BAMM!

April is Blog About Malaria Month (BAMM)! This year’s theme: Invest in the future, defeat Malaria.

Malaria kills more than 660,000 people every year, 90 percent of them in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2007, the World Health Assembly made April 25 World Malaria Day. To educate the public on this curable disease, information is distributed in the form of events, trainings, community health outreach and the like to help reach the 2015 Millenium Development Goal. Peace Corps Volunteers work in the community with local people, NGOs and the President’s Malaria Initiative to eradicate the disease. Peace Corps’ has rolled out a great initiative to help stop this disease. The program called Stomping Out Malaria uses the power of more than 3,000 Peace Corps Volunteers across Africa to help ‘stomp out this disease’.

Check out http://stompoutmalaria.org/bamm2013/ for more information!

 The success of last year’s Malaria education event at our school has inspired the students to continue with similar Malaria prevention activities!! This year students will write prevention messages on every blackboard, perform for the student body and create Malaria prevention messages to be posted on all the dormitories here at the school. Read below success story for details!

 

Success Story

Students Act Against Malaria

Empowering girls to mobilize communities

Kayuki Girls Secondary School is an all-girls boarding school located in the Rungwe District of Mbeya in Tanzania. Absenteeism was on the rise as students missed classes due to illness. Community members identified a lack of bed-net usage as a chronic problem at the school. They decided to do something about it. Further education would be needed to raise awareness about the disease. A Small Project Assistance grant was requested by the community to help. PCV Folake Oyegbola strongly supported the project and with that a Malaria Education Day program was scheduled for the school.

The community decided on an education-through-the-arts style program as the best medium to reach the 550+ students. 17 students were chosen to be Student Health Ambassadors for the program. The students attended a half-day training program which included a Malaria 101 lesson, interactive Malaria-themed games and the creation of various artworks to be displayed throughout the school. Their acquired knowledge on Malaria cause, spread and prevention was determined through the administration of a pre- and post-test. The community was happy to discover that no one scored below 90%!

The student body enjoyed three skits performed by the Student Health Ambassadors for the evening portion of the program. Throughout the night, students answered questions related to the disease. The event concluded with a viewing of the Malaria-themed film: Chumo.

Throughout the process the project committee tailored the program to best meet the needs of the community. The budget was revised with sustainability in mind. Additional resources were donated and members from the surrounding villages were invited to partake in the event.The students were empowered with skills and knowledge to affect positive change. They were motivated to take ownership over an issue that is affecting their community. They continue to use their leadership skills to demonstrate to the student body the importance of Malaria education and prevention.

Featured quotes:

“We have 565 students here at this event. If each one goes home to their family to share the information, a large number of the population will be educated about Malaria.”

-Community members

 Guess what?

This event was featured on Stomp Out Malaria website. Read the article here

http://stompoutmalaria.org/weekly-awesome-world-malaria-day-in-the-southern-highlands/

Want to get involved? Follow these tips from the Stomp Out Malaria website:http://stompoutmalaria.org/bamm2013/ 

Spread the word
The more people that care about malaria prevention, the better. Make your voice
heard by:
Writing your elected officials. Let them know that US government efforts are
the cornerstone of the international malaria prevention efforts that save the
lives of 485 children a day.

Tell your friends and family about the importance of malaria prevention.

 Share stompoutmalaria.org via FaceBook, Twitter, iMessage and megaphone!

Donate to Peace Corps Partnerships Malaria Fund:
Donations to the malaria fund provide grants to the small (under $5,000)
community driven projects that Peace Corps excels at. Help communities that want
to ensure all their children sleep under a bed net. Help entrepreneurs build
businesses selling mosquito net hammocks. Help train community health workers to
diagnose and treat their own community members so that they don’t need to walk
10 plus miles for clinical care.

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May Update!

Ok, so I know I’ve been M.I.A., but its been for good reason! Ill explain everything from as far back as I can remember.

Malaria Grant… APPROVED!!!!

I have been working on a grant which recently was approved.  The project is called Sudents Act! Against Malaria and it is an education through the arts style program in which 15 Student Ambassadors learn the lastest information on Malaria cause, spread and prevention and then teach what they have learned to the rest of the student body through skits, song or dance. The event was open to the entire community and occured on Saturday, April 21, 2012. For World Malaria Day the Student health ambassadors will write Malaria prevention messages on every blackboard at the school and will deliver their own PSA to the student body after the school debate.

