Wednesday, June 27, 2012

All good things must come to an end....

Published by Carly at 10:29 AM

As most of you probably already guessed I will be coming home very soon…within the next 48 hours to be exact.  I have a closing post that I wrote, but it is currently stuck on a flash drive at the bottom of my backpack….promise to post it when I get home. The post has a real kind of summary of my time here, lessons learned, things I will miss, etc. This post is more of a general announcement.  
The decision to leave was by no means an easy one, but is probably the best. After the school calendar was changed here I decided to give myself a little more time (it would have been two weeks) before I head up to Maine at the end of August to start law school.
So, for the last two weeks, after saying goodbye to my school and village I was traveling around Tanzania with my mom! We started in Dar, survived the 14 hour ride to my site, a few days at my site, in Mbeya and Iringa. After Iringa we headed to Mikumi for an awesome safari. I never thought I would be able to say I saw a male lion in situ, but one happened to pop out of the bush about 20 meters from the land cruiser. Zanzibar (Unguja) was also amazing, as was Stonetown. The Indian Ocean is truly a remarkable and indiscernible shade of blue.  I would like to thank my mom for being a trooper (i.e. surviving the squat choo, salads and bus rides) and also making my last two weeks in Tanzania extremely memorable. I am also grateful she was able to see where and how I have lived for the past two years.  Somehow this is experience seems much less isolated from home; something I feel will help when I begin to adjust back to life in America.  
So thank you all to the blog readers. I will be sure to post my last ‘true’ blog post once I return home.
“The end of a melody is not its goal: but nonetheless, had the melody not reached its end it would not have reached its goal either. A parable.”
Friedrich Nietzsche

All my love from TZ

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

All Jacked Up on Mountain Dew

Published by Carly at 8:12 PM

The other day I went to Tukuyu to get some dough and check the mail box. Before jumping on the bus to head home I stopped at a store to buy some apples. As I was deciding weather or not I really needed another roll of  TP I heard a man behind me yelling at me. I turned around to see a shoe-less man wearing tattered clothing and a rosary. This is the point when I realized he was shaking the remaining drops from a bottle Mountain Dew, attempting to baptize me. After he had emptied the bottle on my soul, he took his rosary out from under his shirt, held the cross up to me and shouted some thing about 'mungu'- god. The whole scene was really quite strange. I really did not know what to make of the whole thing, so I just stood there and stared at him. When I went to leave, he wouldn't let me pass. Thankfully some sane men were near by and told the guy to let me through. I should mention at this point the bible thumper had produced a whistle and was blowing it at me. Talk about not attracting enough attention being white... let's add a whistle to the mix. With everyone looking at me, I calmly walked away and forgot about the whole situation, until I remembered that it was too weird not to write about.

After this incident it really got me thinking in the states we have safe environments for people who have mental disabilities. Here people just ignore someone if they are mentally handicapped. They are left to live on the streets, no one really takes care of them. It is really sad if you think about it. Although the man was annoying and I told him to go away...not very nicely because honestly I cannot tell sometimes if someone is mentally handicapped or just really religious... after it was all over I felt bad for him. He probably has no one to take care of him and is just shunned/ ignored by everyone.

In other news, school is moving forward and so is the library project. We are currently a little delayed due to a shortage of wood to make the chairs, but I am confident it will be ready by next week. Today seven students from all different forms sat in the staff room and drew educational posters for the library! I was really impressed with their diligence and their skill. These kids are very good artists. So, I am happy to say that our library will house some student work and they will have something to be proud of every time they use the new space.

To follow up on the first story, I believe the way I handled the situation speaks truck loads about how I have changed since coming to Tanzania. I was thinking about if I have changed and how. First, I do not believe any one can go through and experience like this and not change. Secondly, I think you change as much as you will allow yourself to. I have always been a shy person. I used to hid behind my mother's legs in public. Run down stairs at my aunt's house to play video games instead of being forced to talk to a hundred second cousins and great aunts. I was never one to volunteer for skits or any type of public speaking activities. Even after college and discovering booze will strip away the shyness, I still was not perfectly comfortable around other people. I was always nervous that I looked weird, or would say or do something to embarass myself. Basically I was afraid of being judged and lacked self confidence. I would say I blame it on my mother's side of the family who are huge teasers, out of love. I hated being the center of attention, so I think I just stayed quiet so as not to attract attention. If something embarrassing happened to me I would dwell on it. It would be really hard for me to let it go. So, before this experience, I couldn't take a joke and was scared shitless to speak in public or embarass myself and let meaningless incidents keep me up at night.

