Local Culture

This past weekend, we had the unique opportunity to embrace some of the unique culture of the Batswana. On Saturday, we went to the west to see rock paintings and the Livingstone Tree. The Livingstone Tree was particularly interesting to me. Dr. David Livingstone was a missionary from Scotland who traveled to Botswana to spread his religion as well as provide medical treatment to locals. Under that very tree, the first medicine was practiced in Botswana. Story goes that Dr. Livingstone became lost in a small village on his journey, where he was kept for six years due to his interesting complexion (i.e. he was white). Years later, when another missionary found him, he said the legendary quote – “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”

After visiting the tree, we spent the afternoon at a cultural village. Similar to how Plymouth Rock is, this village is a way for tourists to get an idea of what the customs and culture of the Batswana are like. We were immediately greeted by a group of traditionally dressed individuals not much older than myself, who sang and danced our way to the entrance of the village. There, they performed some dances for us all and even pulled a few of us into the mix. We then had a delicious lunch of maize meal, bread, vegetable gravy, and more. It was so filling and satisfying after a long morning that we simply couldn’t move for a bit afterwards!


The dancers wore strings of old butterfly cocoons that made noise when they stomped around.

We then learned about what village life was like about 10 years ago for people our age. A traditional marriage ceremony was very much governed by chance. They actually roll dice to determine whether or not the bride and groom can spend their first night together! And then, once the dowry is settled and they determine that the marriage is sanctified, they spend their first night together. And – believe it or not – their grandmothers actually WATCH them spend the night. And check to make sure the girl’s a virgin. Which we were all definitely horrified at the thought of! We also witnessed definite gender roles – while the boys played tic tac toe and goofed off, the girls had to do chores. It’s nice to see that our society has progressed past this ūüôā



Grinding the maize (similar to that cooked in our lunch)!

After we got back to campus, Sam, Gaby, Meghna, and I got to have another amazing cultural experience – we had a fabulous dinner with our roommates. They cooked a traditional meal for us of maize, kale, chakalaka (a fantastic salsa-like sauce with beans, cabbage, corn, and carrots), mashed potatoes, and a fruit trifle dessert. We really enjoyed ourselves! We lucked out with roommates this year – ours have been incredibly kind in showing us the city and talking to us about local cuisine, culture, and more.

We’ve only three more days here… but we definitely intend to enjoy them to the best of our ability!


The Beauty of African Wildlife

We just returned yesterday to campus after a three-day venture to South Africa. To get there, we took two buses full of CWRU students and research students from Professor Lacks’ chemical engineering projects. We first crossed out of Botswana into no man’s land, then drove about 300 meters to cross into South Africa!

We spent our days off at the Tau Game Lodge on the Madikwe Game Reserve just over the border into South Africa. The lodge itself is a five-star resort, complete with a spa, catered meals, and beautiful architecture. What startled me the most was that as soon as we arrived and were handed drinks, we were able to walk up on the meal deck and see elephants at the watering hole just beneath us. This would be a theme for the trip – around 11 each morning, a herd of elephants would mosey over to the lake in then back of the lodge and drink and splash one another. They were all adorable and so close to us that I really couldn’t believe my eyes!


(This is our room! We even had heated mattress pads. It was great. We also had an open shower – so we got to shower under the stars, which was amazing!)

We went on our first game drive on Monday night. Our van was open and sat 9 of us. We were all armed with pretty big cameras and we were in luck, because we saw amazing wildlife right away! Our ranger, Megan, took us first through the elephant herd. Then we got a pretty good piece of luck Рwe got to see four male cheetahs lazing together. The reserve itself has only five of the animals, so seeing four at once was so impressive that even Megan took pictures! DSC_0242

(We were close enough to the animals that I barely needed to use the zoom on my camera!)

We continued on our drive and, while tracking a lion, saw an absolutely beautiful sunset over the plains. We also got to see some rhinos drinking from another waterpool and at night, Megan pointed out some constellations for us. They’re different since we are on the other side of the equator – you can easily see Orion’s Belt from here, which was cool!


The next morning, we woke up at 6:30 to a delicious breakfast of fresh fruit, which we haven’t had in a while. Our morning game drive turned out to be the most fruitful. We saw giraffes, kudu, empala, wildebeest, zebra, and more elephants! We even saw a lioness with four cubs, and a male lion, but he was somewhat hidden in the brush. To end the drive, Megan took us only a LITTLE too far into an elephant herd and we actually angered a baby elephant! He was trumpeting loudly at us and stomping on the ground to try and intimidate us. Megan didn’t think it was a problem until his mom started chasing us as well – so then we basically booked it out of there!


