Pumpkins and Peanuts

The pace of village life is incredibly slow, in turn, that leaves me with feeling like there is nothing to say; not much has changed since my last blog update. But then again, I always have something to say.

It’s still raining so there is an abundance of free, clean water that does not need to be boiled and filtered. I am REALLY happy about that. Someone from the Peace Corps office in Dar came to help me try to get some problems fixed that I am having at my house and he brought me this huge… I don’t know what it’s called in English, but it collects the water from my roof and then it drains off one side. Now I only have to use one bucket to collect rain water and I have so much water that I don’t know what to do with it. One problem with the rain is that it comes in my house… a lot. Right through the front door, well, under it (it’s more like a gate than a door). The rain comes in and floods my living room.  Another problem with rain, it brings mosquitos which bring malaria.  For me, the free water and cooler temperatures in the afternoon make it worth while.

Work is good.  Often it is still difficult because a lot of people expect money if they work with me and it’s frustrating that they don’t understand “volunteer” but it isn’t everyone in the village.  We’ve got a collection of some really amazing people which make my work possible.. and my living here.  I’m very needy by village standards.

Earlier this week, I got really mad about something (I forget now what it was) but decided to tear up some earth with a hoe and ended up making a small garden. Then my friend came over and asked me for the hoe, fixed my garden and built another one in a fraction of the time. “Umm… Thank you, would you like some coffee or chai now?”

Mango and cashew season ended but there is now what seems like an endless supply of corn, pumpkins, and peanuts.  Living from what the Earth provides seasonally redefines life.  There are no packages and it is all locally grown, imagine that!

I’m in Dar for medical; I’ve busted up my foot and have a toothache.

After the hospital I go meet a friend for juice and Indian fried potatoes. He goes back to work and I begin to hobble back to my hostel.  *Note: Being a foreigner in Tanzania means 90% of the people you pass try to talk to you, even in the city.* (Depending how interesting the person looks/behaves determines if I respond in Swahili or English or just ignore.) So anyway, I am limping along and someone behind me is saying some regular greetings, then something really funny (which I’ve now forgotten) about my foot. Okay, I’ll talk to this person; I could use some free entertainment right now. I turn around and it’s a young guy with a backpack on and a business name tag hanging from a lanyard around his neck. Christian Something.  We have a short conversation with lots of laughing about how I hurt my foot (most of the laughing was because of miscommunication thanks to my Swahili). Eventually, I begin to try to end the conversation because I’m tired and my foot is killing me. Oh, but wait he has a present for me! Of course!  How else could this interaction end? Naturally, with a gift.  He opens his backpack and starts handing me different sample packs of feminine products including a vaginitis test kit. Uh-huh, this is real. *Note: I’m in a developing country in Africa, such products are not readily available in most places, and where they are available, they are incredibly expensive.* Here we have different scented products, some with wings, some without, light, heavy, daytime, nighttime. Eventually he’s given me enough that they no longer fit in the small bag I am carrying. We walk over to a cart on the side of the road that sells useful things such as plastic bags and he purchases one and fills it with feminine products for me to try. After about ten more minutes, I manage to tell him I’ll find him on facebook and we finally part ways. I haven’t looked for him on facebook yet. I fear that if I do I may have to tell him I am a proud supporter of the Diva Cup.

Here’s what I did for work today:

I went to the Secondary School to teach English to the Form 1 (freshman) students.  — pause, I need to tell you how much I love and hate this.  I love teaching and I adore the students and their enthusiasm and patience for putting up with me and my awful Swahili.  However, I hate the teachers and the Tanzanian education system.  The woman standing in as the headmaster (we don’t have one) shows up at my door one morning and tells me I need to teach English to all 4 grades, they have only 2 teachers and if I live at the school I need to teach at the school.  Ugh.  I AM NOT AN ENGLISH TEACHER!  Fine, I’ll teach life skills, give me a schedule.  Life Skills later, English now.  I tell her that’s not my job… but who gets short changed?  The students.  Fine, I’ll teach form 1 only, but I still want a Life Skills schedule for all students.  A few days later, 3 new teachers show up and a headmaster is coming in a week but I still need to teach English.  Each morning I go to the office before that classroom to check in… guess how many teachers are teaching.  Guess!  ..ONE!  The students pay tuition to sit in classrooms without teachers talking about whatever they want.  Sometimes, an overachieving student takes over and tries to teach his/her fellow students what he/she knows.  I keep going and teaching because I care about the students and it’s worth it for even one or two of their lives to be a little bit better someday.

