By Cassim Junior
Embarking on multiple adventures during the outset of my internship at CIEE Gaborone while merging experiences with the students from the summer program, I had to do it all over again.
Three days later, after concluding the program we were acquainted with a new cohort of beaming students, excitement plastered on each of their faces. As students descended from their flights confined and crippled by jet lag, the hazy fresh summer heat enervated us as we meandered around the active city wasting no time escorting them to their new home for the next 4 months. Most of the students remarked that the city of Gaborone mirrored their hometowns back in the USA, but they were familiar with the nuances of the city, like the distinct differences in the road systems, they drive on the right side, we drive on the left. The students were warmly welcomed by the Student Volunteers to their humble abode and ushered them to their next chapter of their lives.
Orientation Week has gained an acclamation-worthy reputation with every new orientation becoming more exciting than the last. This semester’s Orientation Week progressed with the students succinctly conveying a spirit of joyful effervescence and excitement as day 1 commences with the CIEE orientation. The aim of the orientation was to guide the students through the blueprint of the ‘who,what,when,where,why’ of our exuberant country which included transportation and public etiquette, customs and culture and health, safety and security.The students were equipped with a beginner's guide to surviving Botswana, well less of surviving and more of living. For example, we accentuated on the cultural dynamics and the nuances between identities between our socio-cultural environment. I pondered over their astonished faces when students realize that they become a different person once they are here, molded by our country’s arrogance towards racial identity, that our country’s racial ideology is more obscure and archaic than that of America or that political discourse weighs way less than a feather in a country riddled with patriarchy and tradition. I studied their confusion, their minds stapled on the idea that they had to let go of what they know, and adopt a whole new identity and mindset for the next 4 months. During the progression of Orientation under the airy light filled hall room, I noticed the kind of glare I appreciated with all our students, they were raw and exuberant, ready to take charge of their new experiences. We ushered them to Game City, one of Gaborone's oldest architectural marvels nestled in the outskirts of the city that was built in 2002, where they explored and admired the structural landmark, indulged in Nando's (one of the local fast-food restaurants) and bought their essentials like local Sim cards, groceries and miscellaneous things.
The students befriended the pulse of our traditional music when they visited our local dance instructor Gala, who guided them through a contemporary African dance that launched them into a rhythmic art form, its one way of learning our culture through literary form, but through performance, the students were ecstatic. The students learnt that dancing is an integral part of Setswana culture, building each of us together through music and dance. Earlier during the day, the students challenged their literary skills as they were faced with one of the factors connecting people, learning the local language, Setswana. Our local language was first constructed by the Bantu people and is widely used in the southern region of Africa. Setswana, being the official local language, is a lingua franca that is surrounded by other dialects within the country such as Kalanga spoken by the Bakalaka in Northern Botswana.
Still baffling with curiosity, the students tested their taste buds as we embarked on a journey of the local cuisines, the textures, the aroma, the aesthetics. Served by our wonderful hosts, Mma Salome, the delectable dishes wasted no time on the plates, rice accompanied by fried chicken, beef with Greek salad and morogo. After the meal, the place boomed with the echoes of the marimba tones, our music instructor Thabang Molefe taught the students how to play a few songs, as they relayed each other's musical notes, the students orchestrated a symphony that was not bad for beginners.
Though concluding a very busy week, it was nothing but amazing, no pun intended. The students alongside the student volunteers teamed up to mimic one of the widely popular American TV shows, The Amazing Race. Teamed up into 2 groups the students left their mark everywhere as they journeyed around the city, equipping themselves with skills such as how to navigate around the city using the transportation systems, polishing on their interpersonal and communication skills by interacting with the locals to find clues and a little fear factor moment when they had to eat one of our countries delicacies, the mopane worm. Familiarizing themselves with what our bustling city Gaborone has to offer. The city is radiating with excitement, I am radiating with excitement, the fall 2022 students are in for the ride of a lifetime.