Okay, so it’s been a while since I’ve updated this baby. My bad. But, quite frankly, while virtually every aspect of my life is really different from what it was in the States, sometimes it’s still… well, down-right uneventful (read: boring). How is that possible, you may be wondering? Let me take you on a tour that is my life in TZ.
6:30-7:00 wake up, do the usual morning stuff
8:00 (some days) Go to the primary school by my house, where I usually hang out in the teachers’ lounge listening, talking, looking at school books or tagging along with teachers to their classes
10:15-10:45 chai (tea) break
10:45-12:30 back to school (…maybe)
12:30-2:30-ish lunch break
2:30-ish-4:30 back to school (…maybe)
Around 4:30 or 5, I usually light my charcoal jiko (stove) and wait for it to get hot enough to start cooking. Around 6:45, I start cleaning up from dinner and start mouse-proofing my house around 7:30. Yep, I’ve traded bats for mice. Well, mouse, anyway. I never expected to say this, but I would almost rather have the bats. Yeah, they’re both gross, but at least the bats never chewed up my stuff. Anyway, it starts to get dark here around 7:15, so I’ve usually got everything shut up and am tucked into the safety of my mosquito net (mostly to keep the spiders off me, as it’s pretty cold and windy here, cutting down on the mosquitoes) by 7:30 or 7:45. Turns out, candles are expensive and there’s really not much reason in me wasting them to just sit by myself. Especially when I can lay on my bed and watch a show on my ipod or read by the light of the handy flashlight on my solar charger’s battery pack. Then I usually go to sleep around 9 or 9:30. I think this Peace Corps stint may allow me to catch up on all those years of getting four or five hours of sleep a night…
If I don’t go to the school, I usually hang around my house and may clean, do laundry (my favorite thing ever, doing laundry by hand—go kiss your washing machine, right now!!), study Swahili, or read. During the day, I may go into the main part of my vil and see if anything is going on at our clinic (never is), talk to the clinic manager and nurses to figure out how we can actually get it up and running, go talk to people in the dukas (little shops), or just walk around. Once or twice a week, I walk to the main village (about a half hour’s walk) or I visit my site-mate’s vil (about 45 minutes away). And about every two weeks, I head into Njombe Town to meet up with other Volunteers and decompress a bit.
Lately I’ve been doing interviews of people in my vil for my VSA (Village…. Survey Analysis? I can never remember. I think I need to laminate a list of PC acronyms… there are too many for my brain to hold), which is basically a survey that I have to turn into a report (in Kiswahili) and will use to figure out exactly what I’ll be doing here for the next two-ish years. So far, I’ve interviewed 22 families, a group of the village leaders, a few committees and the people working at the clinic—with the help of my ah-MAZING neighbor. So trying to put all of that into a report in another language is keeping me somewhat busy for the time being. Well, it’s keeping my floors swept, dishes clean, clothes washed/folded/nicely organized and has added about seven new playlists to my ipod. It’s way harder to procrastinate without constant access to facebook and TV.
So. Even though I speak a different language most of the time (er, try to), cook using a little charcoal stove, try to make up new meals using the same seven ingredients, use a squat toilet, take a legit bath (bucket or otherwise) about once a week (did I mention it’s really cold here? Also, thank goodness for dry shampoo and perfume), go to bed crazy early and wake up crazy late (for me) and live in this new, amazing place…. sometimes you just can’t escape slipping into dull-routine-mode. And down-time can be a killer; it’s pretty exhausting trying to find ways to fill the day sometimes.
In about a week and a half, I’ll be heading to IST in Morogoro—which will mark three months at site (What, already? How??), and will be a crazy-awesome reunion with the other 40 people in my group (all still standing from Philly! Go team!! And yes, I just knocked on wood….), which I am beyond ridiculously excited for! Oh, yeah and it sounds like there may be some other training-related stuff going on. But mostly it’s a reunion :-D So there will probably be some great material for future posts in the next month. Promise.
But now to answer some of the questions I’ve gotten lately:
–How safe do you feel there? Very. Seriously. My neighbors are phenomenal. As are the village leaders and really most of the people I’ve gotten to know. The only danger I’ve been in so far has been self-imposed and mostly due to my awesome walking skills and issues with gravity.
–Have you started working yet? I like to answer this one by saying: the minute I stepped off the plane. First, learning language and customs in Tanga, and now by getting to know and becoming a part of my village. But, I guess in the technical sense, not really. I will be working with my vil trying to get the clinic open and functioning, maybe teaching at the primary school and working on the list that people have given me of what they would like to accomplish while I’m here. But so far, all I’ve done is help a *teeny* bit with a girls’ conference that the other Volunteers in my region organized (well, I mostly observed, really.
–What do you eat? Uh. Well, mostly rice or spaghetti with veggies and curry sauce. I don’t really like to cook meat here, because you have to either kill it or buy it and carry it home wrapped in newspaper. Also, no fridge, so I have no idea how to keep any leftovers there may be. Just scares me and I’d rather not deal with it, so mostly I just eat meat if I’m served it while visiting someone or when I’m in town. Otherwise, I make beans of some sort or eggs, when they’re around. Funny thing, you can’t walk without tripping over a damn chicken, but when you start looking for eggs, it’s like they’ve all disappeared. I’ve also just experimented making chapatti (kinda like tortillas) and love making guac when there are avocadoes around, so there may be a taco night in the near future. I’m going to give baking my own bread a go next week, too. There’s also this stuff called ugali that people here eat. It’s made with corn flour and the closest thing I can think to compare it to is grits or cream of wheat…but with the consistency of play-dough. And no taste to speak of. I’m not a huge fan of it, but was given enough flour to make ugali for a year or so, so we’ll see. Potato harvesting just started a bit ago, so I’ve eaten nothing but potatoes for the last three days or so—one of the key factors for me being in town for the weekend….. Also, peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches are always a nice fall-back.
–How do you get around? Does Peace Corps drive you? Oops, sorry, just fell off my chair, laughing. Ha. That would be nice. Nope, public transportation, all the way. That usually means a coasta (maybe about the size of an airport shuttle bus) that should fit about 30 people maybe, but usually has upwards of 50 on-board, along with all of their stuff and usually a few chickens. On days that I’m lucky, I get a seat. Okay, no, I usually get a seat, but no leg room and I’m always holding at least one bag/child/chicken in my lap. If I’m not sitting in one of the front seats, I like to keep as many bags on my lap as I can, to decrease the odds of being handed something else. Kids I don’t mind holding, I guess (especially the older ones that are less likely to pee on you—they don’t use diapers here, just wrap the kid in a ton of blankets), but I’m not a fan of the chickens. They’re kinda creepy. And smelly.
Okay, well, that’s all I’ve got for now. Hope that made up for the lack of news for a month or so!
If there’s anything else you’re dying to know, shoot me an email.
Hope you’re all well and I miss you like mad!!