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.