05 November 2009


Peer educators singing about malaria

Peer educators doing skits about malaria prevention

Kikwete, TZ's president, when he came through my village

Masasi District Health Volunteers, one year anniversary of being at site



Condom song

In my free time, I like to make up pedantic, slightly obscene songs in Kiswahili.

The Condom Song (To the tune of Rihanna's "Umbrella")

Verse 1:
Ukitaka kujua
Jinsia ya kutumia
Kondomu ya kiume
Basi sikiliza
Wimbo huu
Halafu utajua

Kwa nini tunapenda kutumia kondomu?
Kwa sababu nyingi sana.
Hatutaki kupata UKIMWI au magonjwa ya zinaa.
Hatutaki mimba pia, kwa hiyo tunatumia
Tunapenda kutumia kondomu
Tunapenda kutumia kondomu, kondomu, kondomu
Hey, Hey, Hey, kondomu, kondomu, kondomu,
Hey hey hey hey hey hey

Verse 2:
Hatua ya kwanza
Angalia paketi
Kama imepasuka
Halafu angalia
Tarehe ya kwisha
Kama imepita
Tumia nyingine
Fungua paketi
Kwa uangalifu
Meno au kisu


Verse 3:
Valisha kondomu
Kwenye uume
Minya chuchu
Ya kondomu
Ili kuhakisha
Hamna hewa ndani
Endela kuminya
Wakati wa kukunjua
Ukishafanya ngono
Vua na tupa


Verse 4
Watu wengi
Kwamba kondomu
Lakini ni bora
Kutumia kondomu
Kuliko kupata magonjwa


30 October 2009

In which I (not-so) shamelessly ask for money

Want to help my villagers have better access to water? Of course you do!

Here's the deal: I did needs assessment meetings in the five sub-villages of my village, and every single sub-village identified water as a problem. My village is pretty large, over 4000 people. There are nine wells and seven pumps where people get water from. However, five of the seven pumps are currently broken. That means that there are only eleven water sources serving a population of over 4000 people, in addition to two neighboring villages. Thus people have been resorting to getting water from unsafe sources, such as nearby rivers, which are unsafe for drinking and sources of water-borne diseases, breeding grounds for mosquitoes and thus malaria, and also potential sites for crocodile and hippo attacks.

So, I have written a grant to help my villagers fix these broken water pumps. The pumps have been broken for over a year but the village does not have the resources to fix them, which I why I am helping them out. This project will also buy tools for the village mechanic, who has received training on fixing pumps but does not actually have the tools to fix them. That way in the future the village mechanic will be able to fix the pumps without having to call mechanics from the district, which is costly and time-consuming.

Basically, fixing the broken pumps will help improve the health status and quality of life of the villagers. I need yall's help though; the community is contributing 25% of the costs/labor, but the other 75% comes from you all. If you want to help them and me out, I have posted the link for making donations at the end of this blog. Even five dollars would help out. Or if you were thinking about sending me a package, don't do that; just use the money you would use for sending a package as a donation to this project. Or if you don't have money, just spread the word to people you think would be interested in helping out.


Isn't this just promoting african dependence on western aid? Yes, and I am generally opposed to reinforcing this cycle of dependence. However I feel about that though, the reality of the situation is that I am the "rich" mzungu living in a village of not-so-rich people. And even though I myself am not particularly wealthy, I do have access to resources that people in my village don't have access to. And people in my village never believe me when I tell them I am not loaded, so since this idea they have of the wealthy foreigner isn't going to go away, I might as well try to use what resources I do have to help them out a little.

Is this sustainable? Like I said, the village mechanic is getting tools so that if the pumps break in the future, he can fix them. The villagers will also get training on pump maintenance and how to prevent future break-downs. The broken pumps will also be cleaned and flushed out before being repaired, which will also help prevent them from breaking in the future.

I haven't heard from you in like a year and now you're hitting me up for money? How dare you? I know, I feel bad about that. But it's really hard for me to access internet most of the time, and I don't have time to send as many emails as I would like. Sorry.

Donate here!

29 October 2009

Only Justice Can Stop a Curse

All we own, at least for the short time we have it, is our life. With it we write what we come to know of the world. I believe the Earth s good. That people, untortured by circumstance or fate, are also good. I do not believe the people of the world are naturally my enemies, or that animals, including snakes, are, or that Nature is. Whenever I experience evil, and it is not, unfortunately, uncommon to experience it in these times, my deepest feeling is disappointment. I have learned to accept the fact that we risk disappointment, disillusionment, even despair, every time we act. Every time we decide to believe the world can be better. Every time we decide to trust others to be as noble as we think they are. And that there might be years during which our grief is equal to, or even greater than, our hope. The alternative, however, not to act, and therefore to miss experiencing other people at their best, reaching toward their fullness, has never appealed to me.

