Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Aunt Donna

I dedicate this post to my Aunt Donna…who has written me beautiful cards and sent me such charming packages. I got my second package from her today, while I was still recovering from being sick, and it made me so so so happy. It was such a nice surprise and she included the best assortment of goodies. I got candy and chocolate (yay!) and trail mix and pens and toothbrushes and even crayons. And then she wrote me a wonderful letter about how the fam is doing at home. I’m in the process of writing her back…I can’t wait to finish it. She is so wonderful that she deserves 10 letters to her one. She keeps telling me how inspiring I am and how much she loves me, but I don’t think that she realizes how inspired by her I am as well. I admire the way that she gives of her time, love and care without ever thinking of herself, especially when it comes to taking care of my grandma. I think that my mom would be lost without her since she is such a gentle, generous woman who my mom confides in. And, when it comes to me, I admire her constant persistence in sending me love and prayers. I pray for you too Aunt Donna! All my love - Steph

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

And back at site...

Yesterday went a lot better than the night before. I didn’t puke at all and my stomach just felt mildly nauseous. Sorry if that’s too many details. My neighbor stopped by and brought me over chai and dinner when she found out I was sick, which was great. I had to miss Charlotte’s going-away party but I don’t think that I really miss all that much since she said it was short and she got lots of presents. One of them wa a gorgeous shuka turned into a traditional Barabaq dress which was so cool because they are personally made and crazy authentic.

My Kiswahili kicked in quick when the doctor that I happened to be riding next to on the bus called me and then one of the kijana around town who frequently gives me lifties also called. Then my mkuu stopped by to pick up Charlotte and asked how I was doing. I had had a malaria test kit setn up from Katesh that day with one of the teachers, and they’d given it to him so he gave me that as well. The PCMO wanted to make sure that I didn’t have malaria just to be safe. It tested negative, which was great : ) so now I’m just going to rest tomorrow and see how I feel. Hopefully better since I want to go to Singida on Friday with Charlotte and all of them. She’s taking the only adapters to the outlets here with her to turkey, so I need to find new ones. And quick. Either the Swedish-->Tanzanian or American --> Tanzanian. But I need to do it fast b/c otherwise I’ll be charging all my stuff at my neighbors until I get back. Oye.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Maporomoko ya maji (Waterfall)

And the word for waterfall is.....maporomoko. Say that 10 times fast. And to a Tanzanian.

Yesterday ended a week of attempted teachign at my site, a small adventure in the village where I got multiple free lifties and a bunch of free tomatoes (my tomato selling mama loves me...) and then, of course, an excursion to Katesh.

The teaching as site was merely an attempt because the first class we just went over homeowrk for a good hour or so. And then, next class, I discovered that they'd sent about 2/3's of the students home because they hadn't paid their school fees. So we played a jeopardy type game that I made up somewhat impromtu-ly and then reviewed NECTA questions and ansswers.

After chai, I headed back home, packed and camped out on the side of the road for an hour hoping for a liftie to Katesh, but ended up just grabbing the 2pm bus that traveled past. Happy, the mkuu's daughter, kept me company as I waited.

In Katesh we chilled with Kristen, a PCV from Singida region who is COS-ing, then visited Antonio and his wife, Belle, in their duka (as usual). All this was intermixed with lots of phone calls to friends from my training group, so it made for a great time. Friday was a lazy lazy day that started with banana pancakes, combined with lots of painting of Justin's extra room (we painted the Tanzanian flag, Mt. Hanang, and the face of the Cat-in-the-Hat...Justin can take credit for the last one). The night ended with some really good chicken, a few beers and a very failed effort of getting all the paint off our bodies. Kerosene was our paint thinner so we still either have spots of paint randomly on our feet adn arms, or smell deliciously like kerosene. Oh, Africa, the things that you do to us! Or, lead us to do to ourselves.

Saturday was our adventure day. We took a 2hr bus ride to Dereda, a bigger town on the way to Babati. Duncan was supposed to meet us in his town on the way there, but somebody never ended up waking up on time. Oh well! The only reason that we were heading to this town was because Duncan had told Justin that there was a waterfall there and you could hike to it. So, upon arrival we realized that, well, not only did we not know where to go, but the word for waterfall in Kiswahili. Oh, the uncertanity of it all! :) So Justin pointed us in the direction of the mountains ahead and, after calling another PCV to look up the word for "waterfall" in Kiswahili (we tried asking what the word was by describing it, but they just kept saying the English word after we'd tell them. Urgh.) we asked for directions every 10 minutes or so until there were basically no people around. By that point we'd gotten to a substantial looking river, so we just kept following that and about 45 minutes later (it was like a 2hr hike) reached the most beautiful falls I've seen (Nigara is just too big to compare...). We swam for a really short bit b/c the water was as freezing as Lake Michigan in June but it was so worth it. There was bascially no path that last part so we had to look for little opening in the brush or just make our own. On multiple occasions, I used several tree branches to keep me from sliding back down. And my arms were actually sore from all the climbing of rocks when, at times, there was just no better way. Don't worry, Mom, I felt incredibly safe throughout the whoel thing and made sure to never truly lose my footing but, goodness, it was such a great hike!!! By the time we got down, we were STARVING so we grabbed rice and beans and then caught a bus home. My body was so dead from all that hiking and climbing that it felt so good to roll into bed and I ended up sleeping literally 13 hours that night.

