The contents of this blog are my own, and do not reflect the position, views, or policies of the United States Government or the United States Peace Corps.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

It's Official....I'm the WORST Peace Corps blogger in the world

     Alright, let the comments begin....I know I've been MIA-blog wise for the better part of a year. Don't get me wrong, I've had witty, funny, even poignant posts all working up in my brain as I sat in the village/traveled around/been in town, and I could try to appease you with my excuses (lack of electricity/internet, limited exposure to fancy things/Americans while in town, travels, tiredness, etc etc), but as my loyal blog readers you deserve better than that. So, in an effort to make you like me again before I return home to mooch from you, I will try to catch you up here very quickly. And, if the spirit moves me, (actually more like if I actually have time to do it and find electricity/aren't job researching all the time,) I will try to write some of those blogs I had a working in my brain. Sawa? (Okay?)

2013 In a  Nutshell (Blog-Shell): 
Quick, informative, only slightly disgusting

PLEASE NOTE: While I didn't write teaching at the Secondary School, Teaching to the waiting patients at the Zahanati, Clinic, village health announcements, and other weekly work, I did them, I promise. Figured whale sharks and all that would be exciting to read about though. Will hopefully get a vill- centric blog in somtime


  • Parents came and left (wahh)- Safari, Christmas in my village (HOT!), Zanzibar, Tanga town (12 days!)
  • Mid-Service Conference with all my long-lost PC pals from my class in Dar (big city, big prices, good food)
  • Had quite the 14 hour journey adventure to Mafia to SWIM with WHALE SHARKS! Such an amazing expirence. p.s. they don't have teeth
  • Came back to vill
  • Started up withe Life Skills class at the Sec School, those little rascals
  • Water Shidas started (problems!!)


  • SPENT ALL MONEY on buying hauled water from an hour away
  • LAID on concrete floor to try to cool off
  • (can you tell i won't miss Feb 2014??)


  • Completed my first 5k in Africa, near the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro, sporting a fine eyeliner mustache
  • Watched several of my friends complete the FULL MARATHON (in the hottest season in TZ!)
  • Swam in Hot Springs (not hot, but very clear, clean water near Moshi/Arusha)
  • Back to the Vill
  • Hand-Washing demo days at the Primary Schools
  • Tried to get Zinduka started again (HIV centered youth soccer program)..of course nothing happened
  • Tried to get village health group motivated to write World Malaria Day grant....nothing happened til too late
  • Easter Feast at Peace Corps Extendee's house with Italians, Germans, Americans, and Tanzania...with easter egg dying and the hunt!


  • Had my 2nd birthday in Tanzania...the big 2-5. Was a difficult age to turn in my head, but ushered it in on the quiet beautiful private beach of Pangani with a some friends
  • Continued the usual teaching at the school/helping/teaching at the Zahanati, etc
  • Held a pretty unsuccessful World Malaria Day (30+ handwritten flyers and 15 ppl show up? not that I'm still bitter. :), but a successful Cinema night about malaria


  • Headed to the Usambara Mountains of Lushoto to hike, celebrate a friend's birthday, buy a real coach leather purse for $2.50 (didn't really know or care its Coach, but liked it!)
  • Taught/taught/helped..almost got Zinduka started, but then school was to close in June so didn't start yet
  • Hosted a new Tanga friend's bro, a young British doctor, at my site and got to show him the "real tz", and he brought me solar lights and hung up my hammock.. fair deal if I say so!
  • Read copious amounts of books (add this to every month along with the working)
  • Counted down the days to pick up my friend (see June)


