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

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Quick Glace at Botswana

It feels like forever since my last post. Well, after I finished packing (finally), I caught a quick couple hours of sleep and left for JFK airport before the sun even rose. There were a ton of futbol crazed fans as the World Cup was to start in 3 days. Most notably, a crazed Mexican fan was wearing a huge sombrero with a brim that threatened to whack anyone who walked within a meter of him. The flight from JFK to Johannesburg was fine except for the fact that it was freezing (which seems to be a theme so far). After a quick connection to Gaborone, I finally arrived in Botswana...and quickly realized I was the only guy in the group (two thumbs up).

My first few days in Botswana consisted of getting used to the city and culture. Just a little background information first. Botswana is located in Southern Africa. It is the size of Texas or France, but with a population of only 1.8 million. The capital is Gaborone (pronounced hab-or-own-nay). It is winter here meaning minimal rain and cooler temperatures. The average during the day is usually around 70 degrees F, but this past week has been unseasonally cold. It got down to -3 degrees C last night!

Botswana is a rapidly developing country. It has been growing ever since its Independence in 1966 due to its vast wealth of natural resources, especially diamonds (but not blood diamonds). One of the things I found most shocking about Gaborone is how developed it is. There are cars everywhere and you can see influences of industrialism and consumerism throughout the day (BMWs, Blackberrys, and KFCs). In contrast to the developed parts of town, there are also neighborhoods filled with poverty, including one that my host family (I'll get to them in a bit) calls "the ghetto." People there live in one room shacks with outhouses right outside. The blending of rich and poor is often shocking as some of the poorest neighborhoods are directly adjacent to the modern business district. I also found the mixture of modern and traditional culture interesting. While business men work during the week, they can be found on weekends tending to their cattle, as apparently all men should own cattle. The people of Botswana are referred to as Batswana (singular Motswana) and the language is Setswana. Batswana are extremely friendly and its pretty common for strangers here to say hello and engage in conversation.
I moved in with my host family last Saturday. My mom, Grace, has two sons: 12 year old Thato, which means "will" in Setswana and 18 year old Thapelo, which means prayer. My Setswana name is Tiro (all three of us have names that start with T), which means work. Grace is not married as it is pretty common for families to be headed by single mothers. To be short (as this post is starting to get long), they are awesome. I have a lot more to say, but I will save it for my next post. But one more thing. Even though the World Cup is in South Africa, Botswana is still filled with futbol fever. I have bought two vuvuzelas (those awesome, yet annoying loud horns that you always hear) thus far and plan on getting a few more before I come home. Go siame (hoe see-ah-may, meaning goodbye in Setswana).
PS. I forgot to bring the cord connecting my camera to the computer so photo uploads will have to unfortunately wait.

PPS. The photo I have uploaded above is part of Gaborone from Kgale Hill, a mountain/hill just west of the city

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