Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Statistics Tanzanian style

Number of times I’ve been asked if I liked black people: 4

Number of hot showers I’ve taken in-country (hotels included): 5

Number of times I’ve been asked to be someone’s “mpenzi”: 3-4

Number of marriage proposals: 0 (whew!)

Number of things that I’ve lost but have somehow managed to find again via other people’s efforts: 3

Number of times I’ve been called mzungu: Oye…don’t ask

Number of beer brands I’ve tried: 12 (The Kick, Kili, Safari, Seregeti, Tusker, Ndovu, Castle Light, Castle Milk Stout, Eagle Light, Eagle Dark, Tusker Lager, Red’s …although that may not count as beer)

Number of times I’ve eaten meat: 5 (sambusas at msimbazi, meat sandwich after our hike, a single bite at my host fam’s, Ramadan feast in Dar and kiti moto adventure in Katesh)

Number of days I’ve missed English: Um, how long have we been in country?

Number of times that I’ve tried to speak Kiswahili, failed, and regretted the attempt: 0

Number of full days I’ve been at my site: 5

Number of times I’ve been running at my site: 3

Number of days till I’m done with my service: 724

The Future Freaks Me Out

This title isn’t really completely true, just a reference to Motion City Soundtrack

Yesterday was definitely one of my favorite days/nights in Tanzania thus far. It wasn’t the most smooth, but definitely one of the most fun. I went into Katesh to meet up with 2 of the PCV’s that are closest to me at site, Duncan and Justin. Justin actually lives in Katesh, so we all crashed at his place which is really close to the center of town. So, I took my first bus from Mulbadaw into Katesh at like 8am. I hadn’t quite had the experience of actually flagging down an entire bus (I’ve done dalas before) for me, so Charlotte walked me to the “stop” (aka the edge of the road) and when we saw the bus coming past town, I crossed the street and flagged it down. As the bus muddled on through the dust and over the rocky, bumpy road, I wavered to the back and found a seat. Almost exactly an hour later, we arrived in Katesh. Finding Justin couldn’t have been easier (just look for the only white person) and we walked to his house, which was small but cozy and super welcoming. He’s had like 5 PCV’s come before him, so the place is really broken in, but it was still nice. He also has a dog, named Batman, who is the perfect balance of clingy, but not too clingy. And super sweet. So when Duncan rolled around, we went to grab Chai at this little place with super yummy, flaky chapatti. After that, we wandered around the safi duka, the Pick n Pay, then we went to my fundi to try to get my dress fitted better. Soon, though, since we had nothing else productive to do, we started bar hopping. It was so much fun just relaxing and swapping gossip on the experienced PCV’s and my class (of which, I will admit, I’m the resident gossip...(insert guilty smile here)) Between crazy travel stories to love connections, there was quite a lot to cover. And that doesn’t include the usual commentary on ridiculous run-ins with Tanzanias. Oh, misunderstandings are just a daily routine!
So, the rest of the day was spent alternating drinks with food and stops to visit dukas that Justin knows the owners of, including his counterpart. I even made an exception and had some of what they claim to be “the best kiti moto in country” Kiti moto is pork that cooked SO deliciously. I loved loved it. I don’t plan on eating meat regularly still, but I could fo sho not pass that up. So, after it was decently dark, and being borderline harassed/hit on at the last bar, we headed home (I love being out with guys because it cuts down on the harassment and heckling that you had to deal with. It’s so much more less stressful. So, around 11 we wandered home, watched the movie 21, polished off a tube of Pringles and passed out. So great. : )
I woke up around 10, which was the latest I’d slept in like two weeks. And it rocked. We grabbed some Chai again, watched House and spent about an hour searching for this jacket that I was convinced I’d lost the previous night. For some reason, I wasn’t too worried, because things that you lose here seem to have a way of coming back around to you. And, of course, when we returned home, Justin found it on the floor, under a poster that’d fallen down the night before. Winner winner chicken dinner. I caught the 1:30 bus home and, lucky for me, ran into one of my neighbors on the bus. He even helped me get off at the right stop (I was just going to wait until we got to the actual town of Mulbadaw, but our actual compound is located before that in a stop that you have to specially request). Since I got shoved to the back of the bus b/c I was one of the later ones to board, shoving my way past like 20 people that were standing in the aisle wasn’t too appealing, so I was going to wait to get off, but, no worries, because he helped me with that. So, getting home was nice, and I was dead tired. I relaxed, went for another nice run and then had some stir fry that charlotte cooked (delish!) and a lemon square, also of charlottes doing. So good! So, tomorrow is a day stocked full of chores, hopefully a run or two, and maybe a visit to the neighbors. Oye! I need to work on my Kiswahili!

Song that got me most pumped on my run: “Tonight” by Pitbull

To continue in the style of my last post...

You know you’re in Tanzania when…you are sitting at a bar being ignored by the waitress for a good 10 minutes even though she acknowledged you and even said hi already, and a vendor strolls in with 2 bundles of sneakers swinging from his arms and you aren’t in the least bit phased…but actually more amused as he wanders to your table and you pretend to be mildly interested.

You know you’re in Tanzania when…you see 2 cattle drinking water out of a random bucket in the middle of the bus stand.

You know you’re in Tanzania when… you are just walking around and some bibi (grandma) you pass by grabs your entire head, kisses both sides of your face and mumbles Kiswahili that vaguely resembles a blessing with extreme intensity and graciousness and then proceeds to hold your hand until you walk away.

You know you’re in Tanzania when…you are running, or doing any form of physical labor, even walking, and multiple people tell you “pole” which is “I’m sorry”. All you really want to do is ask “why?” but you know that they don’t really have a reason, they are just being polite. So you say “asante” back but in actuality, all you’re really thinking is “do I really look that tired???”

