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07/04/2014

Adapting to a New Lifestyle

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Post by Emily Greenwald from Brandeis University

When we arrived in Kanye, I was met by my host sister, who is my host mom’s daughter-in-law.  When I met my host mother and her grandchildren—my host sister’s children, nieces, and nephew—like my other homestays, it did not feel so different from my own life. After being welcomed by my host mom and talking with the children, I felt very comfortable. This week I lived in a lifestyle totally unfamiliar to me and felt like a part of the community because I was living like them.

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To bathe in the morning, one of the girls my age showed me how to pour water into a bucket that I would turn on to heat the water with electricity.  I use this water to bathe in the bathtub.  There aren’t lights in the bathroom and we leave for the clinics while it is still dark, so I have to light candles in the morning so that I can see while I bathe. Another difference is that to flush the toilet, we fill up a bucket of water and pour it down the toilet bowl.

In my home in Kanye, I really love the way that the traditional home lifestyle and the contemporary home lifestyle have been hybridized.

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One of the first things I noticed is that my host family lives in a plot of land similar to the traditional lifestyle, with one of my host mom’s sons and his wife and family living in a house on her plot of land and the other living just one or two plots away. I love that the whole family spends the evenings together in the grandmother’s home and think it is beautiful that all of the grandchildren can sleep over with her every night. I love the opportunity to get to know so many young children! We enjoyed dancing and leading exercises in turn, and the next night we each told a story with a positive message and then I took them to the big window in my room to stargaze and talk about the astronomy.

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One of the children was a nine-year-old boy and we worked on reading together. Then I showed this child, his six-year-old sister, and ten-year-old cousin the stars, I tried to explain that the stars were really big but very far away.
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Although there are differences to the way people live and what they have in Botswana compared to what I am used to in the United States, I think that a part of staying in another country is treating that country as your host. This means using the language when you can and trying to hybridize your own culture with that of your host country’s so that you feel comfortable but also show that you respect and are interested in learning and living in the different ways of a new place.  I think that I have felt so comfortable in both Gaborone and Kanye because I am putting in that effort to make myself comfortable and to show my host families that I want to live like them and be a member of the family. These connections have been so valuable and I am so thankful to have this opportunity to really live and integrate into two different parts of Botswana!

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