-Alice Walker, "Only Justice Can Stop a Curse"

29 September 2009


It's been a hard week in Peace Corps Tanzania this week... PCV Joe Chow was killed in a rock climbing accident on Tuesday. Joe was 23 and less than two months away from being done with his Peace Corps service. He taught advanced level chemistry, physics and math at Ndanda Secondary School.

Joe was my nearest PCV neighbor. We both shared a love of awesomely bad movies. He brought the movie "Plan 9 from Outer Space" to one of our in-service trainings for us to watch, but we never got around to watching it together. I wish we had.

One of the last text messages I got from Joe that will always make me laugh: "The drunk teacher at my school just drooled on me."

If Joe's family stumbles across this blog, I just wanted to send you my condolences. I know there is nothing I can say to make this better. But Joe was my friend and I'm glad I had the chance to get to know him. And I really wish this hadn't happened.

18 September 2009


Follow-up on my last entry: The districts in my region are giving out food aid, a certain number of kilos of corn for each household. Someone in a village near me supposedly died of hunger...I don't really believe this is true though.

It's been awhile since I've posted about what I've been doing. So: in addition to my regular teaching around the schools and at baby weighings and distributing condoms, I went to a community theater workshop in July, did a HIV/AIDS and life skills training for 52 primary and secondary school teachers, and am planning a variety of activities, including: a teacher training in another PCV's village, a camp for secondary school boys, an HIV education week and testing day in November, a first aid training for the community health workers in my area, and a grant to fix the broken water pumps in my village. I also just went to the Mid-Service Conference for my training group, where I got to catch up with everyone I haven't seen in a long time, had a five-minute dentist appointment, and learned some more about HIV (and I thought I knew everything already...). So that's my life in a nutshell.

One of the things we talked about at our Mid-Service Conference was behavior change, specifically how to promote behavior change through our education programs. Despite some of my qualms with the behavior change framework, I thought this portion of the workshop was really interesting (and would have been a lot more useful had we learned it sooner, Peace Corps...). We divided into groups and picked an example "target audience" that we want to work with. My group decided to discuss ways to work with men that have multiple sexual partners in addition to their wives. After some discussion we decided that it would be imposible to expect that men would be faithful to their wives, and also impossible to expect them to use condoms with their wives, so we decided our goal would be for men with multiple partners to use condoms in their extramarital relationships. We already felt like our expectations were pretty low, but then the facilitator said maybe we should set our expectations a little lower and have our goal be for the men to simply discuss condom use with their partners. Because in behavior change programs, change takes a long time and you have to set realistic, small, attainable goals that gradually build on the past education efforts you have done.

This is fine and logical, but part of me wants to know: Is that really all I can expect from the work I am doing? I know you have to start somewhere, and changing attitudes about anything, but especially about sex, is extremely difficult. But good god if the only thing that comes out of my two years here is that people will have had discussions about condoms...Is this really all the millions of dollars being spent on HIV/AIDS prevention is accomplishing?

A lot of the volunteers at the MSC seemed tired and frustrated and discouraged. A major topic of discussion was: "What are the consequences if I decide to leave before completing my two years of service?"

And I'm tired too. I'm tired of feeling like I'm doing no good. I'm tired of being seen as a walking dollar sign. I'm tired of people telling me that they want me to teach them or help them do things, when what they really mean is, "We want money and/or presents." I'm tired of people saying they will help me do projects and then not showing up. I'm tired of people thinking that they need to be paid for listening to me teach. I'm tired of the fact that it seems impossible to motivate people to do anything if they aren't getting some material benefit. I'm tired of teachers and health workers that never do their jobs and then complaining to me about how their lives are hard. I'm tired of convincing myself that there really are good, motivated people in this village. I'm tired of people making me feel like I'm useless because I haven't lifted everyone out of poverty.

Sometimes I want to yell at everyone: "This is why there is no development in this country! No one wants to do anything to help themselves! You just want handouts!"

In my head though, I know I need to take a step back and stop putting all the blame on the villagers. I know Tanzania has been receiving foreign aid for a long time, and it's not wonder that people see a white person and automatically see a dollar sign. And I know that poverty creates a disempowered mentality among the poor and that is probably why people here feel like they can't do anything to change their situations. And I know it must be horrific to farm every year of your life, only to see your crops fail half the time because there's been no rain, or bugs or birds or rats ate them, or hippos walked on them, or someone stole them. Or the crops didn't fail, but the price of whatever you are selling did, so you still don't have any money. Or maybe you have a little money, but one of your kids is sick and the other four are in school and need new uniforms and shoes, and it's several months until harvest season, and last years' supply of corn has run out, and you don't know what your family is going to eat for the next few months. And then some white girl who speaks weird Swahili tells you that you should be worried about AIDS, because you can get really sick and die after ten years. Why should you worry about what your health status will be in ten years, when you don't have anything to eat today? So you ask this white girl for money, since she's from America and clearly has money. She gives you a disgusted look and tries to explain that she can't help every single person in the village, and you say, it's not every person, just help me.

