Hey all! My name is Elise, and I have been in Gaborone for almost three months now. I decided to do a bit of reflecting in the form of advice, so hopefully this is helpful to someone!
One of the first decisions you will have to make if you choose this program is if you want to live on campus or with a homestay. While this is a big choice to make that will have implications on your experience abroad, you should know that both are good options. As a warning, I am a homestay student, and I absolutely love my family, so I may be a bit biased, and I can only really comment on my own experiences. So here goes. Don’t be scared to do a homestay. Living in the dorms is a more predictable. You know what your room will be like. You know you will have a roommate. You know you will live on campus. You know what your food options are. You know you have limited cooking options. In a homestay, you know some things but not nearly as much. You know that you get your own room. You know your family should provide you two meals per day. That’s about all you know when you choose the option. You don’t know how far away from school you will be. You don’t know how many people are in your family. You don’t know what your family is like. You don’t know how often relatives will stay at your house. What I can tell you is that living in a homestay is worth the uncertainty. The CIEE staff does an amazing job of connecting students with families. If you are on the edge, I highly recommend choosing the homestay option because it will immerse you in the culture more, you have your own space, you have ready-made friends, and you get off campus often. And if you get lucky, you may get cute kittens!
One of my only worries about staying with a homestay family was the commute. Low and behold, I ended up living with a family that lived the furthest from school. When I learned that my commute would take me about an hour every day I was so worried because I was used to having a five-minute walk from my room to my classes back home. While my commute is my least favorite part of my homestay experience, it isn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. The public transportation system (combis and taxis) are confusing at first, but once you know how to get from home to school and back, they are easy and reliable. Since we are not supposed to take combis after dark, sometimes I have to pay for a special taxi, or a cab, to get home. The point is, getting home and around otherwise is not difficult and you will adjust to your particular housing situation.
Arts and Sciences students: you are not required to take the Setswana course; however, you should definitely take it. It did not fit into my schedule, so I decided not to take it. This was the biggest mistake I made all semester. I wish I was learning the language so I could interact with more people and feel less like an outsider. Whatever you do, or whatever your schedule looks like, make sure you take the Setswana course!
Even if you are only here for a semester, make time to travel. There are so many beautiful places in Botswana and surrounding countries, and you will have time. If you are on a tight budget, you can save costs by traveling with others, sharing Airbnbs, camping, and bringing/cooking your own food.
Lesotho: I went slackpacking here over spring break. If you like hiking, I highly recommend making time to go here. Guided hiking is recommended because the trails are hard to follow and sometimes nonexistent. My friends and I went on a guided tour through Sani Lodge in South Africa.
Maputo, Mozambique: The city is interesting to look around, but most people go to Mozambique for the beaches. If you have time, go to Tofo Beach. If you don’t want to spend the time or money to get there, but you still want to go to a beach, go to Macaneta, which is close to Maputo.
Swakopmund, Namibia: Being by the gorgeous dunes and the Atlantic Ocean was incredible. I highly recommend this destination. Popular activities here are sandboarding, quad biking, horseback riding, kayaking with seals, and others.
Cape Town: This city provides a fantastic experience to hike, eat delicious food, and it reminds you what a western city is like. Hello Uber!
My experience abroad was incredible, and the program was perfect for me. That being said, make sure this is the right program for you. Here are some dos and don’ts to consider:
Do: come on this program if you are flexible and can adapt to a new environment.
Do: come on this program if you are genuinely interested in learning about a new culture and want to immerse yourself in it.
Do: come on this program if you are interested in having conversations about race and culture.
Don’t: come on this program if you will be a minority here and you cannot handle being visible.
Don’t: come of this program if you will just compare the society here to yours in the United States and won’t take the time to appreciate it for what it is.
I hope that some of my reflections will help you choose a study abroad program and prepare you for traveling to Botswana if you choose this amazing program!
Brooke Helstrom from University of Southern California
Hello! My name is Brooke and I’m a homestay and an Arts & Sciences student on the Gabs CIEE Program. I was really nervous before coming to Botswana, and had no idea what to expect. After much deliberation and second guessing myself, I went with my instinct and applied as a homestay… and I can confidently say that I made the right decision. Here is a mediocre attempt to capture what my daily life is like here, with some mediocre advice sprinkled throughout.
Being domestic at home
6:15am- wake up after a night of dogs barking outside my window, it’s a good morning if I don’t wake up in a cold sweat due to the heat (your host family should provide you with a fan for your room, it will literally save your life).