  • Headed back to Moshi to pick up my dear bestie, Sarah Jones and to begin our adventures! Safari with near Jurassic Park-like experiences with Elephants, High School Musical themed guest rooms, shopping extravaganzas, private beach villas in Zanzibar for the price of a hut on the beach, village encounters, and Tanga fanciness. Reconnected after a year and a half, was a lovely trip. :) 
  • After dropping Sarah off at airport, met up with a fellow PCV friend, then headed to get scuba certified!! definitely one of the coolest things I've ever done. and I saw Nemo.
  • Temps dropped! It rained alot!!
  • Hosted the (now) annual Tanga 4th of July Bash on the Sandbar (well an hour on the sandbar) with 40+ PCVs. woof! but fun, including sparkler candles and clubbin!
  • Hiked up to Lushoto again, and sat on the edge of the world (or so it feels), froze
  • Back to the vill, STARTED ZINDUKA!! This time with Standard 6 kids (or like 7th graders)
  • Played with some babies, ate a lot of chappatis
  • Worked, played, read, plotted
  • Took another 2 week vacay (hey, i had alot of vacay days to use) before and after my COS Conference (more later). Headed north solo to see the desert-y accaia-lined area of the Katesh, Manyara, then headed to see Lake Victoria at Mwanza...rocks and home of the haggled happy hour!Then took another flight! (between my fam, sarah, scuba, and then mwanza to dar, I rarely took the bus this year, WOO!) to Dar.
  • COS (Close of Service Conference) in Dar, but not just any Dar place, a fancy beach resort! Paid for by Peace Corps (and you, American taxpayers, thank you). Wonderful way to wrap up two years with friends and a wonderful facilitator, my ex-pat friend Pam from Tanga. Also, we all started planning our adventures before returning home (more later)
  • After Dar, headed back to Zanzibar (what a life, I know), to go see the HUMPBACKS migrating through! A dream come true for a Free Willy obsessed little girl. Then on to Iringa (southern TZ), to complete my TZ quest
  • Back to the vil, teaching, teaching, trying to get projects wrapping up/hugging up every minute with my babies
  • Got Zinduka rolling again after my travel absence, they kids were so excited and kept coming to my house to see when we'd do it again (def a great work motivator!)
  • Continued teaching at the clinic and really trying to teach/work with the pregnant mamas and regular mamas that come through. Going to miss them...
  • To make a long story short (ha, Mom), finally got in contact with a man from Muheza who works with the local government on sustainable energy, climate change adaptation, and fuel efficient stoves. Had learned about these a year ago, but wanted someone with better knowledge of it to really lead the demonstration, and the angels sent Mr. Nyimbile! So within the span of three weeks, we met, planned, and will now HOST the training (for free! no grant!) in my village this coming week! wooot!
  • Carried a bunch of babies on my back because I know I have limited time with them
  • Had a full moon party bonfire with Americans, Brits, Austrailians, Kenyans, Indian Tanzanians, and who knows where else. Gotta love the many sounds of English!
October....to be continued....

So, things are moving SO QUICKLY now, my fellow PCVs and I trying to do a little work, do a little playing, do a LOT of getting rid of stuff (who knew how much you could accumulate in 2 years in 2 rooms!), and do LOADS of goodbyes..the hardest part. Though Tanzania has frustrated me like no other, it has welcomed me and pulled me into it, and entrenched me like no other. It is a beautiful, raw, still new country, but ancient with traditions and hospitality. Where else can you see a 90 year old bibi (grandmother) on her cell phone in her mud house? I could never truly do it justice here, but perhaps will try in another post. It has been the best, most growing 2 years of my life, and whet my appiteite for life/traveling abroad even further.

In that vein, I am happy to report a small group of friends and I are traveling to India, Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos, before making our way home (before Christmas!!) because being on this side of the world makes it so cheap! ALL of our flights to every country and even around India, including Bangkok to Chicago, are all for less than Peace Corps is giving me for my return ticket home! Then HOME FOR CHRISTMAS!! A bit excited/...

So thank you, loyal readers for reading this and hopefully forgiving me a tiny bit for my haitus. I appreiciate all the love, support, good vibes, prayers, smoke signals, letters, packages, or whatever else you sent my way. It got to me. 

Pamoja na Upendo, Amani, na Raha,
(With love, peach and happiness)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Do They Know Its Christmas Time? (Yes, They Do.)

Happy Holidays, Seasons Greetings, and Krismasi Njema to all the fine followers of this blog! Another Christmas season spent in Tanzania, and while I occasionally miss the cool weather, the spirit of the season, and the ever popular sweaters*, it is a refreshing, wonderful experience not to be all caught up in the shopping/buying/spending/extravagance that Christmas usually becomes.

