Friday, September 25, 2009

I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike...

Hard to believe I've been in my village for an entire month. You may wonder what I've ben doing this whole time. The answer is: not much. Sleeping, cooking, trying to sweep my house, walking around the village and looking silly, greeting people, making plans I can't act on yet. A whole lot of not much. There was some confusion with the village government, so I'm only just now getting started on my village analysis. I'm trying to take this as another lesson on going with the flow, hakuna matata, hamnashida, polepole, all of that stuff.

My house is still devoid of furniture; the fundis are taking their sweet time too. But, I do have my own bed frame now, so I don't have to sleep on a slant anymore (the borrowed frame was a little shorter than my mattress.) The cat is getting sightly less annoying as he outgrows his attachment issues. And I got a bike! It was bought in town without me there, so I had no say except to hand over the cash. It's a little powder blue cruiser with a plastic basket on the front. I took my first ride on Saturday, speeding downhill toward the village, wind in my helmet... ten minutes later I was at the bike fundi's buying a new inner tube to replace the cheap Chinese one I'd already destroyed.

Rundown of the last few weeks:
I was invited to a villager's house for Eid on Sunday. It was nice; I got to eat lots of pilau and meat while his family did the same and stared at me awkwardly.

Went to the Catholic mission to as about their health center and local health issues, ended up being shown a nun's family photos.

Watched a woman's vagina get stitched up after childbirth. I didn't know when I dropped by the dispensary that this was going to happen and I'm not sure what the patient thought of my being there. The Dr. asked if I wanted to sit where I could get a better look. I declined.

Last week everyone started asking me “Umezoea?” I didn't understand so I just smiled and nodded, but after doing this a few times I looked it up in my Swahili-English dictionary. They want to know if I have adjusted or gotten used to the village.

Animal sightings:
1)Monkeys digging through my trash pile, twice. I'm right on the edge of school bordering a forest, so it's not that surprising, but it's still cool.
2)Some kind of mongoose or weasel-like creature in front of my house. I need to look into this.
3)Rumors of a leopard in the area last week, and I mean right in the area. As in, my neighbor lost two pigs to it. I mentioned this to the nuns, but I couldn't remember the word for pig, so it turned into a fun game of them listing off animals in Swahili while I racked my brain for the right one. I remembered a word for pork and then we figured it out.

The Real Deal

Originally Written September

Yay! After all of the delays and challenges, I'm a real, not potential, Peace Corps Volunteer!!

Swearing-In was awesome. The PC Staff were there, our language trainers, NGO reps, former PCVs living in TZ, and even a few bigwigs from the Embassy and Tanzanian President's Office. The ceremony was nice, good speeches, national anthems (it was funny to watch the Tanzanians grab their programs with the lyrics to SSB after we all had to memorize their anthem), and our skit, which went off without a hitch. The oath got a little tricky when the official giving it tried to give us a whole paragraph to repeat at once. We had the chance to get a drink and chat with people before sitting down for a nice dinner. Although, I'm afriad you could tell from our table manners that we may have been in the village too long. There was even a live band who played a sweet rendition of that Tanzanian classic, “Hotel California.”

The very next morning we left to start our drive to sites. When we got to Dodoma, a 2nd year PCV from the area showed us around. You know, the bank, post office, ice cream shop, the nice internet cafe, all of the important places. For dinner we all went to Tanzania's only Italian restaurant/ Mini-golf course. The pizza was exorbitantly priced, but totally worth it.

The next morning we (myself and the other new PCV in the district) went to meet our village officials and spent a few hours visiting all of the district offices while we waited for said officials to show up. We finally had our meeting, packed our gear into the government pickup truck, and got ready to hit the open road. But, since we had use of the truck, we decided that some shopping was in order, as it would never be this convenient to get to the village again. We bought our mattresses (they said to get beds made after we get there) and convenience/comfort food we wouldn't find in the village. Then we had a fun and very bumpy 2 hour ride down an unpaved road that was only occasionally flat.

I got dropped off first. Since I live at the primary school, I was introduced to all of the staff and they helped me get settled in. They carried my stuff inside, set up my mosquito net, made sure I had oil for my lantern, brought me dinner, and were just all-around friendly. My hous feels a little empty. Maybe because I've never lived alone before, but I think its because I have four rooms and no furniture. I have my borrowed bed frame, and a few desks and chairs from the school. My first project: furniture acquisition.

The village is nice. It's really big, as in, lots of people (7,000ish) and it's really spread out. Lots of cattle, goats, donkeys, and surprisingly, ducks (I thought this was a desert?!). The people are really different from what I was used to in Tanga, but I'll get used to this now.

I visited the village doctor's house the other day. She had told me to come see her any time, and I was bored, so I did. I just dropped by and we got to chatting and drinking sodas and shelling peanuts for at least an hour. Then I had to stay for lunch, and rest a little after that. Then I took the newly-roasted and salted peanuts hoe for later. This was an impromptu 3 hour visit, but that's how they do business around here. Relationship building and hospitality are priorities.

Also, I have a cat. I had mentioned some bug problems to the headmaster, and two days later he stood on my doorstep with Tanzania's tiniest, neediest kitten. Not the solution I was going for, but OK. It cries constantly, keeps me awake at night, uses my room as a litterbox, and destroys my things, just what I needed. I'm thinking of naming it Shida (Kiswahili for “problem”.) It hasn't even killed a single bug yet. If you count the fleas and ticks it came with, the cat has actually increased the insect population in my house.

That's it for now, stay safe and write letters!