Monday, March 16, 2009

Moving into Mochudi and and all that ensued

Now, I was going to write about my week last week, but I can't remember a single thing that happened. Now, I'm fairly certain that a lot happened, but this weekend has overshadowed anything interesting that I could have talked about.
And so I will begin the tale of my weekend adventures:

On Saturday I woke up around 7am to pack. I showered, drying off with a t-shirt as I had to bring my towel to the village.
I suppose I should begin by explaining what exactly I was packing for.
This week is homestay week. Everyone in my program, all 12 of us, are living in the village of Mochudi for the week. We each are staying in different homes across this very large village, each home with different economic wealth and family makeup. Last week I was informed that there was a single mother, a grandmother, a 29 year old son, a 12 year old son, and an 8 year old daughter in my house.
With that limited information about the people who I would be calling family for the next week, the group of us headed out at 8am on Saturday. (actually it was more like 9am as our bus was late).
Arriving in the village, we began to drop off each person, one by one. We began to see the range of families and homes we all would be staying in, with some filled with small children, while others looked like they had primarily older members. It was somewhat sad to see everyone leaving, but I got more excited as the time went by, looking out the widow at all the goats, donkeys, and people.
Finally there was only about 5 of us left on the bus. Batsi, out program coordinator, looked back at me and told me I was next. Now, I had been told I was about a 5 minute walk from a few people, but after driving around for over an hour, I had absolutely no idea where anyone else was. We drove down a dirt road, came to a house at the end, and finally I was home!!
I hopped out and first met my older brother, Mpo, younger brother, Molopi, younger sister, Banyana, and grandma, grandma. After the bus left, I was informed my mother, Mmathebe, was at a wedding and wouldn't be back until the next day. My brother called her and I talked to her for a moment: "Hello!" "Hello my son!" "How are you?" "I am fine. I will be home tomorrow." "Alright." "Bye." "Bye." It was a good beginning, I could tell.
I was shown my room (I actually have my own room. A few people are sharing beds with their brothers or sisters. I lucked out)
Since my mother wasn't there, who I am supposed to give the gifts to, I couldn't use those to break the ice. Instead I brought out the postcards of Sandwich that I had brought (thanks mom) and pictures of my family and snow. This kept them asking questions about Sandwich and the animals on the cards. And when I say them, it was pretty much my older brother. The younger sister just stares at me and the younger brother just kinda tries to ignore me. Grandma was somewhere else.
After showing them the pictures and postcards we sat and watched tv. I tried to talk to everyone, but they just looked at me. And I know full well they can speak English. The kids at the orphanage can speak English at 6 or so, and Mpo told me they could. So, after some awkward sitting and me trying to make conversation I gave in and watched tv. They only have one station and luckily it was soccer. You would have liked it dad.
I then remembered I had brought my hemp! I proceeded to get my hemp out and show Banyana how to make a necklace. Molopi was too cool do want to learn. Later he did though. I cut her some so she could work on one, and I started on my own necklace. Since I hadn't really become friendly with grandma, I figured making her a necklace would break the ice. I finished, making a cool red hemp necklace with a shell from Fairfield beach.
I walked outside and gave it to grandma. She took it, laughed, talked to me in Setswana, then pointed at me and and started talking to Mpo. I took this as a good sign so I proceeded back inside to help Banyana with her necklace. She eventually got the hang of it.
After sitting around for an hour or so, I asked Mpo where the bus stop was. Since we have to attend classes still this week, I have to take an hour bus ride from Mochudi into Gaborone to the university. He said sure and we set out. Walking down to the bus stop took maybe 30 minutes, during which I was able to make some solid conversation with Mpo. I asked him about the village and what he does (bartender at a restaurant), and various other things about his life. It was cool.
Then he told me that grandma was scared of me because I spoke English and she did not. Scared of me?! Jeremy?! After I heard this news I was determined to use what little English I knew with grandma.
We eventually made it to the bus stop, passing by the home of Rebecca, one of my friends also doing a homestay. I was relieved there was someone within 5 miles of me. The village is intersected by a number of paved roads, and off of these houses stand, with fenced in houses and yards, full of chickens and children.
Here's the chickens in my yard:
I would eat one later this weekend.
After our tour of town tour, we got back to the house, settling down to watch more tv. I felt like I should be doing something, but I suppose there isn't as much to do in a village as I imagined. Mpo did tell me that he would take me to his cattle post on a donkey cart. These carts are pretty much the roofless and sideless frame of a car pulled by two donkeys. The cattle post is suppose to be the man's area, where time is spent looking at cattle, drinking milk from them, and drinking beer.
After watching soccer for eons Mpo decided that it was time for lunch/dinner at 3pm. We made some papa and potatoes and chicken and a tomato-onion-garlic sauce. I tried to help, but the only thing I was allowed to do was peel the potatoes. Food was good and quite filling.
After dinner Mpo asked me if I wanted to bathe, to which I replied that I was ok for now. We proceeded to watch, in order: Setswana news, Friends, professional dart throwing, a soap opera in both Setswana and English, and My African Dream. My African Dream is a talent show where people sing, dance, rap, and recite poetry. I wish I could have understood it, though Mpo told me what some of the people were saying, like the man who recited a poem on AIDS, which I could never have guessed because everyone was laughing through it.
I was so sick of watching tv while trying to make conversation and failing when Mpo talk me to bathe. There seemed no arguing, so I agreed. Apparently bathing is very important in this society, as Mpo told me they sometimes bathe 3 or 4 times a day. He took me around back to where the outhouse and shed/bath. There is no plumbing at the house so there is no flushing toilet, only an outhouse.
Mpo opened the door to the shed and low and behold, a bath tub!!!
With many cockroaches!!!!