7:15am- walk to the University of Botswana. I live in a flat (an apartment), a walking distance from campus. Most other homestays have longer commutes via combis (taxis). I love my walk to school (despite getting super sweaty), I pass two women vendors on the side of the road and always stop and chat with them. Depending on what I’m wearing (whoohooo patriarchy), I’ll get between 2-3 honks and marriage proposals on my walk in the morning. Ladies, be prepared for this. I find it best to just laugh it off, sometimes if I’m in a bad mood I’ll return the harassment with a very well-rehearsed death stare. Dressing like a potato, which I tend to do subconsciously, actually helps to reduce the hooting. As a general rule of thumb, men will yell out regardless of what you are wearing- the key is to be confident and approach it light heartedly.
8am- Class! As an Arts & Sciences student, I am taking 5 UB classes and one CIEE (Setswana) course. I am not doing an internship, which means I have a lot of class. The courses differ greatly here at UB depending on your field of study, so everyone’s experience is different. I am taking all upper level environmental science courses, and have a lot of assignments. I came to Gabs with that ‘study abroad mentality’, expecting to put half of an effort into everything and to have no “real” work. This proved a very naïve and ignorant attitude, and I would advise you to avoid the adoption of such a philosophy. While ‘Botswana time’ is certainly true (things move slowly, things never start on time), and there are obvious classroom etiquette differences, my classes here have been nothing short of ‘real’. I am here to LEARN!!! And I have been doing just that.
8am-5pm- Classes throughout the day with some breaks in between. During breaks all the CIEE kids hang on the fourth floor of one of the buildings in the main quad, right outside the CIEE offices. The main attraction of this bleak carpeted corner is the CIEE wifi (and of course, the CIEE admins whose faces literally embody the feeling of home). Sometimes, if I’m feeling a little crazy, I’ll go to the library and do homework during breaks. Most of the time is spent waiting for wifi to connect and having curious and friendly UB students approach me and subsequently distract me from my work. Then, I meet up with friends for lunch and we walk to one of the campus gates, where there are vendors selling some pretty dank food. I am a vegan and it’s been surprisingly easy finding proper nutrition. Lots of beets, beans, pasta, and cabbage. Tip: bring your own Tupperware to the gates to reduce your Styrofoam consumption #environmentalstudies.
Outside the University of Botswana Library
5:30pm- Field hockey practice! I joined the UB/ national field hockey team, and it is an absolute blast. There are roughly 20 boys and girls on the team, and we practice everyday. The team was very welcoming to me, and I look forward to practice at the end of every day J Tip: join something on campus!!!! You might be really busy with schoolwork like me (or you very well might not be busy at all), but regardless it is important to be involved with the local community. The field hockey team makes the university feel much smaller and friendly. You can also volunteer- I volunteer at Mokolodi Nature Reserve on Fridays.
8:00pm- Call Bethel, the trusty cab driver, and drive home.
8:30pm- Eat, take a much-needed shower, do as much homework as I can before I fall asleep. Or, depending on the day of the week, watch an intense crime show with my host mom.
Here’s a pic of some girls on the field hockey team. See if you can find me!
Jordan Knox (a.k.a. Itumetse) from the George Washington University
Being Black (or African-American) in an African country is like taking classes at a Historically Black College/University (HBCU), while masking the fact that you are attending a Predominantly White Institution (PWI). Perhaps the reference doesn't hit home for you like it does for me, so here's another; being black in an African country is like going to a birthday or funeral hosted for someone you barely know. The majority of the people around look like familiar but there exist this faint feeling that you don't belong. As you walk around campus, trying to settle into the new surroundings, you feel eyes on you. Every movement, word, and reaction you make is now critical. Who would have thought going abroad to what your friends referred to as "the mother-land" would make you feel an extraterrestrial being, in search of a place to call home.
My decision to study abroad at the University of Botswana was impulsive. Gaborone, Botswana caught my eye because no matter who I asked about the country, no one could share any experiences. I have friends that have study abroad and vacationed in Spain, Italy, and Germany; in regards to Africa, Ghana, Senegal, and South Africa, but never Botswana. I thought to myself "what could be more adventurous and spontaneous than visiting a country no one has ever heard of?" Botswana is a beautiful country and the local citizens are some of the kindest people I have ever met, but every rose does have its thorns. While my time in Botswana has been more than I could have ever asked for, there have been things that I wouldn't have expected. Remember that 'PWI student at a HBCU' reference? This is where it comes into play:
If you are Black, African-American, or simply of the "dark-skin" diaspora, 80% of the local population will assume you are African. The student of color population at my home institution, Georgetown University (PWI), is small enough to notice the difference between a student and a visitor of the institution—students of color stick out. During my frequent visits to Howard University (HBCU) I easily blend into the diverse crowd and can go hours unnoticed; however, if asked about any specific elements of Howard's campus, the truth of my visitor status is revealed. The same is the case here for Botswana. While I may look like a local, my understanding of the language and culture will never be to the extent of a local. Many conversations have been begun in Setswana (the local language) and then slowly shift to English as people began to realize I was not Motswana. Daily, I would shock professors and peers with my American origins and then questions/comments about my resemblance to a person born in Africa would arise. On a number of occasions I was said to look "Nigerian," "West African," and once "Jamaican." As much as I would love to be from rich cultures such as these, I am not. And while I don't take offence to these remarks. I do think to myself "what is my culture?" It is a question I have asked myself in different stages of my life, a puzzle I am still in the process of answering.