* And of course, the seasonal hot beverages, Christmas cookies, and non-stop Christmas music. But those are second tiered misses. :)

Because it is now Summer here in the Southern Hemisphere, and I live next door to the Sun (or so it feels like), it has been really hard to wrap my mind around the concept of Christmas. Even though my FAMILY is coming NEXT week and we are traveling, doing all the fun touristy things I can't usually afford, and spending Christmas EVE and DAY in my village, with my lovely friends. I'm more than excited, and I'm pretty sure every single person I come across in the village knows. Its been 13 months now, and I feel like a kid whose parents are coming at the end of summer camp. Except I'll be staying after they leave again. But still, the effect is the same. :) I believe the planning is all set (or as set as it can be in Tanzania...let's just say everything  runs at its own pace here. I am just so excited to share what has become my home for the last year with my family. And also to see them not bathe and live with out electricity for a few days. muahahaha. All teasing aside, it will be a wonderful way to spend my 2nd Christmas in Tanzania.

So, to prep and get in the Christmas-y spirit, I've been trying to listen to my recently created Christmas playlist on my Ipod (since sweater wearing and hot cocoa drinking are pretty much out with the 90 degrees with 100% humidity). In prepping for TZ, I added about 10 Christmas songs to my playslist (great planning, Chels), of which 3 are "I'll be Home For Christmas" (again, GREAT planning, Chels. Not a hard song to hear around teh holidays 8000 miles away). Of course there is the other classics, The Christmas Song, Felix Navidad, and All I want for Christmas is you (hahah). And then there is the ever popular, mid 80's classic, "Do They Know Its Christmastime?" Which I used to really enjoy. But as I say listening to the words of the song (yes, I know it was made to raise awareness, and for a good cause), but the words are really kind of off. Granted, I know the writers of the song were probably not talking about Tanzania, so I shouldn't neccissarily judge it against here, but even for other parts of Africa, it seems off. For instance, "where nothing ever grows, no rain or rivers flow, " seems a bit harsh. But the line that really got to me is "The greatest gift they'll get this year is life." Which I know, they are trying to help the disenfranchised, starving people in this song, but still, Isn't life the greatest gift any of us will get? Is a new IPad or who knows whatever new technology (I've been out of the loop). The real message we should be sending out is this to everybody, life is a gift and blessing. And yes, the people here realize it...as the song goes "Do they know its Christmastime at all?" Sure, there are no pine trees (artificial or otherwise), stuffed Santas, porcelain nativity scenes, or any other of the many "Christmasy things" we are used to, but yes, even people with out cable, landlines, and gasp, the internet!, know it is Christmastime. And while the celebrations may seem simple and plain compared to our elaborate feasts, they are still celebrations, and celebrating the special day with family and friends, sharing food, and fellowship are the main acts of the day. Even for those not going to church (which in TZ means they are Muslim...its literally one or the other), they can still enjoy the holiday. While I don't know all the trappings of a Christmas in the village (this will be my first, the last one was in Dar), I was here for the Iddi (Eid),the end of Ramadan  the huge Muslim Holiday, and Christians and Muslims alike were able to celebrate together in the spirit of fellowship (i'm sure not ALL Christians do, but I was invited to many a party, and perhaps others were too). So while they may not watch "Its a Wonderful Life" or "Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!" (Both my favorites!), the people of Tanzania DO know its Christmastime, and I can't wait to celebrate the day with my Family and my village friends. Not to say we won't bring a little American Christmas to the village (lets just say Selha may be getting baby sunglasses!), but we can also enjoy Christmas from the Tanzania perspective. And maybe that's the best gift we can get this year. Besides Life.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Seasons Greeting, Happy New Year! Love and Hugs to all in 'Merika!


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Inaanza Sasa Hivi (It is starting right now!)

