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!!!

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