A Really Long Post

2 11 2010

So the following post is HUGE. It’s basically a collection of everything I wrote by hand when I couldn’t use my computer combined with stuff from recently. Like I’ve been mentioning though, I will be getting internet in the near future, so communication in general will be better. It will be much easier to Skype and stay in contact via email and facebook. Anyway, I apologize for the long post, but this is the only way I could fit everything in!

10/12/2010

This week we finally started learning how to teach. It was also the first time I had to get up in front of our small group and give a lesson. It was super nerve wracking for me because we’ve received all of 1 DAY of teachers training. The training session was only a couple hours long, and it wasn’t that great, so when I got up in front of my small group to practice “micro-teaching”, I was flying by the seat of my pants. However, considering we only had 15 minutes to prepare a lesson plan (mine was on circles/angles), I thought I did a really good job. I’m usually not that good at getting up in front of a group of people and talking, but this felt easier and more natural. The feedback I (and my other classmates who practiced teaching) received from our instructor who was critiquing us was awesome. She told us that we were really a special group in that she’s never had a whole small group do so well the first time around. Yea yea, I know you’re probably thinking “she says that to all her groups”; I know I’m no special snowflake but it was still a good sign that I could at least say I was serviceable at worst as a teacher here. What is also sweet is that because we did so well, she talked to the site placement officer to make sure they accommodated our site needs as much as possible, so we’ll see…

Then today we finally got to go to a secondary school and observe a Tanzanian classroom environment. I observed a Form 3 math class (equivalent to maybe 10th grade math in the States?). The class size was about 60 kids. The only materials were the chalk and blackboard, and many of the kids were even sharing pencils and pens. For having such a large class and limited materials, I was impressed how well the young lady who was teaching did. It was nice to finally see how a typical classroom operates in Tanzania because it gives me a starting point to work from. I can see what this teacher did well and what she didn’t do well and use those observations to make myself a better teacher. We have two more opportunities this week to “micro-teach” in front of our small groups before we take over a class by ourselves, so we’ll see how this goes…

10/14/2010

So yesterday in between language lessons, our small training group walked over to the secondary school where we will be doing our “internship teaching”. What we found there was shocking. I had a certain idea of what I thought this internship teaching would entail in my head before I got to Africa, but that whole idea has gone to shit. We arrived to find ZERO teachers/administrators. And in case you were wondering, it wasn’t a holiday because most of the students WERE there. How is this possible you ask? Well, there are many reasons, but I’ll try to give the cliff notes version. Basically there is zero accountability required of the teachers at many public schools (NOT all public schools). The concept of a teacher being fired for poor performance or for not showing up to teach does not exist at many schools here. There is no governing body for teachers and thus nobody to really oversee what the teachers are doing. Many of the teachers will take jobs then enroll in University, thus skipping out on teaching to attend their own classes. I can’t really blame them for this I guess? Second, for many teachers at the low secondary level, the job of teacher was a last resort after plans A, B, C, and D have fallen through, so you have many teachers who are taking jobs in schools because there really aren’t any other jobs. These are the teachers who most likely did poorly on their national exams, and so they end up coming back to school to teach. In addition, the pay at public schools is apparently also very poor. I knew things weren’t all rainbows and butterflies here in regards to the education system here, but I didn’t realize it was this bad in some places. For some of the other volunteers who are “internship teaching” at this school, it will be the first class many of these kids have had for a subject this semester, which is already 2 months old. So when people in America say our school system is going to hell, I don’t feel QUITE as pessimistic….