     Hello lovely blog readers. It's your old pal, Mkunde. I know I have been absent (AGAIN) for way too long, but please forgive me. This month, November, I have been trying to stay in my village, to kind of make up for, and preemptively make up for my absence in December. Staying in the village has been a worthy mission, and I'm going to let you in why:


While in PC, its best not to compare yourself/your service to other volunteers, but its also ridiculously hard not to. And so, for the last 6 months or so, hearing about all these fabulous projects/actual work being done by my friends, and feeling rather inadequate/slow has been a little bit of a challenge. But after being gone, and then staying around, perhaps it was my presence  by now getting better Kiswahili, or pure dumb luck, but things seem to be rolling. Our youth group (Zinduka is the name, google it! Its with Grassroots Soccer out of South Africa), is about for finish our first group/graduate them! We are also going to take a few of them to perform at at World Aids Day Event! Woo hoo! My LifeSkills kids listen better and seem to pay more attention (could be because we talk about sex and things now). The teaching at the clinic is rolling along great, people are askign more questions than ever! There is even a grant I'm hopefully going to getting started with the clinic to help them build a new, bigger laboratory hopefully! The village health group started by the previous volunteer has beeen showing up to meetings and I held a workshop to make a natural mosquito repellant (learned from PC, its really cool!), and now they want to teach the sub-villages how to make it, and also to sell it for their own group's income! Woo hoo! So that has been a major motivation for me, as I move into my second year of service.

Since its now SUMMER IN TANZANIA, i am once again coated in a perpetually coated in a thick coat of sweat. It adds lustrous volume to my already poufy hair, and causes lovely pimples to sprout on my face. Lets not even talk about the aromas. Thus begins the laying on the concrete floor-wearing next to nothing-while cursing the volunteers with electricity phase. Also means I'm giving in to the temptation to buy cold water/sodas more often. whoops. BUT it also means ORANGE SEASON! Yum. and the Beach is still jsut an hour away. And It makes me look forward to JUNE. :) But the BIGGEST THING i'm looking forward to will happen in just less than a month. MY FAMILY IS COMING!! We shall do the touristy things I have not yet done due to money/work, but they are also going to experience my village. for christmas. talk about a humble Christmas  All 4 of us in 2 rooms in 90 degree heat....I feel like a reality show would love this! While talking to them once a week has been amazing, there is nothing like a mama hug (sure, I have gotten mama hugs, but not from original mama (though she may be extra crispy after being in the african sun! ba dum dum chssssssh)). So the prep of getting ready for their trip has been extra work too, but DEF worth it.

Selhie, Sheddie, and the gang are all still well. Peeing, whining, cracking up when i make weird white girl face at them. My dear friend in the village lost her sister this week, and while I didn't really know the sister, I definitely felt the loss as they grieved. Its so different to experience deaths in the village when you are finally understanding what's happening and know people. Also though, I do feel my connections in the village are getting much deeeper. Could be because we can get past "How is your house? How is your wife? How is your farm?" Already I'm worried about saying goodbye. And thats a year away. woof.

Well I always have witty (well not actually witty, but witty in chelsea's head) blog ideas, but lack of internet/energy drained from heat/life has prevented them. I will TRY to be better, especially now since I've found a semi sweet spot in my door frame where I can get basic internet to load once in a while. But know I"m sending profound thoughts/love/and snuggles from across the pound.

Remaining your ever-sweaty-hot-mess,

Monday, October 8, 2012

Excuses, Newbs, and Maisha Plus

PREFACE: Initially, I thought I'd have a witty, up-to-date, informative, class act of a blog. But then, as most things go in Tanzania and life, it didn't exactly happen as planned. It's not like I haven't thought of funny/witty stories, or haven't been on the internet in the past 4 months, but due to a variety of circumstances I just haven't gotten out a blog. It's like the journal...started out solid, then puttered out. I'm going to say its because I've gotten busier. right? So again, I am apologetic for my lack of new blogs. Its like I always get a fabulous idea for a blog, but by the time I get to a computer/see the next shiny object, its out of my brain, or I am too swept in by Facebook email when I get to the www. Also, if people were to start commenting again...ahem...perhaps I'd be more apt to write..maybe. :) But, its been a full few months.

