I’m finally back at my home-stay after a week of traveling. This will probably be a longer post as a lot happened this week, so for those of you who just want the highlights and don’t want to read the whole thing, here they are:
- I stayed for most of the week with a volunteer named Lark who is an amazing volunteer. We ate amazing food, I observed her in her village, and she let me come watch her HURU event at a local secondary school, which provides girls with reusable sanitary pads as well as gives them some sex-ed and life skills information.
- I explored Makambako, my future banking town.
- I visited my site in Mambegu and saw my house and got a tour of the primary school that I live near. My village is interested in having me help with a dairy project, which I am so excited to talk more about, as that is something I had hoped to do. I also have a really mountainous view. I took pictures but unfortunately had my iphone stolen so I lost those and will have to take more next month after installation.
- I explored and kind of fell in love with Iringa!
So if you’d like more details:
My Week With Lark:
I was originally supposed to stay with another volunteer who ended up not being able to take me in due to unforeseen circumstances. This ended up being fine, though, because I felt really inspired by my week with Lark. She lives near a school and seems to have a really good relationship with her neighbors, the children, and the teachers. She also conducted a HURU event with her counterpart at the local secondary school. Because of my limited Swahili, I couldn’t understand a lot of it, but she tried to help me out where necessary. If you’d like to learn more about HURU, you can visit here.
Lark let her counterpart conduct pretty much all of the meeting so that it is sustainable after she is gone. Knowing she only has one more year in country, if she conducted all of the meeting, the information would disappear with her, but her counterpart, who is Tanzanian and lives in her village, will be the main resource for these girls, and can continue to educate others about conducting HURU sessions as well. Sustainability is so important in all of our Peace Corps projects, so this was really important. The village executive officer also came to address the girls. He spoke to them about the importance of staying in school, and not selling themselves for food, which Lark had just learned is a huge problem among girls who are hungry. This made me so sad, but happy that there was support in school from local role models to talk to the girls about these issues.
In short, I learned a lot from Lark about what makes a good volunteer, and I was also motivated by how good her Swahili is. Hongera, Lark 🙂
Makambako is my “banking town” which means that’s where I’ll go to get my stipend as well as where I’ll use the post office. I really loved Mak. It has a nice safi duka (nice store) which even has ice cream, some American foods, and these amazing chocolate chunk cookies from the UK which are my newest not-so-guilty pleasure. They have a milk bar, which is literally a place where you stand at the bar and can get milk, yogurt, and cheese. They have a huge market where you can get spices, fruits and veggies, fish, and they also have a street filled with beautiful kitenges, kangas, fabrics, and dresses. There is also amazing street food at night. I ate sambusas filled with ground beef and onion, as well as chipsi mayai, which are like french fries in an egg omelette. They were amazing. Even though I wasn’t feeling so hot the next day. There is a nice view of the mountains as well. It is small and dusty, but it has everything I need, and I look forward to spending time there over the next couple of years. Again, I lost the pictures because my iphone got stolen, but I will take more once I go back.
Since I will be living here for two years, I won’t go into great detail now, but I did get to visit my future home. It doesn’t have any furniture or anything yet, but I’m sure it won’t take me long to make it into my home, and I’m so excited. I have a bedroom, an indoor bathroom!!! (practically unheard of here), a living room, and a kitchen in the main house. There is an enclosed courtyard outside, with an outdoor room for cooking, another bathroom, and a couple extra rooms for storage or they can become guest rooms. I also have a water spigot in my courtyard so I won’t need to collect water on most days, which is huge, and most volunteers do not get this luxury. I am right in the middle of the Southern Highlands, and I have a great view of the mountains. I also live in a sunflower field, and have banana trees!
It is too early to be thinking about projects, as I haven’t spoken to many people in my community yet, but there are some organized Peace Corps Tanzania projects I am really interested in doing. One is Zinduka, which uses soccer to teach youth about HIV/AIDS. I love being active, I love soccer, and I will be living in a region with one of the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in Tanzania, so this project could potentially be a good fit. Also, there is a newer project called “Maua Mazuri” which means Beautiful flowers, and it utilizes art to encourage empowerment, self expression, and teach about HIV/AIDS. I think art is so important, powerful, and healing, and would love to see something like this take shape in my village. Of course, these are just ideas and thoughts, and the projects I actually end up doing will be dependent on what my community requests of me, and what they see as most important for am. After all, I am here to serve the Tanzanian people, and specifically the people of Mambegu.
My site visit was great, but I only stayed for a couple of hours, and to be honest it was my first panicked moment in Peace Corps. I have been getting emails and letters from people who knew about my experience in the Dominican Republic, asking if I am just putting on a show of happiness or if I really am happy here. I am so happy here! Of course I miss my friends and family at home, but I haven’t had any moments that were so difficult that I felt unhappy to the point of wondering if I can do this. But upon seeing my house, I did feel the nervousness of knowing how real this is becoming, and that I’m really going to be alone in that house for two years. It was an intense feeling, and I know I have difficult nights ahead. That being said, the fear made me reflect on why I’m here and why I want to do Peace Corps, and I can confidently say, there is no doubt in my mind that I’m where I need to be and that I am so happy and proud of the life I’ve chosen to lead. I also fully appreciate the love and support behind me at home, especially from my family, boyfriend, and friends. Not a day goes by that I don’t feel this support, and I love you all so much. You are all amazing! In the car on the way back from visiting my site, Lark told me I seem really well prepared to start my life at site. I don’t think she knew how much it meant to me to hear that coming from a current volunteer. I’m so ready for this journey.
Minus getting pick pocketed here, which is actually a common occurrence, I totally fell in love with this city. It is beautiful, it has a lot of really cool shops and neat finds (ghost busters wife beaters for example), cheap pile shopping, “Masai Alley” which has traditional Masai crafts and jewelry, and AMAZING food. Ok so I fell in love with it because of the food. It just felt really good not to eat rice and beans. I want to say I had an out-of-body experience as I sucked down a cold coffee milkshake with REAL frozen ice cream. Practically unheard of in this country. I also enjoyed some delicious yogurt and fresh fruit salads, and great italian food. I was a glutton for a day, I’ll admit. The pictures speak for themselves…
After all this traveling, I didn’t expect to miss my host family in Dodoma as much as I did. But I missed them so much!!! I came home to a big welcome. I even got a hug from one of my sisters, which is pretty rare in Tanzanian culture! My mamas and bibi (grandma) continued to say “karibu” which means welcome, and that they were happy I was home. Even the dog, pregnant as could be, couldn’t stop shaking her tail. Neither could I. I had planted a bag garden before I left and was so happy to come home to sprouted greens and watermelons. I sat down to do my laundry and then relax, and my family fed me a delicious meal of pilau (spiced rice) and my favorite cabbage. It feels good to be home!
Happy Easter, everyone. Thanks for reading, as always ❤