“Culture shock is an emotional and psychological reaction to the loss of an individual’s own culture. It involves the loss of familiar signs, symbols and social interactions. Culture shock occurs when unpredictable cues are thrown at a person and the individual does not know how to respond (Gaw, 2000, cited in Mooradian 2004). On the other hand, reverse culture shock can be defined as “the process of readjusting, reacculturing, and reassimilating into one’s own home culture after living in a different culture for a significant period of time” (Gaw, 2000, p.83-84).
In my 11 years here, I have settled in to take a lot of things for granted, especially when it comes to the financial costs: the daily mobile phone calling, wifi in my flat or just about anywhere, “perfect” public transport, eating at McDonald’s, and how poverty shows itself, so to speak.
Of course, I have been home quite often: however, my time at home in both 2017 and 2018 were different compared to previous years. Very.
While at home in 2018 I told my mother of the wood-smoke (mosi) I immediately sensed, I told her of the chirping birds waking me up in the morning, the mooing cattle in the afternoon, the goat and sheep bell in the evening as well as the barking dogs at midnight. I also told my mother of the traffic congestion in Kanye. Indeed, I loved the traffic jam, the birds and animal sounds, but no so for the mosi scent.
In addition, I went to her storage room where together with her mother, my 93 year-old grandmother, they helped me look for ditlatlana, the countless baskets that my grandmother had weaved. I gazed at them for a long time and was reminded of my memorable time in Gasita back in 2017, where I bought one tlatlana from one of my respondents for P100. Not only that but I also wondered why I was never taught to weave baskets?
“Nkgosi ka na ke le Peace Corps”, alluded my mother. While “Peace Corps” would have different connotations for me, what was interesting was how my mother articulated my reverse culture shock. It appears that she positioned it to or closer to whiteness, that is power. I was reminded of sometime in 2015, when I arrived at the Gaborone Bus Rank and immediately started taking pictures non-stop. Perhaps, owing to my socialisation and how I grew up seeing whiteness, I wondered: did I turn white?
Back to my mother, in her home, she has hosted mainly White American Peace Corps Volunteers between years of 1987-1996. She has interacted with them, observed them and exchanged letters with some following their return to their country of origin.
She went on to remind my grandmother that I left home at only 19 years back in 2001 to study in South Africa. And immediately, in 2007, moved to Scotland.
Of course, I am very much aware of these changes, and I believe I am going to embrace them, and not by any chance “hide” myself or reduce myself from what I want to do or feel like doing. So, next time you see me at Kwa ga Walebatla, or Ga Mma Thipadibogale or even at the Bangwaketse Filling Station enjoying mangwinya with Petrol Attendants, come over for a selfie.
Of course, as much as I am interested in the experiences of Batswana abroad and how we navigate(d) our ways in successfully settling in host countries I am also interested in how the Batswana returnees transit to a smooth adjustment.
To the same extent I have changed while away from home, I believe home has also changed.