Saturday, October 13, 2007

These past few weeks have been crazy. It is hard to accept that my time here is over.I have had mixed feelings about leaving. I am exicted to go home but at the same timeI want to take all my students, villagers and friends back home with me. When I arrivedat site I had no friends or family and thus over these past few years I have had to makethem. Now that I feel at home and life is good it's hard to let go. Nonetheless my lastday of working for the Peace Corps is Monday November 5,2007. That is also the same daythat I fly home. I am expecting to arrive back in KC on Tuesday November 6. I look forward to seeing all of you!

Normally when I walk around my village for whatever reason myvillagers like to give me the Spanish Inquisition and bombard me witha million questions. For example they like to ask where I am going,what am I going to do there, if I am going to the market they want toknow what I am going to buy, they also like to know what am I going toeat for lunch etc. Some of my villagers have been trying hard thesepast two years either to get me to marry them (if they are women) orto marry female members of their family (if they are males).Therefore I also get questions about whether or not I am seeinganyone, what type of girls I prefer etc. They have done this sincethe first day I arrived in the village and still do it to this day. Ihave always taken it as normal even though I know that such behavioris not acceptable in America. The other day I was walking with two ofmy fellow teachers in the village and some of the villagers started in on theirquestions. To my surprise both of these teachers became very annoyedby them doing this and proceeded to confront them on this behavior.Come to find out this is not acceptablebehavior and a Tanzanian would never even think of asking suchquestions (especially questions concerning my marital status) toanother Tanzanian. It's funny I would learn this after putting upwith it for two years.

I just recently returned from my final Peace Corp conference. It washeld in Arusha (the town nearest to mountain Kilimanjaro, theSerengeti, and Ngorogoro Crater so it is a major tourist center) at areally nice private Hotel (we had running water everyday (even HOTwater), electricity etc). The hotel was strategically built in a game reserve area that also had great views of Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Meru.The purpose of the conference was help us put closure on these two yearsand to prepare us to return back to the USA. As I result, we basicallyhad sessions in which we got to get all our stories out (what we love and will miss about TZ and what we hate and won't miss). I really got a lotout of the conference and felt a lot better about leaving afterwards.

While I was up in the Arusha area I also got a chance to spend some timein the city of Arusha. Due to the fact that it is a homebase for tourists coming to see Ngorogoro Crater, Serengeti or climb Mt. Kilimanjaro etc. it is a really a strange place. All of the Tazaniansthat I came into contact with were very suprised that I knew such goodKiswahili and wouldn't believe that I wasn't born in Tazania. However,despite their happiness with my language skills they still saw me as anmzungu (white person) with money and never wanted to give me the rightprice on things. Here we have to baragin for most of the things we buy(with the exception of restaurants although I have even gotten discountson food that was late or not acceptable). After living here for two years I know the prices of most everything and knew they were riping me off.It was a bit annoying.

As I come closer and closer to leaving my village I being to wonderwhat did Namabengo gain from my presence there. Due to variousfactors I don't think my students national exam scores (their collegeentrance exam) will significantly improve and I am okay with this. Ididn't build a library, mill, or water well for my community and thusI am not leaving behind any visual evidence of my presence. Thereforewhat was the purpose of putting a volunteer in a village likeNamabengo if I couldn't improve test scores or leave with withhopefully sustainable projects that will benefit the village for manyyears to come? The answer is friendship.
Before the first volunteer came to Namabengo, most of my villagers hadnever talked to a white person and only seen one a handful of times.Most of what they knew about Americans and white people they learnedfrom the radio. They though white people were mean, arrogant, richpeople who mainly visited Tazania to steal minerals and precious gems. Now if you asked them about white people they would smile and tellyou a completely different story. They would tell you that at onepoint in their lives four crazy white people came to live in theirvillage. They would say we are crazy because they can't understandwhy anyone from the land of machines and plenty (America and Europe)would ever want to live their homeland and come and live withstrangers in very harsh conditions for two years. They would be ableto tell you the names of each volunteer, the state in America wherethey come from, their daily habits, their favorite foods, their likesand dislikes and how they not only learned to speak perfect Kiswahilibut also learned Kendendule the local tribal language. I know thisbecause during my first month at site everyone I met had stories totell about the three volunteers that served before me.The impact that I had on my village is not one that can be measuredwith numbers and fancy formulas. Yet these sort of things arenormally the ones that Peace Corps must submit to Congress every yearin order to prove that Peace Corps is worth them spending less thanone percent of the foreign service budget on.Two years ago I knew very little about African culture or thedeveloping world. Living in Africa for two years has changed me in somany ways that I am not for sure I will realize in how many I havebeen changed until I return home. Now it's hard for me to constructsentences in English without inserting at least one Kiswahili word. Ican only go a few days before I start craving ugali (that maize mealstuff that I hated the first few months I was here). I maybe leavingTazania in a few weeks but I know that Tazania will forever be on mymind. Once I return I will wonder about whatever becomes of thosestudents, teachers and villagers that I will not be able to keep intouch with. I will also wonder if my school finally got a decentheadmaster that actually makes the teachers teach and doesn't allowthe students to buy their college entrance exams. I will also wonderabout how well my villagers crop yields were for that year.