Thursday, May 26, 2011

Mwezi wa Farasi

Volunteers are all encouraged to share our American culture with our villages. I’ve enjoyed doing lessons on how we celebrate Halloween and Easter…and now the Kentucky Derby!

As a Kentuckian, what’s May without the Derby? So for my classes May became Mwezi wa Farasi, or Month of the Horse. My horse is one of the main things I really miss. Since horses are few in TZ- none in my region- I wanted to share how horses are used and the care they require.

I also wanted to use this opportunity to get the students’ creativity flowing. I had done one other lesson were the students were to draw there their sources of water, food and shelter. It flopped as they just copied what I drew as an example on the board. Art is rarely incorporated into classes here so they don’t know what to do when given the opportunity.

So with the help of tons of great art supplies sent by the Clinton First United Methodist Church, my students and I had a blast with horse-related crafts and games.

Week 1
Looked at postcards from Kentucky featuring horses and the Derby. Colored big white horse cut outs.

Week 2
Traced hands on fabric, cut out and glued to a sheet with a horse painted on it

Week 3
Stick horse racing! I cut the head off 3 of remaining horses from wk 1 and taped to brooms and a mop. Pictures weren’t taken this week as it was too chaotic!

Week 4
This week was the last week of school before being out for the month of June so all students were helping harvest the corn in the school's field. Standard 4-6 picked the ears while the younger shucked.

It was great fun!

Let It Snow!

For those of you who haven’t had to think about geography since 6th grade, life on the other side of the equator means it is now winter!

The heavy rain season is now over. As much as I enjoyed being able to wash my hair in the rain and having an excuse to read all day, I am relieved to see the sun and get more vitamin E.

So far this is my favorite weather of TZ. The day times get up in the 90s while the nights get down in the 60s. Warm enough to feel like summer, and cold enough to need to be snuggled under a blanket!

Plus, everything is really green and tropical from the rain. This will last until August. September-November are hot and dry turning most everything brown. Then December starts the rain season again!

Shamba Mama

This past April I finally got enough courage worked up to start a Mamas Group. Many volunteers work to organize Mama Groups as way to help empower women and serve as an outlet to educate them on various health issues.

I’d been procrastinating because of the language barrier. Though I feel good about the amount of Swahili I now have for getting around and working with children, speaking to adults is another thing. Remember the episode of Friends when Phoebe tried to teach French to Joey? That’s how it is when adults try to correct my pronunciations. To my ear I sound just like them….if a little better with a Southern flavor added.

Well, I remembered procrastination isn’t my style, and I needed to get a move on. So I spoke with the guy in my village who speaks some English and he put me in contact with his tutor, a retired English teacher. I thought he’d be able to attend meetings for a few months and I’d wean off his help. Then when he arrived he asked to make sure I knew he lived about an hour away! Typical just when you think you have it figured out something happens to mess it up.

I can’t pay for him to attend the weekly meetings but we can get money through Peace Corps to pay tutors. So it worked for him to come early and tutor me in Swahili….a blessing and a not-so-much-blessing. But something I needed so I’m really glad it’s worked out.

The first meeting had two women attend. Then the word got around more and 22 attended the second! Meetings here are a bit different than in the US as you may have to wait at least two hours before people arrive. This drives me crazy!

I explained the purpose of the group and options of income generating projects at least 4 times. It was also too many for what they were comfortable working together to make money. So the first 12 to arrive parted off and decided to grow Chinese cabbage. The other 10 decided to grow green peppers. I was glad as I was pushing for it to help diversify crops grown. Tomatoes and onions are basically the only things available on a regular basis.

Both groups have already cultivated plots donated by a member of each group, planted seeds and have started paying a membership fee that helps to reimburse me for the cost of seeds, fertilizer and pesticide. Hopefully after the first harvest they will be able to sell enough to build coops for a bigger chicken project.