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.
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.
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