I'm still here though. In the words of a popular bongo flava song, "Bado nipo nipo sana." (Roughly, I'm still very much here.)

Peace Corps' motto is: "The toughest job you'll ever love." I don't know if I love it, but it sure is challenging.

05 September 2009

Maisha magumu

This article has some information about my region. Like it says, most families in my region depend on cashew trees to survive, but this year we had very little rain, so the cashew trees aren't producing, which means people won't be making money this year. So I don't really know what's going to happen. Cashews/farming are the main source of income for almost everyone in my village. If there is a shortage of rain this year I think there is going to be a major food shortage.


Mtwara strategies to counter potential food shortage

For a region that has 88 per cent of its population depending on agriculture for food and income generation, any situation that might lead to the underdevelopment of the sector is something they can’t afford to tolerate.

With an area of about 16,720 kilometres, Mtwara harbours around 1.3 million people most of them very poor. Only one per cent of this population involves in fishing and less than one per cent keeps livestock. Majority grow cashewnuts as an income earner.

According to the office of the Regional Commissioner, a food analysis done early this year shows that Nanyumbu district faces food shortage to about 219 tons in the early months. Generally, the region needs a total of 374,000 tons to feed the above mentioned population. Many a time the region sufficiently produces its own food with surplus.

However, this year’s shortage in Nanyunbu and Masasi districts is attributed to delay of 2008/09 seasonal rains. As a result of these crops; like maize, rice and cassava have been adversely affected and in some areas they have dried altogether. Because of this, the region predicts food shortage beginning October this year.

Nevertheless, government through the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) gave the district of Nanyumbu 246 tons of maize grains to help curb the situation. “Of the mentioned amount, 148 tons were distributed free of charge to the public, that is unable to buy their own food and the rest were sold at 50/- per kilo to those who can afford,” says Mtwara Regional Commissioner, Mr Anatory Tarimo.

He adds that the authorities have urged the business community to buy food from areas with surplus and resell it in those with shortages. Likewise, the region identified the need for food grains to cater for those farms affected by drought. According to him, the Prime Minister’s office has disbursed about 2.6 bn/- to Nanyunbu district and as a result, 1.3 tons of Macia millet grains in addition to 42 tons of cassava stems have been procured.

Moreover, Masasi district council has procured and distributed 3.2 tons of millet grains and 450 pieces of cassava stems. Otherwise, the region has plans in place to revolutionize agriculture and priority areas identified include; market development for farm and livestock produce, food processing and packaging, use of technology particularly hand-driven tractors, pesticide spraying pumps, tractors and other farm implements.

According to the Regional Administrative Secretary (RAS), Mr Yusuf Athuman Matumbo, in order to attain this kind of revolution, his region has the following strategies worked out: Every family should have at least one and a half acres of food crops depending on the availability of rainfall and arable nature of the soil.

He says every farmer needs to use big hoes (they natively call them Ngwamba) and develop the urge to use modern farm implements such as power tillers and heavy duty tractors. “Villages should enact by-laws guiding modern farming and every village should make sure that youth get pieces of land for farming,” he points out adding that wards in each council need to have ‘study farms’.

He also says agricultural officers should make it a time table to visit farmers in his or her duty area. Moreover, in cashewnut, which is a major economic crop in the region, subsidies in terms of fertilizers have been scaled up from four bags in 2005 to six in 2008. In farming seasons beginning 2006 to 2008, cashewnuts farmers were supplied with 6.4 bn/- worth of insecticide and pesticide subsidies, that accrued from five per cent of revenues collected from the export of raw cashewnuts.

This year’s farming season, from five per cent of the exported cashew- nuts, the region is to get a total of 1.9 bn/-. According to authorities, for the 2009/10 already 10 companies that will procure and distribute farm inputs for cashewnuts have been identified. However, it is predicted that the availability of farm inputs in Masasi district will be a bit tricky due to the on-going management conflict of the farm input fund, that led to the refunding of the members contributions.

Production of cash crops in the region has been on the increase season after season. For example, cashewnut production has risen from 38,000 tons in 2004 to 62,000 tons last year. For the 2008/09 season, production reached above 50,000 tons amounting to 34bn/-. Cashewnut has surely proved to be a major income earner for people of Mtwara but recently, during his short visit of the region, Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda challenged them on this income.

