24 December 2008

maisha magumu

I have determined that if I were living in any time period other than the modern age, I never would have survived. How did people figure out how to make fire? I can barely get my charcoal stove started even when I douse it in kerosene. And how did people figure out what foods to eat, or what foods could be eaten after you cooked them? Like rice. Let's beat these little brown pellets until the brown stuff comes off, then shake out all the brown stuff and cook it in water until it is soft. Who the hell figured that out?

Speaking of rice preparation, the amount of time that it takes just to live here is absurd. People grow the rice on their farms, beat it so the husks come off, shake out the husks, pick through the rice so there aren't any rocks, wash the rice, and then cook it. Of course, this is after they have cut down trees and carried loads of firewood to their house, and after they have choted water to their house from the well. And this is all just for one meal. And of course, it's usually the women that do the water-choting and the firewood-carrying and the cooking and the cleaning the dishes.

A lot of people tell me that they want to go to America, because life in Tanzania is hard and they think they will have easier lives in the US and they will get more money. I usually try to explain to them that there are a lot of poor people in the US, and that life there is not easy for everyone, particularly if you're an immigrant that doesn't speak English. But then sometimes I wonder whether being really poor in the US would be a step up from Tanznia. Because even if you were really poor (but not homeless), you would probably still have running water in your residence, and electricity.

12 December 2008


This is my new housemate, Simba. I talk to her a lot and then wonder how that reflects on my sanity, or lack thereof. My VEO (Village Executive Officer) brought her to my house inside of a bag. I thought he was carrying vegetables until he went to put the bag in my courtyard.
Partial view of my house slash my pathetic attempt at gardening. I haven't planted anything yet, other than a single basil plant that another volunteer gave me. I'm going to attempt to plant corn, green pepper, carrots, tomatoes, and cilantro. My village thinks I am incompetent. They're probably right.
This is my house. The one without a satellite dish. Note that this is pretty atypical of the residences in my villages. Most houses are brick with straw roofs. And there is no electricity apart from a few people that have solar panels, and my neighbor that has a generator.

27 October 2008

some random things

Anecdote: A man at a bus stand tells me he wants to learn English. I ask him why. He says, in English, "I want to survive."

My neighbor the other day said something I really liked. "We are just passengers in life." I made the mistake of telling him that I didn't believe in God, which is basically inconceivable to most Tanzanians, and he was trying to convince me there was one. His comment was in reference to the afterlife. But I think his comment could also have a much different meaning, referring to how little in life we have control over, ie where we are born, who our families are, our sex, our skin color, etc.

Before I did Peace Corps I wondered what a typical day was like for a volunteer. Well, I don't really have a typical day, but here are some thing that happen on a daily or regular basis:
-Boil drinking water
-Heat water for bathing
-Get neighbors to remove a large insect from my house that I am terrified of
-Block door so mice don't get in, and/or chase mice out of house at night with broom and headlamp
-Sit on my porch and hang out with other teachers from the secondary school
-Children stare at me, chase me while on my bike, and/or run away from me in terror
-Once a week, I ask people in my village to bike 1 km to my house with 5 buckets (100 liters) of water, for which I will pay them about 70 cents. Then I get angry and haggle with them when they try to charge me 1000 shillings (about a dollar). Then after we have agreed on a price and they say they are going to bring it, they don't always show up.
-People laugh at me
-I agree to things I don't understand or only half understand

Things I would like to teach Tanzanians about, in addition to HIV/AIDS/Health education:
-Basic geography: ie America is not located in Europe or Asia, and George Bush is not the president of North and South America

10 October 2008

things on my mind

For those who were wondering, I survived the 56k bike trip and it only took around 8 hours. This included my pedal falling off halfway through the ride, walking 1 km to get it fixed; resting for an hour and a half for lunch; having a random guy try to sell me a Makonde wood carving, and then giving it to me as a gift after i refused to buy it; then taking a short nap under a tree before gearing myself up for the last 10 km of the ride. My ass was sore for about a week.

The following are things that I have been thinking about for a long time. I don't really have anyone here to discuss these things with, so I'm releasing these thoughts into cyberspace.

-Is Peace Corps, and the idea that a foreigner can come help communities "develop," inherently imperialistic? Or is it possible for Peace Corps Volunteers to effect, positive, albeit small-scale, change? Or is Peace Corps something that privileged Americans do to feel good about themselves, that in the end has very marginal effects on the communities, either positive or negative?

