My first day in Namabengo.
I finally arrived at my site last Monday. It is only an hour dala dala ride from Songea town, which is a town almost as big as Morogoro, but the road to my town isn’t paved at all so it’s quite a ride. The dala dala also doesn’t have a schedule and always will just wait until it fills up the van in order to leave so one time I had to wait 3 hours for it to leave. It was about half full when I got on and I thought that they would leave shortly but they had to fill it up until there was no more room whatsoever. This means filling the floor of the van up with sacks of rice and beans and crates of coke bottles so it is almost impossible to have a comfortable ride.
The southern part of TZ known as the southern highlands is such a beautiful place. When I lived in Morogoro I woke up and saw a huge mountain outside my house, now when I wake up I see dozens of rolling green hills with spots of little trees all over. Ready to welcome me to my new home was a group of about 15 kids. The volunteer before me had told my entire village about me so all of the kids new my name and most of the adults know my name too. The kids normally come to my house almost everyday but it is usually only like 5 at a time. The volunteer before me received this huge box of balls from her church and she says she didn’t have time to teach the villagers how to play so she told them that I would teach them! So for the first few days, and still to this day, kids will come up to me in town or come to my house and request a ball to play with. This was really irritating at first but now I am used to it. I would just hand out the balls so they would leave me alone until I have time to teach them to play but once the word gets out that you are handing anything out here more people will ask for it.
I have water every other day and I don’t have electricity now but I will have it for 3 hours at night during the school year. There is a nice new pump well within 100m of my house so it is as not as I thought it would be. The problem is that my village doesn’t want me to carry water at all. Every time I even think of going to the well to pump water my neighbor will come over and offer me some of his water. If I refuse then he will send of one his kids to fetch water for me. If I do finally succeed in sneaking out of my house without being spotted then once I get to the well the people there will stop pumping their water and fill my bucket up and then most likely carry it all the way back to my house. My village really feels privileged to have me there and the want me to be happy so they won’t allow me to do any work of any kind if they can help it. Another volunteer told me that his village had to have a meeting that lasted for 10 hours about how they cannot allow him to fetch his own water! He said that finally the compromise that they came up with is that he is allowed to only walk down with the students that will get his water but he cannot pump the water or carry the bucket back up. Welcome to Tanzania! I also haven’t had to carry my groceries home from the market that many times since my villagers will do it for me.
The hardest thing for me this past week has been cooking. My market in my village is indoor and looks like a million dollars but the only foods that I can buy in my village are tomatoes, onions, fish, potoatoes, rice and beans. I can however get everything in Songea town so I guess I will end up going to town to do grocery shopping at least once a week. I had cooked with my host family before so I was somewhat familiar with cooking on a charcoal stove and kerosene stove but I had forgotten that it takes 1 or 2 hours to cook rice and 2 or 3 hours to cook beans! I think my neighbors understand that it can be difficult for someone to cook for themselves at first and so my neighbor will offer me fish or fruits almost everyday. The first few days my neighbors made me sweet tea and chapati (which are these tortilla like things).
There was a funeral my first day and so as I was walking home from the market all of the village was walking in the other direction to go to the funeral. I am pretty sure that I met most my villagers when I was walking back.
My level of Kiswahili has really surprised my villagers and the second day I found out the local tribal language greetings and it really blows them away when I use those.
There have been times when I will tell someone a tribal greeting and then they won’t be able to respond because they will be laughing so hard.
I found out that the Ministry of Agriculture for Tanzania is from my village and had somewhat of an influence on getting a PCV placed there. Tanzania, like most PC countries, always demand more volunteers than the PC could ever supply so the PC can really pick some great sites for us. I was told that I will be the last volunteer in this village since they have had a few volunteers leave early and since my school has had some major problems like going bankrupt in the past. So it is going to be a fun 2 years!