He said this is big money but it should be seen in the development of region. “When one moves around this money should be visible from an individual perspective to the region as a whole,” says Mr Pinda. Contributing to the issue of food shortage, Mr Pinda says seriousness is needed on the production of food crops, particularly drought resistant ones such as cassava and millet.

He says irrigation farming need to be given priority as it ensures constant supply of farm produce all year round. Another area of possible promotion is fishing. Since 2006 to last year, about 262 tons of fish worth about 193m/- have been sold. There are plenty of potentials in the industry and plans should be put in place to support the industry.

24 August 2009

New address

New mailing address:
SLP 65
Mtwara, Tanzania

If you send stuff to the old address I'll still get it though.

14 July 2009

Deep South

My friend Mirinda made this cool video about the health volunteers in our district. Check it out.

Pictures, Finally!

Pictures from our girls' conference.

Everyone on the last day. Aren't we cute?

You can stand under my umbrella. Ella. Ella. Ella.

Condom relay races.

Lindsey and me doing a skit on how to negotiate condom use.

Condom demo!

Teaching yoga. Note that a) the confused look on the face of the volunteer next to me, and b) the fact that I have never done this before.

Me and my students.

At the talent show, we PCVs sang the ridiculous songs I wrote. And Mirinda did an awesome dance to go along with it.

Talent show by candlelight. Have we mentioned we love the electric company here in Masasi?

Volleyball. Most of the girls hadn't played before. Their way of playing is similar to mine: stand there and hope the ball doesn't come near you.

Not only are we health teachers and camp counselors, but we serve the food too.

Practicing self-defense.

The human knot. AKA an american game that didn't really translate well. But they tried.

A peace corps seminar isn't a seminar without tons of flipcharts.

26 June 2009

Processing one year in Tanzania

I came to the realization recently that I have been in Tanzania for more than a year. Therefore, I think it is appropriate to do some reflecting/processing on my first year here. I think the best way to process my year here, rather than some trite, cheasy, trying-to-be-more-insightful-than-I-actually-am blog entry, is to round up the year with some top ten lists. (Or top five lists, for stuff that I couldn't think of ten entries for).

Top 10 Favorite Swahili Words/Phrases
10) Mji wa mimba: literally "town of pregnancy." The word for uterus.
9) Haifai: It's not suitable. Said kind of like hi-fi
8) Habari za kupoteana? If someone hasn't seen you in awhile, they say this. What is the news of us losing one another?
7) Kitimoto: Pork. Literally "Chair-fire"
6) Kupiga stori: Shoot the shit.
5) Chapuchapu: Quickly! (Chop chop!)
4) Matako: Buttocks
3) Matiti: What do you think? Breasts of course.
2) Shaghalabaghala: Disorderly. Synonym for Peace Corps training.
1) Wowowo: Large butt. Said like it's written: woWOwo. Having one is a good thing here by the way.

Top 10 Books Read While in Tanzania
Honorable Mentions: You Shall Know our Velocity, Dave Eggers; Sophie's World, Jostein Garder; Lighthousekeeping, Jeanette Winterson; House of Spirits, Isabel Allende; Prodigal Summer, Barbara Kingsolver
10) Blink, Malcom Gladwell
9) The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell
8) Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Richard Pirsig
7) I Know This Much is True, Wally Lamb
6) Bel Canto, Ann Patchett
5) Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paolo Freire
4) The Impossible Will Take a Little While
3) The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini
2) Everything is Illuminated, Jonathan Safran Foer
1) The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver

Top 5 Forms of Transportation
5) Daladala: Let's fit 30 people in a car slightly bigger than a mini-van.
4) Riding on the back of someone's bike: A lot better than being the one who is riding the bike.
3) Cell phone company cars: Note to future PCVs- make friends with people that work for the cell phone companies. They usually have nice cars.
2) Tractor: Preferably if there is a big cart attached to the back and there are a ton of people and everyone is singing.
1) Bajaji: Small tuk-tuk like vehicle. Can hold 1-9 people.

Top 10 Pick-up Lines People Have Used on Me or My Friends
10) Unanitega: "You turn me on." Nice and straightforward.
9) Let's have sex: Also straightforward.
8) "Do you have a fiance?" "Yes." "In America or Tanzania." "America." You need a Tanzanian fiancee."
7) "I want you to take me to Europe." "I'm not from Europe." "Ok where are you from?"
6) "Raula...Raula...Raula..." "What?" "I love you." People here can't say my name.
5) You've gotten fat. Tanzanian compliment.
4) "I love you." "You don't know me." "So let's get to know one another."
3) If you marry me I'll give you 600 shillings (like 50 cents) and a palm tree.
2) I want to marry an mzungu (white person).
1) So...tutasex?

