Thursday, September 24, 2020

10 things I miss about Botswana

I was in Botswana during the academic year 2019-2020. I have been home for about a month. So, it is a good moment for me to reflect on the things I miss there. Here is a small list (order not important):

BSPCA used book store
They have a nice selection of used books, mostly fiction. For the price of a single new book at Exclusive Books (Airport Junction, Gaborone), I can buy a whole bag of used books at the BSPCA. Then once I finish reading them, I return them (free of charge) to the BSPCA as a contribution.

Biking to the airport on Sunday
On Sunday, when there were few cars on the road, I could bike through the city blocks up to the airport and back.

In the US, I hardly eat any beef at all. I am close to being a vegetarian. I fear what the American companies have done to it, and the grass-fed hormone-free organic beef is exorbitantly expensive. But in Botswana, I can’t seem to get enough: seswa (pounded beef), biltong (dried beef), braai (barbecue style beef), beef stew, ground beef. The beef is affordable, free of chemicals, and comes from cattle who spend their days roaming freely on the veld. 

There are lots of other food items that we appreciated in Botswana. For example, Botswana has great bread. You can buy hot loaves which are unsliced, or you can buy different types of smaller buns. There is nothing like it in NYC that I have found. We will also miss motogo (porridge) and madila (sour milk). 

Learning Setswana
Although my Setswana is not very good, I do enjoy trying to learn new words, having conversations with people, trying to read the newspaper, listening to the radio. I find myself saying Dumela (“hello”) to people in NYC, and they have no idea what I am talking about.

The Veld
The veld is the “flat, open country with few trees characteristic of parts of Southern Africa” (Cambridge Dictionary), or “a grassland especially of southern Africa usually with scattered shrubs or trees” (Mirriam-Webester). There is great beauty to the veld, including periodic sightings of wild animals like ostriches, guinea fowl and duikers.

Driving a 4x4
There is nothing like driving a 4x4 into the bush and knowing that nothing can impede your progress. Since I am a fairly big person (over 6’4”), a 4x4 is the perfect vehicle for me.

Choral Tradition
Botswana, and southern Africa more generally, has a history of choral singing. In church and on the radio, you can often hear their music. 

Indian Food
There is a large population of Indians in Botswana, with the result that quality Indian food is relatively easy to get. At least one large supermarket (Choppies Hyper) has a whole isle dedicated to Indian food. You can buy Indian take-out. And on certain days of the week you can buy Indian vegetables and “cheese” on the side of the road.

The Batswana (the people of Botswana)
The Batswana are reserved but friendly. They do not hesitate to help you out if you are in trouble, as I know from experience. I made lots of friends in the year I was there, including both people in the village and in Gaborone. I miss all of them.

Evening Walks
We loved taking evening walks, saying hello to the neighbors, seeing the houses in the neighborhood, talking to the vendors. Even the policeman knew us. NYC is much more crowded and hectic, and taking a walk there often seems like being on an obstacle course.

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