The Price for a Bride to Botswana Men
As I sat waiting to meet my host family for the Peace Corps Botswana, my heart raced and my stomach filled with butterflies. Then, I met my host mom and within minutes she turned to me, eyes beaming, and said, “Your Setswana name is Neo (pronounced Nay-oh).” I asked her what Neo means, and she told me that it meant “gift from God.”
She took me home, to the house I would be staying at for the duration of Peace Corps pre-service training in Serowe, Botswana. We began to talk, and she was adamant that I learned her name, Mojwadi Namanyane, in case I got lost while I was out in the village. I met her two daughters, Kefilwe, 25, and Senosi, 40. Senosi hugged me and started saying my name in a sing-song manner, “Neo Neo, my Neo Neeeoooooo.” I instantly felt at home. Botswana is such a warm and inviting culture that I actually felt like sisters with this woman that I just met.
She would look at me and tell me how beautiful I was and how I could easily make any man in Botswana fall madly in love with me and want to marry me.
Kefilwe, on the other hand, looked at me as if an alien had just been sent to live with them. I did my best to connect with her, and learned that she really liked nail polish, or “2tex,” as they call it.
Senosi informed me that she prayed with her moruti (pastor) every night that I would find a Motswana husband. She would look at me and tell me how beautiful I was and how I could easily make any man in Botswana fall madly in love with me and want to marry me. It was her mission to find a man who would pay my lobola, or bride price. The standard lobola price in Botswana is eight heads of cattle, so we joked that my lobola would be two elephants and a giraffe, and that my suitor would have to send it home to my mother back in the United States.
The Price for a Bride to Botswana Men
Then, Kefilwe would chime in, telling me that I had all the wrong skills to be a wife and that I would never find a husband. She told me I needed to be able to cook Tswana food if I ever wanted to find a marriageable man and took it upon herself to teach me these ever-so-necessary cooking skills. To say the least, Kefilwe was shocked that I could even make a bed and wash my own clothes by hand.
Between Senosi and Kefilwe, I could not help but laugh at how differently they viewed me as an American. I also rationalized that with Senosi hell-bent on finding me a husband and Kefilwe convinced that I was inadequate to become a bride, it made sense that I was single.
She told me I needed to be able to cook Tswana food if I ever wanted to find a marriageable man and took it upon herself to teach me these ever so necessary cooking skills.
Unfortunately for Kefilwe, I was not terribly interested in learning how to make Tswana food. This became clear when I notoriously ended up making Motswana friends on my walk home from classes by joining in on random dance parties on the side of the road. On one particular instance, I was walking home and heard some house music that instantly transported me to my time in South Africa. I nonchalantly wandered over and started talking to a girl named Wendy.
After dancing and talking with Wendy for a few minutes, men start coming out of the house to join in on the dancing. I guessed Wendy could sense the trepidation on my face, because she turned to me and whispered, “Don’t worry, you’re safe here, these are all police officers.” I laughed and thanked her and told her I had to get back to my host family.
I arrived back to my host family right before curfew, sweat pouring down my face from all the dancing when Senosi turned to me and told me how I was just glowing and had such a beautiful face. I could not find the strength to tell her that “glow” was actually just sweat.
Needless to say, I did not find a husband during my time in the Peace Corps in Botswana, but I will say that my views on the bride price changed drastically.
Photos for The Price for a Bride to Botswana Men by Pixabay and Mollie Munro.