Journal Entry: Integrating into my community

Lessons in Darkness

At home the power goes out only during snow storms or when accidents happened. In fact, I could count the number of times the power has gone out in Denver for a long period of time, only one hand. But, studying abroad in Gaborone has change all that. Some nights I find myself sitting outside my house in Botswana and looking at the stars with my host family. Power shortages and cuts became a recent and common occurrence my host family and I. Some nights our power cuts would be out for only an hour others for most of night would come without notice and inexpertly. It is and can be extremely frustrating day-to-day tasks without electricity became difficult.

Even though compete darkness is scary, not knowing how long the power would be out was the greatest challenge. For example my host mom, Francine could not make dinner without electricity to use the stove. Sometimes, the power would go out while she was cooking lunch and would come back on until after nine.  Additionally, school work like reading and doing homework was seemed impossible in the compete darkness.  However, similar to most Batswana’s in Gaborone we adapted to the set of circumstances started doing things in a new way.  My host mom began to change the time she cooked dinner and our meals. Instead of making dinner later in the day my host mom and sister made our meals in the morning, as soon as power came back on. Instead of worrying about my homework during the night, I started to stay on campus longer in the day and went to the University of Botswana library to do my work on campus. At first these trips seems like an nuances, but it started to give me more time at night to spend with my host family.

In the end, power cuts permitted me to spend more time with them, without distressing the small things. Some nights we would sit outside on our porch, and look at the stars and talk about our politics, religion and Botswana customs and culture.  I really value my time with my host family and their commitment to making me feel like part of their family. I confidently say that, I feel like I understand the small culture norms because of their support.  They are always home after a long day and after good day. I am able to reflect and share with them as they guide me through my studying abroad. One of the most rewarding experience is coming home to my host brother, Liam’s smile.  His happiness brightens my day, is completely inspiring.

When you’re in a new country, living with new family, attending a new school and eating new foods you learn a lot about yourself and how to handle stressful situations. Living with a host family, is not the simplest thing I have done.  In fact, I think it’s been puzzling at times to figure out. Even though, my family communicates with in English and Setswana, sometimes I make mistakes. I recognize this is a learning process and one that continues every day. My family in Colorado has shaped my life completely, I knew living with a family in Botswana would do the same for my experience.  There are a lot benefits and opportunities because my connection to a real Botswana family.  For example living with a family allows me to meet others in the community, attend special event such as birthday parties, and eat local food daily and practice learning Setswana. I wanted to learn as much about Botswana culture and customs as possible, with my host families’ support I can continue to. I wanted to live with a host family because, I believe it’s the right fit for me. I am completely happy with my decision!

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