Tuesday, March 1, 2011

So, these are backwards from the order that I took them. So I recommend starting from the bottom and scrolling up! Just going to do some captions for now. Ran the Kilimanjaro Marathon on Sunday! It was so great! Clouds were rolling in and out so it wasn't too hot, but we were still able to see the mountain the majority of the time. It was a tough one because it was all on asphalt and I have been training on dirt the entire time. At mile nine, my feet and knees were already saying, "Alright, that's enough already!" We had a good group of people up for the event so it was fun to see everyone again. Four of us did the full, about eight or so did the half, and everyone else ran the fun run (5K). We had a great time, rested up a bit, and then went out dancing that night! Moshi is great! I feel like I'm getting a little taste of America! Literally-great food (had a delicious iced latte with freshly ground coffee!!!!) , went to a movie theatre, skyped with my family, hot showers, and there were lots of white people here for the event. The winner (a Kenyan suprisingly!!!) finished in 2 hours and 20 minutes. That is ridiculous! So my villagers will be quite disappointed in my since there were sure I was going to take first place. And if not first, at least second or third! You will bring home a medal! I suppose I could just go with it, since they gave all the finishers a medal!!!! Enjoy the pics!!! Headed back to stay in the village for a whole month. It has yet to be done. That may seem crazy, but I even consider trips to Mpwapwa to get produce or PB leaving my village and I am going for the full month. We'll see how it goes. There is just always something going on though. Won't be able to have any communication so...until then!
After the waterfall, we decided to try the local brew. It is made from a grain (didn't catch the name, but in my village they make it out of corn or millet) It was nasty. The gourds were cool enough to make us want to drink it, but we had a tough time choking it down. And they gave us two huge gourds. There was a group of men sitting there enjoying theres while we laughed and laughed at each other trying to get it down!
This is my friend Duncan standing under. We eventually all swam over and sat under there and had another guy take a picture, but unfortunately I don't have those pictures yet.
Waterfall in Moshi. Day after the marathon, felt so good and refreshing!
Another village picture just to demonstrate the difference. It's nuts. My village is beautiful right now!
This is the flower on one of the trees, now that we have some water and some color in the village. I put some in my hair one day and immediately got, "umependeza sana" (you look very nice)

Our first attempt at making wine. Pineapple/Mango. It turned out a bit more strong than we had intended. And neither of us really drink, so 10 L could take a bit to get down!!!

Katie made juice from passionfruit to have with our pancakes! We eat a bit better when we're we in town too!
This is us, at Claires house, trying to watch a movie on her computer. The mosquitos were so bad that we sat underneath the mosquito net while we watched. We have some good movie nights-almost always chick flicks! Not sure why we torture ourselves that way!
This is the view overlooking Mpwapwa. It's a good little climb straight up a small hill to get there. This is me, Claire, and Katie P. Claire is from Scotland, in her second year with VSO, working as a volunteer teaching at the teacher's college in Mpwapwa! She's great! We love her! We stay at here house when we go into town-running water and electricity! Katie is another environment PCV who lives in the opposite direction from me, out of Mpwapwa. I feel so lucky to have her!

These are the students of the Biology club, doing a dance performance to some local music. They were great! I was pretty proud! Our first performance of the year!
The 2 students in the middle are playing the traditional drums and then others came and danced in circles around them. You can see those on the left-it wouldn't really be appropriate at home, to do this in front of your teachers, but here, that's the traditional dancing and it's totally normal. Entertaining.

Oh, and some acrobats!!!
These are the majority of the students at the secondary school, sitting in the shade under the tree to watch the "welcome Form 1 celebration" There was singing, dancing, music, skits. It was pretty fun.

