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.