10/15/2010

Today we broke out of our small CBT groups and all met back at our main training center for two sessions about teaching methods in Tanzania and about the topic of critical thinking. Both of these sessions were conducted by current Peace Corps volunteers. Both sessions were immensely more informative than the previous sessions we had. For teaching methods, there is a huge emphasis on alternative teaching methods to the traditional Tanzanian style of “stand at the blackboard and lecture” technique, which is the only way most classrooms are run. Such things as games, group work, real life examples, and rewards for a job well done (rather than getting hit for screwing up) were all emphasized. The second session was really pretty awesome. It was conducted by a volunteer who has only been here for a year, and really convinced me that the reason why so many of the Tanzanian kids struggle on the year-end exams is because they don’t really learn so much as they memorize a TON of information/examples. The very idea of critical thinking doesn’t really exist in the majority of typical Tanzanian classrooms. Kids learn by copying down notes from the board (because most kids can’t afford the textbooks) and memorizing questions from past year end exams. The kids memorize literally hundreds of problems, so when they see something similar on the year-end exam, many times they will just regurgitate what they remember rather than thinking through the problem. Just as a disclaimer; I am in no way putting down the Tanzanian kids here. For many of the kids, English is a 3rd of 4th language (1st is tribal language, 2nd is Kiswahili, and 3rd is possibly Arabic). Think about how you would do if you had to perform all your schoolwork in your 4th language. Yea, it’s ridiculous. What they lack in critical thinking skills though they more than make up in memorization. They can tell you what the population of Morocco was in 1961 and countless other random facts, but a large majority of them lack any type of real critical thinking/analytical skills. I think one of the main reasons that critical thinking skills are lacking here is because of the culture. There is a reluctance to ask the question why, because challenging the authority (aka the teacher) is really frowned upon. The elderly people or people in positions of power here are highly respected here. From an early age, you are taught to obey your elders or people of higher stature and to not question what they say; if you do, there’s a good chance you’ll get hit (beatings with a stick in school is still common practice here). This stifling of any type of creative thinking at an early age is one of the major problems I see here. This is where Peace Corps is awesome and can really be a game changer. We are free to use whatever teaching methods we see fit, which is a good thing. The guy who was presenting said that sometimes he’ll use the entire class period purely for activities geared towards encouraging critical thinking, but that have no direct relationship to the subject being studied. One example of an activity he likes to do with his students is to write a statement on the board. He then asks his students to write as many questions related to the statement as possible. For example “men are stronger than women”. He didn’t actually use this, but for demonstration purposes here I’m using it. At first, he said it was very difficult for kids to come up with more than one question related to the statement, but as the year progressed, the student’s ability to ask increasingly complex questions from a simple statement improved immensely. Activities like this really get the kids to think in ways they aren’t normally asked to think, and is counter-intuitive to the “do as you’re told and don’t ask questions” most of them grew up with; which I think is a good thing.

10/15/2010

So tonight was extremely interesting and informative. One of my mama’s family friends came over to the house to chat, and I’m gonna toot my own horn here, my Swahili is getting better. However, after about 10 minutes, I pretty much exhausted my entire Kiswahili vocabulary and was stumbling over a way to describe what I was doing here. It was at that point that this guy just starts talking perfect English. I was like, right, thanks for letting my trip over myself trying to talk to you in Kiswahili, but I guess it’s good practice. His name is Harry and he lives in Morogoro. He is originally from Nigeria, and apparently for most people there, the first language after their tribal language is English, so he has a pretty damn good command of it. When I told him I was here with the Peace Corps, he became extremely interested because he had a friend he was working with here that always talked about the work that the Peace Corps does. Turns out his friend is a volunteer from a church in the states and is here in Tanzania helping a group of Tanzanians learn to use a new technology that allows them to drill for groundwater in a more efficient manner. From talking to him, he definitely understood that I was giving up a lot to come here and when I told him I’d be here for two years teaching, he was very appreciative of that. We also talked about religion and tribal issues, both of which are really non-issues here. Harry said that the first president of Tanzania, Nyere, put a huge emphasis on eliminating feuding between tribes. For example in schools, if you lived next to one school, you may have been required to attend another school further away if it meant you’d be going to classes with members of other tribes. He mandated that Kiswahili be taught starting in primary school so that all tribes would have one language to unify them. He basically forced the tribes to intermingle so much that differences between them would be impossible to sort out. Coincidentally, today is Nyere Day, in which Tanzania commemorates the contributions that President Nyere made to founding this country. We also talked about how in Nigeria where he is from, Christians who are one tribe, don’t mix with Muslims, who are from a different tribe and how this problem again doesn’t exist here in Tanzania. We continued to talk about education in Tanzania and why it struggles so greatly. I talked about how in my opinion the issues with education here are a product of certain practices embedded in Tanzanian culture. Harry started to laugh and proceeded to tell me he was just finishing his thesis for grad school on the topic of why so many African countries are so dependent on others for help, and in many cases have a hard time helping themselves in certain situations. He agreed that there were certain cultural factors that contributed to many countries difficulty in pulling themselves up and solving certain problems. He also told me about another Tanzanian friend he had who was currently working in Europe that I needed to meet sometime. He described the guy as “not your typical Tanzanian” because he was always asking the question why? In fact, this guy was actually kicked out of public school here for openly correcting and questioning the qualifications of some of the teachers he had. For all his trouble here in Tanzania, he received a scholarship to study abroad in Europe and has been there ever since. Needless to say, Harry and I will definitely be in touch. It was refreshing to talk to someone seriously and honestly about some of the problems I’ll face here. Many people I talk to associated with the Tanzanian Education System, and all the literature Peace Corps gives us related to the Tanzanian Education System, paints a much rosier picture of what is supposed to be occurring rather than what is actually occurring in the schools.

