Sunday, October 28, 2007

Last week at site

There are several weeks till I am home but tomorrow I enter my last week at site. Already leaving is not as easy as I thought it would be. The increase of visitors and requests for gifts was expected; this is both enjoyable and aggravating. Some are sincere in their interest and others are just looking for gifts. It's fun to be with friends but I have difficulty with one teacher, who though we were amicable before suddenly wants to be my best friend. I do like him but it is clear that whenever he comes over he is looking for something to take home. I don't really want to tell him off, but I also want the visits to change. On the plus side my house is slowly losing its clutter. I keep intending to do a practice pack, but I have a feeling it's just going to be a final pack.

I remember leaving America and it didn't seem that hard, because I knew I would be coming back. Now, I get choked up just thinking about my final week at site. There are three things that cause duress. First is there is the conflict between things I want to do for different people and you can only be at one place at one time. Then there is the fact that my COS date is coming up and it is still not clear what day I will be finished, and aside from a mental itinerary no plans have been made for travel in India. Finally, the most emotional thing is to be finished with teaching and life in Africa. Grading tests I am pleased to see how some students did and wish I could teach others more, but it's tough saying you will see someone again when you don't really know if you will. I don't know when my last trip to Mnyama, or Kilipa or Lambo will be and I don't know if they will be around. America is my home so I always knew I would come back; Africa is a long ways so the return is very uncertain.

Five minutes ago I surprised myself. There was a light rain and I didn't want to go across the street to buy a CD needed to burn pictures.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Coming home again (to Morogoro)

Today is Eid (the end of Ramadan) and I have the good fortune of being able to celebrate it in Morogoro. Yesterday, I took the bus from Moshi to Morogoro and after a brief snack arrived at my old home stay around six in the evening. I was a little bit nervous when I arrived at the house, since none of the parents or their children were around. Fortunately Asha the house girl remembered me and made me feel very welcome. About ten minutes later Mama Mwandu arrived and was overjoyed to see me. Baba Mwandu was also happy to see me and shortly after he came we had Futari, the evening meal that breaks the fast. It was a great feast that starts with an evening ugi and is followed by the main course of chapattis, meat and bananas, meat and sauce, cassava, cooked cabbage, and the ever present and delicious beans. Very full and tired from the long bus ride I fell asleep not long after the meal.

This morning I went to the Mosque with the father and two house girls. We were supposed to leave at 7:30 but the taxi came at a quarter til. And baba wasn't ready until ten til. It was interesting to hear the girls chatter about him being late and worrying about missing the prayer. We arrived just before the prayers started and one of the girls in her rush to get to the appropriate spot (and partially due to poor footing) started to pray early. Fortunately, she was not hurt and was able to get to the female section of prayers. I was initially surprised to find the sun to my right as everyone faced the prayer direction, then I realized Mecca is to the north of Tanzania. Since, none of the Mwandu kids are around this year I expect to have another large meal, but a relatively calm evening tonight.


Friday, October 05, 2007

It's my birthday and I'm coming home

I commemorated my third birthday in Tanzania in just over two years. It was definitely a low key affair which consisted of a marvellous day of teaching. The form ones actually got the material I was teaching, what can be a better present than that? I spent extra time reading secluded in my home, and extra money buying chapatis and beans with rice for an easy dinner. I didn't tell anyone it was my birthday but nevertheless I received two birthday texts one being picture of Osama wishing me a happy birthday. I also found that all my brownies sold in one day after the price was lowered and sold in the school shop, no booklets attached. On the whole it was a pretty good birthday.

I also purchased my plane tickets last Friday. So I am coming home after all and I send my regrets for not replying sooner to my friends about my return plans. The plan originally was to spend a month in India and be home for Christmas. As expected, things change and my travel partner opted to go home a month earlier. I decided to still go to India and will travel for one week and be home on the 20th of November.

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Monday, October 01, 2007

Graduation and gifts

Graduation for the form four's was last week. During my two years here I have been to a couple rounds of graduations. I noticed a striking parallel in the Tanzanian graduations. The form two graduation is akin to middle school graduation, where there is very little to the ceremony. The form four's graduation is a big celebration, and like high school graduation it's seen as a transition point, even though they still have two years left of A levels until college. Family and friends all come together for the ceremony and school is basically shut down for preparation the week before the awards. Form six is the end of high school and though it is probably the more significant life change and achievement (like college) the celebration is a more private affair. Their graduation often takes place when the forms one through four are one vacation. Also the students from A level are fewer and come from further away so family visits are not as practical.

My presents for the form fours were brownies, which though they enjoyed them neither the students nor teachers understood their name. Brownies suffer from a poor branding identity. People don't recognise the word "brown" in the name. Also if you try to call it caki they fail to recognise the reference, due to the vastly different appearance. The naming of course was not important when they were given as presents. It became a bigger issue when used a promotion for math pamphlets.

I believe part of the problem of students passing math is that they fail to invest in supplemental materials. For the O level exams four figure tables are required to solve several problems. Most students don't buy these tables because typically there are enough tables in the school for them to get a copy during the exam. These tables, like computers, are useful and simple once you learn the basic way to read them. However since the tables are dispersed throughout the school the students can't use them to learn during classes. I made photocopies of the tables and tried to sell them at the cost of photocopy 200 sh. (less than 20 cents and roughly the cost of breakfast).
I finally started to sell the pamphlets when I displayed the brownies covered. I originally covered them in tinfoil to preserve their freshness and prevent students from just stealing brownies. However, I quickly found that covering the brownies added to the mystique and gratification of buying a brownie. Which since the brownies are more expensive than normal cakis is a selling point.

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Monday, September 24, 2007


In the last couple of weeks I reached the Headmistress' inner circle. I have been able to enter her office at will, even when she is not there. The reason is undoubtedly because I helped the school by installing an internet phone, and she still has a lot of computer questions. Unfortunately, her computer is the only one with internet access. The lack of a PCI slot has foiled my attempt to install the required USB port to use the phone on the main office computer. For me and the rest of staff this would be a huge advantage as the headmistress' office is generally off limits. Still, the headmistress has been very appreciative and put the internet to good use, printing articles on global warning and letting me know about news events like the protest in Washington. Of course some of the information is of marginal utility, such as the notice of available surgeries to avoid morbid obesity posted by the food table.

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Nane Nane

Nane Nane day is the eighth day of the eighth month. In Tanzania it is celebrated as a farmers day, people who work in town take the day to work on the farm and harvest their crops and those that work in the fields take the day to rest. Also in Arusha there is a big fair, where supposedly there are all kinds of animals, games, and big sales of everything you want to buy. I went this year and was not surprised to find this was not the extravaganza everyone said it would be. The animals were standard farm animals: pigs, cows, chickens. There were turkeys which are rare in Tanzania but no lions or giraffes which allegedly the National Parks usually bring.

The teacher I went with said they were surprised to find so much open space, and so few vendors--last year it was packed. Still I enjoyed walking around. I did find some nice presents and now will not regret the missing the opportunity of seeing the fair.


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Monkeys in the maize

I finally empathize with farmers who shoot animals foraging in their fields. Some monkeys came and ate a large quantity of our school’s maize. This year the rains haven’t been very good so there is not much maize. This probably correlates to less food that the monkeys can find growing wild.

Hearing that the monkeys stole our maize at first did not faze me. It seemed natural that they would take easy food, and the image of monkeys hopping in the fields taking the maize seemed humorous. Seeing the fields was a different matter, seeing the half eaten cobs and empty maize shells strewn across the fields, I remembered the students’ efforts to sow and weed the fields. It felt like someone came into my house and broke the furniture then left. Fortunately, I don’t believe our school relies heavily on the school farm. However, often farms are of poor families who rely heavily on the harvest, and the loss of most of a meager crop would be devastating. It's easy to see why many farmers shoot the vermin.