Monday, 29 August 2011

And today was…

A Success. Granted, by Tanzanian standards, but success none-the-less. What did I do? Well, let me tell you : ) Woke up early (darn I’m tired) to a nutritious breakfast of white bread, blue band butter and cinnamon (note the sarcasm…still haven’t lost that, thank goodness). My mkuu came hodi-ing around 7:30 to walk to town to drive to school, to meet the students and teachers. Notice the chain of events. Quite organized, one might say. So, the mkuu introduced me in the staff room this morning and then at parade to all the students. That was awkward…but unavoidable : ) The school is smaller than I thought, with enrollment of 402 students, and there are 12 permanent teachers, including me and lots of temporary ones. That’s a pretty decent class size. I was happy to hear it. After my brief stint at the school (I attempted to discover who’s teaching what but ran out of time) I went into town with the Mkuu, and 3 other teachers. We were supposed to greet and be introduced to the district heads, but off the 3 offices we went to, no one was in, so we went to the police station instead where I was introduced to chief of police. When we pulled up to the station I’d jokingly said “Am I in trouble?” and then, my mkuu proceeded to tell the chief of police about that towards the end of our meeting. Oh, did I blush! But that wasn’t as embarrassing as when, while waiting to talk to the chief, I was sitting on the edge of a bench with my mkuu and another man on the other end. But, somehow they decided simultaneously to stand up, leaving me perched on the edge and the bench tilted drastically in my direction. I jumped off, but not too soon as it made a loud thud then it returned to the ground. Worst part though? No one seemed as amused as me. Is it only American humor that would find that so funny? Oh, and it was only 11:00. Oye! : )

Afterwards, we went to a little café for chai and then shopping for things on this massive list I’d been creating since coming to site. I’d checked at the local duka (in Mulbadaw) yesterday, but was only able to get like 1/4 of what I needed, and in Katesh I found like another 1/2, but the last 1/4 I’ll need to go to Singida for…it’s like a hierarchy of towns. So, it was great wandering around though with those teachers, because they knew where to get everything and I didn’t feel like I’d get ripped off with the “mzungu” price. We saw the “pick and pay”, the soko (market)…which was phenomenally clean and well organized…I was shocked…, and the electronics store, a fundi (in this case I’m referring to a tailor) that Jeniva likes where I think I’ll take my dress tomorrow (its too wide), and the stendi where the buses stop, the “nail” salon, a chipsi joint, goodness, so much. I did also find this kitenge that I loved too…and I’d been searching for a while for a nice kitenge. They are everywhere so I’m being really really picky on the fabric. I have 2 years here, I think that I can afford to be.

So, I’ll skip anymore details here because we spent a lot of the rest of the day waiting around to drive back and then driving back to Mulbadaw (I got a lot of texting in at that point…). When I got home, despite being pooped, I went for an awesome run on that path charlotte showed me and it was just as pretty as I thought yesterday. You get the best view of the sunset and at the top of a little rolling hill, you can see the elevation of the surrounding areas. It’s beautiful, and it looks to “Afrikan” or at least what I picture Africa to look like before I came here. I kept trying to convince myself that “yes, this IS Africa and I’m actually here”…but I kinda failed. But, in case anyone was wondering, American music still does drastically improve the quality of a run, even here. It’s super awesome. Thank you Rihanna, TI and Akon. I owe you one.

Also…in case you don’t have fbook, here’s my most recent status that you may find amusing. This experience, along with the multitude past and to come, will be the reason that I will have an astounding amount of patience when I return to the US. So, here goes:
You know you're in Tanzania when...you are waiting in a hair salon to get your nails done (yes, you read that right) and the 2 women next to you start peel and cutting vegetables (specifically mchicha) for lunch, but not before one of the stylists handed you her bag of used clothes to skim through and see if you'd want any. And after 45 minutes of waiting, you still didn't get your nails done. But you weren't surprised or disappointed, because, heck, this is Tanzania, sir.

Tanzanians also do this high pitch “ah!” sound in the middle of like every conversation, no, every sentence that they here and it sound like it should be a utterance of surprise, but it always comes at the most random, boring of parts. For example, today I was talking about going home to cook and I said in Kiswahili “I think that I will cook rice…” “Ah!” “…and beans and mchicha” (pause) because I don’t eat meat.” “Ah!” Now the second one was well placed, but the first…goodness knows why. It’s like a quick inhale of air and basically every time that I hear it, I have to fight the urge to mimic the sound in response (sometimes I give in and do it anyways…they never seem to notice).

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Written via candlelight...and my laptop

So Manyara has been improving fast. Today was the best day by far (although, since I’ve only had 3 days here, it didn’t have much competition). First of all, me and the PCV I’m replacing have been getting along really really well. Ever since the first night, we’ve talked a lot more and I think she’s coming to realize that I’m not horrid to live with. : ) Oh, the relief! So, to start off today, I washed my clothes (I really therapeutic activity when you have your own space and time to do it in) and downed 2 cups of coffee (thank you, Starbucks VIA). Then, we headed into the village to look for food and little necessities like locks, kerosene and soap. I meet some of the mama’s she usually buys her stuff from. I can’t wait to go into the my banking town, Katesh, soon and explore there. I’ve been texting/talking to some of the other PCV’s in my area and they sound so cool and excited to meet me (that probably sounds lame to a current Westerner, but here, it kinda just sounds normal). So nice to hear : ) It’s one of their birthday’s next weekend, so I guess that there’s a little get together in the region for that. Should be awesome. So, after town, we went to the Mkuu (headmaster)’s house for lunch and I meet his family. While we were waiting for lunch, I played hide-n-seek for a bit with his youngest daughter, Happy, and chatted with him and his wife. They were really welcoming. I think I got really lucky getting this Mkuu. He’s been nothing but accommodating and patient with me so far. Two very good things for sure. Seeing him interact with the school will be interesting, but also beneficial none-the-less. That should start Monday or Wednesday…depending on when some holiday begins. (It’s so very very Tanzanian that there is a national holiday this weekend, but the exact date of it has yet to be determined. Apparently we’ll find out tomorrow. Karibu…well, you know.) So, after lunch, we “pumzika’d” a bit and I chatted with the next door neighbors before taking in my clothes. They invited us to dinner later that night and also offered to buy me the beans that we’ve searched unsuccessfully for in town today. The community vibe is so strong in Tanzania. So, after we got home and I started to sort out little details like organizing my room again, we baked carrot cake and then went on a hike. She showed me a great running trail and I had a spectacular view of the mountain, Mt. Hanang, and the sunset in the other direction. There were beautiful, albeit small, rolling hills and some pretty, albeit thorny, vegetation. I didn’t get the most green of sites, but I’m learning to appreciate it nonetheless. Me and Charlotte had some really great in depth conversations about PC and then life in general and it was a really nice walk. Afterwards, we arrived home to a cake that’d finished baking perfectly (so delish!) and then we went over next door for dinner. The Mama over there, called Mama Tom or Mama Tobias, is SO friendly and easy going. Almost every word out of her mouth is “hamna shida” (no worries) and her kids are especially adorable. We joked about spiders and robbers and kiduku and it was really great. They are also Roman Catholic, so perhaps in the future I’ll go to church with them. So, currently, I’m typing this via candlelight and basking in the glory of my 3rd day at site. Success, I would say. And I’m just trying to remember that I will have down days in the future too, but something good will happen eventually. I just have to be patient patient patient. Goodness, I’ll be so patient when I return to the US that I won’t know what to do with myself. Okay, good night for now. All my love. I miss you all loads. Upendo - Steph