Being in Botswana has helped me to grow as a person and to appreciate many aspects of my life back in America a lot more, but like my visits to Howard University I am reminded that this is not my home. I am simply a visitor from miles away making an impact on the lives of others. I hope that my time here as had a positive effect. I'll miss all the friends I have made and lectures whose words echo in my ear. I'll return one day.
About a month into the semester, local student protests caused UB to close down for a few weeks while kinks in the registration process were straightened out and students were given their government allowances.
The first weekend saw about half of our program heading up north to Letlhakane for a camping trip, and the next all fourteen CIEE students found ourselves in Kanye experiencing a village homestay. Interspersed among these trips were CIEE Setswana language classes, teaching us the basic essentials necessary to politely interact with Batswana.
After the University officially stated that they would be reopening March 6, the students in our program decided that the week before university classes resumed was ideal for travel. Two students planned a backpacking trip through South Africa, seven more a road-trip over to Namibia and the final five including myself rushed to arrange a vacation in Malawi.
Bethel, a cab driver popular with students in our program, drove us over the border and to the Johannesburg airport where we boarded a plane to Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. From there a local woman named K ferried us across the country in her van to the tip of the Nankumba Peninsula jutting into the southernmost part of Lake Malawi where we stayed for the week in a small town called Cape Maclear.
Hike in the national park for the best view of Cape Maclear.
Our home for the week, The Funky Cichlid, was situated directly on the beach. Before arriving there we drove past a hill that K told us was the best hike in the area, since it offers a clear view of the whole bay.
Most of the week was spent on the beach right outside the backpackers, but two of us took a few days to get Open Water Dive certified with PADI Scuba Divemaster Rob. The pace of living was even slower than in Gaborone, with the whole town having an island vibe despite being off-season for tourists.
Beach-side accommodations at The Funky Cichlid.
Starting with Funky, there is a several kilometer-long strip of restaurants and housing lodges that we explored most afternoons and evenings. Favorite finds among our group were the pizza at Gecko Lounge, triple-decker sandwiches at Fat Monkey and cheesy fries at Funky. Traditional Malawian foods such as fish curry and rice or nsema, a maize porridge much like Botswana’s pap, were readily available at most places alongside Italian staples such as pasta Bolognese.
Grabbing dinner and drinks at Gecko Lounge.
One of many identical stray dogs on the beach.
One of the highlights of the week included a sunset cruise across the bay to Otter’s Point and then around Thumbi Island, on which we were able to feed eagles and talk to the local boat crew about their favorite pastimes in Cape Maclear.
Group picture (featuring sunburns) on Thumbi Island.
Nine days and hours of traveling later we found ourselves back in Gaborone with sand in our backpacks and collective excitement for continuing university classes the day after our return.
Since coming to Botswana I feel I have learned a good amount about myself. Most strikingly, I came here as someone who did not enjoy dealing with changes to a pre-set plan. Yet in Botswana everything moves at its own pace and while it does work out in the end, it may take some sharp turns before it works out. For the first few weeks this really bothered me, especially if something I thought I could rely on suddenly stopped working, like the Internet connection. But after 6 weeks of dealing with things not going the way I expected (think registration problems and the student strikes last month), I feel I have gotten past the worst of it. Now I can take a deep breath and trust that things are truly going to work out, and they almost always do!