Water, water everywhere?

We have a water situation which is supposedly on the way to being
fixed. The pump we normally use to bring in water has broken. The school has been without running water for a year now. The students have been fetching water from a river everyday. Fortunately its the rainy season right now so I have been putting buckets on my porch to collect the rainwater. Hopefully the situation will be fixed soon so the students dont have to fetch water everyday.

Panic!

A snake came into my house a few weekends ago!! Oh my goodness!
True terror! It just slithered in from under the door as I was
watching TV! I jumped on the couched a screamed until some came to the
door. Thank goodness my neighbors have dogs! They all started barking
when they heard me screaming! 30 mins later they got the snake out,
but it was rough going back in my house alone. One other reason I
sleep under a mosquito net EVERY night. I prefer NOT to wake up to a
heat-seeking snake in my bed. From now on I keep a stick and a rock
under the door to keep things from getting in! My Headmistress’s husband came to get the snake out. It was a huge comotion. He said that he has never seen a snake “do that” as in rear up like a cobra and try to bite him…eeeek! God help me through this last year! 

Let them eat….Andazi?

Oh, there was also a Maandazi (fried dough) rebellion at the school.
The students decided to protest the increase in the price of maandazis
and the sanitary conditions in which they were cooked. Way to go
students!! Unfortunately they got punished for using their freedom of
speech because it violates the rules of the school. Under said rules,
students are not allowed to protest. So there was a three-day
witchhunt for the riot starters and a public caning :( I suggested as
punishment the students write an essay (in english) on protesting, the
positive and negative effects of it, and what they could do better
next time. The Tanzanian teachers laughed at the idea and chose to use
the stick. However, the headmistress thought is was a great idea so
now I am in charge of grading the essays. Yay! Anyway, long story
short, the students may have lost the battle, but the won the war! A
week after the protest, a new caterer was brought in who cooks the
most delicious foods and treats the students with respect. Her name is
Mama Sala Sala and I adore her :)

The National Torch is going to make a stop at our school!

Similar to the running of the Olympic Torch, the National Torch is going to make a stop at our school on May 17th! Que exciting! EVERYONE is going to be there. Will post more later.

I found an Ancient Artifact!

Its a 300 year old coin from Austria which featured Maria Theresia, mother of Marie Antoinette, and ruler of Hungary and Bohemia! Maria Theresia was the ONLY female ruler in the monarchy’s 650 year reign. I was browing a craft store when I found this necklace. The merchant told me he was a coin collector and found this coin in the village. He then showed me his ENTIRE coin collection which also spans 300 years! Everything from the Roman empire to a United States nickel.  Cool huh? I HAD to have that coin. I bargained with him and he agreed to sell it to me at a discounted rate. So excited!

Next month will mark one year in country! What a year it has been. I have learned so much and there is still so much to learn. I am, at the end of the long days, grateful for this experience. Its taught me more than I thought it would and I am excited for what else is in store… as long as there are no snakes or spiders involved!

 

’til next post

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Hero Rats

So it’s finally the start of a new school year. After a month and a half off from teaching and seeing as much as Tanzania as I am legally allowed, I am back to work. Today I sat in the teachers’ lounge under a pile of Chemistry books, yep chemistry, not biology. For the upcoming school year I will be teaching chemistry to the Form I’s and Form II’s. I am actually really excited about this but that is not the reason I decided to put up a new post.

It’s Friday evening here and I decided to unwind by frying an egg and then watching an episode of the PBS TV show Frontline. (Let me digress once more to thank the many volunteers who assisted in my recent acquisition of prime tv, movie and music files during In-Service Training last Nov-Dec. Thank you! Because of you guys I will be able to listen to/watch anything from Bach to Guetta and Jersey Shore to Amazing Plant. Asante sana! ) Ok, now back to the story. It’s a good thing I decided to watch Frontline because I  came across an amazing NGO right here in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania! Herorat.org is an organization that trains rats, yes rats, to detect unexploded landmines. How awesome!

