Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The NGO also had internet service and a swimming pool so it was heaven all over again! The kicker to all of this is that they use renewable energy (biomass and windmills) so they are independent of the unreliable electricity etc

I am at the end of training now so there is a lot going on and it has been harder to get internet access. I found out on Monday that I will be living in the deep south of Tanzania near Songea. It is the most fertile part of Tanzania and therefore this is where they grow all of their stuff. It is such a fertile place that Starbucks has coffee plantations near my site. Today I had the chance to meet with my counterpart teacher. We currently do not have a principal but they will hire one within the next month. I also found out that I will be replacing a volunteer so I won’t have to buy that much stuff to furnish my 2 bedroom house. I will be the 4 volunteer teacher in this site so I will most likely be the last volunteers since the PC policy is to only put 3 or 4 volunteers at the same site.
I had a great trip to both Dar es Salaam and Dodoma. I have to say that getting on the bus to go to these places was quite an event. You have to buy your ticket when you get to the bus station so once you even think of walking near the big bus station what seems like millions of guys that sell the bus tickets swarm around you and try and get you to buy their ticket with their bus company. It is truly an overwhelming experience! In a way it is similar to what happends when I celebrity is interviewed by the media except for there are way more people. There are also lots of guys and little kids offering to carry your bags for you (so they can charge you) and there are of course everyone selling stuff.
On the bus ride I was able to see a lot more of Tanzania. I am really accustomed to the what I would have called poverty here but it was still interesting to see so many 5 foot high mud huts. Most of the houses in Morogoro are made of stone and rocklike mixtures but the outlying areas are filled with farmers that barely make 50 cents a day and so they live in mud huts with straw roofs. I am really glad that I saw this part of TZ now that I am used to pretty much everything because it would have really bothered me before.
Since I have been away from major cities for such a long time Dar es Salaam blew me away. The skyscrapers, air condition, PAVED streets, swimming pools, small shopping malls and paved sidewalks is really something! There is also this huge beautiful cathedral there right near the ocean. I also had a chance to go to a really big supermarket which had lots of shampoo, liquors, etc. It would only be a fraction of the size of a supermarket in the USA but it is HUGE for here and they had pretty much everything I could ever want. There was also a casino in the small mall we went to and it had a waterfall! I guess am I really amazed by even the simpliest things now. Dar es Salaam is truly heaven! I can’t remember seeing so many PAVED streets!
The funny thing about Dar is that it is heavily populated with Indians and Arabs. They all speak fluent Kiswahili so it was really funny to hear them speak it. I guess Tanzanians think I am just as funny when I speak Kis. Another thing that was strange about Dar is that I was able to see different colored of cars! Most of the daladalas and buses, and cars are all white, I am thinking know to repel the hot sun.
My visit to the American Embassy was another level of heaven to me! They have basically shipped in all American décor and furniture and it is all new since they had to build another one after the last one was bombed. We were able to take to the vice ambassador since the ambassador was busy. He was really interested to talk with us and tell us more about working for the foreign service after our PC service since there is a large number of PCV that work for it. He actually taught English in Iran. Tomorrow we are going back to Dar to have Thanksgiving dinner at the ambassdor’s house so I will hopefully be able to meet the Ambassador. Other than the American embassy the only other thing that Dar has that is American is a Subway restaurant!
After my Dar visit I went with 2 other volunteers to shadow a health/education volunteer in a village called Chamwino near Dodoma (the official capital of TZ). She is an awesome person and really down to earth. We were all really amazed that she was so well adapted to such a simply life! She said that it’s not that hard its just “bona fide camping.” When her parents came to visit her she said that her mom kept asking her if she wanted to come home. She had electriticy and the biggest house in here village but the water only dripped for a few hours in the morning. She had an electric range and a toaster like oven and she let us cook American food! The first night we made tortillas, salsa, and beans from scratch. It took a long time to make but it was sooooooo good to have some food that wasn’t fried or wasn’t STARCH! This might not make that much sense but the other villagers thought that we (3 boy volunteers) were all sleeping with our shadow volunteer since they can’t imagine that anyone could sleep in the same room and not do it. Welcome to Africa! For this reason we got strange looks when we walked with her around her village. It is funny because she has had lots of boy guests and every time the think that she is sleeping with her! Go figure! Her village is so remote that we had to ride on the back of these bike “taxis” in order to get to her place. The PC was supposed to give us safety helmets to wear but they for got. Thank God!
Dodoma is known for its beggars and boy did we see a lot of them there! When we first took a taxi into town 5 of them were already outside of our taxi waiting for us. Everywhere we would go we saw them and they would ask us for money. They are really good beggars too since they don’t believe when we tell them that we don’t have any money (the white lie the PC tells us to say so we don’t have to deal with it). They will just stand there for 5 minutes until they either get tired or we move. When I shared the whole beggars ordeal with my host family my Baba (dad) said that Dodoma is known for beggars and even if you find a beggar in another part of TZ and you ask them where they are from most likely they will tell you they are from Dodoma. One of the major reasons is because Dodoma is basically a desert and their harvest is very low. They do grow peanuts very well there but not that much else. For this reason if their crop fails, and our shadow volunteer said it happends a lot, then they beg from each other. But I can’t see that they are that successful since 90% of them are farmers.
While I was in Dodoma the shadower took us to this awesome NGO (non govt org).
It is called Missionary of the Precious Blood and is a Canadian help org. They drill wells for villages that raise the money. The have this huge compound with every plant and farm animal imagineable. They had mango trees, vineyards (yeah the make their own wine), coffee trees (they make their own coffee too), turkeys, chickens, etc. The night that we were there we had (all except me) fresh steak from the cow that the killed that morning.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

