It’s crazy how big of a difference one little act of kindness can make. Yesterday afternoon, as I headed home from school, I experienced several frustrating situations in the matter of an hour. It was small things that wouldn’t have normally bothered me much, but added together, it was a little too much for me to handle. As I left the UB campus, one of the combi wingmen ran up to persuade me to join his combi. He got in my face and essentially pushed me towards his combi. He didn’t bother to check for cars and I was about an inch away from being hit. In Botswana, cars don’t stop for people EVER. When I got in the combi, a guy behind me starting speaking to me in Setswana. He kept repeating “lekgowa” (foreigner) and a bunch of Setswana I couldn’t understand. I obviously ignored him. He then said something along the lines of “hey baby. I forgot you can’t understand me. I was just telling you how beautiful you are. Such a pretty white face.” All of the other Batswana in the combi were laughing hysterically. When I still didn’t respond, he began stroking my hair and back. I scooted forward in my seat so that he couldn’t reach my hair. He scooted forward to reach me and I jerked away and said, “Don’t touch me.” He finally left me alone. At that point, I was already frustrated and just feeling violated. Men touch me like this daily, but it’s usually on my arm. This was just going too far.
When I went to transfer to the next combi, I was waiting for people to get in to fill up the seats in the back. I always try my best to avoid the back because you are squished together and men often find it okay to set their hands on my leg. A lady standing outside of the combi selling something told me to get in and I said I was waiting. She then started yelling at me in Setswana and continued even after I told her I didn’t speak Setswana. I couldn’t believe she would be so rude. When the combi was nearing my stop, I asked the driver to stop in Setswana and everyone in the combi started chuckling. This used to happen to me in the beginning, but I thought I had gotten better at the accent. I was embarrassed and frankly offended. I got out of the combi and started heading home. Maybe three or four guys yelled “hey baby” or “hey white girl” or other phrases they love to use towards us. At this point, I was near tears. I just couldn’t believe so many people would be so unfriendly and rude in the matter of an hour.
As I turned the corner to my street, a high school aged girl in a school uniform greeted me and asked me how I was doing. She asked me about where I go to school, where I’m staying, and how I like it here in Botswana. She wondered about my siblings, my family, and what I like to do here. I was so amazed that she would want to talk to me for so long, when most people just like to yell derogatory things at me or ignore me. She was so friendly and open and I honestly think if she hadn’t stopped to talk to me, I may have ended up crying. It’s people like her that remind me there are plenty of nice people here in Botswana. Her little act of kindness meant the world to me. There’s my lesson of the day 🙂