New addresses

For LETTERS only, please send to:
Stephanie Ross
P.O. Box 141
Katesh
Tanzania

For PACKAGES, please send to:
Stephanie Ross
P.O. Box 715
Singida
Tanzania

Interesting article...

Here's an interesting article for anyone thinking of of doing short term service abroad. A new perspective on how "helping" may not be as helpful as one might think....

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/nov/14/orphans-cambodia-aids-holidays-madonna

Friday, 26 August 2011

Mulbadaw...finally

Here's a quick update: I got to my
site at like 10:30/11 at night. My bus had left the bus station at
Dar at like 6am so it was an insanely long trip, esp the part after we
reached Babati and drove for like 4 hrs in the dark to my town. It's
pretty far out here. My Mkuu is really nice and the area right around
the main road (by Babati, is really pretty). My site, however is
insanely flat and looks a bit like its out of the Lion King. While my
house is big, its in quite disarray. There are just cobwebs and
spiders and broken things everywhere. It was a big disappointing, I
think that one of my big tasks will be to clean things up as much as
possible. While there is running water, its only in one sink. The
electricity is always on from 11pm-8am, and sometimes before then. I
still need to find out the schedule. So, the downfalls so far, are
the house and the surrounding area and, most of all, the volunteer
that I'm replacing. She is NOT happy that I'm staying with her for
her last 2 months of service. She had a really really really hard
first few months at site and so I think that a bit of her disdain for
me is the fact that I have it so good right when i get to site b/c
there is already like cooking pots and a stove and bed sheets and she
has figured out details about living here like transportation and
such. So, yeah, it wasn't all that welcoming. So, today I slept a
LOT (I was soooo tired since we woke up at 4:30 yesterday to get to
the bus station on time) and I cooked myself some food on the kerosene
stove and now I'm just trying to unpack and organize things as best as
I can. She kinda is living in the room that I'll get when she leaves,
so that kinda stinks too. Oye. Well, these next couple weeks are
going to be hard, but I think that I just have to push through and
remember that I have IST (inservice training) in 3 months and that is
WILL get better as I figure more things out. Also, the real plus side, is that I will have really reliable cell
service and it looks like internet is working good too...so I'll be
able to skype.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Best day of my life? Quite possibly

First to understand the beginning events of this day, you should know that me and Brie had collected money from everyone in our training class to buy a new guitar for Huong, our friend who got her stuff stolen about a month back. Okay…begin:

Today started off quite normal. Wake up at 7:30, chai by 8, session to begin at 8:30 in one of the classrooms here. Oh, but how things change! After chai, I found out from Big Boy that we were finally going to be able to get Huong’s guitar from town. And even better news: in the process, we were going to miss the first session of the day (which, turns out, luckily, was “malaria guy’s” presentation on recruiting us, basically to help with his project as our secondary project. Oye.) So, me, Brie and Huong went with like the 2 coolest trainers, Makasi and Paschal. Oh, goodness, we love Paschal! He teaches us slang in Kiswahili while we teach him slang and abbreviation in English. Like today, on the dala ride back to the Msimbazi center, we taught him “LOL”, “You’ve been served” and “Bumblef***” It was so amusing. And hilarious. But anyways, we walked into town, which ended up as every Tanzanian adventure: with Makasi saying “just a bit farther” like 3 times and then, when we got there, half of the music shops being closed. Oh, good times : ) (I don’t think that I knew the true skill of patience until I came to Tanzania). So we found one guitar, bargained it down (thank you Makasi!) and then Huong said she would still like to look around, so we searched out another, which we found out was 50,000 more than the money we’d collected. Of course. And she still needed a case. But after bargaining for a long long time and just being super patient, Makasi again got it down to 200,000 - the amount we’d collected and me and Brie offered to split the case, which we got from 40,000 to 30,000. So Huong rode the dala back to the Center with her new guitar on her lap and we all taught paschal the slang and, oh, good times.