The months of August and September were fast, slow, hot, cold (okay less hot), companionship  and loneliness, and pretty much every other contradiction I could through out. Karibu, Tanzania, the land of lovely imperfections and contradictions. Getting much "work" done during the month of August was lets say, less easy than normal. It was "Sensa" time (the census) and school was closed, partly due to this reason. My health group in the village were pretty absent, and a few other things I wanted to get rolling were kind of at a standstill. So, I started my chalkboard (my new favorite project), played with Shedrack and Selhie, tried to start a garden, hosted a shadower, and most recently, went to multiple Peace Corps trainings and conferences. So, back to the black board was an idea after seeing a smaller one painted at a friends house, I decided to capitalize on the fact I live in the middle of town and there are constantly people walking by, you know lemonades out of lemons or something like that. :) It started out as a possible teaching spot for the hoardes of little children that live near me, but then I thought it might be a really great way to reach other adults I may not come across on a normal basis, and it would be a like a village health advertisement board. I think the colored chalk really takes the cake/interests the kids as they walk by. Anyway, it is really small, but that has been/is my philosophy towards my service; to quote Peter Jensen, "small, do-able actions." So while other things haven't progressed or regressed, this little project has been a favorite/time occupier on those slow days. 

In September, they announced the dates the new health and environment trainees (henceforth "newbs" in chelseaspeak), and announced that we could help to train the new class. I am the closest to the training site they will be at the whole two months, so I knew I'd be able to pop in and out, but I was also lucky enough to be able to spend the first week here in country with them..this past week! It's so strange to me that there are NEW volunteers...what does that make us? It also has set in a strange, mid-service/life crisis...I have alot to get done! It will happen when it happens I guess. The new pct (that's code for peace corps trainees) are a really fun, sweet, group. Who had lots of questions. :) 

So for now, it's back to the village. I learned recently from a PC language teacher about "maisha plus." They explained it as when a person from a city (aka DAR) goes to stay in the village to live life without modern conviences (ie water, electricity, etc). So they asked if I lived as "maisha plus." I assured them that my lovely abode was indeed maisha plus. In Kiswahili, Maisha is LIFE. So it basically means Life PLUS. And you know what, it really is a blessing in disguise, and definitely making me realize the truly important things in life. <3

So, while I should continue on, I am heading out in the morning for home; the vil. After 3+weeks of trainings, Americans, good food, electricity, and running water, the transition to the village is always tougher, but I am also looking forward to my "maisha plus" again. 

I promise to be better/write down ideas/etc. :) Still LOVING the snail mail. Hope America is well. Also, this week is my ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY in country. just saying. Next blog will probably be a reflection of that past year. Will hopefully have that before the 2nd anniversary!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Can't think of anything witty: an equally dry blog post

Well, who would have thought this whole no-electricity-maybe-getting-internet-access-living-in-the-vil-thing would put a damper on getting out regular blogs. I do apologize, lovely followers. 

Life in the village has been going well since my semi-long absence due to trainings for Peace Corps, and other general merriment (sand-bar-that-only-comes-out-in-low-tide to reveal turquoise water in tanga for the 4th of July? Why, yes I did, complete with smores, sparkler birthday candles, and loud, off key americans singing patriotic tunes. Upon my return, I have been teaching (or attempting to teach.. you know kids of any nationality around break time aren't exactly into school..) and teaching and helping at the clinic as per usual. Decided to be super motivated and bought seeds to begin the Perma-garden I said I was going to start when i got to site (seven months ago), but now at least the seeds are sitting on my coffee table, so its a start. The Zinduka (youth soccer-teaching-about-AIDS/HIV-program)  plan is getting underway, and my two, amazing, motivated coaches are excited as well. Still feel like I am behind or should be doing a HUGE grant or project like many of my fellow PCV's, but for right now, i'm still sticking to the small scale. I have a little time left, right?

In other news, I will have a "shadower" soon! Don't worry, not a stalker. Just Peace Corps lingo for a trainee (like I was my first two months) to come stay with me for a week to learn about living in the village. The poor sap (and future sitemate of mine!) stuck with me won't find the domestic, bread-baking jiko-loving goddess, but I can teach them  to make a mean batch of popcorn, and the proper way to drop in on your neighbors at meal times. It will be fun to have another "Mzungu" (white person...being called this generally gets on my nerves... i do know i stand out, don't need 20 Tanzanian children yelling this to me! :)) It will be a bit different, but should be a new challenge as well.

