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5 posts from September 2014

09/19/2014

The Ability to Adapt

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Post by Erin Kelly from Towson University

As the weeks continue and I get more into a routine, I am starting to realize that you can’t actually prepare for going abroad. Yes, of course you can do all of your research, read tons of books, ask a million people, and even try to talk to past participants, but you will never actually be prepared. You may bring the clothes you think people wear at your destination and stock up on health essentials, but nothing will truly prepare you for what you will encounter. I am realizing that the way one should prepare themselves for abroad is to start opening up their mind and going with whatever is thrown their way.

IMG_6396The bread slicing machine in the supermarkets

Being open minded and adapting to the place you are in, is the main way of survival while abroad. I learned about survival of the fittest again in class this week and it really put a perspective on my thoughts of being abroad.

“Species that adapt to change, survive.”- Charles Darwin

IMG_6725Our sleeping arrangements for the CIEE excursion to Bahurutshe Cultural Village

One can only prepare for living in a foreign place so much. If you can’t adapt and change your mindset to the world that is currently around you, you will have a hard time abroad. Things don’t always go as planned or the way you expected them to, but you have to be flexible and take things as they come. Although it may not be what you had planned, eventually everything does work out. You need to be willing to change and I think that only comes when you are in a situation you are not used to. The area is foreign and the people don’t know you, therefore arguing or getting upset over something is not worth it. So my advice to prpspective study abroaders is don’t get caught up in packing the right stuff or making sure you have everything you need. 95% of the things you NEED will be at your destination. Focus on being able to go with the flow and expecting the unexpected. Some things work out and others don’t, but getting caught up on what it was “supposed to be” is not worth it.

IMG_6616The easiest way to do laundry - in a bucket!

IMG_6617Hanging clothes to dry inside - that way you ensure that they are there when you come back from class.

I still find myself needing to remember these things from time to time. Gaborone is an amazing place but completely different from home. There have been bumps in the road and unplanned events, but that is all apart of this amazing journey.

“It’s not the strongest of species that survives or the most intelligent, but those who are more adaptive to change.”

09/15/2014

Hand Stitching my Safety Blanket

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Post by Mariah Roberts from the University of Rochester

059Gabs from Kgale Hill

They say:

Botswana is a peaceful country.
The majority of crime is opportunistic petty theft, just be careful.
UB Security is there for you.
People watch out for each other.

They also say:

Lock your closet.
Bury valuables deep in your bags, don’t use outside pockets.
Always lock up valuables in your room when you’re not there.
Don’t trust anyone unless you really know them.

What I say:

Coming to Botswana I knew I would face many challenges, and I was prepared to take these on as experiences to grow and learn from. I knew I would need to be careful, Botswana was going to be safe but petty crime could be targeted at me for being an international student. I knew men would approach me and people could treat me different for being white and American. However, I was comforted that I would find ways to cope with this; I was going to have people that helped me feel safe.

So now I tell you, there are days where staying in Botswana scares the living daylights out of me. Some days you don’t have the strength to deal and your normal walk to class becomes an interrogation of your own self: “Did I shut the window? Did I lock my closet? Did I remember to put my laptop in my suitcase that I remembered to lock in the closet that I remembered to lock in the room with the lock?” and then, “Why are they staring at me? Is he coming up to me? What will he do?

Should I hold my bag closer? What are they screaming at me? Lekgoa must mean white person… Do they know that I know that? Do they yell at locals this way?”

It’s a self-sabotage.

There are days when this chaos is norm, and there are days when I feel like I am finding ways to cope. And then some days just when I’ve come all the way from the dining hall to the dorm without a single undesirable encounter, a success undeniable, just about to pass those reassuring security guards, a symbol of my safety here: “Hey beautiful! Baby! … Hey!! Lekgoa!”. There is nothing like being made to feel insecure by the very people that should be protecting you from that feeling.

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Photo (3)UB dorm closet and door locks

So I am learning. Every day. The two most important things I remind myself on this journey are these: 1. People are a product of their environment. When we feel that cultures clash we must try our best to educate, and not incriminate. Maybe they don’t know that screaming compliments at me is actually offensive. 2. My own feeling of safety is solely up to me. The more I learn, the more cognizant I am, the safer and more comfortable I will feel. And with these two things, I take my security into my own hands, and, stitch by stitch, I will create my own blanket of safety, armed and poised for all that Botswana has to offer.

Photo (4)The monkeys are probably the most likely thieves in all actuality.

09/08/2014

Negotiating Identities

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Post by Angie Alonso from University of California Davis

My stay in Botswana has not entirely been what I expected. I did my research beforehand and talked to several people who had visited before, so I was not surprised by the development Botswana has undergone and the fact that everyone spoke English. However, I thought it would be easy for me to blend in as I don’t have blonde hair, light skin and light colored eyes. I figured, that since I had been confused to be African-American in the states so often, it must be the same here.

IMG_1620[1]Getting ready to hike as part of the Bahurutshe Cultural Village excursion

This is only half true. In the States, my race is sometimes confused with Puerto Rican, Filipino, African-American, Middle-Eastern and the list goes on. The dark curly hair and deep toned skin combination may indicate South American to some but can mean a region halfway across the world to others. As I walk the halls of the UB or around town, I definitely get suspicious looks from people, questioning my origin and examining my facial features. But I just smile and kindly say, “Dumela!” and continue on.

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At my internship, Forest Conservation Botswana

During my first weeks here, whenever someone would ask me where I was from, I would respond the United States and they seemed to be very fascinated. Once I mentioned I was from California, they were so excited and asked if I had ever met Jay-Z or if I spend all my time at the beach. Someone even asked me if everyone in California just runs around in bikinis showing off their super fit bodies all the time. I couldn’t blame them too much as I’ve heard that’s all that is shown on American shows nowadays.

