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!
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 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
Till Next time, Sala Sentle (Stay Well)!