(He was definitely not so happy with us.)


(He, however, seemed to enjoy all the attention!)

After some valuable afternoon time just lounging in the sun by the pool, we went for another drive. This time, we were able to see the male lion, having just feasted on his wildebeest kill. We saw his mate chomping away at the kill in the bushes as well. It was awesome how close we were able to get to both animals and how unimpressed they seemed at our presence. We were so close to the animals consistently. At one point, Gaby and I were just on our porch, when an elephant literally walked right up next to the fence surrounding us. He was so close that had we really wanted to, we probably could have reached out and touched him!

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(Photograph by Gabriella Chandra.)

To end the amazing three days we had, we had dinner under the stars at a bonfire. The lodge was really good about cooking vegetarian meals and really impressive desserts, so I was extremely happy with everything we ate! In conclusion, it was an amazing vacation and an amazing break from classes that we all really enjoyed. I’d love to go back and I know myself and my classmates would 100% recommend coming back to Tau Game Lodge in the future!


Kgale Hill and Pictures!

Yesterday, as a study break and a unique chance to explore the terrain of our country, we visited a local “mountain” called Kgale Hill and embarked upon a journey to climb to the top. Our professor had told us that it would be roughly at 45 minute walk to the top… but he neglected that it would be predominately straight uphill rock climbing! It was definitely an enjoyable and physical experience getting all the way up.


But once we finally reached the top, the views were absolutely amazing. We could see for miles and miles over the vast terrain that Botswana encompasses. The sun was high in the sky and we were able to get some amazing pictures of our home for these three weeks! It was an amazing experience being able to explore something new and to see the terrain of Africa in a different light.

We’ve got our last thermodynamics exam for this section tonight at 4 pm and then we’ll be heading into the city to explore what’s out there before we leave tomorrow morning for our safari! We will be going to South Africa and hopefully seeing some amazing animals, so we are all pretty excited. When we return, we’ll be starting up thermo again with our new professor!


Our entire class at the summit.

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A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles. -Tim Cahill

– Shruthi




Nando, Chicken Lickin’, and Cheese!


Even though a smile is¬†universally¬†understood, what we say when we smile for the camera differs in every country. Here in Botswana, the kids say “Nando” or “Chicken Lickin” and of course the classic “Cheese!”.¬†

I learned these phrases as I posed for the cameras after we had donated tennis raquets to the local tennis club. Over the past couple months I had been helping my friends Dan Hageman and Ben McClarren, both CWRU students who had gone on the Botswana trip last year, collect tennis supplies to donate here in Botswana. Last year Dan and Ben donated to 3 different schools, and this year we collected 65+ raquets and 150+ balls. The students at the tennis club were extremely happy to see the raquets and I heard shouts of “OH a Babolat!” and “I want that Wilson!” as we took the picture with all the donated raquets strewn in front of us.¬†


After all the picture taking I was able to hit some with the kids, and found out that they come everyday after school to the courts to practice. I was definitely rusty and was struggling to keep up with them. I mean in the next court over, the girl was ranked 10th in all of South Africa!

Overall, it was a great study break and I ¬†whether its “Nando”, “Chicken Lickin'”, or “Cheese” I was thrilled to put a smile on those kids faces and share my love of tennis.¬†

Peace & Love

Gab(y) in Gabs


Light & Water

As we another day in Botswana comes to a close, all of us has come to appreciate two vital things in life, light and water.

Yesterday, a group of us took a trip to the mall to watch Iron Man III to experience the cinemas in Africa. They’re pretty much the same as in the US, the only difference is that you have assigned seats. As we all sit down with our snacks, the movie rolls, and just as it seems as if Iron Man is being defeated, the power goes out! The entire mall has no power, so after 15 minutes we get our tickets refunded and head back to campus.

Today we had our first off campus excursion to a water well and to a school. The water well we visited was a borehole in the middle of nowhere that drew water through pipes to a village about 50 km away. It was powered by a diesel engine, and once that borehole dried up, they moved all the machinery to the next one. The only form of treatment to the water they had was chlorine tablets.


