On January 12, 2015 we received 13 magnificent students in Gaborone, Botswana! They unpacked their bags and minds to an experience of a lifetime.
Here’s what’s in this issue:
The first week of the semester is by far the most challenging. The students are faced with a new environment, thousands of miles away from home. They are integrated into the Botswana culture, lifestyle and social spheres through a series of lectures and sessions that equip them with all the crucial skills and tolerances they will need to survive the following months.
The students moved into dorms and homestays and experienced an array of local foods!
The students embark on the “Gaborone Amazing Race” (an interesting bus tour around the city ) by way of public transport that often proves to be quite a humbling experience for some! They are split into teams and learn how to get around. They learn some local lingo and see the town just as the locals do, all whilst collecting clues and racing for a prize! The students submit a collage of pictures and videos that best portray their experience in the city of Gaborone!
Check out the elating video Team Yellow put together
CIEE Gaborone makes it a point to reach out to the Community and lend a hand where we can! CIEE organised several volunteer days at different organizations which allowed our students to spend time and give back to the host community.
This spring, we visited Mokolodi Nature Reserve, a game park and nature reserve that promotes conservation while also providing tourist and educational activities. CIEE facilitated a morning of volunteering which entailed cutting branches and fixing up the drive way for game drives with rocks and sand. The students, staff and volunteers put on their hiking shoes, gloves and sunglasses and made a day out of it. The CIEE staff and students enjoyed a wonderful presentation on the history of Botswana nature conservation efforts, particularly the Rhino population which is becoming extinct. We finished the day with a tasty lunch followed by a relaxing game drive and the students were able to see most of the animals they heard about.
Our second volunteering day was held at Stepping Stones International. SSI is a registered non-governmental, non-profit organisation in Botswana and in the United States, established in 2006, in Mochudi, 40 km from Gaborone.
Stepping Stones International addresses socio-economic development in vulnerable children whilst encouraging and assisting improvement in education. The students, and volunteers split up into different groups and facilitated different games routed in skills development and team building.
Here’s a link to their website to find out more: - https://www.steppingstonesintl.org/
In addition to community outreach, CIEE facilitates different excursions that enable the students to experience Botswana’s ideas, customs, and social behavior. The students attended an annual cultural festival known as Son of the Soil. The festival is synonymous with celebrating Tswana culture through song, dance, food and dress in secluded areas which are usually a stone throw away from the city. This years theme was "kwa re go yang" meaning "where we are going", meant to show that culture will be one of the pillars for national development, as Batswana believe development must be anchored on a strong national identity.
CIEE Students and Staff looking dashing at Son of the Soil 2015
Our students and staff arrived in their wonderful tailor made outfits and fit right in! They enjoyed a day filled with traditional food, an intriguing dance performances by Mogoditsane Senior Secondary School, and an array of traditional games such as Koi (jump rope) and Diketo! They got a chance to mingle and chat with locals and had an amazing experience!
CIEE Students Tyler, Michelle and Tori getting interviewed at Son of the Soil 2015
The festival was a splendid representation of how well the host nation celebrates and continues to uphold its national pride!
Bahurutse Cultural Village was our second stop, where our students were engrossed in the lifestyle of Batswana and the Bahurutse people. They were taught how to make sorghum into the staple food known as mabele (grinded sorghum), visited the cattle post where they were able to see how the animals are kept and also got to feed chickens and goats whilst they were there. They enjoyed traditional food and stories about Bahurutse from the natives who live there.
Mma Clint and traditonal dancers welcome the students to Bahurutse Cultural Village
CIEE Students sitting around the fire, whilst learning about Bahurutse Village and watching dance performances by the locals
The Students also got a chance to experience the Setswana wonder that is BDF Day! This is an annual event put together by the Botswana Defence Force (Botswana millitary) at the national stadium. The day showcases military exercises in order to educate and entertain civilians whilst, most importantly, building national pride.