Our school’s response was curious. We sent one guard and the cook had his son protect the maize (since it was next to ours). Two people are not enough to ward off a hundred monkeys. The guard requested that students assist him, but the consensus was that this should not be done. The general opinion was that one person was effective as twenty and the school would be laughed at for sending the students on a monkey chase. This may be true but I would think that if you spent several weeks sowing and weeding the field, and would spend another couple of weeks harvesting and getting it ready to store, some time could be spent protecting it. The next week some students were in fact sent to protect the fields but by this time there was much less
maize to protect.


Sunday, August 05, 2007

The late mail

It's been a long time since I have written, and maybe a few of you worried that I fell of a cliff. But I didn’t fall, I flew. A few weeks ago I took a trip down to Victoria Falls in Zambia. Its roughly twice as wide and twice as tall as Niagara falls and is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. As the people that to travel to Africa tend to be adventurous there are numerous risky ways to make the falls more memorable. You can bungee jump off a bridge, canoe near the edge, raft the river bellow or fly above the falls. Suspiciously all the activities cost the same price: just under a hundred dollars with pictures for $15-$20 more. Having made the long journey down I felt obligated to do one of the activities. Although Louis jumped off the bridge, I chose not to make the leap of faith. Instead I viewed the falls from above with a micro flight.

A micro flight is motorized hang glider, or alternatively a motor cycle that flies. The experience of flying not as freeing as I expected. Somehow mentally pictured being like a bird gliding with the wind and being able to go anywhere you pleased. The reality is that you are padded up and piloted around on a basically fixed route. The view was spectacular and you can see lines where in 1000 years the falls will be and you gain a much better geological understanding of the area. I went through a lot to get to the falls and spent about three months of Peace Corps pay and came out about even and it was certainly memorable.

What it took to get there:
Food deprivation, sleep deprivation, and loud noises are just a few of the ways terrorists are possibly tortured during an interrogation. On my trip to see Victoria Falls I unwittingly subjected myself to this torture. To save money we avoided planes, and to save time we avoided trains, thus bus was the means of transportation from here to Livingston, Zambia. The first leg of the journey, from Moshi to Mbeya, took 16 hours. Since the food available at the bus rest stops is limited, my food for the day consisted of water and French fries and six mini muffins. The next day we got up early to catch the first available bus. After taking the three hour minibus to the border we paid for our visa and bus to Lusaka. Unfortunately, the costs for each of these was double what I expected, this is of significance because transportation was our major cost for the trip. Since our cash was now very limited and we found the earliest bus didn’t leave until 4PM, we filled the time by taking a taxi to the ATM in Mbeya and back. From Tunduma to Lusaka was 13 hours, where they played choir music videos and three low budget African films that had an inordinate amount of shouting. The entertainment and cold of the night combined to make an environment not conducive to sleeping. The bus stops were very short and infrequent so we didn’t eat or drink. This was partially by choice to reduce restroom necessities and partially because at night is difficult to see the people getting off the bus are doing (Is this their stop, or a food stop?). To add to the experience the aisle were filled 1-2 feet high with 90 lbs bags of grain and a drunk person got thrown off the bus for disturbing his neighbors. When we arrived in Lusaka it was 5 AM and everything was closed so everybody just stayed in the bus until around seven. We walked around and found a bakery to have breakfast then returned to the stand and caught a bus to Livingston. This was a pleasant six and a half hour ride and they served some refreshing mango juice. The return trip was about the same; Livingston to Lusaka a comfortable ride with mango juice (it really makes the trip),time for a meal in Lusaka, then board again. The ride from Lusaka to was about the same, replace the goods piled in the aisle with people, the noise with a window that won’t stay closed (wind noise + winter cold = no comfort), the drunkard with a fight between to guys over who gets a seat. There was a restful day in Mbeya followed by the long haul from Mbeya to Moshi.

Zambia Vs Tanzania:

The official language of Zambia is English and the average Zambian speaks it much better than the average Tanzanian. However, they do have regional Bantu languages and that seems to be what is commonly spoken. I could often understand fragments of what was being said around me but I could rarely follow the conversation.

I noticed that fruits were not as plentiful and there weren’t the fried chapatis or cakis at every corner. The replaced the cheap fried foods with more upscale pastries (éclairs, French twists, scones, etc.) easily found at bakeries and stores. There were more nice western chains like subway, and food court places. The standard fare cheap food is still ugali (called shima) with beans, and cooked greens. It was nice to see many more of the Western foods but near the end of the trip I was looking forward to some fruit.

The Zambians were noticeably thinner than the Tanzanians. I would not be surprised if the lack of cakis and chapatis has something to do with this. There were many more girls/women with pants, and very few women with loose fitting clothes. Since Tanzanian boys/men typically wear western style clothes there was not much difference in how they dress in Zambia.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

I forgot the mail

I put off writing about trip to Victoria Falls last month, and finally wrote something down only to forget to bring it town today. But I suppose I owe you an account of what I have been doing.

I think school officially started last week. We had the opening meeting and some students started to report by the end of the week. Half of the form ones were there and I taught a review lesson. Although I haven't received my official teaching assignment it's generally understood that I will teach the form ones and assist with the form 4's. This is ideal since the results of the mock were poor and again math was near the bottom of the list. I get to help the students improve but am not responsible for the miracles the headmistress is demanding. My forecast for the term is positive since for the form 4's roughly twice are past the mock scores compared to last year and many more are within five points of passing. The form 1's scores are much better since I taught the last three topics, and only a quarter failed. This term the material is much easier than last term so everyone should improve.

I am spending sometime fixing things. I got my bike tire repaired, belt cinched, unclogged the sink and other pipes. I hope my phone is fixed when I finish this email, since I dropped it two weeks ago and it hasn't worked right since. My biggest job has been to fix the library. The last two weeks I have been organizing the library and finally have all the books in decent order. There are still rats/mice that need to be removed/exterminated and the lights still aren't working.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

A Tanzanian ENT

The last couple of weeks my ears have been ringing. I had been to the Ears Nose and Throat ward of KCMC before to see what was needed for visit. From that visit I got the impression that it would not be difficult to see a doctor just come in and open a file. The first real visit, which came after the first night of ringing was surprisingly frustrating. I walked through the gates and walked to the reception
window with the sign in swahili new visitors with a letter. This was next to the sign of pay here. I asked which line to stand in and waited. A couple of people cut in front of me but I eventually made it to the front. Where I was asked where my card was. Since I clearly had no card they gave me directions to someplace, but not really understanding them I wandered around places that seemed likely. Some people tried in vain to help. Eventually, I did as I had done the other day and walked to the ENT and into the doctor's office. I talked to the doctor and he gave me the slip to open the file. After paying for the file I was given a number. Somehow, I think the number system is loosely used since not long after my file was received my name was called. The visit was surprisingly brief the doctor asked a few questions and quickly diagnosed an upper respiratory infection. He examined my ears and cleaned out my ears. He removed a surprisingly large clot from my left ear (the one that felt the most congested and rang the most). This satisfied him but since my ear did not feel any better and even slightly worse I was expecting more. Nonetheless, he said the ear
would feel better soon and prescribed medicine.

