Sunday, July 31, 2011


Still no stove, mosquito net, or shower but we bought an electric tea kettle last weekend so are able to boil water for drinking, coffee, and sink baths.  We also found some ramen in the supermarket so we can have noodles, but I shudder to think of the sodium and other additives so we eat that sparingly.  Bree made a fabulous green banana curry at Rob's house and we helped her make chappatis, so we had one good dinner.  

We have also met some other ex pats from Womencraft, an NGO that sells baskets made by village women.  There is Amber from Washington, D.C., Elisa from Italy, Steven from Texas, and Megan from Colorado.  Unfortunately, Amber, Elisa and Steven are leaving shortly, so we went to their going away party soon after meeting them.  They live in a big house up in Murguanza, where Bree's school is.  They bought a whole goat to barbeque for the party and made, guacamole, pasta salad, tomato/onion salad, and marble cake.  Others at the party were the Lawlors, missionaries from Australia, and their 3 young children, and Rose, an ER doctor from Australia and her husband and two young daughters.  According to Rose, the doctors at the hospital pay no attention to her because she is a woman, so she gave up and is just home schooling her kids.  Seems like a real waste.  After the missionaries left with their kids, we had a beer contest.  We had blind taste testing of 7 Tanzanian beers.  Most of us had thought we liked Tusker best, but after blind testing, Castle and Kilimanjaro came in on top.  That has changed my beer consumption habits, but beer drinking is limited to when we go out to a bar or restaurant with a refrigerator for beer.  A lot of the Tanzanians drink warm beer, but I am not that desperate yet.

This weekend we went to Mwanza, the second largest city in Tanzania, which sits on the shores of Lake Victoria.  It is 10 hours away by bus, but Rob was able to arrange a ride for us in a Concern Toyota Landcruiser that was taking other staff to Mwanza.  Steve and Elisa also went along, on their way to Zanzibar before going home.  We were also joined by Vanya from Croatia, who has been in Ngara only a few days and didn't want to stay at Womencraft by herself.   Jacob and Katie, WorldTeach volunteers living near Serengeti, joined us in Mwanza as they live the other direction and it is a good meeting point.  So I was back sharing a room with Katie, just as we did in Lushoto.  We all had a good time shopping in the market and eating "real" food.  We had Indian and Chinese food, which is not available in Ngara, as well as pizza!

Steve from Texas and Elisa from Cinqterre, Italy on the Lake Victoria ferry to Mwanza

 The water was off Friday when we left and still off Sunday night when we returned.  Mama Caritas told us the plumber is supposed to come tomorrow, and maybe our stove, so I will stay home from school and hope for the best. 

Bree just started screaming.  She thought she had an itch on her bum for the last half hour, but a gecko (small lizard) was in her sweatpants!  We just say TIA (This is Africa!), although she added an F word in there.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


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


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.

Friday, July 15, 2011


My first day at my new school started inauspiciously.  It was my first night in my new home and I couldn't find the light switch.  While searching for the flashlight I fell and hit my left forehead on the concrete floor.  I was told to be there at 7, but it was still dark at 6:30.  I left at 6:45 and it took me an hour and ten minutes to walk there.  When I reached the campus, I turned too soon and was wandering around in the brush looking for the headmaster's office.  A student named Grace took pity on me and showed me the way.  The whole school was then assembled in the large yard and introduced to me.  I made a short speech then met the other teachers.  The first week is for "environmental cleanliness," when the students clean the school.  There are apparently no maintenance men or housekeepers and the students do it all.  I saw a large man in a Nike t-shirt walking around with leafless branches.  I have been told they beat the students here for discipline, but hope I don't have to watch it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


We drove back from Lushoto to Dar es Salaam on Friday  Most people left for their teaching sites on Saturday, by private car, bus, and plane, which seemed to depend on what their sponsor paid for.  Some had 16 hour bus rides, which could not have been fun.  The Member of Pariiament for Ngara region is sponsoring four of us.  He will be in Ngara but cannot go by car due to an old back injury.  His driver, Gigi, is taking the car to Ngara to meet him there so he took the four of us assigned to that region along.  So Lauren, Allison, Breana, I and our luggage piled into a Toyota Landrunner and left on Monday morning.

Ashley, our field director, had told us that we would see most of Tanzania on the way and that the scenery was fabulous.  There were some interesting rock formations and oak like trees with huge trunks, but for the most part, it was like 16 hours of driving through the Mojave desert.  The road was paved, but there were many detours on dirt roads due to road construction.  Also, they put speed bumps on the highway before any population cluster, no matter how small.  Ashley called to check on us and said, "Isn't the scenery stunning!"  Yes, Ashley, just too much of it.

