Thursday, July 12, 2012


Peace Corps has three goals when invited to bring volunteers to a specific country. One goal is to provide services so that the citizens of the host country (in my case, Tanzania) are able to meet their needs of trained citizens. So, my teaching here is to help Tanzanians be better trained as to improve Tanzania. Another reason is to be a liaison between Americans and Tanzania. For example, when I write about Tanzania on this blog or in a letter or on the phone, etc., I am most likely providing insight into Tanzanian culture for you. Maybe you never heard of Tanzania before me coming here, maybe you had a preconceived belief about this country or even continent and through my blog you now understand Tanzania much better. Lastly, the other goal then is just the opposite – it’s for me to be an ambassador of the USA while here in Tanzania. You know, grassroots internationalization and all that. I provide the villagers, students, and teachers with an opportunity to learn about Americans and to directly teach about American values. A lot of people take their jobs to provide trained citizens most seriously. As a teacher, it’s hard to gauge your impact. However, after my trip to Kigoma, I think I can seriously say that Peace Corp’s impact on Tanzania is greater than I would normally have suspected.  Most of the western part of Tanzania does not have any Peace Corps volunteers. It was very noticeable for me that the Tanzanians in the western part were so surprised not only to see me, but that I live here and speak some Swahili. In Njombe, Tanzanians are so accustomed to seeing foreigners. Rarely do I get blatantly ripped off for being white or do people talk about me assuming I don’t speak Swahili nor do I have adults point and say mzungu! (white person). In the west, I was constantly asked for money, constantly labeled as “white person” (I mean which I am, but can you imagine pointing at a different person in America and saying “Asian!” or “Black person!?”).  Actually, this bothers a lot of volunteers here. It doesn’t bother me as much (probably because in Japan I was always labeled as “alien!”), but it got really annoying after weeks of it. In Njombr, I can brush it off…especially when children say it (how do they know any better?), or I tell people not to call me white person, but to call me mama or sister like they would call their Tanzanian women. But, after a while in Kigoma…I wanted to say shut up! So, I can happily say now that I really feel like Peace Corps is making a large difference working as a grassroots internationalization organization where volunteers are commonly placed. Sometimes it’s fun feeling like Britney Spears with everyone watching, pointing, and talking about. But, I think it’s greater when people accept me as their friend or neighbor even though I’m very different from them (and want to know why I am the way I am!).

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