“Hm…what is love?”

Yesterday, I had a short conversation with a friend of mine who lives in Germany about what love could be. He said he’s not good in telling about that anymore. So I thought about it, too. And it just crossed my mind that I am asking people all the time what love is for them but I also can’t tell clearly. I mean, love is that BIG word which comes with a lot of expectations, so that it seems impossible to break it down.

But recently, I had an interview and I asked my interview partner about love. His definition was just so elaborate and heart-warming that I want to share it, especially after my critical post about lorato in Botswana.

I like this definition because it is simple but not trivial and it explains the different emotions and different states of mind which come along with love. And I like that he combined the thinking and the feeling, the body and the mind:

Charlie: Love has to do with feeling for starters. Feelings you have that…when you see the significant other…you can’t explain. It somewhere gives you that rush of blood, you know,  that kind of  goosebump-issue, a jet on the spine, that, when you see that person, every time you see her, you see something different; something unique; something that you missed the other time. It is that feeling, when you need to eat food, but you are not hungry because you think of that person…you think of her and it satisfies you!

Love means when we are with somebody, even if she doesn’t say anything to you… or you don’t say anything to her…you feel like, you are actually talking to her heart! You didn’t have to say anything. Just being with you, without saying anything, it’s like: “You understand me. And I understand you!”

Love is, when you make me happy. I think about you and I smile and I just laugh about it and everybody thinks “This guy is crazy”, you know!?

Love is like…when I see another woman…I’m like: “My girlfriend is better than her. My girlfriend is like the best woman ever. She is the most beautiful woman ever!”

Love is like…when she’s not here…I’m like: “I know she’s not cheating and not even thinking of those lines.” I am satisfied!

Love it’s a…it’s just knowing that, when I am with you, I am save. I am just save. And I am just happy.

That’s what I think is love.

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“Show me how much you love me: give me P500!”

Last week, I met Tumelo, a friend of mine, at the University of Botswana (UB) to chat a bit. We had a general conversation about materiality and love as we were sitting in one of the cafeterias.
He said to me that it’s not unsual that girls just say to their boyfriends or guys they go out with “Show me how much you love me: give me P500”, which are roughly 40€.
I knew already that providing girls with material things plays a significant part within a relationship, but I didn’t know the whole extent of it.
Eish…if I may allowed to give an emotional statement about that: this is quite shocking how materialistic relationships are.
It also makes me think about if the concept of romantic or passionate love is really a “western phenomenon” as some literature in the past pictured it?
On the other side it is maybe just a cultural expression of love. It reminds me of a paper I read long ago. Teenage girls from Uganda have been asked why they ask for money and other goods and if they do it because of their own weak financial situation. 51 percent said that they also want to have money even if they had enough of it. They said, that it’s not just about a poor economic background but also that it represents a value: „nothing is free”, „he would not take me seriously if I just gave in” or „I can never have enough money” (Nyanzi et al. 2001: 88). I got a similar impression when I was in Botswana for the first time in 2009. Different persons I talked to told me that those young girls would name their partners after the function he fulfills. So there might be a minister of transport who drives the girl around or the minister of finance who provides the girl with money.
Of course, one has to ask for the question if this happens because of a poor economical background and I, personally, don’t want to say, that girls don’t have a need, but it was quite interesting that different interview partner told me that it’s not just about this weak financial situation but more about lazyness. Very often I heard that “women and girls are lazy”. I am not sure if I would call it lazyness. I tend to say that it is a certain attitude. For example, I asked Tumelo what it means to him to be a Motswana. And he responded that – besides a lot of other things – it means to provide goods for his girlfriend and that he does it with joy. He rather buys his girlfriend airtime, sweets, treats, earrings or whatever instead of buying himself things. So from that point of view the title of this post looses his shocking materialistic connotation…a little bit…because it looks like that it is indeed a way of showing love.
Men are clear about that they are expected to provide a girl if they want to have a relationship – and sex. This is at least valid for a certain type of girls which we called fancy girls within our conversation. On the other side, I heard very often the statement that allmost all girls are materialistic. So it’s maybe not only for that fancy girls, but instead the foundation of a relationship.
My friend explained it to me like that:

Tumelo: If I want to have sex with a fancy girl I have to make sure that I can afford her. I can have maybe sex with her one time without spending too much money, but if I want to have sex again I need money because this type of girl can demand out of nothing P400 for a new hairstyle or somehting else.

I asked him if there’s something like true love:

Tumelo: True love does not exist because there’s always materialistic thinking involved. If you say to a girl that you love her with all of your heart she will ask you what else you can offer her. What does that tell about love?