So anyway, I go to teach and my dog follows me and the students think this is absolutely hysterical.  We play a game of ball throwing and greeting each other and I time them; a little faster each day.  I laugh at them and they laugh at me.  10am, chai time, I give them a homework assignment and then one boy stands up and tells me they don’t need chai break today, they want to continue with English because I am the only teacher who shows up to teach them.  The rest of the students stand (except for one girl who is sleeping) and also request to continue.  I tell them to go drink chai and I’ll be back after break.  We continue until lunch.  I hurry home to cook and eat quickly.   I am late for my office hours at the village office… aina tatizo, tupo Tanzania.  No one ever expects anything on time.

I show up 40 minutes late and there is a crowd of young men waiting for me.  I do a condom demonstration on a wooden penis, they take turns showing the understand, then we have a Q&A session.  One guy tells me that the condoms don’t fit him.  I love this guy, he’s always wearing ladies sandals with hearts on them, I teased him one day and he asked me switch shoes with him — I will no longer tease boys about wearing girls’ clothes and shoes… to their faces anyway.  Back to the condoms: he says they are too small, he tells me everything at least three times, three different ways before I understand him.  He’s slapping his arm, telling me that his penis about the size of his arm and I should go with him into another room just so I know he’s not lying and that he really needs help.  No way, I’m not going.  Five other guys go in the room with him and return telling me he isn’t lying.  I tell him that I don’t know where to buy large condoms because I’m not from the village but that I will help him find them.  We finish the Q&A session then head over to the village clinic to ask the nurse.  Woah, that was a mistake!  First, she teases him, then tells him he is a liar, then tells everyone else at the clinic why he is there, and finally, she suggests he uses a plastic bag instead of a condom.  This is the nurse, did you catch that part?  The one and only nurse for our village and the 5 or so surrounding villages.

I am exhausted at this point.  It’s really hot and I am ready to go home.  It’s a long walk back to my house.  Passing the police station, the officers tell me to sit and rest for a minute.  I just want to go home, but I sit anyway.  They say I look really tired and insist I wait while they find someone to give me a ride home.  There is some screaming across the street and a bunch of people running around, I don’t know what it is and don’t particularly care.  It can’t be too important, the police are still sitting with me.  A few minutes later some of the crowd shows up under the tree where I am sitting.  They are carrying a dead monkey, drop it in front of me and yell at it because it won’t hold the poses they want.  I just get up and walk home.

Sometimes, I’ll be walking along the path between my house and Nanganga or sitting with villagers near the standi and I just can’t help but burst into a sudden laughter; reality check, this is really my life. It has become commonplace to drink my chai from the saucer rather than the cup, put sugar on my beans, wander around the paths of my village with a wooden penis and a basketful of condoms, or use Swahili to teach my class of 60 intermediate students. I wonder, when did the transition happen that all of this became normal that I don’t think twice about it anymore. At some point in the future, it will be foreign again, a memory from the days I lived in Africa.

Yesterday I went to the standi to drink chai (from the saucer) with one of my favorite mamas and to see a friend passing through my village. After he left and my chai was finished it began raining, REALLY raining. Walking back to my house would have soaked me to the soul, so I parked myself next to the village office with my VEO and bunch of young guys and joined in on regular village talk and answered odd questions about myself and life in America. I look down at the table beside me, two guys are playing checkers on an old repainted metal sign using bottle caps in place of the checkers. On my other side are two other young guys, frying potatoes in a barbeque made from an old tire rim. Why am I not taking photos all of the time? So I bust out my camera and we take a bunch of pictures (sorry, i forgot to bring my memory card with me today; you can’t see the awesomeness). Then Muba shows up and gives me a ride home for free. I put out my buckets to collect rain water and drink bad coffee. My sister Jade calls, she bought her plane ticket to visit and I can’t stop squealing. The teacher I share my duplex with must think something is surely wrong with me. I want to draw pictures but I have a major case of artists’ block here. Instead, I sit on a chair and stare at my Swahili verb wall. My phone yells; new text message. It’s a friend in the village and he’s worried because it is nighttime now, raining, and I am all alone (not true, I have Bibo and Raha). He needs to know if he should come over even though it is raining really hard… No, I’m fine. Then another friend shows up (he came by foot in the rain) because it’s nighttime, raining, and I am all alone… Did my villagers forget that I am American? I tell the second friend he can’t stay, it’s late and he’s a man, letting him in would be a huge invitation. He leaves unhappy.

