Karibu Walimu

11 03 2011

So two new teachers have recently just been assigned to my school.  Around this time every year the Tanzanian Ministry of Education assigns teachers to schools that request them.  Now I’m not sure of the details but I believe newer teachers are usually required to start at the village schools, which are typically considered less desirable.  As the teachers accumulate experience, they then have more flexibility in choosing where they teach.  I also believe that teachers are assigned now because the universities finish up in mid to late February.  It’s slightly inconvenient that teachers aren’t assigned earlier considering that that don’t actually start teaching effectively until about a quarter of the school year is completed, but such is life here.  Both teachers are young guys, just like me.  We also discovered that me, Joseph (new teacher #1), and Rama (new teacher #2) are all 25 years of age.  I know it sounds lame now but it was interesting and exciting when we found out.  After talking to them for a while it was apparent that their English was pretty damn good.  It was also apparent that Rama knows more about American culture than me and may or may not enjoy talking about food more often than me.  The verdict is still out but just about every day me and Rama get into heated discussions about types of food we enjoy but aren’t able to get here in the village.  Joseph stands by and usually shakes his head in disbelief and says “You guys, every day, it’s all about food!”  Rama and I look at each other, and then look at Joseph to shake our heads in agreement.  The reason that Rama knows about such delicacies as chicken pomodoro, chocolate cake, BBQ, T-Bone Steaks, and ice cream is because before coming here to teach he worked support on an oil rig in western Tanzania for a French mining company.  As is the standard for energy companies working abroad they hire a mix of people from all areas of the world.  Rama said he worked with guys from Bolivia, Columbia, France, and India just to name a few.  Maybe because of the mix of cultures or more maybe because they are most likely making serious money drilling here, they are able to feed their employees for breakfast and lunch with enormous spreads of food.  Because of this, Rama is one of the very few Tanzanians who know about western food and who also doesn’t care for the most traditionally Tanzanian dish of ugali.  It’s therapeutic in a way to discuss things such as BBQ chicken, pizza, and apple pie with him so maybe now I won’t have to bore everyone at home with my elaborate descriptions of the food I can and can’t get here.  Joseph on the other hand just listens intently to our conversations and tells us that when we go to town, he wants to expand his palate and try some of the things we describe.  The newest item we got Joseph to try is French toast with fresh syrup.  Needless to say, he’s hooked and now cooks it for dinner multiple times a week.  Rama is also a fine connoisseur of American music.  He honestly knows more about country, R&B, and just about any other genre except for classic rock than me.  He has music such as Dolly Parton, Dixie Chicks, the Commodores, Garth Brooks, Babyface, and yes, even Bruce Springsteen music videos on his computer.  He also shares my excitement for the American Top 40 Countdown with Ryan Seacrest on Sunday afternoons.  At times I step back and can’t believe that I’m arguing with anyone, let alone another Tanzanian about whether I think Katie Perry ‘Firework’ will be number one for another week.  After about 2 days of talking with him I jokingly asked him if he was sure he wasn’t actually from America.  So far both Joseph and Rama have been a breath of fresh air.  In addition to the similarities I just described they both agree with me on a great number of issues I see with our school.  They both agree its complete madness to have no food for the kids for the 8 hours they are at school, that corporal punishment may not be the best disciplinary solution, and that the manual labor expected of kids during and after school is excessive.  For me, this is absolutely and completely refreshing to have another Tanzanian feel the same way, if for no other reason just for my own sanity that the problems I see are real and not just imagined.  I feel like if I have other Tanzanian teachers who agree with me, any changes I propose will be more legitimate and more likely to be acted upon or sustained.  First, I’m going to try and solve the food problem.  For this, I’m planning to work with Rama and Joseph closely.  Obviously it’s a great to get teachers, but it seems there are very few places to house this plethora of new teachers.  Being way out in the country, if you require teachers to be stationed here, you need a place for them to live.  At our school there is only a limited amount of space.  Rama and Joseph are sharing a house that is substantially smaller than my house as well as my two neighbors Charles and Stanton.  However, even though the house is smaller, it is wired for electricity which is obviously a huge benefit.  I think if I had my choice, I’d take the smaller house with the electricity, but since I’m able to walk up to the school office and charge my laptop and iPod most days I don’t really mind not having it in my house.  There was just enough room for Rama and Joseph to move in, but I don’t think there would be any room for other teachers to move in unless my neighbors consented to allow additional teachers in their houses.  I don’t see the headmaster putting any teachers in their houses on a permanent basis because I know that my neighbors are adamantly opposed to this and I don’t really blame them.   First of all, you’re in the village.  Trying to cram multiple people who may or may not get along in the same house with no electricity doesn’t exactly sound like fun.  You then have to share everything from cooking utensils to the bathroom.  Imagine if this happened to you in the US.  You move to the city to take a new job and the company puts you in a small apartment with no power and a common place for you and a couple other co-workers.  It would be difficult in America also.  Even here with the culture of limited to no personal space it would be a difficult situation.  But I guess the headmaster and the school will cross that bridge when they get there.  I also already discovered that Joseph and Rama like going into town more than I do.  On one hand it’s great to have company when going to town, but I’ve got to be careful not to give the impression to other teachers and community members that I don’t care and book it to town every single weekend.  Whether true or not, I’m trying to limit my trips into town to two per month so as to try and integrate as well as possible into the community.  I also discovered that both Rama and Joseph have bachelor’s degrees, as opposed to teacher’s certificates, which is what all the other teachers have.  Because they have actual degrees, they are actually paid twice as much as I am, which I found quite amazing since I don’t really have any issues living on when I’m paid even with travel into town.  Peace Corps pays us comparable salaries to fellow teachers so I’m assuming the majority of teachers, especially in rural areas, have their teacher’s certificate rather than a bachelor’s degree.  Regardless, I’m glad our school got the extra help.  Even though it’s nowhere enough, especially considering our only science teacher just quit, every additional teacher we can get is a help.  It’s also awesome for me that the new teachers are pretty dang Americanized so that I can get my pop culture updates from them.  But seriously, I think that Joseph and Rama receiving their bachelor’s degrees has made them much more progressive than their counterparts with just the teacher’s certificates.  I’m not belittling the fact that some don’t have a degree but it’s obviously an asset to have the high education, just as in most cases (but not all) you receive the same advantage in America.  They are both aware of the fact that critical thinking is a skill that many students here lack.  For example, last week there was a school debate.  These usually occur once every two weeks or so and are organized by the students.  The topic this week was “what is better, money or education”.  Not the greatest debate topic and when Rama and Joseph saw this was the chosen topic they both laughed.  They said the same topics are still being used from when they were in school.  They said the arguments were always the same and that the basic arguments and talking points were recycled every year.  I agreed when they said these old, stale debate topics didn’t help the students to think, but only to memorize set facts then regurgitate them during the debate.  Rama said he’d like to see the students given a new topic in the form of an article or reading on the education system in say, Germany.  Then have the students debate the merits of the German education system with the merits of the Tanzanian education system.  I was thoroughly impressed with their evaluation of the situation.  They both said that maybe they’d like to help organize some more in depth debates.  I was also pumped and was willing to try to persuade them to follow through on this.  I’m hopeful they can bring fresh ideas to a sometimes stagnant learning environment, but we’ll see how much effort is put forth to transfer the knowledge they have to the students.  But for now, I’m just going to enjoy the fact that I have someone here that rivals my affinity for a quality spread of food with whom I can chat….

