How I Learned the Setswana Word for Bat

Last week I learned a new word in Setswana: mamatwane, which means bat. How did I learn this word, you might ask? Through the cultural integration technique called “kill the bat in the legkoa’s room”. Fun game, right?

Last week, I was sitting in my room, writing down the things I was thankful for that day, by candlelight as the power was out (for no good reason either). I suddenly saw some flickering darkness up my me ceiling, barely noticeable in the pale candlelight. I looked up and saw something fairly large flying in a fast circle around my room. After realizing big black moths don’t move like that, I ran (as if expecting a nuclear bomb attack-bent at the waist with hands over my head) to my door and outside. I called my host sister over, trying to tell her what was going on. And of course I had no clue what the word for bat was in Setswana. Ask me elephant, puff adder, spider, lion, or any other African animal, and I’d have a good shot at knowing it. But bat must have been too mundane for my LCF to teach us.

Anyways, a few minutes later, my host mom, 2 sisters, and brother were in my room, carrying brooms and sticks, swatting crazily in the air while I cower in the corner, hoping they don’t knock my lit candles onto my bed and thankful PC vaccinated me for rabies, just in case things went south. After a few more minutes, someone finally hits the bat out of the air, right over my bed. And of course nobody saw where it landed, because we are still relying on candles, even though the power had switched on again. Apparently it’s easier to hit a bat in the dark.

After moving lots of stuff and looking up and down, the bat is discovered: on my bed, mere inches from my pillow. One of my sisters scoops it into my dustpan, and they all file out as I profess my thanks. I’m left to clean bat crumbles off my bed and be thankful nothing was set on fire, what with the flailing brooms and lit candles.

The electricity continued to be cantankerous that night, but I haven’t seen a bat since. Thank the Lord! And I don’t think I’ll ever forget the word for bat. Mamatwane! Oh what a bonding moment!


About Jen Lamos

Christ follower. Writer. Permaculturist. RPCV. Photographer. Gardener. Keeper of Chickens. Daughter of God.

3 thoughts on “How I Learned the Setswana Word for Bat

  1. Pingback: How I Didn’t Learn the Xitsonga Word for Bat | Jen's Peace Corps Experience in South Africa

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