“Is there another boyfriend inside? I will kill you!”

Again, I found myself with the police in my backyard…
The ex-boyfriend of my neighbour girl came back last night.
Almost everyone of us, were fast asleep, so I felt like somebody dumped a bucket of cold water onto me when I was woken up. I was like: “What? Where? Who?”
I tried to sort out my thoughts and think about what to do. First thing, of course: Calling the police! I called them, while I was standing behind the curtain and there I saw this guy with a big brick in his hand, shouting something I didn’t understand and smashing the brick again and again against the door until the lock was damaged and the door opened. I thought my neighbour girl was not at home because I didn’t see a light the whole evening, but when the door went open I saw her with her baby on the arm crying. And this guy just throws the brick at her……fortunately it just hit the fridge. I was screeming to my boyfriend: Get out to her! He is attacking her! The same moment somebody was saying something in my ear: the police on the phone. I totally forgot about that. I tried to explain what’s going on there. The policeman was just like: “Ok, Give me your number, someboday will call you back!” And I thought: “What the hell? Somebeody is calling me back? Somebody has to get to this place!”
Of course, nobody called back.
In the meantime our teenage neighbour boy ran out as well. In that moment the ex-boyfriend ran away, but throwed another brick at this boy so that he got hurt on the hip. After that, everyone of us got in the house and for a moment we were just sitting there. Thinking about if this happened for real, again?! We called our neighbour which came immediately. He called the police and they said that they can’t come right now because they are short on vehicles. What??? They said, they have just one vehicle for the night! No, no, no…is this a police station or a charade? Eventually they came. Five police officers. They were more interested in that case than the last time, but I thought they were standing there for ever while they should go and hunt this guy. Interestingly, after a few minutes came another car – a pick up – with two other policemen. They wore a different dress. They took a look at a picture of this guy and went off. Later, we found out that this was the armed combat unit – the hunting guys!
For safety reason the police took our neighbour girl and her baby to the police station to give her shelter during the night.

This was the night and now it’s the morning.
It’s just one sentence who’s in my mind. It’s the sentence this guy shouted at his ex-girlfriend: “Is there another boyfriend inside? I will kill you!” So, again I think about gender! Of course, the majority of men don’t act in this violent way, but this guy did and I am sure this is not the only one.
Unfortunately, Botswana is also famous for the so called “passion killings” were jealous boyfriends kill the lovers of their girlfriend or/and the girlfriend and then commit suicide. Sure, to catch the girlfriend with another guy is bad, really, really bad. But is this a reason to kill them and commit suicide? Certainly, not! The problem of that whole scenario starts way before!
For example, there was this case in Mochudi were a guy killed his girlfriend. He removed her heart and put it on top of her chest. After that the guy commited suicide. Since then this place is called “Ko pelong”. The place where the heart is.

What is it that people get furious like that? Why can’t they deal with their feelings?
And in our case: Why does this guy care? He already made another girl pregnant. If our neighbour girl should have another boyfriend now, wouldn’t it be her right? They broke up!
When is a relationship over? Only, when the guy says so? Or is there never really an end, while people want to keep up the possiblitiy in coming back? And is this maybe part of the reason why one could speak about sexual NETWORKS, because they can be activated at any time?

After being “in between”

Now that some more time passed by I have sorted out some thoughts about that incidence that happened in my backyard.
Beyond that fact that his incidence was an example of being far, far away from talking about gender equality I am asking myself on what kind of purpose or common understanding are relationships build on. Or: what do people expect from loving relationships? What meaning or function do they have? As I am working on relationships as networks I see a relationship between two persons as the smallest possible network. In this case this guy had at least two relationships. I know nothing about his incentive to do so. Maybe he needed it to survive (having a place to stay) or just to feel good (being a real man).
And I think it was also a problem of expressing feelings. I am not a psychologist, but the moment he was beaten the chicken to death looked like a metaphor for not getting along with that situation. One male friend of me put it like that: “You know people here they are never alone. They never sit down and think. They just fuck. Not taking care. Don’t condomize. They can’t tell you what sex means. It’s just fucking.” Even though this conversation was about the meaning of sex I think it can be adapted because also other persons would say: “Heish… people don’t think”.

What ever it is really all about this showed that networks of loving/sexual relationships are a complex matter. So many different features play a role: sex itself, money, status, gender, understanding of love, self-perception, role of family, even religious beliefs and probably some more other things as, well.
The more I stay here the more I feel like an archaeologist who is digging deeper and deeper in that culture. I am still far away from understanding how everything works together, but…I get closer.

