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Goodbye Nov. 5th, 2008 @ 11:26 am
I said goodbye to my students and fellow teachers. And now I say goodbye to this web page. This will be my last entry.

lack in the luster Oct. 21st, 2008 @ 11:42 am

the president of Tanzania - Pres. Jakaya Kikwete came to my town. I was semi-excited. When the Prime Minister came in 2007 there was lots of dancing and music....it was interesting to watch. I figured it would be an even bigger deal for the President. I was wrong. The crowd was not excited, people were talking amongst themselves during his speech. It was un-impressive. But at least I got pictures...........

Ways to measure time in Tanzania: Sep. 27th, 2008 @ 12:01 pm

so it’s been 2 years now since I’ve been in the lovely Tanzania. And that means many things in terms of units of time. In the past two years…………….

4 school terms of teaching high school math

3 mango seasons have passed

2 sets of Form IV graduation parties

6 times Subi (a child of my next door neighbor) has saved me from having a breakdown by just being her happy loving self

3 sets of puppies have been born (neighbor’s dog)

73 The number of books I have read

3 separate visits to Zanzibar beach

6 visits to Matema Beach

10 hours spent outside Tanzania (in Malawi)

> 100 tests that I have typed

> 200 people I have seen beaten with sticks

A beautiful child named Davis was named my Godson

> 24 really boring meetings I have been required to sit through in Swahili

> 700 miles I have run as my main source of exercise here

13.1 miles ran near the base of Kilimanjaro Mountain

> 50 times I am sitting enjoying having electricity and “TIA” (this is Africa), the power goes out

> 20 students who personally approached to me to say how happy they are to have me for their teacher

3 visitors from America

4 Mamas I have adopted or have adopted me

19 Tanzanian Baha’is have met

14 three hour NECTA exams I have answered and used to do review

> 700 bucket baths

Subi                                                                Some of my students at their graduation

Two of my students post-graduation

I am going to miss Tanzania. I say my final goodbye mid-November. But the goodbyes have already begun.




corporal punishment is bad Aug. 23rd, 2008 @ 10:50 am

My Credo

I believe the world’s rivers and streams and seas
They have been filled by us.
The pain, the trauma, the never-ending drama of this thing called life.
Our tears never stop, 
Every second of everyday
Oh, I do believe even those tears your eyes won’t shed; 
Travel in the air to later condense

Why? The question with no answer
How? The answer always depressing
For the Who just look in the mirror
For we do this to ourselves
We humans, we kill our brothers, rape our sisters, beat our children

I believe the earth is rich with blood
Everyday we fertilize the ground
Then cry out in angst when the seeds of our labour fail to give root
To our hopes and dreams

When? Oh When will this cycle end
When will we realize if we all decided never to kill
We’d never lose a loved one to murder
If we never stole, we’d never be the victim of theft
If we never struck another, we’d never be struck
What are we doing to ourselves?

Where do our screams of grief go?
I believe they form the thunder.
Oh and it’s loud. Baby, it’s loud.

Zanzibar Jun. 25th, 2008 @ 12:29 pm

So after running a Girls' Empowerment Conference. And training the NEW members of PSDN (Peer Support and Diversity Network). I finally got to "fully" enjoy my vacation time. Me and a few friends went to Zanzibar. It was my third time being there. And each time has been different. The first time with my mommie, second was for New Years' Eve celebrations, this time more low key.

My top 10 things about

10. The maze-like streets that I get lost in
9. Beautiful clouds and skylines
8. Red colobus monkeys that come so close to you
7. Henna tattoos
6. Fancy resorts
5. Romantic settings
4. The fact that males get up and give their seats to females (and old old men) on the dalas (public transport bus) without even being asked to. So different then the mainland where everyone fights for a seat.
3. Fruits galore
2. Beaches and the smell of ocean air
1. Seafood, seafood, seafood
Other entries
» Girls Empowerment Conference

       After 4 months of preparing and planning, of writing grants (numerous additions/revisions), visiting potential guest speakers, copying and correlating information packets and various little things…..and WOOHOO. I, along with two other Peace Corps Volunteers and Tanzanian counterparts conducted a kick-ass Girls’ Empowerment Conference. It took place 6-10 June 2008 at a nearby boarding school. Ten girls were selected from three schools to participate in life skills sessions (Relationship, Decision-making and Communication Skills), AIDS/HIV sessions and general training to be peer leaders.   



