This post was written on Sept 10th. It was posted out of order with the last one “Adjustment” for timing reasons.
So I obviously knew when I decided to move to Botswana that I was leaving what I knew behind and I’m totally OK with that. These are just a few of the differences that I’ve really noticed here in Botswana that I think are interesting to share:
- The cultural expectation here is that you greet everyone you see and every time you see them. So everyone on the street greets you. Unless you decide to look like a really unfriendly American, but I don’t suggest that. It’s also really common for people to know my name and for little children to run after me. So these are definitely a few things that you don’t expect in America. When I would walk down the street in America, I would usually either give a friendly smile and head nod or pretend that my eyes have forgotten how to raise high enough for eye contact. Here it is considered rude to not greet everyone you see.
- Fat is good. I repeat, being fat is considered good! It’s seen as a sign of status. If you’re fat, you must have enough money to feed yourself well. Of course, Western views are influencing the culture, so some of the younger folks think that fat is bad. However, I’ve had more strangers here call me beautiful and fat in a good way in the past month than I had in the 21 years of living in the states.
- On that same note, since I am fat, I am supposed to eat like my brothers (AKA way too much). I’m not really down for that for multiple reasons. Honestly, I didn’t eat that much in one sitting even when I was eating food that was not as carb heavy and strange to my system. Here, every meal is at least half rice or phaltshe and there are generally also potatoes or some other grain or carb. I get full after like five bites. It’s also way hotter for me here, so that makes me eat less. Also, I’m still trying to lose weight, so I don’t want to eat that much. Unfortunately, eating less is seen as bad here. Either you don’t like the cooking, or you are feel depressed. So that’s why there was a little bit of a miscommunication with my host mom and I at the beginning of my stay.
- Religion. I am a firm believer in owning your identity and not letting others oppress you, or even worse oppress yourself to fit into what others want you to be. So I didn’t hold my beliefs back when my host mom asked. With her, it was OK because she thinks of me as her child and believes she has to accept me no matter what, but there are a few people that it causes tension with. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not yelling from the rooftops “Hey Christians, I don’t believe in God”, but if I’m directly asked if I believe in God, I don’t like lying. I should be able to celebrate my own faith and that shouldn’t really be anyone else’s business. My host mom is very religious, so I went to church with her one Sunday. They had someone sit with me and translate because my mother is in the choir, so I was sitting alone. The woman translating for me kept asking if I knew the various stories and when I would reply that I didn’t she looked shocked each time. Then, at the end of the service, I was cornered by a gentleman who asked me what my prayer group was at home, whether I was a Christian and then the question I can’t get away from “Do you believe in God?” When I told him that I wasn’t raised Christian and that I don’t really believe in a God, he wouldn’t leave me alone about it. He kept saying things like “if God doesn’t exist, how do we exist?” and when I would respond, he would just ask it again in a different way and say things like “No, Kesa, there must be a God. How can you not believe in God?” So I’m still trying to decide if I will start skirting around the question more, or just keep owning my identity no matter what others think.
- “Why did you draw on yourself, Kesa? Will they come off?” These were the first questions that my host mom asked me about my tattoos. They’re definitely not as common here, but they are becoming more accepted as more youth get them. My host mom’s views have fluctuated on it. Once, she told me that she liked my tattoos and wanted some herself, but was afraid of needles. Then the other day, she saw my thigh tattoo for the first time. She told me she would beat my brother if he ever came home with a tattoo and that I would never find a husband. I told her that I didn’t want a husband that didn’t accept and like my tattoos as a part of me. She didn’t have much else to say after that.
That’s all I can think of right off the bat, but my personal site, Ralekgetho, is going to be an even more drastic difference. My brother mentioned to me yesterday, that he thinks I’ve gone through good transitions to get me ready for my official site. From America, to South Africa, Gabs, Molepolole, and then Ralekgetho. It’s been a small step further into the middle of nowhere with each new place. I can’t wait to see what other new changes are in store. Here I come, Ralekgetho!!