Sunday, July 31, 2011

Our family

This is our host family.  Mama and 2/4 of her children who live at home.  They're not children, they're both older than me!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Sara's big butt

Sometimes our Swahili classroom turns into middle school again :)  Learning body parts is way too much fun!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Some safari pics

These pics have taken forever to get up, try checking facebook to see if i could get anymore up there.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Today, July 26 was a bit of relief for me.  Last week, we took our “midterm” examination on Swahili to gauge where we are at after 5 weeks of language study.  There was a written and an oral component to the exam worth different scores.  On both pieces, I received the grades which would already qualify me for passing the final examination.  Although the written component will likely be harder for the final, it’s highly unlikely that I will regress on the oral part.  Since I’ve already reached the oral requirement, I feel a little less stressed.  But, just a little.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Some more tanzanian wildlife

Some random wildlife:  a carpenter ant tunnel, monkeys picking fleas off - national geographic style, and a crazy turkey.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Anniversary Day

Spending your one year anniversary together in Tanzania definitely doesn't happen often.  Especially, when you are living under the roof of someone else!  We were awoken on our anniversary the our host mama screaming down the hallway something in Swahili, and singing with our names in it.  She went on for about 5-10 minutes.  We finally got out of bed at 9:30 and mama had prepared us french toast.  We worked on our lesson plans for the next day and lunch was served.  Mama had made our three favorite dishes for lunch.  

After lunch, Jon and I hiked to a waterfall area that is not too far from our house. It's the winter season here, so the waterfall wasn't much to look at, but it was tranquil and relaxing.  We brought wine and cheese with us.  The wine was red, from South Africa and the cheese was the most expensive we could find.  Unfortunately, even the most expensive cheese isn't all that great.  But, it was nice to pretend and feel some normalcy on our day.
After relaxing for some time together on the rocks by the waterfalls, we went home and got ready for our first night our at a "restaurant".  Most delicious restaurants are at hotels, so we went to one called Dragonaires who are known for their pizzas.  Jon and I got a vegetable pizza and split it.  When we got back home (our host brother graciously picked us up to drive us home), Jon had one last surprise for me.  He arranged to get me flowers.  It's not like you can just go to a florist here and buy flowers.  He asked our host sister where he can get flowers and she said she didn't know where to get any near us.  But, her boyfriend was in the room.  He said that his friend grows flowers in his yard.  So, the boyfriend picked the flowers and arranged them into a fantastic bouquet.  Honestly, I don't think that you could buy a bouquet as nice as the one he made for me (but from Jon).  The roses are so big and beautiful and our room has smelled pleasant this whole last week.  He wrapped the flowers up in banana leaves and made a vase out of an old water bottle.  Jon and I think he should go into business.  Overall, I could not have asked for a better day given our circumstances.  We got to celebrate with people who care about us, we got to have alone time and enjoy some wine and cheese and the great outdoors, and we could enjoy a "romantic" dinner away.  Thanks for all the anniversary wishes on facebook, too!

Monday, July 25, 2011

The cow

Our 4 month old cow who is usually louder than it's mom that we call "mooster"

Sunday, July 24, 2011


Today was my third day teaching and it didn’t go as great as yesterday.  It wasn’t a bad class or anything, it was just dry material and hard to get the students to get motivated.  It’s my last day for this week and so I won’t see the students until Monday, which is fine.  The last three days have been a preview of our life post-training.  We don’t have water for the majority of the day.  We finally figured out that there is an agricultural exhibition on August 8 and so they are diverting the water from houses so that they exhibitionists can work on their projects.  So, this means that pretty much until we are done with training, we’ll have no water until about 7:00pm everyday.  While many people live without running water anyway, our house is set up to have water.  So, our toilets require water.  There is no outdoor latrine like most people have if their houses don’t have running water.  We are definitely not enjoying this “rationing”.  In other good news, an “internet cafĂ©” just opened up the road from me.  So, money permitting, I should be able to get online a little more often.  I haven’t gone yet, but if it’s painfully slow, I won’t be using it as much as I am hoping for.  This weekend is our anniversary.  It’s hard to believe that just one year ago, I was freaking out over the wedding.  Wow.  And it also reminds me how much I miss all my friends and family back at home.  Miss and love you all! xoxo

