I know, I know….way past time for a blog update. I feel like every post starts this way. And I blame Facebook. Now that I’m sitting at a desk most of the day-every day, my insightful comments on the world and updates on my bowel movements end up as Facebook statuses instead of fully thought-out blog entries.
So it’s time for……….another way-too-condensed update on my
The last time we visited I had just returned from wonderful,
wonderful America. I brought back tons of goodies carefully distributed among
three suitcases and 13.5lbs not-so-evenly distributed on my body. I’ve been
working off the latter. My walk to work is about 35 minutes and my walk home is
about 15 minutes. How does that work? Well, my morning walk is down a big hill,
aka a small mountain. At the end of the day, I usually walk half and then take
a daladala (public van) up the worst of it. Also I’m doing kickboxing videos
2-3 nights a week….which is also great for working off the aggression city life
While we’re on the subject, I should talk about my new city
life. It’s quite different than my old village life…both in good ways and bad.
Good ways include what you’d expect: electricity, hot water, gas stove. Housing
in general has taken a huge step up.
When I first moved to Mwanza, I was placed in an apartment
across the street from a public open space used for very large and loud events.
Let’s just say when I would try to listen to my iPod or a movie on my computer
to drown out the noise; it was so loud that I could not hear what was coming
through my earphones! Tanzanians love their speakers and sound systems.
I was also a block away from three nightclubs. Perfect for
nights out…not so great for the other six nights a week when I needed sleep. I
was VERY lucky and appreciative that Peace Corps let me work with the landlord
to break the lease. It’s not a standard solution in a country where respect is
so important, but I was also lucky my landlord had worked before with
foreigners so was very understanding.
I returned from home leave basically homeless! But lucky yet
again another Peace Corps Volunteer had an open room at her house. She’s here
working with Baylor and living in a house they have for their visiting doctors
and med-students. We thought I’d just be able to stay till I found my own
place….a feat much harder than expected. Mwanza has grown over the past few
years, and housing has become expensive.
This week we found out I was approved to stay till my 3rd
year ends next August! There’s one other girl living in the house and working
with Baylor through a Princeton program. Plus, the house is kind of a duplex
with another 3-bedroom house attached- even accessible through a door in the
pantry! We all get along great and have fun together. So I’m feeling great
about my new housing. We’re also making fun friends from various
countries…wonderful to have a social life again!
Another bonus for living in a city? I found an awesome lady
to cut my hair! She of Indian decent born in Tanzania and her family moved to
the UK when she was a child. That’s also where she first studied hair. So she
knows what she’s doing and how to deal with white-people-hair.
The not so great parts of city life…..there’s not really a
sense of belonging to the local Tanzanian community. In my village, I had
finally become one of them. There were still those few villagers who would ask
me for money and gifts, but for the most part, I had earned their respect. When
I walked through the village, I saw the same people who were interested in talking
On my walk to and from work here, I see different people
every day. To them I’m just a foreigner…a walking ATM. It is much harder than I
expected, resulting in so many emotions. Anger that they ask, sadness that they
live a life where they think it’s acceptable, guilt that I have so much more
than they do yet I never give handouts.
It was a standard among Peace Corps Volunteers. We barely
make more than they have so it was easy to say no. The only exception being
those few villagers who I knew would pay me back. Or paying for work they did
for me. Village kids loved to catch me returning from town, so they could help
carry my bags and I’d give them candy.
Plus for us PCVs, we could rationalize it by saying
hand-outs aren’t sustainable. Sure, it might help them that day, but what are
they learning from me giving them money? This train of thought at least helped
with the guilt.
At the same time though, I almost feel more immersed in
Tanzania now than when I was living in a village. In the village, I’d leave my
house for a few hours here and there. I’d go teach or visiting, to the market
or meetings. Otherwise, I could be in my house doing activities to help with
the stress and home sickness: reading books in English, listening to American music,
talking to other PCVs on the phone in English.
In the city, I’m working a regular 9-5 office job. I’m in an
office with only Tanzanians and eat lunch 2-3 times a week at a little
restaurant near the office where only Tanzanians usually eat. This is usually
fun as it’s almost like Ruby Faye’s back home….they know my name and what I
Most of my co-workers speak really good English, which is
helpful when we are discussing more technical matters one-on-one. Still when
just talking amongst themselves or casually talking with me, they speak
Swahili. On one hand, I’m glad because it has helped my Swahili, whereas most
volunteers lose their Swahili after moving to a town. However, on the other
hand, I get so frustrated by sitting in meetings and barely knowing what is
being said. I’m not able to contribute much or feel useful. I recently realized
I have gotten way too use to going through life not completely aware of what’s
being said around me.
All in all, I am still really glad I am getting this
experience. It has opened me up to a different part of the Tanzanian culture
and is a good transition back to the working world.