I began to get these similar reactions from people once I told them I was from the United States so I began experimenting and allowing the person to guess where I was from. I tried to speak very little English so that my American accent wouldn’t give me away. I then got interesting responses but none guessed that I was from the U.S. So far the most far out response was Fijian. I wasn't even sure how to respond to that one. Lately, I have even been saying I was from other countries like Egypt or South Africa and I definitely don’t get quite as an excited reaction.

IMG_2480[1]My host family and me at the Kanye dam

So far it’s been fun to pretend to be from other areas but eventually I tell them the truth and I take it as an opportunity to explain how many Mexican, Central, and South American immigrants actually live in the states. I also explain the history of the expansion of western US which was previously Mexico and all that good stuff. The point of the story - I’m enjoying the ambiguity in my outer appearance and await the day in which I can confidently explain in Setswana that I am indeed Motswana.

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09/03/2014

How I Learned to go with the Flow Through Setswana Culture- In Just One Short Month!

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Post by Jenna Sutton from Philadelphia University

Life here in Gaborone, Botswana is obviously different than back at home in the states. There were many differences we had to overcome as international students, and some we are still working on. I, however, believe that the hardest one was to learn to go with the (at times slower moving) flow or pace of everyday life in Botswana. It may not seem like a big deal but when this dissimilarity affects almost every aspect of your life it starts to be noticeable and can bring frustration to the typical fast moving American lifestyle.

This became evident upon our arrival at The University of Botswana. We were all supposed to be staying in the “Las Vegas Dorms”, those meant for upperclassmen, but were told that due to a change most of us were being moved to first year hostels. If you were to tell me during my freshman year of college that I would again be staying in a first year dorm my senior year I would call you crazy and not believe you! Yet, this is exactly the case. If I did not have an open mind, accept changes and go with the flow this would have been very upsetting, and possibly a bad first impression of UB campus life!

ThumbnailThis is my dorm room that I share with my roommate, Leungo, in hostel 472

There are other examples of the necessity of dealing with the cards you have been dealt and going with the flow on UB campus. Due to the need to conserve, water is not always available at all times of day here. You quickly learn that sometimes after a workout when you’re all hot and sweaty you might not be able to take a shower...and you learn to be okay with that! You might also be waiting in line at one of the dining halls here to get a meal when you are suddenly told that they are out of food, in which case you have to plan otherwise.

Thumbnail“Foodtown”- one of the on the go options for food on campus
ThumbnailA notice in the dorms about the water-rationing schedule

Other aspects of life in Botswana display this mindset outside of UB campus life. For example, you may call a cab and he says that he is on his way, but doesn’t show up until an hour later. That is a very common thing, and can even be referred to as “African Time”.

ThumbnailOne of the many advertisements for cabs which are posted all around campus.

As an American it can be seen as irritating or annoying, however I quickly learned that it is relaxed and in a way beautiful. It has allowed me to literally cherish every moment of my day, whereas if I was in school at home I may have been rushing and lost the opportunity to have a conversation with the cleaning lady, or chat with people at the bus stop. Things may seem like they are happening slower, but with that you can form an appreciation. Whether it is for your life at home, or the new things you are experiencing here in Gabs. “Time does not pass- it continues.”

09/01/2014

Bucketism

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Post by Shunese Coran from the University of California Los Angeles

Bucketism- The phenomena of relying on the usage of a bucket for daily tasks. The bucket carries the same value as food, sleep, and air -- okay maybe not that much but definitely would be challenging to live comfortably here at UB without it!

It is very eye opening to me how an object that I rarely utilized in the States has become my most used lifeline since arriving almost a month ago. I utilize it everyday, sometimes multiple times a day. “Buy a bucket,” they said. “For what?” I thought. They are students here, if  they are all saying to buy this item, I probably should . . . so . . . .I made the purchase .

What could I possibly be using this bucket for?

Photo 1A. Shower caddy : When it is time to go shower I immediately reach for my bucket. I place all essentials in my bucket. The bucket is plastic so it wont hurt if it gets wet which allows me to place the bucket at the corner of my shower so I can keep an eye on my things. Photo 3B. Bucket bath : On my floor there are two bathing options/ordeals. The first option has a shower, two stalls with toilets, and two sinks in one room. The second room has a toilet, sink, and bathtub. There is no shower curtain; therefore, the amount of time I have to spare is the determinant factor of which one I will use. If I have enough time, I will hook my shower curtain and shower normally. If I do not have much time, I will take a bucket bath in the bathtub.I have taken more bucket baths in the bathtub than showers because there is not always hot water. This leads to the other usages of the bucket.

Photo 4C. Water transport: If there isn’t hot water what I do is take my water filter (just used to hold the water in this case) and kettle to this large sink in the hall of my building and fill both with water. It takes about 3 mins for the water to boil. I pour the boiled water into my bucket and mix with a little cold water, voila a warm bucket bath.

D. Water Storage: Now, part C is only feasible when there is running water. There are times of the day when there is no running water, which is why I try to keep water in my bucket at all times.

E. Laundry: My bucket is also useful when doing laundry. I use my bucket to rinse the soap thoroughly from my clothes.

There are signs posted in the hallways, like the following that make me super conscious of how long I spend in the shower and my daily water usage period:

Photo 6Relief of the conscious: Water conservation emphasis highly stressed throughout the city.  My bucket definitely helps relieve any guiltiness that might arise. By filling the bucket I have have water at my use without having to let the water continuously run!

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