Friday, January 20, 2006

This past week has been one of the best weeks for me since I have been here! One day this week I woke up and I felt like I have lived here forever. The villagers have also started greeting me before I do them but I think I feel happy now that my culture shock to the village is now over! Peace Corps finally delivered my bike so now I have some freedom back. I also hired some help to clean and do the various chores around the house. I really don’t need help now that I am used to the heavy chore load but she worked for the previous volunteer whom I replaced and she really needs the work. She has agreed to come 3 times a week at a salary of $8 a month! I found out that I will be teaching the equivalent of sophomore and junior Biology along with junior chemistry. This might seem like a lot but it only amounts to 20 periods of teaching or 13.5 hours of teaching a week. The average teacher’s load here is only 16 periods! Along with this low work load I get my own freaking office! My students haven’t showed up yet since nobody, except the boarding students, are able to pay their school fees until Feb. This past week I was anxious to start teaching and so they let me teach this introductory English course to the Freshman. The first day none of the students would ask questions or anything. They were really scared of me. I kept telling them over and over that I wasn’t going to hit them like their other teachers do but I still think they were intimidated by me. The second day I taught them was much better one of my students even gave me a mango that he picked from the tree in front of our church. I guess the kids here give their teachers mangos instead of apples like in the USA.

My house cleaning lady showed me how to bake and so I baked some brownies this week which were decent since the only kind of chocolate powder that we can get here is the one with sugar. I purchased an authentic Chinese kerosene stove so my cooking situation is much better! The rainy season is now here so we have been getting rain almost every single day. I guess this was just what the flowers and grass needed since now the grass is as green as it can be and many of the flowers are blooming. I have to say that I live in one of the most beautiful parts of TZ! Speaking of flowers, one of the girls that used to clean a previous PC vol came to visit me a few weeks ago. She was really nice and baked me fresh bread! One day when I went to visit her house I discovered these really pretty iris like flowers that I had never seen here before. She told me that she would give me some bulbs so I could plant them however, the next morning I woke up to find that she had transplanted about 5 of them to my front yard. She had to leave to take a bus to school the next day which means that she probably planted them in the night! My fellow villagers do nice stuff all the time for me but this is definitely at the top of the list!

The rat (I wasn’t for sure if it was a rat or mouse before but now I know after seeing it that it was a rat!) that had been pestering me is now dead! He returned and was living in my charcoal stove. I hardly ever use the thing since it takes so long but I had to use it to cook and so I discovered him then. He ended up jumping through some of the hot coals when I was checking to see if my brownies were done. Luckily two of the neighbor kids were anxious to see what I was baking outside so once he jumped out the chased after him and killed him with a machete. I bought 4 big traps last week so if anymore come back I’m ready!

I can tell that I have been living here for a long time since the things that make me happy are very simply things. For example, being able to fill up all of the buckets in my house with water that sometimes comes from the tap every other day, finding out that they sell eggs in my village or being able to buy bananas or any kind of fruit in my village! This past week I actually had the privilege of meeting a banana man! I can normally buy bananas every other day since the people don’t feel like walking all the way down to the fields and pick them everyday however last week I went 4 days without being able to buy any! I ended up going to the market and complaining about it to the guy that sells only green peppers to find out that he had (and supposedly always has) this huge trash bag size plastic bag full of FRESH GREEN bananas at his house! I could believe my eyes when he showed me the thing! My eyes lit up like they would at xmas time! Give the fact that my villagers sell their crops at strange times I do take a lot of pride in knowing that 90% of the food that I buy is grown in my own village! That means fresh milk, eggs, baked bread, corn, potatoes, tomatoes, bananas etc!

