Well, it is. Except for Shoshong. The village of Shoshong is surrounded by magnificent hills. It is so beautiful. I fell in love with it on the bus ride over. I brought food and things to cook with because I was told that my house was all set up. When I arrived, I quickly discovered that my stove, refrigerator, drawers, and couches were still MIA. So I had to do all of my cooking inside of the big house. I actually live on a compound, but more on that later.
I also bought an electric kettle (BEST PURCHASE EVER). My house technically has running hot water if you turn on a geezer and let it warm up, but over the 5 days I was there, I never experienced hot running water. No big deal. Up side: my house has electricity and running cold water. I have an inside toilet (SCORE). Down side: I won’t have a sink in my kitchen (which will also double as my living room). That means I will have to wash all of my dishes in a big bucket. Not the most convenient thing ever, but again, no big deal.
So, like I aforementioned, I live in a spare house on another woman’s property. Her name is Mma Mosinyi. She works at the clinic with me and can drive us both there every morning (SCORE). Mma Mosinyi is also absolutely amazing. Her late husband used to be the kgosi (chief) of Shoshong so she is very well respected within the community. Her adult son, Mosinyi, also lives with her in the main house. He attended university until he was inspired to return home and become a traditional healer. My brother, as we call him, uses the second spare house as a space for his ceremonies and rituals. This means that there are constantly people walking around the compound, coming into the main house to get food, etc. There are pros and cons to this. Cons: I won’t have as much privacy as I envisioned because I will have to greet all these people everyday. I have to be careful with making sure my house is secure and locked. Pros: I get to experience really cool cultural things. On the other side of the security issue, being on a compound inherently makes everything safer. There is a lot smaller chance that a stranger will come and break in.
Things I did this past week:
-Met clinic staff at my job, the assistant kgosi, a councilman, the village development council chairman, senior police station commander, elders in the community
-Visited the post office, animal health center, library, police station, kgotla (customary court)
-Introduced myself to dozens of unassuming Batswana walking around Shoshong
-Found a local counterpart for a great garden project at the clinic (to especially benefit HIV-positive individuals on anti-retroviral treatment, in my opinion)
-Made tea for a man who seemed to be having a stroke, and his four nieces
-Rejected a few marriage proposals
-Learned how to enter HIV-related data (CD4 count, CD4%, viral load) into the database provided by the government
-Witnessed the pre-funeral ritual of bringing the casket into the home the night before
-Attended a cultural event in my village. This was important enough that the Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism came to make a speech. We walked around Old Shoshong, where the current President of Botswana, Sir Seretse Khama Ian Khama’s great grandfather, had his initial settlement.
-Took part in a traditional healing ceremony—the idea being that appeasing the ancestors will cure a woman of her ailments. We had to remove our shoes. Mosinyi’s friend put ash on my forehead, along with the other 10 people present (kind of like Ash Wednesday). We all then threw ash onto a goat, which was later killed. The guys then cooked the meat on the fire. Later, everyone ate the goat meat and drank traditional brew. The women then sang and danced to the ancestors. Although I went to sleep before the eating, singing and dancing, I could hear them from my bedroom.
Botswana continues to be a country pulled between tradition and modernity. I look forward to seeing other manifestations of this.