Wednesday, November 30, 2011

School’s out for the summer!

Jon and I have spent the last two weeks proctoring our students during their exams.  It is quite possibly the most boring part of teaching.  However, today, November 18 was our last day of proctoring and the last day of school until mid-January!  We are really excited to have a break and to start the school year fresh and new with lots of ideas! 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


We see three really cool birds near our home all the time.  A heron, a little yellow bird, and this little red bird.  They are so hard to get a picture of because they flutter so quickly away.  But, today, Jon was lucky and got one!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Blooming Purple

purple trees
In the city that we do our banking, big shopping, and where our post office box exists, there are beautiful trees blossoming purple at the moment.  I definitely missed the stunning fall colors in the Adirondacks this season, but I can’t complain when I am blessed by such vibrant beauty all around me in purple instead of orange and red!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

My favorite view

If you ride a bike about 45 minutes away from our school, you go through a whole bunch of valleys and rolling hills.  There’s one view that’s my absolute favorite.  After riding downhill for about 10 minutes on a bike, you get to the bottom of a valley.  All around you, there are rolling hills, a small stream, cattle being herded by children, and large boulders.  The view is just stunning.  This picture absolutely does not do it justice.  Whenever we get there, we stop for at least 5-10 minutes just taking in the view.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A visitor

I was out doing laundry when a little visitor showed up.  Jon and I have seen it once and we’ve never seen anything like it since!

Friday, November 25, 2011

28 today

Today is my 28th birthday.  It’s true, the older you get, the more it just feels like another day.  I taught at 8:00 and the rest of the day was free.  The only thing that really made it feel like my birthday is that Jon had the grade 10 students sing happy birthday to me.  It was really sweet.  Tanzanians don’t celebrate birthdays in the same way that we do.  So, even though the other teachers found out it was my birthday when they heard the 10th graders sing to me, it’s not a huge deal.  I just relaxed and read Harry Potter, really.  28 sounds old.  Jon and I were reminiscing and it’s crazy to think that we met when I was 21.  Who knew 7 years later that we would be celebrating my birthday in Peace Corps in Tanzania?!  It also doesn’t really feel like my birthday because it’s nice out!  It’s been about 85 and sunny.  My birthday makes me think of snow, cold, and the imminent winter headed our way.  So, even just the warm weather throws me off!  Anyway, I’ll wake up tomorrow, 28, for another year, and the days will keep on going!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Birthday to me!

Even though my birthday is on November 3, we celebrated the weekend before.  Jon had planned a weekend where he cooked delicious food and I relaxed all day long.  We made lots of pizza and Jon finally got our solar shower working which has made me so happy!  The weather is finally hot enough during the days (about 85) that we can leave our solar shower out and it makes it nice and hot by about 3:30.  It’s the first hot shower I’ve had since we left America in June.  My bathing frequency has gone from about 3 times a week to 6.  It’s amazing!
The pizza turned out phenomenal, too.  The cheese which we had to buy in the amount of 2 lbs costs more than a day’s worth of pay for us.  Then, we also bought very expensive olives and mushrooms as well.  The pizza, made completely from scratch and cooked in a dutch oven (see below) was such a nice change from the typical rice, grains, and beans that we normally eat.
bday pizza
dutch oven
Overall, I did have a nice birthday weekend as Jon did most of our household chores (but, I still helped out because it’s a lot of work doing it all on your own!).  The weather was nice, too windy to ride our bikes, but warm!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Free potatoes

The other day we went on a walk into the village that is about 45 minutes away from us.  We normally ride our bikes there now, but the wind was so strong!  Actually, we were worried that our fence was going to blow down.  So, we walked.  This village is where we buy minutes for our phone, get eggs, and buy vegetables.  We are starting to integrate into the village and get known there.  The guy who we buy eggs from is just so kind to us.  This time when we visited him, he gave us twenty pounds of potatoes for free!  We’ve noticed as we began to visit him weekly whether it’s to get eggs, buy a soda, or buy chipsi mayai from him, he will use a random word of English here and there – his way of trying to connect with us, as well.  In fact, we teach his daughter at our school, too.  Anyway, it was just so kind, we didn’t even know what to say to him.  It’s so heartwarming to live in a place where people are far worse off than us and they are so generous, still.  Jon carried the 20 lb sack of potatoes back to our house.  So, we’ll definitely be eating potatoes from quite some time!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Chili Sauce

This stuff here is amazing!  In an earlier post, I gave the recipe for chipsi mayai.  This is the sauce that they put on top of it.  However, we also put it on home fries, Mexican food, and well, Jon pretty much puts it on top of everything.  We already plan to pack a few bottles to go home with us in a few years!

