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


  1. Can't say that I've kept up with ALL of your doings from the past year, but I just thought I'd let you know that I got a couple of excellent laughs out of this post.

    It'll be awhile I know, but lets kupiga stori on your return

  2. Habari?Nice to meet you.
    Jina langu ni Noriko Miura.
    Ninatoka Japani.Mimi nitafanya kazi Masasi, Tanzania as a volunteer[JOCV, have u ever heard?] like you PCV from maybe this December or next January.

    I just found your blog and since read this, naweza kuona the situation of Masasi, kujiunza sana kama Tanzania.
    Tutas○x,, haha funny:p
    Hope to meet you in Masasi!!