Saturday, July 23, 2011

GETTING SETTLED


I have taught school for a week now.  I have four streams of Form 1 English.  Originally that was 28 hours a week, but I told the Academic Master that my contract limited me to 26 hours.  He also knew I was walking to school in the dark so he decreased my schedule to two hours a day, teaching each stream once a week starting at 9:45.  My other classes were given to Melchior, the head of the Language Department, which makes me feel terrible, since he already had a lot of classes.  On Monday he told me he was going to Arusha for the week to attend his wife's University graduation.  I asked him what would happen to the students and he told me they would sit in their classrooms and study.  So I ended up volunteering to take my classes back for the week.  Maybe next week I will have more free time to get organized and study Swahili.





It is a little frustrating trying to get students to talk in the classroom.  Some obviously know the answers to questions, but others seem unable to write or speak, probably a reflection of lack of English training in primary school.  I get a lot more response when I have them answer as a group.  Form 1 is usually 13 to 15 year olds, but my students range in age from 10 to 19.  They have to pass an exam to get to secondary school.  It also costs money to attend, plus uniforms, books, etc.  Only primary education is free here.  It is taught in Swahili, while secondary school is in English.  So if you don't understand English, there is no way you will pass the secondary school exams.

Things are a little better on the home front.  Still no shower, hot water, or cooking, but we met a neighbor, Rob, who has a stove, refrigerator, hot water, shower, TV, and other amenities.  He works for Concern International, an Irish NGO that deals with clean water for small communities, and they drove him to Mwanza several times to get things, including a bicycle.  Rob has two bedrooms and two bathrooms, so he gave us a key so we can use his second bath and shower.  He also has a 4 gallon teapot so we can boil hot water and bring it back in our thermos.  The water is not filtered, so still tastes kind of like dirt, but at least we can drink it.

Bree and Rob on our porch in front of our avocado tree


We made spaghetti one night at Rob's and have eaten dinner a few nights at the canteen at Afriline.  They always seem to serve the same thing: rice, beans, spinach, and meat.  Most of the meat is not very edible, either stringy and tough or all fat and bone, but the sauce tastes good on the rice.  Breakfast is usually a peanut butter and banana sandwich.  They serve tea at school around 11 a.m. and I usually have a mendazi, or small doughnut, with my tea, which serves as lunch.

I arranged a PikyPiky, or motorcycle, for transport to school this week since I had early classes, but I am back to walking next week.  The one hour walk to school is actually nice because there is more downhill, but coming back in the afternoon can be hot and tiresome, because it is uphill.  I try to break it up by stopping at the supermarket (a larger than usual duka, not what the name implies) or other shop.  Funds are kind of limited without being able to recharge at the ATM.  We plan to go to Mwanza next weekend.

Between walking and not eating much, I should lose some weight here.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

DISCOVERING NGARA

We were finally taken to our new home in Afriline,which is the old UN housing left from the Rwanda civil war in the 1990's.  Most people who live here work for the District Office, which is like county government.  Some ministry officials were staying in our assigned house, here to investigate 6 killings of Rwanda shepherds who apparently wandered into Tanzania looking for better grazing land.  There is a river that separates the two countries, so that could not have been accidental.

Our temporary house has a porch along the whole back side that overlooks the valley.  I was loathe to leave it but most of the lights did not work so we had to use candle and flashlights.  Also no hot water, mosquito nets, or place to cook.  The next day we were supposed to move into our regular housing, but an inspection showed the bathroom, living room and bedrooms were flooded with water.  The MP brought some plumbers in from town but no leak could be found.  They made a list of supplies they would need to upgrade the unit with hot water and good water pressure.  We also insisted on mosquito nets and cooking facilites, per our contract.  Refrigeration and washing machines will have to wait till we get back in the USA.

The MP took us to the market and bought us a kerosene stove, which looks like a camp stove and takes an hour to boil water.  We purchased basic cooking supplies, like pots, dishes, eating utensils, etc which set us back over $100.  We tried to cook dinner but it took 1 1/2 hours to boil some potatoes so we kind of gave up on that and made tomato and potato salad.  We are living on peanut butter sandwiches and bananas.  We buy plastic bottles of drinking water and cart them the half mile up the dirt road to our compound.  This makes me cringe because there is no plastic recycling here.  We have to BURN the bottles.  Great for the air quality, I am sure.

Another shock was that the only bank in town will only accept Tanzanian ATM cards.  The MP introduced us to the bank manager, who cashed some American dollars for us, but to access an ATM we will have to go to Mwanza on Lake Victoria, an 8 hour bus ride away.

We are told that the plumber, mosquito nets, and better cooking equipment will have to wait until the budget is passed, "maybe next week."  Meanwhile I  feel like I am sleeping in a shroud as I pull the sheets over my head and listen to the whine of mosquitos at night and have no time to make morning coffee the next day to cheer me up as school starts at 7:45 a.m.

The internet cafe has been either closed or not working when I have been there.  Modems don't seem to work here, so sorry for the delay.