Ke a Leboga (Thank you in Setswana)

It is uncommon to hear the words "Thank you" from a Motswana.

It is not because Batswana are rude people; it is because they show their gratitude in different manners other than words.

My friend Mabe (Mah-bee) serves as a good example. He is the driver for our District AIDS Coordinator’s Office. Mabe is more like a brother to me today. We joke about anything and everything and he is always happy to see me every morning at the office. When I first got to Tsabong he helped me greatly with moving in, taught me about how things run in the office, and introduced me to community members. Without him my adjustment into Tsabong would have been more difficult than it already was. This past week he helped me, yet again. My gas tank for my stove was running out and I need to get a replacement. It took me 3 hours to get my tank replaced. Things in Botswana take a very LONG time to do. I spent the morning filling out forms, getting signatures and quotations from various stores with Mabe. I have gotten to a point in my Peace Corps service where I do not notice how long such petty tasks take. Maybe it’s because I have adapted to the slow-pace of Botswana life.

After Mabe replaced my tank, I wanted to thank him and the only thing I could think of to do is say “Thank you so much. You have always been helping me since I came to Tsabong”. I wish I could have said or done more to show my appreciation but I couldn’t think of anything else. The response I got back from Mabe took me by surprise:

“No problem. Thank you for what you are doing for our country”.

I never thought I would hear that from anyone during my 2 years of service. What he said brought a smile to my face.

That morning, Mabe got me thinking about what I was doing in Botswana and why I had joined the Peace Corps.

I was first exposed to volunteerism in my home. My mother would always drive me and my twin sister to different community service meetings and activities during grade school. My father has been a member of various NGO charities that helps the poor in Iran. Then during one of our family trips to Iran in 2005, my father took me and my sisters to an orphanage and we played with children who had disabilities.

What I remember most is the sound of laughter from the orphaned children. Our summer vacation spent in my parents’ birth country was my first exposure and interaction to the reality of poverty in a developing country.

In the 12th grade I started to look into the Peace Corps. Peace Corps was appealing to me because it meant living with a people different from you, adopting their lifestyles, and speaking their language. However, the two years of service was discouraging to me because it seemed too long. But, there was a tipping point for me of my decision to apply to the Peace Corps. I remember hearing then Senator Obama giving a speech and encouraging Americans to volunteer in their communities. I believe that community service is a value of the American culture.

I thought that the Peace Corps would be an excellent opportunity for me to expand my horizons on both a personal and professional level. Most importantly, it would be my way of saying Ke a leboga (Thank you in Setswana). So, here it goes:

Thank you America, for giving my parents, who immigrated to America from Iran 30 years ago, the opportunity to live the “American Dream”.

Thank you Mom and Dad, for showing me the importance of giving.

Thank you President John F. Kennedy, for implementing the Peace Corps 50 years ago and creating a movement that would inspire over 200,000 Americans to work towards world peace.

Thank you family and friends, for supporting me during my service in Peace Corps Botswana.

Thank you Botswana, for welcoming me into your country.

Thank you Peace Corps, for giving me the opportunity to grow, learn, and do things I never thought I could ever do.

As a first-generation American, I am serving the country that has given so much to me and my family. This is my way of saying "ke a leboga."

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“Sunset at the Railroad” by PCV Nicholas Baylor Hall. Namibia, 2011.