10/22/2010

So I haven’t really written in over a week; I’ve barely had time as this week has been extremely eventful, full of highs and lows. I guess I expected there to be good times, where I really thought the sacrifice of two years would be worth it, but I think I may have underestimated how tough it can be as well.

On Sunday, a group of 20 volunteers including myself hired 2 guides to take us to the top of Uruguru Mountain; the mountain that overlooks the city we are currently staying in. Apparently it was essential we have guides because the last group of volunteers who tried to climb the thing by themselves successfully got their backpacks stolen. We left at 7:30am when it was fairly cool out, and I’m glad we did because it got real hot; which I guess is to be expected because it’s Africa…. I’m definitely glad we got guides, and not just because of the fact it minimized the chance of us getting robbed, but because they were extremely knowledgeable about the history of the mountain, the people who live there, and the efforts underway to conserve much the forest areas that still remain there. As we started hiking up the mountain, we saw droves of people coming down the mountain with bicycles and motorcycles (pikipiki here) loaded down with huge bunches of bananas and other various fruits and veggies. Since there is water pretty much year round on the mountain, and not always a given in the regions further away from the mountain, the people who live on the mountain farm carrots, banana, cabbage, mango, sugar cane, strawberries, and avocado then truck them down the mountain to sell in the markets of Morogoro. I promise the next time I can post pictures, I’ll post some of the mountain that I took as well; I’m currently working on the most efficient way to upload pictures since it is slow going here…. The total time of the hike was about 8 hours. I can’t really describe how beautiful some of the views were, so when I can post the pictures, I’ll let you see what I saw rather than boring you with trying to describe it.

Also this past weekend on Saturday, my small group met at one of the other volunteer’s mama’s houses so we could practice Tanzanian cooking styles. We made several traditional Tanzanian dishes and one truly American dish. TACOS. The menu looked something like this: Spinach; Pilau; Fresh Tomatoes/Cucumber/Onion Salad; Oranges; Tacos; Freshly Butchered Chicken. We actually got to buy the chicken live, kill the chicken, boiled the chicken, de-feather it, and cook it ourselves. This was actually a really interesting experience, since I really didn’t have a clue where that delicious Chick-Fil-A chicken breast came from, or how much work was actually required to get that juicy piece of heaven from bird to plate. The pilau is basically rice with spices, tomato, onion, and ginger so that wasn’t too difficult to cook. The tacos we made were absolutely awesome. We made the tortillas from scratch using flour and water, and then seared them with a little cooking oil. We had lettuce, beef, black beans, tomatoes, but no cheese. However, these bad boys were a great little taste of America and were a nice respite from all the traditional Tanzanian foods (aka RICE). I was also pumped to discover that all volunteers receive a cookbook with recipes we can easily use here in Tanzania. From what I hear, items such as banana bread and wine are included in this list. I’m really looking to cooking for myself since almost every meal is served with an entrée of greasy/buttery carbs; rice, boiled sweet potatoes, french fries and usually a helping of grisly meat which you usually have to chew off the bone. The meat here isn’t quite as tender and tendon free as you find in the states, so I’ve definitely leaned toward eating less meat here just because it’s such a big hassle. I find it crazy how much starch is eaten here on a regular basis when so many fresh fruits and veggies are available, but many people here thoroughly enjoy their hearty carb meals; for me, it’s starting to feel more like a hearty carb bomb to my stomach…

