Tuesday, August 13, 2013


This evening I was sitting at the desk in my house, diligently writing a blog post about teaching, when I was abruptly interrupted by a giant spider.  And really, it was the largest spider I’ve ever seen.  It was about the length of my pointer finger, which I would estimate to be about two inches.  (Unfortunately, or fortunately? I come from a long line of people with small hands.  Large palms, tiny fingers.)

As I glanced up and saw the spider my immediate reaction was, “AH-HA! Get the DOOM!”  This is a phrase I’ve heard frequently since I arrived here.  The first day I spent on campus I remember seeing a can of DOOM sitting on someone’s desk.  Right next to his coffee mug and keyboard.  I thought it was unusual that it was so prominently displayed, but figured it must have been forgotten.

The next day, one of the staff members from the International Affairs Office took me shopping to get a few necessities for my house (linens, pillows, pots and pans). She wasn’t really supervising my purchases but she did insist, “Don’t forget, you must get DOOM.”  “Really?,” I asked, “Do you think it’s necessary?” “Oh yes, you will want it.”  I bought it thinking I would never use it.  That evening I used it three times!

Last week I was in the midst of a faculty meeting.  You may have read about it.  We took part in a heated debate over the difference between the terms relevant and related.  If you haven’t heard about it, feel free to check it out here.  Everything is particularly formal here in Botswana.  You address your colleagues as Dr. X or Mr. Y.  If you are speaking to a Professor he is always addressed as Professor, never Dr.  That is a major faux pas. And meetings start with an introduction along the lines of, “Esteemed colleagues, welcome.  We are gathered here today to convene on the topic of quality assurance.”  Given the formality of the situation I was shocked when mid-way through our meeting the Associate Dean exclaimed, “AH-HA! I knew it!  Get the DOOM!”  Simultaneously everyone jumped up, a junior faculty member sprinted toward a filing cabinet, emerged with the DOOM, and the Associate Dean blasted whatever it was into a chemical induced coma and eventual death.  I completely missed the boat and to this day am not sure what type of offending creature was exterminated.  I felt too foolish to ask.

Botswana has over 8,000 different species of insects and spiders.  And at the rate I’m going I may get to see all of them before I leave! I think a large part of the reason for the constant exposure to these critters is the design of buildings.  Most buildings here don’t have heat or air conditioning, so they are designed to have open doors and windows, and you seldom see screens.

Another night, another DOOM attack.  TIA- This is Africa.


  1. At least it's a pleasant smelling coma and eventual death.

  2. Not a fan of spiders, so here's to DOOM! Perhaps a distant cousin to RAID?

  3. http://mikeyandmomo.myshopify.com/products/aromaflage-botanical-fragrance-insect-repellent

    Or you could just spray this high-end bug spray on all your clothes and sheets???

  4. If you have no A/C, how hot does it get in your dorm room / class room? Are you constantly sweating over there in the heat?

  5. Katie, they advertise it as lavender scent, but that stuff is toxic. I have to leave the room whenever I use it because I go into a choking fit.

    Thanks Carole and Bryce.

    Matt, well, it's winter right now, so it only gets to about mid-80s during the day. All the buildings are built in such a way to keep them cool. Right now it gets down to about 40 or so at night, so my housing is freezing and I sleep under a bunch of blankets. But I assume it will be a lot nicer when it gets hot out. When I've been to Africa before during summer time you just suck it up and sweat a lot.