It’s almost chilly enough to wear a long sleeved shirt. I cherish that moment, it was the third time since I’ve been in Nanganga and thought about putting on something warmer. I kiss my cat and dog goodnight and secure myself under the mosquito net and spend another night Africa.

The nurse in my village told me to come to the clinic because an NGO from Mtwara, Mary Stopes, was going to be there to teach about UID’s and women could have them placed that day at the clinic. So I went and sat on the ground listening to a fabulous lecture in Swahili that I actually understood (or think I understood) a lot of and also made some new friends. Then the doctor comes and tells me to come inside and observe because it is important for me to know about… I’m thinking I am going to see a women get an IUD. WRONG! I definitely saw a totally conscious women get her tubes tied. Let me remind you that I am in a developing country. Note: You can’t use a credit card, get decent cell phone service, or a even a nutritious meal for that matter here. Wait, we don’t even have light switches because there is no electricity. My water is brown and gets delivered by bicycle.

I managed three-fourths of the way through the procedure when I had to leave the room. I’m not usually squeamish about such things, but the smell and the blood and the gurgling sounds coming from her abdomen along with the chickens screaming on the other side of the window…. It was too much. I began getting lightheaded and had trouble standing. I sat on a wooden bench just outside the room and carried on our conversation through the open door.

If you ever have the opportunity for such an experience, I recommend passing.

Miriam will remember me because I’m a jerk and left her in that room. Maybe she’ll tell everyone and then they won’t think I am a doctor anymore.

Before Peace Corps, I think I may have owned one bucket in my life which was used exclusively to mop the floors of my cute little old house in Tucson.  However, now, there is no way I could survive without it.  The bucket deserves its own blog post.  (**Visit my friend Lauren’s blog, also known as “dada ndogo”.  She thought this was such a great idea that she says she will write a blog dedicated to the khanga… we’ll see if that actually happens.  It will, this is officially a competition now.   Lauren is always copying me, that is why she is referred to as Dada Ndogo — little sister.  She’s a funny girl, read her blog anyway.  http://www.lauren-in-tanzania.blogspot.com**)

  • bathing
  • washing laundry
  • washing dishes
  • bathing the dog/cat
  • washing children
  • chair
  • fetching water
  • selling chapati/chai
  • brewing wine
  • rig it with a spout and have an almost faucet
  • to catch the water used from the almost faucet
  • animal trap
  • suitcase
  • trashcan
  • rat-safe food storage
  • watering the garden
  • carry manuer
  • hiding things from my house girl, especially American food
  • storing all of my water supply
  • drinking water out of when extremely thirst
  • washing vegetables
  • soaking beans
  • vase for flowers… or spinach
  • step stool, “step up to be tall, step down to be small”
  • selling oil or kerosene
  • selling food through bus windows
  • umbrella
  • where dough rises before being baked
  • making dough in (bread, chapati, mandazi, bagia, pancake batter)
  • *lid* wave it quickly at your charcoal fire to help when there is no wind or when you are low on kerosene.
  • pedicure basin
  • washing the floor
  • mixing cement
  • two together to filter water for drinking
  • catching rainwater
  • toilet during the night when you cannot get to the choo
  • vomiting in

Buckets come in a variety of sizes and colors, no one fits all.  Where was Afrika before the ndoo?

I’ll try and remember to update this as I come across more uses.