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Internship Day 2

Today, we had a surprise visitor to informally evaluate the English teachers in my group.  So, that just meant me and one other woman in our small 5 person group.  The evaluator works for “VSO” which is essentially the British version of Peace Corps.  Since this is the first year of Peace Corps having English teachers in Tanzania, they have brought in a few VSO English teachers to assist us with training and critiquing.  For once, I have had positive feedback since being here.  Although I’m not struggling terribly with cultural adaptation, my language learning has been far from what I hoped it to be and I have been finding it hard to make friends with some of the Peace Corps trainees.  A part of me thinks it’s because Jon and I are married, but who knows.  In any event, I finally got some great news.  The VSO woman told me that my lesson was “absolutely brilliant, you’re a great teacher and I have nothing to tell you to make you a better teacher” and that I should be teaching the fellow English teacher trainees.  Although I am not going to volunteer myself for that position, since I’m so overwhelmed with learning Swahili, I am pleased to know that I am being successful in one aspect of my training.  I did feel that today was a great success for me.  One of my students even came up to kiss me on my cheeks she was so happy I was there.  Later in the evening, Jon and I went and threw a Frisbee around.  We attracted about 8 children who were fascinated and joined us.  I soon became a little “mama” and was surrounded by three girls aged probably 3 – 8.  They were all taking turns trying on my sunglasses and holding my hands.  The boys were all chasing after the Frisbee.  There was one kid that was super good.  He could jump extra high to catch it and threw quite far.  We played for an hour with them.  Then, Jon and I made dinner for our host family.  We made pasta and sauce and made guacamole.  It was the first time my host brother had tried it and he really enjoyed it.  He was laughing at himself because when I was making the guacamole, he kept thinking we would be boiling it and was so confused what we were doing with the avocado.  Oh, and today was definitely a reminder that I’m in Tanzania.  A cockroach laid about 100 eggs in my shirt.  I literally want to throw up thinking about it.  Jon had the same problem, too.   Imagine if those eggs actually hatched?  Barf.  The bug situation is getting a little bit out of control.  We have two spiders in our room that we are letting live to catch mosquitoes.  At first, it seemed like a great idea, but now there are like 20 dead mosquitoes in each web.  While this is good for us, it’s a little distasteful to stare at every day.  Between 200 cockroach eggs in our shirts and 40 dead mosquitoes hanging over my head, I’m ready to barf!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Internship teaching

Today was my first day of “internship” teaching.  I teach first period and I teach block periods.  So, that means I get two 40 minute classes right in a row.  I prefer this method of teaching as it allows me to teach more in one day.  I have 74 students in my class, but today, only about 50 or so came to class.  The teacher I am replacing is away on maternity leave, so the student’s haven’t had English for quite a while.  I’m not entirely sure where they left off, so I figured it can’t hurt just to start over.  It’s better than nothing, which is what they have had since May.  The class didn’t go great, but it was my first day.  They need to adjust to my accent, which to them is very funny.  Even though class starts at 8:00, class didn’t even get started until about 8:15 for various reasons.  Their morning assembly ended five minutes late.  Then, my classroom doesn’t have enough desks for students.  The students go to neighboring classes to “borrow” desks from students who have study hall.  By the time all the desks get arranged, it’s another 10 minutes.  I double checked with another Tanzanian teacher to make sure the students weren’t just wasting time, but this is really what happens.  Then, throughout my class, the student’s who have had their desks borrowed, drop into my classroom to search for their desk to find notebooks they need.  The classes don’t have windows per se, so the outside noise is hard for me to talk over.  On top of that, the sun reflects off my blackboard, so it’s hard for my students to see my notes.  Overall, the student’s behavior wasn’t that bad.  There were a group of boys who were a little chatty, but what can you expect from a group of 15 year olds?  Tanzania practices corporal punishment, although I won’t use that discipline action in my classroom.  I have about 5-10 students who enjoy English and are very smart.  They are a breath of fresh air.  Some other trainees are struggling with the challenges of teaching here, as am I.  But, I think I am a little more accustomed to student’s staring blankly at me as I teach to them in English.  Peace Corps and the Tanzanian system is really encouraging us to be interactive. It’s really hard without technology.  This week, Jon and I get interviews on where we would like to be placed in Tanzania.  Hopefully, they take into serious consideration what we request.  We’re requesting to teach lower level secondary school (8th – 11th grade), living in a non-humid climate, be within one day’s travel of another Peace Corps volunteer, running water, and not replace a volunteer whose shoes will be really hard to fill.  Our schedule tells us that we will learn where we are placed in the beginning of August, though Peace Corps staff is trying to let us know beforehand.  We’re all dying to know where the next two years of our lives will be.  

