Sunday, 31 July 2011

Mimi si mwongo. Wewe ni mwongo.

Rogers taught me today the word for liar. My whole host fam here loves to joke and be sarcastic (score one for the Tanzanians) and so Diana told me today that she was leaving until tomorrow when she was actually just walking her husband down the road to his ride to town. And so when she came back, I asked her if it was tomorrow. She just smiled her little satisfied smirk. Oh, Mujuju family, you keep me amused! The title of this post translated is: I’m not a liar. You are a liar.

So I’m planning my lessons for the last week of internship teaching. And I couldn’t be happier to have an end in sight. When teaching 90+ Form 1’s (yeah, the class size has increased despite the stagnant number of desks…) just feels like babysitting and Kiswahili lessons seem to drone on and on, it’ll be nice to change the scenery. I can’t wait because after this week, things will start moving very fast. So I’ve realized that I need to put up the last bits of our training schedule so you (parents…) are able to keep track of where I’ll be for the next few weeks. So here it is:

Aug. 1-4: Last week of internship teaching and Kiswahili lessons
Aug 5: CCT day of our final written Kiswahili exam and SITE ANNOUNCEMENTS
Aug 6: Go to the Nanenane festival with my host fam
Aug 7-14: Shadow volunteer in Moshi
Aug 15 – 19: Last week of CCT with final education sessions and swearing in preparation
Aug 20: Last day with host fam
Aug 21: Travel to Dar (woot!!!)
Aug 22: Visit TZ PC headquarters (in Dar) and wrap up any info sessions
Aug 23: Meet heads of schools and finish swearing in prep
Aug 24: Swearing in (eek!)
Aug 25: Installation with heads of schools (aka…figuring out the real logistics of my next 2 years)

The end for now. This is all that we know. I will be going to site soon after swearing, if not immediately after. At site, I’ll have a counterpart (Host Country National – HCN) to help me figure out how/where to buy things that I need, set up a PO Box and other details I might need to know. Additionally, I may have a site mate (another PCV in a different program, like environment or health and education) or a family that I’m associated with the help accustom me to the site. Because I’m a teacher, my housing is provided by the school, so it’ll probably be pretty close to the school. I probably won’t have running water or electricity, which will stink b/c we having running water like 3 or 4 days/week here and electricity about 5 days/week. Also, I’ll know then too what internet service I can use so hopefully we can figure out the logistics of skype and such. Also, being a teacher, I’m lucky because I’ll already (hopefully) have a support network within the school of people that I know and who I’ll become close too. Additionally, I’ll need to make sure to make an effort to get to know my neighbors and villagers, but its nice to know, starting off, that I’ll have a group to join. Teachers are super well respected here and it’s a highly prestigious profession so I’ll need to be sure to dress formally and act professional and serious about my job, since I’m expected to uphold this standard.

I will start accumulating vacation days after I’ve been at site for 3 months, but I do get 4 days/month to travel on weekends to the closest banking town. This is for getting internet, money, access to a post office, food, etc. These days are not included in our vacation days. Then, after 3 months at site, I’ll travel to Dar for a week or two on IST (In service training) where I’ll meet back up with my training group. Additionally, after IST, I’ll have regional meetings with the people in my district (which will depend on where I’m placed) and MST (Mid service training) which will take place next August. Everyone says the time flies. I’m hoping that’s true, but if so, then it’ll probably also be true that I want the time to go slower. If I do decide that I want to stay longer than two years (at this point,that decision is too far away to even consider) I could extend for a year or more. This is ideal for PC, and what they actually want because then they don’t have to pay to send another volunteer here and put them through training again.

Alas, bedtime. Good night. Lots of love and all the best (Ninatupenda na kila la heri)

PS. Cass, in your response letter I forgot to say congrats to Larissa. So, please tell her congrats!!! Ahh! So exciting! I’ll keep her in my prayers for a healthy pregnancy. <3 <3

Song of the Day: Adele – Someone Like You
“Only yesterday was the time of our lives”

Saturday, 30 July 2011

A Day in the Life (Yes, that’s a Beatles reference)