Nov 13 Mama Bibo Mama Bibo… one of the many names I have here. It is common for a woman to be called, “Mama (insert her child’s name here)”. Bibo happens to be my puppy. Aside from Mama Bibo, I know you are wondering what other names I have or words that I respond to here in the village. The complete list (thus far): Mama Raha, Mama Afya, Mama Asha (a child whose mother wants me to keep her, but the girl is scared of me and won’t let me weigh her at the clinic), Sativa, Steefah, Laura, Miss, Madam, Mwalimu, Mzungu, Besti, Dada, and Rafiki (this is usually used by someone I do not know who wants money or food). Life has been busy. Prior to my departure, everyone says to bring books and things to keep me from going crazy because I will spend so much time bored… after my first week at site living alone, that ended, and like America, I just do not have enough time in the day to get all of the things done and see all of the people I want. What have I been doing, I am not really sure, it depends on the day. The first three months at site for health volunteers in Tanzania is about becoming a member of the community, learning about the needs of my villagers, and practicing language skills, so that is pretty much what I do everyday. Village “integration” takes many forms; here are some of the ways I’ve been doing it: -weighing babies and young children at the clinic -giving polio vaccines to infants and toddlers -walking around talking to people -sitting under a tree with my friend -sitting under a tree with some people I don’t know trying to get know them -getting my hair braided under a tree in the shade -drinking chai at the mgahawa (like a cafe, except get rid of any notion you actually have of a cafe) -going to meetings where I spend most of my time confused -wearing awesome Tanzanian clothes! -showing up at people’s houses around mealtimes so that I can score some free food that I didn’t have to spend an hour or two trying to cook. -asking people to tell me how to correctly use a condom (so far two people have succeeded at this). -going to church some Sunday’s… there is a Roman Catholic church in my village… what are the chances of that? Obviously, better than I thought. -sitting in my VEO’s office listening to other people’s problems – this is a good thing to do when I am having a bad day and feeling sorry for myself, nothing like a little perspective. -giving away condoms and health magazines. -sitting on my porch (some things never change) but now I try to talk to anyone who passes. -argue with the boys about the price of water. -going to parties in my village. -watching the youth play soccer. -making chai and chapati with the mamas at the secondary school. Also in the news of work for me, I found a counterpart! Her name is Mama Liumba and she is quite an amazing lady. Other wonderful things about life right now: it rained the other day, mango season is starting, I hear that another volunteer is being placed near me, I’ve been ‘adopted’ by a family here in my village, I have a lot a friends and a support network of Tanzanians, my dog and cat are awesome and healthy, I ran out of care-package food from America and I am still alive (excluding crystal light, propel, and gatorade mix)!

I have photos, but it takes too long to upload them here, so find me on facebook.

 

I feel as if I have done some sort of disservice to my family, friends, and perspective volunteers by not providing any details about my first months in Tanzania during training…. beyond my brain exploding with Kiswahili.  This time, I have prepared ahead of time.

After the first week in Dar, we traveled to Muheza to move into our homestays. We, the 40 volunteers, waited together at MATI (our training site) as the Land Cruisers dispersed us by village. I was in the last group to leave, Mkanyageni. My entire being pulsed with anxiousness, and then I was there. Hahaha, the homestay.

I was wearing a purple shirt and yellow & orange sarong, I sat in a chair after being instructed and guided to it by my new mama and dada. My mama sat in a chair across from me while my dada went in and out of the house. They just kept laughing, saying my name, and telling me I was beautiful. Two little girls played on the floor in front of me, playing with each other but with their eyes on me the entire time. Then mama and I had chai and cookies (one of my favorite memories, which became a pastime during my stay there).

It turned out that I was living in the home of a not so traditional Tanzanian family. In comparison to most of the houses in our village, I was living in sweet luxury. I was spoiled with impeccable cleanliness, a plethora of fruits and vegetables, and…. electricity. I know… who actually expects a light switch, or least one that works when moving to a developing country in Africa. Not me, that was for sure. In addition to the high standard of living conditions, my family consisted of mama, dada Kitango, dada Mainda, Shala (our housegirl), and then me. Mainda is 3, and was staying with extended family for most of the time I was there. Oh, and Musa at the end, who would have been my sister-in-law’s brother from Dar. It was shocking and inspiring to be in a home of all women, particularly this one because they were liberal and feminists, they let me be “American” at home and loved it when I wore pants. Really? Am I in Tanzania?