So then, we came in for Chai (10:30 chai, that is) and got ready to meet our Mkuu’s. I thought I was nervous, but once I saw mine, I realized that nerves were silly. They are all so happy to be getting volunteers for their schools (they had to apply and provide adequate housing…hence why we have very nice houses compared to the health or environment volunteers…so they are usually pretty enthused to meet us). My Mkuu was really friendly. He was very relaxed but he also seemed like he had things together. I discovered that there will be about 500 students at my school, which 13 streams, so about 4 streams per form. There are already a Bio and Chem teacher there and possibly someone to teach math and physics a little bit, but he’d really like someone to teach math and physics. I told him that I teach bio and he said we’ll see what we can do. There already is a bio teacher but, since I wanted to teach higher forms, perhaps I can take the upper levels of bio and then help out, like physics or something . IDK, I’ll have to go to site and see. I’m flexible. I’d take upper levels even if its not in the subject area I’m strong in. There are about 10 other teachers at the school and there are also students that board at the school too, which I was also happy to hear. Should be interesting. We eat chai and lunch at the school and then I need to bike to and from school, because it’s a bit far. The walk is through the village, so that’s a pretty easy way that I can get to know my villagers since I live away from the house. But my house is supposed to be really nice with 3 bedrooms, a living/dining room, kitchen and all that. And its in the compound by the Mkuu’s house. He said that he has a wife who can help teach me how to cook and 3 kids, one of whom is at boarding school. The other 2 are 10 and 6 and they sound really cute. I hope I can go over there and play with them a lot. That was one of the best parts of my homestay. So, we talked about Katesh, and how you have to go around Hanang mountain to get to my site because it’s between there and the village. Apparently its decently cold and pretty dry. But you can climb up the mountain there if you want, which is sweet. Also, although there is a local language, he said that everyone speaks Kiswahili, so I should be becoming fluent in that. Woot! : ) I spoke with him in English at first but he kept switching to Kiswahili so eventually we just finished the conversation in Kiswahili. He was telling me that I speak it very well but I think it was because (well aside from the fact that Tanzanians will say that anytime you speak any Kiswahili to them) I was talking pretty fast in Kiswahili because it got to the point where I could talk faster in Kiswahili and not have to annunciate each syllable of each word as much. And since I like talking a LOT and I like talking fast, I just used Kiswahili to fit my needs. Oh well, whatever works. But, so we also talked about how we were going to get to the village, which is usually a 2 days trip but apparently we’ll be making it in 1 (really really long) day. We leave at 5:30 from the bus stand (Ubungo) in Dar and travel through Moshi, Arusha, and then down through Babati (where Tiffany’s site will be) and from there we’ll get a private car to drive me to my site. So we won’t get in until like 9pm but that’s okay. At least I can rest and unpack the whole next day. Yay! And that’ll save me some money on a hotel. Oh goodness, I can’t wait to see my house : ) So all in all, I just realized that I was really excited to go to site and settle in and meet my fellow teachers and (hopefully) add to my Kiswahili, because my knowledge has been really really stagnant since shadow.

So after all of that and lunch, we all went our separate ways and I borrowed Kiki’s People magazine and read in the gazebo out front. Shaheenah came over and asked it I wanted to go visit a friend of a friend of a friend of her family’s with her and Hannah and it sounded like a marvelous adventure, so I sad of course. We grabbed a taxi and went towards the Hospital and Fire station and meet this super awesome, very well off Indian family who welcomed us like we were relatives. It was amazing. They had 4 young kids, the youngest three of which we played with while we were there. We chatted about Tanzania and Kenya and Dar-es-Salaam and football. And then, because they were Muslim, dinner time rolled around and we sat down for this amazingly wonderful feast beyond feasts. Since it’s Ramadan, they were fasting during daylight hours. So, at 6:36, they could eat again and so, lots of guests come over and their house girls prepare TONS of food and that was what we ate. OMG I haven’t been so full in, oh, probably my entire life. It was crazy. There were at least, at LEAST 30 different things to chose from. There were like 2 types of juice, a milk tea, water, soda, then for the food: 2 types of maandazi, sambusas, a heavenly cassava and sweet potato stew, pizza with beef on it, fried potato dumblings, chicken kebabs, chicken wings, crispy chicken strips, fried eggs with meat mixed in the yolk, 2 types of falafel, 2 types of rice, a stew with meet, another soup with meat, mini hamburger looking things, pastries with some type of nut filling and sprinkles, cookies. Oh my! It was lika midnight buffet but better. So great! Needless to say, I did try some meat. And it rocked. Those chicken kebab things especially. Although, while I heard the milk chai was good, I did not drink it because I’m fairly sure I’m lactose intolerant here. Milk sits the worst with me. So, yes, we feast feast feasted and then rested for like another hour because we could hardly move. And then, they gave us to go bags and offered to drive us home. But first we walked with the kids to an ice cream shop called “snoppy’s” and the parents meet us there and I ate an awesome (IDK how I made room for that) sundae called “4 heaven” while we played hand/clapping games and sang almost an entire song of Justin Beiber’s quite loudly. It was great : ) Seriously one of the best nights of my life. So unexpected, but so great. And, I finished the night by skyping with Kimmers, my fbook child, and Emma, a girl in Libertyville that I babysat girl. And also one of the coolest middle schoolers you’ll meet. So now, I can go to bed happy. Success.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

"Kila frickin' siku"

Today, we were shuttled, like the sheltered PCT’s that we’ve been treated as, between the Msimbazi Center and the Peace Corps office. It was really great being there again because you always run into current PCV’s who are super friendly and willing to share stories. And the food was awesome. Good thing they gave us huge plates because we were served like 10 different options. So delish. I’ve never come to appreciated soda the way that I do here. When sugar is so rare in food, you take what you can get and the soda here tastes 10x better than anything in the States since they use real sugar. If we have really lucky days, we get a packet of peanut M&M’s. It’s like the biggest luxury. Funny the things that you come to appreciate when you leave home behind.