I will leave you with one cultural story. As a part of my peace corps training I had to visit at least one help organization that was currently working in TZ that the peace corps would set up. I went with a group of about 15 other volunteers and 2 TZ teachers to visit this brick making organization that gives jobs to elders and handicapped people that otherwise can’t work. The PC gave us this whole list of survey/marketing questions that we were supposed to ask them about their accounting procedures, if there were in areas they needed some help in making their job easier etc. The business didn’t have a sign telling us where it was so we had to ask when we got to sight that we thought was it. Immediately after we opened the back door of the Landrover to ask them about 3 workers show up and ask for money! After telling them that we didn’t have any since we were volunteers for about 10 minutes they told us that we were at the right place. Their site is about ½ mile by a ½ mile and is full of bricks and huge holes dug out where the brick dirt used to be. (Don’t worry I took pictures!) For the next 3 hours we sat down with the workers and their boss and asked them the detailed questions from the list the PC gave us. One of the only response we could get from them was yes we make bricks. Do you like your work? Yes we make bricks. Do you find your work to be hard especially when you have to carry 10 bricks on your head at a time? Yes we make bricks. What would you be doing if you weren’t making bricks? We would find another place to make bricks. Who is in charge of the bank account and the selling and marketing of your bricks? Yes we make bricks. This went on for 3 hours! The next day we had to go back for round two and they actually started to tell us about their business on that day. The reason they were unable to give us any information at first is since it is not polite in TZ culture to be so direct with someone about such personal topics! When some one asks you for money it’s not polite to simply tell them no you must tell them you don’t have any or you are a volunteer. This has been very confusing for me since TZ are never indirect when it comes to asking for money, food, kerosene, or for a sperm donor and they hate it when I am indirect with them about my age, religion, etc.

Monday, January 02, 2006

I am finally really settling into my village. I really feel at home there now. I am now able to cook food that actually has flavor and therefore I am happy for that. Last week I was able to make some spaghetti and tomato sauce from scratch. It tasted so good that I was almost in tears since it was one of the first things that I had made that actually had a good taste to it. Now that I have the cooking problem resolved something else comes along. We haven’t had water in the well or tap for 5 days now. It rained a lot this past weekend but I guess it takes a while for the well to fill up. I had saved up buckets of water from the time when we had water last so all was well but I am starting to run out. My neighbors have started going down to the river to bathe and fetch water and have suggested that I do it too. Hopefully we will have water soon so I don ‘t have to do that.

I finally chased away the baby rat that was living with me. I found him in my living room and tried to get the neighbor’s cat to chase him out but the cat was just as scared of the rat as I was. After I let the cat go back home I couldn’t find the rat anymore so I figured she ate him or he left. The next night when I was going to the bathroom I saw something small run in front of me but didn’t think anything of it. The next day I found the little critter in my kitchen. After I chased him out the front door he waited by the front door for me to open it again so he could come back in! The neighbor kids later that day brought me some fruit and they saw him waiting there at my door and started screaming so the rat finally got scared enough and ran away!
I have lots of “visitors” ( lizards, scorpion like things etc ) like that but only the rats scare me. One of the tricks that I learned from this goat that was in my backyard is to stomp your foot really good and that will hopefully scare the critters away. The goat was doing it because it was mad that it was tied up but this trick has worked wonders for me!

I had a really awesome Christmas! Some of the other volunteers in my region came into town so there was about 7 of us total. My fellow volunteer that lives in Songea has a chef and so he had us over for Christmas dinner. His chef made all this really good food! For New Year’s I stayed in my village since I was invited to a wedding. The weddings here are quite an event that I will have to explain later. I will say that I was very surprised that at the wedding party since once the new year came everyone bowed their hands and the priest said a prayer then our policeman shot off his gun. This is the same police officer that is always inviting me to the pombe room (where they keep the local homemade brew).

Those are all the stories I have for now. I don’t know how much I will be able to write in my blog but I am going to shoot for at least once a month. School should be starting soon so I am looking forward to that. I hope all is well with you! =) Thanks for all of the emails and Christmas cards! I received all of my Christmas cards the day before Christmas so I was really happy about that!