It’s in the eager faces of young men and women still wet behind the ears, yet assuming to know everything; existing in a "bubble" of smartphones, labels, quick changing relationship statuses, fake hair and Americanised accents. Of adults who now fear young people, overwhelmed by evolving world culture. Of the constant changes, and tolerance by people who take in everything with a candid resignation, the common, "Re tlaa reng."
One does not feel the 'soul' of Botswana perched on a high stool in an elitist bar, sipping on overpriced liquor or hanging out in pretentious affluent areas. One feels the "soul" of the country among ordinary folk. Boarding a bus, past shoving throbs of people and settling down on the sometimes too hard seats. As one tries to acquaint the nose with the 'assaulting' array of smells and odors, a man shouts, "Borotho bo bo hupileng nama. Pie ee bolelo, ten pula!" Then another screeches, "Ke rekisa dikausu tsaa sephiri!" While you are still wondering about these "dikausu", a pair of secret socks is thrust in your face and a smiling man exclaims, "Reka mama, di ka go tshwanela." This is probably the real Botswana: of people concerned with satisfying their needs, in between dollop doses of gossip, humorous banter and unassuming presence; Not interested in the perennial "politics" of the world but to be left to their own devices.
There's a warmness one feels in Botswana, that cannot be felt elsewhere. In the numerous years I lived outside the country, I could feel the difference. I missed being engrossed in the business of my life and hearing someone randomly shout, "Yaa Keletso!”. Here, one can stand in a queue with "celebrities" and even beauty queens can be spotted walking across the Main mall, with the scores of people going about their business. People don't make a big deal of everything, that even if you exclaimed that the world as we know it was coming to an end, someone would uninterestingly respond, "A mme?"
I have visited numerous villages and lands around the country, if only with the urge of some sympathetic acquaintance who wants to show this "city girl" another world. While many rural people may seem closed off from urban living, theirs is an interesting world they are comfortable with. A solid memory is of visiting a friend's land homestead towards the Papatlo areas. I arrived at the bus stop timeously, but after an hour my friend still hadn't arrived to pick me up.
I walked to the nearest homestead and enquired about my friend's home. After having eyed me with a mix of interest and suspicion, a young man of about 18 or 19 years was summoned in one shout. He was shirtless, brown, 'hard' and dusty- as one would expect someone who lives in the "bundus" to look.
I've never been one for 'small talk', so we walked together quietly. After quite a distance I asked if we were anywhere near arriving. "Ga go kgakala, re tloga re goroga," he responded. Boy, did we walk! Luckily, I was appropriately dressed in worn 'machesa' and jeans. We walked a distance of from Game City to the new CBD, and this young man was just relaxed. This is typical of many Batswana, where you can ask someone for directions and they will noncommittally reply, "Ke kwaa!"
Most Batswana are drawn together by the language, the same 'slowness' and easy wit. Its easy to identify a proper Motswana. If it’s not the awed facial expression, shuffled walk, it is the eye brow raising laugh or intensely quick speech. There are also some things about Batswana that only Batswana "get". My special friend pointed out with worry how I often bear being "insulted" by some readers of this very blog. I carefully explained that's the nature of Batswana. It is like a dog that barks at a car passing by, if the car stops, it will turn away to something else. Here, nothing really matters, there's no hurry in Africa is quite applicable in Botswana. Our people are 'easy like Sunday morning". Even "very big news" evaporates into the routine and predictable monotony of daily life in this beautiful huge village because here, The more things change, the more they stay the same.