So if you’ve read previous, you’ll know that the diet in Tanzania does not have quite the variety that America has. Once glaring food group that is missing, or rare, is the cheese/pizza/wine food group. In America, the cheese/pizza/wine food group was a staple in my diet, so not having it readily accessible here is quite the predicament. However, one of the families of another member of our small group wanted to cook us dinner. We all knew she was cooking something special for us, but we all figured it would be pasta, or something semi-American was still delicious. When I got to Mama Gill’s house on Monday to meet the rest of the group for dinner, upon entering the house, I thought “Damn, it smells like an Italian bistro in here; this is going to be great.” After sitting down, I was offered a glass of South African wine (again, something that’s pretty rare and expensive here). I gladly accepted because I’ve had exactly zero glasses of wine since arriving in country, and I do enjoy a nice glass of red wine on occasion. I should note though that in a month or so when I get to my site where I’ll be, staying for the next 23 months, I will most likely making my own wine. Apparently it’s fairly simple to make using locally available fruits, and there are recipes floating around on other PCV’s (Peace Corps Volunteers) laptops that I’ve been able to snag. Anyway, after savoring every last drop of the small glass, we were invited into the kitchen to start eating. I honestly wasn’t prepared for what I saw. Before me were 10-12 full size pizza’s ranging from chicken and garlic to meat lovers. Not only was there pizza, but there were other rare Tanzanian rarities like yogurt and homemade pasta sauce. I thought maybe I’d died and gone to American food heaven. Again, being able to make pizza here is rare, and even more impossible if you only have a small charcoal stove. To make pizza you either need electricity AND an electric oven or a giant coal fired stove (like at a restaurant). Well apparently Mama Gill did have a really nice electric stove and had hired people to help her cook for hours previous to our arrival. Needless to say, I devoured as much pizza as my stomach could handle, then I ate some more. It was absolutely glorious. You have no idea how good fresh pizza tastes after eating primarily rice, beans, and grisly meat for weeks on end. It. Was. Sweet. But, it got better. For dessert, we had freshly blended avocado passion fruit juice served with giant slices of watermelon, topped off my another couple of bottles of wine, just in case you weren’t in a food coma already. It’s safe to say that I had to be rolled out of the place before I feel asleep on the couch. Our whole group was super appreciative to Mama Gill, and we all made sure to relentlessly thank her for the ridiculous meal she prepared for us.

So Tuesday was my first official day of student teaching. I was scheduled to teach an 80 minute math class, but really didn’t know what the kids has covered and what they haven’t covered yet, so I designed my lesson plan to be flexible. I introduced myself in Swahili, then proceeded to say that from this point on, I’d be speaking in English only (again, the year-end exams that all kids are required to take are in English, but many kids still struggle with learning in a 3rd or 4th language). The first half hour I had the kids do some math puzzles and play a few math related games to get blood flowing, and I think they really enjoyed that since games in the Tanzanian classroom are rare. The second half of the class I spent going over example problems to see what the kids knew and what they still needed to learn. Determining this is difficult for a multitude or reasons, but I’ll try to list the major ones here. First, the “class” I was internship teaching in hadn’t really had a teacher actually come in and teach them for more than two periods in a row more than a handful of times this year. It is still very difficult for me to comprehend how teachers could be hired, scheduled to teach classes, then just not show up, but it happens fairly often here. Second, since there never really is a teacher there for the kids, only a handful of students, 15 or so, were actually at the school at the right place and right time. I can’t really blame the other 40 kids who decided that if the teacher wasn’t going to bother showing up, why should I? That being said, I was also fairly surprised that even after 3 months without a teacher, there were 15 students who still bothered to show up. Most of the kids try to self-study amongst themselves, while others just show up because there really isn’t much else to do. Since most of the kids try to teach themselves, they are ALL at different ability levels. Some kids have covered one topic completely, but not another and vice versa. Finally, ability to speak English is a HUGE problem. All secondary school classes SHOULD be taught in English since the national exams all the kids sit for at the end of the year are written in English but many teachers either don’t bother to teach in English or don’t actually know enough English themselves to teach effectively using English. To add to the complexity, students are also at very different levels in terms of their command of English. To add the icing on the cake, my “internship” only consists of teaching two 80 minute periods a week for three weeks so there is no good way to cover all the material that the kids need to cover. As such, most of the volunteers in my group are approaching this as great preparation for when we do have our own classes. We get to see a school that faces MANY challenges. Other small groups I’ve talked to are at public schools which run like a well-oiled machine and really have their stuff together, so again I’m not putting down the whole Tanzanian school system, but when you build 3000 schools over the course of 4 years and don’t have the teachers and administrators to staff them, you’re invariably going to have some schools that are poorly managed. I have to keep reminding myself that if everything worked like it should here, then there really wouldn’t be a need for Peace Corps to be here in the first place. Anyway, I thought the class went really well, and I got a general idea of what most kids knew and didn’t know so that I could lesson plan for the next 3 weeks. Addtionally, the kids really seemed to enjoy playing the games I planned for them. It gave me some small bit of confidence that over the next two years, I in fact can be an effective teacher. The teaching was definitely a high point this week.