-For that matter, Peace Corps has been in Tanzania since 1961. What exactly has been accomplished?

-As an employee of the US government working in the Global South, on a project partly funded by PEPFAR, how am I perpetuating the very systems that I have problems with?

-Tanzania was colonized by Germany. My family heritage is largely German. Am I perpetuating the domination carried out by my ancestors? Or is it possible that I can try to rectify some of the damage they caused?

-Why are the overwhelming majority of PCVs white?

-Peace Corps talks a lot about being "culturally appropriate." What exactly does this mean? Tanzania has over 100 tribes and 35 million people. I'm still learning about TZ, but surely the idea that there is one, homogenous culture and a uniform conception of what is appropriate is ridiculous.

-Why do I get upset when people ask me for money? I'm American and a foreigner and still making more than a lot of people in my village (even though PC living allowance is supposed to put you at the same standard of living as an "average" Tanzanian). So of course people are going to ask me for money. I know I shouldn't get upset, but I still do. Is it because it happens every time I leave my house, which gets old after awhile? Or is it simply because I feel uncomfortable at my privilege being pointed out constantly?

-As part of my job in health/HIV/AIDS education I'm supposed to educate youths about "life skills," ie communication skills, decision-making skills, relationship skills, in hopes that such life skills will prevent youths from making "risky" decisions and participating in "risky behavior" that causes the spread of HIV/AIDS. I have a few problems with this approach:
1) By blaming an individual/an individual's "risky behavior" on HIV/AIDS, this framework ignores the role that structural/social and economic inequalities and inequitable access to services and resources have in affecting one's health and behavior.
2) Blaming the spread of HIV/AIDS on risky behavior ignores the fact that many girls/women are coerced/forced into sex or are unable to negotiate condom use with their partner.

So. What is a more effective method of HIV/AIDS prevention? Any input on this or my other questions is appreciated.

26 September 2008


New phone number: 0714000743

Am attempting to bike 56 kilometers tomorrow, from my banking town to my village. Being that I haven't ridden a bike in about 5 years, I think this is a fantastic idea.

My activities lately: going to lots of endless government meetings, which usually take place under a cashew or mango tree. The men all sit on one side and the women all sit on the other. Me and the government officials sit in chairs at the front. I generally give a short, terrible speech introducing myself in Swahili, then the people in the village talk about what problems they are having, which mainly have to do with access to water, and people stealing cashews off of other people's cashew trees.

11 September 2008

things that matter

i'm probably the only person that finds this interesting. but whatever. so Kiswahili has noun classes. People and animals, or "living locomotive things" as my kiswahili teacher would say, are in one noun class, the m/wa noun class. Exept there are some people that are not in the m/wa class. These people are:
vijana: youths
vipofu: blind people
viwete: lame/handicapped people
viziwi: deaf people
vibarua: day laborer
vibiongo: hunchbacks
vibogoyo: toothless people
vibushuti: very short people
vijakazi: slave-girls
vimada: concubines
vimwana: pretty young girls
virukanjia: prostitutes
kisura: a beautiful girl, a looker
kifunguamimba: first-born
kitindamimba: last-born
kitoto: infant
kipusa: rhino horn; slang: pretty girl/woman
kizee: old woman

I don't think it is a coincidence that some of the people that are not included in the people noun class are women and people with disabilities.
Although then I found out that the word for leader, "kiongozi" is also not in the m/wa noun class. So maybe that blows my theory.

In other news, I dropped my phone in the choo (latrine) today, fished it back out and it still works.(!)(...gross?)

On Saturday I was hanging out at my house and a guy on a bike showed up with a letter for me inviting me to a government meeting the following day. I went to the government meeting and found out that next week I am going to be going to a bunch of neighboring villages and doing something, not sure what. I asked the WEO (Ward Executive Officer) what I was going to be doing, and he said we would walk to his house and he would explain it. He took me to his neighbor's house and left. I sat in the living room by myself for a little while and then left. I still have no idea what I'm doing next week or where these villages are.

My days consist mainly of: going on random walks in my village, stopping to talk to people, who then either: laugh at me, stare at me blankly when i try to speak swahili, offer me food, or ask me for money/food/presents. Or all of the above.

