Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Africa: Week 1

I'm here! This is the first time I've been able to access the internet since I've been here, but now I can get it often. It's pretty fast, which is a plus.
SO. I got into Botswana on Tuesday the 5th, flying into Gaborone on a propeller plane which reminded me of the one Indiana Jones uses. Stepping off the plane all of us were hit by the heat. We were met in the airport by Batsi, who is the program director here. We got our bags, of which only a few didn’t arrive, and then we drove to the place we were staying the next few nights. On the way there, we could see the small houses of villages that surround Gaborone. We stayed at this conference center (which had no internet) for three nights. During the days, we had orientation for the program.
These first few days I experienced pretty bad culture shock and homesickness. During the orientation I was told this was normal, but it seemed most people experienced this later on in their stay, not getting off the plane. All I wanted to do was go home. It didn’t help that the orientation people kept stressing safety, telling us of all the things which could go wrong in our stay here. However, after getting to know the other international students, as well as traveling a bit around the city and surrounding areas, I’ve been doing a whole lot better.
One of our first excursions was on the third night, when we all went to a village to dine on some fine cuisine. We feasted on pineapple and ginger juice, goat meat, goat stomachs, chicken, some green stuff, and tree worms. After eating, we participated in some traditional African dance, which was a whole lot of fun. The next day all the students moved into our dorms. We have 12 people in our program, from schools like Amherst, Harvard, College of Charleston, Oregon, Nebraska, and Johns Hopkins. We all are living in the graduate housing, which is like the apartments at Fairfield. There are 6 single rooms, with one shower, one bathroom, and a common room with a kitchen. They are very nice, as these are the only dorms which have internet access in the rooms. I’m living with two other international students, Max from Harvard and Alex from Nebraska. They are both quite interesting and fun people to live with. Max is doing AIDS research while he’s here, so he’s only taking two classses and working in the lab the rest of the time.
I am taking 5 classes, Intro to Setswana (the language), Intro to the African Novel, Politics of Natural Resources, Politics of Poverty in Southern Africa, and African Traditional Religons. I had my first day of classes yesterday, jam packed with the first four of those classes, and not one class was held. The first week of classes are not usually well attended, by either student nor professor, so while I showed up to all of them, the professors didn’t. I had my religions class this morning though, and it was packed with around 70 students. The professor is quite a character, very animated and loud, cracking jokes and urging us to participate during the semester. In the universities in Africa, this is very uncommon, as most professors simply lecture, not wanting any participation or questions from the class. This religion class should be fun though.
Two days ago we went for a hike up Kgali Hill, which is the highest hill around these parts. It took a while, as we had to stop multiple times to let people catch up and rest, but the whole way up and from the top, the view was amazing.
Now I’m sitting in my room waiting for Setswana class. Perhaps we will have it today.
Pictures will be coming soon, as it seems the internet works the fastest at night and early in the morning.

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