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4 responses

13 03 2011
Aunt Lynn

Hello Holt, I am glad you have a few new buddies. If Rama likes to talk about food so much he is probably a “Legacki” from another life reincarnated. Stay strong and keep your positive outlook. Love you, Aunt Lynn xo

11 03 2011
Dee

Hey Glenn another interesting blog from you. I agree with Denise that I am learning alot through your eyes. I can actually visualize what you describe. Glad to see you got more teachers and maybe can teach more effectively now. Also like the fact you found a foodie. Hope you can enjoy some meals together. Continue onward with your journey and definitely keep blogging as I really am enjoying them. Take care. Love, Dee

11 03 2011
Denise Kowalski

Hi Glenn
I swear everytime I read your posts I just sit there with my mouth wide open.
Everything you write is very interesting. Except the snake one. I was totally
freaked out. And I totally enjoyed the one about the wedding.
It sounds like you are doing well. You are a special person to be doing this.
I don’t think I could do it, especially with the living conditions.
God Bless You!!!
Love, Denise

11 03 2011
Glenn Legacki

Sounds like this is what you guys needed. Your Mom and I went to the Peace Corp meeting in Ann Arbor. It was a good event and worth going to. RPCV’s Parents of PCV’s and future PCV’s were in attendance. Sharing stories..Lots of fun!!

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