Today started pretty boringly. It was Saturday so I had to go to school still to learn Kiswahili (but no teaching to students...they don’t come on weekends). My host fam left for church super early and I ate chai alone while writing letters. I was in the middle of one when I realized I should get ready for class but, alas, I decided to pull a “Tanzanian” and be late so that I could take my time and finish the letter. This turned out to be a good move because I didn’t miss a thing. Kiswahili class is crazy slow and super self-study oriented now so I just grabbed my notecards and book when I got there and tried to catch up (talking to teachers and staying home on Wednesday has left me a bit behind on book work). So, half way through class, some of the PCV’s visiting for PC sessions visited and we talked for a while. Around 12 we finished up lessons and half our CBT met with the other nearby to walk to town. We met up with most of the other CBT’s in town at the Beach Restaurant, which has good cheap Tanzanian food. After the wonderful debacle of splitting up the bill (the fact we even got a printed receipt was pretty impressive…but of course it wasn’t itemized at all…just the total 24,500 Tsh for 7 people. That’s 3500/person…aka 2.50 USD. Yeah. : ) ) we split up and me and Hannah, shaheenah and Tiff went looking for fabric and to stop at the Post office/Bank. The fabric was for a Khanga (I’ve explained in earlier posts what this is). The Khanga comes with 2 sheets that you just cut in half and have a fundi sew up the edges for like 20cents. So, next week at CCT we are going to do a khanga swap where all the girls who want to join will bring half of a khanga and do like an white elephant thing to trade. I can’t wait : ) Each khanga is about 6000 Tsh, or 4USD, so super cheap. Okay, so let’s see, where was I. Oh, right, so after, we met up again with the whole group, about 25 PCT’s and several PCV’s at a bar and just relaxed. I was super tired by this point, so sitting was great. Afterwards, some went home but all the cool people (jk jk jk) went to a field about 15 minutes away that was open and we played Frisbee, soccer and just talked. It was super awesome and chill. Just want I needed after the long week at Kola Hill and being Kiswahili’d out. Some kids from the school nearby joined (I have no idea why they were there since there are no formal classes on Sat) and showed us their impressions of a sharobaro and kiduku. So great. Goodness, Tanzania, sometimes you are so unfail its awesome. The energy of the kids here is just inspiring. They are just so happy to be around you and play…despite the fact that it’s usually with a soccer ball made of crumpled and rubber banded plastic bags. So, afterwards, I walked with Steve back to Kingalu/Kola Hill area and we ran into Athena from his CBT who is just so friendly and awesome and she showed me this sweet sweet fabric from a nearby tribe here (I think its spelled Missai but don’t hold me to that). It was gorgeous. And she was so proud of it. So cute. Then, we split and I grabbed my bike from Mama Gills, where I store it when I bike to Kola Hill and go into town after, and said hi to Mama, John (the PCT staying there) and Babu. On the way out I saw Clement, Mama’s son, playing pool and we chatted for a minute. Clement is crazy good at English and also operates a blog (Ladies Stuff Zone) on Blogger that aimed to, well, deal with anything from celebrity news to the hottest shoes to more, er, mature topics. It’s pretty amusing how cheesy some of the stuff he posts is but at the same time, he’s pretty serious and into it, so its super amusing to look at. It’s like a mix of Cosmo/People magazines but online. So, from there I biked home and passed the kids who always yell “mzungu” and wave profusely, the corner of pikipiki drivers and the young kid who works at the duka on side of my street. It was “Habari?!” for all of them and then I sped home, ready to relax. When I got home, we had guests and I said hi quickly before going inside to chill with Lighty and Justa and read a kids book on learning Kiswahili. Eventually, I went into help Rogers finish dishes and peel oranges before showering. Now, I just wind down the minutes before I turn on another episode of Arrested Development and pass out. I’m going through these episodes so much faster than I anticipated, perhaps because it’s the only DVD’s I brought. Oops. Alas, I’m in the process of trying to hijack some from my friends so hopefully this won’t be the case for long.
I’ve been asked a bit about things to send (if you are interested in sending a package…which is awesome and you should know that I’ll write you the most gratuitous thank you) and compiled a little list. These are all completely suggestions, just things that I would’ve brought if I’d known how useful they’d be and if I’d actually had any room in my suitcase. Also, some of the things (like stickers and embroidery thread/floss) are totally small enough to fit in envelopes/letters. So, here goes:
Kid’s stickers
Colored pens/pencils
Embroidery thread/floss for making friendship bracelets
Hand sanitizer
Vegetable Peeler
Granola Bars ( eg. Clif bars, Kind bars, Fiber One)
Soynuts / Dried edamame
A mixed CD
Paperback books
Any DVD’s
Coloring books
Toys/prizes for kids
Degree Deodorant (Men’s, solid)
Pantene conditioner
Probiotics (Florastor)
Leggings (black)
White tanks or camis
CD player that uses AA batteries (mine mysteriously broke…but if you know my track record with electronics, this will not surprise you in the least *)

And that’s that for now. Just all ideas so no pressure, hamna shida.

*Side note: Since being here, I have dropped my Ipod in water twice and it’s still rocking…granted the battery life stinks. My camera, which has also been dropped in water too, however, is currently dysfunctional. Oye. Such is life.

Ratiba kwa kesho (schedule for tomorrow)

6:30am – amka / wake up
7:15am- kunywa chai asubuhi / eat breakfast
7:30-8:30 – andika barua au soma kitabu /write letters or read a book
8:30-11:30 – fua nguo / wash clothes
11:30-12:30 – kimbia polepole / go running
12:30-1:00 –Oga/ Shower
1:00-1:30 – Kula chakula mchana / Eat lunch
1:30-2:30 – Safiri mjini na kihonda / travel to town and then kihonda
2:30-5:00 – Kunywa chai na rafiki zangu nymbani ya Dave na kuzunguma / Drink tea with my friends at Dave’s house and talk
5:00-6:00- Rudi nyumbani / Return home
6:00-7:00 – Pika na familia yangu / cook with my family
7:00-8:00- Andaa masomo kwa Jumatatu / Lesson plan
8:00-8:30- Kula chakula jioni / Eat dinner
8:30 – 9:30 – Maliza masomo / Finish lessons
9:30 – 10:00 – Angalia Arrested Development na lala / Watch Arrested and sleep

The end. Woot.