However, this past Sunday I had what I’d call a low point or a mini-melt down. After the hike on Sunday I went into town to check email and to chat with Audrey (thank you google chat). After talking for a about an hour and a half, I started to feel really homesick and started questioning why I choose to be over here in the first place. I was frustrated, tired, I missed my family, Audrey, and my friends. I started questioning whether I could actually make the full 2 years. Peace Corps makes it clear that the experience you have won’t be easy and you’ll have your highest highs and lowest lows, all on the same day, but you don’t really know how you’ll react until you realize you are I the middle of Africa with no running water, no toilets, rats in your house, and a multitude of other issues/frustrations. It’s only logical to occasionally think “why the hell would I put myself through this when I could be sitting on my couch, eating a cheeseburger, watching college football on my big screen TV, or taking a nice 10 minute long hot shower?” You think “there are other people here, if I decide to go home, other people can do the job for me”. I’m not sure why all these feelings came out all at once, but I know I definitely do a lot more thinking here in general since things like TV aren’t readily available. After about 6:30pm, it’s so dark that you’re pretty much locked down in your house with people who at, speak the same language as you. It’s only natural for your mind to wander than think about these types of things. All I can say is thank you Audrey for talking to me and reminding me why I’m here and most importantly giving me your support. Instead of saying “you’re right, it’s not easy, you should come home” she told me “yea it’s tough, but hang in there, and you can do it”. I know it’s not easy for someone you care about to say something like that. There’s no way to really express how much I appreciated that little message. I KNOW it’s not easy but there are other volunteers with significant others who aren’t quite as supportive of them being here for two years, and who have not had the full support of their significant other. So I guess for now anyway, I’m refocused, concentrated on finishing training, and anxiously awaiting the news of where I’ll be placed for the next two years; news that should be coming within 3 weeks or so…

10/24/2010

So this next excerpt is going to be fairly gross, so if you don’t want to read, then stop now. But because I feel the need to write about all my experiences, both good and bad, I’m going to write about it anyway.

So Wednesday evening I was feeling good and figured I would try and start running again. I decided to go out for a short little 20 minute run. After the run I was pretty damn winded because I really haven’t had much time for exercise here, but during the run, I got plenty of confused looks from people. Many of them tried to greet meet as I ran by and gave me looks to the effect of “why is this white person running around in this neighborhood and where is he running to?” Running isn’t really that popular of an activity here, at least from what I’ve seen. I’m pretty sure running is a lot more popular to Tanzania’s neighbors to the north in Kenya. This little jaunt around the neighborhood taught me that if I want to run without getting blatantly starred at, I need to start running early in the morning when not so many people are out and about. Anyway, when I got back from my run, I felt tired, but way more tired than normal. I progressively started feeling worse, and feeling more and more nauseated. I only ate a small amount for dinner and just figured I needed some rest since I’ve been going about 1000 mph since I got here. I went to bed around 9:30pm, only to wake up at around midnight with extreme diarrhea. My stomach was in absolute knots. I went to the bathroom about 4 times. After each bathroom run I’d try to go back to sleep but found it difficult between the cold sweats and body ache. Finally, on my 5th trip to the bathroom, I proceeded to puke up what appeared to be breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The thing is, my house, just like the majority of homes here, doesn’t have a toilet like you and I would think of. We have a “choo” (aka a glorified hole in the ground, pictures to follow). So if you want a real nice mental picture, I go into the bathroom and instead of hugging the porcelain, I take one knee on the tile floor, two giant cockroaches running around behind me and proceed to aim my sickness into a fairly small hole in the floor. If you have a good mental image of that, you can maybe understand why it’s only normal for volunteers to occasionally pose the question to themselves of “what the hell am I doing here”. After getting whatever was bothering me out of my system, I felt way better, well enough to get a couple hours of sleep. Thankfully, Audrey called me in the morning, which also helped me feel much better about my night, and I gradually recovered throughout the day. I think I may have gotten food poisoning or some other bug, but I’m glad it only lasted less than 24 hours. DISCLAIMER: For those of you who want to visit, you shouldn’t have to worry about experiences like this. Places where tourists stay are pretty upscale and have the majority of amenities that you enjoy at home. Additionally, the food is prepared only using fresh water, so please don’t let me describing this experience deter you from visiting! Karibu Tanzania!

