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3 posts from September 2013


The Load on the Laundromat








Post by Marisol Montano from the University of California, Santa Barbara

There have been many challenging aspects of my experience abroad. As the semester progresses, however, there is one thing I still have yet to get the hang of—laundry. Living on campus, there are two options for doing my laundry. I could either: 1) Use the laundromat (or launderette as it is referred to here in Botswana) or 2) Wash by hand. Having tried out the hand-washing method, I decided that I would use the laundromat for the rest of my stay. Unfortunately, using the laundromat has been a bigger challenge than I expected, but this week I believe I have finally mastered the complicated maze. Below is a how-to for the laundry based off of my experiences.

The first time visiting the laundry on campus can be a bit confusing and overwhelming. Before you embark on your laundry mission, make sure to buy laundry tokens from the Souvenir Shop located inside the Student Center. These tokens will be used in place of coins in order to operate the laundry machines.

Depending on the day and time of your visit, the laundromat might be either really crowded or only semi-occupied. Saturday is considered laundry day in Botswana; therefore, I highly recommend against doing laundry on Saturdays. 

Image4Don’t be afraid to venture into the world of hand-washing. It is worth a try.

Upon arriving at the laundromat, before you can even approach the machines, you have to present your schedule printout out and school identification card to a laundromat attendant. Sometimes, if the ladies are in a good mood, they let the occasional visitor pass by them without much hassle.

After passing the security clearance, the next step to doing laundry is finding a working washing machine. If the laundromat is crowded, this might seem like a ‘mission impossible’. The best approach to finding a machine is asking fellow peers if there is a queue (or a line) for the washing machines. Every person you ask will give you a different answer so be patient as this step is important in order to getting your clothes washed in a timely manner. Sometimes, there may be two people before you trying to use the same machine. Therefore, always remember to bring a good book and some music to pass the time while you wait. 

Image4Bring a good book and a friend for company

After getting your clothes washed, the next step is trying to dry them. You can choose to either: 1) Dry your clothes in a dryer and repeat the queue process like for the washing machine or 2) Bring your own pegs (clothes pins) and hang your clothes to dry outside. If you have some time to spare and a good novel on your hands, I recommend the second option.

Image4Hand drying is more fun with the buddy system

If all this laundry business seems like a little too much, washing by hand is also always an option. This will involve a bucket (or two) and some serious determination. Hand-washing, after the laundromat maze, might seem like the better option.

My first time at the laundromat took five hours and now, I am happy to say that this week I was able to decrease my time to two hours. I am almost a laundromat expert. Finally, a couple pieces of advice for the launderette novices: 1) Do not let your clothes accumulate; you will regret it, and 2) The best times to do your laundry seem to be Sunday mornings, sometime around 9am.

Image4Finished laundry drying outside. Hooray!



Slowing Down








Post by David Kvamme from Pacific Lutheran University

I have lived in Botswana for well over a month now, and the experience has already taught me a great deal.  Perhaps the most important lesson learned thus far has been how strongly the frenetic values of the western world have influenced my habitual ways of thinking and being.  The alarming extent to which impatience, ruthless efficiency (“no time for chit-chat!”), and general “uptight-ness” have become elements of my personality never clearly manifested itself in the states, perhaps because many of the American people with whom I associate behave in much the same way.  However, the laid-back Setswana culture has brought these traits into full focus.   


Hiking in Kanye: a rare attempt at relaxation

In general, the people of Botswana have a quite loose relationship with time (as a popular guidebook puts it, “time is their servant, not their master”). Classes and meetings start late as a rule, the majority of people move from place to place with a serene nonchalance, and no one seems to mind regularly waiting in queues of obscene length for an attendant performing his/her duties with, it often seems to me, an almost deliberate sluggishness.  

I have long had an abstract appreciation for virtues like patience, contentment, and inner-quiet, so my attitude towards this African sense of time was initially liberal and accepting (“How wonderful that Botswana has all but institutionalized stopping to smell the roses!”).  However, as the honeymoon period faded and reality set in, my “uptight” habits began to rear their ugly heads.  Instead of calmly waiting for a late professor as did my classmates, I would fidget while compulsively checking the time.  Instead of falling into the gentle pace standard for Botswana’s ambulating folk I steamrolled to my destinations as though the survival of all good things depended on my punctuality.  Instead of being content to join a 15-minute queue I would abort my plans and storm away, greatly irritated to have been thwarted in my quest for efficiency (“Ain’t nobody got time for that!”). 

