Rutgers - Science Summer Abroad 2010
Nine Science Undergraduate Students Around the World

Friday, June 25, 2010


Dumelang borra le bomma (Hello ladies and gentlemen). I still can't believe that I'm in Africa. Part of it may be that there are many similarities between Botswana, especially Gaborone, and the US. One of the most comforting aspects of Botswana is that English is one of the national languages (Setswana is the other). But even though English is the language through which business and governmental affairs are conducted, much of what is spoken in the streets is Setswana. From what I've noticed, though, much of the younger generation is becoming more and more Americanized--my brothers like American, watch American movies, and even enjoy American fast food (but not McDonalds because there are none in Botswana). My home here, however, is slightly different from my house in New Jersey. The neighborhoods here are often called blocks, phases, or extensions. I live in Block 9, in the southwestern corner of Gaborone. My house is about the size of a Newell or Starkey and although we have a nice flat screen TV, we lack heating and hot water (and a car). I feel like a child writing this, but...I really hate taking baths here. Let me explain. Every morning my mom boils water for my bath and pours it into a circular container about 6 in high and 2 feet in diameter. I then add cold water under the overall water temperature feels alrite. When I stepped into the bathroom for my 1st bath, I was extremely confused. I embarassingly had to ask my mom how to take a bath. 2 weeks later, bathing remains one of my least favorite activities of the day. After bathing, I have breakfast (either corn flakes or a more traditional porridge. My mom likes adding sour milk to her porridge, but I prefer copious amounts of sugar) and then head off to school.

It takes me about an hour to get to school. I take public transportation, which means the combi. Combis are big vanish type vehicles that fit 15 people plus the driver. There are routes that travel all over Gaborone, most ending or starting at the central bus station where people connect to other combis. I have to take 2 combis to get from my house to the University of Botswana. One of the peculiar things about combi drivers is that they hate having an empty seat. They often cruise around neighborhoods looking for passengers until they fill the combi. Because of this, there is no schedule causing me to be late for class a few times.

Speaking of class, I'm taking classes in Public and Environmental Health and Setswana (which surprisingly happens to be extremely fun). Even though I will only be in Botswana for 7 weeks, I think that learning the language will help me better understand the culture and connect with the locals. Whenever I speak Setswana to a local, they always look extremely surprised. Let me give you an example. When I take the combi to school, I have to tell the driver to stop when he gets close to the University. During my first few rides, I would say "next stop please" and he would understand and stop. Nothing out of the ordinary. But after learning some Setswana, I now say "ema mo stopong" (literally, "stop next stop"). Almost every time I say this, the entire combi stops and stares at me. I guess they don't see a lot of foreigners who speak Setswana. Additionally, many Batswana have preconceived stereotypes of Americans. Namely, that Americans are rich and white. One young boy who I was talking to asked me where I was from. When I responded the United States, he grabbed my hair and said "but this is Chinese hair" (I'm actually Vietnamese).

One last comment. Last Saturday, I went on a Safari at Mokolodi, a nature reserve outside of Gaborone. We saw giraffes, zebras, impalas, and cheetahs. Unfortunately, we didn't get to see any rhinos. It was a short safari and we are planning on going on another, more thorough one in the future. On a totally different note, the US advanced out of the group stages of the World Cup with a last minute goal by Landon Donovan. My mom (who is supporting the US) and I started screaming wildly, hugging, and did a little jig. That's all for now.

Go siame.

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