Wednesday, August 20, 2008

What I Miss

So I'm back in the United States and I'm going to try not to be too emotional. I'll just list the things about Botswana and my life there that I miss.

  1. The friendships I made including Eddy, Rudo, Clive and Sarah
  2. Master chef sessions on the couch with Sarah
  3. Being brave enough to think about writing as a life style
  4. Not comparing myself to what Georgetown says is success
  5. Asking myself hard questions
  6. Trying to get off the combi and saying "Ema mo stopo" all wrong
  7. Eddy's mom's home cooking
  8. Teaching students and learning so much from my students
  9. Pie City's Chicken Peri Peri Pie.... Mmmm
  10. Rooibos tea-- Why didn't I take some with me?
  11. Screaming into skype with my mom because the connection was so bad
  12. Dry weather
  13. Zebras soccer
  14. The Poetry: at UB Writer's Workshop, at Kwest, with Exodus, and with friends
  15. Being myself with friends who I could take the time to hang out with
  16. The calmness of it all
  17. People never understanding what I said because I speak too quickly and the look on their faces when I repeated and they still didn't understand
  18. The moments when my friends and I would have to stop our conversation to explain to one another what one word meant to me versus to them
  19. Mogul's Indian Food (and later delivery!)
  20. The hilariousness and frustration of talking to people and not getting a response
  21. The time to think and learn
  22. The slow pace, and the appreciation for quality of life
  23. The classes and students who thought of the world in a way American students don't
  24. And maybe pretending to be Siamese twins . . .

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Southern Africa: Bots with My Mom, and SA with fellow Hoyas

My mom and I in Cape Town with the famous Table Mountain in the background!

Posing with "statue" man in Cape Town.

Georgetown reunion in Cape Town!!

The title says it all. During the last month of July I got the opportunity to explore Southern Africa with my best friend (my mom). My mom gave me a fresh look at Botswana and coming back felt like home. It was a weird feeling to see my house in Bots and breathe a sigh of relief. Botswana is a relaxing place and I had forgotten that with work.

Visiting South Africa was fun and insightful. I was able (after three tries and canceled ferries) to visit Nelson Mandela's cell on Robben Island. The tour was led by an ex-political prisoner. Words can't really describe how much I learned about life and perseverance. It's one thing to hear that someone spent 20 plus years in jail. It's another to walk into their cell and hear stories of the physical and emotional trials people went through to change a system. It was a good way to end the summer as I am looking into going into law school and public interest work. I needed to (I think we all do--those interested in work to help others) visit the places where our heroes were in their darkest moments to truly understand what is meant by the struggle. Watching videos and seeing photos of Mandela throwing up his fist after walking out of jail gave my fist a new meaning.

Johannesburg was equally powerful. We were able to get a tour of Soweto and see where South Africa's movement dates back to. We visited Desmond Tutu's home and saw Mandela's old family home. We also visit the Apartheid Museum. I guess I can't really be surprised because as an African American studies minor, I know the sadness and evil of history. But one of the most powerful parts of the trip was when my mother and I were visiting the Apartheid Museum. We were given cards that told us what races we were. I was given white and she was given black. At the beginning of the visit you have to go in your appropriate door, meaning I went in the entrance and she went in the black. My mom was not pleased and tried to get me to cheat and come over as many other people who had been split up did (by going over the railing). I refused and just for a few minutes, my mom and I were separated and once again we learned the absolute horror of segregation. The museum was absolutely amazing and was definitely a highlight of my last months in Africa.

I also visited with Hoyas Terrance and Ellie. I am excited for them and can't wait to here about their semester in SA.

Visiting Senegal (July)

A statue of enslaved people from Goree Island, a slave port off the coast of Senegal.

Me modeling a West African style shirt.

So I don’t know where to begin. I haven’t written in like a month and a half because I spent most of July traveling in places where getting the internet wasn’t very easy. But no excuses, I have to tell you the story. I have been to Senegal and haggled with the best of them. Saw the people, rode in the taxis, hung out with another Georgetown student (Edwina--thanks!!), and left feeling like I had an idea of what life in that country is like. My fondest memory of Senegal is the hustle of the people. It’s the feeling that you are being lied to but it’s the feeling that these people, in their inflating of prices, are trying to make a living in a world which has become so hard for us all. One example: the markets. If you go to the store, get in a cab or do anything which requires you to buy something that does not have a pre set price tag on it, the seller will tell you a price that is literally three times the price you will end up paying. Now though I was used to haggling, this extreme form of haggling was a very new experience.

There was also the issue of beauty and how women in Senegal value fair skin so much that they burn their own skin with skin lighting creams and highly toxic chemicals which leave them a scary shade of orange. I was surprised but not really of how beauty is still determined by how light you are. I remember when I was a little girl visiting Haiti for my cousin's wedding, a small brown skinned girl asked to walk with me in the wedding because she liked the color of my skin. I didn't get it as much then even though I knew it was wrong but it's with memories like that and others that I understand the phenomenon of women bleaching their skin. My friend who went to Tanzania said they do the same bleaching treatment that leaves women with burnt knuckles and cheeks and skin the color of a rotten orange. The history of it all is too deep for me to go into but there's a sense that this orange skin somehow makes them more presentable. It's the self hate that it me the most I guess. The thought that being black isn't good enough, even in Africa.

We also visited Goree Island, a former slave port off the coast of Senegal. No words for an experience which can't possibly be described by language. Have you ever had your book jump out at you and teach you something about life? Well, I did.

I did meet my mom and caught up on my back home. I definitely am blessed to have a mother that makes me laugh so hard and smile so wide while still learning lessons every time I speak to her.

So that, in a nutshell was my Senegal experience.