01 September 2008

hello site

I am officially a Peace Corps volunteer now and have been at my site for a little over a week. For those that don't feel like reading a long blog entry, here is my first week at site in a nutshell:

Government officials that came with me to site: 3
Bottles of water that the government officials bought for me: 36
Number of people that welcomed me upon my arrival: about 250
Buckets of water I have used: 6
Times I have cooked for myself: 2
Rats in my choo: 1-2
Spiders living in my bedroom: 3
Spiders living in my choo: 2
Number of times people have had to translate my terrible Swahili into something that makes sense: at least 20
Number of culturally inappropriate things I have done: At least 8 that I am aware of, and probably a lot more that I am not aware of
Number of times I have had to say "Sema tena pole pole" (Say it again slower): incalculable
Number of times I have felt ridiculous: incalculable

We had an awesome ceremony officially swearing us in as volunteers, in which my entire training group performed a song in Swahili to the tune of "My Heart Will Go On," while wearing ridiculous slash amazing Tanzanian outfits that our host families made for us. Then we took an oath of loyalty to the US Constitution. I must say, of all the things I imagined doing in life, taking an oath of loyalty to the constitution was something I never imagined myself doing. Then about 10 minutes after the swearing-in ceremony, me and the other people going to my region had to immediately leave to start heading to site, because our region takes a long time to get to, or something.

So i arrived at site on Friday of last week. I rode in a car with three government officials to the secondary school where I am living, and when we arrived there were about 250 people waiting to give me a welcoming party. This welcoming party involved a lot of singing and dancing, including a song that was about me and how they are glad that their teacher has arrived; the district supervisor lecturing the village for ten minutes about how Americans like to be on time; and then me trying to give an impromptu speech in Swahili in which I'm sure no one understood what I was trying to say. All I could think the entire time was that Peace Corps is by far the most ridiculous thing I have done in my life.

My house: is kind of like a Tanzanian-style duplex; on one side live two teachers, and I live on the other side. I have three rooms, a courtyard, a choo (bathroom, and by bathroom I mean a cement room with a porcelain hole in the floor), and two other rooms off of the courtyard that I haven't figured out what to do with yet. I don't have electricity and water is 1 k from my house but I haven't had to carry water on my head yet. There are random people on bikes that I buy water from. There is a humongous spider that has taken up residence in my bedroom, and since I am too terrified of it to get close enough to remove/kill it, we have been peacefully coexisting for now.

Health volunteers don't have to actually do anything during their first three months at site; we are supposed to spend the first three months settling in and learning about our community and figuring out our community's needs. So this week I have mainly been walking around my village and talking to random people and trying to figure out how to live in Tanzania. My neighbors are convinced that I am incompetent and have been feeding me a lot. When I tell them that I know how to cook they just laugh at me.

Everyday I wake up and think: Is this my life? I am I really living in this random village in Tanzania? I barely know how to live here or speak Swahili, and they expect me to help people? How absurd.

If you want to mail me things, my address now is PO Box 531 Masasi, Mtwara Region, Tanzania. I'll probably be able to check email 1-2 times a month, so sorry if it takes me awhile to respond to emails.

15 August 2008

oh tanzania

Things that Tanzanians love that I do not quite understand:
-Shania Twain
-Ugali: Aka a very popular food. The closest translation I have seen for this is stiff porridge. It's corn flour and water and it tastes like nothing. And they love it.
-George Bush: I have seen several people wearing kangas with George Bush's face on them, with a slogan underneath that said something to the effect of "We Cherish Democracy." I have also met a Tanzanian that owns a hat that has pictures of both Bush and Kikwete on it.
-WWE: My host mama watches this every Saturday night.
-Fried dough in any form: I may not know more than 20 verbs in Swahili, but I do know the names of the plethora of fried dough snacks- andazi, chapati, half-keki, donuti, kitumbua.

Things that Tanzanians love that I find highly amusing:
-Celine Dion

12 August 2008

site annoncements

Dear friends,
I am almost done with training. Today I found out where I will be living for the next two years. I will be going to Mtwara Region, which is in southern Tanzania, near Mozambique. It is apparently a few hours away from the beach and very pretty. We are in the capital right now, then we have one more week with our host families and then we move to our sites.