I can now say the above does not really hold true anymore. During training something changed and one day I decided to volunteer to do a skit, then the next day I volunteered to lead a discussion. Day after day I found my self conscious armor being stripped from my body like house shingles in a hurricane. I think I figured I would have to get used to the idea of putting myself out there. This new outlook also helped to learn the language and to use it at home with native speakers. I did not care if they judged me. Heck, I was trying to speak to them in their language...someone should be thanking me. This confidence has transformed my teaching. I am no longer afraid to sound stupid or make mistakes. I realized my students might judge me, but I am there to help them. If I need to dance around a classroom, or make weird faces or demonstrate a 'swagger' to my class, so be it. I walk into my village everyday and people stare, but I don't notice any more.  If they want to stare at me they must be really bored or entertained by a tall white girl attempting to speak Swahili.

I know that when I return home I will keep my new confidence and relaxed sense of the world. I know I will be able to walk into a room full of strangers at a party and make conversation without looking to see if my shoes are on the right feet or sounding like I have no faith in what I am saying. Also, I cannot say that if I fall on my face walking down the street that I won't be blushing and looking to see who saw me eat shit, but I won't hold on to it. I'll just let it go. I am also hoping this experience comes in handy when I am the first one cold called by my law professor on a Monday morning.

Hope things are going well at home. I heard it is very very hot! Wouldn't mind some of that warm weather here... have changed to sweats and socks to sleep at night. Good luck this weekend at IRAs Jordo!! Be thinking of you.

All my love from TZ.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Reflection/ More Packets, Woman!

Published by Carly at 1:44 PM

As I was writing in my journal today, something I do almost every day, I began to think about reflection. I started to think about how reflection is such a huge part of my life as a volunteer. Reflection keeps me moving. It reminds me where I came from and how much I have gone through to get through this point. As any education volunteer can attest, our success as volunteers is not usually a concrete, physical thing. We are not building chicken coops, starting widow support groups or digging gardens. As education volunteers we are molding young minds...planting seeds, we hope, for fruits we will never see. Don't get me wrong, occasionally we see the fruits of our labor, library projects, English proficient and HIV/AIDS clubs. The real difference we may never see, we can only hope. So, how does reflection help with this? Reflection allows me to believe, it allows me to put faith in something I cannot see. (Many of you will know how hard this is for me). I have to reflect to see the change; and the small change I do see from when I started teaching my students until now allows me to believe that I am making a difference. It may be just a small seedling, but it is there. This reflection has also caused me to reflect on life in general, but I will not bore you with those details now. Let's just say I am not the same person I was before this experience, for better or worse.

So, it is Monday here, one of the last few and the school is being taken over by people from the ministry of magic... I mean education. They are inspecting our school to make sure our teachers are teaching, schedules are in order and the school is basically functioning. I always find these visits amusing because they are getting, what I refer to as, the beauty queen version of our school. Our school is clean and tidy when they arrive, papers are in order, teachers are present and in the classrooms and the students are doing what they are supposed to be doing. We are pageant ready. On any other day, half of the teachers are at school, paperwork is not complete and the students are around the classrooms. We look as if we woke up, forgot to put on make up and blow dry our hair before heading to Starbucks. I do not mean to critique my school because even schools in America do this. You would think we would all learn that being prepared pays off. Some where in the months between ministry visits, we just tend to forget what it is like to run around like decapitated chickens, or maybe we just like the thrill?