I asked him directly if it is a open secret that girls want to be provided with goods and services and guys want to have sex in return…and that both sexes are aware of that kind of deal. He agreed that it’s easy like that.
This shows clearly that there’s a correlation between love, sex and goods. I got the feeling that it’s almost unimaginable to uncouple it. Like I wrote in the previous post love looks like a game between men and women. Everyone is aware of that. Most people complain about that game. But everyone plays the game very well.
Literature mentioned in this post:
Nyanzi, S.; Pool, Robert; Kinsman, J. (2001):The negotiation of sexual relationships among school pupils in South-western Uganda. In: AIDS Care 13 (1). S. 83–98.

A lesson about lorato

Lorato (love) plays an important part in those networks I am conducting research about. Ever since I came back to Botswana I was thinking about this thing called lorato. And the more I think about it due to my research and my experiences here I think it is key to understand those networks.

I am using the Setswana word because for now, I am not sure if lorato is the same as love, though people use love as the right translation for it.
I started conversations about love because everyone talks about it. It’s like a rumour around the streets. Lorato is everywhere.
But what does it mean if someone talks about go rata (being in love with someone)?

I thought too much of love as that strong feeling of attachment to one person, but something has to be different here. I got confused about it, but a conversation I had with one of my male interview partners cleared things up:

Karin: It seems like love is everywhere and people talk easily about being in love with somebody. What does it mean if men talking about being in love with a girl?
Kegs: It just means that they want to have sex or had sex with that girl.

But, of course it is never that easy. To reduce the feelings of men to a mere physical desire would be a shame. I haven’t found out yet, why men have to talk about love if they want to have sex. I could see three reasons:
1.    It is just the way how love is understood
2.    It is because women want to hear to be special and therefore are more likely to agree in having sex.
3.    It refers to the saying: “making love”, but as far as I know there’s no Setswana word which can be translated in that sense. Having sex means: go tlhakanela dikobo (literally meaning: sharing the blankets).

A friend of mine disagreed with the explanation that love is equal to sex:

Anthony: No, this person lied to you. It’s not like that.
Karin: Ok. What does it mean if you say Ke a go rata to a lady?
Anothny: I approach her. It means that I am atttracted by her.
Karin: With which aim?
Anothny: To go out with her.
Karin: Is there another word in Setswana which you can use to explain stronger feelings you have for her except of go rata?
Anothny: What do you mean?
Karin: Let me give you an example. In Germany, if a guy would say to me “Ich liebe Dich” the time we just had met I would rather run away because it is impossible to talk about that strong feelings in my culture from the very beginning. To say “I love you” to a person means wanting to have a commited relationship*.
Anothny: So, what would I say if I want to date you and show you that I am attracted by you, for example if I would have invited you for a cup of coffee. What would I say?
Karin: You would say that you like me.
Anothny: For how long?
Karin: There’s no certain time, but maybe a few weeks or even months?
Anothny: Weeks???
Karin: Yes
Anothny: That’s too long.

* Of course, if I think about the meaning of love there would be other possibilites, too. Some people talk about love from the very first moment. My statement about commited relationship does not mean that I judge speaking about love at first sight. There’s always the possibility that there happen things someone cannot explain…

I tried to figure out for what it’s been too long. I couldn’t.
I also asked Anothny again if there’s another word in Setswana to describe a strong attachment to a person. He said that there’s not a word. And I asked him how then a next step towards a commited relationship could look like if there are no words to describe it. The answer was that the ultimate goal is a “lifelong contract” e.g. marriage as a sign for commitment.

This question of love triggers my mind. I asked some girls about what they feel and think if a guy says Ke a go rata to them. They say it means that this guy wants to get closer to them and wants to be with them.

Is lorato the catalyser which pushs relationships forward? In the sense Anothny talks about it, it is an intial step to establish a relationship and even those girls see it as an expression of (sexual) interest.
If I look at the german culture I would rather say love is what follows. The initial step is beeing attracted to each other, but this is something different then love.

Though Anothny declined that Ke a go rata also means to want to have sex with somebody I think there’s a connection between that.
Another friend of me said it so:

Thabo: Love nd sex differ but they go hand in hand
Karin: They do. The problem is people talk of love but think of desire. This is where the problem starts. Love is wanted but sex is what happens…
Thabo: Love is wanted not on desire but sex is what is desired
Karin: I think people talk 2 easily of love…they call it at least love but mean desire.
Thabo: True dat…but its only deceiving 2 fuck or bein fuckd in the name of love.
Karin: Why does it have to be in the name of love? Is sth wrong with sex? I don’t get it. I’d rather want to be fucked in the name of desire…If I can talk openly!
Thabo: Yah, better dat way instead of bein deceivd

Yahhhh, this love thing…Sometimes I think that guys and girls play a game around this. Lucky are those who can get along with this game, but I met a lot of persons who cannot…