Botswana, Week 2: The Botswana Way!

We’ve kicked off our second week with an intense reality check… except this reality check has a Botswana twist to it! Our week consisted of an immersion to Botswana culture and way of life.

We met some really nice local Batswana in a tiny village, named Mmokolodi, just about 2 hours away from University of Botswana. The chief greeted us with open arms, the older ladies of the village sang for us, and the younger males taught us how to dance African style!

As soon as sun hid away under the beautiful Botswana trees and mountains, we began the festivities. We kicked it all off with sounds of dance and rhythm! The males were told to go with the young boys and older males, while the females were sectioned away to watch the males dance right before they began their own group dances.

Botswana traditional dancing is much different than what I am accustomed to in the States and back in Europe. Instead of using machine-made instruments, such as a guitar, microphone, or keyboard, the locals use handmade –with very dependable and strong materials from animals — instruments to make sounds and with their hands and feet, accompanied by vocal rhythms! It was very interesting to see, and partake in, the traditional Botswana dances, especially in groups. It had a lot of soul and sense of individualism and community within it. We weren’t dancing to an iPod or a repeated sound; everything felt personal and special in the dances and music. It was as if I was a part of something special with my group and the Batswana people and it really bonded us by forcing us out of our shells!

I played a traditional Botswana game with the local Chief (on the left of the above photo). It involves going in circles around a sketched piece of wood with rocks and trying to overlap the opponent to take away his rocks. It’s very simple and clearly traditional. I’ve learned quickly that even items and objects as simple as a piece of wood, rocks, a board, and a friend to play with can pass time by the hours as quickly as any video game back home!

During our stay, we had a chance to hike a mountain nearby and take a scenic walk around the villages. We even ran into a sectioned-off piece of land in the mountains that we were told held a 2,000 year old cave drawing.

Our last stop consisted of us driving about 30 minutes away to view the oldest living tree in the Southern African region. This tree is named The Livingstone, in honor of the African explorer and missionary David Livingstone, and it was originally dated to be over 200 years old, but is expected to have been growing much longer than documented. It is said that Livingstone’s heart was buried under this Mvula tree by a local tribe – appreciating his love of nature.

When the entire weekend was finished, it was finally bedtime. We didn’t expect anything but the stars above us and our sleeping bags below us at the Botswana village. To our surprise, we ended up in a very well-constructed traditional hut. Not only was it well built, but it also had doors, windows, and even seats with thin, cool blankets inside. Also, the pyramid-shaped roof with specially designed wooden vents created breezes throughout the night to allow us to escape the African heat!

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