Sunday, we went to another nice lunch at Antonio's house, had some wonderful food and, well, the best chapati that I've had in country. Then, we visited Anotonio at his duka and manned the counter while we ran some errands. I got a free lollipop out of it so I was happy. It's a good way to practice Kiswahili and get accustomed to the prices of things like sugar, flour, pens or yeast. Oh, my Kiswahili teacher would be so proud!

Monday Dana came to visit and I also discovered, via Justin's encouragement, that there was a 6am bus (which is really like 6:30am) out of Katesh so, since I wanted to spend more time with Dana and Justin and I didn't teach till later Tuesday, I decided to try that. Besides, my mkuu was supposed to give me a liftie home and he bailed somewhat last minute, and I really hate being rushed onto a bus. Traveling gets easier day by day but it still gives me butterflies. I'm sure after a year here, that'll change.

Unfortunately, my stomach isn't agreeing with, well, any food that I eat, so I'm actually staying home today to rest and sleep because I don't think that throwing up at school will do anyone much good. Also, today is Charlotte's going away party at school, so it's a shame that I have to miss that. But alas, more parties will materialize. First I just need to get well.

Kwaheri for now and all my love! <3

Friday, 7 October 2011

Furaha. Happiness.

I had a wonderful week at site again. I’m full-fledged teaching now and its been wonderful. I have 2 streams: Form 3 A (the science stream) and Form 3 B (the business stream). My A’s are incredibly quick. On the second class, I started teaching they just seemed bored so I asked them if I was going too slow and they said yes. Wow. Was not expecting that. Luckily, I could speed it up quite easily and then I gave them a homework assignment. Yep. They better not be bored anymore.
I feel incredibly lucky to be given the school, mkuu and students that I was. The school has a really good rate of students that pass the NECTA (their final examination…which is actually going on now), which is over 50%. My mkuu is SO mellow and generous. I only see him get mad in rare but justified situations and he’s been nothing less than incredibly patient and helpful with me. This week in fact, he sat me down and asked me how things were going and if I’d found a counterpart yet. Making time like this was really surprising since he’s incredibly busy. As for the students, they’ve been continually surprising me with how different things are here than in internship teaching. And so far it’s been all for the better. First, they pay so much better attention in class and listen much quicker (especially when I tell them to listen!) than I was expecting. I think that they are used to a pretty high level of discipline, especially from the volunteer before me. She’s a bit more serious than me. I came in with a game face, but since they’ve been so cooperative, I’ve been a lot more personable. Since I can have fun with them, class is a lot more fun. And the students love to laugh. It’s wonderful. Additionally, their English is better than I was expecting. I get so caught up in speaking Kiswahili and I forget that I NEED to use English when teaching because it will really benefit them . If there is a tough concept, I will try to explain it in both languages, or if I’m just getting blank blank stares with I ask a question. Additionally, I can already see numerous students who are very motivated and I can’t wait to get a chance to work more closely with them, if not this year, the next. I’d like to start some type of after school club as well. There are computers at our school too that no one uses except for the secretary and that’s another idea for the future…starting a computer lab class.