In other news I shadowed another PCV this past week and a Massai family slaughtered a goat for us. I have also bought a cellphone: My number is 785-034-702. The country code for TZ is 255.

27 July 2008

safaris, spaghetti and sex ed

Recent news in my life:
We went on a mini-safari this past weekend and saw elephants, giraffes, and zebras. Slash the highlight of the trip was being able to take a hot shower, use a western toilet, and eat cheese. I have been enjoying bucket baths, but I have never enjoyed a shower so much in my life.

Being here is basically like being a child in that someone cooks for me and gets my bathwater for me, I have to be home before dark, and I don't get dirty jokes. It has been my quest to prove to my host family that I am not in fact incompetent, despite a lot of evidence to the contrary. So today I decided to cook American food for them. I decided to cook spaghetti, which seemed like a fantastic idea being that I have never made spaghetti sauce from scrath before. I didn't feel like making garlic bread as a side dish so I made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches instead. (Yes, there is peanut butter here. But my family still didn't know what it was).

This week we had a very interesting visit to a primary school and learned about their sex education and HIV/AIDS curriculum. I haven't been nearly long enough to understand Tanzanian cultural attitudes about sex, but the little bit I learned this week was super-interesting and contradictory. For example, the government-directed standardized curriculum has kids starting to learn about HIV/AIDS the first year they're in primary school. Kids in Standard 6 (i think around 12-13 yrs old) have to learn how to use condoms correctly. I asked the teacher if there was any resistance to kids learning about sex in school and he said no; that in this town a few people may be unhappy but they haven't complained to the school (but there may be resistance to it in other parts of TZ). We talked to our LCF (language/cross-cultural facilitator) later and she said that parents here rarely talk to their kids about sex; they will get an aunt or uncle to give their kids a sex talk. Our LCF said that she has been struggling with how to talk to her kids about sex, because she wants them to be informed, but if she talks to them about sex, her kids will tell their friends, their friends will tell their parents, and their parents will think that she is trying to ruin their community's morals/culture. She said she has been thinking about hiring someone from an organization that specializes in sex education to talk to her kids, like one of her friends did with her kids. Our LCF is an educated woman living in the capital city, and her friend that hired someone to talk to her kids is getting her PhD.

My question is: where as a PCV do I fit into all of this? I didn't come here to change Tanzanians' cultural values, but doing HIV/AIDS and health education necessitates confronting cultural attitudes about gender and sex.

11 July 2008

Well I am still here and alive. I apologize if I haven't responded to your emails; the internet has been very slow the past few times I have been here.

I think if you feel compelled you should write me a letter, because receiving mail during training has been surprisingly efficient. And every week when they give us our mail I always get my hopes up because they call out my name, when it is really the other Laura here that is getting mail.

I had been wanting to write a fantastic, witty, insightful blog entry before coming here, but since I haven't composed one yet, I will leave you with this list.

Random things I enjoy about Tanzania so far:
-Chai breaks every morning
-Passionfruit juice
-Tanzaznian TV, ie soap operas from other countries dubbed in terrible, awkward English
-Meetings with government officials in which everyone is an hour late and the government officials wear flip-flops and answer their cell phones during the meeting
-When I walk home and the neighborhood kids run and jump on me to get hugs (I admittedly am not a huge fan of children, but this always cheers me up)
-That you are supposed to greet everyone you know, and that initial greetings are supposed to last several minutes before the actual conversation starts
-Bucket baths: they conserve a lot of water
-The fact that Whitney Houston, Phil Collins and the Backstreet Boys have been playing on the stereo in the internet cafe

25 June 2008


Greetings from Tanzania! I am alive and have been in TZ for two weeks. After two days in Dar es salaam and two days in Morogoro we arrived at our homestays at our training site. (Peace Corps advises against me giving away my location in my blog, so I'll leave that a secret for now.) My family is very nice, although I think they just spend a lot of time laughing at me. My father and sister speak pretty good English, so communication is not as difficult as it could be. There are about 8 or 10 people in my family, I haven't quite figured out how everyone is related or who actually lives in the house. We have electricity and eat dinner around the TV, which struck me as so very American. We usually watch soccer, the Tanzanian version of C-SPAN, or these fantastic telenovelas dubbed in awkward English.