This is my water catchment system. It's working pretty nicely and there is currently a lot of water in there!!
My papaya tree. I've got lots of little buds! I actually like the papaya here so I'm pretty excited!
This is my newly improved choo (toilet). So you turn with your butt facing that back wall, step on the little ledge, and pop a squat!! I am actually completely used to and maybe starting to prefer the position! I know, crazy!
Short tour of my house again-new additions! This is the shelf in my kitchen. Other than this I just have my little kerosene stove and my charcoal stove and my water buckets on the floor. Just sit on a small little stool to cook.
I can make some good bread here-in a pot! Pretty cool! Whole wheat even!
This is me with my neighbor, Foibe, on the right, and her friend.
This is a picture in my village now. Totally different from the first pictures I sent. The new profile picture is the same view of my house-but green! You can see, this is a perfect example of a canal running through the village. When it rains, water flows through like a river. An hour later-nothin'
This is Ally washing his clothes while it was pouring rain. You can see the water puddling up pretty bad on the ground.
So beautiful! Amazing runs! (though quite difficult because the road had some extreme ups and downs)
This is Mbeya. I went and stayed with a friend in her village. I felt like I was in the countryside in Italy somewhere.
Pretty proud of this one!
View of Iringa from atop a really big rock. We went up at sunset and had a bottle of wine, some crackers and cheese. It was a little piece of paradise.
These mamas are sorting their greens and putting them out for sale. Before cooking them here, they take the stem and pull off the fiber. I don't really understand it at all. When I am alone, I just cut the stems off. Shhh.
This is the outside of the market. You can see the mangoes. Under each umbrella they are selling something different.
Street in Iringa. It is a beautiful town, much of which is built in the hills. Made for some beautiful runs!
This is just all sorts of spices. Garlic hanging from the bottom of the table.
This is inside the market, the produce section. It was a huge one, in Iringa, so there was so much food!!! Man I wish I had a market like this closer to me.
This is at the market. Selling brooms, charcoal stoves, baskets, utensils, etc. And lots of it!
Is this not precious?! They are having their afternoon uji! I even got to feed a couple of the younger ones.
Me and Sefe at the orphanage in Katie's village. I wish we had an orphanage near me. There were around 15 babies/toddlers. It was very overwhelming and sad, but they are living in a much better environment.
Yeah, so like I said before, fireplace in the home is not normal. Katie has a really great house. It was actually cold in Iringa, which was hard to believe, but it was so nice to cozy up to the fire.
Christmas Eve table setting-well floor setting! But it was wonderful! We sat on cushions, had candles, and delicious food!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

update-didn't take 2 months!