Thursday, 28 July 2011


Lesson of the Day, courtesy of Ben Folds: There’s always someone out there cooler than you.
Oh my goodness. So much to write about…its been so long. I’m writing this by the light of my kerosene lamp (woot no electricity tonight) and, of course, my laptop screen. Oye! I’m going to be so sad when I go to site and probably can’t charge my laptop but once a week. Perhaps I’ll look into investing in a battery with a long life. Or maybe a solar charger. Oh, the possibilities! : ) Speaking of which, I can’t wait to find out my site. And speaking of site announcements, we just found out our shadow announcements today. Woo hoo! I’m going to Kilimanjaro region (Yay north!) by Moshi (mom and dad you are probably just as pleased as I was to find this out…I wish I could visit Fr. Val) where its is apparently super cold. Like bring your blanket and two pairs of pants cold. Wow, what a crazy idea. Tanzania has not felt cold to me once, despite my entire host fam complaining of being “Baridi” aka cold for the last month. And if you know me, you know that I am ALWAYS cold. So that is saying something. Winter here is basically a joke. Take a nice fall day in Chi-town and that’s basically the coldest it gets. Those days = perfect temperature. Ah! I love them. Back to shadowing (No, Tanzania has not made me more focused during conversations…or, apparently, blogging), I will be traveling with another bio teacher in the group, Tiffany, who is about my age and super aloof. Tiff, if you read this, sorry, but its so true. Still love you though. : ) So not this coming week, but next week, we will take a bus north to Moshi (its an 8 hr ride) and then from there stay the night in Moshi and travel to our host (Her name is Carol)’s site where we will remain for a week while we discover what it is really like to be a volunteer. I could not be looking forward to this more (well, maybe if I could take all of my bests here with me…) because this week especially I just feel very very antsy. Things are a bit too routine and I really miss traveling and having “me” time. Just to be independent and free, you know? Sounds silly but Tanzania is so community based that the idea of being alone, and wanting to be alone for extended periods of time, is insanely foreign. I’ve found this week, also, that the only way I actually ENJOY running here is if I can use my Ipod because otherwise I can’t zone out between all the cars, pikipikis and people trying to say “Jambo!” or “Good evening!” to you, the mzungu. Ergh, it can be very very hard not to let that get on your nerves. The reason this is super annoying, really, is that if they say “Jambo”, which is a tourist greeting and not something people use normally here when speaking Kiswahili, or speak in English, such as “Good evening” “Good morning” etc, you know they are assuming you are just a white tourist. And nothing is more annoying that people assuming you know less than you do. Our favorite response to these times is to throw as many slang words at them as possible. So when you respond to them in a culturally appropriate way they get super impressed. It’s pretty satisfying. But, this doesn’t always happen, and sometimes, when I’m just not feeling it, I just try to continue on my way. It’s just not always worth all the effort. Alas, such is Tanzania. Thus, such is life.
Well, if you could not tell, as I write this I am in an incredibly good mood. Not that I’m even unhappy to be here (granted, some days are more challenging than others…) but especially today (and yesterday, in fact) was awesome. Well, I’ll start with today. So, I got several letters from Fam and friends. It was wonderful. I really don’t think that I’ll ever be able to explain the utter and complete joy I get from receiving a letter here. Thank you SO SO SO much anyone and everyone who took the time and energy to write. I cherish each and every one. No joke. And I’ve read them all at least 5 times. : ) So today I got a sweet, encouraging card from Aunt Donna, a loving (as always) letter from my mom (I love you so much mum!), a beautiful inspiring card from Cass (miss you gurl!), and an awesomely entertaining letter from Mish (O.M.G., please keep writing, I loved loved loved all your lil doodles and squiggles…and NO, your handwriting is awesome and not slanty : )…you write super well). They all just made my day. ALSO, I got a stellar package from my mom and Aunt Donna with the most wonderful assortment of goodies. YOU ROCK!!!! Everything was super wonderful, from the practical batteries and tissues for bathroom usuage (Chuo power!) to the snacks…oh! Did I love the snacks! Trail mix! Fiber one bars with chocolate! Reeses! Carmels! Gum! What are these wonderful treats!? I can’t even remember. And its was super sweet because I’d been wanting raisins super bad as like a healthy treat here but they were always super expensive in the grocery store and pretty sketchy looking, so I never bought them. And literally just today, when someone whipped out some Werther’s original hard candies I was thinking how those looked good, but I really wanted the chewy ones with the soft center. And then there they were! Wow you are amazing! Thank you thank you thank you thank you!!
Also, so, um, Jacob’s married now????!!!! Kweri? That was a little shocking. Is Brian married yet? Oye! New Jersey family you always confuse me!!! I still love you all so much though. Aunt donna, thank you for your prayers and letters. I’m in the process of writing you one back. Tell everyone I love and miss them.
So, why am I happy? Well, shadow announcements, awesome letters, a sweet sweet package, a day at CCT (those are the days when we all come together as a group and I get to see all my best friends here and talk in lots of English…its great. Sounds silly, but so therapeutic.), and also, the day ended at Rombo bar with some great conversation and African beer. Great times.
But, alas, those are the joys of today. And all in all, its was a great week. Granted, I stayed home sick on Wednesday when I was coughing a lot and my head hurt and well, I really just felt dead tired despite being completely well rested. But that really became a mental health day after laying in bed until 12:30. And it was completely needed and appreciated. However, the rest of week was quiet fulfilling. Here are the reasons:
1) I’ve been talking to the teachers at my school in the admin room a lot, and even making an effort to sit with them at chai. It’s a bit scary because they are very intimidating and aren’t afraid to force you to practice your Kiswahili with them. But I always leave afterwards feeling so proud that I tried and with some new words I need to add to my vocabulary. So, I’ve come to talk to Titus, Janet, Bernadette, Catherine, Aloyce, Paul, Christine and Wilson, but there are still so many others I haven’t really conversed with. And it took me asking their names about 20 times before I remembered them. But I’m happy that I made the effort to get to know them because no one else in our CBT really cared to try and I just feel like if I could do it once, I can do it at site. And I also worked out some of the bugs in acting professional and how to greet them, especially the Mkuu (Headmaster) without offending anyone. So know I can avoid those mistakes at site. Okay okay okay, I can do this. : ) (Positive reinforcement works miracles)
2) So, one of the days this previous week, I stepped into my Form 3 class after Bola (another PCT) finished teaching to discover where he left off and started talking with some of my favorite students. They are these girls that sit in the front and know all the answers. They are so great. So they started saying how happy they were to have me teach them and touching my hair a bit (they just love love love Westerner’s hair). They also asked how I stand on my tiptoes all of class when I write on the chalkboard (didn’t even realize I was doing that…) and I learned the word for that in Kiswahili (Kuchechemea = to stand on tippy toes). Also, I explained to them that I had strong legs. They laughed. And then they called me cute, which sounds weird coming from a 15 year old, but alas still appreciated. So the conversation turned to what American music I like and what they know (Jay-Z, Rihanna, Katy Perry). And so I found out that in Kiswahili, “gangsters” like Jay-Z…although for the record, I wouldn’t qualify him as a gangster…are called “Sharobaro.” In the process of discovering this, I got to see their best impressions of brushing their shoulders off and walking with swagger. It was great. Then I did my impression and they just about died laughing. It was so fun.
3) The third encouraging aspect of this week was talking and cooking with my host family. I kinda refrained from going to town and the bar a lot this week and just went home early after class to study Kiswahili and spend time with them. I got to talk a lot more with Rogers and Lighty after school and help cook a bit more. Usually I’m too tired after class and visiting with people after I get home to do anything but shower. But these days were super refreshing. And my Kiswahili is least strong in the aspect of understanding what is being said to me. So, granted it is super tiring having to think super hard about the simple sentences that you are hearing, but also crazy rewording and at dinner, my host mom and me hard some more meaningful conversation and I was able to respond a bit quicker than before. It’s really funny how learning a language is full of plateau’s and huge confidence-inducing leaps. Oh, how I miss English! And I never thought I’d be saying that because I love anything to break the monotonous trends but oye, connecting with people is so much easier when you do it in the same language. So all in all, I have a great host family and was super happy to connect with them even more this week.
4) So, really the best part of this week, was games day at our secondary school. The school day ends early on Thursdays to play netball (girls) and football (boys)* this is not American football. Unbeknownst to me, no girls play football, so when, since that was the only game I knew how to play, I was saying I was going to play, some of the male teachers were like “oh great, you can go in for me when I’m tired” so of course I started talking a lot of smack back and saying, “oh, you mean I’m starting and you’ll go in for me when I’m tired?” in Kiswahili. It was great. Until I actually got out to the field and realized that it was basically all the fittest male teachers against the oldest, most agile students. Oye. So yeah, needless to say, I never ventured onto the field. Instead, about 3 minutes into the game, I joined Sara (another PCT) in playing games on the side with the Form 2’s. At first, it was this version of dodgeball. Darn, those girls can throw. Then, we did Kiduku, this awesome form of dancing super popular here. We got in a circle and they’d clap and call the name of someone to come into the middle of the circle. Then they’d say, in Kiswahili, touch your head, then touch your shoulders, then touch your hips, and then you have to shake your hips. It was so fun. So we all took turns and they just died laughing when me and Sara did it. They were so happy to have use there, that anything we did was awesome. Oh, actually, the reason that we even started doing Kiduku was because, during dodgeball, I caught the ball during one throw and, to celebrate, I did an imitation of what American football players do with their knees when they make a touchdown. You know? Where they shake their knees back and forth and raise their hands. It kinda resembles Kiduku and they loved it. So that’s how that started. So, after dancing, they asked us to teach us a game and of course, being the camp counselor less than a year ago, I taught them sharks and minnows. They loved it. Oh, such a great day. We had like 30-40 girls there playing and it was just smiles and laughs galore. This is the reason that I’m here. This is why I came to Tanzania in the first place. To make people smile and have them make my smile. Honestly, I do not feel more fulfilled in my decision to do PC than when I’m laughing with a Tanzanian. Thank you God for giving me this chance. These kids make it worth it.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