Wish i had a better, wittier, more exciting post for all of the lovely Americans reading this, wondering what I'm doing in the African bush. The village has been lovely, cool (too cold for my neighbors who complain about the beautiful weather I am enjoying), but it will soon be over, and the obsessive heat will return. As for now, I'm enjoying the lovely weather, trying to brush up on my swahilli after being gone and around Americans at trainings, and of course, playing with and being peed on by an assortment of babies. Some days it seems like this whole adventure is flyinggggggggggg by! and others seem to drag on. But, this is life! :) Still, the love/good vibes/prayers/etc that are continually being sent my way are greatly apprecitated. Really couldn't do this without the best support staff ever.
Until next time, my lovies!

p.s. realllllly love snail mail. write me, and perhaps you'll recieve a really cool letter with a tanzanian stamp (proabably of a grasshopper..they usually are). and of course, love and fuzzies from me. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Baby Steps, Breezes, and Blister Beetles

Alright, pardon the delayed absence. My own mother scolded me for not blogging, but the past month or so has been full, as my alliteration-y title suggests.

EndofApril/May/June has flown by much faster than the previous five months or so. While all things are important, I must note that I have now officially cooked on my charcoal jiko, with help from two different neighbors to get the darn thing started. My cooking skills are still clearly sub-par on both American and Tanzanian standards, but for some reason, I'm packing on the pounds again. My rationalization is the weather. Referencing the unyeilding heat mentioned in previous posts, I am happy (no, OVERJOYED) to announce the "cold season" has arrived in Muheza district. My neighbors and friends keep commenting on the upepo kali (cold wind) and how they are just so cold they have to wear jackets. Its literally 75-80 degrees F, but for people who are used to the scorching heat of Tanga region the other 11 months, I guess I can see how the absolutely beautiful, breezey, sunny, gorgeous, little-bit-of-rainy weather would be a shock. But as you can tell, I'm a happy camper and sleep like a baby (well a colicky baby, but still not sweating to death in my sleep anymore).

Speaking of babies, Selhy has begun to walk! Selhati, the absolute love of my life-little neighbor baby, has just turned one, and is walking a bit, jabbering in indistinguishable baby jabber, and can ALMOST pump out "shel-shee" (what most of the other kids manage for my name). I have definitely taken on the attitude of "its takes a village to raise a child" with her, trying to stop by and hold her/play with her a few days a week (I'm good friends with her mom, aunts, and gma, so its always lovely visit). Her older sister, equally adorable, and I were drawing with chalk on the stoop the other afternoon, and Selhy saw us and just really wanted to join in. She took a few teetering steps, got nervous, and plopped down on her tiny hiney. Realizing she wasn't quite there yet, she got back up and taritibu -ly (carelfully) managed her way to where the portrait-drawing-action was.

My first few weeks "on the job" were a bit like Selha and her new walking quest. Walking the 15 minute or so walk to the Secondary School the first day I taught "Life Skills" (we've now covered hand-washing and peer pressure), I was beyond nervous and unsure, but figured I had to "fake it til I make it" kind-of-thing. Walking into a classroom of 35-50 teenagers expecting you to know what you are doing, and do it well in another LANGUAGE is a bit intimidating, but after a few chuckles (on both sides) due to language mix ups, and explaining how I expect things to go, the classes are going well and they seem to be enjoying it. Especially the Maswali ya Leo (Questions of the Day), which is a sheet I pass around and the students are able to write (anonymously) questions about health, sex, America, or whatever they want. You can only imagine some of the ones i've gotten so far. :) Its a good way for us to cover some topics they are never taught and have no one else to go with to. Like I said, it's only been a few different classes so far, as I teach two Forms a week and the other two the next week, but its moving along well. Having other PCV friends doing the same thing has been a blessing as well, as we can compare notes and war-stories. :)