Another highlight of my week was passing through the village. If I walk directly home, it takes me about 30-40 minutes. This day it took me two hours because I walked through the vill instead of around it. I’ve gotten to know some of the mama’s there really well already and it’s just wonderful. Okay, lemme explain. An African “mama” is literally just that, a mother. She’s married and has kids. But she’s so much more. She sells things, either fruits/veggies, or baked goods like chapati and maandazi, or she runs a duka (lil shop). But, in addition to this, she is super helpful and friendly, especially to foreigners such as me : ), and she knows her way around the village incredibly well. And, most substantially, she LOVES to talk. Like so much. So, on my way home on I stopped at the hardware shop where I’ve been before. I met this mama there named Rosemary but when I returned again, her husband was running it. Luckily, that day, she had returned and she was especially happy to see me because she’d heard from her husband that I’d asked about her and remembered her name and she was SO happy. She was currently a bit sick, but recovering. So, we chatted it up and then I discovered that she had a daughter that was about my age and knew English really well. She went and fetched her daughter and I found out that she was studying business in Dodoma and had visited Norway for a month on a school trip. She invited me in but I said “Baadaye” (Later) and then bought some peanuts. They are 100/=Tsh for a lil scoop (which is like, oh, 5 cents) and I made sure to tell the mama how I like how she always give me extra big scoops but her husband just does little ones. She was so amused and said that she knew how to do good business. So cute. I continued on my way and ran into a piki driver that I know who is super nice. Eventually, I reached the main hub of my vill and I stopped in to greet one of the teacher’s wives who owns a duka there. She’d just returned from a trip and I gave her some banana bread that I’d baked. She invited me over to her house on Saturday which was super nice but I told me that I was going to Katesh. Then, I swung by the duka next door that is owned by my mkuu (headmaster) and where is son, who is either my age or slightly younger than me, works. This kid is hilarious. His name is Mgaya and he’s similar to all the vijana (Tanzanian version of a teenager) with his slang and swagger, but he is also incredibly nice and personable…not as cocky as most of them are…and he reminded me that I’d told him I’d help him with his English if he helps me with my Kiswahili. Since I didn’t have to be home for anything, I whipped out a pencil and paper and our first lesson was slang. It was awesome. While there, I kept hearing a rustling that I thought was a mouse or something but, when I finally asked, he showed me this beautiful little pet bird that he kept in this homemade cardboard cage. It was so cute. I asked if he was selling, and apparently not. : ) About a half an hour later, I left and passed by my mama that sells me tomatoes and onions. Her name is Mary and she’s SUPER sassy and I love it. I attempted to tell her how much I loved her attitude and she died laughing. It was so amusing. I gave her a loaf of the banana bread too. She looked quite pleased. Finally, I swung by the duka where I get eggs and the mama that runs it, I can’t remember her name unfortunately, wasn’t there at the moment, her daughter was. Her daughter is a doll and incredibly sweet. She went to get her mom and the mama came out with the biggest smile on her face. It was great. I asked her about her family and her day and her house and all those other greetings. Her teenage son was also there too acting like a lil obedient punk, it was cute. Last week, her and her husband, who is actually good friends with my mkuu, invited me over for lunch that Sat. Of course, I was in Katesh, so I couldn’t go, but I told her that the next weekend that I’m home, I will come. That family is so nice. So, after buying eggs and more tomatoes, I finally reached home. Good good day. It’s tiring but also super rewarding. It is days like these that I’m so happy to be at Mulbadaw and have these people around me.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Sipping and cooking…

Currently I’m relaxing at home before heading to school today. I don’t teach until 12:30, so I decided to take the morning to get caught up on chores (I need to sweep this house!) and bake a bit. Baking is a bit of an enterprise here…at least from my standpoint…so it is usually a several hour undertaking. Today seemed perfect. As I write this, I’m sipping on some hot water that I added cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon too (I already had my morning cup of coffee) and intermittently finishing a nice long letter to my mother (love you mom!). My breakfast consisted of my favorite indulgence, biscuit (like little cookies/biscuits) with peanut butter. Yum! The peanut butter here makes me so happy because it is made from peanuts…and that’s it. What a novel idea! No additives…I think that is why my body feels so healthy. I love it. I’m currently on my second loaf of banana bread. I’m cooking these to give to my neighbors, who’ve been so helpful in the past month in helping me adjust to site and get some of the things that I need and…most frequently…give me lifties. Gotta love free transportation. Especially when they pick you up outside your door. So, I’m going to update my “wish list” and finish my version of tea and then do a butt ton of dishes. Sound wonderful? I think so… siku njema! (Have a great day!)