Top 10 Foods Made Using Tomatoes and Onions Because Those are the Only Vegetables Always Available in My Village
10) Regular beans
9) Tomato curry
8) Chili
7) "Spanish" rice
6) Tomato soup
5) Baylor's Bread
4) Kachumbali (basically onions, tomatoes, salt and lemon juice)
3) Salsa and Chips
2) Scrambled eggs (provided I can find eggs)
1) Spaghetti (provided I remembered to buy pasta when I went to town)

Top 10 Forms of Insect Removal
10) Not doing anything, just hiding from them in my mosquito net
9) Pretending they are not there
8) Using a lint roller to remove ants when there are a ton of them on the floor
7) When out of bug spray, spraying the bugs with bleach
6) When out of bug spray, spraying the room with PC-supplied insect repellent intended for use on your body
5) Spraying down the house with probably-carcinogenic bug spray
4) For larger bugs, attacking them with the broom while screaming like an idiot
3) Sweeping them outside
2) Sic-ing my cat on the bugs
1) Having one of my neighbors come and removing them

Top 10 Things People Have Brought To My House to Sell To Me
10) Sweet potatoes. For this and other items on the list, remember there is not a lot of food available in the village.
9) Spinach
8) Bananas
7) Charcoal
6) Candlesticks
5) Eggs
4) Barack Obama kanga
3) A live turtle
2) George Bush kanga
1) A monkey. "Where did you get him?" "The bush." "What is its name?" "John."

Top 10 Challenges
10) Few forms of entertainment/distraction. Especially when I run out of things to run and have to resort to reading the Peace Corps newsletter.
9) Food. Or lack thereof.
8) Critters in my house. I'm getting better though. I don't freak out at spiders anymore (as much)
7) The amount of time it takes to accomplish things; meetings starting late or not at all
6) Tanzanian men
5) Trying to reconcile community needs/wants with what I personally have the desire and ability to do
4) Not having a structured job
3) Loneliness. PC loneliness is a hard-core different kind of loneliness than I'm used to. My friends in the village are great but sometimes not very helpful if I'm having a bad day, and you can only accomplish so much from texting other PCVs.
2) Trying to change people's perception about my role: ie it is not my job to bring money into the village, nor do I have the resources to do so
1) Language.

Top 10 Favorite Projects/ Work-Related(?) Activities
10) Making flipcharts for the dispensary.
9) Scolding random people for being alcoholics
8) Sort of helping my mama friends cook at their "restaurant"

7) Trying to teach my two-year old friend English
6) Playing silly games at the primary school (hokey-pokey, duck duck goose and it's variations (vegetable vegetable fruit, mosquito mosquito malaria mosquito))
5) Informal teaching in which my friends come over and look at all my random books laying around
4) Teaching community peer education group about malaria and HIV
3) Teaching secondary school students. Usually ends up being about sex.
2) Girls' camp (see previous post)
1) Condom demos- anywhere and everywhere

13 June 2009

Masasi's Girls' Empowerment Conference

5 days and 4 nights. 4 Peace Corps Volunteers. 3 1/2 tanzanian counterparts. 33 secondary school students. 90 kilos of rice. 50 kilos of beans. 12,000 condoms. 6 wooden penises. 50 candles. No electricty. Best week ever(?). Most stressful week ever.

Pictures coming in a few weeks. I forgot my camera cord today.

(Why did we have 12,000 condoms, you ask? I told another PCV to go to the hospital and get a couple boxes of condoms. The small boxes that are given out at the hospital usually come in boxes of 100. She didn't know what boxes I was referring to, so she got two boxes that each had 60 of these small boxes, for a total of 6000 condoms per box.)

28 May 2009

Who doesn't love Celine Dion?

Lesson learned in Tanzania: You can write a song about anything to the tune of "My Heart Will Go On".

I have started writing stupid songs to use when I teach, so the students will pay attention. They probably just think I am ridiculous, but I am at least amusing myself. The following are the lyrics to my song about STDs:

Verse 1:
Klamidia na kisonono
Ni magonjwa ya ngono.
Dalili zao ni sawasawa.
Usaha au maumivu
Wakati wa kukojoa.
Hizi ni dalili,
Lakini wengi hawana dalili zozote.