View of Uluguru Mountain

This is the view of the mountain that I see everyday as I walk to town, class or home. It's wonderful. We climbed it and I'm still waiting on blogger to stop being so slow so that I can upload the pics. :)

Sad about Happy. Oh, the irony!

Today was another regular day in the struggle to discover just how to teach these students. It didn’t go bad, but its never to the caliber that I’d love. I got observed for the first time, which was nerve racking for, oh, a whole 5 minutes when I just came to terms to the fact that it is what it is. Class goes so slowly with me having to write out everything on the chalkboard and stop and wait for the 70+ students to be quiet. Today, I actually had the class monitor count and it was definitely over 70 students. With 2-3 per desk. Yeah. So that’s Tanzania. My feedback was really good, but it makes me wonder more about what I can really improve on. Since it was almost all positive except for the fact that I translated the names of some of the first aid items into Kiswahili and didn’t clarify that they CAN’T answer using these names on the test. I think that tomorrow, I’m going to give a little pop quiz just to see where they are in terms of actually grasping the knowledge. I have 85% of the students copying down all my words from the board into their notebooks, but I want to know if they actually remember any of it or understand any of it. As for the things that my observer, Ramadhan, liked, he said that I did a good job of 1) planning out the lesson 2) having the students participate 3)not discouraging students who gave the wrong answer 4) encouraging student based learning by asking them the questions about what I would be teaching them before I told them the answer, that way they have to think about it 5) speaking slowly and returning to speaking slowly when I speed up 6) being strict and establishing a clear student/teacher relationship. I was glad he said the last one, because I really make sure with the Form 1’s that I come in looking serious and not putting up with crap because they are the least disciplined of my classes. Today I even made 2 of the students sit outside the classroom for 5 minutes when they would not stop talking. That’s really the extent of my punishments though. Stern looks are my key tool. Shocking.
Currently I’m quite sad because Happy is leaving on Wednesday to go back to university. Not only is she my wonderful English speaker in the house, but she’s also become a great friend. She picked up on my American sarcasm amazingly fast and threw me for loops with her sarcastic remarks. She’s really smart and fluent in English, with a super sassy attitude that helps keep my own in check. It’s awesome. Aside from being really funny and energetic, she is insanely hardworking. She does most of the cleaning and cooking around the house (Mom, don’t get any ideas….:) ), washes the family’s laundry by hand and often goes to the butcher and such for food. She taught me how to cook ugali, mchicha and ndizi, the only things that I really know how to cook so far. (Oh boy, I don’t really want to think about how I’m going to survive at site!!!) And, usually when I have a question, need something translated, or just can’t figure out which the drink-able water is, I ask her. I’m going to be so lost without her. I’d love to come visit her, but I’m not sure if I’ll find the time (or figure out exactly where she studies).

