Ah culture differences. Gotta love them:-)!
I wrote most of this post the week we arrived in Botswana but never finished it. I finally decided to finish and post it now. Note: this was before I was showing my pregnancy at all.
It was great to arrive in Botswana on Tuesday. Kagi’s mom and brothers and uncle were all waiting for us at the airport, along with another lady (we’ll call her Auntie) who I met on my last trip here. We were greeted with hugs and smiles, and ushered out to the waiting cars.
Arriving at the car, Auntie grabbed my hand and said with enthusiasm, “You’re too fat!” Not knowing what she meant, I smiled — it must be an English mis-speak. I don’t think I’m too fat, and certainly am much trimmer than she is. Sensing my confusion, she repeated her statement enthusiastically, “You’re too fat!”
Kagi saw the exchange and laughed. “She’s complimenting you, Laura!”
“I… I know, thank you,” I stammered.
Apparently I gained a few pounds during my first year of marriage, and this lady was genuinely happy for me. Honestly, it was sweet and funny, and I wasn’t offended. Maybe at another point in my life I would have been, but not this time.
The other factor is that the word too is used differently. It’s used instead of very or more. People often talk about your house being “too big,” meaning it’s nice and spacious. They don’t mean it’s ostentatious.
I love the way this points out cultural differences. My Canadian friend has shared similar stories. It’s funny to compare our often less than gracious reactions. Genuinely, comments like this are meant as compliments. I plan to take them as such.
My Grammy requested that I blog about life in Botswana. That question is a difficult one to answer by itself so it was helpful that more questions followed. I figured it was a good opportunity to answer her questions and see if anyone has more questions. So, post in the comments or shoot me an email if you have any other questions or suggestions for blog topics.
When are you going to do a blog about what your life is like there? We are all so curious.
Do you have a church?
Although we have yet to officially join a church, we have been regularly attending one in Gaborone called His People. It is affiliated with the Every Nation family of churches and is led by a South African pastor and his team. Many people from Kagi’s former church also attend His People following its closure last year.
Do you have friends to hang out with?
We are so blessed to have several friends we regularly hang out with and more friends we are getting to know. Having friends around makes a world of difference and it is as we’ve gotten to know people that Botswana has begun to feel more and more like home.
How is KG’s work going?
I believe KG is going to blog about his work on his new blog soon, so I won’t say too much (and when his blog is live I will post a link here). He is doing well and learning a lot. It is a different kind of training than he would have received in the UK had he done his pre-registration year there. Here, he is learning from practice. He is also doing quite a bit of learning about HIV-AIDS medicines as that is still a huge focus of the medical profession in Botswana. He continually has stories of both tragedy and triumph of people with the disease. We both marvel and thank God that these days HIV does not have to shorten someone’s life, they can have children without passing the disease to them, and so on. Botswana provides free medication to those who have the disease and it is really a wonderful thing for those who take advantage of it.
What is your home like?
I guess pictures are in order here! We live in a two bedroom house which is in a compound of three houses and we share part of one wall with our neighbors. It is a simple layout but very nice, and we really like it. So far, we don’t have much furniture, but are thankful to be borrowing some camping equipment from friends and family to fill the gaps. I really look forward to getting couches, and hope that we might find some within the next month or so.
Yes, what do you eat?
Let’s see… we eat many of the same meals I would make at home. I find food to be very expensive, probably because I like buying things that are normal or cheap in the States but are more expensive here. Most of my thinking about food has to do with thinking through what I can make that we like and can also afford. I also have decided to make lots of things and use replacements for others. For example, I regularly bake bread (even though you can find nice bread cheap), make homemade salsa as much as possible, made my own applesauce, and use yoghurt to replace many things in recipes (it is my sour cream, cream, mayonnaise, and etc).
What do you do with your days?