We are divided into groups of about five PCTs (Peace Corps Trainees) for training. Here is what an average day in training is like:
8 am: Class
10 am: Chai break
10:30/11 am: Class
12/1 pm: Lunch
2-4ish pm: Class
4-6ish: Hang around town, play frisbee or duck duck goose with neighborhood kids
6 pm: Come home and help with dinner or play with the kids
9/9:30 pm: Dinner
9:30: Bath, bed

My dreams of being a dirty hippie while in TZ have been squashed, as a lot of Tanzanians bathe twice a day; my family gives me hot water to bathe in twice a day. I have not been sick yet, knock on wood, and the squat toilets are not as bad as I had imagined. The food is not bad, mainly rice and beans and spinach and bananas.

Highlight of my week: Yesterday we met with local government officials to ask questions about Tanzanian government structure. My training group wrote a song (in Swahili) about our village, and performed it for them. Since then we have been performing the song for anyone who is willing to listen, along with a lot of people who probably don't want to listen.

I am almost out of internet time so I will write more later.

08 June 2008

Leaving on a jet plane

My bags are packed and I'm leaving for the airport in about two hours. After staging in DC, I'll be leaving for Tanzania on the 10th and arriving on the evening of the 11th. I don't know how much internet access I'll have once training starts, but I will try to keep you all updated.

I hope everyone that's reading this is doing wonderfully. See you all in 2010.

01 June 2008

How do you pack for two years?

Edited Jan 25, 2009

Things I am glad I brought:
Headlamp. I literally cannot live without it. I even travel with it.
-Shortwave radio. Sometimes my only connection to the outside world.
-Contacts. PC tells you not to bring them, but I much prefer them to glasses and I haven't had any problems (but I don't live in a dusty area). I have to get contact solution sent from home though.
-UNO. Gave it to my host family but they loved it.
-Quick-dry towel. Great for travel
-Quick-dry pants. Also great for travel. Some people also have quick-dry skirts, which I think would have been a good investment too.
-Flash drive. Essential.
-Ipod. Essential for my sanity.
-Solio charger. Great for charging the ipod, since I don't have electricity at my site. And good for charging the phone too, since I have to pay to charge it otherwise.
-Water bottles. Good for not dying of thirst.
-Plastic egg carrier. It's hard to find eggs in my village, so I always buy them in town and this comes in handy.
-Leatherman knife. You never know when you might need it.
-Diva cup. I prefer it to tampons or pads.
-A lot of American pens. Tanzanian pens suck and die after you use them twice.

Things I wish I had brought:
-Laptop. On the one hand, it's nice not having to worry about it being stolen or broken. On the other hand, it would come in a LOT of handy for writing grants, and doing these dumb reports we are supposed to do for Peace Corps. And watching movies. I bet if you brought one of those new little, $300 ones it would well be worth it
A tent and sleeping bag. It takes up a lot of room, but if you want to travel for cheap, it's essential. Particularly if you want to travel when you are done with your service, a good investment.
-Large backpack/Medium-sized duffel for two-weeks traveling time. There are a lot of times where you will be gone for a week or two, and all the bags I brought are too big or too small for that amount of time.
-Sharpies. I had these sent. Tanzanian markers die after you use them once.
-Coloring books and crayons. I am a child and this is how I de-stress. I also had these sent to me.
-Ipod speakers. Had these sent to me as well.
-First aid book. Mainly because I have a Red Cross First Aid book I thought about bringing and didn't, and now I regret it because now I am teaching first aid and not sure how reliable this little pamphlet I stole is.

Wish I hadn't brought
-So many shoes. PC tells you to bring closed-toe shoes for teaching, but this isn't really necessary. I wear open-toed shoes all the time and I don't think it's a problem; you just need shoes that are clean and don't look like you would shower in them. I think if you bring Chacos, flip-flops, and a pair of running shoes, that is plenty of footwear.
-So many clothes. It's easy to get stuff made in TZ (and people love it when you wear Tanzanian clothing), and to find used clothes.
-Any non-prescription medicine, vitamins, sunscreen, bug repellent, etc. PC gives you all this stuff. Maybe bring enough for the first week or two.

-Water purification tablets. Unnecessary.
-A lot of the kitchen supplies/misc crap I brought. You can buy all that here. Also PC gives you a cookbook.

