RL Welcomes Two Maru-A-Pula Students In Long-Standing Exchange

Liam O'Connor, Bogosi Mabaila, Milit Ranjith, Ian Balaguera
Milit and Bogosi at Fenway Park
Milit and Bogosi in New York City

Milit Ranjith and Bogosi Mabaila love soccer. At home, in Botswana’s capital city of Gaborone, they play on the Maru-a-Pula School team, which is looking forward to their big tournament in June. They can often be found on the weekends with a soccer ball at the ready for spontaneous games with friends.  

Upon their arrival to RL for what would be a nearly month-long exchange, Milit and Bogosi joined the JV baseball team. Neither had played the sport before. Outfitted with gloves from the RL Yard Sale and eased into batting practice by Coach Quirk on Whittemore Diamond, they began to appreciate the rules and rituals of the game. They even made it to Fenway Park to watch the Sox take on the Tigers from box seats. It’s safe to say that by the end of their first week in the U.S., they had developed a deep appreciation for baseball. Admittedly the pair spent the JV game against Nobles sharing a pair of headphones in the dugout so as not to miss a European soccer match, but still, Bogosi will tell you, “baseball has kind of stolen my heart.”

The relationship between Roxbury Latin and the Maru-a-Pula School in Botswana dates back more than 30 years. Since the 1980s, RL students, faculty, and staff have raised thousands of dollars each year for Maru-a-Pula through the fall fundraiser and Maru-a-Pula Day in the spring. In 2007, the School sent the first pair of Class II boys to do a month-long exchange at Maru-a-Pula. This spring, RL returned the favor of offering a cultural exchange for Maru-a-Pula boys, and Milit and Bogosi were the first at bat, so to speak. They arrived on April 8 and moved in with their generous host families, the Balagueras and the O’Connors.

When not breaking in their new gloves on the baseball diamond, Milit and Bogosi shadowed Ian Balaguera and Liam O’Connor through the typical schedule of a Class II boy. Milit has particularly loved math class, where Mr. Bettendorf gives him calculus problems, as well as Spanish with Dr. Guerra. “Dr. Guerra lets me read a book called 1776 in Spanish,” Milit said. “The book is really interesting because it is about the history of Boston.” Milit and Bogosi were also assigned a coding project with Mr. Poles in Computer Science. In the evenings and on weekends, the school and the boys’ hosts ensured that Milit and Bogosi saw as much as possible: Fenway Park, the MFA, the Aquarium, even a weekend in New York City with Mr. Sugg. But they are actually quicker to talk about smaller things like family dinners, trips to the movies, and a night of bowling as memorable experiences from their time here. “Apparently I’m really good at bowling!” said Bogosi.

For Ian and Liam, this exchange has shed a new light on their school and hometown. “It was a really good experience for me… introducing Bogosi to teachers and realizing how close-knit the community is here,” said Liam. “To see Boston as a tourist has also been interesting.” Ian has most appreciated the ease with which he and Milit have connected. “The fact that we can relate on more overarching things about being a teenager is just nice,” he said. Both RL boys are looking forward to their own month in Botswana, which begins in June. Ian hopes to participate in the school’s big soccer tournament, and Liam looks forward to meeting people from all over the world at Maru-a-Pula, whose students come from more than 30 countries. They may even have time for a trip to Zimbabwe and a safari.

Before Milit and Bogosi departed on May 3—and now begin preparing for their own visitors in June—Coach Quirk made sure they got some playing time in a JV game. And who knows, maybe next time they’re on the sidelines of their own soccer games they’ll have one earbud in, listening to the Red Sox game more than 7,000 miles away.