Wednesday, May 13

Tsala sentle Botswana!

Today was my last full day in Botswana. I packed up an entire semester in a matter of a few hours. I leave tomorrow afternoon for what will be a long journey home: Gaborone to Johannesburg to London to Detroit.

Tomorrow, my best friend here, Jami, and I will go to Main Mall for one last time and peruse the vendors.

I will miss almost everything about Botswana. I will miss Botswana time, Batsi, my CIEE friends, my local friends, combi rides, walking everywhere, and probably marriage proposals too. The only freak-out I am having about leaving is the fact that I may never be able to come back to Africa again. It is a magical place.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my blogging these last four and a half months. I have appreciated your readership. If I see you back in the States, I’d be more than willing to share more stories with you. If not, that’s okay too. There are so many stories, many that some people will probably never here. If I sat someone down and told them about everything I’ve done, seen and learned here, it would take a good month or two.

Go siame bomma le borra. Boroko Botswana.

Here’s some pictures from throughout the semester:
Batsi telling us about our upcoming semester at orientation
The whole CIEE group and Batsi yelling "Pula!" to all our semester goals
Our first time at the University of Botswana - registering for classes
Climbing Kgale Hill, the highest point in Gaborone
Top of Kgale Hill
Some CIEE and other international students at the Manyana Rock Paintings in Gabs
Grinding sorghum... ain't no thang
Some of the CIEE group with the Tlokweng's Kgosi (Chief)
Zebras in the Okavango Delta
Leopard in a tree in the Okavango Delta
Giraffes in the Okavango Delta
Mokoro (traditional wooden canoe) rides in the Okavango Delta
Some of the CIEE group with a traditional healer and his teas and roots in Tlokweng

Saturday, May 9

Nostalgia's setting in

Yesterday a lot happened that was very typical of my experiences in Botswana. It was like a culture cluster - some things that I never got used to and some that no longer phase me at all.

My friend, Jami, and I walked to River Walk, about a 20 minute walk from UB. We walked there at least once a week this semester. Walking everywhere is something I got used to quickly. Even though Gaborone is a “city,” everything is very spread out. Taxi rides quickly became not worth the pula.

When leaving UB, the security guard asked for my shirt (a souvenir from skydiving in Namibia), told Jami and I that he’s looking for a white woman to marry and asked if one us would marry him. Proposals happen often. I wore a ring on my ring finger for a little while because it was one of the pre-departure suggestions from my home university’s International Center staff to ward off proposals and men in general. But that really didn’t ward off anything at all. Setswana culture allows for promiscuity and my being white trumps Batswana men’s morals.

We got several hoots, hollers, and whistles on the walk over. We also got a few people shouting “lekgoa,” a Setswana term meaning white English person. “Makgoa” is the plural form.

We went to Bimbo’s, a fast food place, for lunch and waited a good half hour for our food. Botswana Time/Africa Time definitely exists. People show up an hour after they say the will. Events last longer than expected. Meals take three hours.

That evening, I had my last final exam, for my Social Structures of Southern African Societies course. I arrived to the room where the exam was being held 10 minutes early, expecting to be one of the first ones there. The room was full - about 60 people were already there. The professor walked up to me while I was putting my bag down with the rest of the bags lined up against the wall. He asked me where the others were – referring to two other Americans in the class.

Jordan and Emilie came to UB through Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM). I think my professor, and others, assume that all the international students are always together. Jordan and Emilie live in a completely different part of campus than I do and I rarely see them, especially after classes ended. I told him I didn’t know where they were and he told me to sit in the front.

There were seats everywhere so I don’t know why he wanted me to sit in the front. I went and sat in the front, feeling everyone’s eyes on me. (One thing I never got used to was the stares.) After a few minutes, the professor approached me in the front row and asked if I had Jordan’s or Emilie’s number. I had both but they were in my phone which was turned off in my bag on the other side of the auditorium. We walked to my bag, again feeling everyone’s eyes on me. I gave him Jordan’s number and he went outside and called her.

There is no way that he would’ve called a local student to see where he/she is at the time of a final exam. It is completely inappropriate that he called them to make sure they were coming. He’s one of the UB professors that give clear preferential treatment to American students.

The exam itself was ridiculous, just like the entire course was. We had two assignments the entire term. The exam prompt (all of my exams were essay form) was these two assignments crammed together. Here is the prompt:

‘The mineral revolution in South Africa, the migrant labour system and apartheid combined to give the Southern African region its distinct identity as both a geophysical entity and a political construction.’

Using the foregoing claim as your starting point, construct your ‘story’ of Southern Africa, showing how the process of regionalism and regionalization has unfolded in this part of the world. Carefully explain various concepts and terms that you may use in this essay.

I wanted to laugh out loud when I read it. I finished in 45 minutes, waited 15 minutes for someone else to turn his/her exam in first, and ended up turning mine in first anyway. Two hours are allotted for all final exams.

I’m not done with Botswana, but I am now officially done with UB. I have 5 days, 1 hour, and 30 minutes until I fly from Gabs to Joburg on the first leg of my long trip home. No worries though; I will post again.

Sunday, May 3

And the countdown begins

My computer won't turn on again. That's why there's been so much time between my last post and this one. Here's what's happened since Mozambique:

  • I was in a group that performed a folk tale in my African Oral Narratives class. I had four lines in Setswana. I had the role of one of two jealous sisters.
  • A few friends and I rented a car and headed north to Victoria Falls. We went through the Zimbabwe side. It was gorgeous.
  • Classes ended on Thursday.
  • I took three Setswana finals on Thursday: two oral and one written.
  • I went to a Gaborone United soccer game in Molepolole, Botswana's largest village, about an hour away from Gaborone.
  • I have four finals this week, and then I'm officially done with my semester at UB.
I have 11 more days left in Gaborone, in Botswana, in Africa. Yesterday after all the CIEE participants presented our semester projects to each other and to Batsi, Batsi talked to us about wrapping up our semester, returning to the States and reverse culture shock. I think it's really starting to hit me how much I am going to miss this place. I have made a life for myself here and now I'm leaving and I don't know if I'll ever come back. And even if I do come back, it will not be the same.

Saying goodbye to the CIEE particpants will also be hard. The 12 of us have been through so much together, grown together and shared struggles and joys throughout our time here. We're from all different parts of the U.S. and will probably never see each other again.

One of the things Batsi touched on in his talk with us is, even though we may not realize it now, how independent we've become. We've had to do a lot on our own in setting far outside our comfort zones. I hadn't thought about it before Batsi pointed it out, but he's right. Going through a semester in a foreign country forces an individual to become more independent. Partly because there's really no one to be depeddent on here and partly because if you don't put yourself out there in a program like this, you won't get the most out of it as possible.

Also, there was so much build-up coming to Botswana from the States. But how am I supposed to prepare myself to return home, a home that will be different from the one I left 4 and a half months ago? It will be different for many reasons, but for me, I am especially worried about resenting aspects of American culture now that I've seen America from an outsider perspective.

I don't have a whole lot to do in my remaining 11 days, so that will allow plenty of time for self-reflection.