Klamidia, kisonono, kaswende na kankroidi
Haya ni magonjwa ambayo hatutaki kupata.
Usifanye ngono, uwe mwaminifu,
Au tumia kondomu kila tendo la ngono
Ukipata ugonjwa nenda kwa daktari mapema
Na waambie wapenzi wako ili watibiwe pia

Verse 2:
Kaswende ni ugonjwa
Wa madhara mengi,
Kwa mfano kichaa au kifo.
Inaanza na kidonda
Ambacho hakiumi,
Halafu kidonda kinapona.

Verse 3:
Kankroidi ni ugonjwa
Wa vidonda pia
Lakini vidonda hivi
Vinaumia sana.

Rough English translation:
Chlamydia and gonorrhea
Are sexually transmitted diseases.
Their symptoms are the same.
Discharge or pains while urinating
These are symptoms
But many have no symptoms at all.

Chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphillis and chancroid.
These are diseases that we don't want to get.
Don't have sex, be faithful,
Or use a condom each time you have sex.
If you get an infection, go quickly to the doctor
And tell your partners so they can be treated too.

Syphillis is an infection
Of many consequences
Such as insanity or death.
It starts with a sore
That doesn't hurt.
Then the sore heals.

Chancroid is an infection
With sores also.
But these sores hurt a lot.

25 April 2009

More than you ever wanted to know about my life...

Want to find out what I ate for dinner last Thursday? Let me tell you...

At the end of the week I usually find myself wondering, "What the hell have I been doing with myself this week?" So I decided to keep a record of my daily activities for a week and so I could see what in fact I have been doing with myself. (The conclusion: LOTS of condom demonstrations and distributions. And not much else.) Also some of you in America are under the impression that you can't email me or write to me because you have nothing to tell me, since what I am doing is so much more exciting than what you are doing. After reading this you will see that is definitely not the case.

Thursday 4/16:

  • Taught about immune system at primary school; pretty sure students didn't understand me as usual.
  • Took bike to get fixed twice
  • Bugged fundi about when he is going to finish my furniture, and asked if he knew someone that can make me a wooden penis. Conversation was slightly less awkward than anticipated. Gave his assistant some condoms and did a condom demo.
  • Went to this "restaurant" where I am friends with the mamas, and helped kuna nazi, or grind coconut. Ate lunch.
  • Ran into the Village Executive Officer (VEO). He gave me some peanuts.
  • Talked to this Red Cross volunteer, because after being here 8 months I still can't figure out if they actually do anything here or not.
  • Came home, prepared teaching materials, made spaghetti for dinner, listened to radio, read, went to bed

Friday 4/17

  • Taught HIV basics at dispensary and helped weigh babies.
  • Came home and ate boiled peanuts for lunch
  • Went to the village, where an NGO from a nearby town had come at my request to do an HIV testing day. Kind of got into a fight with someone from the NGO because their org is apparently funded by the Catholic Church, which I didn't know, and they apparently don't really teach about condom use as a way to prevent HIV, and he was trying to accuse me of giving out condoms without explaining how to use them.
  • Showed up half an hour late for a meeting with a mama's group, which is usually on time in Tanzania, but almost everyone had left by the time I arrived. I explained for the 50th time that I cannot give them money to start their chicken-raising project, but if they each contribute money each month they will have enough money. Desperately tried to think of other things I could teach them, because they were just staring at me like I was useless, and tried to explain the concept of team-building exercises, which they didn't get at all.
  • Came home. Some guy brought 70 eggs to my house. Contemplated buying all of them then only bought 4.
  • My friend Omari came over. I tried to explain to him the concept of sarcasm after he was like, you know, there is this thing called HIV. I was like, no really? And he didn't understand that I was joking. Apparently there is actually a Swahili word for sarcasm: Kejeli.
  • Took a shower after it got dark, had my cat kill all the roaches in the choo before I showered. Went to bed.

Saturday 4/18

  • Went to Omari's farm with him, his mom, and his two neices. They gave me 3 pumpkins ad 6 ears of corn.
  • Me and Omari came back to my house and listened to my ipod for awhile.
  • I waited for my VEO to come to take me too this meeting we were supposed to go to. He never showed up so I went to the village to talk to him, talked to some other people in the village for awhile, got my bike fixed again, came home eventually. Ate some candy for dinner bc I didn't feel like cooking.
Sunday 4/19
  • Nothing much: laundry (why did I ever complain about doing laundry in the US?). Made pumpkin casserole. My boss from Dar who was doing meetings in my region came and dropped off some books for me.

Monday 4/20

  • Walked to a neighboring village to pick up surveys I had given to primary school teachers to see what they know about HIV. Took bus to next village. After going to the schools hung out with my mama friend at her "restaurant" for awhile. Waited for bus again, gave some condoms to student while I was waiting. Went to another village to pick up some books from another volutneer's house.
  • By the time I got back home it was almost dark. Fundi brought me my penis model. Read and went to bed.

