I mentioned before, the Botswana internet is not like U.S. internet. And just last week UB IT came and fixed the Ethernet in my room. My posts will be much more regular from now on. Also, at the end of this post you will find a list of “Key Terms” which I hope will be helpful.

Students on strike

I guess it’s more than a little ironic that soon after I posted to not worry about me and assume I’m safe and healthy students went on strike at the University of Botswana, international students were temporarily housed in hotel in a nearby village, and the school closed for two weeks.

Many Batswana college students are provided ‘scholarships’ from the government in order to go to school. Almost all their tuition is covered by the government. Once they graduate, many have to pay these scholarships back. When students reach their fifth year of college or start repeating courses, the government stops paying them to go to school. The global economic crisis is affecting the Botswana diamond industry, which is normally Botswana’s main source of revenue.

People do not have as much money as before the crisis → People are not buying diamonds → Diamond export rate is lower than ever → People are losing their mining job → Botswana does not have as much money coming in → UB students are not paid to school, especially fifth year students

The strike started pretty calm. About 1,000 out of the 15,000 UB students marched through campus chanting Setswana and holding signs and posters. However it did not take long for the situation to get out of hand. Students vandalized the campus, dragged people out of classrooms, etc. Four Americans actually went home because of a combination of Batswana getting violent with them and their home university wanting them out of the situation and back home. A brick was thrown threw one of my friend’s bedroom windows while she was in the room.

Impromptu Okavango Delta trip

When the school closing was announced, we all moved back on campus. Short vacation (spring break) was cancelled and the semester was extended by a week. Originally CIEE had a four-day trip to the Okavango Delta planned for the week after finals. Since school got cancelled, our program director, Batsi, decided we should change the Delta trip to the newly-free week. We had a couple hours to throw some clothes in a bag and we hopped on a flight to Maun.

From Maun we took a couple safari trucks to our campsite in the Delta. We stayed in two-person tents and got up every morning around 5 a.m. to take game drives pretty much all day long. We saw elephants, giraffes, hippos, monkeys, baboons, crocodiles, impala, zebras, a leopard, and a red painted frog.

Namibia – getting there

After our Okavango trip, we still had several days until school was scheduled to start again on the 16th. Three CIEE friends and I decided to get out of Bots and go to Namibia. We relied on my Lonely Planet guide to Botswana and Namibia for all our travel needs. We intended to go to a lodge in the Caprivi Strip that, according to the guide, offered three-day mokoro (traditional canoe) trips. We took a six-hour long bus ride to Shakara for P69.50. From Shakara, a man drove us to the border; it took about 10 minutes to get there. Then the four of us literally walked across the Namibian border.

Per instruction from the customs officers, we waited for a “taxi” to pick us up. This taxi was a truck which three of us sat in the back of while one of us, JJ, rode shotgun. Luckily the back of the truck was covered. This came in handy when it started pouring rain. We were in the back of this truck for about four or five hours. The man who was driving took us to a lodge in Rundu.

Before reaching Rundu, we went to an airport in Divindu which consisted of one propeller plane in the middle of a field and a man sitting in a tree. At this point, we decided a back of a truck wasn’t so bad.

The next morning, we got an actual taxi to the bus station in Rundu. When we pulled up, people started swarming our car, opening our doors, asking where we were headed, and offering prices. We ended up in a combi we were told would only have nine people in it. This turned into eighteen people. We spent ten hours in that combi.

Being with good friends and being able to laugh at situations like these make the dehydration, strange smells, and heat bearable. Also, we saw so much scenery driving across the entire country!

Namibia – Swakopmund

The combi went straight to our final destination, Swakopmund. Swakopmund is a half German, half African city on the Atlantic coast of Namibia. It is definitely a tourist destination.

We stayed at a hostel/bed and breakfast called The Alternative Space. This place was gorgeous. It looked like it belonged in Greece, not Namibia. There are only four rooms, hardwood floor, white walls, Namibian art everywhere (mostly nudes), a lounge complete with a fireplace, TV and DVD player, handmade pottery for sale, a library with books about art, German culture, architecture and travel. Our rooms had champagne and chocolates waiting for us. This place was amazing! It was N$250 – 250 Namibian dollars a night = $25.00 a night

After arriving, we went straight to dinner; moreover, we went straight to the ocean. It was absolutely breathtaking. The restaurant was right on the beach. We had the most delicious seafood. Exhausted, we went straight to bed when we got back to the Space. The next day we went quadbiking and sandboarding on the dunes. The day after that, we went skydiving.

Return to UB

The four of us split up on Valentine’s Day. JJ and Maggie went to Walvis Bay while Jami and I headed home to Gabs. We took a four-hour shuttle from Swakopmund to Windhoek, the Namibian capital, and spent the night at a hostel called The Cardboard Box. Then Sunday morning we took a shuttle from Windhoek to Gaborone.

Going back to school has been weird. I had a break from so many things that I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to: people staring at me, professors praising me, local students talking about me …to name a few.

The professors didn’t even acknowledge the strike. They just went right back into lecturing. There have been a few rumors about the strike happening again, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.

Key Terms

Batswana: the people of Botswana
Motswana: an individual person from Botswana
Setswana: the language spoken in Botswana
Tswana: refers to the culture in Botswana
Gaborone: capital of Botswana, pronounced /ˌxabəˈroʊne/
Bots: short for Botswana
Gabs: short for Gaborone
UB: University of Botswana
Pula: Botswana currency The exchange rate is $7.50 - $8.00 for P1. Their coins are called “thebe.”
Combi/khombi: those white Volkswagen vans that you see in documentaries about Africa
Riverwalk, Game City, Main Mall: local malls
CIEE: the study abroad program that 11 students and I are in. CIEE is run through Spelman College in Atlanta, GA. It stands for “Council on International Educational Exchange.” Other international students are on different programs (ex. ACM) or are here independently.
Batsi: CIEE Program Director. His job is basically to make sure everyone in CIEE is hunky-dory. He is from Zimbabwe, but has been a resident in Botswana for about 10 years. He’s awesome. Full name: Batsirai Chidzodzo

My address:

Lisa Bracciale
c/o Batsirai Chidzodzo
University of Botswana
Block 134-D
Office # 039
Private Bag 0022
Gaborone, Botswana

(I really like getting mail. ☺)

Pictures coming soon!