    Here in Tanzania the difference between female and male performance in school is extreme. Here the minimum expectation is that a girl finishes primary school (8th grade) and marries well. Numerous people in the government and education system are trying to change this but, as we all know change takes time. HIV/AIDS is a known problem here in Africa, with Tanzania having a prevalence of around 8.5%. However, in my region/state it has been recorded that 17.2% its residents were recorded as HIV-positive. My region/state is especially vulnerable because of road transportation between bordering Zambia and Malawi is fueling the prostitution market. And stuides have shown that the greater the gender discrimination in societies and the lower the position of women, the more negatively they are affected by HIV. So we many peace corps volunteers like to lead Girls' Empowerment Conferences.


I was pleasantly surprised at how well everything worked out. Our counterparts (Tanzanian teachers) were a great help since the conference was all in Swahili and even though Amber, Sky and I are fairly fluent there are some words/explanations that we lack. The 30 girls that were selected were all enthusiastic. They took seriously their new roles as peer leaders and educators. The last night the girls performed various skits/songs/lectures for about 100 girls at the school we were staying to share the information they learned. I felt like a parent must feel when they realize their kids are “all grown up and thriving”. For example, one group I worked with did a condom demonstration (female and male condoms) and provided relevant facts. First, you have to realize that Tanzania is a very conservative country where a girl wearing a skirt above her knees is considered scandalous. So I was very pleased when I first asked for volunteers to redo a condom demonstration in front of 100 students that half of them raised their hands. And when the chosen girls did their presentation it was very detailed and informative (with a few laughs). I feel like the girls will all make great peer leaders and help others. Mission accomplished.



» the good in all

Every once in awhile I have moments where my faith in humanity and our capacity for good is re-established. I find that at my school I have to remind myself of the good in my fellow teachers because I witness them beating students until they start crying or (in rare cases) start bleeding. Thursday was one of those days where the teachers and students demonstrated love and community……..One of the form I students appealed to us teachers for help because his economic situation is really bad. He can not afford notebooks, uniforms, school fees or even food. Plus he lives in a small village about a 2 hour walk from school. So he leaves home at 5 am everyday to arrive at school at 7 am. And then when school is over at 5:30 pm he doesn’t get home until 7:30 pm. The student is asking for assistance finding a place to sleep during the week closer to school and for school supplies and money. Many teachers contributed to help him. (I gave money as well. Monday is the deadline for contributions. If he does not have enough I will make sure he can continue his studies.)

While I was teaching form III, some of my form IV students came in and asked to make an announcement. They asked their fellow students to donate any old clothing or school supplies they can. Also they asked the male students to see if there is space available in their home for the form I student to sleep so he doesn’t have to walk 4 hours everyday. I was touched. My whole school was combining their efforts to help.

Moments like these make it easier to see a bit of God in everyone.

» i have a new puppy

These are the children of my next door neighbor who happens to be my headmaster at the school I teach. These kids are my heart. I will miss them so much.

The puppy is Mbweha (fox in swahili) I have adopted him.

» busy busy busy :)

(my new dog, Soni)

The increase from 18 periods to 30 has gone better than I expected. I kind of like being constantly busy Monday – Thursday. It makes me feel more useful as a Peace Corps volunteer. Also it means less time spent witnessing corporal punishment. Additionally this week I have had a lot of secretarial work to do for the Mkuu (Headmaster). So basically I’ve been teaching and grading homework non-stop 7:30 am to 2 pm and then a 90 minutes break for lunch and then typing reports from 3:30 pm to 5:30 pm. The oddest thing is that this past week I’ve been in a really good mood. Quite contradictory one would think.