So anyways, we went over PC policy and procedure for a whole day and by the end were just so tired and ready to go relax. So, while it was really great to see Andrea and be reintroduced to the staff again (they are all so honest and helpful so far), we were just so sick of being told thing after thing after thing. After the sessions finally ended, while we were waiting for the buses to bring us back to Msimbazi Center, I went to find the PCMO who helped me when I first came to Dar. He was so nice and I wanted to see how he was doing and tell him that I was feeling completely recovered. I thought he’d be happy to see that. So, I went to the medical office, and he chatted for a bit and talked about the US. Apparently he has a sister that just moved to Chicago a year ago and loves it there. I told him it was well worth the trip (goodness I love the city). Then, he asked me about my site and how I was feeling about it. I told him about my nerves but that I was hoping I’d find plenty to love too. Then, afterwards, I left the office to find out where to mail my postcards. Apparently, you can just talk to the drivers and they’ll take care of it, as I found out. Good news : )

When we got back to the Msimbazi center, I ventured outside the compound with Huong and Shaheena to find a large bag to pack my stuff in (I’ve gained a LOT of stuff since coming in country between the books that PC gave us, the medical supplies and my just general book hoarding abilities…gotta have some good reads). After asking about 4 duka shop keepers, I finally found one about 5 min down the road that sell bags. I had only brought 2,500Tsh in hopes to bargain it down. Usually they are between 2,000-3,000. So when we finally found some (I chose the one with “Africa” written in obnoxiously big letters”) the shop keeper said it’d cost 2,500. You’d think that I’d be happy with that, but I never take someone’s first price here so I told him, I wanted to pay 2,000. He smiled and said no and then I proceeded to ask him which one he’d chose and he said he liked them both. So I handed him 2,000, took the bag that I liked and he didn’t object. Yeah, welcome to Africa. : ) Later I showed Hannah the same place because she needed a bag too. Goodness, we’ve gotten a lot of stuff.

Tomorrow we get to meet our heads of schools (called a “Mkuu”) and I’m more nervous about that then swearing in. This is the real deal. Our “bosses” per day for the next 2 years. And treating your elders with respect is highly valued in TZ so I’ll need to be on my best behavior. Oye. So much work : )

Monday, 22 August 2011

“You’ve come so far. Well done darling.”

Song of the Day: Kate Nash – Paris

So, today I found out my final score for my LPI (language proficiency exam). I the grading system goes like this:
Beginner- low/ mid/ high
Intermediate – low/mid/high
Advanced – low/mid/high
Superior (which is when you are fluent)
On the mid training exam I scored an intermediate Mid, which is the minimum that you need by the end of training (or so they say) to be sworn into service as a PCV. So, I took my LPI last week and just discovered that I got Advanced – Low. Which I really happy about and is about the highest that I know of any of the other trainee’s here getting. I think that the reason that I progressed so much is because I have no problem going up to people and attempting to talk to them in Kiswahili and I like learning new words. Also, I’d been spending a lot of my free time after school and when I was a home, the backyard studying Kiswahili and talking to my host fam, which really really improves your language. The hardest part is definitely listening to them talk. I can form my own sentences decently well, and pretty fast now that I’ve used the vocabulary that I know like a LOT, but hearing what they are saying and interpreting it as fast as they say it is a whole ‘nother ball game. It’s the most challenging part, I think, and about ½ of the time I just agree and only really kind of understand what they are trying to say. But if I agree to something ridiculous, they usually call it out, which is great. So, yeah, I was happy with that.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Oh, what's in a name!

Speaking Kiswahili is such an back and forth game. Some days I rock it and feel so proud. Other days I try super hard and fail like crazy. But no matter how much I learn, I constantly feel insufficient. There is so much more to know. And ultimately, I really do have a lot more to know, grammar and vocab wise. And that’ll just take practice. But when I take the initiative and time to look up words I want to know and try to use them, it’s so rewarding. Still, I have this fear of never being fluent. However, trying, even when I fail, still teaches me something, so I must never be afraid to try. And Tanzanians are super friendly and ready to correct you if you need it. Which can be frustrating, but also great for learning a language. What brought all this on was coming back home to my host fam after a week shadowing at Cheryl’s. We spoke a LOT of English because 1) she refuses to embrace the language and so gets by with super super basic Kiswahili and mostly English 2) I was around Americans for a week straight, so I didn’t have to use Kiswahili that much. It’s so much easier to talk without thinking. But then I got home to my host family and even my greetings were off kilter. It’s like, no matter how experienced and strong I feel in the language, even little breaks and I forget a lot. But then when I do remember, it all comes back so fast. And I’ve gotten a lot faster at forming basic sentences to meet my needs. Granted, they all have simplistic structure and the same like 20 verbs, but they usually get my point across fast when I need it. It’s rewarding when it snaps into place. It’s like “Whew! I CAN do this.” Kidogo kidogo (little by little).

Here are other things I discovered, after shadowing at Cheryl’s, that I could really really use at site:
Sudoku book
Vegetable peeler
Measuring cups
Good knives
Tupperware
Ziploc bags
Cutting board
Pens (anything in the US is made better than the pens here)
Misc others: bisquick, premade cookie, cake or muffin mix, syrup

Saturday, 20 August 2011

And for the next too years you will be living in....

So after a grueling game of waiting for our faces to be unveiled one by one, I discovered that I’ll be in Manyara Region, an hour outside the town of Katesh teaching at Mubadaw Secondary school. I would be replacing a current volunteer, which meant that I’d live with her for the next 2 months (A fact that I was really happy about although many people were not) and I would be living in a super secure house in a protected compound. Thank goodness. The plus sides: I would have electricity and running water. I was right by a mountain (Hanang) that you can climb. It is supposed to be somewhat cold there. My Mkuu lives like 2 houses away from me. My neighbors have a car so I can get lifties. Yay! Several of my friends, Kiki, Mel and Huong are not too far in Singida and Dodoma region. Also, a Health PCV named Justin, who form what I hear is supposed to be really cool, if in Katesh. The trip to Arusha/ Moshi is not bad. Best thing I discovered since finding out my site: It was previously a Canadian expat’s home and is supposed to be super posh. Goodness, yes! : ) Downsides: TBD
Woo hoo! So, here is the link to a map that I dug up showing a bit about where I’ll be:
http://www.maplandia.com/tanzania/arusha/hanang/katesh/

And here’s a link to a video and little info about a Girl’s session that the current PCV at my site participated in with some students from Mulbadaw. Sweet, right?