Happy New Year! I can’t believe it’s already January! I got here in stinkin’ June! Time is flying by, which absolutely scares me that 2 years will be over and I will have done nothing successful. YIKES! I hope though that everyone is doing well and I wish you 2011 full of good health, excitement, and loads of love!
So after being gone for the Peace corps seminar and then for the holidays I am back in the village (well not right now obviously, because I’m on the computer!!). I just came into town yesterday because I have a bunch of work-related stuff to do. I think maybe I already said that my environment really changed, just after being gone for the two weeks for the seminar, from two days of rain. It is just so green, it doesn’t feel like the same place. Actually when I walk around my village now, I sometimes get confused about where I am because things just look soooo different! The other day I walked with a friend to go visit his grandmother and the whole time I kept asking him, ‘’where are we going?’’ Then all of a sudden we were coming up behind the school, a place I am every day! There are so many baobob trees in my village, but they are usually bare and so besides the trunk you can see right through. But now they are covered in big green leaves and the ground is also covered in big, green, leafy bushes.
Life in the village is very different since I have returned home too. Once the rains really began people started working really hard on their farms (just going to tell you that in Swahili farm is shamba because even when I’m speaking English here I say shamba so I may accidentally slip that in instead of farm! There are several words like that which most volunteers just don’t translate when we’re talking to each other because they are words we use so frequently, like water-maji). The majority of people are going to their farms every day except for Sunday. Some leave their houses as early as five am and don’t return until six pm. There is work to do with hand hoes and then lots of people use donkeys or oxen to pull a plow and till up their land. I have been trying to go with people when I can and help them out. Many people planted their crops while I was gone and so they are going now to weed and maintain with the hoe, acres and acres of land. They think that in America everybody does farm work with machines so they don’t believe me that I can use a hand hoe until they actually see me do it. The first day I went and did work, every person that walked by laughed and asked the family that I was with how I was doing. And the family I was working with kept telling me to stop and rest or I would get too tired! Oh there are so many misconceptions about me! It’s fun to show them though, that I am capable! One person told me that he could never marry an American because after at least three years of working like a Tanzanian on the farm they would surely just die. Oh goodness! Also though school just opened last Monday, the 10th, and so I am there for a couple of hours each day. I won’t be teaching every day once things really get rolling, but right now we only have four teachers including me, for 350 students and nine subjects so I’m trying to help out where I can. During the day though, when I’m not at school the village is just so empty of people. I walk out my door and don’t see a single person and even when I walk into the village ‘’town’’ there are so few people. It’s sort of eerie and I really don’t like it. I was just with friends for basically a month and so the change just feels really drastic. I was expecting to feel a bit lonesome after being with friends for a while and then going back to being alone in my village but I didn’t realize that it would be so extreme. One of the goals I made prior to returning was to try and be more social, go and visit more homes, let people feed me more  and just try to meet more people, so when I can I am spending more time with others which I am really enjoying. Its amazing how giving and unselfish people are here. Anytime people are eating and a person walks by they welcome them to join for food. I just think that its so interesting because people are really struggling to have enough food for their families alone but even so they are so willing to share. And they love when I eat with them because its still so crazy to them that I eat ugali, with my hands nonetheless, the greens that they eat, uji, chapati, etc. I am actually really starting to like the food of Tanzania though, even though it is a very basic and limited diet. They eat the same few things over and over, with nothing really to flavour things other than salt. Sometimes I am concerned about nutrition-and maybe that’s why this training for the kiliminjaro marathon is sometimes quite the struggle!! I am absolutely going to get a kick out of connor eating ugali with his hands when he comes to visit, as picky as he is at home anyway!!! But it’s part of the cultural experience (right connor?!) there is actually a new green, leafy vegetable that is growing on their shambas right now and so I had it for the first time last week. They first boiled it down with water, like they do with all their greens (nutrition lesson for the future perhaps) then fried some onions in a bit of oil, added the greens, and then added some ground up peanuts. It was delicious! I ate so much ugali that day because I kept wanting to eat the greens!!!
Anyway, things are coming along slowly. I have so many project ideas but I’m not really sure which ones to try or really, which ones will benefit the village or excite the village the most. Its really hard getting things going too. I’m just starting slowly at the school, teaching English, hopefully life skills, then working with the biology club students and maintaining the tree nurseries. I have started a garden behind my house-preparing it at least, and I hope to plant this week, which is really exciting!! As far as other projects go, I am just trying to do some research and gauge interest for now, while people are busy with their own work anyway. Also the village as a whole has lots of projects that they are trying to develop. It’s difficult to try and explain the way the culture works here in terms of trying to get things accomplished. In short I suppose I could say that things just take a lot of time.
Well, I think for now I will close.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and are enjoying the winter weather!! I am so jealous of those of you getting a winter with tons of snow! Where was that when I was home last year?! In my region it is still very hot, but the rains have begun!!! Woohooo!! I'm still learning what "rainy season" means in Berege because since the first rain, which was at the end of November, I think it has only rained three or four times. I have been out of my village for most of December for PC training and then holiday travel, so I can't say for sure, but I imagined it to mean something very different. Because the season is so short and they rely so much on the rainwater for their farming and therefore sustaining their lives, I pictured rain at least three or four days a week. The first day it rained it was very short, but it poured. I was so excited! I looked out my window and saw a bunch of school kids running down the road toward their homes and then shortly after there was no one to be found. You gotta find cover! They thought I was crazy for walking around in it. I went home for a few days after training and I thought I had taken the wrong bus. I need to take a picture to show you, but the environment has changed drastically and this was after only two rains. I could not believe it. Everything is so green! Trees that I didn't even know bloomed, bushes that I didn't even know existed now have so many leaves. It was a beautiful welcoming home! The air has a bit more moisture, which just adds to the moisture content in my clothes I'm wearing everyday because I'm in a constant sweat! Oh, and the first day it rained I counted 25 frogs come out of a small hole just outside my back door. They were all over my courtyard!!
So we had a two week PC training in Morogoro beginning December 3rd. Morogoro is only about three hours east of me, but it's like a whole nother world there. It is lush with vegetation-tons of fruit trees, bamboo, there are huge, gorgeous mountains. Actually our training site was right at the base of one of the mountains so not only was the view incredible, but we did a little bit of climbing too. I frantically wrapped things up in the village before taking off for a good chunk of time. The bilogy club students finished planting all of their tree seeds and then last minute (because I had finally just received the rest of the seeds) some students at the primary school and I planted a small nursery for them. I felt like things were very organized and planned out before I left (i.e. watering schedule, weeding, etc.) but apparently not as good as it needed to be. When I returned from In-Service-Training (IST) the seedlings were very dry and not doing very well. I did some communicating with my group leaders before leaving again so we'll see how things are going when I return in a few days.
Training went pretty well. Not really what I was expecting in terms of hands-on, praparation for really getting projects started though. Often I feel very underqualified to be an environment volunteer. So many things that the villagers want I know nothing about, which is stressful. The thing is though, and I just have to keep reminding myself, is that it's okay. I don't need to be an expert in everything to be a good volunteer. It's absolutely okay, and actually better for sustainability, if I take the role of facilitator in many cases, to connect the villagers with the appropriate people and resources in our area, so that they are able to do these things on their own. When I leave, they should know how to continue doing these things without me. Obviously this does not include everything, but for many projects there are local people with the appropriate knowledge and skills.
It was really great to see all of the other volunteers from my group and spend time all together again. At first it was a bit overwhelming to be with so many people after being alone in the village and only seeing others occasionally for the last three months. But the longer we were together I just felt more and more like I didn't want to leave them, and I am still hanging on to a last few. I have begun to realize how important my peace corps friends and family are as the greatest support system during service because it is not easy and they are going through a similar roller coaster of a two year period that is very difficult for others to really be able to understand. To be honest I am feeling quite anxious about going home to my village. I have been surrounded by fabulous people for a good three weeks and it's tough to pull away. It will be great though!!!

