B-for Botswana; B-for Beautiful Batswana

I haven’t solved my visa issues so far, my luggage is still missing, the research permit isn’t approved and the meeting with the local partner of our research project got postponed. Seems like the country has not liked me too much and is giving me a lot of misery. If anyone is going to Botswana, it is a MUST that s/he reads the book Botswana – Culture Smart!: a quick guide to customs & etiquette by Mike Main. In just a day, I am experiencing a lot of the things the book mentioned. Re-lesson no.1: “Appointments are routinely cancelled, forgotten completely or changed at the last minute…it is advisable to confirm every appointment in advance– not only the day before, but also a few hours before'(Main,2007, P. 138). This seems applicable not only to Batswana but also for people who have lived here long enough to immerse in the culture. Re-lesson no. 2: People are always in “meetings”(Main, 2007, P.136). Since, I am from Bangladesh, I am used to lack of punctuality, bureaucracy and inefficiency, but somehow I felt this was at a different level here(or maybe I am the unfortunate one to experience the extremes of the country). Interestingly, Main(2007) mentioned the use of the phrase “Botswana time” to express the lack of punctuality; we have something similar in Bangladesh we call “BST: Bangladeshi Standard time”. Perhaps, two years of life in USA has taken away my resilience to enduring delays.

Despite all misery, one thing I cannot complain about is the fact of how nice the people are.

Ms. Beatrice has been continuously assuring me all the way from USA and trying to do everything she could to work with the embassy on my visa issues. Dr. Marape is the Messiah who saved me from my miseries of feeling disconnected without proper adapter(well, yeah I am addicted to laptop and internet). He got me the adapter and padlock within a few hours after I called him and explained my misery. Today, he took me to all the places I needed to go to fix all my problems starting from visa to luggage to electronics. I am sure how busy he must be; but he spent the whole day to help me out. Base, the sister of Bose who works in my college in Ohio University, called to check on me. Wame has been kindly making sure that I am well-fed. My dorm-mates, some staff members from the University of Botswana has been extremely nice to me throughout.

I had been told that it’s winter in Botswana; but I felt like summer here and had to take off the sweater that I wore in the morning when I got out. What I found interesting is how people wore heavy jackets and boots in what I felt was too warm for a light sweater. I am from a hot country Bangladesh; and I couldn’t help imagining whether my skin has become Americanized too! I also wondered, if it is this hot in winter, what happens when it is summer?


Figure: My first meal in Botswana

Since yesterday, all I have been eating is fast food: my first meal was pasta, vegetable and chicken fries and today I had burger and fries for lunch. Seems like my dorm-mates secretly learned my wish to taste local food of Botswana. We had agreed yesterday that they would teach me to cook Papa. They also promised me to teach Setswana in a month. So, naturally, I had taken none of the promises seriously. But, today, when they again mentioned whether I am joining them for cooking Papa; I became excited. So, the cooking spree began. The water was boiling for Papa, Boerewors was in the pot and Naama inside the oven.


Figure: Papa or mealy meal is a stiff white porridge made from maize meal. They told me that it’s usually without salt, but the one I had contained added salt.


Figure: Boerewors is a beef sausage popular in southern Africa. It has the spices added; and all they did was boiled the meat properly.


Figure: Naama is grilled beef

My chef teacher taught me to how to pour maize flour in boiling water. Then, after a while the mixture is stirred. Then more stirring until the right consistency is reached. This reminded me of Shujir Halua(Semolina flour Halwa); only that it was salty instead of sweet and was cooked in boiling water.

It was 9PM by the time the meal was cooked. I was very hungry and had eaten the fish, chips and patties that Wame had supplied me for dinner. However, the food looked yummy and I couldn’t help trying it. I remember the cultural tips in the document Dr. Ice had provided us: ” When served a meal it is important to try most if not all foods and to finish your plate”. I requested for small portions so that I could finish it all.



Figure: The delicious food of Botswana: Papa with Naama and Boerewors

When I had finished all the food in my plate, everyone seemed very happy. “So, you like it!! You have eaten it all!” they exclaimed.

I smiled. Despite all the hardship, Botswana is giving me, I am holding on! It’s the people that matters, the beautiful people…not the paperwork or the bureaucracy.

Did I say how the people of Botswana are called? It’s not Botswanian or Botswanish. The people of Botswana are called Batswana and one single person is called “Motswana”

Signing off today with heartfelt gratitude for beautiful Batswana I have met…



2 responses

  1. So proud of you Priyanka for being so open minded and willing to try new things and new food. The best type of foriegn visitors is what you have exhibted which is immersing yourself in the culture and with the people. I like your trick of taking a small portion of the food because I do the same just incase I dont like the food much, I wont be left with a mountain of food on my plate which I know hosts dont usually like. I smiled throughout reading. I know you are going to get busier with time but please dont stop uploading :).

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