Learning to be thankful

I’m almost finished with my first week of classes and I can feel myself starting to establish a routine. Some days are better than others, but I think I’m overall adjusting pretty well. Wednesday was a pretty good day. I had my first class at 8, so my host mom dropped me off at school around 7. It was absolutely freezing because it was so early. It’s so hard to get used to this bipolar weather- and I thought Kentucky was difficult! My 8 am was my psychology class. My teacher is very friendly and I think it will be a pretty easy class. It’s very similar to the other Developmental class I took at WKU, but this one focuses on childhood through adolescence. My religion class was at 11 and the professor actually came! He’s a little monotone and the class seems a little boring, but hopefully it won’t be too bad. I have to start on an essay that’s due in a month where I interview people from a Pentecostal Church here in Gabs. I’m actually amazed at how hands-on the education system is here. They don’t believe in multiple choice, so all exams are handwritten. The teachers also seem to love assigning papers that involve interviewing locals in the community. While I know that’s a great way to learn, I’m a little nervous about the challenge. It’s hard enough just to get to school in the morning!

I met some Batswana students in both classes, who were all very friendly. One girl named Goitse (meaning “to know”) even asked for my number and I ended up talking to her for about an hour. I also bought textbooks for my classes and got my student ID fixed. I’d say it was a pretty productive day. After class, I headed home and decided to walk around the Railway Mall at the bus station. I got KFC for lunch, but it’s nothing like the one at home. Other than the red bucket and logo, it’s a completely different menu! I’ve also learned that people here don’t often use forks or napkins, so I always have to ask for them. That night, I helped cook dinner with my host siblings. Tshego taught me how to skin and fin a fish, which was absolutely disgusting! I’m not a seafood fan in general, but seeing a whole fish in front of me didn’t do much for my appetite. She wanted me to eat the head and eyes because it’s apparently the best. We also had pasta with veggies, which made me so happy. They put mayo on their pasta here- isn’t that bizarre? I spent some time talking to my siblings and even got to Skype with my sisters to wish them a happy birthday!

Today, the only class I had was Toxicology. We started on actual content and were assigned our term paper topics. I’ve been assigned reading in two of my classes, so I’ve been spending a lot of time getting familiar with my textbooks. I don’t mind so much though, because it gives me something to do and reminds me of life at home. Toxicology is some pretty confusing stuff. I don’t think it’s the teacher, but more that it’s just a confusing topic. Trying to read the textbook tonight just felt like a bunch of gibberish. After classes, I ventured out with Ryan, Adela, and Wendi (some CIEE friends) on a mission to find Thai food. We were told there was one Thai restaurant in the city, so we made the trip. When we got there, we found out it wasn’t even Thai, but more like fast food Chinese. My fried rice was still a nice change from the food I’ve been eating. I just hope it doesn’t come back to haunt me later. I came home and took a long nap, which was just what I needed. Then I had dinner with my siblings again. I’m starting to figure out that my host mom doesn’t come home at any certain time and usually won’t be home for dinner. It makes me sad that I can’t spend more time with her. Tonight we had chicken stew and “dumplings.” They were basically just homemade rolls, but they were extremely dry. It kind of just tasted like I was eating a clump of flour. I’m starting to get pretty tired of the same food every night. It’s always the same chicken/beef stew, with just a different side. I guess I’ll get used to it eventually. Some of the dorm kids have been going out at night, but they usually don’t decide until too late, so the homestay kids get excluded. Tomorrow night we’re going out to celebrate Tyler’s birthday and we have a meeting to figure out our schedules for our CIEE classes and clinics. I can’t wait to start in the clinics- probably on Tuesday.

I’m starting to get used to the way of life here and my host home is actually starting to feel like home. I’m getting used to the terrible American TV shows blasting from the TV at all hours. I’m getting used to the Jesus music my sister plays and sings while she bathes every morning around 6am. The dogs that yap all night hardly bother me anymore. I’m getting pretty familiar with getting lost. It seems to be happening on a daily basis. But I’ve learned that you just have to stop and ask for help. It’s a thing I’m not so great at doing, but most people here are really friendly and will even walk with you until you get to your destination. I’m getting used to being stared at and I’m learning that it’s not out of disgust, but curiosity. It hardly even fazes me when people approach me asking for money or beg me to get into their combi. I was a little startled to be so bluntly asked on a date today in the combi. And I have to admit I was a little surprised to hear some schoolchildren yelling, “I love your skin” through their gate. But it’s things like this that are giving me the true experience of living in Gabs. I’m learning what it feels like to be a minority and it certainly isn’t easy.

The Batswana people certainly don’t live an easy life, but it’s all they know. This experience has already made me so incredibly thankful for everything I have back home and it’s only been two weeks. I can’t even imagine the difference it will make in my outlook when I return. So to those of you reading this and to me when I look back on this later: learn to be thankful. When your power goes out for a day due to a storm, be thankful you don’t experience power cuts mandated by the city weekly. When your parents can’t give you a ride somewhere, be thankful you aren’t expected to get home from school on a combi by yourself at the age of 10. When your Internet isn’t fast enough or it goes out, be thankful you have it because so many people around the world don’t. When you’re sick of the food in your house, be thankful your pantry has more than a few items. And when you fight with your dad, be thankful you have one because the majority of Batswana children grow up without them. I am guilty of all these things, but I am so thankful my eyes are being opened. 

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One thought on “Learning to be thankful

  1. Jamie! I’m so glad you’re getting settled in Africa! I leave for Harlaxton in three weeks. I’m encouraged by your boldness to go there. My worries seem silly compared to the risk that you’re taking. Kudos on your bravery!! I’m glad you’re keeping a good outlook on some of your struggles by realizing that you/we really have so much to be thankful for. I could totally see myself getting fed up (no pun intended) with the same food all the time. You know that story about the Isrealites getting tired of the mana God sent from heaven? I used to think the Isrealites were soooo stupid to grumble about that, and they were. But I do that NOW in America. I’m combatting that head on though by appreciating my “snack” times at home when I’ll only really eat three meals overseas (maybe I’ll get tea there…idk. Do you have tea time over there?). So, although our food options are slim, I’m on that peanut butter and raisin flow an hour before dinner- loving it.

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