Tuesday 4/21

  • Taught at secondary school; they decided to ask me every single random question they have ever had about sex. Explained what oral sex and the clitoris are.
  • Got into an argument with some of the teachers because they seem to think that if they attend a training I am planning about HIV/AIDS, then I need to pay them and/or give them ridiculous amounts of food and soda.
  • Did a "needs assessment" meeting in one of the sub-villages. I am trying to see if there are any big projects that the village wants done, and if so I will write a grant to help them get money. They decided either a well or a "modern" market would benefit the village.
  • Came home, baked pumpkin bread, read, bed

Wednesday 4/22

  • Taught at secondary school again.
  • Guest teachers at the school talked to me for a long time about American politics. Did you know what "Obama" stands for? "Originally Born in Africa Made for America." This is a direct quote. I told the guy that Obama wasn't actually born in Africa but he didn't believe me.
  • My friend Zeituni who I haven't seen in ages came over.
  • A bunch of students came and asked for drinking water. Then a bunch more came and asked for condoms.
  • Napped
  • Taught some life skills stuff at the primary school, which I swore I'd never teach, until I got dropped off alone at my village with nothing but my HIV/AIDS manual and Life Skills manual
  • Came home, watched the students play soccer. Omari and another teacher decided to come over and the other teacher decided to tell me I don't know how to teach and that I am generally ridiculous. I contemplated once again how I wish that all my neighbors were not complete assholes.

Thursday 4/23

  • Was about to leave to go teach at primary school in the morning, when my counterpart Esha came over. I felt bad that she had walked all the way to my house, so I went to the priamry school really late. Taught about hygeine.
  • Got condoms from dispensary. Ate lunch at Mama Rama's "restaurant". Came home and napped.
  • Fundi delivered my furniture that has taken like 3 months to build. I was sitting on my porch preparing some teaching materials and one of the teachers I don't like came and blathered on about marriage and other things I wasn't paying attention to. Hung out with Tino for awhile. Finished preparing teaching materials and went to bed.

Friday 4/24

  • Taught HIV/AIDS biology, disease progression, transmission and prevention at a secondary school in a neighboring village. These students actually listen to me unlike the students at my school.
  • Came home, made orange juice and roasted peanuts, cleaned my house, worked halfheartedly on grant for the teacher training I am planning.
  • Omari came over for a little then left. Then his younger brother Yassini came and we sat in silence for awhile. Then he started asking me random questions about HIV. Apparently he is never going to have sex or even kiss anyone because that is the most effective way to prevent HIV. He thinks it's possible to get HIV if you're making out with someone and accidentally bite them and make them bleed. I tried to explain that the chances of that are very small and I don't think that generally happens, and maybe you should be more gentle if you're making out with someone. He said people should just stop having sex and that would solve the problem of HIV. I tried to explain why I don't think abstinence-only education is very effective (ie we do that in the US and it doesn't work; people still get unwanted pregnancies and STDs because they don't have the information they need to protect themselves). He asked me if I was a virgin and I got really mad and wrote "NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS" on the ground and stopped talking to him. He continued to sit on my porch for half an hour. Some students came and got condoms. Yassini eventually left. I played with my cat for awhile then went to bed.

11 April 2009

Pic update

This is me and one of my best friends in the village, Tino (short for Valentino, which by the way is not a very common Tanzanian name). He is the son of one of the secondary school teachers and one of my teachers. I think Tino was slightly confused by what I was doing with the camera. Also in the background is one of the secondary school students, Mudi.

I rarely use my camera, otherwise I would post more pictures. Happy Easter everyone. I'm trying to bring the fantastic American concept of the Easter Egg Hunt to my village. The only problem is we don't really have eggs.

27 February 2009

ridiculous things

You know you're in Peace Corps Tanzania when:

-you rejoice at rain because it means you don't have to buy/chote water, and you scramble around your house trying to find every bucket, pot, cup, hat that will hold water
-you go on a trip and buy vegetables and spices to bring back home with you, because they don't have any in your village
-you enjoy looking around markets in different towns to see what food they have that isn't available where you live
-you beep someone in America and then wonder why they haven't called you back
-you have bought one or more of the following out of bus windows: phone voucher, shoes, produce, roasted corn, juice, a hat, cashews
-you get REALLY excited about cold soda
-you receive marriage proposals on an almost daily basis
-a two hour bus ride is considered close
-people tell you that you've gotten fat after a trip
-you and other volunteers buy a cake and eat it with your hands like ugali, because that's the logical thing to do when you don't have silverware
-you're ecstatic when a meeting starts an hour late, because that's much more on time than usual
-there is an occasion at least once a month where you have to sign a guestbook of some sort
-you've started saying random words during lulls in conversation, like "Obama" or "Marekani"
-you've started doing the above with other Americans and not just Tanzanians
-your conversations with other Americans revolve around food, sex, and bowel movements (but mainly food)
-a certain level of perpetual confusion has become normal
-you're slightly weirded out when you're not the only foreigner around
-you can convey a wide variety of responses and emotions through different forms of grunting
-you drink hot tea when it's 90 degrees outside (and people think it's strange if you don't drink it)
-you have integrated the following words/phrases into your vocabulary: processing, soda and bites, needs assessment
-You know what the following acronyms mean: PST, PCT, PCV, IST, MSC, COS, OVC, PLWHA, PCMO, PEPFAR, RPCV, HCN, HBC, VAST, SPA, PCPP, PACA, PDM, APCD, VSS