Well the ringing did not get better so after four days of persistent ringing I returned to KCMC. I of course did not have an appointment but figured the hard part of opening a file had been done, just show up early and see the doctor. I showed up early but found that I needed to have an appointment on my card to get my file. To get an appointment I needed to see the doctor, but the right doctor did come until noon. Fortunately, I had the foresight to bring a book. After the doctor came he signed my card and they got my file. I did not get a number or the expedited service. A few more hours later my name was called and I saw the doctor. Not the one I saw before but he was still willing to help me. He asked a few more questions and of course looked into my ears, which were very clean. Not only did he take my blood pressure but had the nurse give me a hearing test. I think the test was mostly a placebo, but it built my confidence nonetheless. He said the problem was in my middle ear and gave me some different meds. These worked much better and for the last few days have only had the ringing periodically.

I should note that though this email probably sounds like I am complaining about the hospital process, I am still impressed by it. First of all I am lucky to have been admitted at all, clearly references and appointments are expected and for non-white people are probably required. I was exceptionally lucky to come in on the days of the ENT specialists (Tue and Thurs) and get treated without an appointment. Also the doctors are very busy and have very limited testing facilities. I did not expect them to get it right on the first time (but was really hoping for it), and am glad that my condition has improved.

Picture courtesy


Sunday, May 27, 2007

New books!

The school received books donated from the Rotary club last week but they just sat in their boxes for a week. So this week I made it a priority to make the books accessible to the students. I had to coax a team of students and the secretary, still it took a whole day to get the books stamped, numbered and moved to the library. 40 Earth Science books, 30 General Science books, 25 math books, 30 biology books, 20 literature books and an entire set of encyclopedias. The library use surged this week from about six students to over twenty students. As I expected, the encyclopedias and biology books are the most popular while the math books are generally overlooked.

I spent some time browsing the math books, it will be interesting to see how useful the students will find them. The books have the advantage of lots of pictures, color text to clarify steps of an example, and more applications of material. Unfortunately there are also significant disadvantages. First they are not catered to Tanzanian syllabus and the format of the text is
different. The fact that the topics are not all in the same order is a bigger problem in Tanzania, most likely because they have very few text books, and they are always heavily geared for the exam. This means that you typically do not have to gloss through a book or tables of contents and indexes to find relevant material. The best thing about these books is that there are a sufficient number so that they actually could be used in the classroom, and they are foreign so there is no expectation that the students should already have them. Unlike the Tanzanian books which are cheap and readily available but still most students don't have copies. As a result
homework cannot be assigned from them and simple references are not sufficient.


Sunday, May 20, 2007

Ride in

The ride in wasn't much different this morning, but I had another one of those "I'm in Africa" moments. The ride in was filled with farmers which is typical during the rainy season. Because most of them get off at the same large farm it is not uncommon for the dala to make that stop the end of his route and return for another route. As I waited for the next dala to take me into town I was struck by how beautiful it was to see the people in their colorful clothes, carrying their jembes and waiting for the next ride. The blue sky contrasted nicely with their dark skin but of course I didn't bring my camera and probably would have felt odd taking the picture were it available. When the dala going to Moshi did come I was lucky enough to sit in the front seats. Usually these seats are preferable because though you are crammed four in a row like the rest, you get to see out the front window and there are less hassles with people leaving and entering the dala. Today's ride was special because not only was I in the front but they didn't try to add an extra passenger, so there was ample room and the normal seat felt spacious. Part of this "I'm in Africa" moment is undoubtedly because of the recent departure of the British volunteers.

The British girls left yesterday and saying good bye was harder than I expected. Granted my expectations were pretty low, I spent very little time with them during their four month stay. The last two weeks our relationship improved from just being amicable to being friends. It also forced me to confront the fact that I will soon have to be saying good bye to the students and packing my bags.

One boon of their departure is the box of food they left me. It isn’t much different than common box donated to a food drive, but find myself peering into it like a new toy chest. The most precious items are a brick of butter and two spice grinders filled with garlic and red chillies respectively. The stocks and dried soups will provide special meals for months and I already
enjoyed some penne pasta. I made the mistake of confusing an unlabeled soup package for a mac & cheese package, and ended up preparing penne casserole.


Saturday, April 28, 2007

A little more culture

I suppose with the deadly black and green mambas around it shouldn’t come as surprise that Tanzanians don’t take any chances with snakes. However, sometimes I feel they go a little overboard. I recall several months ago there was a commotion over a snake by the girls dormitory, it was a matter of seconds before the guard pulverized the snake. The odds that the snake posed a threat to the students were slim considering it was black and about 6 six inches long, and half an inch wide after flattening.

This time the snake was a little closer to home. Actually it was in a bush behind my house. The farmer working on the field next to my house spotted the snake and tried to show it to me. It was the classic “you see it there?” “uhhh, I think so [all I see is bushes]…what color is it [can you give me a clue]?” Besides describing the snake as the color of his knife handle (brown) it was also “Kubwa sana” (very big). This created an image of a twenty foot python but after not immediately seeing such a snake I deduced it must be much smaller.

I felt a little better when after the four AV girls arrived none of them could see it either. Eventually I did manage to see the snake camouflaged in green and black. By this time the word had spread that there was snake and somebody had called culture man. Culture man had his machete and another man brought a five foot tree limb. Fortunately, culture man had not been
drinking and seemed unfazed by our last meeting. He called for the stick and walked carefully to within striking range of the snake. Culture man then squared up his legs and targeted the snake with the bludgeoning weapon before making his over the head swing. The snake then fell either stunned or dead in the bushes. And so had to be beaten again, before lifted out and
placed in the clear where they could chop the head off. However a severed head can easily reunite with the body so the head was buried and the body was placed someplace easy to see.

When matron heard about the snake’s head being buried she was very concerned that another snake would come and bring the head to the body and then the two would escape. This meant that the head had to be found and then obliterated with a rock.

The snake was about three feet long and when put on top of dirt was definitely brown in color. Which makes me wonder if the chameleon snake is naturally brown or is it able to change color after death? Unfortunately, I had not thought of these questions and therefore failed to do the simple test of putting the snake on a green background. The fact that the body still twitched for a long time after being severed from the head makes me believe that it could change at least for a short period.


Sunday, April 22, 2007

Crazies and cheats

In my area there are two people that I am always a little scared when I meet either they are happy and the encounter is neutral or good or they are not and yell at me for no good reason. The first is “culture man” he is an old man that sometimes mines the rock from the hill next to the school and has built a house next to the school. He is a little crazy and typically his antics involve speaking the tribal language either he is happy that I am able to greet with it and tries to show me to anyone nearby or he mumbles it mixed with Swahili and English and complains that I haven’t learned the local language. Sometimes he is drunk and wants something like beer or a cigarette, I usually offer to buy him vegetables this rarely makes him happy but usually placates him. This week his antics went a little further than I was comfortable with. When I first saw him I could tell he was intoxicated and at first the greetings went well, but then two year old he was holding wouldn’t give me the proper greeting which made him unhappy. Then he gave the child to me and walked me towards the mother fortunately not far away. This was a bit out of my comfort zone but probably I was happy. Then he asked for a cigarette which of course I offered vegetables, when we reached the turn for store that sell them he tried to pull me up to the store was stupid and held my place which of course made him more determined and angry. His grip became firm and I contemplated actually pushing him or hitting him but thought it is never justifiable for me to fight an old man additionally since he regularly does manual labor (which typically builds a strong upper body) and I regularly do only mental labor should push come to shove I may find myself on the ground. So simply continued to stand my ground and verbally discourage him. This is when some others came riding on one of the few tractors. They were not pleased to see the crazy man pestering me and stopped him from grabbing my arm and told him to leave me alone. When he tried to come back they again interfered and told me to move on. Culture man tried to follow me but they pushed him off the road. It sad that he was treated this way but his persistence was definitely unsettling. On the plus it is very clear that the villagers have my back.

