Early in this past semester, the other CIEE international students and I packed up our things for the weekend and did a short rural homestay in a nearby village called Kanye. We arrived Friday afternoon and met our homestay families over lunch at the education center. Like in Gabs, the families were mostly headed by just moms. I wasn’t nervous meeting my mom, Malurato, who was older than most (she was actually a grandmother), because of the homestay I’m doing in Gabs. After lunch, Malurato and I walked to her house. Before going inside the gate, she warned me that her largest dog, Big Face, bit strangers, so I would have to be with her or her daughter, Gaone, whenever I went outside. Yikes.
The house was way bigger than I expected. There was a lot of heavy furniture and maybe seven or eight sofas in the living room. I never knew anyone to need that many, but maybe she hosted a lot of communal or family events. Most of the inner structure of the ceiling was gone and was being rebuilt because it had collapsed in the past. I would often forget most of it was missing until I looked up.
Kanye was so beautiful. There were rolling hills, red dirt roads, modern and traditional houses, neat and tidy yards, mazelike paths, chickens, and much more greenery than in Gabs. It was by no means a small village, but it was peaceful and cozy all the same. My expectations of what Gaborone, Botswana’s capital, would be like fit Kanye better. Before I came to Gabs, I expected that I would have to dress conservatively at all times, that there would be no internet connection, and I’d hand-wash my clothing outside while goats wandered around. I wasn’t too far off. At my homestay in Gaborone, I hand-wash my clothing inside and hang it up outside to dry and since my host mom is still having a wall constructed around the house, goats will occasionally meander into our yard. But in Kanye, I found Gaone washing her clothing outside with the chickens wandering around the tub. While I definitely dressed a little more conservatively in Kanye than I do in Gabs, it wasn’t a big deal and I felt comfortable.
Since Kanye is a semi-rural village in a desert and Botswana is going through a rough drought, there are sometimes water shortages and it ran out several times during my short stay. That’s why families in Kanye will store jugs of water in their pantries. And when it comes to baths, instead of the full tub of water experience I feel like most Americans are accustomed to, in Kanye (and other villages and even some places in Gabs) we bathed with a bucket of water, soap, and a washcloth while standing in the tub. Since the water shortages started in Gabs too, I stopped taking typical baths every night and switched over to the bucket and washcloth. I never truly thought about how precious water is and I might bring this new bathing habit back with me when I return to the U.S.