It thus seems clear that just as enjoying music does not make you a great musician, an abstract appreciation for values like patience and contentment does not make you a spiritual master.  Botswana tested the depth of my commitment to the “virtues of slowness” and found me sorely lacking.  However, I am hopeful that things have started to change.

Image1A man and his cattle

I spent last weekend in the peaceful village of Kanye with nine other CIEE students, and our experiences there helped me reassess my relationship with time.  The high point of the trip (for me) was visiting the modest cattle post of an elderly couple.  Their cows are lean and produce no milk due to vitamin deficiency, their goats and chickens must be kept under constant guard from predators, and the post currently turns no profit.  If I were in this couple’s position I would almost certainly grow bored with the slow pace and be discouraged by the lack of lucre, so I was greatly impressed by their readily apparent contentment with this simple life.  The couple’s serenity was living evidence for Socrates’ claim that, “he is richest who is content with the least”, and I left their farm greatly moved.  


The hut where the farmer and his helper sleep

I hope that encounters such as this during the rest of my semester in Botswana will teach me to become more relaxed, and - in the words of Wendell Berry - “resume the long lesson: how small a thing can be pleasing, how little in this hard world it takes to satisfy the mind and bring it to its rest.”  


The couple's helper with two goats born the day before our visit



Life at University of Botswana: The Circle of Life and Anthropomorphism


 Post by Connor Quinn from the University of Southern California

Voila!  Gazing expressionless at a blank Word document, I experienced a moment of clarity, eliminating my oh-so-common writer's block.

What was the remedy for my loss-of-words?

The realization of this week's dullness.

Unlike the other blog posts that tend to satisfy some of the wanderlust appetites of all of you future CIEEers, my week did not entail any of those starry-eyed adventures.

Wait, dull? Isn't that a bad thing?

Absolutely not.

When setting sail through these unchartered seas of new friends, unfamiliar customs and unforgettable memories, you often find yourself short on time.  To that end, this week's flexibility in time has given me the opportunity to reflect more holistically compared to those other weekly tales.

But, as I reflect, I re-encounter the problem of being at a loss-for-words.  Simply put, no words can do justice in fully depicting all of my encounters and experiences so far.

Around fire

Accordingly, this speechlessness combined with being in Africa and a product of the nineties, results in the following interpretation of my quest through drawing on parallels to the 1994 epic, The Lion King.

Ensuing King Mufasa's death, Simba flees from his pride and becomes geographically displaced.  Feating the vast African desert, Simba comes across a small oasis and meets Timon and Pumbaa.  While adapting to his new surroundings, Timon and Pumbaa introduce Simba to a new philosophy and way of life: "hakuna matata," or in Setswana "ga go na mathata," meaning "no worries."


Like Simba, I dropped everything and trekked around the world to wind up in an oasis, literally - Oasis Motel.  I was thrown into a new way of life with different cultures and customs and forced to adapt.  Coming from the cutthroat city of Los Angeles, Botswana embodies the "no worries" lifestyle.  For example, instead of the punctuality priority mentality that is palpable in the western world, "Africa time" operates on its own schedule.  Whether it’s the unexpected couple hour lunch break or professors being late to class, be prepared to wait.

After spending time in his new oasis, Simba personally grows into a new mature sense of identity that ultimately powers him to take back his throne from Scar.  Simba's "circle of life" and transition into a more mature being can be applied to arguably all study abroad students, as they are faced with similar challenges and adaptation requirements.  For example, I have personally grown into being more accepting and open to challenging my comfort levels.

My growth in being more accepting and Simba's experience and embodiment of the "circle of life" can be taken even more meta in the sense that one's position in the circle is amongst many other species, or in my case cultures.  Don't look at the "circle of life" in terms of Darwinism or natural selection; instead think of the survival and prosperity of the circle and how it requires a sense of tolerance and respect amongst its inhabitants.  This sense of tolerance and respect holds true for those who study abroad too, living in new multicultural societies.  Study abroad students are forced to face this transition and become more accepting of their surroundings.


The jaw dropping impact that this semester has already had on me is unfathomable.  Similarly - except not in a negative way - my time to date impact is just as powerful as the impact a five year old experiences after witnessing King Mufasa's murder; it results in shock.  Being only six weeks in and having grown so much, I can't wait for what's to come.

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