Surrounded by, well, stuff!!!
This is a text I received while in bath:
"Hows life at home?"
My response: "I'm ok. Grandma is scared of me, my young brother and sister don't talk to me, my older brother is cool, and my mom hasn't come home yet. But I am taking a warm bath right now, so that's pretty awesome."

So the bath was cool, and when I went back in I was offered dinner, which was leftovers from lunch. It was around 8 though, so I wasn't feeling like eating before bed.
As I was heading off to bed, Mpo showed me his room and various books he thought I'd be interested in. Included were Bricklaying and Roofing, Geography of Botswana, and a bull catalogue. On the cover of the bull catalogue was a large bull, which Mpo commented was quite nice. I took his word for it, and he proceeded to show me every bull in the catalogue. Now, it turns out this was for ordering bulls or their "urine" as Mpo put it to impregnate your own cattle. It was weird. I went to bed at 9pm. It was awesome.

I woke up around 7 the next morning to go to church. Because my host mom wasn't home the family wasn't going to their church, so I called a friend, Carlos, and found out I could go to his church. Mpo walked me there, which was about 40 minutes from my house. At the church, which was called the Spiritual Healing Church, I met everyone that was of some importance. When Carlos and my friend Max got there with their families, we met with the pastor in his office. He asked us to write down our names and why we were in Botswana. He then tried to pronounce our names.
Me-No, Jeremy
M-Close enough

After our meeting, during which I was surprised the minister didn't react to Max saying he was Jewish, we went into the church. The church was segregated by age and gender, so we sat with the older men, while male children, female children, young women, and older women all sat i different sections.
The mass was entirely in Setswana, except for the reading, which they did in Setswana and English because we were there.
There was a great deal of singing, which made me sad that I didn't have a hymnal. However, they clapped through all the songs, which was entertaining. I picked up the chorus for the majority of songs though.
The reading this week was Jesus washing the disciples feet, so they had a special rite where the pastor washed the congregation's feet. Now, the men went first, so I was one of the first ones done. Then the young men went. After all the males had gone, we had taken around 25 minutes, making me wonder if only men got their feet washed. No. Not true. Every single person there got their feet washed.
The congregation sung the same song, about the cleansing water the entire time. I memorized it. I sung it and clapped for An hour and a half. THE SAME SONG!!!!! It was crazy. So the feet washing made the normally shortish service run over 3 hours and a half. Eventually Max and Carlos' host moms called us outside and had us walk to their homes.
I found that my home is much less well off than them, as their homes are large and they have satellite tv. I was eventually walked back to my house.
We watched more soccer for a while until I asked Mpo to walk me to the bus stop again, so I would remember in the morning. He proceeded to walk me in a totally different direction to another stop, which happened to be near where my friend Alex was staying.
When we returned my host mom was home. She is a very nice lady, though equally as quiet as the rest of the family, or so I thought. After sitting outside with the family, she dismissed me inside to watch tv more. I showered again, then ate freshly slaughtered chicken and sorghum porridge (it tastes exactly like traditional beer, eg not good). Bed at 8pm. Very nice.

I woke up at 5am to get to the bus. I had talked to Alex the night before and decided to meet him so we could take the bus in together. Then the madness began.
I walked out back to wash my face before I left. Unbeknownst to me the chickens sleep next to the outhouse, thus the rooster sleeps there. I must have woken it up because it started crowing the instant I walked by, scaring me half to death. I got over it, washed, and went back to my room. While packing up I could hear grandma talking quickly and someone talking to her. I walked out and was greeted by Mpo. The following conversation occurred:
M-What are you doing?
J-I'm going to the bus.
M-It is early, you're taking the half six (6:30) bus.
J-No, I want to get in early and take it in with my friend Alex.
M-At 6:30
J-No, 6. I'm meeting him.
J-No, at his house. We saw it yesterday, I pointed it out to you.
M-I don't know. Go inside and sit.

I proceed to walk inside the living room, where I found grandma on the floor under a blanket mumbling. Not wanting to wake her I quietly took a seat. She started talking loudly, sat up, turned, saw me, and yelled. She then turned and started shaking the "blanket" a few feet away from her, which turned out to be Moloki, all the while yelling and pointing at me.
Traumatized, I just sat.
Finally, my host mom came in and quizzed me about this plan I had for taking the bus. I appreciate the concern but she was certain that I would be lost and killed if I tried to do as I told her. She eventually said she would walk me to Alex's house. We never made it. She had me call Alex, who couldn't give directions to his house, so we went to a different stop. I asked her if we had to wait down and across the street with the other people, but she said no. Then a bus passed on the other side and stopped a ways down.
I literally sprinted to make the bus.
Then came the hour long bus ride, during which I stood the whole way. We blew out a back tire but did we stop, never. That's why there's two tires on the back wheel.

Anyways, that was my weekend.
I hope you made it through the entire story. I didn't realize it would be so long. Sorry.
I'll have the rest of my story next post.
I hope it is as amusing to you as it has been for me.


  1. Many moments worthy of a hearty laugh. And a shaking of the head with regards to the borderline bizarre. Especially your 5 AM interrogation. Seems like a hell of a cast.

  2. I agree with Adam. Take notes - we'll make a sitcom.

  3. Truth is stranger than fiction - and truth just kicked major comedic butt!