Monday, November 21, 2011


We are blessed because the place where our post office and bank is has a DAIRY store!  It is incredibly unique and unheard of to have a store dedicated simply to dairy products.  We have started bringing large water bottles and having them filled and bringing it home with us.  At first, we just put fruit into the yogurt (you can only buy it plain), but then we discovered that adding mixed fruit jam to it is just like a “fruit on the bottom” yogurt you can buy in America.  It makes it sweet and flavorful!  Since we don’t have a refrigerator, we have to eat it within a day or two which is not a problem.  In the colder months of May, June, July, and August – we definitely will be able to keep the yogurt in our house for a lot longer.  The whole business is some type of non-profit organization run through a British organization.  However, I don’t know many details about it.  It is definitely one of the highlights of living in our region.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Hand-washing station

Since we don’t have running water, we’ve created a “hand-washing station” to help keep us clean.  It’s a real pain washing hands without any type of running water.  You just need two buckets and a spicket.  Again, we’ve propped our station up on a few other buckets so we don’t have to bend down to wash our hands too much.  We keep soap up on top of it and the bucket under the spicket catches the dirty water and sometimes we use it as water to flush our toilet or simply just toss it outside. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Our favorite bottle of wine

Although we’re both usually red wine drinkers, we have grown very fond of this South African wine – The Beach House- that is available at the wine shop in the town near us.  It’s not terribly sweet and is always a little chilled since the climate here is cooler.  It’s expensive for us – costing us more than a day’s worth of pay, but it is very tasty.  And besides, wine bottles serve two purposes – holding our wine and holding our candles!
resizedwine                                  candle

Friday, November 18, 2011

Sanitizing water

Every week, Jon sanitizes water for us since it’s unsafe to drink the water out of the well.  This is usually a Sunday task for him as it involves many trips to our well and the time to sanitize the water.  I hate carrying buckets of water because for every 3/4 of a bucket I can manage to carry, Jon can carry two full buckets.  Also, he really  enjoys doing the charcoal grill.  Although, both water carrying and charcoal grill usage is traditionally a woman’s job in Tanzania, Jon doesn’t mind doing either and I do other things instead.
The first step after bringing the water from the well is to bring it to a boil over our charcoal stove.  It should boil for 3-5 minutes to kill anything that is living in the water.
After bringing it to a boil, we allow it to cool for about an hour.  Then, we bring it to our water sanitizing station.  It requires two buckets, two lids to the buckets, one water filter (provided by Peace Corps), and a water spicket that can be purchased at the market.  We placed our contraption on top of another bucket simply to raise it higher for ease of getting water since Jon is so tall.
Then, once the water is cooled, you place the hot water in the top bucket.  Inside of the top bucket is a “candle” filter which is simply a long, circular ceramic piece that the water filters through.  This filter catches any larger things that could be in our water, such as dirt or small bacterium that is naked to the eye.  We clean our candle filter every 6 weeks otherwise it becomes too dirty to filter the water.  You can tell when it needs cleaning because the filter and the bucket become slimy.  The filter is cleaned simply by boiling it.
Once you place the water into the top bucket with the filter, it takes at least 24 hours for it to slowly filter and drip into the second bucket which is under it.  You can hear the slow drips throughout the day so you know it is filtering properly. 
Finally, when it is finished filtering through into the second bucket, you can turn the spicket and have a clean, tasty glass of water!  Jon and I go through just about one bucket of sanitized water per week.  But, that is because there are two of us.  I am sure most people who are living on their own in Peace Corps only go through half of what we do.  We know some volunteers who simply buy bottled water for everything, but this method is far cheaper.
clean water

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Jon & Sara vs. Team Panya

As of October 26, the score is 6 points to the rats and 3 points to us.  But, we’re going to get the last laugh once Lia is big enough to hunt!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The faces of Tanzania!