When I was not at home, I was attempting to learn Kiswahili and doing skits about malaria, HIV/AIDS, going to village meetings, and hitting up the buibui bar with Ben.

Okay, so top from left to right.  There is my dear friend, Ben, with my homestay sisters, mama and Kitango, corn in our living room from the harvest, Mainda, Shala and me and my going away party, Owen running toward my house, Owen sneaking up on me on the porch, Owen and Tino together on my porch, and again, and then just Tino.

Things I miss terribly from my life pre-peace corps:

Target.  My house in Tucson and the way it smelled; my life there, everything about it still runs in my blood and attacks me everyday.  My family and friends, voices, eyes, smells, hugs.  The old routine and walking to the coop.  The Cup Cafe.  Yoga Oasis, particularly with Rachel and Stephani.  Convenience of any sort.

Things that I LOVE about living in Tanzania:

Raha and my Peace Corps friends… truly they are responsible for my sane moments (fewer and farther between these days than before – which isn’t saying much).  My life here is usually quiet.  Eating oranges everyday.  The smell of roasting cashews.  Tino and Owen, Mwalimu Salome’s boys, who arrive when I need company and think I don’t.  Chapati and chipsi mayai!  But it is making me so damn fat!  Time to read.  The sound of the secondary students going to school in the morning

Accomplishments this week:

I gave a bunch of babies polio vaccines.  I asked someone to be my tutor.  I did yoga for the first time since moving into my house (about a month!).  A couple of people have come to my house to actually talk to me than just ask me for money/food/clothes/etc.  One day, I might actually be useful here.  Maybe.

No internet time left and pictures take a damn long time to upload… I think they are in the gallery but I’m not sure because wordpress is confusing.  Style has its price.  Love you, miss you.  More later.

I can think of lots of things to write about on my blog during my daily adventures in the village, but then I finally get to a computer, thirsting desperately for internet, and I cannot find the right words.

OH! It rained maggots in my house this week!  There is some news for you.  Gross, huh?  I was really only grossed out the first night, then it felt normal.  I had a rat in my ceiling, so the fundi came and put poison up there… well I suppose the rat died.  Mudy, my neighbor and rafiki bora here in Tanzania saved me, as he does everyday.

Oh, and I got a cat, Raha.  Looks just like Disco but tiny.  He/she (I don’t know which) is covered in bugs, cries all of the time, and needs constant attention. Love him/her anyway.

More news….

  • I got furniture in my house, but I still like sitting and eating on a mat on the floor.
  • I have friends in my village which makes me feel really good and everyday I have things to do besides read, stare at the wall, get lost in the forest, and watch water boil.  Having something to look forward to each day has transformed my life here.
  • Most of the men I meet want to marry me.  I usually say no.  How many husbands am I allowed to have?
  • My Kiswahili skills are exponentially better each day, though you should not be fooled into thinking I am a fluent speaker or that I ever understand what I am agreeing to.
  • I cried.  Finally.  And damn, that felt good.  Unfortunately, it lasted an entire day.  My pools of tears were repeatedly interrupted though with people coming over asking me to give them money, food, clothes, books, or anything else they know/think I have.  Which of course, then helped start another flood from my eyes.
  • I didn’t get lost this week.
  • When I walk through my village, people now yell, “Sativa” (or some variation of it… Steefah) instead of their version of “Laura” – the previous volunteer here.

My ideas about a lot of things have changed, most of which am surely not conscious of, but here are a few.