We got to Ngara the next day around noon and were given tours of the secondary schools at Murguanza and Ngara, where Breana and I will be teaching.  Her school is built on a cliff overlooking Rwanda and Burundi.  It is only a few years old, but has no electricity, running water, library, or science and math teachers.  The teachers seem young and friendly though.  My school, just outside Ngara, is larger with 850 students and has more amenities, including a satellite dish with television in the staff room.  The one computer on campus is used by the administration.

We are staying in a Catholic retreat because our house "isn't ready."  Tanzania time again.  The other two volunteers, who will be teaching in Rulenge, about 45 minutes from Ngara down a dirt road, will stay at the MP's house for a month or so as their house is being worked on.  It is very luxurious for Tanzania, with a solar power, marble bath, stove, refrigerator, TV, and ceiling fans.  He has four bedrooms and will not be back until September, so they are living in luxury for now.

Allison, Lauren, Bree, and Mama Caritas, the head of secondary education in Ngara, at the MP's house

Rufege, the MP's secretary, Bree, Allison, Lauren, Gigi, and me at our new home

Saturday, July 9, 2011


We are here at the guesthouse in Lushoto for two weeks.   Sabine is building another guesthouse and a two story structure with a meeting room on the bottom and bedrooms and a large balcony on top, but construction goes on as money comes in.  Right now you can see the foundation and the rows of bricks they are making out of the local soil.  It is very beautiful here, with views of the mountains all around.  There is one main paved road in town, but most of the roads are dirt and very rutted from the rains.  It makes it challenging to walk or drive around here.  Only 16% of the population has electricity and there are no streetlights.  We have scheduled blackouts for a few hours at a time to conserve electricity, but the power can go out at any time.  When we have no electricity, my room likes to watch DVD's on my computer, so we keep it charged up. We run out of water almost every day and they have to cart extra from town.  We have showers in our room, but usually end up washing from a  large bucket of water stashed in our bathroom, which is also used to flush the toilet when there is no water. 

My roommates in Lushoto:  Noah from Tucson, me, Gretchen from  New England, and Katie from Charleston

The food is very good here, since so much of it is fresh.  We get a lot of rice, chappatis, beans, cabbage, mangos, papayas, oranges and bananas.

One day we were divided in teams of three and sent to the local market with 5000 shillings (about $4) to buy mangos, tomatoes, onions, flour and beans in unspecified amounts.  It was an experience to find out what things cost and how to bargain.  Some people came back with 20 mangos and a little of everything else.  We bought carefully but then had most of our money left and bought 2 kilos of beans with the rest.  We compared prices when we got back and the guys were actually the better bargainers.

Yesterday after lunch we went to our homestays which were arranged for the weekend.  I was picked up by Sanitaa, a widow who is housemaid to my hostess, Lightness, who was still at work as a psychiatric and HIV/AIDS nurse at the local hospital.  We walked about 30 minutes to her house on the other side of the valley.  I was given tea and watched her prepare dinner on the clay stove outside.  When Lightness came home, she took me to her Friday night Pentecostal prayer meeting.      It was very mellow at first, with readings and hymns.  Then  the pastor showed up.  He is about 7 feet tall and wore a mustard colored suit and red tie.  He is bald and would fit right in as an NBA player.  He sat down while the reading continued and I thought he was alseep, but apparently he was just gearing up for his fire and brimstone talk.  It was in Swahili but with some English phrases interlaced, so I didn't understand most of it, but the tone was unmistakable.  He went around the room laying hands on people's heads, I assume to drive out the devil.  The parishioners started swaying and moaning.  I backed into a corner to get out of his reach as he went around.  After doing his rounds of the adults, the children went up for a special blessing, which was not so fierce.

We went back to the house and Lightness' eldest son Yohannes showed up for dinner.  He is a secondary school teacher in the Kilimanjaro region and was home on semester break.  He wants to go back to school to be a politician, and we had a good conversation about local politics and the education system.  The evening was spent talking and watching Nigerian and South African religious TV shows.

Lightness in her yard making breakfast on her stove

Lightness and her son, Yohannes

The next day, we went to the Lutheran church, which had lovely singing.  Afterwards, Lightness took me on a tour of the local hospital.  They have several wards of about 30 people in each room, with two staff members for each ward.  They just wash the instruments with no sterilization.  There is no isolation of TB or AIDS patients and they are just lumped in with the others.  The only IV I saw was in a lady getting prepped for a C-section.  There were separate delivery and surgical suites.  The newborn nursery had one crib and a portable heater.

After so much religion, I was ready to get back to Sabine's.  Our next activity was student teaching at schools about 30 km away on a dirt road.  The schools were basic, with no electricity or running water.

Driving to the school
children waiting outside the school
Erica from Washington DC teaches a class on emotions