Boitumelo Vero Rikhotso

Destined for greatness!

Forget Trump, proudly African January 16, 2018

African languages

 

I have been in Botswana for 6 months and I am loving it. I am fascinated by the way Batswana live and think but mostly, what captures my attention on a daily basis is of course the language. The pride Batswana have in their language and heritage is something to behold. Although I am a moTsonga, I am fluent in Setswana and consider it to be my first language because of the upbringing I had in the Bophuthatswana, but I am often gobsmacked at how much there is to learn still. My Setswana vocabulary is expanding and often in non-formal interactions. Language is exciting you guys – I am falling in love with Setswana all over again. Of course being in Botswana and working for the organization I work for also introduced me to French which I am thoroughly enjoying and studying through the University of Botswana. It is amazing how a few months ago I knew no word of French and now I can carry out basic French conversations with so much ease. Don’t worry – I will be learning a new African language soon – probably Swahili. I am fascinated by how the mind works in terms of language learning specifically – heaven. So here are some of the few experiences (I have had a lot more) that rendered me (in a good way) speechless, yes I know, me – speechless.

  • Water Utilities call-centre: During the Christmas break I woke up with no water on one of the days and after the landlord had checked and figured that the problem was not in the complex, I called the call-centre. Being the festive season I was concerned that I would not be assisted, but in a matter of a few hours, the issue was resolved on a day before New Years’ eve at 23:00. Anyway, I digress; the post is about language and not service delivery which was great by the way. For the first time in my adult life I conducted a call-centre conversation not in English. I was surprised at myself. I had actually chosen the English option when prompted by the pre-recording but as soon as the lady answered the phone, I switched to Setswana. I thought she was going to tell me it was the English-line but no. She simply continued and we held the rest of the conversation in Setswana. I think from now on whenever prompted I am going to choose this option.  We don’t speak our languages enough y’all.

 

  • ATM: Ever chosen to use the ATM in another language other than English? I must say the first time I did it I was so panicked. But I reminded myself that there was a red button to cancel if I was in too deep so I could stop at anytime. Needless to say I was worried over nothing – now I easily choose the Setswana option. Aren’t you proud of me? 🙂

 

  • Optometrist: I am not sure how I am going to fully describe this experience. I visited the optometrist to get a new prescription of contacts. The Optometrist was Indian and he spoke to me in Setswana. Someone said to me he probably memorized basic Setswana phrases because he asks the same questions everyday. Other than I didn’t think that was the case, I don’t actually care whether he is speaking from knowledge or cram-work but when a non-native speaker speaks to you in “your” own language – that is commendable. I found out after the fact that the man is actually from Krugersdorp in Johannesburg. He never learnt any African language when he was in South Africa but when he relocated to Botswana, it was paramount to learn Setswana. How do I describe this phenomena?

 

  • Airport: At the airport the other day I couldn’t help but observe an interesting interaction. The Airport Service Agent who happened to be black was assisting a white couple. The first thing was the greeting which was initiated by the way, by the couple, the woman to be more specific as she was doing most of the talking. “Dumela Rra (Hello sir),” she said which was duly responded to “Dumela Mma (Hello mam).” The rest of the conversation was amazing to me because the agent continued to speak in Setswana and the traveller spoke in English. Just a flowing conversation with no “I don’t understand your language,” or any such utterances. It sounds awkward to hear a non-black saying I am a Motswana and hear them saying it with pride. That was a tender moment for me. I immediately thought of South Africa – oh my beloved country. How I would love to see non-blacks actually speaking or showing an interest in learning at least one African language. I think it would help us in one way to make strides in achieving the rainbow nation we often speak about.  Language – the great unifier or divider.

 

Why in the world did we ever believe that our languages are not powerful? We must fight to keep our languages alive – seriously. Walking or driving around Botswana is another sobering experience. Billboards are actually in both English and Setswana but most are actually only in Setswana – the whole copy. When I visited Germany with my aunt (Mary Kekana) in 2015, I was frustrated at times that everything was only written in German, but I get it now. Let us restore pride to our nations. I now get why our languages are an integral part of who we are and how almost replacing that with another has done a major major disservice to our psyche as Africans, but maybe more close to home – South Africans.