This has changed throughout my time in Botswana. Now that we have internet access, I have been spending time on a web design job I am doing for a local company. I hope this might grow into something I can do as a business and am VERY thankful for a fantastic first customer and fun first project. I also spend substantial time cooking and cleaning, as it seems everything takes a little more effort than it would at home. The other thing I have been doing over the last several weeks has been spending a total of six days at immigration trying to get my residency application through. I am now waiting for the result, and we pray it will go through on the first try. The computer system the immigration officers are using is horrendous and broke down for a month or so, so everyone who needed to apply was pushed back. My days at immigration began by arriving between 5:30 and 6 at the office to put my name on a list, and then trying to make sure that I was helped in the proper order. Needless to say, not my favorite way to spend my time. Otherwise, I spend time with our puppy Bella who I hope will be well behaved before she is enormous, which will happen soon.
Are there malls, where do you shop?
Yes, there are several nice malls in Gaborone. One of them is close to our house, but as Gabs isn’t huge, we have pretty easy access to 3 we particularly like. I have been learning which stores are best to buy which things. Generally, you can find most things here, it is more a matter of being able to pay the price for them. I really miss the easy access we have in America to nice things for low prices. Here the quality isn’t quite as good and prices are relatively high, especially in proportion to the income people have. I am learning a lot about how to shop wisely. The nice thing is that South Africa, which has a much bigger economy, is very close. I haven’t been yet, but would like to take a trip there soon to buy some necessities. Many people do this and for things like maternity clothes, which I still haven’t found here, it is necessary. It is also nice that the Botswanan pula is 25% stronger than the South African rand, so hopefully I’ll have a little advantage with that as well.
What was your Christmas like?
Our Christmas was nice, but certainly different than at home! For starters, we are at the height of summer here, so the morning was pretty warm. KG and I spent time at home and exchanged gifts. We then took our remaining cinnamon rolls and went to see his family in Thamaga, the village where they live about 30 minutes from our house. Then we came home and I grabbed the apple pie and corn custard, taking them with us to our friends’ house. Once there the rain came and we had a feast which reminded me of home. We had a very nice afternoon and evening with the Jones family and their relatives. The evening ended with a board game which KG played while I called and watched my family open presents in Spokane.
Do they celebrate New Year’s?
Yes, kind of, as far as I know! I think people set of fire works and have parties, much like home. We didn’t really have anything going on so we ended up going to bed early. I think the combination of the early morning lifestyle of Botswana and pregnancy had me ready for bed around 10, so I didn’t mind. Next year, though, I think we will have a party. Hopefully by then we’ll have furniture! 🙂
How is your pregnancy going?
I am so thankful that it is going well. The first trimester was not much fun for me, but since I hit the 13 week mark things have been fine. I am 20 weeks today, which is very exciting! Half-way there. I have been feeling good and have for the last week or so been feeling the baby move quite a bit. It is very exciting, and I think both KG and I are getting more and more excited about meeting this little one soon.
Today has been very busy, and very good. This is my first moment which hasn’t been very relational and/or active since waking this morning. It’s 10pm and I’m tired but happy and thankful for good food, great friends, and a good-crazy kind of day.
This morning Kagi and I woke up, had our breakfast, and prepared for a day in the city. We walked the 2.5 miles to the Discovery Centre (where Global Cafe is headquartered and Kagi used to live) through freezing wind and stinging snowfall. There, I helped Kagi with his weekly cleaning job. Because both of us were working quickly, we finished in about an hour and booked it down to the City Centre.
In the heart of Bradford, we met with our friend Ben who has been a very good friend to me since I first came here. He was even there the day Kagi and I met. Now Ben lives in Finland, and I am so glad we took the rare opportunity to hang out during his visit to Bradford this week. It was especially fun to hear how God has been answering prayers that we have been praying since meeting almost three years ago, and to share stories with someone whose journey of faith makes Kagi and my last few years look relatively simple. We are so encouraged by Ben and I am reminded what a blessing he has been to me. Although we have never seen him all that often it does seem that Bradford is missing something without him here.
