It has been about a month since I first arrived in Botswana, but wow, this place already feels like home. There is so much to say about this colorful culture and its vibrant people but I think what is most eye opening is the inviting nature of so many of the people here. In the short time I’ve been here I feel like I have already seen so much; so many people are more than happy to take you around to experience the night life, tell you about their village, have you and your friends over for dinner… and everyday is something new.
Of the places I’ve been so far, the one that sticks out most is Kgale hill. It is a giant, green hill with hiking trails and giant rocks to climb. While hiking you can see baboons, exotic birds, incredible trees, etc. A few friends and I hiked to the top not too long ago and were able to get a fantastic view of the city of Gaborone, and some of rural Botswana and South Africa. There were some notable local attractions too, like the Mokolodi reserve where we saw a cheetah, a giraffe, and some other animals. It’s hard to think about how much more of this country there is left to explore!
I can honestly say that I haven’t anticipated anything in the past as enthusiastically as I’m anticipating studying in Botswana, Africa next semester at the University of Botswana with Interstudy. At this point I can’t be completely sure what to expect, other than the unexpected. It is this aspect of next semester that I hope will change my life and bring a new perspective.
I hope that by studying in Botswana I can open my eyes and my mind to a new culture in such a way that it can broaden my perspective and the way I view the world. Living in the United States is great, but the media and other social constructs are largely responsible for the way I think about people and my environment. I am hoping that all of that will change after I assimilate into a new culture and I can see my life and values from a new lens.
This is “grandma’s brother” at a cultural excursion to a village that teaches people about traditions of villages in Botswana.
Dumela! I have already been in Botswana for almost two months now and I am so excited for the next few months to come. Although I feel like I will never be able to fully understand everything about the culture and Motswana people, I have learned such a great deal so far. The first most basic and obvious cultural difference is the food. I was hoping to come and and have the best food of my life and want to bring back different spices so I could make the food at home.. that is not happening at all. Most of the food here I do not like, especially at the refractory (Mogul) which is where I have my meal plan. They serve the same thing every day for lunch and dinner. Usually it is something like: pap (a traditional porridge like stable made from maize) or rice, then you choose chicken or beef (prepared the same way every day) and then carrots or a beat salad. Sometimes they have a couple different things, like some people eat fish from the special diet section but I dont like fish, or sometimes they have dumplings instead of pap which is a boiled bread, that I love. The other international students and I love going out to eat when we can afford to, there are so many placed to eat that serve delicious food from all different cultures, including a lot of American food. Read more
As spring break rolled around, I finally had the chance to do some real traveling. 5 friends and I had planned for weeks, laying out a trip that would take us up through Zambia and Zimbabwe. While they had planned on spending two weeks traveling, I had decided to return after only one in order to not miss school, so I would have to find my way back to Gaborone on my own.
Our bags packed, computers stashed in a friend’s apartment, and minds steeled against the rigors of bus travel, we stood on a warm Monday evening waiting for the bus to arrive. The Gaborone-Livingstone Express would take us up through Francistown and Maun, cross the border into Zambia at Kazungula, and deposit us in Livingstone, Zambia, a journey of some 15 hours. We boarded at 7 pm, and hoped to arrive in Livingstone at 10 the next morning.
When we arrived at the border at last, we were all relieved to spill out into the cold morning air to get our exit stamps. As we walked down the road that crossed the no-man’s-land at the edge of Botswana, we were unprepared for the sight that greeted us. The border, we discovered, is the Zambezi river, and the only way to cross is by ferry! We gladly boarded the ferry, and crossed over into Zambia for the first time. The ride to Livingstone after we had gotten our visas was mercifully short, and we arrived at around 9:30 in the morning. Read more
Two months in, there are still new experiences around every corner.
Two weeks ago, after much deliberation, the lecturers at UB finally elected to strike. Starting on a Tuesday, we suddenly had a whole week without class! Fortunately, we used our time well. Throwing my lot in with a few other international students, we embarked on a journey to visit the famous salt pans, the giant remains of dried-up Lake Makgadikgadi that stretch across the savanna to the north.
From Gaborone, we got up at four in the morning to catch a bus heading to Francistown. After a 5-hour journey, we switched buses and got on a bus to Maun. We knew that the village we were looking for, Gweta, was somewhere on the way but we didn’t know where. All we knew was to look for a giant anteater on the side of the road. Read more
One month in, and what a month it’s been! All the craziness is just beginning to die down, and as usual, there’s more just around the corner.
When classes began, the first week was stressful and confusing. I had to find all my classrooms, figure out whether the professors were coming, and settle into my life here in other ways (laundry, food, etc) all at the same time. I learned quickly that the first week of classes is when most of the professors prepare for the coming school year, and thus only about half the professors held class the first week. But by the time the second week rolled around things became much more regular.
My classes feel very similar to the ones back home. The professors are friendly and engaging, and one even invited me to visit his home village sometime. There are also some very interesting classes. In particular, my Botswana Politics class, which is lead by a man who also writes political columns in one of the local newspapers, is always engaging and educational. Because the professor is so up-to-date on current political situations, he always has new and relevant examples to highlight what we’re learning in the abstract, and he encourages enough class discussion that I learn more about Batswana opinions and political view every day! My Historical and Comparative Linguistics in Africa course is also fascinating, and it’s amazing to be able to look at the Setswana I’m learning and compare it to the earlier languages it came from. And for that matter, Setswana class is a blast as well! It’s definitely a struggle to learn a language so different from English, but there are plenty of laughs while we do. I have already made a fool of myself trying to get the difference between “t” and “th” in Setswana (the th sounds like the t in “time,” and the t is soft enough that to my ears it almost resembles a d), and practicing the tones. I discovered at the dining hall how different “mabElE” and “mabEle” sound to a native speaker (the first one means “sorghum,” one of the staple grains of Botswana food, and the second means “breast”). Despite the fact that I’ve never been a math person, I’m even enjoying my Statistics class, thanks to the funny professor and lively class. Read more
As I write, well-fed and rested, I have finally experienced my first day at the University of Botswana. The journey was hectic to say the least!
I began my adventure on Friday morning, when my family drove the 7 hours to Chicago, in order to catch my first plane. We arrived in the middle of a massive storm, and by 4 the next morning (2 hours before my flight), there was flooding and high wind across the area. As we waited in line, I quickly tried to remove all liquids and sharp objects from what would have been my checked luggage, for we had come to the conclusion that because of the delays I would experience, and the short time I had to make my connection flight in New York, I should carry on all my luggage. Finally getting on the airplane, I sat in horror as the delay became 30 minutes, then an hour, then an hour and a half. When we finally did take off, I lapsed into an exhaustion-and-frustration-induced slumber. Read more