Tuesday, November 28, 2006
observations - part 2
A few other students, again a nice pose.
Another came and visited me at my house for some advice. We talked a lot, mostly about sex. He is 20 and has not has sex, and is the second student in his class. Apparently some of the girls at the school don't like this, so they pooled their money to try to get someone to finally tempt him into agreeing. He stuck to his guns and they started giving him a hard time. But he's the son of a pastor at one of the, um, further-out denominations. He asked his dad for advice on how to 'avoid impulses and urges,' and his dad yelled at him that 'you're going to get AIDS' and didn't have much more to say. So I filled in the gaps, taught him condom usage for when he's ready, reassured that abstaining or masturbation is perfectly healthy and won't cause impotency, etc etc. He's a good kid, his wife will be a lucky woman.
The main result of this picture extravaganza is that now EVERYBODY knows my name [Masanja] and is greeting me, and wants to chat. And that means a LOT of people, everywhere I go there seems to be a crowd.
More evidence of picture fest - me with a fellow teacher at Misungwi, his wife, and the brightest little kid I've met here in TZ named Katisa.
I taught my neighbors how to gamble with dice. Exciting! I actually played cards with my 13 year old neighbor boy while talking with his mom, and decided to play for money. He got up to 3,000 shillings [2.50 dollars] before walking away, though I wanted to go double or nothing. HE stuck to his guns too, and I made sure to give him a little lesson on gambling, the dangers, etc etc. He's since bought a pair of shoes, and refuses to put up his own money to try his luck again...
I had an interesting conversation today at a bank here in Mwanza with a friend of mine who was in Misungwi and is now working here. We were sitting in the banks lobby catching up, and we started talking about his tribe, which is from the Eastern part of the Lake region and is in the same family as the Masaai tribe. Suddenly the topic turned frankly to circumcision. He was circumcised when he was about 8, along with 400 other boys in a large, traditional ceremony [which he says is better, it 'looks nicer' than how they do it at the hospital, he claims]. I knew he was proud of his heritage, but not ready to discuss genitalia in a bank lobby. Good guy though.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Evidence of the maongezi, and the photo-fests:
The next day, they continued to hang out at the guestie and apparently decided they were having too much fun and thus added a second night. He called his wife to inform her of this. In the meantime, SHE decided that SHE had HER friend, i.e. another guy whom she apparently regularly hooked up with, and who is somehow a coworker/acquaintance with the husband. So she decided, 'hey, my husband is in Mwanza, let me call my lover and we can have a nice evening together.' He agreed, sounded like a good idea, so they met up and headed to.... a guesthouse. THE SAME guesthouse that her husband was at.
Well, by now of course, the story's ending is self evident. Each of the two heard scandalous sounds coming from the next door room [that's right, next door] but neither thought anything of it. Until the husband left his room, wearing a towel, and ran into his acquaintance, also wearing a towel. That got him thinking. Then he saw his wife. Apparently there was almost a fight but people prevented it. Wonder what will happen to that marriage, sad thing, probably not much will change except they'll be bitter to each other more openly. Perhaps more disturbing is the reaction many men of Misungwi had to this whole shenanigan. They all seemed disgusted by the actions of the woman, but the husband? Well, that's his right, isn't it? They used the argument a lot that the husband was probably using a condom but the wife probably not, though I don't see where they would get that idea. I doubt either was using protection.
Whew, that was the big drama of the week. Hoping things chill out for my last week there, though it seems things have already died down [except for the rumors and gossiping].
Gotta run and take care of errands, might be my last time in Mwanza - PEACE.
Friday, November 17, 2006
So Michelle [check out her blog, link at the right, and congrats to her since she is officially done with her PC service!] was here for about a week and it was nice to share some of my experiences in my town with another volunteer. I don't get a whole lot of guests. And boy did we hit the ground running, the first day she got here we went to a wedding in a nearby town. It was scheduled to start [the party] at 6pm, and wedding parties here follow a VERY strictly organized schedule, with time allotted for greetings, gifts, cake cutting, etc. That is, everything is planned down to the minute when it is supposed to take place.
Of course, the kicker is that this is Tanzania. So most of the guests arrived around 8pm, a good 2 hours late, and the party didn't actually get started until 10pm. UGH. We were both very tired, her moreso due to the travels, but once it started it was pretty nice. The happy couple, of course, looked miserable, since that's what brides and grooms are supposed to look like here. But the GUESTS, we had fun, drinking soda and beer, clinking glasses and giving gifts [everytime you go up to the head table to give a gift or something, you have to sort of 'dance' your way up to local TZ music]. The food was nice, although it was at about 1:30 am, and there was a bit of dancing. I didn't know a whole lot of people there, but the groom is a good friend of mine and I have worked closely with him on several projects, so he was happy to see me there and I was happy to see him. Granted he's lived with his wife for 15 years and they have 3 kids, but they'd never actually had a wedding. One of the guests described this as 'fixing things up', as in, he had sort of stolen his wife and now he was setting things right. Oh yeah, they got 3 cows and some goats and chickens in addition to dishes and cloth as wedding gifts.