The other person is crazy man with a gun, who speaks incoherent English. He is a night guard at a farm nearby and on a good day he buys me soda and on a bad day he chews me out for no reason. It is never pleasant seeing a man carrying a riffle unhappy with you, at least he never threatens with it or plays with it, so I feel safe. Just another oddball in the neighborhood.

This week was midterms and I have earned a reputation as a vigilant invigilator. I started with the form 4 A’s and they were pretty good I only caught one or two cheating. The form 1 A were the worst as is typical. I caught cheat notes on four students desks not to mention several people giraffing. When I entered the form 3 A classroom there were murmurs of “Sodoku” which is apparently my codename. Before filled half the board with the exam I caught three people with notes, each time there was silence as I approached the student and laughter after I pulled their cheat notes. Although, formally when the students laughed I felt angry that they would laugh when somebody got caught; this time I very nearly laughed too; whether their laughter changed tune or subliminally got that in the game of cat and mouse the cat just caught the mouse, I’m not sure. But after the rough start there was no whispering and at the end I caught one student with notes causing the rest to quickly hand in their papers. For the last class the form 3 B students there were again the “Sodoku” whispers, and even a few gasps/groans. However, they were very well behaved and aside from a few early whispers I didn’t catch any cheaters, but would not be surprised to find that some still managed to cheat. Regardless, cheating has dramatically decreased since one year ago when there was a whisper when ever you turned your head and even an answer sheet was seen thrown through the window.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Climbing Kili

My poor parents thought I had fallen off the mountain since they had not heard from me in almost two weeks. When we last spoke I had voiced my concern that I may not climb the mountain because of a persistent cold. I recovered from my cold in time to climb, but had a relapse at Gilman’s point. A cold is nothing worry about but for some reason this cold makes it difficult for my ears to adjust to pressure changes. So when at 5685 m my ears suddenly felt clogged and I could only equalize the pressure by eating snow I think you will forgive me for descending. Fortunately, Gilman’s point is on the top of the mountain so I can say that I stood on the roof of Africa (even if I wasn’t on the apex) and I have the certificate to back it up. They (the wonderful people at KINAPA) award three certificates for climbing Kilimanjaro the first is Gilman’s point, the second is Stella Point 5756 m, and the highest is Uhuru Peak 5895 m. All three say that you have climbed the highest mountain in Africa and they differ slightly on border and paper quality. Even if I had failed to get a certificate the climb would have been worthwhile.

Kilimanjaro was quite the adventure. We traversed five types of terrains, walked in rain, sleet, and snow, and climbed more than 4 vertical kilometers (each day of travel is almost exactly 1 Km of ascent). The first day is a short 8 Km but is deceptively difficult. Because it is the first day and at the lowest altitude and a short distance you expect it to be easy, however since it still climbs 1000 m it is actually steeper and therefore harder than most days. Let me add a little perspective on what heights I am talking about. 10 m is a 3 story building so 1000 m is 300 story building and 2000 m is about the depth of the grand canyon. The forest is very green and mossy and reminded a lot of Oregon. There were remarkably few wild animals--on the
whole trip we saw only a few small birds, some crows, mountain mice (two at camp and two on the trail), a blue monkey, and three Colobus Monkeys (together). After the first day you leave the forest and go through the sub-alpine forest and alpine flats which reminded me a lot of eastern Idaho because of the color and sagebrush like trees. We spent one day “acclimating” and seeing Zebra rock which was really just a day of rest but the rest was probably a good thing given the next 48 hours. After the day of acclimating you hike to kibo hut passing through desert terrain that reminded me of Nevada, this day is also not hard but you are only given the
afternoon to rest. The climb from Kibo hut to the peak begins at midnight so that you can see the sun rise and then quickly descend. The day before you look a the remaining mountain and “think oh that’s not much further.” Then at night you really can't see far so look up and constantly think you are close to the top when in fact you have several hours remaining. For me it was more mentally frustrating than physically demanding, especially given the slow pace required in the thin air. However, by Gilman’s point I was tired and breathing hard even taking only one small step every 3 seconds. At Gilman’s point you crest the mountain and on the downhill side there is scree and a view of the saddle and Mawenze Peak. On the other side is snow and a small crater. We reached this point right at sun rise; but of course although I remembered to pack a spare camera battery, I forgot to change the battery or bring the spare on the final climb and was unable to capture the most memorable moments. I may get some pictures from a student who did take a camera with film, but I have not seen any photos yet.

When climbing I was a little disappointed that not all my students made it to Uhuru, and was discouraged to hear out of ten students only four (3 boys and 1 girl) made it to the peak. But on the way down I had time to think about the statistics and I realized they really weren’t so bad. Out of 13 people three got sick (not related to altitude sickness) and only one got altitude sickness while the rest (all 3 teachers, 3 boy and 3 girl students) made it to Gilman’s or higher. Furthermore, the two teachers which many people doubted would be able made it to the peak and the girl everyone thought would not make it got to Stella point.


Friday, March 09, 2007

Half way there

I just had a celebratory lunch after receiving the news that it is very likely I will get my free permit to climb Kilimanjaro soon. This is a huge relief since there is less than a month until the April climb dates and if the news was negative it would shut down the climb and cause a lot of disappointment. There are still a lot of organizational hurdles but this is the big hill. I still have to collect some permission forms and money, hire guides etc.

I am also relieved to have completed the Kilimanjaro half-marathon without injuries. Last week I finished 21.5 KM in about 2 hours and 20 minutes. This is a pretty slow time but my primary objective was to be a good running partner for the other PCV and not get hurt. This run reminded me a lot of last years fun run. The mountain was visible the whole time, and I had good conversation the whole time. It also had spontaneous component typical of most of my adventures. Being TOD i got in town the evening before the race with no reservations made. I went to the YMCA hoping to get a room but they were booked, although I was about to go downtown to search for a vacant room I remembered my highest priority was to register for the race. I managed to register for the race before they closed the gates, and met a friend who was
also registering late. I asked for a ride down town and they not only gave me a ride down but offered me a place to spend the night. Since they were also running the half marathon, I enjoyed not only my first hot shower for months but also had free ride to the race. They had a late start in the morning so we got there at 6:59 AM. I saw my PCVs joined them and then the race started 7:00 AM, perfect timing.

Another accomplishment was the week before last I ran up to Umbwe Secondary where my "site-mate" lives. We kept saying one on weekend we would make the trek, but I knew that if I did not make it then I would never do it. I had heard it was about 10 KM which means it would be almost the exact same as the half marathon except unpaved so easier on the joints. It turns out to be a bit further than 10K and by my time I would estimate about 13-15 K. It took 1 hour 40 minutes up and about the same down. I highly doubt I will be running that again, but at least the half marathon was not nearly as bad.

So things are are going, probably need to start moving again too.


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day came and went faster than a child on a merry go round, and made a little less noise. There were a few comments in the staff room that Valentine’s Day was coming. No pink decorations and no flowers but there was Happy Valentine’s Day written on the board. A few comments about it being Valentine’s Day in the staff room, but no cards were exchanged. One teacher asked me to cover for him so that he could leave early, as a result I taught sickness to the Form I students. Although stick pictures of people vomiting and having diarrhea lend themselves to a slew of jokes (especially on Valentine’s Day) I refrained from making them.

I am facing different issues getting the boys and girls to run. The boys want me to push them further, while the girls say I am pushing too hard. This is not good since the girls are running less than one mile at a very slow pace and still walk up small hills. At least they are getting out in the morning. One thing I am going to try is walking, which is probably better since we will be hiking not running up the mountain.


