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.)