The story behind UXO’s (Unexploded Ordinance)

Unexploded Ordinance are explosive weapons (bombs, bullets, shells, grenades, land mines, naval mines, etc.) that did not explode when they were employed and still pose a risk of detonation, potentially many decades after they were used or discarded. Unexploded ordnance from at least as far back as the American Civil War still poses a hazard worldwide, both in current and former combat areas and on military firing ranges. A major problem with unexploded ordnance is that over the years the detonator and main charge deteriorate, frequently making them more sensitive to disturbance, and therefore more dangerous to handle. There are countless examples of civilians tampering with unexploded ordnances that are many years old – often with fatal results. Believing it to be harmless they handle the device and it explodes, killing or severely injuring them. For this reason it is universally recommended that unexploded ordnance should not be touched or handled by unqualified persons.

While traveling in Asia a few years ago, I came across a great organization called COPE  is raising awareness about the dangers of unexploded landmines. COPE and the NRC together are the only provider of prosthetic, orthotic and rehabilitation services in Laos.

 

COPE was started in 1997 as an initiative of POWER International. COPE is now a local not-for-profit organisation that works in partnership with the National Rehabilitation Centre (NRC) and provincial rehabilitation centres to provide access to orthotic/prosthetic devices and rehabilitation services, including Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy.

I was surprised to learn that Africa has the highest number of UXO’s in the world. It was therefore great to learn about another NGO working on this issue right here in TZ. Check out the 10 minute PBS Frontline video here

What a coincidence! I found this photo from swearing-in last year. I guess it’s not that ironic since I was terrorized by a rat named Templeton during homestay. If he can be trained to detect unexploded landmines, I guess we can be friends. 

Happy New Year everyone!

‘til next post

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“Schools out (almost) for the Summer!”

School is almost out and students are celebrating! Remember that feeling? The season is changing and every student in school wants to be free.  How does that song go? “No more homework. No more books. No more teachers’ dirty looks!” It is funny now that the shoe is on the other foot, once the student now the teacher. I quietly laugh in the
teachers’ lounge as I contemplate the juxtaposition.

We’ve all heard the phrase: you never stop learning. Which is indeed true, but what about teaching? I think the phrase should be amended. It should read: you never stop teaching and learning.  Being here in Tanzania, I am realizing that, in one way or another, we all are here to learn and we all are here to teach. I’ve learned just as much from my students as they have hopefully learned from me. One of my favorite phrases represents the symbiotic relationship of teaching and learning.

                “If you can read this, you should thank your teacher.”

This whole post may seem obvious, I know. But it’s amazing how you can be told something over and over again with no lasting affect. Then suddenly, as if out of nowhere, a school bell rings in the middle of Africa and you catch yourself thinking “Wow, I get it.”

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The day I left the gates

 

The school I work at is a great school. I adore it. But there are times when living on a campus is like …well…living on a campus. One wonders what lies just beyond the horizon. I asked a Form IV student (high school sophomore) what it’s been like living here. Her response, “It’s like a small prison!” It was impossible to retain my laughter. Aside from my head mistress’s plethora of impersonations, this was the funniest thing I have heard since I have been here.  After I composed myself, I couldn’t help but feel for her. Living on a school campus can sometimes feel suffocating. You are around the same people 24/7 and the world outside seems nonexistent. You hardly get a chance to experience the haphazardness of life when your schedule is planned out for you every day. I thought more about this as I walked away.  As I walked out of my classroom I could feel something brewing in the air . The feelings grew stronger as I walked up the paved drive towards my house. It was definitely a calling. Almost like the beating drum in the movie Jumanji. The closer I walked up the drive, the louder the sound got. I looked to my left and suddenly I could see. The call had now taken over two of my senses! What was this? I remembered this feeling, I could taste it, I could smell it, I could feel it. If only I could put a word to it! Ahhhhhhhhhhh! And then it came. Spontaneity. The freedom that only a spontaneous adventure could bring. This is what I had been missing. I looked off into the distance and saw exactly where I needed to go. My destination would be a two-hour bus ride to a village named: Kyela.

I ran home as fast as I could and packed my day bag. In it: a copy of Jim McCall’s The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, a bottle of water, a handful of Tanzanian Shillings and my camera. I left my reservations behind. Today was a day to go out, beyond the gate, and experience life. My first hurdle was to get on the coaster also known as a minibus that shuttles villagers from town to town. This usually requires a whole lotta patience and a little bit of luck. There is usually just enough space onboard for two more molecules of oxygen to fit. Today I was lucky though. As the coaster screeched to a stop, a passenger got off and left one glorious seat in the front row open for me. Result!  I took my seat and smiled. Chances like these don’t come by that often. For the next hour and a half I was in a state of bliss. Not only was I far away from school I was also far away from routine. Nothing looked the same. In fact, the landscape is completely different. It is more mountainous and less developed … in a good way.