Sunday, February 11, 2007

Up and running

This week was the official start of my Kili climb training. Runs start early about six AM, which means I actually have to use an alarm clock. The first day it was hard to get the students out of the door, but since they requested to run at 6 I have no qualms about rousting them out of bed. And after they are up the runs have gone smoothly, I think that it has helped that the girls run on different days than the boys so that every one is running the same speed. We run at the twilight of the morning, which has several interesting effects. First, it is very dark at the start of the run and daylight by the end so there are usually some nice views of the sunrise. Second, the people rise with the sun so initially there is nobody out but when we return most people are starting their walk to the farm. Finally, the runs have significantly increased my exposure to the community because I am going further down the back roads and out at times when people can see me and I can see them. The most unexpected benefit is to see the women start jogging when they see me coming, the smiles on their face are precious.

This week we also put the donated soccer balls [Thanks Adidas!] to good use. The there was an A level versus O level match and also the form 2 girls against the form 4 girls. The girls were clearly having a great time and their disorganized play was a lot more fun to watch than the more practiced boys. It was recreation soccer in the truest sense.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Saving the School

When the lights were flickering on and off I thought it was just a weird variant of the Tanzanian low power. Then about five minutes later there was a knock on the door and Mr. Athman (my neighbor and teacher on duty) said that there was a short and I needed to go down to look at the power. I put on my shoes and grabbed the solar powered flashlight and headed out. The flashlight wasn't charged and my eyes had not adjusted to the darkness, so I made my way down by memory, slow steps and the sound of their voices. Even though it is only about 100 feet and would take 30 seconds, blind it took me considerably longer.

They excitedly described the situation: that they heard a large bang and then the lights started going so there must be a short. My initial reaction was to open up the office and turn off the power but before I told anyonethe wire burst into flames. Mr. Athman told me to put out the fire with the guard's stick. Why didn't the guard use his own stick? I don't know; but I knew
I had better use the stick or we would be watching the school burn down. Ilashed at the wires like a child at a pinata. After I scored a direct hit on the first go I put out the main fire and quickly put out a second wire too. After that action I realized the most effective way to prevent another fire was to remove the fuses. So I ripped out the three external fuses andthen went to sleep feeling like a hero.

The rest of the week was uneventful aside from the fact that the power was restored the next day.


Thursday, January 25, 2007

Safari Day 3

Well Lake Manyara was definitely the climax of our safari, but just as when you go hiking the top is usually the most spectacular view but after you descend the ridge you still see stunning beauty. After Lake Manyara we spent the day driving to Serengeti via Ngorogoro Crater and Olduvai Gorge.

We actually drove just around the rim of the crater not down into it. The crater is too large to see animals in the crater from the rim. For some reason it felt really weird to see the Masai huts on the rim of the crater. I kept wondering how they could live with all the wild animals so close or vice versa, then remembered that not long ago this area would not have been a game reserve, just normal land. If you would not live near wild game, you probably wouldn't have a place to live. It is also conceptually difficult for me to grasp how similar it would be to life on the American plains 200 years ago.

Speaking of history our next stop was Olduvai Gorge. I was surprised to find it was very dry and it reminded me a lot of deserts in Nevada. I was rather underwhelmed by the museum but I think it is more because I had high expectations and also expected to do a foot tour of the site. Instead we saw a replica of the foot prints in a one room museum. To be fair it was possible to go down but we did not take the time and Lucy was on tour.

When we reached the Serengeti plains we were overwhelmed by wildebeests. The ground was so flat that it makes the big sky of Idaho seem small, and as far as you could see were wildebeests and/or zebra. We probably saw more than one million wildebeests and maybe even two. Mysteriously, after the entrance to the Park the game disappeared. And the rest of the drive to the hotel was uneventful.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Safari Day 2

The second day of safari was by far the most memorable day of the trip. We drove to Lake Manyara and seeing lots of baboons in the parking lot closed the top of the Rover to prevent further theft. After we signed in and drove into the park we saw some blue monkeys which moved quickly and hoped about a foot in the air as they ran around in the grass.

We ran into an elephant on the road, reminding us of our encounter the day before and did a lot of bird watching. As a normal passenger I think this would have been tedious, however as cameraman it was entertaining. The challenge was to anticipate when the bird would be in the right position for a picture, then like a hunter after you have targeted the animal you shoot. Sometimes you hit but as a new photographer more often I'd miss. There is a short period where you can try again but often the animal leaves and you have to find new ground.

A little before lunch time we ran into a pile of cars trying to spot a lion in a tree. Apparently most lions do not climb trees but the ones around Lake Manyara do. We tried to spot it for about ten minutes before giving up.

We drove down by the lake and saw more big animals like giraffes and pelicans, but after lunch my eyelids suddenly felt very heavy and I decided to stop lifting them. Judging by the great pictures Jill took I missed a lot of zebra. I woke up shortly before we spotted a water buffalo wading in the river.

Around 3 PM we stopped to watch a pack of about 30 baboons by the side of the road. I took several pictures and took two videos of the baboons playing and fighting. The videos filled the camera's memory card. I guess it was time for me to learn how to delete photos. Suddenly they started to shriek and two lions appeared driving another pack of baboons towards us. A lot of baboons climbed in the tree nearest to them (and us) giving us a clear view of their rears. I am quite happy we were not under any tree branches, as terrified by the lions the baboons proceeded to empty their bowels leaving streaks on the tree and bombs below. Sometime when I was deleting pictures one baboon fell from a tree and a lion pounced on it and ran away with the kill. The other lion chased some baboons down the road, while two more came down from the hill seeing the treed baboons. Finally I had cleared some space and was able take some pictures. The lions were obviously hungry to be hunting during the day and after careful analysis of their hunting techniques it is clear they never passed Hunting 202: Hunting in Trees. Instead of having one lion in the tree shaking out the baboons out of the tree and the other waiting below the baboons killing them when they fall. One went up in the tree while the other waited at the base of the tree and when it would start to climb the tree baboons leaped out of the branches. Seeing some on the ground it would chase after a few but being too late this gave others an opportunity to escape. Eventually it was one baboon and two lions and the baboon still got away.

The chase over we tried to make our way to the park exit. Unfortunately, about a km down the road we ran into an elephant blockade. It only took one elephant to form the blockade but we had to wait for the elephant to sniff the air and determine if any threats were nearby. We must have been down wind from the elephant because despite our proximity it took about ten minutes before the elephant left the road for us to pass.

We took a slight detour and saw warthogs and hippos in the grass near sunset. Fully satisfied we left the park.


Friday, January 19, 2007

The first day of real safari

We went to Tarangire Park for our first day of safari. As it was the start of our adventure every thing was new and we had a lot to learn. The highlights of the day include the black face or vervet monkey known by most viewers as the blueballed monkey for its stunningly sky blue testicles. The vervet is also known by picnickers as a pesky food thief. We quickly learned to trust our guide (Humphrey) when he suggested we eat by him and guard our food.

We chose our table for its scenic view of the river. As soon as we set the lunch boxes on the table one of the monkeys screamed at us and took a sandwich. Though we were able to chase it away there were more coming. Unable to eat our lunches in peace, we made a hasty retreat to Humphrey and then were able to eat in peace. Since this encounter mom has not been able to forgive the monkeys and views every vervet with enmity.

