Countdown til Thanksgiving

16 11 2010

So I just recently returned from Mbeya where three other volunteers in my training group and I went to shadow a current volunteer. All the trainees were paired with a couple other people and assigned “shadow sites” so that we could all see how a real Peace Corps volunteer lives. This is the first time that Peace Corps has let us travel without any Peace Corps employees which is exciting and scary. We left Morogoro where we’ve done all of our training, and boarded the bus and strapped in for the 10 hour ride. Buses are the main mode of long distance travel in the country, and the quality of the bus can vary from “i can’t believe that thing actually runs” to “wow this is nicer than any bus I’ve been on in the states”. Luckily for us, the only bus service that was going where we needed to go was the “wow this is nicer than any bus I’ve been on in the states” category. We got cold soda, delicious keki (cakes), and water. This is a stark contrast to what other groups experienced. After boarding the bus and seeing how awesome it was, we texted a couple of the other groups and discovered that we had hit the coach bus jackpot. We learned our lesson about travel in Tanzania quickly. Spend the extra 7000 Tsh (aka 4.50 USD) to get the luxury bus. It is well worth it unless you don’t mind, or would enjoy, riding in something resembling a clown car where folks are sitting two people deep (vertically). Anyway, we left at around 10:00am and arrived around 8:30pm. The drive was extremely beautiful. We got to see large parts of the country that other volunteers that are living in the north may not see. It was very interesting to see how the terrain changed so rapidly from region to region depending on elevation and quantity of water. Starting in Morogoro, we drove through everything from desert to evergreen forest and finally ended up in Mbeya. Mbeya is lucky enough to be at a higher elevation and thus receives more rain. It is extremely green, lush, and can get very cool at night. We were picked up from the bus station by another Health Program Peace Corps Volunteer because our host PCV (Peace Corps Volunteer) was cooking us bean and cheese enchiladas for dinner. I wasn’t going to complain about that considering most of my diet recently has consisted of white rice with a side of white rice. As we drove up the PCV’s place, the three volunteers and I were shocked to discover the campus she was living on was fairly large. It looked very similar to a community college campus in the states. The PCV teaches programming and other various engineering related classes at the Mbeya Institute of Science and Technology. She lives on the 4th story of an apartment building and has electricity, running water, a stove, refrigerator, freezer, and a ridiculous view of the mountains surrounding the city. This is a stark contrast from the housing that I’ll have. I won’t have any of the aforementioned amenities, but I will have solar power during the day. The Monday after we arrived, we walked around the campus, viewed the classrooms, computer labs, and met several of the teachers. The facility was really pretty impressive. We also got a chance to shadow a secondary school math teacher at a high school near the college. After the class, he asked me if I would be so kind to teach on Wednesday; I couldn’t really turn him down so I accepted. After Monday and apart from teaching on Wednesday, the week served as a fairly nice getaway since we haven’t really had a break of more than half a day from training since we got here. Since the PCV we were staying with had a ridiculous kitchen and all the appliances we could want, we cooked some amazing meals. Did I mention that the PCV we stayed with was also co-author of the Peace Corps cook book last year? Yea, too good to be true I know. Our menu for the week looked something like this:

Sunday: bean and cheese enchiladas with freshly made guac
Monday: pasta with homemade tomato sauce & fresh cheese
Tuesday: veggie pizza made from scratch, fresh salad with tomato and avocado slices topped with balsamic vinaigrette dressing and a bottle of red wine
Wednesday: lasagna (again everything; noodles, ricotta cheese, and sauce made from veggies and flour we bought at the market that day) with focaccia bread
Thursday: homemade bean chili with yogurt and white rice
Friday: DOUBLE CHEESEBURGER WITH FRIES; yea, there is a restaurant in town owned by a Tanzanian guy who lived in Canada for a while. All I can say is that if this guy learned to cook burgers in Canada, I swear I’ll never make another joke about our lovable neighbors to the north.
Saturday: sushi (well almost, sushi minus the fish; we had the seaweed, mangoes, cucumber, avocado, rice, and miso soup)

So yea, we basically toured the city, practiced some Swahili, learned how to cook some amazing food, and relaxed. We also were able to do a day hike into a crater lake on Thursday which was amazingly beautiful. I posted pictures on facebook from the trip, so definitely check them out. Again, even if you don’t have facebook, I’ve made all my albums public there so you should be able to just go to facebook, search my name, then pull them up. From living here in Tanzania I’ve come to realize I love food even more than I thought. I got overly excited about dinner every night this week. However, I’m not going to get to use to eating like a king every night because I still don’t really know what kind of ingredients I’ll be able to get at my site, but I’ll find out soon.

It’s now about 9 days until we officially finish training and move to our permanent sites. This week is going to consist of Swahili oral exams, real life simulations where people from various professions come in and role play with us (how to report a crime, talk to immigration officers, and how to buy a bus ticket on your own), and a couple of sessions on perma gardening. Everyone in the training group, for the most part, has had an amazing experience during training, but we are anxious to get to site and move into our own houses. Many people have been used to living on their own and having their own space, and here in Tanzania the concept of “personal space” really doesn’t exist. It will be nice to have the freedom to wash your clothes when you want, cook what you want, and basically create our own schedules again; a luxury that many of the volunteers (including me) have taken for granted.

Anyway, the schedule for the next week or so looks like this.

Wednesday: PEPFAR Overview (Presidents Emergency Program for Aids Relief) where we’ll learn about way to incorporate AIDS awareness programs into classes and extracurricular activities at our schools
Thursday: final Swahili oral exam!
Friday: i learn to farm. so sweet.
Saturday: Pack up my 12353 lbs of luggage/belongs and get ready to move to Dar es Salaam
Sunday: say goodbye to my host family and travel by bus to Dar
Monday: sessions about admin issues
Tuesday: Heads of Schools we are teaching at arrive in Dar to meet us
Wednesday: Swearing in ceremony at the US Embassy; I’ll officially go from PCT (Peace Corps Trainee) to PCV (Peace Corps Volunteer). I still need to get some African fabric so I can get a real sweet traditional shirt made. Needless to say, I’m super stoked about this. You can pretty much get anything made here for dirt cheap. One of the other volunteers got a suit coat, tie, and matching shorts made out of fabric with elephants printed on it. We are on the cutting edge of fashion down here in Tanzania, let me tell you.
Thursday (aka Thanksgiving): board the bus for Iringa

So, that’s the plan. Once I get to site, it may take me a week or two to figure out the internet situation as I’m not sure if I’ll even have a bed or any basic furniture, so if you don’t hear from my for a week or two don’t be alarmed!
Also, I just received the newest kindle from my loving parents who paid an arm and a leg to send it here (thanks Mom and Dad :)). I think the shipping actually cost more than the kindle… literally. After reading two books in one week I realized that it wouldn’t be feasible to borrow as many books as I am going to need from other volunteers. So if you have any suggestions for good books that you’ve read, please let me know! I’ll have plenty of free time when I first get to site. Additionally, if you weren’t aware, the kindle has 3G service pretty much everywhere in the world. The newest version can even load google talk, so feel free to shoot me an email! At the very least I’ll have basic email access.

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One response

25 11 2010
Melissa McDermid

I’ve finally read all your BLOG updates! WOW!! You are doing wonderful on keeping everyone up to date!

Your posts make me miss my experience in TZ! I was only there for three weeks, but fell in love with the people and experience.

Congrats on doing laundry! That truly is an adventure!

Stay safe and know that Room 20 at Kenbrook sends positive thoughts and wishes you well!

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