Blog is closed, no more updates from me.
Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. I had a good one. Kathryn and Andrew came up from Mwanza via the fast ferry and we all spent a few days together. It was alot of fun. We cooked lots of food and exchanged gifts. Jodi and I are in town today doing some shopping. I think we are going to get together and do something for New Years. I should have pics posted later today. Not much else new going on. Happy New Years.
Well I'm now an Official Peace Corps Volunteer. So much has happened since my last post. I've been very lazy on updating the blog hopefully I'll update more often. We were sworn in as Volunteers at Forest Hills Secondary School by the U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania Michael Retzer sp?? on November 29th. After that I along with the other Lake Victoria Region Volunteers stayed in Dar es Salaam and went to Zanzibar for a few days. Zanzibar was amazing. The sand is so white and the water is beautiful. I went snorkeling for the first time. I loved it. I saw many varieties of tropical fish, coral, starfish, seaslugs, etc... The seafood was also very good. We left Dar es Salaam on December 8th and arrived here in Bukoba on December 11th. The ride was long and bumpy mostly on dirt roads. Once we arrived in Mwanza we took a Fastboat for 4 hours to Bukoba. Bukoba is a beautiful town. I can view the lake from my front yard. The temperatures are very pleasant here. Not alot of rain so far although I'm told it should be raining everyday. I will start teaching after Christmas and I'm pretty nervous about it. Hello to everyone. I miss you. I know I keep saying I will post pictures soon. Well I'm going to say it again. I will post pictures soon.
On any given day, a person living on the outskirts of Morogoro, Tanzania might decide to go into town. Transportation options include: walking on a road alongside the finest drivers that the third world has to offer; bicycling on that road; waiting for a taxi or; jumping on a mjini-bound mini-bus known in Swahili as a “daladala.” Walking and biking can be grouped into a category called “bad ideas.” Taking a taxi is expensive and would not make one look as though he was trying to integrate into the community. At the crossroads of safety, economy and caste stands the daladala. For a mere 150-200 shillings ($0.15-$0.20) one can make the journey alongside one’s neighbors.
For my money, the 1500-2000 shillings required for a taxi are far-better spent on ten trips in the most “culturally intimate” setting imaginable. To go into town, I need only walk out to the main road and wait. Before long, a 15-passenger Nissan van with a red stripe across its front comes rolling along. There is usually a teenager hanging out the window of the van’s sliding door whistling at potential customers. As it pulls to the side of the road, the daladala honks it’s horn relentlessly so as to warn pedestrians and bicyclists of their impending death. The daladala screeches to a stop, shuts off to conserve fuel and its door is opened by the teenage hustler.
The daladala steward jumps out and begins calculating the impossible. If I have 15 seats and 20 passengers already, how can I fit another 7 people in here. Easy… I’ll let them figure it out. Hopefully I can close the door. In rare cases, the daladala steward shifts (kicks) smaller passengers out of the front seats and ushers in the new passengers. (Those who were displaced take their new standing positions once the newcomers are onboard.) New passengers get up on the sidestep of the daladala and find whatever free space, in whatever configuration they can.
Having taken about 30 of these trips so far, I have seen only one instance of what Americans would call “room” on the daladala. The other 29 consisted of more discomfort, stench and sheer awkwardness than I ever thought myself capable of getting comfortable with. One remarkable trip consisted of me, my American friend and a whopping 30 other people (driver and two children included, not that this fact diminishes the reality of the experience). All along, the daladala hustler was actively seeking additional riders from his perch, leaning out the door with one hand on the roof and only his toes in contact with the sidestep. In front of him, also on the sidestep, stood three grown men… luckily, I’d managed to get a seat that time. I am rarely so fortunate.
Earlier, I mentioned that a daladala ride can be as cheap as 150 shillings… this is the price for any trip that does not go to or from the center of town. For a 50 shilling savings, I can walk just outside of town (for the return trip home) and get on a completely full daladala that is ready to go. It is easier to do this than to go to the daladala stand, find the right one and then wait for it to be full enough to generate a profit. Leaving from just outside of town requires that I stand up inside (and twice so far, outside) the daladala for the 5 kilometer ride. Going over two “aggressive” speedbumps and picking up additional passengers along the way are unavoidable and the trip usually takes about 15 minutes.
Even though they make more than most teachers here, daladala drivers are not above the role of “fundi”(repair person) when their rides break down. After all, it is difficult to keep a vehicle running when it wants nothing more than to die on the side of the road. For this reason, patrons can determine whether or not it is worth it to stay on the daladala when the driver gets his tools (3-5 various-sized wrenches) out from under the seat and sets to work. It is a calculation of how far a walk it is to town and what method the driver-turned-fundi is employing to fix the problem. My time limited is 2 km and a repetitious banging sound on the vehicle’s inner workings. After that I revert to the first transportation method, hoping to grab the next daladala that drives by.
So an update spanning last Wednesday to Today. Last Wednesday I woke up at 3 a.m. and both of my eyes were swollen shut. I woke up again 3 hours later and they were fine. All day Wednesday and Thursday I had cold chills, body aches, intestinal problems, and stomach cramps. The PC Medical Officer thought I had malaria so she had a driver take me to the local hospital here in Morogoro. Luckily I did not have malaria and I am now fully recovered. The doctors think it was just a virus. Friday night I ate pizza at Dragonairres and watched Star Wars 3 on the projection screen. On Saturday sadly we found out that one of our friends was being sent back to America. Yesterday I washed clothes and cooked ugali, chicken, and spinach. We were supposed to spend one more week here teaching but apparently we will have no students all week because of testing so we will just spend it concentrating on Kiswahili language classes I assume. The presidential elections that were supposed to take place yesterday have been postponed until December 18th because one of the Vice Presidential candidates died last week. Nothing more to write now. I miss you all.
So I don't have much time nor much to write about before I have to be back in class. Sunday I went to the first communion of two different girls. It was alot of fun. It was basically just a big outside dinner with lots of music. I also learned how to cook chipati and kuku on Sunday. Last night I learned how to cook ugali. Teaching is going ok. I'm still not very comfortable in front of the class. We have our pre-test for Swahili comprehension this weekend. It's similar to the final test at the end so that we can see how we are doing so far. I'm worried that I'm not going to do very well on it. There is just so much to know. Well I hope everyone is doing great. More to come later.
These first 3 weeks have been so busy that they all seem to be a blur. I'll try to update you all on what all has happened. It's been very hectic at times, very little free time, and lots of studying and preparation for teaching. I teach my first class tomorrow, I think, I want get into why it's "I think" on here. The mountain that my school is located in has been burning off and on now for a week. The people here burn it every year for various reasons depending on who you ask. Some say it's to bring rain. Some say it's to flush out animals for hunting. Still others say it's for preparing the land for planting. All that I know is is that the mountain is home to 50 plant an animal species that can't be found anywhere else in the world and will soon become extinct without conservation.