Our students arrived at 04:30 am and enjoyed a day of exuberant theatrics and got a chance to see the President of Botswana! Take a look at the entertaining video CIEE's very own Andrew Martinez put together :
Last but not least, the students spent an entire week in Kanye Village. Kanye is located in southern Botswana and is a 45 minute drive away from Gaborone. The essence of the week long homestay is to allow the students to live in a village setting and exposes them to a different socio-economic surrounding. The homestay allows the students to learn about Setswana tradition and modernity whilst exposing them to rural and urban health care.
The days in Kanye consist of mornings in clinics shadowing nurses and doctors and a couple of hours learning Setswana throughout the week. Whilst in Kanye, it is paramount the students visit the village Kgotla, which is a community council or traditional law court, usually referred to as a customary court. The experience is a splendid one and entails several exciting outings and explorations outside the usual buzzing city life of Gaborone.
During the semester, the students were lucky enough to visit several amazing places Botswana has to offer. The weekend of March 28th had us in Serowe, the second largest village in Botswana.
The students had the opportunity to visit Khama III Memorial Museum where they learnt about the history of Serowe and its people, the struggles they overcame and the glorious love story of Botswana's first President Sir Seretse Khama and Lady Ruth Khama! The museum is filled with artifacts and photographs that allow every visitor to travel back in time to the earlier days of Botswana.
Khama Rhino Sanctuary is a community based wildlife project, established in 1992 to assist in saving the vanishing rhino population. The haven provides a prime habitat to white and black rhino as well as 30 other animal species and 230 species of bird. The Sanctuary aims to restore an area formerly flourishing with wildlife to its previous natural state and provide economic benefits to locals through tourism and sustainable use of natural resources.
The students arrived late afternoon and enjoyed a few hours to relax before having dinner and enjoying an exhilarating evening game drive!
Students arrive at Khama Rhino Sanctuary and enjoy themselves before the evening game drive
Our most exciting visit was the Jwaneng Mine.The name "Jwaneng" means "a place of small stones", an almost misleading name, considering this mine is the 8th largest and richest diamond mine in the world! In Botswana, the returns from diamond mining contributes 50% of public revenue, 33% of the GDP and 70% of foreign exchange earnings. This mine happens to be the world's richest mine by value.
The students got to put on mining gear and enjoyed a fascinating mine tour. They viewed several monster trucks and the enourmous mine pit for all its glory!
The final semester excursion was to Chobe National Park in Kasane, Botswana. Chobe National Park is the ideal location for any visitor or tourist that is interested in a combination of the natural wonder of the Victoria Falls and magnificent wildlife sightings as it has one of the highest concentration of game in Africa. The National Park is the 3rd largest park in the country and has proved to be the most diverse. The park is known for its spectacular elephant population: It contains an estimated 50,000 elephants, perhaps the highest elephant concentration of Africa. The extraodinary park and its surroundings form an eco system very unique in Africa.Words can barely how describe how spectacular the location is, check out some wonderful pics below:
Katie and Andrew viewing elephants during a boat cruise in Chobe National Park
Our students also embarked on their own sightseeing to other neighboring countries during spring break and public holidays. It truly was a delightful experience!
Andrew and Anna in Durban watching the Durban Sharks Rugby Game
Anna, Jasmine, Katie, Sarah and Andrew enjoying Cape Town, South Africa
CIEE Students and Volunteer Rati having fun in Sun City, South Africa
Jasmine, Katie, Heather, Benita and Juliana at the Great Salt Pans during Spring Break
Jasmine at Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa
After memories were playfully made, and friendships gradually fostered, the most heart-breaking time is when we have to say goodbye.
We had a joyous farewell dinner at Phakalane Golf Estate! Our students coordinated the entire event and what a night it was. For the most part, the superlatives and video compilations of the entire semester were a fantastic treat.
To our precious friends of Spring 2015, till we meet again, Sala Sentle (Stay Well) !