Tuesday, 19 July 2011


I should probably finally explain teaching. But it was such a whirlwind of emotions and highs and lows that I almost don’t know where to begin. I suppose I can start by saying that I was incredibly looking forward to the experience, especially given how well microteaching went and the like. Not only did I get great feedback, but I also LOVED doing it. Which was encouraging since that was the majority of what my next two years would be. But then, I got faced with reality.
Quick overview of the Tanzanian secondary school system:
Secondary school consists of 2 tiers:
O level: Form 1 -4
A level: Form 5 and 6
We all intern at O level schools, so the highest you’d teach would be Form 4. The ages vary drastically in each form, so a good equivalent would be that since primary school is Standards 1-7, and Form 1 follows that, then Form 1 = 8th grade, Form 2=Freshman year of HS and so on… Get the picture? I hope so. It sure took me a while. As a little disclaimer: there are many flaws in the Tanzanian school system (as are there flaws in the US school system). To a Westerner, these flaws are very evident. However, as a member of the Peace Corps being invited into Tanzania, it is in my and many other’s best interest if I do not focus on these in my blog, merely the details of my specific experience. So, just be aware that I’m telling of my experience diplomatically and that some specific opinions and observations have been omitted. Sawa? Sawa. Okay, enough cryptic messages.
So my first day was teaching a Form 1 Biology class. When I asked the teacher where I should pick up, she said that she’d only taught them the scientific method. I was free to do anything else, but the next thing was an Overview of a Biology laboratory. She suggested I start there. Considering 1) this was my first EVER real class 2) this school didn’t actually have a biology laboratory 3) it would be incredibly time consuming to dig whatever remnants of a bio lab they had out of the office storage bins, I settled on “Personal Hygiene and Good manners” as my first topic. Two comments: Yes, good manners are in the Biology textbook and, give me a break, it was that or “Waste disposal”. So, I came up with a lesson plan that night, got really excited to teach and went in on Monday all ready to go. I was following up John, a math PCT here and it seemed like he’d had a really good class. The kids had just finished a game and were loving being divided into two teams. So I went in feeling super confident and excited. However, even just stepping into the room, it became apparent that about half of my lesson plan was obsolete. There were between 70 kids in this classroom, most sitting 2 or 3 to a desk. Okay, so there goes any small group activities I want to do. Additionally, only 10% of them had notebooks (daftari) and pens. As for textbooks, there were 3 max. 2 of these were out of date. Awesome. Well so much for having them copy the board. Oh my goodness I wanted to run back out of the room and tell them this was impossible. To make it worse, after about 2 minutes of speaking (even using the slow pronounced English) it was clear maybe about half of them max were understanding the jist of what I was saying. Oh my oh my oh my.. I struggled that entire period to present ideas, have them translated and even started teaching in the little Kiswahili that I knew just to get a response out of these kids other than chatter amongst their friends. It was horrid. I tried so hard but just left feeling so defeated. It was so frustrating, intimidating, overwhelming. Everything.
Luckily, I didn’t feel alone in this experience for too long because I soon found out that John had struggled initially too and that, although he’d had them playing a game, only about half of them were getting the right answers. Oh boy. So that night, I got home and avoided lesson planning for a solid couple hours, instead writing letters and reading. Finally, at about 10:30, I brought out my stuff for tomorrow and started looking over it. Then, I worked and reworked ways to present ideas, games to play and countless other suggestions on how I could put even a little knowledge in these kid’s heads. So Tuesday morning, I strut into class at 8am, and, after greeting the class, start writing the rules that I’d had my host sister translate for me that morning into Kiswahili. They basically said “No talking” and “Ask questions” but in a little more elaboration. (Later, I realized how contradictory these two ideas were, but that was another problem I’d add to the list of things to address later). After that, their listening skills improved slightly. Next order of business: notebooks. I asked them all to take out their notebooks. Blanks faces. I repeated in English and Swahili. Maybe 2 more. Then, I started walking up to each individual student, asking them where their notebook was. Okay, now over 90% of the class had a notebook out. It took some effort, but it worked. Sawa. Next order of business. Review from yesterday. I asked the class the answers to questions I’d given them before and the best students answered it for me. Then, I asked them to translate that into Swahili (granted, I’m aware this is under the assumption that they will translate it correctly). Okay, so most of the class seemed to be following along. Whoop. So after that little review, I took out flashcards I’d made of each of the principles and had them guess what each one was. They did a really good job at this…mainly because I’d written the possibilities on the chalkboard beforehand. Then, I turned it into a game. They were split into 2 teams and I told them that when I showed them the flashcards, they had to slap the correct circle (I’d written on the chalkboard) with their hand. Whomever slapped first, their team got the point. The purpose of this game was 3 fold. 1) Basic review of material they’d seen yesterday. Repetition, repetition, repetition 2) To see what they actually comprehended of what I taught yesterday 3) To see if they could read the answers correctly in English. Writing and reading in English is where they are strongest, so speaking comes much slower to most students. So, while they really liked the game, even though plenty of them got it wrong, I was really just trying to assess their comprehension of English and interpretation of the material. As PCT’s, we’d already been warned that the students are used to rote memorization and copying directly from the board. So, if you give them notes and tell them to copy them, they will. But that doesn’t mean they understand them, will study them and can apply them. This whole internship, I’ve realized, is really just an opportunity to figure out 1)the level of English these kids will have 2) mechanisms to deal with that. My Form 1’s are like taking Classroom management 101. (To be continued later…)
So, after the game went sufficiently well (aka it got played accurately and they paid attention), I moved onto giving them notes on the board about first aide. This included definitions, and examples. To make sure they had this copied, I went around after finishing writing on the board and checked their notebooks. I keep repeating while I was at the board “Andika sasa. Andika sasa.” (Write now. Write now.) because if they need to be told to take out notebooks, they need to be told when to write notes. Then, as I started moving throughout the classroom, I would put an A+ at the top of the page if I saw that they copied it all. (I also explained a little what that really means). Suddenly, EVERYONE was scrambling to copy the board. If I walked by and they weren’t ready “bado!” they’d say (“not yet”) Oh my, my pen mark on the page was suddenly like the golden touch. I finished checking their notebooks as class ended and I felt very very accomplished. It was disheartening still at how little I feel I’m really able to teach them (I don’t know if that feeling will ever go away) but I was happy that my altered methods had worked. My goals were few and small, but they’d been achieved nonetheless. It’s amazing how altered one’s definition of success can be in different situations. I feel that is how my Peace corps experience is beginning, and will continue, to unfold. My idea of success has been, and will continue to be, morphed into a realistic view of what I want to and will actually be able to achieve. And what, to an outsider may be considered as indifference, is merely recognition of the fact that I’m only able to climb so big of a mountain. I need to be okay with that. Kweli kabisa.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Chakula cha kufiriki (Food for thought)