10/24/2010

So today I just returned from Safari. This is about the halfway point in training, so all of the volunteers planned a weekend getaway to Mikumi National Park, the 4th largest game park in Tanzania. I think most of us really needed the break. As I’ve mentioned before, training here is HIGHLY structured and there is very little time to decompress or to absorb anything. We have the language, medical issues, teaching issues, cultural issues all thrown at us over a span of two months, and then we are shipped off to site for 2 years were we can actually digest the information we acquired during training. This past week we took our mid-training language proficiency tests as well as a kind of gauge to see where we need to improve. I ended up doing really well on the written with over a 90% and placed at the intermediate-mid level or oral Kiswahili proficiency. This is exciting because in order for Peace Corps to let you move to site, you have to be at the intermediate-mid level by the end of 8 weeks, and most of us are already there after 4. Hopefully this means that my language proficiency level can only get better from here. We are re-tested after week 8, so I’m shooting for Advanced low level by that time, but we’ll see. If all goes well with the final oral exam, we will be sworn in at the American Embassy in Dar es Salaam the end of November then move to our sites on Thanksgiving I believe. So anyway, this trip was much needed after stressing over the exams this past week. We rented two charter buses and booked hotel rooms for 1 night and set off for the game park early Saturday morning. From Morogoro where I’m staying now, it was only about a 1.5 hour trip, all of which was on paved road (not always a given here). As I mentioned before, Mikumi is the 4th largest park behind Serengeti National Park, Ngorogoro National Park, and 1 other marine park off the coast. We got to Mikumi mid-afternoon, grabbed some lunch, then relaxed until early evening. When going on safari, the best times to see animals in action are at sunrise and sunset. It is way too hot during the day for many of the animals to do much of anything except lay around. We entered the park at around 4:30pm, which gave us a good 2 hours of sunlight to try and find animals. Most of us were hoping to see some cats (lion, leopard, or cheetah) because these are usually the most difficult to spot. It is considered lucky to see one of the cats on any given safari. Well, we got lucky. Next to a small waterhole we spotted 4 lions showing down on an impala carcass. It was awesome. We also got to see a hippo which was relaxing in the water along with zebras, baboons, elephants, giraffe, water buffalo, warthogs, and a bunch of wildebeest. Again, I don’t want to bore you trying to describe what I saw, so I’m going to try and post pictures in the near future because my words probably can’t do the scene justice. Plus, I’d rather have some of you visit and see for yourself how amazing the African savannah is with your own eyes!