Another thing that has really been amazing about this trip so far is how much I have gotten to travel. As some know, UB was closed for 3 weeks due to student protests. We still had CIEE classes and our program did well planning activities at the last-minute but for the most part our days were empty. So we requested to be able to use the week before classes started up to do some traveling. We were told we could travel the Monday before we wanted to leave. This meant we had 4 days to plan a 8 day trip….YIKES. It ended up being the best trip I’ve been on so far! We stayed up late nights drawing our route onto a road map and writing down google maps directions, since we would be without Internet for most of the trip. We drove 15 hours the first day. From Gaborone through South Africa and into Namibia! We first camped in Ai-Ais at the hot springs then the next morning drove two hours north to Hobas, where we could get gorgeous views of Fish River Canyon. We then traveled on to a coastal town called Luderitz, where we camped on the beach and realized we did not have enough warm clothing! From there we took two days to drive north to Swakopmund. In Swakopmund we spent time on the beach, perusing the town, and went on an ATV ride through the desert. After two days we drove to Windhoek and slept there, waking before dawn to make our 13 hour trek back to Gaborone. In all, the trip was around 50 hours of driving in 8 days in a car nearly packed to bursting and camping along the way. By the end our backs ached from the car and the ground and we were a tad grumpy! But what an experience, and we planned the whole thing ourselves. To me, this trip embodies all that I wanted to get out of my abroad experience. I wanted to learn to plan my own trips and see the world. I saw most of Namibia that week, granted from the backseat of a car, but it was amazing.
Blog Post by Adrian Lurie fromUniversity of Southern California
Gaborone, fondly known as Gabs, has so far been an absolute joy. Specifically, my host family has welcomed me with an authentic enthusiasm and expectancy. I am treated as if I am a member of the family, which implies both acceptance and obligation. After meals that are cooked by my mother or sister, I am expected to do the dishes and clean the kitchen. To me, this is a standard reciprocal dynamic, and I enjoy the experience of being included in such. Additionally, my 23-year-old sister, Nelly, has been a helpful and relaxed friend. We can talk together with such comfort, and she is always quick to offer advice, take me out with her friends, or show me the local combi routes. One engaging aspect of my homestay is the differing belief systems my mother and I hold. We often engage in friendly discourse regarding religion, homosexuality, evolution, and gender roles. I feel as though my views are heard and respected, though in the end, disagreed with. I understand this is an engrained cultural difference and I have no desire to change it, though I do enjoy exploring her belief’s and where they stem from.
On the social side of things, I have found young Batswana to be enthusiastically welcoming. I have learned that there is a common stigma that specifically white Americans are rich and mostly concerned with themselves and others like them. Therefore, I have experienced a sensitivity from individuals to initiate connection. On the other hand, many people have started conversations with me and been rather inquisitive into American life. In the end, I have personally felt a general respect for Americans and white people, even to a somewhat disconcerting point. I was surprised there is not more resentment toward Westerners, whose ancestors so insensitively colonized the surrounding areas. I understand that Botswana has a rather peaceful history compared to other African countries. However, with the American control of game reserves, and other industries, I still expected some sort of negativity directed toward white skin. Rather, Batswana have told me that white people can often easily exploit business here and gain respect simply because of their background. The continuation of such a historical dynamic saddens me, though I don’t think it in any way lessens the power and beauty of this country. Simply, Westerners must begin to recognize and respect the individual countries of Africa on a deeper and more meaningful level. I hope to be an ambassador for such a change through continuing to document and share the rest of my time here.
As we bring the Summer 2016 Program to a close, our students fly back to their various homes in the US or carry on their adventures in different parts of the world, we take a look back at the wonderful semester that was; from the first week in Botswana, to touring the world's number one must visit destination of 2016 (Lonely Planet, 2016) , we recap on the wonderful times we shared together in Gaborone, Botswana. Here's what's in this issue:
On 30th May, 2016 we welcomed 13 students to our University campus! They flew in from different corners of the US and settled in our little town of Gaborone. Our students were greeted by student volunteers and home stay families alike, they were whisked to various households or dorms, where they would be spending the next 8 weeks!
The first week in Botswana is often quite different from the weeks to follow; it is during this week students are integrated into the local culture. This cross cultural integration is facilitated by the Resident Director, and Program Assistant of the Gaborone Study Center, usually with the help of our wonderful team of volunteers.
The week was filled with relevant lectures and seminars on Health, Safety and Security, Customs, Community Interactions and how to get involved, Culture Shock Adjustment and a Bystander Intervention that included our student volunteers for a local perspective. The students also had a Survival Setswana lesson to help them understand general greetings, direction and introductions. Orientation week is usually comprised of heavy content and in order to lighten things up a bit, we expose the students to local culture by way of music, dance, and tswana cuisine!
Summer 2016 students and volunteers Marimba lesson at Thapong Visual Arts Centre
Anna and Michael learning how to play Marimba at Thapong Visual Arts Centre
Summer 2016 students, volunteers and staff enjoying a meal at Botswana Craft - Courtyard Restaurant
Students learning some move during a Significance of Dance in Botswana Culture during orientation week!
