This is the first time our trip has ever spent a weekend in Maun. My friend and colleague at BBL, Onkagetse Present, works closely with me planning these trips. Over the last year, he worked tirelessly to put together an outstanding experience for our first weekend in town.
Our day began at BBL working with the Solid Rock Cultural Training program, lead by Beauty Bogwasi. The idea was for us to learn how to become Motswana. We were taught traditional games, how to build a traditional fire, and a few helped cook a traditional meal of seswa, beets, potatoes, steak, and sausage. We were taught the local version of games like rounders, jump rope, chess, and a few others. We also learned some key Setswana phrases and words. Ultimately, this was our first real chance to visit BBL as a whole group and to meet and work with the adults who work there and the kids that the center serves.
After receiving our certificates officially making us Batswana, we split into groups to visit the homes of a few BBL staff members. Each year, we are so focused on the kids, we never get to learn about the people who work with the children on a daily basis. We get to interact with Onks and a few of the counselors, but that is about it. So many of the staff members go nameless and we certainly know little about them outside of the center. These home visits provided us with an opportunity to meet with, speak to, and visit the homes of the people who so tirelessly dedicate their lives to the children and families of BBL. It was a hugely rewarding experience that I think everyone enjoyed. Maun is so much more than a place that was ravaged by AIDS, leaving orphans and destitute families in its wake. It is a proud village with proud people. I do not want our students to only see the homes of vulnerable children. It’s important that they understand that Maun is no different than most American towns, with an incredibly disparate population from all walks of life – hopefully today’s visit did a little bit of that.
We ended our evening with a celebratory dinner with the staff members whose homes we had just visited. This is usually a great event, full of anticipation and excitement for the days ahead – naturally this evening was no different. Each table was deeply engrossed in their conversations, but as the night wore on, a few students went off to bed. As the crowd thinned out, the remaining few gathered together and Onks led a discussion on gender roles in each of our societies. It created quite the debate, particularly amongst the BBL staff, about women’s role in society and how that plays out amongst youth. The debate centered on the idea that women belong in the home, caring for their children, while men supported them financially. Trace, who has been with BBL since its inception, very strongly argued the counterpoint that woman can be strong mothers and still support the family by working, she continued by saying that a woman does not need a man to be successful. The Americans did not engage much in the discussion, preferring to listen, this will form the basis for our conversation tomorrow night. While it was clear there was more to say, it had gotten late and everyone was pretty tired. We also have an early morning tomorrow visiting the churches of a few of the BBL staff.