  • “Comfortable” – at home and on the daladala… really you have no idea how many people can actually fit on a bus.  And positions I would normally have thought to be awful, I can now be grateful for; it could be worse, and probably will be after the next stop.
  • “Clean” – hahahaha.  Me, my clothes, or my food?  You don’t want to know.  Oh, except I must say, my feet have never been so filthy.  As soon as I clean them, they get dirty again.  In the states, I hated pedicures; now, the thought makes me teary eyed and starts another homesick tantrum.
  • “Delicious” – white bread… its luxurious.  Mold… eat around it unless extremely hungry.  It probably has nutritional value.  I picked a termite out of my mouth last night and didn’t think anything of it until I had already flicked it onto the ground… then laughed because it didn’t seem weird.
  • “Lonely” – such an emotion had previously made few appearances in my life, I can count its occurances on one hand.  Loneliness is not something I know well because I actually really like being alone.  However, it snuck in one day this week and attacked me with a vengeance.  But then I heard a “Hodi” and found Mudy on the other side of my door smiling and wanting to speak in English.

Out of internet time.  Next time, really, I will try to upload pictures and prepare something to write about ahead of time.  Miss you all, love you to peices.  Thank you so much for the mail and phone calls.  My family and friends have been an amazing support system.

I almost wrote that I am sorry for not writing anything since shortly after my arrival in Tanzania, but actually, I am not sorry.  I wish that I could have shared so much of that experience, but it would have been impossible to do through a blog… even if I had been able to access internet.

So clearly now, training has ended.  It is a blur; it dragged on but sped past at the same time.  I was exhausted and overwhelmed most days from Kiswahili lessons, but learned an incredible amount beyond language and made amazing friends. 

It has been  a week and a half at site now and I am at a loss for words.  In fact, myself and another volunteer are sitting here staring our screens having no idea how so summarize any of this. 

Lists are always the best way to go:

  • I got lost in the forest everyday for a week
  • I force myself to leave my house everyday
  • I have never enjoyed white bread before living at site, now, it is a luxury
  • Water… I thought water was clear?
  • It is starting to feel normal that people laugh at me, regardless of what I am doing.  I can just stand still… and it is SOOO funny.

That is all you get for right now, my internet time is up.  Maybe again on Saturday, if you are oh so lucky.

OH, but thank you for my awesome care packages… JADE!!  And Allison, Eliza, mom and dad, and Kat.  And from what I hear, Alecio, even though I didn’t get it yet.

Starting in Philadelphia: John told me I should schedule a wake up call and didn’t… yeah… I overslept. Thankfully Jade called my hotel room at 5:10 and said, “you’re still sleeping?!!” So I dart out of bed only to find out the shower doesn’t work and the sink water is cold… welcome to the Peace Corps, huh? Only I was still in the states. I made it down by 5:35 and began the craziness of shots (turned out to only be one) and dealing with the abundance of luggage (clearly, not mine) and the airport. Veganism lasted until we reached the Atlantic and my dinner options were chicken something, ravioli, or smashed Luna bar (reserved for a bigger emergency situation). I went with the ravioli. I didn’t think I could actually survive a 18 hour flight, but I did and it was fun and everyone that is in this group is amazing and awesome.

Off the plane and the first sensation I recall was the humidity, then the heat, then the smell and I was in love right away. It does not smell bad here at all unless you walk past the choo (ch-oh, long ‘o’ sound) in the second half of the day. I was amazed with the abundance of coca-cola advertising that welcomed us, and that was just the beginning of the coca-cola ads. We were greeted by some important PC staff, mostly native Tanzanians which I really enjoy and find comfort in. They helped us with our luggage and we got on minibuses to the hostel here in Dar. We walked up the steps and into the most unbelievable courtyard that I cannot even begin to describe. We had a quick info session, Malaria meds, and got our room keys. Surprisingly, we each have our own rooms and bathrooms… with a toilet and shower!

Since our first night, our days have been pretty structured; breakfast, class, chai, class and shots, lunch, Kiswahili lessons, break, dinner. I thought that I would die without coffee; I was wrong. In fact, I haven’t even had a chance to miss it because the chai is so delicious.

I got my family’s name today and the other trainees that will be in my training group (CBT), all of which I like a lot. I know that I have a mama and a baba and this is their first time having a host student, I assume there are children in the family since this is Tanzania after all but I forgot to ask my teacher.  I’ll be moving in with my family in just a day and a half… unprepared for life as charades for a few weeks until my Kiswahili steps up a few notches.

We had a shopping trip in Dar yesterday which was quite the experience; bought my first kanga and choo shoes.

