I can’t believe that my time in Botswana has come to a close and that I am back home in the United States. Every day I think about the time I had there and all those who I met. Settling back into the lifestyle here has been somewhat difficult in that so much is completely different. The classroom culture, for example, is nothing like it is at my home school. At the University of Botswana, the due dates are not clear, tardiness is not a problem (most of the time the professors were even late), and sometimes the students would go off on a tangent speaking Setswana.
The transportation, as well, is nothing like home. Taking combis and calling cabs was the only way to get anywhere other than walking unless you knew a friend with a car, and often times us students would walk very long distances. There was something pleasant about that though and about the insecurities of taking public transportation, as silly as that may seem. And wow, although I loved my time in Botswana and consider it one of the greatest experiences of my life, it is definitely good to come home to the food that I am used to. But even though there isn’t much variety or choice in what you are eating in Botswana, I still find myself craving foods like pop and the paphatas.
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