Habari za leo! Okay, so today was another Sunday free of Peace corps commitments or Kiswahili lessons. Granted, I usually get more practice in Kiswahili these days than any because I spend a lot of the day at my homestay washing clothes and greeting visitors in Kiswahili. Man, do Tanzanians like visitors. I’ve been so fortunate so far, perhaps because my homestay is a decently affluent family for Morogoro with highly educated children, but nearly all the visitors, especially the men, speaking pretty fluent English. This is crazy handy for when I run out of things that I know to saIy in Kiswahili like 5 minutes into meeting someone. I’ve also come to realize that almost any Tanzanian (almost) you have more than a 10 minute conversation with, asks you about coming to America. It can vary from being asked for money to come but usually they want to know how you came to Tanzania and then, when you say the US government, they ask about a way they can get the government to pay for them to come to America. Anti-Americanism doesn’t exist. Only Mzungu-ism. Everyone usually likes asking questions about the US and most want to travel there. One of the first long conversations I had with Happy, she said she’d wanted to come visit me, but she can’t afford to. Could I help? This is a situation you see a lot in Tanzania, and probably most of Africa. To Aficans, if you are American, you have more money than them. And, considering how community-oriented they are, asking you to share that wealth, is not considered rude or upfront. Only a part of their culture. This is the same for items that belong to you (Mum and Dad and Mish…you’ll read this part and think that maybe I was born Tanzanian because I’d just so darn good at borrowing things without asking). For example, Peace Corps gave me bug spray for my room, a kerosene lamp and a bucket to wash my clothes in. At various points since being here, all of those items have been used by my host family without asking. Granted, I offered the lamp up first since I was excited to see how it was lit and use it. But then, every time we were without electricity, they used my lamp and not theirs. I had to finally be super savvy and just take it back, forcing them to use their own because I had no light for my room or to study by. Just today I had to ask Happy for my bucket for clothes back because I needed it for my room (its where I also keep all of my stuff that I don’t want the cockroaches to get into). As Americans, you assume that not matter what, people will always ask to use your things because they are just that. YOUR things. But the idea of privacy is vastly different, and in some respects foreign, to Tanzanians. In the US, unless someone says “you can use this without asking” you know you should always ask. In Tanzania, if someone lets you use something, be prepared for them to coming looking for it again, or hide it. This is the case with my teddy bear (mdoli) with Justa (I previously spelled it Yuster) loves. So, back to money, as Americans, people constantly assuming you have money and then asking for it, is offensive. But that is an idea I’ve had to put aside because if I hold it against someone that they are asking for money, I’ll never like anyone I meet. Same scenario with sharing things. If I think it offensive or rude to take other people’s things or assume that they can be shared, I’ll end up feeling constantly violated. So, instead, we have to revamp our definitions of what is socially acceptable and what is not, and adjust our reactions accordingly. Sounds silly, but it’s a work in progress. Hamna shida (no problem)
So next week is the trip to Mikumi, which I couldn’t be more excited about. I’ve needed a day off since we can to Morogoro and getting out and around and NOT having a curfew of 7pm will be nice. I used to love being too busy to stop at home and just would pack up my life for entire days regularly. Now, I miss having veg time where I don’t have to think, or just being able to walk somewhere without greeting at least 3 people. It’s amazing how American I actually liked being. Despite needing alone time though, I have loved meeting some of the regulars that I cross paths which, especially when I’m coming home from class or the bar or town every night. My favorites are easily the two wazee (wah-zay…means old people) that I come across on my side road home. The first is named Clement and he is this adorable old man with curly white hair who works as a cook at a family nearby. He has such a cute personality and an energy and I love love love seeing him. One of his daughters is in secondary school at Morogoro Sec (one of the training schools) and when I didn’t see him for a few days, and his daughter didn’t see any wazungu (white people) at that school, he thought I’d left already. Also, his English is phenomenal. It’s highly impressive. Oh, he’s so great! Okay, the next is this chivalrous old man in a green uniform who bikes to work every evening (so when I pass him at 7pm he’s actually going TO work). He works as a security guard for some company up on the mountain. Everytime he stops to talk he always says “we need to talk one day. I’d like to talk to you.” I guess he means more than the 5 minutes that we usually talk but I’m not quite sure about what. Oh well  It’s also great that the people around my community are used to seeing me. In fact, I usually bike to class or CCT so whenever they see me without it, they ask me why I’m not biking. Then I get to tell them in Kiswahili “I like to walk. I want to walk.” The idea of walking when you have a bike is a bit unfamiliar. It’s amusing.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Panya ya chumba changu

Today was my second day of teaching. But before I delved into that, I have stories about tonight with my homestay that I need to share. We just had the most wonderful misunderstanding in relation to the rat that I discovered (see previous posts) inhabits our home. I heard him in the kitchen when putting away dishes from dinner and of course, still got a little scared and scampered back into the family room, much to the pure amusement of my host fam (mama, kaka, dada wawili). So, my host mama asked me if I’d closed the door to my room…which of course I hadn’t. So, I went off to close it. But here’s the thing: the latch on my door doesn’t work. I can lock it, but I can’t close the door and have it stay closed without locking it. It’ll just swing open. So, in order to keep my door closed, I locked it and took the key with me. So, over the next hour we got into a ridiculous conversation where I missed the point of some conversation about octopus’s, Germany and the World Cup. Even after Happy explained it to me in English, I was sooo lost. Let’s not even bother worrying about what that mazungumza (conversation) was actually about. Oye! So, then, I said my “usiku mwema (good night!)” and went to walk down the small hall to my door. I took my flashlight as well, but I didn’t go more than like 3 feet before hearing what sounded like the rat again. So, of course I retreated to the family room making a disgusted face while my mama laughed again. This time, she got off the couch and proceeded to the hall calling out “Panya! Panya!”( which means “rat” in Kiswahili) down the hall. Its was great. Then, she got to my room, where she proceeded to attempt to open the door but discovered it was locked. When I pulled out my key to unlock it, she nearly died laughing. Lighty came following behind and mama started explaining that I’d locked the door in fear that the rat might know how to open the door via turning the door handle. OMG were they dying laughing. I nearly cried I was laughing so hard too. Finally, I took her inside my room and demonstrated how the door doesn’t latch and she finally understood but boy I have never seen her laugh that hard yet, and this is a very jolly family. It was so great. Goodness, you just have to love it when humor translates across cultures. So so so great.
*side note: let it be know that admist typing this anecdote, I heard continual scampering of the panya in the ceiling. And the ceiling is really just a sheet of wood, so that’s basically like hearing it scamper right next to you. Oh, my!
*double side note: you know how I said the latch on the door doesn’t work. Well there’s another catch to working this door too. If you lock it from the inside, you may find that it won’t UNLOCK. So, yes, I’ve locked myself in my room so far a total of 2 times. It’s been great (note the American sarcasm).
*triple side note: sarcasm does not exist in Tanzania. They just think you are being dumb or…no, its usually just dumb. Luckily, I taught my host fam the joys of sarcasm early on, so my older host sister enjoys using it on me. This is even more unexpected and usually leaves me looking even more dumb because it is so unexpected. Like when I asked Happy if we needed plates for dinner one night (we always use plates) and she said “no, we just eat out of our hands.” And she did it with the best most serious face and I looked astonished until she broke out smiling. Goodness, you have to love cross cultural adaption. Welcome to Tanzania!!!! (Karibu Tanzania!)