04 February 2009

What am I doing here?

Note: why is Microsoft 2007 so confusing? I am going to be computer illiterate when I get back to the US.

The following is an excerpt from a report I had to write for Peace Corps, about the needs in my community and potential projects. This is a list of my project ideas:


-Health clubs: There are currently no health clubs in the community or at the primary or secondary school (apart from the life skills education at Mkang’u primary).
-Nutrition education: I think that providing basic nutrition education about balanced meals and the importance of certain nutrients and vitamins could help improve the nutritional status of the community. Providing mothers with this education could be beneficial since women are usually the family members responsible for preparing meals. This education could be done on a community-level or at the dispensary when mothers bring in their children to be vaccinated
-Permaculture projects: Nutrition education would be useless without providing people with education about growing vegetables and growing food in a more efficient manner.
-Health question box/bulletin board: There are many myths surrounding sexual/reproductive health and HIV/AIDS, and these issues are not usually talked about openly. One way to address this would be to provide a box at the secondary school where students could anonymously put in questions they have about STIs, HIV/AIDS, condoms, etc, which could be answered on a weekly basis. In addition, a bulletin board (or several) placed in the center of the village could provide basic information and answer people’s questions.
-Education about alcohol abuse
-Education about water sanitation and basic hygiene (boiling water, washing hands with soap, etc)
-Start some sort of communal health resources library
-Initiate more latrine construction
-Starting a lunch program at the schools


-Training of Teachers (TOT): This could be done on a village or ward-wide level.
-Large events/testing days to encourage more people to be tested
-Education to reduce stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS
-Encourage condom use and perform condom demonstrations
-Look into possibility of making condoms available at bars, pombe clubs, and guesthouse
-Start peer education groups at schools
-Educating men about behavior change (since most of the PLWHAs in the village are women that got it from their husbands/boyfriends)
-Show HIV/AIDS-related videos at the video places in town
-Working with OVCs: I do not know if there are many OVCs in the village, but if there are, then possible projects with OVCs include income-generating projects, psychosocial support projects (ie memory book), and making sure their basic needs are provided for
-Working with PLWHAs: Income generation and permaculture to improve nutritional status and provide funds for transportation to hospital once a month


-Teaching about compost-making to improve crop yields
-Starting a seed bank so that people have enough seeds to plant, and a variety of crops to choose from
-Training people to build water-catchment tanks, particularly those that live far away from a water source
-Building fuel-efficient stoves, which will both cut down on the amount of trees used for firewood, and potentially encourage people to boil their water since they will not have to use so much fuel

Community Development/Other

-Literacy project: I have observed when helping out at the dispensary that many women are unable to read or write. I don’t know if this is a large-scale problem in the village or if these people want to learn how to read or write, but if they do, a literacy project could be beneficial.
-Income generation projects and vocational training for out-of-school youths

-Women/Girls’ Empowerment: Women and girls are grossly underrepresented in government and in secondary education, are often very shy and afraid to speak around men, and carry the brunt of the household work. While gender inequality is a very hard thing to change, the following projects could be done to help meliorate this gender imbalance:

-Starting girls’/women’s/mamas’ groups
-Income-generating projects for women
-Finding mentors for young girls
-Having professional women or women with businesses to speak to girls about possible careers
-Life skills education
-Educating men about behavior change
-International Women’s Day celebration
-District or regional girls’/women’s conference

Basically I have a lot of project ideas and not a whole lot of ideas about how to start these projects.

Y'all should check out my friend Meesh's blog, who I have linked on the right-hand side of this page. She already has some cool projects with OVCs (0rphans and vulnerable children) going at her site.

Also, I feel like I should say something about how happy I am that Obama was elected, specifically about the ridiculousness of watching his inauguration live on tv at my neighbor's house, in my village that does not have electricity, when I've never watched a presidential inauguration in my life.