In between

This post is a tough one because it shows how thin the line is between being a social anthropologist and just a an “ordinary” person who is raised in her own specific culture.

Yesterday, I was witness and participant of an incidence of something I feel difficult to put into the right words. It just happened in my backyard.

There live lovely people. A young woman, her little baby of less then one year of age and her younger brother, a smart teenage boy of fourteen years.
The father of the baby, who never took care of the baby, was threatening her several times during the day. All of a sudden he wants to take his baby away. Take what – so he says – belongs to him. As far as I know, if one couple is not married, the baby belongs to the mother.
So he came during the evening again – drunk. She chased him away and locked the gate. A little later he came back. He just jumped over the fence, just to claim that he will take the baby with him.
The teenage boy knocked at the door and asked for help. We went over. I told this guy to leave this yard, because it is also mine. He refused, of course. I told him that I will call the police. And he said: “Yes, do it: they will tell you that the law is on my side”. So I did, but the number was not working. How crazy. So I went to our neighbour asking for help as well. She kept on trying to call the police, but no reception (Later, we found out, that they changed the number). So I called my hostfather, the only person I could think about in this situation, as he is a person of respect. He rushed to our place and tried to mediate in that case. It didn’t help. This guy was just insulting the mother of that baby and me as well. I think, he didn’t like that this white woman told him to go.
So he got more furious and said he will take then at least what else belongs to him: his chicken. He went to the cage to get them. They made incredible noise. He was holding them on their legs. In the meantime another neighbour came to mediate and he wants to talk to him to let the chicken there. All of them were trying to calm him down. But his person was full of anger because he didn’t get what he wants. A fights start between him and the neighbour. I can’t tell exactly how one step leads to the other, but all of a suddne the drunken guy beat the chicken to death by smashing them on the ground, again and again ( I can’t find other words for that). Long before, I stepped aside because I think I couldn’t handle it. Even if I tried to show civil courage to a certain point. There were happening some things which go beyond my understanding. This I had to realise because of being a social anthropologist. In my head was just one question: “What is going on here?”.
Finally the guy went away. Disapered into the darkness carrying his dead chicken and a stone with him. We decided to go alltogether in our house, so that our neighbours are save.
Ten minutes later, the guy came back to take more chicken. We called my hostfather again and he rushed straight to the police. After ten minutes they were here at our place. They were three policemen. I felt like they were rather suspicious then they wanted to help. Maybe they also didn’t like that there where white people involved. One of them was in my eyes very unprofessional because he scanned me from the top to the toe. Later, when he passed by me to go the house of our neighbours he was kind of whispering: “How are you?”, still watching at me. The only answer I could give was: “I’ve seen better days”. But I thought: “Really? What is that guy up to in that situation?”
The police went away without doing anything. They said, that they can’t do anything. And my hostfather said as well. “We can’t do anything. This is a family issue.”
“Is it?” I am asking myself.

Now, that this incident happened one day ago I still ask myself what exactly is bothering me about that.

Foremost it is because this woman is treated from this guy like she’s not worth anything. He – because he is a man – has all the right to claim what he wants, even to the extend to get abusive. This is not meant to blame men, but someone who would deny this is an issue of gender didn’t get the point. How can a man just claim something? With all that social-anthropological background I know how a man can claim, but that doesn’t mean that it has just to be accepted. What is gender equality? This situation is not about me, but even me I felt insulted on the one hand of the drunken guy and on the other hand of  the policemen who was scanning me. So, I know that I can leave this country if I don’t like how I am treated, but what’s with that women who live there? Where does gender equality start? Who is responsible for that?

This post is not supposed to be neither analytical nor really self-reflexive. It is a drama what happened to this neigbour woman. And I am compassionate about it, not just because she is my neighbour or I am a woman, too. I am compassionate because I am already part of the network I am searching about. So the life of social anthropoligists is far away from being like a satellite who flies around the earth. This incidence stroke me personally and professionally. It raises different questions of how and why things happened the way they happened. Especially it challenges my understanding of gender roles and how to get along with such different understandings between the sexes?
And I ask myself what kind of responsibility I do have to get along with that thin line of being a social anthropologist and a woman born and raised in Europe.