In all seriousness, I have been really busy preparing for and teaching my first actual lessons. We started Monday and I taught an 80 minute Form I class on Biology, which, in form 1, is really just personal hygiene and god manners, waste disposal and first aid and, after a while, a little little bit of the important (actually biological) material such as cell organization. It was quite an adventure just seeing as I’m a bit crunched on time, I’ll indulge in the wonderful details of teaching a over-filled, underfunded classroom of students who only understand about every third word. It definitely threw me for a loop but after adjusting my teaching methods and standards for comprehension, it seems manageable. Far from easy, but do able. I have quite the challenge ahead of me. Please send a little luck and prayer this way…I’ll need it.
Lots of love and best wishes from Morogoro - <3

Pics of Homestay

Monday, 11 July 2011

Maisha Katika Tafsiri (Life in Translation...roughly translated)

I feels so weird to think that we’ve been here for almost 4 weeks. Even weirder that I haven’t used the internet for about 2 of those weeks. After getting to Morogoro, I’ve only been able to get to an internet café once. We’ve been kept crazy busy and everytime I come into town, the time is so limited (since we have to be home by dark…which is 6:45) there are so many other things I need/want to do that spending an hour or so in some dinky internet café just sounds so unappealing. Snail mail has become my saving grace. I’m constantly in the process of composing some letter so please please write if you’d like to stay in touch. Here’s the address you can use until the end of August, when I go to site:
Stephanie Ross, PCT
Peace Corps
P.O. Box 9123