-REI Ridgeline 65 Backpack
-REI Beast Duffel Bag
-Messenger bag as carry-on

-Shirts (4 short-sleeve button down, 1 blouse, 6 t-shirts, 2 long-sleeve shirts)
-Skirts (6 just below knee, 1 calf-length)
-Pants (1 jeans, 1 quick-dry, 1 cargo)
-Tanktops/camis (3)
-Sleepwear/loungewear (1 long pair sweatpants, 1 capri sweatpants, 1 gaucho, 4 cotton t-shirts)
-Hoodie (1)
-Fleece jacket (1)
-Exercise shorts (1)
-Bathing suit (1)
-Lightweight raincoat (1)
-Belt (1)
-Slips (2)
-Bras (4 regular, 1 sport)
-Underwear (23 pairs)
-Watch (1)
-Sunglasses (1)
-Bandanas (2)
-Socks (7 pairs, plus 1 pair slipper socks in case it gets cold)

-Sneakers (1)
-Chacos (1)
-Keens: 1 closed-toe slip-ons, 1 waterproof sandal
-Rainbows (1)
-Old Navy flip-flops (1)

-Ipod and charger, extra set headphones
-Shortwave radio
-Camera, extra memory cards, SD card reader
-Mini Maglite
-Solio solar battery charger
-AAA batteries, AA batteries, rechargeable batteries and charger
-Plug adapter and converter
-Travel alarm clock
-Flash drive

Books and Entertainment
-Tanzania guidebook and travel map
-Crossword puzzle book
-Swahili/English dictionary
-Book of yoga poses
-Cards; UNO; book of card games
-Drawing supplies and sketchbook
-Photo album
-Several novels and non-fiction books (This is probably why I’m so close to the weight limit. I’ll probably have to take a few of these out.)
  • Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver (b/c so many people have recommended it to me)
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex, Incite! Women of Color Against Violence (had you heard the term "non-profit industrial complex" before? Me neither)
  • The House of Spirits, Isabel Allende (one of the many books I’ve bought but haven’t gotten around to reading)
  • Dreaming in Cuban, Cristina Garcia (same)
  • Bel Canto, Ann Patchett (same)
  • Memoirs of a Geisha, Arthur Golden (same)
  • The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini (same)
  • Death and the Penguin, Andrey Kurkov (gift from someone I like)
  • Female Chauvinist Pigs, Ariel Levy (gift from someone I like)
  • The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizens Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear (gift from someone I like)
  • Timequake, Kurt Vonnegut (a favorite)

Toiletries etc
-Shampoo & conditioner 2 in 1, bar soap (3), facewash
-toothpaste (2)
-Extra toothbrushes (3)
-Contacts & contact solution, eye drops
-Glasses (2 pairs) & Glasses cleaner
-Deodorant (3)
-Small mirror
-Hair ties
-Diva Cup and a few tampons
-Razors & razorblades
-Nail clippers
-Hand sanitizer
-Toilet paper
-Pepto Bismol
-Benadryl cream
-Small thing of insect repellent that doesn’t have DEET

(Peace Corps also provides us with a medical kit that has a bunch of stuff in it)

“Office” Supplies
-PC paperwork
-File folder
-Extra passport photos and copies of immunization records
-Pencils and pens, paper
-Day planner
-Address book
-a few blank CDs
-Packing tape
-Duct tape
-Folders and notebooks

Home and Kitchen
-Knife and sharpener
-Non-stick pan
-Can opener
-Ziploc bags
-Rubber gloves
-Plastic egg carrier
-Water purification tablets
-Kitchen towels and washcloths
-Hot sauce
-Granola bars
-Pepper grinder
-Garlic powder
-Crystal Light powder mixes
-Laundry bag
-Stain remover
-Lint rollers
-Sewing kit
-Safety pins
-Clothesline and clothespins
-Quick-dry towel

-Money belt
-Extra backpack
-Leathermen tool
-Extra cash
-2 water bottles (steel so I don’t get cancer)

-TBD: probably some little bottles of lotion, small toys for kids, calendar?, NC souvenirs?

EDIT: Just got an email that I have to bring a bike helmet. Apparently PC issues us a bike and requires us to wear a helmet when we're riding the bike, but does not provide us with a helmet. I do get reimbursed for the helmet though.

Since it is technically Sunday now...1 week from today I will be on a plane to DC. (Well, I am flying from North Carolina to Philadelphia, then from Philly to DC. Talk about THE most indirect way to get there. Oh how I wish I could teleport.)