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Making ugali

Today, Sunday the 10th was our day off.  We slept in late (9:30ish) and enjoyed my favorite meal that mama has cooked us so far.  It’s basically Indian samosas with a chutney sauce.  The sauce was freshly grated coconut with milk, lime juice and some green spice.  It was phenomenal and I hope mama makes it again.  Jon and I did our laundry and then studied Swahili.  This last week my mama gave me a “kanga” which is a beautiful piece of fabric.  You cut it in half and can use it for various reasons.  I bought one during my first week to use as a towel.  The one that mama gave me was cut into two pieces.  The one half is an informal skirt and the other half I had made into an apron.  It’s beautiful.  Our host brother brought us to a few markets to get lots of groceries for mama this week. 

It was a lot of fun following him around and watch him negotiate for the food.  Since mama is a caterer, we buy tons and tons of food at once.  Mama and I made ugali which is the Tanzanian staple food. 

Basically, it’s just water and flour mixed together.  It becomes this fluffy white substance which resembles mashed potatoes, but is incredibly tough to mix.  Mama is so strong and she makes it look so easy.  Then, when it was my turn to mix, I could barely turn it over.  We made two dishes to go with the ugali.  There were beans with vegetables as one dish and then little sardines covered in tomato puree for the other.  You eat ugali with your hand and dip it into the side dishes (beans and/or sardines).  Ugali doesn’t really taste like anything.  It’s more like rice, lentils or tofu where it just takes on the flavor of whatever you are eating with it.  I didn’t love ugali, but it could have been far worse.  More of less, I’m just indifferent to it.     

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


This is our training location....all day long, in this room!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Laundry day

doing laundry by hand
Step 1:  Fill up big blue bowl with water and laundry detergent
Step 2:  Hand wash clothes focusing on collars, armpits, bottom or pants/skirts
Step 3:  Squeeze out water and put into another bucket of water to the right of the chair
Step 4:  Squeeze out soap and water in the new bucket
Step 5:  Place into third bucket to get any remaining soap out, turn clothes inside out and hang on a line to dry

Monday, July 18, 2011


Because I have a horrible memory, again, I forgot to bring my updated blogs on my memory drive.  So, for the meantime, please enjoy pictures.  I started internship teaching (kind of like student teaching) last week.  These two pictures are snapshots of where I'm at.  I've got blogs written about my experiences that I will need to post later.  Sorry.

The school that I am teaching at

my actual classroom

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Huge spider

This spider is as big as it looks.  This is not a close up. 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Jon and I went for a walk today, July 5th. We walked up to a university nearby our house. It’s a great walk because there’s so many people out and about playing soccer and a version of basketball that Tanzanians call netball. It’s also such a great walk because it’s all uphill. During training, we get very little exercise. I’ve really not sat around so much in my whole life. This little walk is perfect because it’s near our new training site and our home. We are hoping we can easily do this walk everyday after training. I found a women’s team of netball. They meet at 4:00pm everyday. I am considering joining it. Although, I am completely unfamiliar with the rules and it’s like basketball, so being short is definitely a disadvantage. But, it would be fun. I’m here in this location for 7.5 more weeks, it would be nice to make some local friends.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Making Bread

Our host brother was very gracious and showed us how to make homemade bread and cook it in an “oven”. You see, when Jon and I get to our own home, we won’t have many of the luxuries that my host family has. So, we have to learn these skills…how to cook using a charcoal oven. Basically, you make the bread dough, put it in a pan, just like in home. Then, you just light up some charcoal (takes about 15 minutes). You place another large pan over the charcoal, place the little pan with the bread in it inside the big pan, then cover it. On top of the cover, you place about 95% of the charcoal there. Then, it creates an oven with charcoal heat coming from under the pot and above the pot. The bread turned out delicious!

the dough

Pan in pan

making the fire
charcoal grill


Sunday, July 10, 2011

4th of July

…ah, it was the 4th of July and we started a new training time. Our group of 39 has been split up. I am not a part of a 5 person training group. Jon , myself, and three others. We meet in a location which is closer to where the 5 of us all live. We are training at a local secondary school now. It’s all Swahili learning and teacher training at this point. The students of the school have been on a short break and their first day back was yesterday. They all gathered in front of the school for a speech. Then, the five of us Peace Corps trainees introduced ourselves to the students. The students all sang songs. Starting on Monday of next week, I will be teaching 3 times a week to students who are in grade 9. My class consists of 74 students. Their English teacher went on a maternity leave and they have not learned English since May 2. So, for the next month, I will teach them 6 periods of English per week. The periods are combined, so my lessons will be 80 minutes long! We’re all a little nervous about 80 minutes. I will be evaluated by Peace Corps on ways I could improve my teaching before I have my real assignment. On another note, the students are busy cleaning up the school. The students “mow” the lawn by using machetes to cut the grass. 
It’s so interesting, check out the picture! They also all wear uniforms and the girls have to keep their hair cut very short. Imagine that, in America. It would never happen!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Making pizza