After that meeting, we went back to the Discovery Centre for an amazing Spanish lunch prepared by our friend Juanma’s parents. It was so fun to meet his family and to spend time with international students and other team members. In our multi/inter-cultural lives, Global Cafe provides a community which feels more like home to both of us… sometimes even more than we feel at home in our countries of origin. For me, it is a reminder of my beloved International Friendship Club in Maryland.
Following lunch, Shell, the leader of Global Cafe, took me with her on her trip to Costco! I blogged about strangely missing Costco way back in this post. Finding out there is one near Bradford was very exciting news for me, and I was not disappointed on my trip there today. It was really nice to hang out with Shell, first of all. She shares my love for Jesus and for cultures, and is someone I have really enjoyed getting to know over the past few years. Today I found out that her husband who is also from Southern Africa is a “meatetarian,” like mine. She has offered to help me find ways to feed Kagi without going broke, which (especially after recently instituting a new budget) I am very excited about!
Costco was also much more similar to the Costco in the States than I was expecting. They have most of the same items and kept the prices about the same as they would be in USD but just made them in GBP, which makes everything about 1.6 times more expensive. Compared to importing these items myself or paying the supermarket price for these American staples which are considered luxury items here, the prices were great. I bought things like Kirkland almonds, a big tub of crunchy peanut butter, a big tub of salsa, and Costco bagels. They also have the big bags of Crasins and affordable vanilla which was a thrilling discovery even though I decided to hold off until I have a little more in the budget another time. It was laid-out and looked just like it does in the States.
As we were leaving the store at about 4, I glanced at my iPhone to see a message my dad sent me about the staff meeting I was prepared to join at 5pm via Skype. I had told Shell about it and planned to be home in plenty of time for it. However, while reading my dad’s email I realized that I forgot that the daylight savings time changes earlier in the States than in England. We are only 7 hours ahead instead of the usual 8. While kicking myself for being late, I realized that, not only had I not realized the time change, I also had mis-calculated. 8am is 8 hours before 4pm, not 5pm. I was both sorry and embarrassed about this clumsy mistake. I sent an email as we headed home.
To keep this story from going on forever, I’ll just say that Kagi and I ultimately got home at about 5:30 after traffic and a few other delays. We unexpectedly had a few of the guys from church come home with us, which was a lovely surprise. I figured out that I had totally missed my call and set to hanging out with them, preparing dinner, and having some great conversations.
There is more, but I guess for today I’ll leave it at that!
I always thought running hurdles would be more fun, interesting, and exciting than just running straight through a race. Similarly, I think I’d enjoy a warrior dash much more than a straight-forward long run. One of the things I struggle with the most while running is the mental battle to stay interested and engaged when my objective is just to keep going, one step after another.
I guess that is true for much of how I live my life. I like having shorter-term objectives to keep me focused and interested while working toward the prize. I like hurdles.
That’s probably one of the reasons I like living internationally. There are lots of interesting things that happen, lots of surprises and diversions. Life is very rarely boring. It can be both challenging and rewarding.
Some days, it feels like you are flying through life, leaping over barriers as they come. Other days, you’re reminded that there are far more opportunities to fall on your face or break your leg.
Either way, it’s an adventure.
Today I have not followed my usual “get over jet lag fast” routine — I slept until 1:30pm! So I haven’t unpacked and gotten the house back into order yet. I feel very differently about that job than I do packing. I LOVE unpacking. It is literally one of my favorite tasks.
However, I think it’ll be best done in the morning. Kagi finished his exam and we are planning to get pizza and watch a movie tonight. I’m looking forward to it, and to finishing unpacking tomorrow.
So I’m off to have a nice relaxing night with my husband:-).
I am now in Bradford!!! I’m working to stay awake at least until 8pm and also trying not to distract Kagi because he has a very big exam tomorrow. I did take a nap today but think I’ll be fine tomorrow — I’m plenty exhausted to sleep through the night no matter what the time difference!
The trip really went well and Kagi and I are very happy to be back together.