The first stop we made was to a town called Boda-Boda. It borders Malawi, hence the name.  I mistakenly got off here because, one: everyone else did and two: I thought it was Kyela because of reason one. Turns out one has absolutely nothing to do with the other. Luckily the conductor let me get back on without paying again. A funny thing happens here in Tanzania. When you travel on one of these coasters, swarms of people will bombard the bus selling anything from batteries to sticks of roasted meat.  It’s kind of like the A train in New York City. Sometimes I oblige the vendors and buy whatever it is they are selling. Not because I need it, but because they work so hard. When you see an eighty year old bibi (a bibi is a grandmother, or anyone who looks like one) selling a pile of what-have-you’s for no more than thirty three cents, how can you not. She has most likely been out there all day in the heat trying to earn an honest living for herself and her family. How could you not buy whatever it is she’s selling? I cave every time I see a bibi with fruit. Today I was in for a treat. There just happened to a vendor selling boiled shelled peanuts. If you haven’t had these, they are great! My mother used to make them when I was little. I was definitely in heaven now. There I sat with my bag of boiled shelled peanuts and a new seat. This time by the window. I got to see even more of the gorgeous countryside and the way life just carries on. I could see lives moving forward right outside my coaster window. Huge palm trees that swallowed up small mud huts. Kids playing with soccer balls made out of balled-up plastic bags.  Women carrying baskets of fruit on their heads. It was the visual personification of the word life.

 Thirty minutes later I arrived at my destination. Only this time I did not want to get off the bus. I toyed with the idea of staying on the bus and going back home. It’s funny how this happens. You want nothing more than to escape your confinement and wind up wanting nothing more than to go back home. I didn’t. I was scared, but I didn’t stay on the bus. Scared not because I was in a dangerous place but because I was in an unfamiliar place. There was no guard there to greet me as I got off the bus, which usually happens at school. Or a matron who smiles and tells me how well I am doing learning Kiswahili and the local Nyakusa language. Where were all the people who knew my name and the students who called me Madam Folake. All the familiarities of home were nowhere to be found. I was in a new town where nobody knew my name and that was just enough to keep me on the bus. But I got off. I had come all this way to live by my own schedule and see a new town. I was here and I was going to stay… for a little while at least. So I pulled myself together, picked a direction and started walking. I passed a group of ladies selling mangoes. Mango season is upon us and we will soon be able to have them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I passed them and walked into a bazar.  Here you can find just about anything. The market stalls are filled to the brim with local delicacies. Offerings from both land and sea. Spices of all types fill the air. Vendors do their best to get your attention and gain a sale. Kyela is famous for its fragrant rice. I had to remember to pick some up before I left. I followed my intuition and keep walking straight. I ended up at a T- junction. The only way to turn was left or right. Right in front of me was a stand that sold household items. Just what I needed, but forgot because I failed to read my meticulous “Things to buy at the Market” list.  There I bought a frying pan from a super nice shop-keeper whose name also escapes me. The best part of the day came when I decided to take a siesta. It was around 4 p.m. and I was in the mood for a snack before I headed home. In towns here you can usually find a fruit cart with the most amazing slices of fruit. Today was watermelon day. Instead of getting a slice to go I decided to treat myself to a seat too. I saw a shop that sold fresh juice and fruit slices and decided to go there. When I walked in I was taken by surprise. There, in the middle of the shop, was a huge tree! I stopped in my tracks and stared for a while. It was obvious that I was not from around these parts by the expression on the shop keeper’s face. I mean it’s not every day you walk into a shop and see a tree that could have been used on the set of Jurassic Park on the inside of a building, but apparently, for the shop keeper, it is every day that she walks into a shop and sees a tree that could have been used on the set of Jurassic Park on the inside of a building. Anywho, I closed my mouth and proceed to ask for a slice.

 “Samahani, nina omba tikimaji.” Which loosely translates to “Excuse me, I would like to have a slice of watermelon.”

“Moja, au mbili? (one or two), she asked uninterestedly. I hesitated.

“Ehhhh, moja.”