I was actually sick, so thanksgiving kinda stunk. We had a small group of get together at one volunteer's house in Mpwapwa and cook a beautiful dinner, though it was not an American Thanksgiving dinner (!) and I couldn't eat it. I was so bummed. But this was the first time I had been sick and it wasn't even that bad, so |I can't complain. I think it was jsut food poisoning. There was even a butchering of a duck, that I missed. Actually, I'm super glad I missed it!!
My birthday/Christmas!!!
So much more than I could have asked for or imagined. It was a long trip to get there, but we went to Iringa region, which is absolutely beautiful! I think it is my favorite place in Tz so far. Well,it's a toss up between here and Tanga. Small, but gorgeous mountains surrounding the city and the actual city is actually built on the hillsides. It's super cute, there are nice houses, tons of trees, lots of fruit, good shopping, and it gets cold at night!!!! I really like it here! Anyway, after spending one night in town, we went out to a friend's village for a few days. There were seven of us total and we made a very cozy and homey-feeling Christmas. Me and one other friend arrived last to find a house that was decorated like Christmas! There were paper stockings on the wall with each of our names written on one. This is totally not normal for PC housing, but Katie (the PCV whose house we were at) has a fire place! What?! I know, it was awesome!! So she had a mini christmas tree on top and mugs with our names decorated on them. One girl had decorated christmas posters and hung them on the wall. And there were some other miscellaneous decorations all over the house. It was such a fun surprise! We cooked lots of yummy food, played games, watched a movie on a computer, drank homemade bucket wine. I know it doesn't sound like village life does it? It was pretty special. They baked me a cake and had cards and a few little gifts for my birthday. They even managed to find HAPPY BIRTHDAY candles! They made it a very special day for me! That night we had a big slumber party in Katie's bedroom-a couple in the bed and then rest of us on cushions on the floor. Woke up late christmas morning, had hot cocoa and coffee and then each opened a secret santa gift. During the afternoon, we went to the orphanage that is in Katie's village and spend time giving some loves to the children. This was my first time experiencing anything like this and so it was quite emotionally exhausting, but what could be better on christmas day than spending time with these unfortunate children, showing them a little bit of love and affection. It was quite amazing! I am pretty envious of Katie that she has such an organization so close by. The orphanage is run by some Italians and they have created a beautiful home for these children.
Well, I have to go for now. sorry that I can't write very often. I feel like it means you miss out on fun little stories or details because it's really hard for me to think of everything when I finally get a chance to sit down and write. Why PC told me not to bring a computer, I have no idea. I wouldn't be able to use it in my village anyway, but there are so many other opporunities-work related too.
I love and miss you all and wish you a Happy New Year!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Happy Holidays!