The next few days we hung out in Misungwi, greeting my friends and checking out all a small TZ town has to offer. Not a lot, but we had fun. She helped me teach my last period at the Secondary school [we reviewed STDs and then watched a powerful, GRAPHIC, but I think very educational video on STDs which shows up-close shots of syphillis, chancroid, gonorrhea, etc]. We also went to the TTC for my last period there, where I taught the most whirlwind lesson on condoms ever, but despite the rush it went well and I think they got something out of it, or at least I hope ONE person at least got ONE little thing out of it, I think that would be enough for me to be content.
The week before Michelle came I finished up my MEMA kwa Vijana seminars with AMREF. I wrote a bit about this last week, but feel the need to elaborate a bit. I stayed mostly with the teachers who teach in the primary schools right in Misungwi town, so it is nice now seeing them around on the street and exchanging greetings and ideas. I was a bit of a firecracker during our lessons, and I must say that 2 years of experience here that will be shortly winding down has led to me boiling up pretty quickly and being pretty open about a lot of topics I would previously have danced lightly around. But it's good, I think, for an outsider to give his or her thoughts every once in a while, because otherwise we just take for granted the environment we live in, and don't ask questions like 'why is it this way' or 'why don't we change this?'. For example, many of the teachers were complaining that American/Western culture, namely clothing and music and videos. Yes, I agreed, the culture is not as conservative as it is here. People get divorced all the time, women where short skirts, many of us watch porno. But, for example, grown American men RARELY have sexual relationships with 14 year old girls. Here, that is still considered deviant and gross and inappropriate, but is certainly not unheard of.
So yeah, I've been running into them now and some of the teachers, especially the younger ones who just finished their trainings, are really fun to talk to. We talk about the difficulties facing them in their schools and classrooms, many of which I've written about before [student numbers, lack of facilities, lack of resources, lack of books, um, even RAIN messes things up since they have steel roofing with no ceiling boards]. Many would like to come visit me in the states, and requests for sponsorships and addresses and contacts have grown exponentially as people [not just teachers] are aware that I am close to leaving.
GOTTA GO. I need to buy new pants, all my pants are SHOT and I want to look presentable for my last few weeks here. I am getting some kick-ass African shirts hand-tailored for me, so that will complete the ensemble. The only problem is that pants here are hard to find as there are not exactly any department stores, and certainly no price tags, so everyone tries to rip me off. Thus a friend of mine [who just called me] is meeting me in town to take me shopping. Plus, those of you who know me know that I hate clothes shopping, but 'inanibidi' that is 'it is making me', it being some condition like, for example, the disgustingness of my current wardrobe.
ps. my cat is apparently NOT a beneficiary of my lessons on lifeskills, hiv/aids, and family planning. for the second time in i swear 4 months, she has had kittens. only two this time. so now i have 3 cats to try to get rid of before i leave. nice.
pps. i don't brag a lot, certainly not as often as I could because, let's be honest, i'm good at a lot of things and especially here in Tanzania i'm pretty freaking special. But i have to today - there was a really really drunk guy in the market a few days ago, in Misungwi, when michelle and I went to buy meat at the butcher. though i'm not sure of the connection between language and masculinity, this guy kept repeating over and over, "that guy - listen to him. he knows swahili. that guy, he's a MAN. he's a MAN, a real MAN. listen to him."
so among the names i've been called here: sir, doctor, 'real man', father. lots of respect. which i ain't gonna get when i get back home....
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
And the rainy season has actually come this year. Double Whoosh. For every day the past week or so, there has been at the least a slight drizzle in the early afternoon, at the most torrential downpours accompanied by huge gusts of wind that basically prevent anyone, or anything, from staying completely dry.
But we are all very pleased, as it was getting dusty, and more importantly as last year it just didn't rain at all and food is thus becoming problematic and expensive.
Speaking of food, I conducted my final of 3 seminars on nutrition and balanced meals for PLWHA groups. It was a nice day, sort of routine as I've already facilitated this seminar 4 other times so I had it down pat, but the food was as usual plentiful and tasty and, fitting with the theme of the day, well balanced. And the people were EXCITED, and interested, and active and involved, and appreciative, and receptive, and it was a pleasure to be with them though only for one day.
Today I am in Mwanza town after a visit from my boss, which went well. I don't get a whole lot of visitors at my house, i.e. NONE other than my regular friends whom I don't view as 'visitors', so it was a pseudo big deal [i.e. involved some cooking, the first instance of such in several months].