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My first month in Gaborone, Botswana July 15, 2017

Filed under: #BotsChronicles,Travel — Boitumelo Vero Rikhotso @ 11:33 am
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2G of data is P399. No, please read that again and let it sink in. P399 is R502 South African Rands. Sure, I know one of the cardinal sins of travelling is converting all the time as this type of converting does not really reflect the correct picture of the value of the item. Being that as it may, P399 for mobile data is still a lot even in Pula standards. No, data must really fall. Anyway, needless to say, I have had to acquire home internet for P699 uncapped. I definitely feel the pinch. On the brighter and more necessary side of things though, petrol is affordable over here. A full tank cost me about R700 in South Africa and here only P350 or less, almost half of the value. Now that’s some data consolation.

Moving right along, my first month in Botswana has been quite busy. Work is full on speed; I have already been on a couple of work trips and my inbox is never empty. Transiting through OR Tambo makes me feel like so near yet so far. Working in an environment with people from all over the African continent is so exciting. At the end of my tenure here I should be fluent in Shona, Kalanga, French and Portuguese, so help me God :). Of course my mom would love for me to actually have a full-on conversation in Setswana which I am embarrassed to say I can’t at present, but yeah, pretty high language goals! I will let you know how that goes – so exciting… So the differences in the Setswana spoken here and in South Africa? Now that’s a whole new blog.

So, in one month, I have secured accommodation – tick, I have a Botswana mobile number – tick, I have found a shop that makes lovely smoothies – tick (although they open at 9am! Who opens shop at 9am?), I have a Botswana bank account – tick, and most importantly, everything around the city is generally under 20 minutes’ drive. My nickname over here is not Tumi but Boi. It was pretty strange in the beginning but I am  so used to it by now so much so that when a person calls me Tumi then I know they must be South African.

My first Sunday here was so far my loneliest. I just wanted my mom’s food. Trying to find a place that sells homemade food hasn’t been easy. Most restaurants are closed on a Sunday. A lot of places like car dealerships, some banks and some estate agents do not work on weekends. WHAT?? This is honestly quite a culture shift. So everyone needs to find time during their busy week schedule to visit these offices as most aren’t open on a Saturday. Botswana is really alive with business opportunities. Batswana embrace resting. Perhaps a little too much resting but resting they do.

I have taken up running again. Lord help me be consistent this time around. My aim is to run at least 2 – 3 times per week. I have made contact with the lovely Shatiso who writes the blog (https://thegaboronerunner.com/) and passionate about running. Lord knows I need accountability here so I thank heavens for you girl. Here’s to more slashing of kilometres or miles.

Meeting the South African High Commissioner to Botswana, Commissioner Mdu Lembede and his Deputy, Minister Bulelwa Kiva was such a humbling experience and a highlight to my first week in Botswana. Such brilliant minds and so humble. Not that I have felt my safety threatened, but as I drove out of the High Commission, I couldn’t help but tear up. I felt like I was leaving home and going to face a tough world. Now I know where to go when I want to feel like home. Thanks to a colleague and fellow South African Maemo Machete who introduced me to the High Commission Staff and has been such a great brother and friend since my arrival.

Since I have been here I haven’t met a lot of South Africans so you should have seen my crazy excitement when I met Thato Molamu at a restaurant. Gosh! It was so refreshing to see someone from back home. You do not realize just how much you miss home until you see someone from home I tell you. Thato – Thanks for making my week :).

I am still searching for a church family. Finding a home to live in is so much easier than finding a church community. I really miss 3Ci. But God is really amazing here. I am excited about this new season of my life and trusting that God will plant me where I need to be. I know He seldom plants me where I want to be or where I am comfortable, but those places become great grounds of growth and service. So in this area, I relinquish all rights and wait for Him to lead. He’s proved to know best. If any of the readers know of a church to recommend in Gaborone, please feel free to share.

Apparently all those who visit Botswana fall in love with it. Since I am now sort of settled in, I have decided to do some touristy things at least once a month when I am not travelling for work. I also promise to take pictures which is not really my thing but hey, I will lose my inhibitions and give you a taste of Botswana.

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