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.