Peace Corps Tanzania is making a promotional video to encourage other schools or villages to consider a Peace Corps volunteer.  Jon and I were selected to be interviewed!  Today, we were stars at our school.  We were each asked several questions and then they did quick shots of us teaching in our classes.  The company said the video should be completed around January.  If we can get a copy, I will be sure to post it here.  They are interviewing about 7 volunteers total.  I was very excited to help with promotional material!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Geography Field Trip

Yesterday, October 24, Jon and I were invited on to join a Geography field trip with the 10th grade students.  The Geography teacher was bringing the students to our surrounding environment to teach them about the various formations. 
We set out with about 100 of the grade ten students and were joined by additional chaperones such as the school nurse, the Swahili teacher, and the history teacher.  The path we took was familiar to Jon and I as we have ridden our bikes through most of these paths.  However, where we normally go right, we forked to the left.  After about 30 minutes walking, we stopped at the first site.  The geography teacher explained swamps, soil nutrients, and erosion with the little river we were sitting by.  Soon, we were all leaping over said river to continue onto the trip.  We stopped at the next site, where the teacher begins asking how many different types of soil are there?  Shortly after, a girl ran away from the group, starting taking her shoes off and rolling up her pants and crying. She was hitting at her legs.  The school nurse and I ran over to her to see what was going on.  All I could understand was something about insects. I let the school nurse take over.  But, not even twenty seconds after I had taken my place back with the group did I notice that something appeared to be biting me underneath my skirt and shirt!  I then knew what she was crying about.   
I contemplated just ignoring it, but it was so painful!  I had a dilemma, the only way to see what was biting me was to either lift my skirt or lift my shirt in front of all my students.  I tried killing whatever it was through my clothes, but the attacks were more frequent.  I finally lifted by shirt and saw a small bug.  I was worried they were ticks!  I ran down to where Jon was standing with a bunch of students and I said, Jon, I think I have ticks!  He said, crap, show me!  In which I replied, I can’t they are under my clothes, I can’t lift my clothes in front of the students!
We rushed over to hide behind a bush.  I lift my shirt and sure enough there were ants all over my body biting me!  Every three seconds, I felt a new bite. The thing is these ants weren’t biting, they were burrowing into my skin.  Jon could not keep up with getting them off of me.  After some time, it seemed maybe I had it under control and we went back to join the group.  Not even a minute later, I realized I was wrong.  We rushed back to the bush and I took my skirt off at the risk of the students coming in just the right view of seeing me!  I didn’t care.  The skin-burrowing ants had it in for me.  We picked all of them off my skirt and meanwhile continued to kill them under my shirt.  They even got in my underwear and tried burrowing my butt!  The students had all moved on to the next site and so we took our time to make sure they were all off me. 
Eventually, we caught up to the group.  I told the geography and Swahili teacher, along with the school nurse what happened to me.  The school nurse and Swahili teacher literally fell over laughing.  They fell to their knees, then to the ground where they held their stomachs and rolled all over the ground laughing at me.  What were the chances that I was one of two people who got attacked by the burrowing ants?
Our last spot was near a little pond.  Despite the burrowing ants, we were really glad we helped chaperone because we now know how to get to this little pond.  It is beautiful there with the sound of running water.  We are excited to go back and have a little picnic!
Students around the pond listening to their Geography teacher
Our school nurse, who wanted a funny picture with me.  She’s only about 20 and has the most fashionable clothes at our school. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Head Boy & Head Girl

On Wednesday of this past week, our school held elections to vote in next year’s student leaders – one girl and one boy.  There were two boys competing – one boy from 9th grade and one boy from 10th grade.  Then, there were two girls competing – both from 10th grade.  All three of the 10th graders were students I had been teaching in 10th grade.  They are all excellent students and natural leaders in their class.  The students spent about one hour rallying for the other students to vote for their selected candidate.  They took boards of wood from the forest and used chalk to write their friend’s slogan on it.  Then, they walked around the school ground chanting names.
In the end, it was the 9th grade boy who won and a landslide for one of the girls to win.   When the teacher announced the winner, there was no cheering, no applause, nothing, very anti-climatic. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011


We did it.  We got a kitten.  Her name is Lia, which means “to cry” in Swahili.  It’s pronounced like Leah.  Her name is indicative of her actions which is simply to cry, cry, cry all the time.  She is finally sleeping through the night.  We’re hoping this behavior ends in two weeks.  She’s still missing her mama cat and is scared to do too much on her own.  We’re waiting for her natural cat curiosity to peak.  We’re also waiting for her to get bigger so she can be a full fledged rat killer!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sending a package home

So, I wanted to test sending a package to a friend in preparations for sending a Christmas package.  I am not quite how I will be able to send a package unless it’s huge because there won’t be enough room to put stamps on it: