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!

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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 🙂

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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!

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