This weekend I went to town to print some paper for our girls' conference and see a few familiar faces. On my way back to site, around 4:30 pm, I jumped on a coaster and was forced to sit next to a very drunk Tanzanian. Within five minutes he had professed his love to me in front of everyone on the bus and drooled on my leg. Honestly there is nothing I can resist more than a man who can proclaim his love while smelling like gin, but I knew I had to restrain myself. I mouthed to one of the mamas next to me of me, “amelewa” [ he is drunk], which she decided to blab to the whole bus. Now I had about twenty people laughing at me and one mad, drunk man sitting next to me. By the grace of something, the man was moved the row behind me and after calling me a slew of dirty names, because I turned down his marriage proposal, he passed out. When he awoke twenty minutes later he was asking/yelling at the woman next to me to sell him small packets of booze (She didn't have any). At this point people on the bus got pretty pissed off, the drunk man started to verbally harass me again, and the conductor threatened to ditch him at the next stop. All the while I could not help but think how I would have dealt with the situation when I first came to country; drunk people in public during the day are usually hard to come by in the states and you are rarely forced to sit next to them for the better part of an hour. I can now confidently say that after two years ignoring things and people has become a honed skill, one I am grateful to have acquired here.

Really not much else to write home about. I have spent the majority of the last few weekends at my site enjoying time to myself. This, of course, leads me to wonder how I will do when I return home. There will be people I can interact with normally at all hours of the day and very little time will actually be spend like most of my time here – completely alone. It will be interesting to see how I readjust to being around familiar people all the time, lots of familiar people. I guess time will tell.

Health update: Last weekend food poisoning, or just really bad stomach cramps and a fever struck again. Laid me out for a few days and put me on a bland food diet. I have honestly lost count of the number of time I have been sick here... too many to count, but nothing that soda and biscuits cannot fix, right? Maybe I will have a stomach of steel when I get home?

As always I hope everything and everyone is well at home. Best of luck to Jordan, who will be racing at IRAs this coming weekend and Brown Women's Crew, who will be defending their national championship at NCAAs this weekend as well. I will have row2k on refresh. Congratulations to my cousin Erin on her upcoming wedding. I am sorry I could not be there. I hope you have a wonderful day! Lastly I am counting down the days until my mom's visit!!! Soo excited! Only a few more weeks!

All my love from TZ! 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Trust and Common Sense

Published by Carly at 8:16 AM

I was not sure if I was going to blog about something that happened two days ago, but I think writing about it may help overcome my fear.

Yesterday morning I woke up, negotiated the mosquito net, walked down the hall, unlocked the door to my kitchen and saw that my backdoor was wide open. I did not recall leaving it open and upon further inspection I saw that the nails that had held the door shut had been bent because the door was forced open. I looked around the kitchen and noticed that only my am/fm radio had been taken. The first few thoughts that flashed through my head were as follows:
  • How did I not hear this happening? The door must have hit the table in my kitchen making a huge noise and I did not wake up.
  • I am glad that I locked the door from the kitchen to the rest of the house. I do not really have anything of value save my life, but I am just glad the intruder did not get further into my house.
  • My space has just been invaded. Boundaries have been crossed. I feel sort of violated. I feel like the trust I have built up in my village has just become null and void.
    After getting over the initial shock. I got dressed, went to school and told the other teachers what had happened. Another of the teachers said the intruder came into his house as well around 3:30am, he did not see him, but he scared him off when he heard the guy rummaging in the kitchen. This made me feel a little bit better because I was not solely targeted. After I talked to my mkuu who said he will be installing better locks on my house, I called PC to report the incident. Not much they can physically do, but it is good to know that they are alerted.

I tried not to think about what had happened the night before, but as the sun began to set last night I started to get a little anxious. Before bed I turned on the light in my kitchen, barricaded the door with buckets, pots, pans, anything that would allow me to hear if someone had entered my house from a dead sleep. I also boobie-trapped my kitchen door in case they penetrated my bucket fortress. Around 9pm the mkuu, night watchman and other teachers came to my house to help me with locks, etc. Thanking them for their help, I turned in. Needless to say I did not sleep well last night – one eye open. Actually I did not sleep between the hours of 2 am and 4 am. I kept feeling like I heard noise. I am hoping that tonight I will be able to sleep better, but I really do not know. Like I said, I feel the trust I have built up has been completely broken down because of this one instance. I feel like I am starting from square one again. Thinking back, it feels like my first night at site. I didn't sleep, I was just sweating bullets in my sleeping bag, wondering what would walk through my door in the midnight hour and running through scenarios of how to handle it. I know people say that you cannot live in fear, but I feel that usually relates to things that you can physically control. I cannot control if someone really wants to come in my house. If they want in, they will get in. All I really have going for me is the close proximity of my neighbors, my wit and a whistle. I also have done a fair amount of kickboxing here, but I am not sure how I would fair in real combat.