Why did I say that? I knew I wanted more than one. And at a little over 15 cents a slice, I should have splurged! She opened her refrigerator and pulled out a slice. It was a little on the skimpy side, but I didn’t feel like debating portions in Kiswahili. So now it was time to find a seat. I chose one out front under the awning. It was hot outside. The equivalent to a lazy summer day in late July back home. The setting was perfect. I had my nice cold tikiti maji and a front row seat to all the daily happenings of life in this town. The sky was a hazy orange and the air was filled with traditional African music. I felt like I was in a resort town. The people who lived here all rode bikes. It was kind of like a quaint European city in the tropics. There were businessmen on bikes. Women on bikes. Babies sitting in baskets on bikes. Life seemed to roll on by as I observed, stationary under the awning of the watermelon shop. Things moved to a different tune out here.  And I was not one to stop the music. Peace at last. I found what I ventured all this way for; my own schedule, my own time. Freedom to do whatever I wanted. I could have stayed in that moment forever; I should have stayed, but the short hand on my watch was nagging me to leave.

It was now quarter to six and I had to find my way back to the bus stand in time to catch the last bus back into town. I ran to the bus headed towards Mbeya . I didn’t want to leave but I was grateful to be going home. It was a great adventure to another town. My initial fears of being own my own were soon replaced with free will. I wasn’t scared anymore to be in a town where no one knew my name.  I just had to tell them! I boarded the bus full of passengers ready to take off. Just before I could sit down a student from my school recognized me and said “Madam, let me help you with your things.” There was a certain peace in her request. I didn’t know the student. None-the-less, it felt great to be recognized. It was nice to experience life beyond the gates for those few hours.

N.B.

Please read the student likening the school to a small prison in a teenage context. The students here, especially the seniors, are at that tender stage when rules, how shall I say this, suck! It’s not really that bad. The students are at a boarding school and so naturally…. they get bored. No pun intended!

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Earthquake, Environment and Education

Hi! Greetings from Mbeya!

I am sorry this is so late. The past month has been so crazy!

I now live in Mbeya which is in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania. Its is so gorgeous. The area is like a cross between Napa Valley California and the Caribbean Islands. Rolling hills as far as the eyeballs can see framed by brilliant green banana trees! I live at the top of a valley so the view is incredible. I can see Lake Nyasa (a.k.a Lake Malawi depending on which country you are standing on) from my house. Karibu sana!

EaRtHqUaaaaKee!

So I experienced my first Earthquake ever! Not like the one that happened in DC this past spring. This time I felt it! I was sitting in my living room reading an article on Sheryl Sandberg (amazing woman and COO of Facebook) when the glass panes of my window started to shake. I immediately looked to my left, the direction of my neighbors (two practicing teachers from Dar es Salaam who play really great music…REALLY LoUd), but realized soon after that it couldn’t be their fault, this time, because soon after the ground started to shake! Talk about bizarre. It was like someone was rocking the chair right under me, but without “anyone” or “any machine” being there. It lasted only about 5 seconds, but it was enough to be a bit worried. After asking around, it appeared I was either the only one who noticed, or the only one who cared. This actually should be a surprise given the fact that the Rift Valley runs through Tanzania AND there are two Active Volcanos in this region. Now that I think about it, that rock that I use as a hammer might actually be molten lava rock…hrrrmmmm……Hakuna Matata! On the flip side, there is this great lake here that lies in the crater of an old volcano. Really beautiful and an amazing hike up a mountain to get to. It’s a great tourist attraction and many people come enjoy it, so come visit!

Environment

The area is filled with tea gardens! The other day I agreed to escort a teacher to his house to drop of his workbook before we headed into the neighboring town of Ushirika. Little did I know I had agreed to a long hike through tea farms! It was hands down the most amazing view I have ever seen in my life! Thousands of rows of green tea bushes, bright blue sky, golden yellow sunshine and a healthy brown earth. It was amazing! To top it off, I got to meet his family. They are part of the Nyekusa tribe who live in this part of Tanzania. They were so warm and welcoming. Once I told them I was teaching and that I was from America, they all shook my hand and said “Asante. Asante sana!”, which translates to “thank you. Thank you very much!” – I will end this with one word: Rewarding!