https://sites.google.com/site/ourkiliclimb2011/home/past-peace-corps-activites
Our next big adventure, immediately after I returned home to my host fam and discovered my site, was going to shadow, which all in all was a rough week. So, because I journaled a lot while I was there, I’ll just give a brief overview. But I will also say that the reason that it was rough, for the most part, was because, not due to the change of schedules/scenery…that was actually greatly appreciated. No. No. It was because of the way that we were treated, not some much as white people, but as complete and utter mzungu who, most people assume, have money and are tourists. In Moro, I’ve been called mzungu plenty of times, but up by Kili and then in MKuu and Maragu, it was really overwhelming the way people swarm you offering “help” and services. Oye. So that was that. But, here’s the jist of it:
Shadow was…interesting. I shadowed up in Kilimanjaro region, by the town of Mkuu. My volunteer’s name was Cheryl and she teaches Chemistry and Physics at an O level secondary school there. The region really is just beautiful. So lush and mountainous, with incredible views. Her site was about 2 hours outside of Moshi (moshi = smoke, in Kiswahili). We stayed overnight in Moshi the night that we got there and then, a week later, the night before our bus ride home (to Moro). The bus ride from Moro to Moshi was 8 hours. Oye. While I never want to be on a bus for that long again, I know that it’ll be happening again super soon as I head to my site and then again really frequently through the next 2 years as I travel throughout Tanzania.
I really enjoyed finally being able to leave Moro after feeling so stagnant for so long but Moshi was a quite frustrating in a particular sense. For some reason, the way that I was treated as a complete and utter tourist was insanely frustrating. And all I wanted to do was go back to Moro. And in fact, the day that I went back to Moro, I went straight up to Kihonda even with all my stuff and chilled at the bar for 3 hours with some, actually most, of my fav PCT’s, and we just chatted it up. It was great. Then, on my way home I ran into 1 Tanzanian I know from around Kola Hill, Bonfice (he’s a pikipiki driver) on the dala to Kola and also, on my walk home I saw one of the awesome teachers I’d gotten to know at Kola Hill Secondary. While my Kiswahili was rusty (eek!) it was so great to see these people and remember that I do know people here and am not always treated as a tourist and I can work the transporation system like a pro (most times) and not feel incredibly lost. Then, as I walked into my host fam’s backyard, Lighty ran into my arms and I gave her a swinging hug. It was so great. Made me feel like a million bucks. Some moments make the whole day super rewarding and worthwhile.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Another great blog

Eric's blog is much much better than mine in terms of quality of pics (he has an amazing camera and eye for photos) and writing technique. I'd definitely recommend checking it out.
Sidenote: Eric was in a band that did pretty well before he left it all for the great unknown called Peace Corps. Sadly, I can not remember the name.

Here's the blog: peacecorpstanzania.tumblr.com

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Hadithi, hadithi, hadithi…so many stories!

Song of the Day: Love Like a Sunset (Phoenix) “Here comes…a visible horizon”

Wow, where to begin?! There are so many things that I could write about. And I don’t even know where to start. How about from the beginning? That’s usually the most logical. But I’m not guaranteeing that I’ll go in sequential order. So many thoughts! Oye.

Well, last last week, I was in Dar for a few days. This was not due to PC scheduling. It was an impromptu journey (nothing is wrong, no worries) that started on Wednesday. I’d been fending off a cold and cough that was getting progressively worse. After a few weeks, my LCF convinced me to call the PCMO (Peace corps medical officer/doctor) and so I did. I first called on Monday and he was pretty sure it was because of all the dust here. Tanzania is insanely dusty because of the few roads that are paved and the nonexistence of sidewalks. Also, it’s the dry season, so little little rain. It has rained maybe like 2 times since I’ve been in Moro that I’ve known of. So, I went home early on Monday from Kiswahili class. Then, on Tuesday I had a class to teach at 8, but I felt like crap. So I went to school, but when the doctor called and I told him how I was, he said to go home and rest (I didn’t have a temp though) so I taught like 2/3’s of my class and then turned it over to Bola, the other bio PCT, and he finished it. So, when I woke up on Wed, I decided to wait for the dr to call before going to school because I was sick of going home early. So at 8, he called and I told him about how I was feeling pretty decent, still coughing quite a bit but less of a headache and such. But I also told him how I’d felt a bit of wheezing yesterday, but it didn’t seem like a big deal. Well, he told me he’d call me back in an hour, which he did and said, he’d like to bring me into Dar. I was pretty surprised, but was not about to protest a trip to Dar and change of scenery. So, I ended up getting picked up at like 1:00 by a PC vehicle and they drove me like 1.5 hrs to the halfway point to Dar, which is Chalinze. We switched over cars and I ran into Matt, another PCT who was in Dar for a medical checkup on his foot b/c he’d sprained it. He was headed back to Moro. So I made it into downtown Dar (called Posta) by about 4:30/5 because of all the traffic, and they dropped he at my hotel, Safari Inn.