We made pizza with our host family! It was so amazingly delicious! The dough was made from scratch by my kaka (host brother) with mama’s instruction. Kaka blended up tomatoes and I made the sauce. Jon chopped up all the vegetables while Kaka grated the cheese (cheese is a real rarity, a real treat to have here, and really expensive!). Jon and Kaka took turns rolling out the dough while I took the pizzas and made them. We made four altogether. It was amazing!

Our host brother showing Jon how to roll out the dough
The homemade sauce by me!
Our host brother grating the cheese
The dough

Jon and I making the pizza

Finished product!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Uluguru mountains

On Sunday, a large group of us trainees went on a hike in the mountains nearby our training city. It was excellent to get out into the fresh air and spend time outside of the classroom! We hiked in the Uluguru Mountain range, which just dominates the area. The hike initially meanders up through small little villages before it reaches a trail. Our endpoint was amongst a little waterfall. Several people went swimming, but most of us just relaxed and basked in the sun. The majority of people hiked down earlier and about 10 of us stayed behind to enjoy the afternoon. We were visited by three children between the ages of 7-12 or so who loved to be around all the foreigners. They loved having their picture taken to see themselves on the camera. In the evening, when Jon and I got back home, our mama had ice cream waiting for us. It was a real treat!

Adorable girl

An overview of where we are staying

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Tanzanian school system

I am so grateful to have been afforded the opportunity to make a difference through Peace Corps. My job as a teacher here is so greatly needed. We have been learning about it in training and I have seen it in unrelated media as well. I am not sure exactly of the date, but it was probably around 30 years ago that education became compulsory for children. At first, it was a huge success, with Tanzania being one of the highest literacy rates in all of Africa by the late 1980s. However, it has slowly become problematic. 85% of children will enroll in elementary school, yet only 5% will graduate from high school. Some reasons include not enough trained teachers, not enough schools, and not enough money for education. On top of that, the education system has been designed so that the students learn in Swahili and as soon as they get to secondary school, they begin learning ALL subjects in English. This is a huge problem because so many students can’t understand English at a basic level, let alone learn about chemistry or math in a second or even third language, such as English. Even if there are enough teachers at schools, many of them don’t bother to teach. The students are so disadvantaged: they don’t have textbooks, their class sizes are enormous (usually around 80 students), and many don’t have electricity or the time to study in the evenings. The good news is that many students and some parents are beginning to see the value of education. Many are starting to believe that education can help them get further in life. It’s a humbling experience to know that I can help students understand English better to do better in other subjects and to pass their national English examinations. On top of that, they will have a teacher who shows up to class, and makes class fun. There’s a big shift right now where the Tanzanian curriculum is trying to encourage high school teachers to stop lecturing and try to make class more learner –center. This is a very recent development and so we are also trying to serve as role models for Tanzanian teachers. Overall, it’s nice to see the actual needs of the country I am serving and knowing I am filling a desperate need.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Just another day

It’s Friday, the first of July! This week went far quicker for me than last week. I got sick this week, nothing terrible, just a cold. But, when we’re already training a lot, it’s hard to get through the days with something even as silly as a cold. It really affected my language learning since I’m too tired to study in the evenings. I am sure I’ll be fine in a few days and hope to get some more energy back to study in the evenings. My host family gained another family member. Mama’s second son arrived yesterday. He’s a year younger than I. He’s been in Dar es Salaam this whole time. I don’t know if he’s here permanently or will leave again. Our eldest host brother will be leaving in a week or two for some time for work. I’ll really miss him, I’ve grown fond of his carefree attitude and his friendly demeanor. He’s always so eager to share Tanzanian facts with us and very open when we ask him questions. He is truly interested in making sure we are happy. For example, tonight he made us this delicious meal with cheese. Cheese in Tanzania is very expensive and very rare. He was so pleased to make us happy. Mama was really busy this week, she had two major catering events.
Yesterday, Jon and I got a coconut off the street for 33 cents. It was so delicious and fun! Also, today Peace Corps gave us snickers bars. So delicious! It’s the little things that count. Monkeys continue to play at our training site which is fun, too.