Once the students mastered the local sound moves and cuisine, it was time to take on the city! CEE Gaborone often sees it fit to explore the city in small groups in order for each individual to get a grasp of the public transportation system. In order to do this in a fun way, our staff organized an Amazing Race Combi Safari! This activity allowed the students the opportunity to explore the city, just as the locals do. They visited various tourist locations in the city such as the National Museum and the Three Chief Monument, all whilst racing for an ultimate prize! Take a look at some of their experiences:
Team Red at the Bus Rank during theAmazing Race : Combi Safari !
Team Red on the Amzing Race Combi Safari at the Three Chiefs Monument
Summer 2016 Team Green Amazing Race Combi Safari
Summer 2016 Team Red Amazing Race Combi Safari
As orientation week came to an end, we closed the week with a wonderful candle lit dinner at Savutti Grill of Avani Restaurant located in the heart of Gaborone.
Summer 2016 Welcome Dinner at Savutti Grill
Summer 2016 Girls Welcome Dinner at Savutti Grill
Lending a Helping Hand!
Every semester, CIEE Gaborone makes it a point to give back to the community. This Summer, we chose to share our time with the wonderful I AM Special Education Society. I AM Special Education Society is a small community-based education centre for children and youths with learning disabilities. I AM Special Education Society aims to "Empower and provide education services to those who learn differently", and their main objective is to promote a sense of self reliance amongst people with disabilities and to help them integrate into the society.
I AM Special is one of the few centres in Botswana that is dedicated to children with learning disabilities. Special learning schools like I AM Special, still lack resources, and support from the local community. The centre therefore welcomes visitors to come and meet the children to raise awareness about the challenges people living with disabilities in Botswana may face. They encourage visitors extend their time, get involved and share skills with members of I AM Special Education Society!
Summer 2016 at I AM Special Education Society
Summer 2016 at I AM Special Education Society
As we would only be spending one day at the organization, our aim was to leave a long lasting impact. Prior to our visit, we highlighted key areas that we could focus on in order to assist the organization. We noticed some of the surroundings at the center needed to be refurbished, this included the hallways and signs outside the premises. Our team decided to help by adding new quotes of paint to the walls and created two new signs that could be put on display at the organization.
Our day also comprised of fun and games with the students and staff of I AM Special. Our favorite moments of the day was sharing our time with those who need it the most. We closed our day with a wonderful meal prepared by our team and a few donations to the society to help assist them with their daily running.
Cristina having a go Duck Duck Goose at I AM Special
Lunch time at I AM Special Volunteer Day
Great interactions with the Kids of I AM Special
Our first weekend excursion of the semester took us to Bahurutse Cultural Village! Upon arrival, we were greeted with song and dance by the natives of Bahurutse village. They encouraged us to join in on the fun which eventually settled into a large circle, where we sat and enjoyed a wonderful presentation of traditional dance and storytelling.
Learning some traditional dances with the locals of Bahurutse
Kate learning just how to milk a goat at Bahurutse Cultural Village
Grandfather and his sons (including Kgosi Michael of CIEE) reading the bones at Bahurutse Cultural Village
We enjoyed our first real taste of what Tswana tradition might be like; they demonstrated different aspects of their way of life such as how to milk animals, pound sorghum and how to build their homes; they also demonstrated how a chief's son would be expected to propose to his spouse, and we were very lucky to get the opportunity to ride a donkey cart to the cattle post where the animals are kept.
The next day, we were off to Mokolodi Nature Reserve. Here we learnt about conservation of wildlife in Botswana, followed by a game drive throughout a small portion of the park. Although our drive was not packed with animal sighting, we managed to see some hippos, an ostrich, a cheetah and many more! That evening we enjoyed a campfire under the stars till we settled in our tents for the evening.
Our lodging and transportation at Mokolodi Nature Reserve
Game Drive at Mokolodi Nature Reserve
The following weekend excursion took us to the mining town of Orapa, located 6 hours north of Gaborone. Here, we had the wonderful privilege of touring the world's largest mine by area, the Orapa Mine. Upon arrival, we were greeted by member of the Orapa Mine staff who took us through an informative presentation on the history of the Orapa and sister mines, the contribution they have made to the economy, and also the impact the mines have and continue to have on the nation at large.
Summer 2016 at the Orapa Diamond Mine
Each person was given protective mine gear which was an essential component for our safety measures before starting the tour. We received a pair of goggles, earplugs, gloves, heavy boots, a shirt, pants and hard hat; we fit right in with our tour guides and were finally ready to enter the mine!
Summer 2016 students, volunteers and Program Assistant in protective mine gear!
Student Volunteer Eunice in her protective mine gear
Our guides took us on a specific route which allowed us to view the main components of the mine. We were fortunate enough to understand exactly how the ore is extracted and the tacit process required to extract the precious stones. Once our tour came to an end, we changed back into our regular clothes and enjoyed a well-deserved lunch at Wimpy Restaurant in Orapa.