Now, I should also explain, one of my best friends here, Huong, had recently had her stuff stolen from her home. While the rate of violence is low in Tanzania, because this is still a third world country, poverty is high…thus theft is high. So, while Huong was in her homestay house, her family was robbed and she lost all her stuff. Literally eveything except clothes and books. Poor poor girl. We all felt so awful and have tried to chip in as best we could. But, since this happened Sunday night, she’s been taken to the PC headquarters there and was staying with some PCV’s that were COS-ing (close of service). So, I discovered that her hotel (Econo Lodge) was right next to mine in town. So, after stopping at my room, I ran…actually more like slid…into a big hug with her at her hotel. I was SO happy to see her. She is one of the most relaxed, chill, easy-going people you’ll ever meet, so she was taking it so well, but I was really happy that I could be there for her too. So she actually crashed in my bed (after some awesome Indian food at Mambo’s on the corner…omg so yum) that night at Safari before we both got picked up by PC in the morning. I went to see the dr, and she went to have her usual rounds of talks with the country director and security people there. Everyone was giving her a lot of support and freedom, which was really great. When I saw the dr, he said that she was such a strong girl and taking it really well, which I could’ve agreed with more. So, we did my checkup and he told me that he was really just worried, since I’d mentioned wheezing, that I’d had asthma. After listening to my lungs, he said I was fine, just probably allergic to the dust and maybe pollen. So he gave me some allergy meds, and we went to chat more about training in his office (the PCMO’s here are really friendly and nice…its pretty great).
So, during training, they’d told us that if anything bad ever happened, or if we just really really needed a break from site, we could go stay with another PCV for support. And, me and Huong had been mentioning how we’d wished I could just stay until Friday, when we all had site announcements at Moro. So, I decided to see what the drs would say if I asked. I mentioned to my PCMO that I was really close to Huong and, if she wanted me there for more support, could I stay? He said that be very likely, checked with the other PCMO and then, finally, upon my suggestion, double checked with Huong, who responded that that would be “awesome” : ) We were so happy. No only was I missing the last of my Kiswahili and getting to hang around Dar, but I got to be with one of the bestest people in the world and help her through a hard time. So that day, after hanging out at the headquarters for a while and swapping some books, using internet, and chatting it up with the PCV’s who happened to be around, we went with Veronica, an Ed volunteer in Singida, to Sea Cliff, a poshy area of Dar with a mall (Shock!) and really nice resorts and the most American looking super market I’ve seen in TZ. It was awesome. They even sold donuts. I don’t even like donuts, but seeing them was super inspiring. So, we had some yummy Thai food (OMG Thai) and then I bought some wine and really good chocolate (Black and Green…ginger flavor, Huong’s fav…omg so good) that we both had when we finally found our way back to the hotel. Then, opting for seeing Harry Potter 7, Part 2 (heck to the yes!) over eating dinner, we punguza bei’d…aka haggled for a taxi and drove 30 minutes outside town to this snazzy…for TZ…movie theater with a lot of other PCV’s and watched HP 7 II, in 3D. OMG amazing. It was such a great day. Then, Huong and me passed out while watching Arrested Development in the hotel room at like 1am. It was great.

The next day we went back to Moro with the country director, Andrea and several current PCV’s. We were super sleep deprived from waking up at 5am to pick everyone up that me and Huong were pretty quiet. We stopped at Chalinze, ate some great chapati (we were STARVING at the that point since we hadn’t eaten dinner and missed breakfast at the hotel b/c we left so early. So anything we ate at that point, which was like 10am, would’ve been awesome. Me and Huong had also resorted an hour ealier to texting everyone we knew really well in our group to save us maandazi and eggs and whatever at chai…we always get chai which is like tea and a second breakfast, when we have training days at CCT). ANYWAYS : ) we arrived back at CCT just in time to start site announcements.

Next chapter: site announcements!!!! What up, Tz!?

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Public Service Annoucement

Today I found out that saying “Congratulations” to someone who’s pregnant is really taboo in Tanzania. I don’t know how I didn’t discover this sooner. Apparently it is like the equivalent of “jinxing” a pregnancy. So, you only congratulate someone once they actually have the child because then they definitely have something to celebrate. I guess this practice is pretty old-fashioned, meaning the younger generations don’t follow this “rule” as much. But, the way it was explained, this practice stemmed from the large percentages of miscarriages that Tanzanian mother’s used to experience. Oye. Glad I know now or that could have made for a real awkward moment at site.

Friday, 12 August 2011

For Mish...

Ridiculous things that you see in Tanzania, or just Afrika in general maybe, that you accept (“This is Tanzania, sir”) but would never ever see in the US:
1) Kids carrying ridiculously heavy things. Here, the social hierarchy determines that older people are to be respected and thus the kids are expected to do the errands, go buy “groceries” which are actually several bunches of tomatoes, or some bread and then carry them home. Sometimes home is far, and they are doing it alone and it just looks a bit painful. But, as Tiffany found out, they will never ever let you help them with this task. It is expect of them and considered very disrespectful is if the older person is carrying the majority of the load.
2) Women carrying baby’s on their backs by wrapping a khanga around them. It’s quite impressive.
3) Women (and sometimes men) carrying buckets or fruit on their head. Also super impressive.
4) Chickens, like, everywhere. Sometimes I’m walking home and them a pair of chickens run across my path and I think, oh, right, I’m in Tanzania. Good things these chickens didn’t let me forget that. Or, as I explained to Mish and pointed out to Shaheena, as we were waiting for our bus in Moshi, I saw a man carrying a cardboard box with ragged holes cut out of it and wrapping in string that he was holding it by. Feathers peaked out the sides and inside, I’m sure were two or more live chickens. And he was probably bringing this on a bus. And everyone was probably fine with that. Oh, kuku! How you are everywhere! Mbona yeye ni kila mahali!?!
5) Men frequently have machetes around their waist, especially the Masai. It’s a little intimidating.
6) Oranges are peeled with part of the white rind still on, and then cut in half and eaten very efficiently. It’s hard to picture. I’ll demonstrate when I get home. PS. Seedless fruit does not exist here. It’s a bit annoying.
7) Vendors will run up to you when you are on a bus and offer you any assortment of cookies, mater, candy, cigarettes or fruit. Just take your pick and never accept their first price.
8) More to come…fo sho.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

We're just blowing through nap time, aren't we?

If you get that reference, I love you.

So, my friend Huong, who is amazing (love you girl!!!!!) has these beautiful pictures on her blog if you'd like to see what Mikumi was like, or even Mt. Uluguru more. Must go for now, will post again soon. Here's the address:

www.tumblingtumblingtumbling.tumblr.com

Lots of love - Steph

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

“It’s a language I don’t understand”

Lesson of the day via Bloc Party: All you need is time. (Pioneers)

Wow, so I’ve accumulated a lot of posts over the last week. I keep thinking that I’ll make it to the internet café, but of course, something comes up and I don’t, so now, I’m adding a huge slew of blog posts at one time. Congrats to anyone who makes it through reading all of them. My life isn’t all that exciting, just different and full of a series of challenges that differ vastly from those of my Western life. But all in all, I don’t feel all that accomplished at the end of each day, just satisfied and ready to try again tomorrow. I do miss the easy. That was nice. Just zoning out in society and doing something so routine without thinking. That rarely happens here. I need to always be present. But maybe that’s for the best because sometimes, I’ve felt like I was jus going through the motions of life without a purpose. And here, everything I do has a purpose. I write letters to stay in contact with people. I text friends to form relationships. I talk to strangers to practice Kiswahili and build my confidence. I study Kiswahili to expand my ability and knowledge. I cook with my host fam to learn how to cook TZ food and speak Kiswahili. I prepare lessons to educate the students. I talk to the students to build relationships with them and to remember, they are the reason that I came here, and they are really wonderful (when they are not talking out in class…). And, sometimes, I watch Arrested Development or read a book for the purpose of keeping me sane. : )

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Mbona unarudi nyumbani mpema?