I walked into my Form IV class today and told them they must bring in Tshs. 100 for their test next week and they APPLAUDED. I was confused why my students would be happy they have a test and must bring money, one replied “Madam, it is because you only ask for 100 shillings and not 300 shillings like Teacher _____.” I will never comprehend how some teachers can be so dishonest. I request Tshs. 50 for a one page exam and Tshs. 100 for a two page exam. Copies are Tshs 40 each but often 10 or so students will not bring in the money so the leftover covers it. I can’t tell you how many times I hear the students complaining that the teachers are requesting Tshs 200 each for a two page exam etc. I have questioned some about it and they say things like “I use the extra money to buy red pens and a soda to drink while I grade.” Then I start conducting a math lesson….. “A red pen is Tshs. 300 – 500. A soda is Tshs. 300. You paid Tshs. 12,000 for the copies but received Tshs. 30,000 from the students. Even with the red pens and soda it does not add up!”  The common response is just laughter. Alas


In other news…..I’ve decided to adopt a stray dog. His new name is Soni (Swahili for shyness). He has been hanging around my house for months. At first I just ignored him as a friend of my previous dog Hiba. However when Hiba disappeared/was stolen/got hit by a car in September, Soni still preferred to sleep in front of my house. He is called Soni (shyness) because he is terrified of humans. My guess is that his previous owner beat him. There is no concept of animal rights in Tanzania/Africa. And animals are often beaten or starved by their owners. I remember how much my fellow Tanzanians laughed at how I treated my previous dog Hiba ‘kama mtoto/like a child’.  This past week I have been working on getting Soni to realize I am not a threat. Now he longer runs away when I walk by. Also he is willing to eat a few feet away from me. Small steps.


» what a difference a week makes

Teaching in Tanzania is the job you end up with if you were smart enough to get through Secondary school but not smart enough to get to University to study a specific profession like medicine or law. Go to any secondary school and ask the teachers 1.) If they plan on leaving the school in the next 2 years? 2.)If they enjoy their job? and the answers are likely to be the same. 1.)Yes 2.)No

Teachers just do not hang around for long. Also the rate of secondary schools and advanced level schools opening up is much greater than the rate at which the total number teachers are available. Take my school which comparably speaking is an awesome school.....when I first arrived in Dec 2006 we had over 20 teachers for 600 students. Then August 2007 comes and 11 leave for "further studies". The government has a deal where one can work as a teacher for 2 years and then they will cover some of the costs of an university education. The assumption is that the teachers study education or something they will teach in the future and then return to school. HOWEVER, a lot of teachers just work for 2-3 years, then go get a degree, receive a job assignment to work at some school and then run-away from that job or responsibility. Not sure how easy it is to get away with but, it seems like a simple task.

It's a tricky situation because teaching here is so hard when there are only 7 teachers for 600 students. It's easy to understand why some teachers would get exhausted or stressed out to the point of quitting. At the same time if all the "appointed" teachers stayed at their jobs then the total number of teachers would increase and lessen the stress.

This whole entry was inspired by the the fact that last week my school lost 3 more teachers. 2 of which taught math. So now there are 3 math teachers left at my school (myself included ) but one of those teachers is now the only physics teacher for the school. In theory that means I would have to increase my periods from 18 (plus 3 adult classes) to 30 (plus 3 adult classes). I do not want to teach that much. I enjoy my sanity. But I feel guilty making another Tanzanian teacher add those classes to an already busy schedule just to stay within my Peace Corps 18-24 recommended schedule. So I have decided to teach the 30 periods but stop teaching the optional adult classes. I still have Friday off though (it's all about the small joys)

and here's a picture of Subi who lives next door. she is my heart. and definitely on the top 3 list of people I will miss when I leave Tanzania in November. She makes never fails to produce a smile from me. My friend Amber took it while we all went hunting for guava last month.


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