Our next location took us approximately 200 kilometres south of Orapa, to village known as Serowe. We spent our day at Khama Rhino Sanctuary (KRS) a community based wildlife project, dedicated to rhino preservation. The sanctuary is home to several species of animals and birds. With this in mind, we enjoyed an exhilarating night game drive that evening, it was just our luck we ran into a group of beloved rhino!
Claire, Hailey and Regina were all smiles during the night game drive at KRS
Ariana, Cindy and Kelly having an awesome time during the night game drive at KRS!
Serowe is the birth place of Botswana's founding father and a custodian of Botswana's contemporary history. The next morning, we drove a few kilometres to Khama III Memorial Museum! This was one of our most exciting locations as we learnt about the people of Serowe, the struggles they faced, the controversial interracial relationship of Sir Seretse Khama and Lady Ruth Khama, as well as famous writer Bessie Head who settled in the village of Serowe. The museum experience was extremely informative and gave great perspective as to the leaps and bounds Batswana have made throughout the years!
Learning about the history of Serowe and its People
Learning about the history of Serowe and its People
Farewell and Best Wishes!
As the semester winds down to a close, our Gaborone Study Center celebrated the end of our chapter with a wonderful farewell dinner at the Phakalane Golf Estate. Our staff, students, and volunteers came dressed to the nines for the spectacular evening!We enjoyed a wonderful dinner along with several games and activities including charades based on personalities and favorite places in Gabs, Karaoke based on a collective of favorite songs turned inside jokes, and lastly a game of "Most Likely To" to test just how well we have come to know each other in the short 8 weeks. The evening quickly turned into wonderful moments reminiscing on the semester that was!
Summer 2016 Girls looking lovely at the Farewell Dinner!
Summer 2016 Girls wearing dresses made from local fabric at the Farewell Dinner
Resident Director Basetsana Maposa leading a game of charades at the Summer 2016 Farewell Dinner!
Testing just how well we know each other with a game of "Most Likely To" at the Summer 2016 Farewell Dinner!
As we say goodbye to each student, our heavy hearts still celebrate the friendships fostered! We keep in mind that each person carries a piece of Botswana with them forever and as we hope to see you again on this side of the world sometime soon, its never goodbye from our study center, its simply good luck and see you later!
Lesedi La Rona (Our Light): - largest diamond to be discovered in 100 years found in Botswana!
Botswana is known for its lucritive diamond industry; the quality of product produced has coined Botswana the "world's leading producer of diamond by value!" Botswana is blessed with one of the richest diamond mines in the world (Jwaneng Mine), and the largest diamond mine by area (Orapa Mine)! With this in mind, we set out on an adventure to the largest diamond, located in the small town of Orapa! We also had the opportunity to learn about the amazing history of Batswana in Serowe, and the First President of Botswana, a diamond himself, Sir Seretse Khama! Here's what's in this issue:
The Orapa Diamond Mine is the world's largest diamond mine by area! Orapa is located north of Gaborone, in the Boteti Sub District. The mine has been operational since July 1971 and is still proving to be a strong power house. Orapa Mine, along side its sister mines, Letlhakane and Damtshaa Diamond Mine have contributed greatly to Botswana's economy, stability and success! Botswana is the world's largest producer of diamonds and the trade has transformed it into a middle-income nation. Our summer students and Program Assistant set off on a 6 hour journey from our University Campus to the small town of Orapa. Each person was required to acquire a permit to enter the mining town as there is high securtiy to protect the mining industry.We were prompted to carry our passports so we could be granted access to enter the town at the checkpoint entry. Once we were all through, permits in hand, we drove to a nearby location where we would spend the night and enjoyed a wonderful dinner.
Exploring the World's Largest Mine
We begun the following day bright and early with a short drive to the Mine. Once we arrived, we were greated by member of the Orapa Mine staff who took us through an informative presentation on the history of the Orapa and sister mines, the contribution they have made to the economy, and also the impact and income the mines have brought to the people of Orapa and surrounding areas. We also learnt about safety and security measures that should be maintained whilst in the mine.
Once we had all the information about how the mine came to be, it was time to see the beauty with our own eyes. Each person was given protective mine gear which was an essential component for our safety and security seminar. We received a pair of goggles, earplugs, gloves, heavy boots, a shirt, pants and hard hat; we fit right in with our tour guides and were finally ready to enter the mine!
Regina, Kelly and Ariana snapping selfies in their protective mine gear!
Group Selfies are always the best selfies - Summer 2016 students, volunteers and Program Assistant in protective mine gear!
Student Volunteer Eunice in her protective mine gear!
Our guides took us on a specific route which allowed us to view the main components of the mine. We were fortunate enough to understand exactly how the ore is extracted and the tacit process required to produce beautiful diamonds ready for sale.
Summer 2016 at Orapa Diamond Mine
Once our tour came to an end, we changed back into our regular clothes and enjoyed a well-deserved lunch at Wimpy Restaurant in Orapa. We then head south to our next location.
Khama Rhino Sanctuary
After lunch,we headed approximately 200 kilometres south to Serowe, one of the largest villages in Botswana, specicifally to a place known as Khama Rhino Sanctuary. The Khama Rhino Sanctuary (KRS) is a community based wildlife project, established in 1992 to assist in saving the vanishing rhinoceros, restore an area formerly teeming with wildlife to its previous natural state and provide economic benefits to the local Botswana community through tourism and the sustainable use of natural resources.
Once we arrived, the students, volunteers and Program Assistant settled into their chalets and had a relaxing afternoon. That evening, we all enjoyed a wonderful dinner that left us all calling for seconds. Dinner was followed by an exhilerating night game drive through the sanctuary, which is home to the largest population of Rhino's in Botswana, as well as other wildlife and exotic birds.
Ariana, Cindy and Kelly were all smiles during the evening game driveSome game spotted during the evening game drive at Khama Rhino Sanctuary
Claire and Hailey enjoying the evening game drive at Khama Rhino Sanctuary
Discovering Serowe's History
The Village of Serowe is a custodian of Botswana's contemporary history. Serowe is the birth place of Botswana's founding father, and first President, a true Diamond, Sir Seretse Khama. The village is home to the royal cemetry, and Khama III Memorial Museum which was our next stop.
The next morning, we drove a few kilometers to Khama III Memorial Museum. We were greeted by a friendly guide who took us through a tour of the musuem and the history of Serowe and Sir Seretse Khama. We begun with the origins of the village, its natives, to the controversial relationship Sir Seretse Khama and Lady Ruth Khama, the history of the famous writer Bessie Head who settled in the Serowe village, and finally to the people and Botswana today!
Graduation Speech by the Chancellor of the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland - Sir Seretse Khama
Learning about the history of Serowe and its People
Learning about the history of Serowe and its People
Learning about the history of Serowe and its People
Learning about the history of Serowe and its People
The history of Serowe is a major link that has helped shape Botswana's rising success as a nation. Khama III Memorial Museum serves as a pivotal learning hub for Batswana and visitors alike. It is important to ensure that tradition and history is kept carefully, and shared with younger generations and those who are curious to learn; as in the famous words President Seretse Khama " A nation without a past, is a lost nation, and a people without a past, is a people without a soul."
All in all, the weekend was a success, from the exhilarating mine tour, to the wildlife and adventure at Khama Rhino Sanctuary, to the wonderful lessons and history at Khama III Memorial Museum, its safe to say we had a blast!
At CIEE Gaborone, we make it a point each semester to give back and lend a much needed helping hand to members of our community. This Summer, we decided to chose a group we had never worked with, the amazing: I AM Special Education Society! Here's whats in this issue:
I AM Special Education Society is a small community-based education centre for children and youths with learning disabilities. I AM Special Education Society aims to "Empower and provide education services to those who learn differently", and their main objective is to promote a sense of self reliance amongst people with disabilities and to help them integrate into the society.
I AM Special Education Society is situated in Tlokweng, just behind Tlokweng Main Kgotla. They enroll several students with different disabilities such as Down syndrome, Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Epilepsy, spina bifida and other developmental delays. The students are taught basic academics (literacy & numeracy), pre-vocational studies & self-help skills, PE, Computer awareness and they all undergo Auditory Integration Training.
I AM Special is one of the few centres in Botswana that is dedicated to children with learning disabilities. Special learning schools like I AM Special, still lack resources, and support from the local community. The centre therefore welcomes visitors to come and meet the children to raise awareness about the challenges people living with disabilities in Botswana may face. They encourage visitors extend their time, get involved and share skills with members of I AM Special Education Centre!
tCIEE Gaborone and I AM Special Team
CIEE Gaborone at I AM Special Volunteer Day!
I AM A Helping Hand
Our day started bright and early! Even though our time was limited, our mission was to ensure we left a long lasting impact on the organization. We decided to focus on a few things that we could help change in one day. Prior to our visit, we had a put a comity together to help identify key areas where we could focus. We noted a few of the surroundings needed to be refurbished, the sign into the centre was abit old and the students at the education center really enjoy interacting with visitors.
With these in mind, a group of our best got together to draw, outline and paint two new signs, which could be placed outside the Education Centre for all to see. Our students and volunteers worked hard and tirelessly to produce a wonderful end product. A special thank you to our very own, Regina Brecker for the insurmountable effort she put to pull this together.
Our students and volunteers working hard on the new signs
The Finished Product !
As I AM Special Education Society caters to children of all ages dailey, we thought to brighten up the surroundings by giving the hall ways fresh coats of paint. We as a team added hand prints and beautiful designs to create a warm, welcoming environment.
Keyandra ready to make her mark!
Our student volunteers did a wonderful job in the hallways
Our Students Anna, Keyandra, Cristina and many more took time to paint the hallways of I AM Special
I AM Human
Our most exciting moment of the day came when we had the opportunity to meet and interact with the children of I AM Special. Once they arrived, everyone was eager to get them fired up with a number of games. Our most enjoyable game happened to be an interesting take on Duck Duck Goose. Our students and volunteers clearly needed more practice as the kids from I AM Special showed us just how its done!
Michael having a go at Duck Duck Goose at I AM Special
Cristina having a go Duck Duck Goose at I AM Special
As some of our students enjoyed games with the children and staff of I AM Special, a few members of our Team prepared a quick meal for everyone to share. After the fun and games, we settled down and enjoyed lovely treats; They prepared hotdogs, fruit, muffins, snacks and juice for the children, which made for a wonderful time to chat and get to know them on a more personal basis.
Lunch time at I AM Special Volunteer Day
Great interactions with the Kids of I AM Special
I AM Involved
As our day came to an end, we donated a few necessities to the centre to help them ease up their daily tasks and wrote them a sincere Thank You card. Our efforts were small, and insurmoutable to the efforts the staff and team of I AM Special Education Society dedicate on a daily basis. We hope our visit there may inspire and urge more members of the community to get involved and experience the wonderful individuals we got the privilege to meet. To those who would like to get involved, spend some time or would be in a position to make any form of donation to I AM Special Education Society, please telephone +267-3910214/71517761 or visit them at I AM Special Education Centre, Mangwana Centre, Tlokweng, Botswana. Postnet Tlokweng P/Bag T010 #66 Tlokweng.
Post by Rachel Stahl from the University of Colorado at Boulder
Coming to Botswana, I was unsure how much travel time I was going to have available, as well as if there would be anyone to travel with. Fortunately, everyone is determined to see as much of this area as they can, so do NOT be worried about having no one to travel with. Unfortunately, since the summer session is packed with a full class schedule and CIEE-sponsored trips/events, traveling has to be squeezed into a couple free weekends.
Take advantage of any open weekend (especially the longer weekends due to holidays)! You have already paid for the expensive plane ticket here, so these little trips will never be this cheap again. There are numerous different trips to take depending on time and money constraints. This summer, groups have planned trips to the Delta, Namibia, Cape Town, and the elephant sanctuary in South Africa. I personally just visited Namibia for a three-day weekend, and I will be flying to Cape Town for a four-day weekend.
My group decided to go with staying in an Airbnb in both Namibia and Cape Town, and we were able to find great houses for very cheap when split among a group. Another cost effective option is camping, just make sure you have the right supplies like sleeping bags, tents, etc. Also take a look in the book in the CIEE office to see where people stayed on their trips—it is a great resource!
Our Airbnb in Langstrand, Namibia--Just a quick drive outside of Swakopmund
As soon as you begin planning trips, look at flight prices! The drive to Swakopmund, Namibia took ~18.5 hours each way, so this drastically cut into the amount of time we could spend around the city. Some of the drives are much shorter, and these can be arranged with taxi drivers associated with CIEE.
I always use Trip Advisor as a first resource to research the top activities and attractions within an area. I also use Instagram by searching for pictures by location. This can give you great ideas for picture spots and must-see views! Create a list for what to do each day, and make sure to check what days/times things are open so you can plan around it. If you are booking activities, begin the process far in advance, as communication can be difficult through email.
Quad biking on the dunes in Swakopmund, Namibia
My favorite part of any trip!!! My go-to resource is Yelp; it has yet to lead me wrong. In some smaller cities/towns, there are few postings on Yelp, so I would recommend using a guidebook like The Lonely Planet. Again, I also like to use Instagram for researching food. I usually just search something like “Cape Town Food,” and then various accounts and hash tags will show up.
Dinner at a restaurant called Tug in Swakopmud, Namibia
Do the majority of your trip planning before you leave when you have stable Wi-Fi. This includes writing down the address to where you are staying, any phone numbers you may need, and names of restaurants. You do not want to get stuck without Wi-Fi and have no information. Also, if you are traveling to a different country, turn on roaming on the trap phones (bought during the first week of the program) before you leave Botswana.