Teaching outside the Zahanati (dispensary/clinic) was also nerve wracking, in some ways, more so. Here was I not only teaching in Swahili but to adults, and about health topics, so I better know my stuff! The staff (2 nurses, lab tech, and clinical officier ("dr")), stop what they are doing, come stand outside with me and help me by encouraging the waiting patients (our captive audience) to answer my questions and also helping me to answer questions from the crowd. I didn't know they were going to be such a big help, but let me tell you, it has gone so much more smoothly than if I didn't have the help! I ask/suggest what topic I cover each month. EndofApril/May was Malaria, which is a HUGE problem here, and June is Kipindupindu (cholera)     [side note- isn't that a hilarous name for cholera? As my friend Megan so elequouently puts it, "I can't be scared of a disease that sounds so cute"]     because of an outbreak in our district recently (its the rainy season and without any drainage/waste management, you get the picture, problems!), so I teach about cholera and diarahea. Didn't think I'd be drawing and talking about poop quite so much this early on, but hey its fun.

June is going to be the month of trainings! I'm off to DAR for "warden training" in a few weeks, where I will put my previous fire-marshalling skills to work to help protect the volunteers in my region in case of emergency. :). Basically I'll call the other two girls and say we have to meet somewhere if there is a natural disaster/war/or some other reason PC tells us to get out. It should be fun, and I get to see a few other PCV's and hang out in AC and drink frappecinos. Not a bad deal. The other training is for Zinduka, a soccer program that teaches youth about HIV/AIDS. I'm starting an in and out of school youth/boys and girls soccer/sports/health club (we obviously need a name) with Joyce and a Secondary School teacher, and we are so excited! The training will also provide more PCV fellowship and a chance to see another region (want to hit them all during my 2 years!) I'm going to try to be in the village as much as possible this month, but as you can see certain trips to town are warranted (this weekend, new phone, dowloading still more books on my poor nook that got deleted, and a pcv visitor!). Its all about a balance, and I think the past two months have helped me to find mine. :)

So I haven't started any major "building-the-village-a-water-tank/school" projects yet; but, I've decided to take this job/adventure/opportunity just like Selha, one step at a time. While I want to do as much good and help the village as much as I can during my service, I remind myself everyday that it is a process and I will be here for another year and a half. I want the people to KNOW me, and understand what I'm here for and know I do truly care for them before I start a whole huge project they or I aren't ready for; I'd rather they come to me with something we can work on together. So if this means I have to keep playing babies, and making vijana (youth) and wazee (elderly) alike laugh at my badly pronounced Swahili, so be it. :)

Feeling slightly cooler, happy, and now blister-free,

[Forgot the blister beetle story! So one day I was thinking I got a sunburn on the back on my calf and knee cap (not sure why or how I thought I got this wearing long skirts everyday-my pasty white legs can attest to this), but it turned into full on HUGE blisters with red swollen patches around it. In other words, I was even more attractive than I normally am everyday. I had to go to Megan's site for a PC mandated flu shot from the PC doc, and had him look it just to be sure. Sure enough, I got stung by the blister beetle (Nairobi fly). Another awesome story (and hopefully not scar!) for the grandkids I guess!]

Friday, April 27, 2012

Amani, Upendo, na Maisha

Amani means "peace" in Kiswahili, and its one of my favorite Swahili words. It also describes my state of being in the village right now. Upendo is "love", and when you have a title like "peace," I think its obligatory to add "love," :). And Maisha is  "life". A little hippy, a little sentimental, a whole-lot Chelsea, haha.

Well, it's been about a month now since I've returned to the 'vil, and as difficult as reintegration after being away (and around Americans and modern amenities), I am beginning to be really at peace in the my village. The first few weeks were a pretty tough, but as of this week, I have begun to teach at the secondary school, and present on health topics at the clinic, or in other words, do "real" work. As opposed to my visiting, taking walks, and generally just hanging around that I otherwise do. :)