Jon got a great photo of the monkeys jumping between our training buildings
But, other than that, there’s not terribly much to say because we’re just training most of the time. We hike on Sunday and Mama should teach us some new skills. By the way, letters are making it here in about 10 days from America. Feel free to write. But, please don’t send any packages yet. It’s a long explanation as to why, but it will be better to send them to me when we have our permanent mailing address.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Tanzanian Family Structure

June 28
Tanzanian family structure is very confusing sometimes.  Jon and I got our homestay family figured out quite easily.  But, many of our fellow trainees are even today still trying to figure out who is who and how they’re related.  One problem is that most people just refer to any relation as “brother” or “sister” when in reality they are cousins.  There’s no real term for aunt or uncle.  Older people are just referred to as grandma or grandpa, even if they really aren’t your grandma or grandpa.  In our home, even our servants were introduced to us as our sisters.  So, as you can see, it can get incredibly confusing.  My mama’s sister and niece are currently staying with us.  I asked mama how long they will be here for.  Mama told me that in Tanzanian culture, it’s incredibly rude to ask your guest how long they will stay for.  So, your guests come and stay as long as they need/want.  So, we refer to Mama’s sister as mama, too.  Her sister is a born-again preacher who travels to various places of worship to preach.  Mama’s niece is 19 and finishing up her last year of high school.  She plans to attend university next year.  She speaks wonderful English and is very sweet.  My host mama has an infectious laugh.  She is always laughing and when she learns something new, she makes this great “aahhhh haa!”  I love hearing it.  On the other hand, her sister is very reserved and soft spoken.  I really enjoy her company.  She is a preacher and seems very peaceful.  Her presence helps me calm down after a stressful day or aggravating moment.  Unfortunately, she leaves tomorrow to go preach.  My host sister works 15 hour days, so I sadly have not had an opportunity to get to know her.  All in all, things are going pretty good.  Our training group has arranged for a hike this Sunday.  I am really looking forward to it!

Monday, July 4, 2011

First Day off

June 26
Today was our first day off from Peace Corps training.  It was fantastic.  Jon and I got about 10 hours of (interrupted sleep), but I still felt very rested when I woke up.  The anti-malarial pills that Peace Corps has us on gives me really bad dreams which wake me up, the cow gets milked and moos all morning wakes me up, the servants who are working wake me up, you get the idea.  It’s hard to get any uninterrupted sleep.  Mama taught us how to handwash our clothes today.  After this process, I decided that my clothes will stay cleaner longer.  It’s our first time doing any laundry since leaving the USA, so most of our clothes got a lot of use before washing.  But, I think I can make them stretch even longer.  It’s really not that bad of a process, but it’s time consuming.  After that, I took a really long bucket bath so I could shave my legs.  It’s not something that I really care if I do or don’t do, but I just wanted to feel some comfort.  Then, I helped mama make lunch.  She made us this dish last week for lunch and it’s my favorite one so far.  So, I asked to do it with her so I could write down the recipe.  I got it written down, and I’m psyched.  I can’t wait to try it on my own completely.  Then we had a very pleasant surprise which is why I didn’t get to the internet cafe like I had planned today.  A couple who stayed with my host family last year stopped by.  It was great to get to know them during the day.  They are a very young couple like Jon and I.  I really enjoyed their company and it was nice to be around a couple.  Maybe next week, I’ll take pictures of how to do laundry by hand to show you the process!

Sunday, July 3, 2011


June 24, 2011
I’m starting to miss things.  I miss coffee, like real coffee.  Every now and then I get a mug of instant, but it’s terrible.  I am missing hot showers.  I am missing the internet and my friends.  I am missing variety in food.  I am missing looking cute in capris and a tank.  I’m missing toilets.  I want some ice cream and some chocolate.  I miss my privacy. It’s Friday night and it doesn’t feel that way at all.  It’s just like any other day now.  I still have training tomorrow and even if I didn’t, I would be awoken early by my surroundings.  On some positive news, I saw monkeys today.  They had blue balls.  They were climbing all over the lawn outside training and jumping up into trees.  It was pretty cool.  We are hoping to get a cell phone this weekend.  Also, I’m hoping to be able to post this up soon.  We’re also signed up to hike in two weeks.  I really am looking forward to that.  Jon is progressing much better at Swahili than I.  I am so happy for him, but frustrated with myself.  I just can’t remember as much.  Tonight, my host brother asked me why I don’t speak as much Swahili.  It’s really sad to me.  I hope I can find a way to lift my spirits soon.