Thursday, April 05, 2007

The biggest news from the village before I left for vacation was about how two of my freshman students stole a chicken (valued at $2.60) from a house down by the river (about a quarter a mile from the school).(Chickens here are not feed and fenced in like their brothers in other distant lands. They are wild and thus spend most of their daysearching the village for food.) They planned on killing the chicken and cooking it themselves down by the river where no one would see them. A villager spotted them with the chicken squawking in their book bag and later turned them in. Shortly after it happned the whole village was talking about it and how wrong it was of them to do it. It was surprising to me because worse crimes have been committed in the village but they are either denied or justified. Chicken theft always seems to be the one crime that makes the headlines and something is done about it. One villager once told me that we don't even need a real judge in our village because the main types of crimes that are committed are chicken theft. When I questioned them about wives getting beat they told me that husbands are supposed to beat their wives in order to keep them in line. The truth is that it is actually against the law.

These past few months I have made a lot of progress with my teaching. At the last seminar that I went to, they taught us to have our students give us a thumbs up when they are the understanding the material, a thumbs down when they are not understanding and to put their thumb to the middle when they are somehow understanding. Before I would always ask my students if they understand the material andthey would always tell me Ndyio (absolutely yes) since they are required to do so with other teachers and if they don't understand they might get punished. I don't have a problem with my 25 senior chemistry students because I always make them do problems on the board in my presence after we study a certain concept. This would be impossible to do with my 140 biology students. The thumb method works like magic! The problem now comes that most of my girls have not understood the material at all and the students that can't understand aren't able to tell me what exactly they don't understand. In order to resolve this problem, I have resorted to first teaching in special English first and then after a week asking them questions pertaining to last week's material. If they don't understand something I then review the lesson in Kiswahili. This method has helped a lot.

Now my students are so comfortable with me that they have started getting lippy and will tell me once I teach a small part of the lesson to teach in Kiswahili (which of course I won't do since they need to learn some English). On the other hand, the students that I have been tutoring are totally open with me and will answer all of the questions that I have about village life and Tanzania. They are topics I normally ask other teachers but they either don't know or are embarrassed to tell me. As a result, I have learned so much about what really goes on in my village. I recently met some Italian volunteers working here that don't know any English. As a result we ended up talking only in Kiswahili. One of the volunteers recently got married to an Italian volunteer who also doesn't know English that well and so their medium of communication is Kiswahili.

I have picked up a lot of Tanzanian habits since I have lived here solong but one of the habits that I never thought I would ever pick upis that of staring at white people when they come to my village ortown. A few days ago I was people watching in town and I spotted an mzungu (white person) that I didn't know. They were surrounded by only Tanzanians and it so seemed really strange to me. While I stared at them I wondered how their skin could be so white, why were they dressing they way they were, where were they going and what are they doing here. These are all the questions that I have gotten asked here and they are at times annoying but now I totally understand where they are coming from since there are just a handful of us down here and wedo look strange.

Another habit that I have picked up is the habit of having to eat ugali (the corn meal doughy stuff that I hated when I got here) at least a few times a week. Part of the reason is that the lunches that the school provides for us normally consist of ugali and beans. As a result, I will have the stuff at least 3 times a week. Tanzanians used to always say that they had to have ugali (and not rice) a few times a week but again I never understood them.

I will end on a happy note. A lot of hotels here that I stay at here have these posters with nice scenery on them but with some of the strangest quotes. I will leave you with three quotes that I have collected from such posters.

A plan is what we want to do and a budget is the reason why we can't.

Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to let you in.

There is no greater love than that of food.