But the big news is that, after this week, I will essentially have wrapped up my work in country. We are winding down a 12 day seminar for primary school teachers on using participatory methodology to teach about HIV/AIDS, and all in all it has been a fantastic experience, with me contributing a lot of input and ideas from a foreigner's perspective that has been well recieved by these local teachers. This is the longest in a line of seminars, for health workers and head teachers and subject teachers, which has featured a LOT of interesting and passionate conversations and what appears to me as some genuine progress toward development and improvement at these schools and health facilities. So it is definitely a positive note.
My plans for the remaining month at home [that's right, one month left] are to just hang out with my friends, enjoy and soak up life here, and begin to say goodbyes. I anticipate writing on the blog a few times over the course of this coming month, and then a few good final entries from Dar before I head back to the states. I am both excited and sad to be winding down my time here, but mostly looking forward to seeing my friends and relatives, i.e. you guys who are reading this. It's really starting to sink in that I will soon be home, and it feels good.
Peace, sorry for the rather unwitty entry, but we all have our days, huh?
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
pat on the back
A few days ago, I got a visit from whom I would say are two of the most promising students who just finished form 4, Solo and Sengerema. We had a great discussion for about an hour [I was very late to work but couldn't care less], talked about their future plans and what they want in life, etc. I of course stressed the importance of them having goals and plans to help guide their further studies and career searches, while in the meantime when I return home in a little over a month I plan on doing....what? We had a good laugh as well when I reminded them that the guest speaker at graduation had welcomed them to 'citizenship,' which I translated by taking them out to a REAL breakfast of chicken soup and chapattis instead of the nasty crap uji [porridge] they drank every day at school. Now I just hope that they manage to get themselves together and find some odd jobs so that they are able to pay school fees. Both of these two I am 100% sure will pass and be given an opportunity to continue studies, but sadly the 60-70 dollars a year school fees are a potential barrier.
On Saturday I got the opportunity to have a final meeting with the teachers I work with at Butimba TTC. We agreed to have a final emergency meeting since their schedule had changed and this week they will be going into the field to do a teaching practical. So we met at 8pm and, well, it was just a great time. I have been with these folks, about 40 in all, for the entire year, and we just have a blast during our sessions. We have interesting and thought-provoking debates, teach each other funny games and songs ['icebreakers'] to prepare the students before beginning a lesson, and then learn some really interesting topics. As I final lesson I decided to talk about the importance of self-esteem, and we literally did a 'pat-on-the-back' exercise where each person taped a piece of paper on his/her back, and then we all walk around the classroom and write positive things about each other on our backs. They got a HUGE kick out of it, and who doesn't like being told how great you are, you look, you teach, etc? It was very confidence building, and a nice way to end our time together and get a little reminder of the group. I joked to them that 10 years from now, if they are having a shitty day or their boss is an asshole or something, they can take out these pieces of paper and say to themselves, "oh yeah? well for your information, i'm attractive and creative and ask good questions in the classroom and play soccer well too, so shove it."
At the end of the period we all had sodas and distributed teaching materials, which they were INCREDIBLY grateful for. We finished at 11:30pm, and I slept in a room at the college. I will try to post a picture of all this in the coming days. All in all it was a very rewarding experience, and I'm hoping as I wind up other projects in the coming weeks that everything is as positive as this was. I know a lot of these folks will go on to do great things, and to help thousands of students, and I really couldn't help being very proud of that. I could tell they were excited to get out and get some real teaching experience, too. The environment of the teachers college is beautiful, right on the lake, nice weather, lots of rocks and trees, but the living conditions are - well - think about colleges in the states, and then imagine a developing country. My best friend Domi, who is now studying there, lives in a 'room' that has 15 bunk beds basically just lined up along the two walls, with a few tables and desks scattered around the room. So basically he has 29 roommates. Not much privacy. And his is the better situation, another of our friends was late registering and so he is in a room that, for all practical purposes, is simply a barracks. Total of 40 bunk beds, 80 people, no tables or chairs or desks or dressers. The food at the college is, well, it's food that is prepared for 1,000 people so I think that says it all. And the rules are pretty strict, monday-friday the entire day is scheduled, and friday/saturday night they have to be back at the college by 5pm. But all in all, these people seem motivated and excited for an opportunity at further education, and it's really fun for me to be surrounded by urban, intelligent, young people [no offense to all you old, stupid hicks].
To end on a random note - I have become accustomed to seeing men, old young and middle-aged, bathing in the lake. In the afternoon, in the middle of Mwanza city. Just bathing. Completely naked, surrounded by people, cars zipping by [although they are somehow far from the road], LOADS of mamas nearby doing their laundry... This, for me, is NORMAL. Oh boy, am I nervous to go back home...