If its not a 5 inch wide spider…I’m not scared of it


I’m back at site after a wonderful weekend in Katesh (again…dunno when I’m going to find enough excuses to stay home for an entire week…) and it feels great. Last week, I battled off a nasty nasty huge spider for a good 3 hours while intermittently talking on the phone, dropping the phone screaming, deconstructing and then reconstructing my entire bed and, well, just trying to sleep. It was great. So far I’m only killed one huge one, but then again, I’ve only been back at site for one full day. I taught a bit, chilled with the teachers more, wandered home through the village and chatted up my mama’s that I love and finally cooked some beans and veggies while running, journaling and just organizing my life (some things never change…even in Tanzania).
While in Katesh, I initiated the making for 2 stools for my house and an easel (I’m dying to paint!). I’ve already bought little cans of oil paint and brushes, and am currently scoping out places to find a canvas to paint on. This would all never be possible without the help of my wonderful teachers. Mr. Kassedy gave me a lift to Katesh last weekend and then took me to chai and eventually we made it to the wood shop. After explaining for about 20 minutes what an easel is, we parted ways and I went to chill with my sitemate, Justin, for the rest of the weekend (Ah! English galore…so nice). Lauren, a PCV nearby was over too and we had a wonderful time just doing nothing (my fave!) before she ehaded back to site. Justin was pretty sick with a nasty headache so we took it easy and I chatted it up with Brie, one of my favorites all the down in Lindi for, oh, about 3 hours straight. The Zain plan (the cell plan we are all on so that we can talk free) kept kicking us off every hour…apparently it thinks that we talk too much. So next day, after more resting and a visit to the hospital, Justin recovered enough and we went to visit his counterpart, Antonio’s duka. Antonio is, well, basically completely awesome. He’s super friendly, personable, speaks English and Kiswahili (but we all usually use Kiswahili more), determined (from what I can gather he does a great job of helping Justin with his projects) and, most importantly, he smiles and laughs all the time. So fun! So we hung out there as we usually do, for hours on end, and I even got to chat with the parentals (miss you guys!) for a good 40 minutes. It was wonderful. Although I think that I thoroughly confused then when I handed Antonio the phone at the end of the conversation and he tried to tell them something. So funny : )
The next morning I returned home via bus which was only my 3rd bus ride back to site despite traveling a lot. I’m a liftie-hog I think. But, it was ironic b/c on my way to buy a ticket for my bus home (I hate sitting in the back so I wanted to sit near the front, in which case, you need to go like an hour early to the standi and get your ticket) I saw my mkuu (headmaster…he’s the one that I get a TON of lifties from). So I went to salimia (greet) him and see if maybe he had room. He said that his car was full because the two women in the back were very wide (he said fat but just writing that seems wrong). This is super Tanzania to comment on women’s weight without a thought or regret and in fact, them being fat is really just seen as a good thing. Except when I want a liftie. So I said no problem and then Mr. Kassedy, who was also there, started chatting it up except, when I told him I was going to buy a ticket b/c I wanted to sit in the front, he shuffled me away saying “Go now!” It was highly amusing. I got back to site at about 3 that day and was just about to do, idk, chores, dishes, unpack, organize, prepare lessons, cook…anything! And this neighbor’s wife, who’d just come in from Arusha, came over and let herself in our house and then, in the process of looking for Charlotte, checked out my room. Um, Excuse me?? I was a bit taken a back. No, a lot taken a back. I was really nice but it was pretty evident that she wasn’t going to leave. And she just sat there quietly too, which was awkward. So, when she saw me starting to cook, she took the beans from me to sort them and then proceeded to instruct me on how to cut tomatoes and onions. Um hmm. Yep. No cool. About a half an hour later she wandered into the neighbor’s garden, who happened to not be home, and took 3 eggplant. Okay, really? I asked Charlotte about this later. That just did not seem right. She said it wasn’t cool, even by Tanzanian standards, but when I asked the neighbor today, she said “hamna shida” (no worries). Goodness this culture is different.
Today was consumed by me waking up freezing. Brrr. Then drinking coffee so that I could ACTUALLY wake up. Then preparing my notes for lessons. Then, finally, walking to school which turned into walking and talking on the phone with Justin (in Pemba…not sitemate Justin) while discussing the minute facts of life like, what color bracelet I should make for him at IST. Then I taught another great class. I LOVE my students : ) and then, ate some maandazi, prepared lessons for Thursday, wrote mom a letter, joked with my teachers…oh, they love to hear my opinions on the food and just about everything here!...and then, after lunch, headed home at like 3. I caught up a bit with Hannah while heading home but then, when I reached the village, stopped to buy the veggies and greet the duka owners that I know. One particularly nice one invited me over for lunch on Saturday (IDK if I’ll go to Katesh again this weekend…I need to pick up my stools and such…) which was really nice. When I finally made it home (after greeting like 3 neighbors too…) I started the beans (which take like 3-4 hours to cook) and got ready to run. The run was short but nice and I came back to some yummy food and, eventually, a gentle rainfall, which made the air smell SO fresh. Tomorrow I don’t teach until 12 something so I’m going to stay home in the morning and cook banana bread for the neighbors and clean dishes and, perhaps go for a long run. Tutaona (we will see). The hardest part about coming back to site from Katesh: switching back from English to Kiswahili. I really don’tmind speaking Kiswahili…I learn something new every day and I feel really proud…but it’s like a switch in your brain that you forget to turn off. Even tying this blog there have been so many words that I’ve almost written in Kiswahili before stopping myself. Even when PCV’s talk to each other here, we insert Kiswahili words frequently. It just makes more sense. Okay, basi (enough). Good night and greetings from Mulbadaw!!!