I woke up bright and early this morning to spend the day in Ramotswa, a nearby village. My Setswana teacher, Nthati, is actually from this village, so she invited our class to come. Those of us who decided to go caught a bus from the station at 7 am and it took about an hour to get to the village. The village was holding a bojale, a rite of passage in the Batswana culture. Bojale is the female version of this ceremony. Traditionally, it occurs when children hit puberty, marked by their first menstruation or wet dream. Nowadays, the ceremony does not occur often. In fact, this was the first one in over 30 years in this particular village. Therefore, the women were much older than you would expect. Batswana children now have the choice as to whether they want to undergo this right of passage. When participating, girls move away for a period of three months with a mentor and learn to be a good wife and mother. Boys learn how to be a good man and provide for the family, but also must undergo a circumcision. After the ceremony, marking the end of the three months, they are now ready to marry and start their adult life.
The program was held at the kgotla (high court) and consisted of lots of speakers, traditional songs and dances, and the official ceremony. The performers included the Adante chorus, a traditional whistling group, and a traditional dance group. All of them were wonderful! We also sang the Botswana national anthem (Pina Ya Sechaba), which we learned in class. The speakers were honestly pretty boring, mostly because we couldn’t understand a word. The majority of the program (probably 3 hours of it) was just speakers. However, Ramotswa is unique in that this village has the only female chief in all of Botswana. I thought that was so cool and I really enjoyed watching her speak, even if I couldn’t understand. You could tell how passionate she was and it made me proud for all of the women in the country. When the women undergoing the bojale came out, they were wearing outfits similar to the traditional dancers- hide skirts, sports bra type tops, and lots of colorful and beautiful jewelry. They were smeared in oil and their hair looked as if it had been painted. I could just tell how proud and happy they were. When the program ended (after much restless sitting), we ate some of the local food and conversed with some of the people of Ramotswa. As we finished our food, the little kids begged us for our leftovers. They were basically swarming around our table. We eventually took a bus back to Gabs and I headed home for the evening.
I’m leaving tomorrow morning to stay in a village called Kanye for a week. I’ll be missing my classes, but I’ll be learning invaluable information. We observe in the clinics every morning and we each stay with a different family. We’ll be experiencing the culture of the people firsthand. I’ve heard there is limited Internet access, but I’m not taking my laptop, so I doubt I’ll be on. I’ll be sure to update everyone on my week upon returning!