We then visited Thamaga Secondary School where we were able to interact with the kids during their Sports Time. We played tennis, volleyball, Frisbee  chess, and were able to watch them practice their traditional dance. Children in Botswana are sponsored to go to school all the way to the University level if they choose to do so. This particular school taught everything in English so the students were able to interact with us quite easily. We had a great time and were very impressed with how fast they pick up different skills.


We ended our excursion with dinner at a local restaurant where we sat outside underneath a straw thatched. The small restaurant was able to accommodate all 22 of us with french fries and chicken.


To round the great day off, we came home to the pleasant surprise of hot water. Our suite all took nice hot showers and are now off to study for our first Thermo exam tomorrow. It’s hard to believe that we have to go back to class after all that we experienced today and remember next time you turn on your lights or drink a sip of water appreciate the fact that you have it so easily.

Peace & Love

Gab(y) in Gabs


Gabs City

We are technically students at the University of Botswana, which is located in the capital city of Gaborone (or Gabs). Everything here is very different from the US. Since we’re below the equator, it’s technically winter here, so there are (thankfully) no mosquitoes, and the nights can get cold (45F is about average). The land is barren and not very green, and the sun seems to shine hotter here because of a lack of pollution.


We’ve spent the last two mornings in class, learning thermodynamics in preparation for our first exam this upcoming Friday. The way it works here is that we are in class from about 8:30 – 12:00, given that our homework problems get finished. Professor Lacks will lecture for about half an hour or 45 minutes, then give us¬†some time to complete problems based on the lecture itself. It’s an interesting way to take a class – it really forces you to be on top of the material and learn quickly. There are only 22 people in our class, so it’s definitely a group learning environment. I’m about to redo the problems on my own just to make sure I can do them ūüôā

What that means is that after 12:00, we basically have the day to ourselves! Yesterday, we took a tour of Gaborone. We went to the Three Chiefs monument and learned a bit about the history of Botswana and the Batswana (that means the people that live here). The population here is only 2 million, which is small compared to South Africa, in which a single region can have a population as high as 4.6 million. This September marks Botswana’s 47th year of independence. They’re definitely a new and upcoming country. The economy here is based heavily on tourism and on diamonds. We’re visiting a diamond facility later this trip so that will certainly be interesting!


Today, we’re planning¬†on visiting the Riverwalk, which is a mall, to see Iron Man (because apparently movies in Botswana are super fun to go to). Then we’re going to try and get some pizza! Food here is very similar from meal to meal. We generally have two meats, rice, some other form of starch or carbohydrate, and a salad. We drink this delicious juice with our meals that to me is some sort of combination of orange and mango and heaven. There’s also a convenience store nearby that we can go to for snacks (like European Fanta, which is delicious, chips (aka fries), candy, delicious donut-like fat cakes, and more). So we’re not too bad off in terms of food!

We’re excited to keep learning about thermodynamics, but even more excited to keep learning about the city we’re living in for three weeks! PS: all pictures are from Gaby Chandra ūüôā



Things We Learned While Traveling

We are safely at the University of Botswana after roughly 30 hours of traveling! Right now, it’s night time here – we spent today getting some stuff, unpacking, eating, and exploring our school. We are (maybe) super excited to start our class tomorrow. But we¬†definitely learned in our hours some valuable things about traveling…

1) There is never any free wi-fi. Why is there never any free wi-fi? C’mon. Panera has free wi-fi. You’d think London Heathrow Airport can afford it too.

2) Because there’s never any free wi-fi, communicating with people is REALLY difficult. Especially when you’re trying to meet people at said London Heathrow Airport to roam the city and you can’t find them.

3) People watching should be a national sport. Especially when you (aka Shruthi and Kim) are so good at it that you manage to invent entire backstories for your characters and then get really creeped out when they see you.

4) Never get stuck in security behind first-time travelers. They won’t know what liquids to take out or when to take off their belt and then they’ll get strip searched and it’ll all be way too time-consuming for you.

5) You will never find a comfortable way to sleep on a plane. Regardless if you opt for the “window slouch” or the “lay over multiple seats” or whatever, you will be woken up by flight attendants serving coffee or your foot will fall asleep and start tingling. It will not be a pleasant experience. But with a time difference, it is essential.

6) Check your baggage tags to make sure they’re going to the right airports at the right times… otherwise you’ll end up without any clothes ūüė¶

More later!