Education

I teach at an all-girls boarding school named Kayuki. It is an amazing campus. That’s right, I said campus. The place is reminiscent of Hogwart’s. I kid you not. There is a huge white iron gate out front, various boarding quarters for teachers, students and staff, a huge dining hall, athletic courts, academic block, garden, auditorium and a grounds keeper! The students here are really bright! One of the students, Sayuni Japhet, was even selected to go to America this past spring based on her strong leadership and academic talents. It’s so funny because one of the places she visited was Washington, D.C. which means we were there together at the same time! Crazy huh? They really respect teachers here. To be a teacher means you have made it out of a rigorous academic program. I mean RIGOUROUS. Even though many don’t make it out, I respect the students for their efforts. One student referred to the work it takes to graduate here as “The fight of your life!” The students have to take a standardized test called NECTA which is a culmination of four years of course work in 7-9 subject areas ranging from physics to Kiswahili. Talk about tough. All this with one book to share among four students, (they are the lucky ones however, some schools have no books at all), constant power outages and no google! To pass here you really have to be on top of your studies. However, some do, and the ones who make it through go on to study at some of the best higher learning institutions in the world like Oxford.

Being a teacher is no easy task. Aside from trying to encourage students to think and to learn, you also have to be prepared to lead, which is something I did not think about before coming here. I never considered myself a leader. I have four older siblings, so being a leader was not something I grew up doing. Here, in the classroom, you HAVE to lead. With 100+ pupils, all teenagers, you have to be able to manage a classroom. Which is easier said than done. Corporal punishment is alive and well here. I am trying a different approach. I didn’t come here to beat the students; I came here to get them to think and to learn. Trying to accomplish this in a system where the stick holds more power than problem solving is a challenge. So what do I do? I make them work. There are three consequences. If the get out of line, they get a warning. If they continue they must write an essay – 1000 words, in English, and have it signed by the school Head Mistress. If anything, this consequence will increase their essay writing and English skills. So far, so good. I am happy to report, no one has needed to get to consequence number two, or number three for that matter. Which I still am not sure what it will be. I just left a star by the number three and hoped that it put enough fear in them not to want to reach it!

I am learning a lot from the students and am learning a lot about myself. I hope to continue to grow with them and get them to think critically and to always try! “With great power comes great responsibility.” Pray for me!

All in all I am enjoying myself here. Some days are better than others. It can be frustrating. Some days I am in a bus so jammed packed with people I can count the amount of money in my neighbor’s pockets with my thighs! Other days the power goes out and I get to read Harry Potter with my headlamp while the students sing traditional Tanzanian songs in the auditorium. I couldn’t make these things up. Life here just moves at its own pace in its own time.

‘til next post.

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Site Announcements!

After two hours of our final written Kiswahili exam, we found out our site announcements!

The ceremony was filled with suspense! We all sat in the courtyard, eyes glued to a board that held a picture of our faces attached to a region in Tanzania. It was torture. One by one the faces and places were revealed. After what seemed like five roller coaster rides, my face and place was revealed. Drumroll please…. 

I am going to the Southern Highlands!

 I will be living in Mbeya for the next 2 years!!

I’m still in Tanga for the next few days. Shadow week has been really great. We are headed further east to the Indian Ocean! I am really excited to make it out there.  I’ve been dreaming of sticking my feet in the Indian Ocean. Its also a good opportunity to see another part of the country and practice more Kiswahili before I move to my site. We have one more week of simulations and a final oral language exam waiting for us in Morogoro. Pray for us. In just 2 more weeks (August 24) we all swear-in as official Peace Corps Volunteers! =)

’til next post.

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Safari, Shadows, and Site Announcement!

Safari

We went to Mikumi National Park. We saw three of the Big 5 (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino).  It was everything you are envisioning an African Safari to be. We even saw a lion eating a giraffe it just killed! Crazy! Anyway, there are more photos from the day, just click on the photo.

Shadows

To shadow someone is to visit a current volunteer in another region of Tanzania and observe their life for one week. Weve all been here for seven weeks now and are excited to get a week away to visit another volunteer and observe their life!

I just found out my shadow announcement: Im going to Tanga!!!

Tanga

It borders Kenya to the North and the Indian Ocean to the East.

Site Announcements

…tba this Friday!!!!

We are all bitting our nails over this. The anxiety surrounding this announcement is crazy! Like ”match day” for residency or Best Picture in the Oscars. We have been waiting, for some of us, a Year to find out this information. This announcement will determine where we are placed for the next two years of our service! The countdown begins! I will post as soon as I get a chance. Fingers crossed! 