Not long after lunch we aggravated some elephants and heard the warning trumpet of an elephant. Fortunately, we did not witness the charge that occasionally follows. Even in a large safari vehicle the elephant was intimidating. It is easy to imagine the elephant knocking the vehicle over, and after seeing the toppled and torn trees I would be surprised to find that a window offers significant protection from an elephant's tusk (see picture). We spent the night in some nice cabins and enjoyed a little of my banana wine.


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Happy New Year

Happy New Year!

I am exhausted from traveling so much, but I am now glad to be back at site. I spent New Year’s in Zanzibar. It was good but not too spectacular. This is mostly because I was recuperating from a 104 fever (probably Malaria) but also because the Tanzanians don't really know about the count down. Apparently in Zanzibar it's "123 happy New Year!" and continue with the music. Aside from the typical DJ music at the bar there also were two people swinging flaming candles on the beach and a not very good drumming circle.

Should write a lot more about my travels before New Year's Eve in the next few days. Until then enjoy the blog my parents have been working on ( They added a new pictures link that has our travel pictures. Also you can now find it using google T in Tanzania Peace Corps.


Thursday, December 28, 2006

Real vacation

Today is the official start of my real vacation. My parents arrive tonight and we start the tour tomorrow.

Yesterday I finished my end of term report and finished invigilating the A level exams. Actually I kind of enjoyed monitoring their exams. You would think it would be boring standing in front of a room of students. It is very peaceful, and unlike the O level exams there are not whispers when you turn your back or mysterious pieces of torn paper with answers suddenly on the ground.

The time passes quickly because I discovered a great name game. Where you mentally go from student to student in a somewhat random order pretending that there is a sports action. My mental sport is American football where there are laterals, hail Marys, fumbles, runs up the middle and the all important touch downs. There are frequent breaks because a student needs
paper, permission for a ruler, pencil etc. As an additional benefit for playing the game I finally know all the students in form six.

I mentally just hit a brick wall, and so feel it is probably best to stop before I get a concussion.

Have a very Merry Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, whatever you celebrate and a happy new year.


Monday, December 11, 2006

Somehow busy

I wanted to say congratulations to my cousin Nathan who is getting married this weekend.

Last week somehow flew by and I didn't really get things done that I planned to do. However, I did a lot of things I didn't plan. I think the teachers are now interested in using the computer for grades now that they can rank the students in 5 minutes instead of several hours. I don't think they are totally hooked because power outages and limited printing facilities have made it difficult for them record the rankings on the report card.

Also these last couple of weeks I adjusted to no running water and no power. Finally I am having the real African experience. It is not as glorious as I had hoped, but not as bad as I feared after living one day without water. I think the utilities are about equal in importance. Running water is nice because you can wash hands and dishes easily, and power means that you can stay up late and use things like computers. Moral of the story both things are good but people have been living for a long time without them.T.


Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Sorry this is a little late. I went to Thanksgiving at the Ambassador's again and I think it was much better than last year in all respects. First the transportation: last year because of training we had to wake up early Thanksgiving day and spend half the day getting there. This year two evenings early I went to the place where it would be convenient to catch the early bus which meant I enjoyed a special dinner and was well rested for the trip. Also it meant that my travel day was the day before so I could sleep in on Thanksgiving. Also last year because of Oral Proficiency Interviews we had to leave Thanksgiving day, leaving little time to enjoy the food and see Dar. In contrast this year we stayed, enjoyed the food, watched a movie and football at the Embassy. Some went out to dance but I rolled to bed not to the club.

However, as we all know the two most important aspects of T-day are the food and family. This year the food was great and there was plenty of it. I noticed two things about the buffet style Thanksgiving. First that even though all of the food is good it never feels special. Probably because you don't see anything prepared it seems like no work and builds no anticipation or appreciation of what is being served. Second, you don't eat nearly as much because the event is about being social so you don't want to be leaving the table every five minutes to fill your plate, and people aren't asking you to fill up. Some people would argue that left overs are an important part of the day, but personally I think if everybody leaves the table barely able to leave the house its better than being able to eat all week. Still, no left overs is a detraction the from T-day experience.

Due to time constraints I am going to gloss over the lack of family presence, but note that they were missed and I am really excited that they will be coming in December. Even my sister from China isn't that amazing?

Well cheers,

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Saturday, November 04, 2006


I am sure most of you are disappointed that I don't really have any Halloween cultural stories, but Tanzanians do think bats are bad luck. The real reason I wrote Halloween as the subject is because on that day I was supposed to write to my mom and wish her a happy birthday. And even though on that day I went to town and even to the internet cafe where there was power I still did not send her a birthday note. However, I maintain that my time was well spent and hope she still enjoyed her birthday despite the fact that her only son did not write.

As it turns out one of my favorite students came by the day before to pick up his leaving certificate. I found out that the next day would be the last opportunity for me to meet with him and set him up with an email account as I had discovered previously that it is surprisingly hard to maintain contact with somebody. So I spent the full hour teaching Dennis how to use a mouse, keyboard and email. In the last thirty seconds he was even able to send me a reply. Afterwards we went to the library and I showed him how to find books to get scholarships and learn about the computer and he helped me get a library card. A remarkably good day.

I wrote a short email for a student asking for me to describe the school to a "friend" in America. Here it is: I think Msufini is a very good school by Tanzanian standards. But is quite different from American schools. First, is mostly a boarding school. So the students come from further away and stay on the school grounds. Second, the school has a farm so several weeks of the year the students plant weed and harvest the crops (maize). The school has a library which I try to keep open, but because of my unreliable hours its use is rather limited. There are two computers that work when there is power which is about half of the days. The most important aspect of the school is that there are teachers that care and attend classes in most if not all subjects. The students are fed breakfast lunch and dinner and though the school food is bland, at least it is filling and there are places for the students to buy fruits and vegetables cheaply.



Monday, October 16, 2006

Salt and other surprisingly bland news

I don't think ever shared this with you but about a month ago, I had very minor illness which if you are not careful can dehydrate you. To combat this sickness and expedite recovery I decided it was best to not only drink a lot of water but also consume salt. I discovered that not only does Tang taste exactly like Gatorade when sufficiently salted but that peanut butter becomes significantly better with salt as well (most often added to PB and J sandwiches).

Also as some of you have noted I have had my second birthday in Africa. The day itself was not really celebrated--I gave an exam and marked some of the papers. However, I did spend a night in Moshi having fun with other PCV's the weekend before. As far as the african tradition on birthdays I don't really have much to comment because I didn't really tell people about my birthday. Although at graduation (mentioned my last email) i learned about a cake tradition where the guest of honour is fed by toothpicks from most of the guests and then friends feed each other similarly. I think that birthdays can be turned into a large celebration and imagine it would follow the standard Tanzanian procedure. The host sends out invitations to guests telling the time and place and requests money in advance to help make the occasion memorable. Then the party would consist of an area decorated with balloons and streamers (if they are available)where there is a dinner for lots of people coupled by speeches from the head table. After the dinner sometimes there is cake and then there is music.

I am now celebrating the end of exams for my form 4's. Last week they took their math exam, which I think many will pass, but after the mock I would not to put any money on it. The last week has been fun--I just wish I was not the TOD for it.
It's been great to hear from so many of you,


Sunday, September 24, 2006

One Year

I believe yesterday was the one year anniversary of our arrival in Tanzania. So today I had pizza with two of the guys from our region. I think one of the reasons this was a low key event is because most of the people in my region have been together for a week of TOT training and it does not really feel like it has been a year. Apparently the new education volunteers have arrived and within 24 hours the first one has returned home.