All about networking (Part 2)

Just after I finisehd the last post I went to a so called “Star Ralley” in Mochudi. It was held by the leading party BDP (Botswana Democratic Party). This party rules the country since the independence in 1966. My hostfathler is a member of this party. In Botswana there will be elections on October 24th so it was an important event for the party. Especially because the president himself, Ian Khama, took part.
My hostfather invited us to join the meeting and said that we should come to the front so that he can see us and if there will be some free chairs he will show us.
So we went there but were a little bit late. The Ralley had already started. We stood opposite of the tent where the important members of BDP and the president were sitting. I recognised my hostfather sitting at the left side of the president. Until this occasion I didn’t realize that he was such an important member of the BDP. After a while he saw us and waved his arm and smiled at us. (Would anyone who would stand next to the german chancellor wave his arm like that…?)
He called another member of the party, telling him something I couldn’t understand and pointing towards our direction. After five minutes another guy came to us to tell that he reserved some seats for us. We followed him and he showed us a place in the tent where the V.I.P. of the BDP sit, including the president. It was a very special feeling to pass by the audience (maybe around 100 people) who all admire the BDP and the president, but we as strangers, were honoured to sit under the V.I.P. tent. So: we found ourselves self sitting three rows behind the president of the Republic of Botswana. A few minutes later, my hostfather had left his chair next to the president to come to us and greet us. I think he felt honoured as well, that we had followed his invitation, because after the official part, when the president had left, my hostfather introduced us to his network consisting of several more or less important persons introducing me as his daugther. For example, he introduced us to Unity Dow which is the candidate of the parliamanent for the electional district “Mochudi West”. Beyond that she is a laywer and a very good known person in Botswana and abroad.

Maybe it is a little bit difficult to explain it properly but during this event I got a sense for the meaning of this community and how important networks are. Like I wrote in the last post about networking, it is very important to belong to somebody or a family. It could also be said that everybody has to have his place or position within the community.
So this means in the end it all goes back to be on the right time at the right place and know the right persons to benefit from the network. The access to networks is the family. This will open the door for all social interactions.

All about networking (Part 1)

More and more I get a feeling for what that networking means. It’s just a little insight I have yet, but it is like I get more and more pieces of a puzzle together.
It crosses my mind when we were driving along the road. A bus was driving in front of us. All of a sudden he stopped to put a way pieces of an old tyre. The driver took a look back at us, node is head and waved with his arm. When we overtook him he hoot. A little while later it happens that he overtook us again and he hoot again, we too. And again, after a while we overtook the bus again, so we hoot and he was waving with his arm and hit the hooter again. I thought about if something like that would happen in Germany as well. I came to reason to say, no. I don’t think so.
But this is just one little example of how people interact here with each other. You can’t get out of your yard without getting in touch with the people. Maybe a little bit similar to rual life in Germany, but though a little bit more interaction. Because in Germany one would greet people he or she knows. Here, eveyone is greeted. When I sit on my veranda and strangers pass by they greet. They wave and will say:

“Dumela, Mma. O kae?” (Hello Miss, how are you?)

And I will be supposed to greet back, of course, saying:

“Ee…Rra. Keteng”  (Yes, Mister. I am fine.)

This is  the formal greeting phrase. If you are not greeting it will be seen as a sign of disrespect. And on the other hand. Behaving in a respectful way is very important. I think it creates ties.
What is also interesting is that “O kae?” litterlay means “where are you?” And the answer “Keteng” means “I am here”. Maybe this contributes to the fact that is very important to which family one belongs. I’ve been asked almost from everyone of my neighbours where I belong to. Then I say that I belong to Mma and Rra Shimashima and then they would node their head saying “I see”. And if somebody introduces me to somebody else he would also tell him that I belong to this specific family. I got the feeling it is just impossible not to belong to somebody.  Even I would be asked by my Batswana family, “To whom is he or she belonging to!”, if a friend visits me.
This could be even stretched further as it also influences marriages. Though couples decide on their own who they want to marry it is still a matter of the families. So without knowing who one belongs to it gets difficult.

Sometimes I get the feeling everybody knows everybody. This is very helpful in everyday life. For example, recently our fridge broke. So we just could go to our neighbour asking for help and of course, he knows somebody could check our fridge. And if he wouldn’t know this person he would have known a person who knows someone. Of course, this may also be like life in rural german villages. But unless there, where I get the feeling it is a closed community, here, in Botswana everyone can be part of the community as long as one knows some few rules to behave respectful. From the very first moment, when I came to Botswana in 2009, my host family welcomed me as being like their own daugther. And this care continues through all the years until my return this year. I can go to my hostfather if there should be any problem and he will take care of it. Or sometimes it happens that he passes by our house just saying “Hi” and to let us know that he’s checking us to see if everything is allright.
Besides the practical side of always knowing someone who could help out with something it is a good feeling to know that others care.