We all have a final written Kiswahili examination this Friday which I have been driving myself nuts over. Ther are so many noun classes and even more noun agreements in Kiswahili. Ahhhhhhh…..Chemsa Bongo! This means ”boiled brains”. Pray for me!

After the exam its off to Tanga for a week! Will update soon!

’til next post!

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First Few Weeks

 

Making the most of this life.

So this is officially my first post in TZ. I dont even know where to begin. I have cried, laughed, been frightened out of my senses by all the crept crawlies, and amazed at how organic it is to live a modest life. I can only remember bits and pieces of feelings and emotions so bear with me as i try to explaining my world-wind 3 weeks. We started our journey in Philadelphia. I am luck to have a friend there who let me couch sit for a week before I left the States. To be honest I was not quite myself during that week. I just remember feeling like everything was going to change in a matter of days and  not having a good grasp on how i would react to it. Before going to Staging (orientation in the US) I downed one last Philly Cheesteak and Mojito. I was so nervous. I was soon going to met the other 39 trainees who knew exactly how  felt and understood why I would leave the comforts of home to go somewhere so foreign, so unknown. Finally for the first time, I didnt have to explain “why I was doing this” … and it felt nice.

Introductions followed. Signed official documents. Got more vaccinations and off we went.

The plane ride
39 of us on a plane to Tanzania via Amsterdam. It was a sight to see. The unofficial Peace Corps Tanzania Trainee uniform for that day was a trekking pack the size of a small condo with a bike helmet attached to it. All of us were excited. All of us were…After about a year-long application process( including interviews, essays, testing and general 24hr anxiety on where in the world you would be placed) we were all ready to start the journey. Those last few minutes in Newark Airport were the moments you wish you could hold on to forever. You know the part of the movie when time slows and the elation of the moment just seems to linger….yeah, it was just like that. 39 bright-eyed, hopeful trainees from all walks of life boarded a plane for Africa on what is for sure to be one of the toughest jobs we will ever love.

June 15, 2011 10:45pm
Touchdown

We arrived to a magnificent Lunar Eclipse! Cool huh? We were all so jetlagged. 24hrs of flying showed in our expressions. The last thing I think any of us wanted to do was stand and wait in a customs line. But we did… we had too… We were then suttled to an training site and debriefed on what would happen for the next week or so. It was all a hazy fog. I can remember certain clips of that meeting. My photo was taken. We went over Malaria issues ans we ate pbj sandwiches. It was a fog.

The last few weeks have been intense. 6 days a week of training. My schedule looks like this:

Get up at 630
Cold bucket shower
Breakfast at 7
Walk to daladala (minibus) stand
Shuttle to school — sessions start at 8am
2hrs of language lessons
Break for Chai— (chai tea and chaptis) — delicious!
2 more hours of language
Break for Lunch
4 hours — mix of Health,Safety,Technical training
Daladala back to homestay
1.5 hrs review with brother and sisters
Dinner
cold Bucket shower
Mosquito net —arghhhhhh
Malaria pills
flash light
Sleep —or something like it

Repeated 6 days/week!

Crazy animal stories

The cow
One day on the way to school I was charged at by a cow! A fellow trainee and I were on our way to training sessions when an adolescent cow came running at us out of nowhere! We both stood there shocked.  When we moved it it got angry. When we stopped and stood still, it got angry. What were we supposed to do? I mean what is the proper protocol for this type of threat? It was so funny! After a few awkward what do we do’s, the cow’s owner comes walking out from around the bend. Oh, no worries I thought, its just a guy taking his cow out for a walk. Have you ever walked down the street and saw a dog running by without a leash a though “whose do is that?” And just as you think of it the dog’s owner materializes out of thin air. The situation was basically like that, but instead of a dog, it was a cow.

The snake
One night during another blackout, a fellow trainee and I were walking back to our homes in the dark. The pitch blackness of the night swallowed up whatever drops of light it could find. Through the faint light of her keychain flashlight, I could make out a the image of something squiggling on the ground ahead. Milliseconds pass before I yell out …. wait for it… SNAKE!!!  My arms and legs went flailing into the night sky like like an unskilled double-dutch player.It was crazy. Really crazy. It was a small snake, but a snake none-the-less. Ive come a long way since that day. For those who know, I am not so brave when it comes to bugs. I legit have the entire cast and some extras from the movie Arachnophobia on my ceiling. How did I get over this? I named them. Yes, thats right, I named all the spiders on my ceiling to protect my sanity. As one of our language facilitators once told me, “This is Africa. There are bugs. You have to learn to tame them.”
The Peace Corps says to go wherever you are asked and to serve under conditions of hardship if necessary. They were not joking.