10/30/2010

So this weekend, Sunday October 31st, the once in 5 year process of electing a president is occurring here in Tanzania. Last night I was actually hanging out in my mama’s duka (store) out front of our house last night because that is where the TV and cold beer are stored, and was watching a question and answer session with the current president, Kikwete. I wasn’t paying too much attention because he was obviously speaking quickly in Swahili, but I overheard him mention “Peace Corps”, so this peaked my interest. I listened to him for about 5 minutes and was able to understand bits and pieces as he talked about Peace Corps and the contribution they are making here in improving the Tanzanian education system. Hearing the president talk about Peace Corps is making a difference was AWESOME. I got super excited and proceeded to tell my whole family and anyone who was at the duka he was talking about the organization that I was here with. Obviously my whole family speaks Swahili and they all know what organization I’m with so they were laughing at how excited I got, but oh well, I was all fired up so yea. There has been a lot of hupla regarding this year’s election because it’s the first year that many people aren’t expecting CCM (the dominant political party here) to run away with the election. Even still, most people (including the US Government) don’t expect CCM to lose, but because it’s not such a landslide there is a SLIGHTLY higher worry that there will be some post-election violence. For this reason all volunteers are required to stay at their homes on Sunday, and only go into the city center if they are accompanied by a Tanzanian family member. This isn’t really an issue for me since I have 2 huge bags of laundry that I need to do by hand, plus I think some of the volunteers are going to try and meet up for a little Halloween hang-out party. Also, just to be clear in case you were wondering, Halloween doesn’t exist here. Since there is no Halloween, I thought that maybe I could carve a pumpkin or something because in many places around the country pumpkins are plentiful, but alas, they are out of season right now. I don’t even be able to get any chocolate because we aren’t allowed to go into town today either. Double Bummer. Anyway, I hope you all have a happy and safe Halloween. So, eat a pumpkin pie or candy bar and drink a beer for me since I can’t partake in the festivities this year. This week I plan on getting a portable modem, so (cross my fingers) I’ll be able to upload more pictures and post here more often!

10/31/2010

Happy Halloween! It’s actually Sunday night here and Halloween has come and gone this year for me with me barely noticing. I guess I’ll have to get used to missing holidays, but hopefully this will be the last year I miss any major ones. Next year, I’m already planning on coming back to the states for a couple of weeks at the end of December and for New Year’s, since the level of school I’ll be teaching has break from the beginning of December to the middle of January. So hopefully this is one of my last posts without a portable modem. The IT guru here in Tanzania is coming to talk to us this week, and I’m going to get the portable modem situation figured out. Basically I need to find out where I’m going to be stationed for the next two years, then I can buy a portable modem from the provider with the best coverage in that area. If I buy from a provider that has poor coverage or no coverage at all, I’d be out 60 bucks or so because I’d have to purchase another modem when I get to site, so I’m trying to hang in there without internet for another week or two. Honestly I can say that you really don’t know how much you miss the internet until you DON’T have access. Every time I get on the internet here the time flies by unbelievably fast. I try to do so many things in a short period of time, and it’s actually super stressful. I swear I’ll never take the luxury of sitting in your own home (or couch) surfing the net for granted ever again….

Anyway, today was the first Sunday that’d I haven’t really had any plans, so I was able to go to church. However, I didn’t realize I was going to church until about 5 minutes before we actually left for church. I was barely awake when my mama knocked on my door to wake me up and said “Glennnyyy, tunaenda kanisi asubuhi!” (aka Glenn, we are going to church this morning!). Needless to say, I did not have time to take a shower, which wasn’t really a problem since we didn’t have any water to shower with either. All of our buckets that we will with water were absolutely dry, so I splashed some of my drinking water on my face, put on my Sunday’s best, and went off to church with my family. I have to be honest, I was expecting a small little church somewhere with a lot of stereotypical African music playing and all that (I’m sure you all have some type of mental image of church in Africa). However, when I arrived, I was surprised to see a huge Roman Catholic church, with no less than 250 people packed inside. The place smelled like incense and the priest was chanting just like he would be in the states. For all intensive purposes, this service was like any other catholic service I’ve been to in the states with a few small differences. First, during offering instead of the ushers coming to us, everybody processed to the alter to give their money (and or commodities such as sugar, eggs, and chickens to be auctioned off after the service). There were 3 boxes. One marked “Wanaume (men)”, one marked “Wanawake (women)”, and one marked “Watoto (children)”. It appeared as if they compete against each other during the giving of offering; then later in the service the totals were read aloud and everyone cheered. Second, the choir was a bit livelier than your typical catholic choir. Even though there was no organ, there was an electric keyboard and whistles, which I thought were a fine substitute. These differences aside, everything was the same; the chanting, the communion, the offering, the Lord ’s Prayer, and the holy water. It was surprisingly nice to finally be somewhere were something was at least remotely familiar to me. After the service, which lasted about 2 hours was over, we got a lifty back home. The rest of the day was spent hanging with some of the other volunteers playing cards and doing laundry by hand again. This time, since there was no water, I had to walk about half a mile, buy two buckets of semi-clean water, and carry them back to my house. Another thing I’ll never take for granted again in America. Washers and dryers. I never liked folding laundry, but compared to the process here, I’d say I could learn to love folding laundry when I get back to America…