So here I am writing to the world about this issue. This type of thing is actually quite common for volunteers. It is the nature of living in a country that is poor. It is also the nature of a culture that had no boundaries for personal space. People will take what they want without respect for boundaries. Very rarely do these people get caught because the mind frame of HCNs is, “ well if they took it, they must need it more than me”. During our training we were told that thieves will actually say thank you to you as they run off with your wallet. I am sure if the guy who broke in and stole my radio had come to my door during broad daylight and said, “Sorry, Madam, I am going to break in to your house tonight, steal your radio and freak you out”, I would have said, “Here take it now. Look out though the antenna is broken, but I just put new batteries in!”, to save myself the lost sleep and the worrying.

Well now that I have that off my chest, I do feel a little better. I think I will start to trust again, slowly, not because I want to, but because I have to because I will not sleep for the rest of my time here. I still feel safe in my house, but just on edge.

Alright on to another thought for this post, clothing choices of Tanzanians. I may have talked about this before, but I think it is worth a revisit. Yesterday on my way to the post office, a Tanzanian got on the bus wearing a long sleeved biking jersey complete with the water bottle pockets in back. I could not help but laugh to myself and think what he does with all those pockets. Did he think to himself upon purchasing the jersey, “Hey! This is a great shirt, love the color, zipper up the front and it even has added pockets!”? Clearly not. I am also positive I will not see this guy tearing up the Alp d'Huez in July. Basically I really just want to know if this guy knows the shirt he is wearing is weird and not meant to be worn off a bike and not without tight biking shorts and a helmet.

Another odd clothing choice of Tanzanians is the rash guard. Yes, the one you wear at the beach instead of sunblock or for it's real purpose – to surf. The men wear the shirts under their dress shirts. One the teachers at my school wears one all the time and I do not have the heart to tell him it is NOT an undershirt. I am hoping that by the time I leave I will have worked up the nerve to ask him what he thinks of the shirt and what he believes it's purpose is.

This observation leads me to an even bigger one – common sense. There is a severe lack of it here. I can name about ten incidents everyday where common sense is not present. This would drive my father crazy and because it would, it drives me nuts as well (similar personalities). For example, people cannot figure out that when someone is getting off a bus and they are sitting behind you and you are blocking the aisle, that you need to stand up!!! Not hard to figure out. Sorry, Bibi (grandma), please move your butt off the folding chair, so I can leave! Another example, if I start writing notes on the board, you should be finding the appropriate notebook and starting to copy notes. Do not pick your nose, talk to your friend or stare out into space. I go through this with my students everyday. It is now May and I still have kids who will sit through the first 20 minutes of class without opening a notebook, if I do not come around and check their desks.

I am sure I can come up with a million other examples, but I think that I will look at lack of common sense very differently in the States. I won't get upset when the light turns green and the person in front of me does not move because she is yelling at her kids in the back seat, when people just assume I want cream in my coffee and sugar (I enjoy skim milk and Splenda, thank you) or when people do not move to one side on a moving sidewalk or escalator. I never thought there could be a place on Earth where common sense could be severely lacking on a large scale, but apparently I have found it.

Okay, I think that is enough ranting for this post. May is finally upon us, which means obligatory graduation ceremonies, Memorial Day, rowing championships and cold weather if you are living Mbeya, Tanzania. I hope everyone at home is well!

All my love from TZ.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


Published by Carly at 9:45 AM

Thought I would write a quick update. Not much has happened since I last wrote, but time is passing.

Library update:
-Yesterday the Mkuu and I went to the bookstore and bought all of the books for the new library! It was along day, but I was glad to have it out of the way and the $1+ million shillings out of my account.

-The fundi brought the 9 tables for the library a few nights ago and they are very nice! Just what we had expected.

-Two other fundis knocked down part of the wall between the two classrooms yesterday! Now we have a door way between the study room and the room where the books will be kept.

-The only things left are the chairs, bookshelves and to screen the windows!