The environment

A home near our training center

Ahhh-mazing. I often get sidetracked while in the middle of a conversation by something amazing I have just seen. Like how many more stars you can see in the night’s sky when you live outside of a city. Or the view of Ulurugu mountain as I handwash my clothes in front of our homestays. Or better yet, watching a pack of monkeys playing goofing off outside of our lecture hall. It’s bananas…no pun intended–hahahaha!

Monkey that plays outside our auditorium

Technical training
I need to preface this information by giving mad props to all the teachers out there. I am learning just how complex it is to be a teacher, a good one at that! Is going to be tough. I have my first day of internship teaching on Monday July, 11, 2011. Pray for me. I am so nervous! I have had some practice in our microteaching session where I taught on Malaria and Bio 101. It went ok, however I was teaching to my peers. Tomorrow is the real test. A room full of Tanzania teenagers! Yikkkkessss!

Here is a letter of encouragement I received from some students in the US. I’ll keep plucking away until I get it. Thanks guys.

A letter from kids the US! Thanks Jane!

Special thanks to Jane Linnel and her great class from Kings Day school for all the great letters they sent.

Go Team Science!

Resources here can be extremely limited.  As far as a science lab is concerned, we have to learn how to be very creative. We had a session a few weeks back on how to carry out laboratory experiments with local resources. I am happy to report that after much trial and error, our team was able to calculate Gravity with the use of a piece of thread, a thimble and an iPhone—of course.

Soundtrack
-Simon & Garfunkel – 50 ways to lose your lover
-Edith Piaf – La Foule
-Coldplay
-Talib Kwali – Just to get by

-Brett Dennen -Loverboy

Well that’s it for now. I have got to get back to lesson planning. Wish me luck on my four week internship teaching!

Team Simba! On oour way to play the other trainees in Soccer

’til next post!

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This moment

Saturday, June 4, 2011 8:38 a.m – Washington, DC  – Union Station drop-off lane.

Folake: How did I get to this moment?

Erica: I told you to look into the Peace Corps.

———————————————————————

One year ago I started this journey. I must admit I did not anticipate how much it would take out of me emotionally. Along the way I have lost friends and picked up friends . Realized that I am loved more than I ever knew and realized that some people just never really cared. I have cried my weight in tears and cried my weight in laughter. Through all the ups and downs I have come to truly understand that nothing in life is constant except change. Going through it all has not been easy, but it has been worth it.

Last night I sat in a park and watched a game of 4-square. I didn’t realize that game existed outside of elementary school. But there, in the park, was a crowd of about thirty people who couldn’t look happier. I was jealous. Not because I didn’t get an invite to play, but because they were all  so carefree. I am in mourning of my own carefree days. Days where I could wear whatever I wanted, go wherever I wanted and behave however I wanted without the fear of sending the wrong message. Im often asked what I will miss the most when I leave. My response has always been my freedom.

By next week, I am going to have the highest level of responsibility ever placed on me. I will be representing a country, its people and culture, myself, American women, teachers… the list goes on and on. How does one handle all this pressure? I have been mulling over this for sometime now. How am I going to deal with everything that will be thrown at me? The answer to this surprisingly came from a documentary I saw last fall. In the film, the following question was asked:

How does one eat an elephant?

I remember hearing this and thinking, “Wait, isn’t it illegal to eat an elephant?” That thought was followed by the realization that this is a saying and not a real question. The real meat of the question however lies just below the surface. How do you deal with a gigantic situation that has been placed before you? The answer is…

One piece at a time.

It is not wise to tackle everything all at the same time. That approach often leads to more stress and more struggle. However, if you deal with an overwhelming situation in small doses you’d be surprised to find out that you can accomplish a lot.

I’m ultimately excited for the journey ahead and meeting a diverse group of people who all share the same desire to help. The journey will be a challenge, no diggity, but it is one I plan on tackling “one piece at a time”.

I will end this post with my favorite quote. It always helps me deal with the feeling of “loss” that arises whenever I am making a transition. I hope it helps you too! 

“She is no fool who gives up what she cannot keep to gain what she cannot lose.”

 

’til next post

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