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6 responses

25 06 2013
Nejlepsi lekarze

Hi there! I could have sworn I’ve been to this site before but after reading through some of the post I realized it’s new to me.
Anyhow, I’m definitely happy I found it and I’ll be book-marking and checking back frequently!

24 06 2013
Charlotte

That is a good tip especially to those fresh to the blogosphere.
Simple but very accurate information… Many thanks for sharing this one.
A must read article!

8 11 2010
Nancy Legacki

Glenn, I have finally caught up on all of your blogs and from the moment I started reading I couldn’t stop (so keep them coming). You have made me laugh and cry (when you had your low) all at the same time. All in all you seem to be adapting fairly well to your new surroundings and you are going to do wonderfully once you are placed in your new home. Your students are going to be very lucky to have you as a teacher!

Keep your chin up and please continue to keep us entertained with your day to day blogs! LOL

Audrey, I am with Aunt Lynn on this one, although I have never met you, thank you for being the kind, considerate and caring person that you are to our nephew! In my book it takes a very special person to encourage one to live out their dreams even though that dream can affect your plans as a couple. You are an example of a very special person and we look forward to meeting you in person.

Take Care Glenn! We love you!

Aunt Nancy, Uncle Greg, Gregory, Kailyn and your doggie cousin April!

3 11 2010
Laura

Glenn,

Wow! Thanks for the incredible stories and day to day tour de force realism! I must admit I read your whole blog. I was nominated to teach English in Sub Saharan Africa, and have submitted all of my medical info and completed my 30 hours ESL teaching experience and am waiting to hear *fingers crossed* for my invitation. Based on the departure dates for June, Tanzania is one of the 9 possible countries I may teach in and all I can do now is wait, pray and read up on the possible countries (which is what lead me to this website and your blog)

I must admit, Tanzania is at the top of my chart if I got to pick which country to go to, so I really enjoyed reading your info on teaching……I have almost NO idea what to expect. Do you have to learn the tribal language and Swahili? Now I have a much better understanding of why they want teachers to teach in English…….I was unaware of the big exams being taught in English.

Thanks for all the great info and I hope you have an amazing journey as you are basically living my dream right now LOL

Take Care,

Laura

6 11 2010
glegacki

Laura,

I’m glad you enjoy it! I was never much of a writer so this is a new experiment for me. It is AWESOME to hear you’ve applied and gotten all your information in. I know it can be stressful but when you get that invitation packet in the mail, it’s all worth it. All the volunteers here feel really lucky to have been sent to Tanziania. It’s beatiful, the people are super friendly, and it’s probably one of the most peaceful places in Africa…

As for learning the language, as an education volunteer I think there is only a small chance I’d have to learn the local language. The national language is Kiswahili the vast majority of Tanzanians speak it. I have heard that there are a few places in Tanzania where the tribal language is the primary language, but I’m honestly not sure if they send education volunteers there. However, if I do get to site and wanted to learn the local language, I’m sure there would be no shortage of people willing to help me. As for teaching in English, YES, this is a huge problem. Many schools have kids where even though the teacher is supposed to be teaching in English, they teach in Kiswahili, so when the kids get to the exam (written in English) it mind as well be written in spanish…

Anyway, I’m glad you’re enjoying reading! I remember being in your shoes reading other peoples blogs saying “damn, they are doing exacly what I want to be doing…” Hang in there with the application process; if you want it bad enough, there will be a spot for you. Keep me posted on where in Africa you end up!

2 11 2010
Aunt Lynn

Glenn, all I can say is “YIKES”………….. You are amazing. Thank you Audrey for being there for Glenn and keeping him grounded. I can’t wait to meet you.
Take Care Holt, Love Aunt Lynn xo

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