So far, I haven’t felt homesick, which is good because I don’t have a moment to slow down. Luckily, I also have not gotten physically sick. Some people freaked out when I said I brush my teeth with the tap water, one of the PCVOWs said it was fine. I’ll keep you updated on my bowel movements, so far, slow moving, but okay.

The food… I’ve already fattened up here. I get fed fried food four times a day. Sometimes it has meat or fish in it, but not usually. Also shocking, I don’t miss coffee! I have a ton of chai to make up for it though. Actually, there was a bug in my chai this morning, at that point I almost missed coffee, but then decided it was a great chance to talk to the staff… of course they just laughed and gave me a new cup.

What I don’t like: I smashed my finger in the stall of the public choo by our classroom, our awesome Dr. cleaned it for me though because it was during shots time (which feels like always). Also, totally miss a washing machine, even if it was on S. 4th Ave and had someone sleeping under the chair and ants on the machines. My feet are permenently filthy and caloused already, they have also been swollen since the flight left NY. I mess up everyone’s names, even the other trainees, whatever. Insomnia is a slight inconvenience from the meds, but I figure more convenient than Malaria, so it’s ok. During insomnia last night I swore that I heard a rooster at midnight, but it could have been Rx-induced hallucinations.

Sleeping under a mosquito net happens to be amazingly beautiful and I want to continue that for the rest of my life; waking up has never been so beautiful. (Umeamkaje? Salama.) One of the many greetings to be said in the beginning of any conversation. Also about waking up, I’ve only heard the rooster after 8 here (surprising and unexpected), but I usually hear the Muslim prayers very early which are beautiful and contribute to the wonderfulness of waking here. Maybe in Muheza I will experience this infamous waking to the sound of roosters. I’ll be sure to include that in my next blog. In the meantime, I’m going to keep enjoying this.

I love and miss you all.

I thought I would sum up my weekend, but I cannot figure out how.  A bleak outlook for future posts being that the mental and emotional processing is sure to intensify in the coming months.

On a good note, I finished packing and my ‘big blue’ weighs in at 44.8lbs.  Amazing!  I even got my running shoes to fit after all.  However, being just over half of the weight limit makes me think I may be overlooking a few important items.  Perhaps I should pack my yoga mat after all.  I have five hours to think about that since I obviously will not be sleeping.

On the down side, I never received my train ticket to staging in Philadelphia due to several unusual circumstances.  I did end up purchasing my own ticket that I will hopefully get reimbursed for, but I wish I’d have done it earlier rather than spend over three hours on hold with SATO travel.  The repeated classical tune was calming at first, until I heard it a few dozen times.

And on the bittersweet side of things were all of the goodbyes; better kept within my heart than on a blog.

I’m feeling a little numb.  Is this real?  Someone should tug at my arm or pinch me.

For the last few months I have had a Tanzanian pen-pal, Isaack.  He’s a good family friend of a good friend of mine and lives in Arusha.  But really, what are the chances of meeting him in person before I leave for Tanzania?

Apparently, much higher than I thought.

I am sitting around and marinating at my dad’s house on Long Island until I leave for staging – Isaack happens to be visiting friends all over the US.  This week he was in Philadelphia and invited me to meet him there at his friend’s house.  I’m not sure what I was thinking, but hey, why not?  So without too much thought I borrowed a car, stuffed some clothes in a backpack and drove to Philadelphia – he’s practically family of someone I know that I can trust – it’s cool.  I am tough and have an attitude, nothing bad will happen to me.  Once I parked and got out of the car in Philadelphia, it hit me, “What the heck am I doing?!!  This is crazy!!”  Too late, I was already there… besides, I’m sure I’ll repeating that question to myself a dozen times a day for the rest of the year.  Anyway, I knock on the door and try to control my nervousness as to not start vomiting on the porch.  I am greeted very formally by a man that looks like 50 cent, but with the demeanor of a kitten.

