A not so typical week in Gabs

To be completely honest, it’s been a rough week. Just as I thought I had hit rock bottom (being sick and incredibly homesick), the unthinkable happened. Tuesday morning on my way to the combi, I got robbed at knifepoint. It was daylight and I was taking my normal route- nothing out of the ordinary. A man followed me and when we stepped into the passageway I use, he jumped in front of me and demanded my money as he pointed a knife at me. There were no people around, so screaming would do no good. I had no option but to give him what he wanted. After giving him the money I had, he wanted my phone. When I opened my purse to search for it, he saw my wallet. He grabbed it and took off with it, but after taking the rest of the money, dropped it on the ground. All in all, he took $30. It could have been worse. I’m thankful he didn’t take my debit card, my camera, or my phone. And I’m thankful I wasn’t hurt. Yet it was still the most terrifying moment of my life. We’d been warned that things like this happen in Gabs, but I still cannot believe it actually happened to me. I’m having a difficult time processing it. I’m in shock, I’m scared, and most of all, I’m angry. It’s definitely not an easy thing to get over. When it first happened, all I wanted was to go home. I’m trying to work through these feelings and stay strong so that I can continue on with the program. I’m having a hard time not hearing his voice in my head and the thought of using the same passageway makes me feel sick to my stomach. My program directors have been super supportive and are helping me find a safer route to school. All I can do is move forward, one day at a time.

Otherwise, I’ve had a pretty busy week. Last Saturday, I got to attend a wedding with my host mom and sister. It was in Ramotswa, a village located about an hour away. We arrived at 1, but the events didn’t begin until 3. No surprise there! It was a young bride and groom who have a toddler. In Botswana, there are many conditions that must be met before a marriage can occur. The man must be able to pay the bogadi (cows) and must also be able to build a new house to live in with his bride. For that reason, it isn’t uncommon for people to get married after they have a few kids. We didn’t go to the church service, just the ceremony. Saturday was located at the bride’s house and Sunday was at the groom’s. There were several large white tents in the bride’s backyard and they laid out green tarp with a red runway on the dirt. I was fairly surprised at how beautiful everything looked, considering the location. There were round tables and chairs jam-packed together with light pink decorations. The bride’s guests sat in one tent, while the groom’s guests sat in another. The front tent held the bridal party and the beautiful cake. The bride was absolutely gorgeous and wore a wedding dress just like you would see in America. She had 4 bridesmaids who were paired up with 4 groomsmen. They came in and out with a traditional dance, which they had been practicing for months beforehand. I was pretty amazed the girls could dance so well in their heels! The ceremony began with a prayer, followed by several speeches and toasts. The bridal party changed outfits three times, ending in traditional Batswana outfits. I found that part pretty surprising. There were ushers who brought the meal to the tables. It was the typical food, but the bride’s family had prepared it all that morning! It was pretty delicious. We also had a local ginger drink, a jello dessert, and a bottle of wine per table. I thought it was all pretty classy. It didn’t seem all that different from an American wedding, but the cultural differences definitely came through. For example, how they made sure to save all the leftover scraps for the village dogs. Or the dance they performed as they entered and exited. My host sister told me she has been to over 300 weddings. When a wedding happens in your village, you go without invitation. Invitations are actually a rarity. I had a lot of fun and I’m so glad I got to experience a wedding here. I haven’t been to a wedding since I was 10 so it was especially exciting. Everyone was just so happy and most people were too busy to pay much attention to the only white girl out of the hundreds of guests. I also used a pit latrine bathroom for the first time- essentially a hole in the ground. That was fun (not!).

We had a CIEE meeting Monday and they provided pizza, which is always exciting. I spent Tuesday at the Block 6 clinic again and got to sit in on an educational session about cardiovascular risk associated with Diabetes, as well as learn about the machinery in their lab. I went on a field trip on Tuesday to Clover Chemicals with my Toxicology class and learned about chemical production. It wasn’t really much to see, so that was kind of a let down. It was also insanely hot so I was feeling pretty weak. It has become summer overnight. I’m burning no matter how much sunscreen I put on and finding it hard to stand up during the hottest parts of the days. Wednesday I finally went to a Pentecostal church service for my religion class. It was actually pretty cool! There was lots of screaming and clapping and dancing, but it didn’t freak me out too much. This specific church was actually slightly more liberal. Their main belief is in living life to the fullest and applying Christianity in a practical manner. I interviewed the founder and one of the members and everyone was very friendly and welcoming! It was definitely an eye-opening experience. Now I just have to get to work on my ten-page paper.

I’m off for the weekend on a trip to the Salt Pans in northern Botswana. I’ll be quad biking, going on a meerkat sighting, and sleeping under the stars out on the water. I’m pretty excited. This trip couldn’t have come at a better time. 

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