The last few days I’ve been returning home early because I’ve been a bit sick. I keep going to school, getting a headache and just feeling tired, and then heading home before the day of Kiswahili is over. I’ve had a cough the last two weeks and it just keep getting deeper and deeper, but I don’t have a temp, so the doctor just thinks it’s viral. It’s pretty dusty around here (Sipendi vyombi!) so I just think that my lungs aren’t used to inhaling all the dust and so I’m coughing from that. All of the teachers have been asking me, “Unatumia dawa?” (Are you taking medicine?) and telling me that I have the flu. Which is probably part of it too. It’s just that I’m still adjusting to the dust and climate and culture and it’s probably just throwing my body for a loop. Luckily the Tanzanians understand better than Americans the idea of rest and taking it easy, so while I keep going to school and attempting to teach, the doctor and the other teachers just tell me to go home and rest.

I keep trying to remind myself too, that one of the reasons I may feel so tired mentally drained is that doing tasks here, even simple ones, like buying phone vouchers, takes a lot more effort than back home. I can’t just go the store and buy something. I have to take a dala or search for a vendor around my home, and speak in Kiswahili to purchase things, which takes a lot of concentration to understand what is said and active thinking in order to respond. It just wears on you throughout the day sometimes. Some days, I get home and my host mama will say simple things to me in Kiswahili and I just will not process it. It’s such an active process that if I’m tired and my brain shuts down, I’m doomed. : ) Well, not really doomed, but I just have to force myself to listen and it takes a lot more work. So yeah, that makes simple tasks a lot more complex.

So today was supposed to be my last day of teaching Form one. But right when I got to school, the doctor called me and asked how I was doing. I gave him the update and he said I should stay home again today. Great. I don’t know if it’s the American in me, or just my own self inflicted guilt, but I felt so lazy for taking another day off. So, I went to talk to Anna (my Kiswahili teacher) about it, and the first thing that she said was to go home and rest (My cough does sound pretty horrid…but its getting less frequent). But I had a period from 8:00-9:20. So Bola, another PCT who teaches Bio was there and I asked him if he wanted to take it over. He looked skeptical, and I actually didn’t think that he’d do it, but he agreed to. He usually teaches Form 3 A and B (I also teach Form 3A) and complains about how the Form 3’s won’t listen. I’ve been telling him he should see what teaching Form 1 is like and he just laughs it off, but today I was glad he agreed. I had planned a game for today because it was our last class, and so I brought the poster and started it off. The class was much better today than yesterday, I think b/c I had them first period. They were quiet when I came in and remained pretty quiet while I checked notes (keep in mind, my definition of quiet is all relative). I really didn’t expect them to take any notes today, but they needed to have out their notebooks to answer questions. I also took away two books of kids who were doing homework for another class in this class. I’ve decided that when I get my own class, if it is Form 1 or 2, I’m just going to send them out of class if they don’t bring their notebooks. Those are usually the kids who talk the most too, and I just can not tolerate all of the distractions when teaching is hard enough to students who only grasp about half or less of what you are saying. Also, sidenote, I just want to say that I have so much more respect for any of my teachers, especially the one’s who’s classes I talked in or acted like I didn’t care. Teaching is hard and well, thank you for putting up with me. ANYWAYS, so we started the game and they were actually being pretty good. I really didn’t have the patience today to put up with talking since I was feeling so out of it, so I was glad they made it a bit easier than yesterday. And, maybe because I had bola there to help, I felt a little less frustrated than before. So, the game with matching antigens to antibodies went well, as did the one where they had to label the parts of the first aid kit. These sounds like such simple games, and they are, but doing it in a different language in an over-stuffed classroom (there are probably like 30 desks and 90+ students…and I’m not exaggerating at all…about 10 are standing or sitting on buckets) means that these two activities took an hour. I finally left at 9:00 because it seemed like Bola could handle the rest of it. I think he was just planning on lecturing after I finished. I really hopes he gets a feel for how challenging Form 1 can be. It just isn’t fun usually, it’s like very stressful work. And these are kids, so it would be great to have fun and play games, but no, it is just frustrating.

In review, internship teaching has taught me a LOT about what to expect at site. It was really really really frustrating at times because of the language barrier, the lack of resources and the pace at which the lessons progress. And since we were only here for 4 weeks, we were unable to really establish a routine or set of guidelines for the students to follow if, for example, they were late, or forgot their books or are talking in class. But all in all, I feel like I’ve worked out some of the bugs that I would’ve had to deal with at site. I know now that I need to be serious and strict when I first start teaching. If the students see that they can work their way around you, they will. You need to demand respect before you can receive it. But then, I know that after I establish set rules and guidelines, and they understand the consequences, I can loosen up a bit. I know that there will be at least 1 or 2 really bright students that I can rely on to help me translate and answer questions. I know that the students will always come up with excuses for why they are late or forgot their notebooks, and to not tolerate that. I know that they will want to talk to each other ALL the time. I also know that there will be one or two students who will be the “shut-er-up-ers” who will yell “Please be quiet!!!” anytime I need the class to stop talking. And a silent Thank you thank you thank you! to those students. I also know that when I asked for volunteers, students love saying “Ninaumwa” if I call on them (that means: I am sick). And I know that they are lying now too. Oye! So many things that I didn’t not know 1.5 months ago that I know now.

The title, in case you were wondering, literally translated means “Why are you returning home early?!?!”