It turned out to be an amazing time and I am so glad that I went (and didn’t turn around once I arrived).  During the two days we spent together I learned a lot about Tanzanian culture and Swahili, got asked about American culture and English, had to think about explaining it, and made a wonderful friend.  Oh, and I laughed, A LOT (and drank, a little).  We played Uno and Last Card (the Tanzanian version), watched cartoons, did crossword puzzles, walked around the city, drank coffee, listened to reggae, and compared differences between our cultures.  Example of a cultural difference:  my stomach growls because I am hungry or I am digesting food vs. the parasites need to be fed or they will eat my insides.  Awesome!!  One amazing thing I learned:  you can open a beer bottle with your teeth, or at least Isaack can.  If I stayed longer I probably could have made a top-ten list.  I could probably make a top-five list, but I want to keep the rest for myself, this internet blogging is too impersonal.

It is settling to my heart to know that I will be less alone in Tanzania.  While he lives in Arusha and I will be training in Morogoro (which is quite far), it is closer than the US where the rest of my familiarity and comforts will be.

Six months is a long time to wait for staging, in my opinion, but six months sounds better than a year, sometime in the future, or never.  I’m down to one month, 34 days actually, but who’s counting?  So close now!  It smells like my invitation packet when I first opening it.

In the last five months I have completed my M.Ed. from NAU, managed to survive student teaching, moved out of my house and cried endlessly over it, learned to cut my own hair (next time it’ll be with no mirror), said goodbye and Kwa heri to my friends, and purchased most of the things I will need for TZ while ridding myself of most everything else, and learned a little Swahili.

Leaving Tucson was so difficult when I was there, harder now that I am gone and crashing with my family on Long Island.  While I was grumpy (understatement) that my friends pressured me to have a going away party, it was so awesome and I am glad that I did it.  I’m amazed at how many wonderful people are in my life and feel rewarded to have shared a night with them before leaving.  To make it even better, Jade was there!  Oh, and the night before, Eliza made me a dress from a potato sack… What more could a girl ask for?

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Last December, I was gently reminded that change will happen when I make it.

-one long, trying year passes-

This December, I received my Peace Corps invitation to Tanzania.  The time in between had been spent in paperwork, research, PC events, an interview, many doctor appointments, waiting…. waiting… Invitation!

This is what it looked like:  I quit my job to enjoy life before student teaching starts- making an awesome salad in my kitchen, phone rings… Washington DC?  Oh my stars!  Some questions about my interview, volunteer participation, health, questions… How does mid-June in Sub-Saharan Africa sound?  uhh… perfect.  After hanging up the phone with my placement officer, <freeze, remember to breathe… SCREAM!>  Next, call my recruiter and thank him graciously, again.

A week later my invitation packet (more like a box) arrives in the mail.  Oh yeah, Health Ed in Tanzania!  Wait, where’s Tanzania, what’s Swahili?

Now, some more practice with waiting, as staging is six months out.  I suppose that I could finish grad school, enjoy all of the awesome things that I have in my life, continue my yoga and meditation practice, and travel back to dad’s house in New York.

Have I mentioned that I am pretty psyched?

Sativa Marie

US Peace Corps Trainee for the Health Education program in Tanzania from June 2010 - August 2012.

Love in Padded Envelopes

NEW ADDRESS
Love takes many forms, but may be stuffed in a padded envelope that includes letters, anything chocolate, powdered drink mix, photographs and homemade original art. Love should be sent to:

Sativa Ertola, PCV
US Peace Corps
PO Box 218
Masasi, Mtwara, Tanzania
East Africa
**AIR MAIL**

If you send me love, I promise to send some back.

Oh, and I have a phone...
+255657721684

Disclaimer

This blog is my own personal and biased view of the experience which I am part of, in no way does it represent views of the US government, the Peace Corps, or the Republic of Tanzania.

XKCD

Books I have read in Peace Corps:

-The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver -All of God's Children Need Traveling Shoes – Maya Angelou -The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint Exupery -The Chocolate Lovers' Club – Carole Matthews -Emergency Sex (and Other Desperate Measures): A True Story from Hell on Earth – Kenneth Cain, Heidi Postlewait, and Andrew Thomson -Gila Monsters Meet You at the Airport – Marjorie Weinman Sharmat -The Shadow of the Sun – Ryszard Kapuscinski