Last week the form 4s had their graduation ceremony. It was interesting how the ceremonies are done by religion, but a little sad to see the differences between them. Since Msufini is a Lutheran school it is not surprising that theirs was the best organized. The Catholics also had a big celebration but apparently they were not happy to sit through the Lutheran fundraising event before they were awarded their certificates. Also they were disappointed that the headmistress did not give them much time to celebrate. They had just finished their meal and turned on the music when they were informed that it was time to clean up and start studying. This is still much better than the Muslim students who didn't even get a certificate.

I attended the Lutheran ceremony which went from 10 to 3PM and the Catholic meal/ celebration. Additionally I made oatmeal cinnamon raisin cookies for all the form 4 students. They were a huge success and the students were not only dumbfounded that I could make them but also that there was something between a cake and a biscuit that is called a cookie. After the food the students were supposed to be cleaning but many used the time to take graduation pictures. As both their teacher and a white person I was constantly beckoned to be in somebody's photo. Demand was to the point where I would stand in place and the students would surround me for the group photo. Then the next group would form around me. I suppose it was a very small glimpse at what life would be like for a celebrity, and though I enjoyed it the entertainment is very limited and am glad such occasions will only come once a year. After the graduation ceremony my relations with the students has been greatly improved. I know their names. New students have been asking for help, and since there has not been power during the day I have actually opened up the library for students.

Here's to one year in Tanzania!


Sunday, September 10, 2006

A Lot of Grading (8/26/2006)

The last couple of weeks I have been busier than I anticipated. I had to grade many exams and go to the seminar. It has been an eye opening experience to mark papers the Tanzanian way and see their marking scheme implemented. The marking scheme itself is not bad. It occasionally has mistakes which I hope the markers catch before they grade--the surprise is how rigidly they adhere to the scheme. If a student makes an error adding early in the problem zero points clearly their work is wrong. Similarly if they have any mistake in their formula (i.e. use length instead of height) they get zero points. I am not saying that papers are impressive--it is clear even if they were marked softer the students would not do too great. However, it has been useful to see that must be completely right to get points.

The teachers' seminar went well. I got some ideas for how to teach earth as a sphere and my first experience with Tanzanian marking. When I finished teaching my probability session I was not sure how much people got out of it, I went kind of fast and spent a lot of time on material I think they already knew. I did receive a few compliments and that is always rewarding. One of them is particularly remarkable in that he said he might have been more interested in math if his teachers did not use notes. Unfortunately not all my students share that opinion.

Also I realized that I will be in for a shock when I return to America because of the different work schedules. Last week was a busy week for me being TOD and marking qualifying, weekly and contest papers. Even with this large work load I was still going to bed at ten and waking up at six. I know a lot of people who this is their normal load. So life is good here.


Music and more Time (8/6/2006)

Things are going well I finally got out and went to some live bongo flava. The place was packed but you could still move. It was pretty amazing the way the stage dancers could shake their wawowo. And also an interesting experience to have the dance floor clear out for 30 seconds between every song. You could feel the cool air as everybody left then after the next song started the floor would slowly fill and again things were body temperature.

Also last week something rather unexpected happened. The headmistress got a new form 4 math teacher. This means I now only teach form 3, and I have mixed feelings about this. On hand I am rather shocked that she would outright replace me with out telling me about it. On the other hand I now have more free time know my community and do not have to stress about the results of the form 4. Also I think the real reason I am replaced is because she wanted another teacher so she can get rid of the current physics teacher (this new teacher also is teaching physics). I don't think the plan will work because it is likely that a third math teacher will leave in September and has not told the headmistress but even this case it will be good to have this new math teacher. Nonetheless, it seems weird that two weeks ago I was asked to teach teachers and then the next week I am told that I won't be teaching some of my students.

So last week it was nice to have some extra time to relax and figure out what I want to with the extra time. I finally took the time to do a power assessment of the school and plan on my first project to be get the school a backup power supply. I think they have the funds to buy a generator but are unsure as to what is needed. Also I think I will be able to do more teaching of computer use i.e. typing and will be able to open the library more.


Last Minute Invite (7/29/2006)

Yesterday I was teaching class and the assembly bell rang. As I was going to the assembly one of the teachers said that I was expected at the meeting someplace else. Fortunately, the meeting was late and I arrived just as the introductions were starting. Apparently this was a big meeting about how the teachers in the district were going to improve the students math performance. The meeting lasted all day but we spent several hours discussing funding issues, which was rather an eye opening experience to hear the discrepancy in school funding. Private schools like Msufini typically have money because they force the kids to pay while many public schools have not recieved funds since January.

Also it was expected that the teachers will make money going to these meetings and conferences. The reason the contribution amount was not specified is due the fact that some teachers get 200000/= for coming and if there was the needed amount specified they would only be given the amount needed. Another interesting result of the meeting is that now I am going to a seminar in two weeks and teaching the teachers probablility.

Other than the meeting teaching seems to be going remarkably smoothly. It seems that must have adjusted to a very disrupted schedule because although I think the week did go pretty much according to plan I nearly forgot to mention that the first days of the week were a bit chaotic since midweek we changed the schedule to acommodate the new teachers and of course the first draft of a schedule never is perfect.


95% Fail (7/15/2006)

This week the results of the mock exam came back an the worst results were in the subject that I teach. I guess it should have been such a big surprise that most students failed. I think my results were about consistent with the national average. Still looking at scores was shocking and frankly rather demoralizing too. Fortunately I texted another PCV and she had about the same results, maybe it was not a result of poor teaching.

Still out of 100 points you only need 21 to pass and only four students achieved this feat. My highest score was 44 which by the grading scale is a "C." The good news is that now the students are motivated and are asking what can we do to pass. Last term most students did not do their homework I told them they need to but I would not force them. This week almost all of them did their first assignment and now many are asking me to help them outside of class.

Also last week I finally learned the last topic I have to teach. You always have to learn things ten times better when you teach and I finally took the time to understand the theorems about a circle and the equations for class (group) mean, median and mode.

I am wary about the next term but am excited to think that after next term, things will go smoothly and be easy. I finally am getting to know the students of the school and feel like I really own the subject material. I'm optimistic that my student will actually pass the national exam, and things I use to get them there can probably be used next year. At the same time I question whether they really will pass when it takes about a week for me to teach them how to use the log tables (they were supposed to learn two years ago) and failed the questions about the topics I already taught them. Also don't expect the fear factor to last much more than another week or two then I have to be careful that the students do not give up.


Fourth of July (7/8/2006)

My Fourth of july did not seem nearly as out of place as Christmas did six moths ago (have I really been here that long?). Yes now is the cold season but it was about 70 on the fourth. There is no blues fest in Moshi and was unable to see any family and did not know most of the people I spent the fourth with however they were all Americans. The party was at an expat's house and it was great to have a hamburger (with real Heinz American ketchup too), toss a football around and bet on a turtle race.

School should have officially started last week but only a few of the students have shown up, and several of those were turned away because they did not bring their school fees. Still I am teaching some students and maybe next week I will teach classes.