I can't believe I am saying this already, but Happy Thanksgiving next week to you all! and Happy beginning to the holiday season! It is going to be strange not being home, for sure, but I am in a wonderful place! Still not sure what my plans are as of now, but I'm sure I will be with great people and I will enjoy the days none the less! Miss you all bunches!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

More pictures from my new site in Mpwapwa region!

This is Ally, for those of you who know the story. Sorry for those of you who do not. Not the greatest picture, so you can't see that in fact he is adorable! He has been a blessing.

Picture of the sky shortly after sunset. The picture was not totally in focus but I thought it turned out pretty beautiful!

Just took over as coordinator of an after school club with the secondary school students-a mix of form 1 through form 4. Our first project is a tree nursery and we are also going to try planting some greens to sell. They don't get their picture taken very often, and I told them I was going to show friends and family so they were all about the posing!!!

This is in my classroom at school. I had one of my students take the picture so you can see my barely in the very back. It was difficult to get all of them in the picture, but if all were there I would have about 60. They are about 15 and 16 years old and they are really growing on me, though we are still having difficulty communicating. It's really hard for them to understand me because my pronunciation is soooooooo different!

This is a picture from my secondary school. The left side is the offices and the right side are classrooms. This is where I teach! It's actually pretty nice for school grounds because it is new. It opened in 2005.

Yes, I have found these in my house! And you can't even tell how big it is from the picture! big! And not easy to kill!

The left door is my kitchen. the middle my bathing room (for me and my bucket of cold water!). the right side, my toilet room. To the far left I have a rack set up to dry my dishes after drying them, sometimes with dirt to scrape of the grime! Try it! It works like you wouldn't believe!

This is my courtyard outside my house. You can see my house on the left, the 3 rooms on the side. The square cement thing in the center is a water catchment tank so that when the rains come I will be able to catch some of the water. And that is a papaya tree, with papaya growing! I have yet to have a ripe one though. Soon!

This is my house!!! I was walking home on the trail from the "bomba" -the water tap. These are the trees that are all over our village-Baobab trees.
The fruit pulp/or acid pith is used to make a juice. The leaves can be eaten like spinach or dried up and used in sauces or as a medicinal compound. the bark can be used for fiber for nets, rope, clothing. the fruit in high in vitamin c, iron, calcium, and has dietary fiber. Pretty neat! And they're huge! People have dug inside and used them as a place to sleep.

They make bricks out of the soil and create these kilns, burn lots of wood inside to burn the bricks and then use the bricks to build houses, bathrooms, kitchens, etc.

Cows and goats trying to get some relief from the heat in the shade!

Just a big tree and a house in the village. All of the hay in front of the house was eventually put on top as roofing. Not sure how well that's going to work when the rains come.

Our water tank. The water is pumped, with a generator, to four different water taps throughout the village.

A view of the village and all the baobab trees-in Kiswahili they are called mibuyu

This is the center room inside my house. To the left is a bedroom and to the right is my bedroom. It looks a little different now because I've done a bit of rearranging.

This is my room! I have a mosquito net that I sleep under every night. There are no mosquitos right now, but I feel better being under there because there are lots of critters in my house! The baskets on the left are hanging from the rafters and they are holding my clothes, in place of a dresser! Works great!
Things are still going well. I can't believe it's already November! Won't be on before the beginning of the holiday season, so Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Miss you all and hope you are well!
I'm sending my love!