If you send letters to that address after August, I’ll still get them, I just will have to wait until I make a trip up to Dar to the PC office.
So, for the update on life. OMG where to start. Well, I give you a little lowdown on what’s been keeping us so busy. We’ve stopped going to Morogoro Secondary for sessions (on safety, health, teaching, etc.) and Kiswahili and now meet the majority of the week at our CPT schools (mine is Kola Hill Secondary). We get there by 8am, do about 2.5 hours of Kiswahili lessons and have Chai break where we visit the teachers in the administration office and snag some tea and sugar. About 11, we do microteaching where we get observed by some of the trainers as we teach to the other 4 people in out CPT. At first, I was crazy nervous about this part, but after my second day of it, I felt crazy comfortable up there. It’s actually gettign a little repetitive and I so ready to start with actual students, which is convenient since I will starting Monday. Okay, but before I describe the teaching situation and what I’m excited about, I’ll finish my usual day. So, around 12:30 we head across the street to Mama Gills for lunch (Sara and John’s homestay, who happens to be a caterer and the one who used to provide lunch for us at Morogoro Sec). An hour later, we go back to Kola Hill where I struggle to not fall asleep as we do more Kiswahili. Around 4:30, we get let out. This week I’ve been heading home to do a little studying of Kiswahili and spend time with my family except for 1 day when I went into town to visit the market (soko) for the first time (Wow! What an experience…the variety of smells alone will keep you fascinated for a good amount of time) and the bank. At the bank, where we stood in line for an hour (a common occurance here) just to withdraw money/exchange money. Yesterday we actually got our ATM cards, so hopefully waiting in that line is a thing of the past. Seeing everyone again this week (in town and then on Thurs and Fri where we all got together at CCT) was so wonderful. I missed them so much. It’s crazy amazing how close we’ve become after only knowing each other for less than a month. And I couldn’t agree more now with what my friend Monica Shah told me before I left, PCV/RPCV’s are some of the most inspiring people I’ve ever come across. They all are so motivated, caring and honest its so wonderful to be around such amazing people everyday that it’s hard not to be happy. And I’m not just saying that. I’m really lucky to be here everyday and surrounded by these people.
So, along the lines of being thankful, its so beautiful here. The view of Mt. Uluguru that I see everyday when I walk anywhere, rather than getting routine, continues impress me the more I see it. We are just surrounded by mountains on almost all sides and it makes for the most amazing skyline. I wish I could describe it better, but I will try to post pictures so that you can just see it for yourself. The other night I stayed out past dark for the first time and saw the incredible night sky with all the amazing stars and the mountains silhouetted in the backdrop. Wow, it was indescribable. So beautiful.
After acclimating a bit more now, I feel a little less trapt and unable to do things for myself (although I need to learn to cook(using the carcoal stove)!). Before we got phones, figured out the daladala situation and learned how to bargain in Kiswahili, I just felt so touristy and unable to really be able to function freely. But now that we can all stay in touch, meet up in town, and I’ve had more experience buying things, whether food, fabric or necessities (like, I forgot to bring a mirror…not realizing that my host fam would not have one in their bathroom! For about 2 whole days I did not look at myself once…a very weird feeling) I feel much more competent.
Something that I enjoy but didn’t expect to be doing: After pretty much every CCT/Morogoro Sec day, if we didn’t go into town, we’d usually all hang out after getting done with sessions. We’ve explored a lot of the bars around those areas now and have a feeling for who will charge us “mzungu” prices (aka, they jack up the price by like 100-200 Tsh because they assume, since we are white, we have money. One of the best phrases we’ve learned to say is that we are volunteers and have no money.) So many days have been spent laughing, venting and telling stories over a beer before heading back to our homestays. It’s a saving grace. After being talked at endlessly for the majority of the day, it’s really nice to just relax before going home to struggle with Kiswahili and slowed down Kiingereza (English).
I’ve realized recently how hard it is to find time alone here. I’ve attempted running twice now and the second time was probably the least therapuetic running experience I’ve ever had. Between everyone that you pass saying “hi” to you in either Kiswahili or rehearsed English, the rush of the pikipikis and daladalas less than 2 feet from you and the dust, its like a battle rather than a release. Pilates has become my second resort, as is journaling and letter writing. Furthermore, whenever I crave American things a lot (something I was not really expecting to happen, especially this early in training) I watch an episode or two of Arrested Development and it’s amazing. Hearing English is such a nice change.
So, about teaching, which I promised to divulge: I’m crazy excited. Like SO excited you wouldn’t even believe. I don’t think that I realized before I can here how much I really wanted to teach. But after our experiences microteaching and then, this week, meeting the students, I couldn’t be more enthused. It makes me so happy to feel this way too since this is how I’m going to be spending my next 2 years here. So, on Monday, we were introduced to our internship schools (the same ones we have our lessons at) and me and Bola (we are the Biology teachers in our group) met the Biology teacher at our school. Then, she introduced us to our students and, while I was expecting to be nervous, I was just really happy to be up there in front of all the students and felt such an energy. It was great . This coming week I’m teaching 3 80-minute classes, which will be overwhelming, but I’m really looking forward to the experience I’ll gain. The students seemed so excited to have us there.
Yesterday was probably one of my favorite days here. We all got together after self-study lessons in the morning to play sports and games at a field by one of the private seconday schools. Steve and Eric took the initiative of dividing us into 4 teams, although some trading was still being negotiated even the morning of. So, we played a combination of soccer, ultimate Frisbee, volleyball and tug-of-war. My team (team Simba-city, as Folake named us  ) played 2 games of soccer, 1 of volleyball and 1 of tug-of-war. Me and Kiki played some awesome midfield with Steve and Justin as the forwards and Loyce (one of the trainers) and Fo rocking defense. It was so much fun. I haven’t played a real game of soccer in years and I loved loved loved it. And I don’t stink as much as I remember . I think the reason it was so amazing as well was that we got to move and let out all this energy we build up from sitting around all day. I hope we continue this ritual at least a few times while we are here. There was a lot of support for that idea so I’m thinking it’ll happen. We finished the day outside with apples (OMG I haven’t had an apple in sooo long!), vegetable or meat samosas, chips (a rarity) and the usual bottled soda. It was delish . In the States I never drank soda, but here it’s like the only form of sugar that we really get (unless you load it into your tea) and it tastes SO much better because they use real sugar, no high fructose corn syrup or diet. Additionally, the other reason that yesterday was so wonderful? I got to talk to both my parents on the phone for the first time since I left home. I miss them so much that it was wonderful to hear their familiar voices. My mom is my springboard for all my ideas, decisions and stories so not having her to talk to everyday has been a real change. I love you mom!!!!
Today, for my day off, I’m hoping to go to do lots of things. I need to buy things from the soko (market) like bananas and maybe other things to snack on. Also, I have a few letters to drop off and perhaps use the internet (which, if this gets posted, means that I was successful ). Also, I bought this gorgeous boutique fabric handmade fabric this past week that I really want to get made into a dress. My first dress! The fabric cost me about 17,000…a little over $11…and the fundi ya nguo (tailor) will cost me 10,000. So about $27,000 for the whole dress. This is less than $20. Such a deal  I can’t wait. The fabric is a darker yellow with a beautiful design on the front and another for the head hole.
So, being in Africa, I’ve adjusted quite quickly to the bugs and state of cleanliness. I told my mom last night that if she wants to complain about how “dirty” her house is anymore, she was just come visit me and that’ll stop that. My feet are constantly a reddish hue from the dusty clay that I walk on. My suitcase is still packed in my room because if I take out the clothes (or, for that case, forget to zipper it) I will find bugs on my clothes. I was lots of mini cockroaches that co-inhabit my desk along with all my books and shower stuff. We’ve become friends. Attempting to remove them will be a highly frustrating and unsuccessful endeavor, so we just live together peacefully. They don’t cause me any real harm unless I for to zipper or close any container of things. Something that I haven’t adjusted to quite well though, is the rats. So, the other night, I was standing in my room texting on my phone right before bed. The electricity was out so it was dark in my room, but I was just about to climb into bed. Then, mid-text, I feel the nose of some creature run into my leg and then a tail pass over my foot. There was about a 3 second delay as I processed what just happened and then I freaked out. Screaming and running into the living room, my homestay family probably thought I’d gone crazy. I jumped into one of the sofa chairs and repeatedly said “Ew. Ew. Ew.” About 40 times. Finally, after explaining how grossed out I was and being unconvinced to not be afraid of rats (They kept repeating “They [the rats] have no effect” meaning, I shouldn’t freak out because they won’t hurt me.), I paused and then timidly said “Pole [sorry in Kiswahili].” I think that the grossness factor is lost on them. I don’t care if that rat won’t bite me, I do not want him in my room. But my host fam was nice enough to check my entire room for the rat after that as I sat inside my tucked in mosquito net on my bed, thanking them profusely and deciding that I wasn’t leaving this spot for, oh, let’s say 2 years. Later that night, as I was trying to sleep, I did hear the rat scamper across my floor again, but this time I decided to just let him be. I haven’t seen him since. However, I can guarantee you that I will never text in the darkness in my room again. No. no. no. no. no.
I’ve also kept up with my tradition of nearly destroying all my electronics. The count for submerging my things in water thus far is 2 for my Ipod and 1 for my camera. Amazingly enough, both of them still work. Please don’t ask me how. I think that God was deemed it time to work some miracles. Although my CD player is currently nonfunctioning for reasons that escape me. It was not submerged in water, so who really knows.
I’ve already started on one of the 3 journal refills I brought. Parents, I might be asking you to send me the extra 2 that are in my room earlier than I thought.  It’s been so wonderful not having TV or access to a computer that has more than 3 hours of battery life/power because I’ve been reading and writing a lot. And walking. Before I got my bike, I walked everywhere. Even now, I don’t take my bike if I don’t have anywhere to park it, or if the majority of the commute is along the main road. We were given money to take daladalas to CCT, but I usually opted for the 55minute walk because if felt good to move, gave me some time to practice my greetings and was just a nice change from having to hail down a daladala. Sometimes Steve will walk with me or I’ll run into this student on his bike heading to university that likes to talk to me in English, but usually I’m just in my own head, soaking up the scenery, avoiding sand pits and thinking about what it’s really like to be here. It’s crazy how I really don’t feel like I’m over culture shock, or will be for a while, but I’m still incredibly happy. Every single day is an inevitable cycle of emotions, little highs and lows about things that you wouldn’t even expect but when I lay my head down at night, I can’t imagine being anywhere else. I miss home and American amenities like crazy (I will never ever take having a washer/dryer for granted again!) but I don’t want to return for more than a few weeks before returning because the experiences here are just unbeatable. I feel….like me. It’s a nice feeling. While I learned a lot about people in my gap-year at home, I’m learning so much more about myself here. And it’s wonderful. I needed to be really challenged, really out of my element. I needed to have a purpose, and be surrounded by these people with the same desires. Okay, enough self-reflection. That is all for now. Miss and love you all. And if you made it to the end of this blog post, congrats! I don’t think I would’ve if I’d been reading.  “Kwa hereni” for now!!!