30 May 2008

On sending mail and packages

(For the people that may love me enough to send me things. Don't worry, I'm not expecting anything.)

I stole this from other blogs:

-“There are a few things you can do to help hasten and secure the passage and delivery of your mail. Have anyone sending you a care package scribble religious symbols and biblical quotes all over the outside of the box. This sounds silly, but it works. Though many of the countries in which the Peace Corps serves are largely animist in religion, superstitution runs high and even corrupt postal workers are wary of intercepting religious parcels. Along every step of the way, your mail will be subject to the whims of postal officals, customs officers, and delivery personnel who often take the liberty of rummaging through care packages in search of goodies from the U.S. If you mail is embellished with religious symbols, the odds of keeping it intact are improved. You may even want to ask the sender to write “Sister” or “Brother” before your name, the heighten the effect. Another trick is to have your mail addressed to you in red ink. I’ve been told red ink is somewhat sacrosant in many third world societies and is reserved for only the most official of letters and correspondances. Though I’m unsure about this explanation’s validity, I can vouch for the trick’s effectiveness, having seen serveral packages addressed in red ink delivered safely and expeditiously.”

-Make sure you're using Airmail
-Number your letters so I know if one has been lost
-I've heard that padded envelopes have a better chance of making it than boxes
-It can help to include "educational materials'" or "feminine hygeine products" on the package in writing that looks official

Email me your address if you want me to mail you a postcard, note, doodle, etc.

25 May 2008

What does it take to become a "notable" volunteer?

When I log into my Peace Corps online toolkit, there is a box that has a blurb about a "notable" former Peace Corps volunteer. On several occasions, Chris Matthews has popped up as the "notable" volunteer. Do you really want to be advertising that fact, Peace Corps? Is this what you're trying to say: "Join the Peace Corps and you too can become a racist, sexist, ignorant asshole."?
No thanks. And I'd appreciate if Matthews' obnoxious face were removed from my toolkit.

On a happier (scarier?) note, I am leaving for staging in DC two weeks from today. Crazy crazy crazy.

18 May 2008

My first time leaving the North American continent

I got my travel itinerary in the mail a few days ago. I'm flying from:
Washington DC to Frankfurt, Germany
Frankfurt to Zurich, Switzerland
Zurich to Dar es Salaam

18 hours and 25 minutes of flight time and about 8460 miles.

View Larger Map

I also recently discovered that my birthday is the same day that Tanzania (well, Tanganyika) became independent from Britain. I don't believe in signs. But if I did, that fact would be really cool.

04 May 2008

My Assignment

PC's official description

Program: Health Education Project
Job Title: Peace Corps Volunteer Health Education
Description: To assist the Tanzanian government to improve the health of Tanzanians by promoting healthy behavior among community members, particularly teachers and students. This will be achieved by: 1) empowering young people to make healthy decisions about their lives; 2) increasing teachers' ability to make healthy life choices; 3) increasing teachers' ability to integrate HIV/AIDS into their classrooms; and 4) helping communities access health information information about disease prevention, especially HIV/AIDS/STIs.
Pre-Service Training (in Tanzania): June 12-August 22, 2008
Dates of Service: August 24, 2008-August 27, 2010

Application Timeline

January 6: Submitted application
January 12: Received forms in mail saying PC had received my application
January 14: Called to schedule interview
January 18: Interview
January 25: Nominated to Health Extension, Sub-Saharan Africa, June 2008
January 30: Received medical kit in the mail
March 12: Mailed medical kit (note- I was kind of lazy about setting up all of my appointments- I think if I had finished my medical stuff sooner I would have gotten my assignment earlier)
March 20: Toolkit updated saying that PC had received my medical kit
March 21: Dentally cleared
March 27: Received letter from PC saying that my physical form was not legibly signed and dated and that I had to re-send it
April 2: Faxed re-signed and re-dated physical form to Peace Corps
April 3: Medically cleared
April 8: Contacted by Placement Officer about sending a final transcript to PC after graduation. Asked her about changing my departure date to a later date. She said that if I did not leave in June I would probably not be able to leave until February. Decided to keep my original departure date.
April 19: Toolkit updated saying I am an invitee
April 23: Received invitation to Tanzania
April 24: Accepted invitation