I’ve found a computer! I can write!

Please forgive any errors below, I’m typing on an Asian keyboard, which is very “fun” and best done with my eyes closed. I’m going to use the email list my mom compiled without editing it down, though it’s much more comprehensive than I would have made myself – please let me know if you’d rather not be spammed with updates from me.

The trip has been wonderful so far – I’m in Kawe right now, which I originally thought was a town outside of Dar es Salaam but turns out is a district in it – just one of the most rural and populated.

Finding this internet cafe was a stroke of amazing luck and a great surprise – I’d assumed I’d have a week without any email but Justin, a son in my host family, asked us if we’d like to go to the internet cafe and you should have seen us all jump at the chance. It’s buried in the back of a store and we’d never have noticed it without help. (Of course, we had to wait for the electricity to come back on – Kawe is supposed to have electricity but the majority of the time it “has a blackout” at 7am until promptly 8pm.)

I’m living with a family – Bapu and Bibi, grandparents (Bapu is a storekeeper; his shop is the front room of the house that faces the “street”), their son Justin, a teacher at the local primary school, two little girls, the granddaughters, who are 6 and 4 named Julie and Janet, their mother Babida (their father works in Dodoma, which is about 6 hrs away but he visited today), and another daughter also named Julie. (Plus most of the neighborhood who stop in to visit and see us. The little courtyard sort of area is always full of people.)

I got there a little bit later than the rest of the volunteers, who have a week of Swahili language lessons under their belts already, but they decided to put me straight in with the family so I’d pick it up quicker by using it. Cyril, the Swahili teacher who is a little older than me, teaching for his first time, and incredibly enthusiastic, comes to teach me at the house while Laura, Anne, and Juan, the other volunteers staying at the house, go to the school every day. (They’re digging a hole for a water well and teaching English.)

The little girls have decided to teach me along with the Swahili teacher, so I got two lessons today. The four year old is most picky with my pronunciation. (It took them a while to warm up to us, but now Julie and Janet use us as jungle gyms – they climb straight up us and love to play games. Julie spent about an hour this morning combing and “braiding” my hair.)

I haven’t been to the school yet but the others say that it is an eye-opening experience. It is a primary (elementary) school which only opened a few years ago. Each room has 80 students, whether or not there is a teacher in the room. (Over half didn’t, and when they entered the students all stood up and sang. They try to rotate teachers, but the system is less than perfect.) I’m going to follow them tomorrow and see if it’s ok to bring my video camara.

Taking pictures has been difficult – you can’t take a picture of a person without asking permission, so while I have tons of my family here and the house, I can’t get any of the neighborhood or the street. Everyone is incredibly friendly, though. You can’t go more than a few steps without being greeted (I learned ten different ways to say hello today – and have used them all). During the day time the children come out and follow us, shouting “Mzungu!” (White person: It’s not rude, though, because most follow it up with the respectful greeting to elders, “shikamoo”. I think Julie and Janet are earning bonus points with the neighborhood children for having us in their home – they took us out to show us off and have been hanging around the window until they pulled the frame and curtain right off the wall. Bibi asked us to stop letting them into our room, (for the sake of the house, even if we don’t mind).

Bibi taught us how to make chapati today. The food has been good, though different. I like it. (It could go without saying that there are challenges adapting as it isn’t easy for everyone in the group to adjust to the new food and the “toilet” – lack there of, really.) Bapu is very nice. Cyril, Laura, and I went “into town” via the dalla dallas today. I was expecting them to be packed, but I wasn’t expecting them to be regular personal vans without a walkway down the center and people hanging out all windows. (Personal space does not exist here.)

Next week I get transferred to the orphanage outside of Arusha, where I’ll be working for two weeks. I’m looking forward to being more useful, but I’ll miss the friends I’ve made here. I’ll hopefully be able to meet up with Cyril again when I come back to Dar es Salaam before I go home, though all the other volunteers are on their own schedules.

Everything happens rather impromptu here – not only are we on “Tanzanian time” which has a three hour window/margin (and that’s if it’s urgent; otherwise it’s a day and a half) – but plans are never really set. (“Maybe yes, maybe no” is a favorite answer to yes or no questions – I’ve learned not to ask them). When I first arrived I tried to sort out where I was going – silly me – by asking. I was told “You see when you get there!”.) It’s actually a nice attitude once you adapt to it – so far everything that has happened, has worked out, and been better than I expected, so I’m not worried, just aware that my plans are going to change.


Kawe, Dar es Salaam

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