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.