The World Cup ends this weekend, but the school now has a tv so the students don't have to leave the school to watch the game. I was able to watch the last game with the students and although most wanted Portugal to win there were many cheers when France scored. Watching with the students has been my favorite watching atmosphere yet except the dinners are not as good as at Matron's house.
Hope you are enjoying the summer,


TOD gripe and the World Cup (7/1/2006)

Thought I would be traveling during my June break, as it turns out two weeks ago I was TOD again. I have been Teacher on Duty (TOD) more than any other teacher. I looked at the schedule and even though there are more than 14 eligible teachers for the last two months my name has been on the schedule four times. If you were to take the number of TOD weekly assignments and divide by the number of teachers you would see that no teacher should be assigned more than twice. Although, this bothers me I have not said anything because as a foreigner that does not beat students my actual work as TOD is very little. In the past they just tell me to walk around in the evenings. This last week was special because the other TOD skipped out on most days leaving me to figure out what the TOD is actually supposed to do. One of the primary responsibilities of TOD is school maintenance. TOD is supposed to make sure the chores are done, unfortunately nobody ever tells me which chores need to be done. So if I see a student that is carrying wood and they say it for the cook I assume they were told to do it. The effect of this is that I never know who is supposed to be walking around and who is not. Also it is hard for me to justify telling students to stay in the classroom when half of their teachers are taking a vacation. Nonetheless I picked up extra responsibilities last week, taking attendance, filling out the duty report, giving students permission to go and telling the rest to get where they belong. The responsibilities aren't too much but it just frustrates me that I expected to have a month of vacation and instead I got two weeks of conferences, one extra week of teaching and one week of just TOD.

Last week I went to my second conference of the month. This one taught teaching techniques to Tanzanians. So I watched the World Cup with these teachers.

Africa is finally out of the world cup and I was surprised by my own emotional reactions. I chose not to watch the US/Ghana game because could not bring my self to cheer against the US team, and I did not want to be the white guy smiling when everybody else was sad that Africa's hopes were diminished. As it turns out I made the right decision as I have heard from several people that they were mocked quite a bit when Ghana scored the winning goal. Some of the teachers gloated to me a little bit the next day but nothing more than expected. When Brazil played Ghana I expect to watch with neutrality, for I don't really care about Brazil winning and it was pretty much a given that they would. If anything I expected to be supporting Ghana, knowing that their win would make everybody ecstatic. Instead after few minutes of watching the crowd go silent Brazil's first goal and get excited every time Ghana almost scored my feelings changed. Maybe it was the way that a few of the Tanzanians looked at me when ever they almost scored an equalizing goal, I remembered that at least one of the Tanzanians said they would be rooting for Brazil, then I recalled how my friends had the US loss rubbed in their faces, vindictiveness had somehow crept in. After Brazil held a two goal lead at half time half of the crowd left even though Ghana was definitely playing better. I continued to watch secretly hoping for yet another Brazilian goal as that would make the victory look like a decimation and the second goal was questionably offsides. Brazil scored another goal but it was even more questionable. I felt a little guilty watching them win with at least two goal that very well could have been called otherwise over a team that overall played better and who definitely wanted the win more.

I was also surprised by the Tanzanians' responses to two group activities. When talking about how some questions have many answers the facilitator asked why did Ghana lose. There were about six different answers but none of them were because of the referee. Also when asked to make something out of paper nobody made the same thing and I was only one who made a paper airplane. This is remarkable because for Tanzanians are famous for their inability to break away from the pack and Americans are known for their creativity but I would bet if done in America there would be relatively few shapes and many of the men would make either a hat or a paper plane (Note: the Tanzanians were all men).

Also I was appointed secretary for the conference (any Tanzanian group with more than two people has a chairperson, secretary, and time keeper). Since the Tanzanian's seemed to enjoy my morning report here is the typed version attached. I don't think it is that interesting but if you are bored to tears maybe this will clear your vision.

Also I have shared mullet fest photos with several people if you are interested in seeing them and have not gotten an invite from others after a couple of days. Let me know and I can invite you.
Have a good week,


A Short Break (6/17/2006)

I have finally finished invigilating exams, marking exams, mullet fest and teaching. I am looking forward to having a lazy week watching the world cup and fixing my house.Maybe later this week I will expound the torcher that is the end of the term. But two weeks ago I went on trip to Morogoro, officially it was for in-service training. Unofficially it was a chance for 35 peace corps volunteers to reunite and have a good time, resulting in mullet fest.

Mullet fest was something that was suggested during pre-service training to occur during IST. At the time everybody thought it was a dumb idea. However, after spending several months without much contact to other people growing a mullet doesn't seem so bad. With very little organization the hair just grew. It was hilarious to see the way that some people's hair evolved since swearing in.

I believe that there were more pictures taken at mullet fest than other occasions so I expect many more pictures will become available. The first posted pictures are justin's page and rob's page
Also if you like humour you may want to read Rob's blog as he a sultan of satire.

But onto more current times it is the World Cup and today I will watch more football with Mr. Massawe. Sometimes it is actually kind of sad to watch the games with Tanzanians because they are for any African team but are quite pessimistic about the outcome. At least the two guys I watch the World Cup with seem to view it as another form of European domination. The good African teams got placed in divisions were they will lose at least 2 games, while the poor teams were put in easier brackets but they still have no hope of going to the next round. At least America is expected to get eliminated tonight so I won't accidently gloat about our success.

Despite their lack of hope it is still a lot of fun to watch the games with them, because football is football and everybody loves to watch. Last night I learned that when the power goes out somebody has to go replace the wire. Of course they are not supposed to open the power box and replace the thin wire. But if they don't then they will miss the game. Last night the power went off about three times but it always came back within half an hour.
Enjoy the games.


Soccer (5/20/2006)

This week was the European cup finals. Soccer is the one sport that everyone follows, and so the european cup was a big deal. Because Tanzania is a few hours ahead of France the game started around ten and went to midnight it was great match and all the teachers and many of the students were tired the next day. The English team was the underdog that nearly won even though they were a man down the majority of the game.

I also watched the Msufini Umbwe game which was I think the first time our form five played together. They lost 3-0 but the real fun was cramming 45 people in a vehicle meant to hold 30 then riding on the short cut route which is only about 15 KM but took about 40 minutes because of the dirt road and then we stopped about a five minute walk short of our destiniation due to a creek running in the road.

Speaking of things getting stuck this week I am pleased to report the toilet is clear. Somehow I managed to forget last week the toilet was clogged. I had used the end of the banana bunch to get the water and things to drain but for the next week things still seemed to get clogged and slowly drained. I probed further with a stick and discovered the culprit was a wash cloth and by using a plastic bag was able to remove the waste.

All sorts of things left this week, and it was sad times as the English said good bye. There is still Will hanging around until Sunday but the rest have left. It was pretty amazing all of the things that they managed to pull off in their last week. John paid for transportation to the Umbwe soccer game and bought sports equipment. Will recieved the karate uniforms and had a Karate tournament (unfortunately the same day as the soccer game due to technical difficulties). While Loise bought a pregnant cow for her elementary school.
I think that's the news for this week,


Not Much News (5/14/2006)

Here it is Mother's Day, and several weeks with out a report and I still don't have much news.

I guess I did go to church today, but I confess I did have ulterior motives. One, I wanted to meet some of the people that go to the church and two, there was a delicious potluck after the church. At church there was a lot of singing and then some weird thing with corn. This was an English service so I understood all of the words but not being very religious I don't know how common it is to have a fake harvest of corn gathered and divided into ten piles. Obviously it doesn't happen every Sunday but does it always happen the second Sunday in May? Sijui.

Also tests are about graded and the students did marginally better but at least there was significantly less cheating. Maybe it was the two different exams, but it is a lot more work to create and grade two exams than a single exam I am debating whether to go double or not next time.

I have spent the last two weeks teaching students things like how to evaluate an expression (put numbers into an equation and get the right answer). And how to use log tables including how to write the number in scientific notation (8000 = 8x1000= 8x10^3).

Finally I did buy a bunch of bananas. I may try to make my own brew, but mainly I plan on eating them. When I say bunch I mean like 20 lbs including the branch. The lot cost about a dollar and were fun to carry back on my head but the lady I bought them from was carrying two on her head.
I think that's all,