Starting to present/teach/interact even further in the community has really be wonderful, and being back around my neighbors, friends, and smiling/peeing babies, who were generally happy to see me again, and with whom I can now have slightly more in-depth conversations, (they were mostly 'hello, how are you? how's your family? Have a good day' there for a while...). Sure, there are days/moments/times where I get in a homesick or sad funk, but maybe its the starting work, maybe its the amazing support I get from home, but I'm starting to feel like I'm not COMPLETELY out of place in my village. Its a good feeling. I'm in town this weekend, after spending over two weeks in the village straight. As I was preparing to leave, I was excited (needed to use the atm and hit the supermarket, as well as hanging out with my lovely sitemates!), but I didn't feel like I HAD to leave the village, like I had in moments before. Don't get me wrong, I'm SO happy to be in town and definitely needed it, but, I realized I am really getting to LOVE my village. Which, at times, seems crazy when the roosters start crowing at 3 am, the teenagers cat-call and do other generally annoying things, I can't take a five second walk for pleasure without interrogation of where I am going, but I really am. People are recongizing me and introducing me to others, I get regular "zawadi" (gifts) of fruits from villagers, and the kids as SO excited when I come up the path to my house.

Besides theses mushy-gushy reasons, I have been thinking of other reasons  
Why I love my village/TZ:
(In no particular order, and will probably add to it in future blogs)

1. Where else can I indulge my embarrassing music tastes and sing along without being ridiculed? Yes, Tanzanians love Celine, too.

2. There is no such thing as LOW carb anything here. Andazi, Chapati, Sconzi, etc. Being the bread queen, I'm loving it.

3. No make-up? Haven't washed your hair in a few days? These are the days I get the most compliments. Not sure what that says about me, but the vanity is different here, and refreshing.

4. You greet EVERYONE you meet EVERYWHERE you go in the village. It was frustrating at first, but now I'm going to go back to the states and get stares from the strangers I can't help but greet. I LOVE the friendliness of Tanzanians.

5. You running late? You forget something? It's "hamna shida" (no worries). For the perpetual worrier in me, the relaxed, understanding of Tanzanians has been a lesson in life for me.

6. Kids. Though there are times (almost daily) that I wish there weren't a million little kids playing around outside my house, being loud and driving me crazy, when I hear "Shel-She, Mkono, Mkunde" from a group of toddlers and see them waving and jumping around like they haven't seen me in weeks (sometimes its just later that day), I can't help but smile and feel so warm and fuzzy. Then, there's my baby who loves me so much, she pees on me. Can't put a price on love like that. Seriously though, the kids here are respectful, sweet, and always helpful. I promised Mom I wouldn't smuggle any home in a couple years, but we'll see. 

7. Dukas. These are the little stores/more like stands where you stand behind a screen or at the front of the booth and the proprieter gathers all your items for you. The reason I love these is the fact that you never know what they will have. Granted most, have your standard TZ village duka staples: rice, beans, cigarrettes, pens, paper, soda (sometimes), string, razor blades, locks, and other things, but it's the times like the other day when I found a hologram Obama belt buckle, spaghetti (usually just towns!), and bobby pins, that I got excited. Neither have been purchased (yet--trying to be frugal but just got paid, so we'll see), but the discovery was just as exciting . Tanzania makes so much sense, and so little, but I'm loving discovering all its little quirks. 

Maybe it's the cooler weather, maybe it the less stress after beginning work, or the super- resfreshing cold, fresh juice I just drank (one of my fav spots in Tanga!) but I'm feeling pretty positive today. Of course that could change tommorow, or even later this afternoon, but for now, I think I'm supposed to be here and this is what I'm supposed to be doing. For all the being alone and figuring things out on my own, I could NOT do this without the support that radiates to me here from my family and friends at home, and my fellow PCV friends, who, thanks to a free PCV-PCV calling plan, I can to talk often! Cards, letters, packages, and texts are constant reminders of that support, but I also know its the prayers, good vibes, karma, and whatever other positive energy you all send across the pond. I appreciate it and it helps me everyday, because despite growing to love my village, it is a challenge every single day. But then again, I guess life itself is a challenge, right?

The next month holds teaching once a week at the school and clinic, participating in the village health group, and possibly starting a teen-health/excerise club in the next month or so, a site visit from PC, and continuing to try to learn Swahili and make my village understand my broken Swahili, cooking (hey I used my charcoal jiko for the first time the other day--woo hoo rice and lentils!), and trying to maintain this postive attitude. But with the aforementioned (and probably ongoing) list, that shouldn't be too hard. :)

Lots of Love from Lion King Land <3

p.s. I still promise to put pics up here eventually. Technology was not my friend in the 'states, and I am still fighting it here! :)