Overall I am really happy with the way this project is turning out. I honestly thought I would take a while to get all of our ducks in order, but when things need to get done here, they get done.

Life update:

Today is a Tanzanian holiday, so there is no school. Consequently, I am filling out scholarship applications for school, searching for apartments in Portland and cleaning my house. For some reason I woke up at 5:45 this morning,so by 9 am I had washed dishes, done a load of laundry and cleaned by bedroom. BAM!

Everything else is going well here. Planning with the other volunteers for the girls' empowerment conference, which I will unfortunately be unable to attend because of a change in school break scheduling – that's the way the cookie crumbles.

Hope everyone is well at home.

All my love from TZ

Monday, April 16, 2012

Breathe, Stretch, Shake, Let It Go

Published by Carly at 10:54 AM

It is funny how new volunteers tend to believe the first few months are the most difficult. Yes, you are living with HCNs, learning a new language and entirely out of your element, but the experience is exciting, new and different.

I am fast approaching the 17 month mark and while I can say I have never been as home sick I as was the first few weeks in Tanzania; I have never missed American culture more than I do now. I am beginning to believe the last few months of service will actually be the most difficult, not in terms of adjustment, but in terms of staying adjusted. As I texted my friend this morning, “When did I become bitter and cynical?”. I am not quite sure, but lately my patience has lapsed and my cultural appropriateness is at an all time low. Maybe this is just Monday speaking, but Tanzania and I may be at odds.

If I was extremely lazy I would just leave my situation as is, but I am not, so how am I going to rectify the situation? How am I going to make my last few months in country the best months? Like I said it is Monday, the left side of my brain is still asleep and I am preoccupied with how I intend on getting through the week to begin with, but here are a few things that I think may help my situation. (They may also help those of you out there who feel like their lives are a stagnant puddle as well... let's just hope yours are not breeding malaria-carrying mosquitoes )

  1. Bust outta my routine
    Seriously people, I do the same thing everyday. Heck I even eat the same food every day (stewed veggies! And oatmeal!). I really need to shake things up. I am going to try to workout/ do yoga in the mornings. Normally I just sit around, drink coffee and eat breakfast. Maybe if I got my body rockin' and a rollin' early I might just feel better during the day! I am also thinking of bringing back music nights. This is when I choose an artist, say Van Morrison, Billy Joel, Elton John or Styx (just kidding), and play their music all night. I am sure there are many other things I could do differently, but that's all I got for now. Suggestions welcome!
  2. Appreciate the here and now
    The one thing I promised myself I was going to do when I started this whole thing was that I was going to live within a reasonable time frame. While this is ideally day to day it some times stretches a few weeks in advance. At first I adopted this mind set because I was completely freaked out by the idea of spending two years of my life in a foreign country; now this mind set seems completely useless because the light at the end of the tunnel is shining in my face. I think by reminding myself to living in the here and now it will help time go faster and will keep me focused – two things I desperately need.
  3. Look back
    I have kept a running journal of my time here. It includes daily ramblings and things I could not write here for various reasons. One of my favorite things to do is to pick up one of the old journals and read what happened to me last year during the current week. It is funny to see how much I have changed and how much I have forgotten. I like to think of things to tell my past self and I also like to remind myself of how much I have gone through. As they say, hindsight is 20/20. This also brings with it a feeling of accomplishment – ego boost!

    4. Work, work, work
    Keep oneself busy. Thankfully this will probably be the easiest of the three above because I am teaching 4-6 periods a day and am in the midst of the library project. I can also always find something to clean in my house!
So there's four things I can do to solve the situation detailed above. Are there more solutions? Yes, there are an infinite number, but four is all my brain can focus on at once and still be effective. In addition, I also constantly remind myself that I may not be happy with my current situation, I maybe bored and that I may long for home, but when I am back in the states I will miss most things about this place. The grass is always greener, right?

In other news, school is back to normal. I graded around 400+ exams and helped the paint the new school library over my “fall” break. The library is now set to have screens put in the windows, the shelves and tables moved in and some books added to the mix; now if the fundi would only finish his work! I will keep you all updated with its progress and upload before and after pictures when it is complete.
This week, almost a year to the day that I decided I wanted to pursue law school after service, I accepted an offer at the University of Maine School of Law and I could not be happier! It is a small school in Portland that is unique because it is the only law school in the state, which will hopefully help the job prospects after school.