This past weekend was the end of Ramdan celebration so we had a 3 day weekend which was great. My family made tons of food and killed another chicken although everyone still only got one small piece of the chicken. I expected that everyone would be able to have as much as they wanted but I guess since I have such a big family it’s not economical. The holiday is basically as big as xmas for muslims since it occurs about once a year. It is also an interesting holiday since it depends on the change of the moon.
For this reason we were not sure when the holiday would be until the day before.

Just when I thought I was receiving the most possible attention from my community something happends that tells me they can do more. A few days ago I was peacefully walking to school and I hear someone running up behind me. It turned out to be one of the students from the classes that I am not teaching but goes to my school. She offered to carry my bags and when I refused said that she would be punished if she didn’t carry them for me so I had to let her. She then walked beside me asking me questions until we got to school.

I found out this past week that my family doesn’t have that many clocks in the house and that is why they are always asking me what time it is. My brother woke up late one morning and came running into my room to ask what time it was. I was puzzled because I didn’t know that he didn’t have a watch. I found out that the sun wakes he up everyday and on that particular day it was cloudy and so he didn’t get up on time.

This past week I was riding on a dala dala and then I found out that you can bring your animals on them too. This one guy put his 2 goats behind the backseat where there is only like one foot of width. When he went to get the goats off the minivan one of them got caught between the bumper so it was quite a sight. I had always heard of people carrying chickens on the buses in Mexico but I never saw anything like that there. Here it is quite obvious that you can transport your animals on public transportation.

I had a language test last week and I found out that I am now at the intermediate middle level which is where the PC wants us to be at at the end! I was really excited with the news although I don’t know if I am that fluent. I do know, however, that there are 4 words for rice. There is a word for the rice before it is harvested, a word for when it is harvested, a word for when it is cooked and a word for when you add spices too it. They are mchele, wali, piliau (respectivedly) and I can’t remember the other one. They only have two words for good but many for bad. Interesting.

I will be leaving for my volunteer shadow visit and visit to Dar es Salaam this weekend so I am not for sure if I will get around to writing. Badaye!