I was given some extra time today during which I wrote what you see below:-). I actually found my extreme emotional reaction to a series of things a little comical at the time, I hope that comes across.
You know when kids get to that point where they start weeping and scream, “I just want to go home!”?
Well, I almost just did that right in the middle of Manchester Airport. If I had caught Kagi on the phone I would have burst into tears and done just that. But it wasn’t that easy – the phone company doesn’t like my American credit card and therefore I have no way to get online or to call anyone.
Kagi will call me when he gets out of his class at 11.
But wait. Wasn’t I supposed to be home by then? Didn’t I have dreams of being showered and maybe even having lunch made by the time Kagi gets home from class? Yes, yes I did.
But alas, after about 20 hours of travel and my body running on about 4 hours of sleep since Saturday night, it didn’t go that way. In my exhaustion I have been quickly unraveling over the last several hours.
First, I’ll acknowledge that my travels went really well. So I know this is irrational. As I’m experiencing the crazy irrationality I kind of think it’s funny, so I’m writing about it. So for the record I do know that things are fine. They just don’t feel that way at the moment.
First, I got held up for questioning at the border again. Yes, even with my visa, I got stuck in the “further questioning” section, wondering if they were going to reject me again. Not a huge deal… I’ve been there before, but I have grown an irrational apprehension for those borders and so the level of impact it had on my emotional state was more than necessary. Apparently I will continue to need further questioning every time I try to enter this country for quite a while, even with all my paperwork squared away. Once blacklisted you’re blacklisted. Awesome. At least the guy was nice.
The last from my flight to clear customs, I went to claim my bags and immediately noticed that something was wrong. They were both there, but one of my bags was slightly opened. The smell of one of my brand-new, expensive, skin-care items permeated from my bag. At first glance I could tell that my closure of the bottle was still in-tact, but the smell and sight of my brand new, wonderfully clean-laundry smelling sheets covered in this toner. Apparently it was not sealed at the bottom of the neck. Great.
Then I began trying to walk with all three of my bags. They total well over 100 pounds and don’t fit together very nicely. I don’t know where I have pounds, so instead of getting a luggage card I began dragging them as best I could. It didn’t work well, and in normal conditions the walk is about 15 minutes. At one point, the bag I had stacked on top of another slipped off, narrowly missing a man’s foot and causing him to dodge it like a meteior aimed at him. “I’m sorry!” I exclaimed. No response other than ticked-off walking away.
I did have a hero appear soon after that, though. An African lady passed me and then said, “Do you need this?” with a cart. “You don’t need it?” I asked. “You need it more than I do,” she said as she took her bags off and gave it to me. I felt bad, but I couldn’t reject her offer. As the situation was I was likely to kill someone.
Finally, I made it to the bus station. I knew I had missed my hoped-for 9:05 bus, but was hoping for a bus in the next 15-30 minutes for about 10GBP. The guy told me that it cost 13.40GBP. “And when is it?” I asked. “11:50,” he said.
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I almost screamed it in the airport. What I actually said was, “OK, I’m going to go check on my train options and I’ll come back if I want to take it.”
As I stood in line, I knew it was hopeless. I can’t move all of these huge bags around a train transfer. I checked anyway. The result was that for about 30GBP (a CRAZY amount of money) I could get a train with one transfer. For a more reasonable fee, I could take a train to Manchester Piccadilly, take a trolley to Manchester Victoria, and take another train to Bradford (which might also require a change in Leeds). On a normal day that would be fine. With these bags, no way. So 11:55 it is.
This is when I frantically tried to put money on my phone so I could call Kagi crying. No go. And worse, the guy selling bus tickets found me right before I started weeping so instead of throwing my temper tantrum I calmly bought the ticket.
The agent must have read me right and told me to come upstairs to a nice café and get a cup of coffee. That was a really good idea—I can kind of pretend I’m not still in an airport. I am here in the coffee shop now, writing. I’ll post once I’m home with internet access
I am really excited to get home!