My mom and I are also busy making plans for her visit in June! I am so excited that she will get to see where I live and experience what my life has been like for the past two years. It was also her birthday yesterday, so Happy Birthday, Mom! Love ya! And Happy Birthday, Jordo! Big 2-0 tomorrow... no more teenagers in our house.

As always, I hope everyone is well at home! Spring has sprung, it is baseball season and summer is around the corner!

All my love from TZ

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Stuck in the Middle

Published by Carly at 3:29 PM

The events of this week had me thinking back to the first few days after I arrived in Tanzania. Why, you ask? The first few days in country the medical office gave every volunteer a host of shots, including rabies, and I am now so glad they did. Despite being vaccinated I still found myself, once again, making the long trip to Dar. This time for post exposure shots to rabies.

How did it all begin? Well on Monday night around 8pm I was in my house and I heard a cat crying outside my back door. Thinking it was my cat, I opened the door and in came a mangy kitten. After spending about 20 minutes trying to get it out of my house, I stupidly picked up the kitten out of frustration and exhaustion and it bit me as I went to throw it out the back door. Immediately after I realized I was bleeding from my pointer finger I called the the PC medical duty phone, my father and another volunteer. The office told me I had to come to Dar for a post exposure shot as fast as I could. I was not too traumatized by the situation, actually my dad and I had a great laugh after the incident.

The next day I found myself on a bus to Iringa and then the day after on a bus to Dar. The whole trip took about 30 hours, but I am glad I came-- better safe than sorry. During the 30 hours of travel I realized that I would not be in Dar for one night like I thought, but rather four nights for a series of two shots. Really glad I was prepared with enough clothing-- not, but thankfully the expats who let me stay at their house are also nice enough to let me do some laundry. I landed at the office around 3pm received my shot and went on my way. Since then I have really just been bumming around. I ventured to the only mall in Dar which has a supermarket and a big store, ala Walmart. At the grocery store I mainly just cruised through the aisles looking at all they had to offer and buying a kilo of cheap oatmeal. In one of the aisles I ran into four Tanzanian teenage girls. It was funny to hear them speak in English and to see them acting like teenagers in America, “Can we get tuna?? Do we really need canned corn? Ah! I love pickles.. I'm getting a jar”. I couldn't help but listen to their conversation and laugh to myself. A far cry from the village, but not from America. I have also been catching up on Downton Abbey. I now see what all of the fuss is about!

As some of you may know this is not my first trip to Dar, so I should express to you all how much I hate traveling to and staying here. Most volunteers would think that I am crazy because Dar has nice American food, air conditioning, iced coffee, grocery stores and lots of other Americans, but those are are the things that cause me to feel like I am in limbo. In the village, at my site, I am comfortable knowing that I will be eating rice and beans for dinner, the electricity may go out, I have to get a bucket full of water to wash clothes and take a bath and when I am craving food I cannot have it. In Dar all of those things have been “westernized”. I can turn on a tap and water comes out. I can walk down the street and pick up gum, a diet coke or a box of cereal. In these ways being in Dar is just like being home, but in many ways it is also torture. There are things that are not American about Dar, such as the price and availability of goods, transportation, security and the lack of familiar faces. My use of Swahili also usually goes unnoticed here and I end up looking like a stupid white person trying to impress Tanzanians. I either want to be in America or at my site. I hate the limbo of Dar- half village life, half America.

On the upside I do get to do some nice things in Dar, like watch TV, go to the beach, visit the PC staff, eat great food and have a proper hot shower. However, when I am here I think about home and how much I miss it or the things/ work I am missing at site. Thankfully this past week my school had exams and this coming week is Easter vacation. After that there is about two months until my mom comes to visit for two weeks!! Super excited!!

Well I best be off. Need to get my last rabies shot this afternoon, then I am on a bus home tomorrow. I hope everyone is doing well. Best of luck to my brother Jordan and the Holy Cross Men's Crew Team who open their season today and to the Brown Women in their home race against Radcliffe.

All my love from TZ