Saturday, January 26, 2013

Fly Season

There is a season for everything: rain, hot sun, cumulus clouds, colorfully bursting wildflowers, tall corn fields hiding my whereabouts from everyone but the chickens pecking between the stalks, leafy potato plants, juicy peaches, crunchy pears, sweet mangoes, irritating dryness, barren farm fields, cool wind, the cold, and even flies, buzzing, small, annoying flies. We're battling 50 buzzing flies that have decided to set up shop in our house. To make any meal consists of swatting away dozens of scavenger flies hoping to land on my food and have a taste. To eat food consists of walking around the room to confuse the flies of where my food is. They sequester in groups of 10 buzzing around and trying to mate, trying to fly faster to my old food. We cover the food, we keep all old food products out of the house, we keep the garbage burned, the litter box changed, and all potential fly attractions off limits. Even the cats are annoyed, chasing them around and on occasion making the swift jump into the air and catching one in their mouth, enjoying a mid-afternoon protein snack. I thought it was just us, but no, I visited our neighbors and sat in their house wishing for conversation but instead my ears were constantly filled with the zzzzz of a fly trying to say "feed me". Even as I type this, there's a loner fly buzzing back and forth in my peripheral view. It's time to fight back. I hung a sticky fly trap. I've left food in water and found 5 drowned this morning. I swat them. I point them out to Lia to help in her hunt of winning against the flies. But, ultimately, what will beat them? The weather. Once it starts to get cold again, these buzzing nuisances will fall one by one to the cold, frost-bitten earth. I'll win but am going to have to keep an all out battle on them to prevent them from simply taking my house and flying away with it in the meantime.

Now what, bitches?! (excuse my language!)

Saturday, January 19, 2013


My friend Ron widdled me some chopsticks! I am so excited!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Where there is no Wal*Mart

Keeping a pet in Tanzania can be challenging when there aren’t commercialized products to simply go purchase. People ask me how do we do it? A lot of volunteers choose to have cats for rat control, such as us. Others choose to have cats for company to relieve some of the isolation and loneliness that Peace Corps volunteers experience. Some volunteers get dogs for an extra sense of protection. Dogs here are not as domesticated and locals are scared of them.
We feed Lia fish and rice and on occasion eggs:
For litter, Jon rides to a secluded forest where there is lumber foresting and piles of wood shavings. He fills up our huge backpack full of wood shavings and these bags last us for a month of two of litter. Prior to this, we used dirt, but the dirt made our house smell unpleasant real quick. The wood shavings litter works well for nearly a week. I rode with Jon on his last trip to see and take some pictures.
The pile of wood shavings
Bags loaded up with wood shavings
Jon loaded up with wood shavings
We still have one kitten staying with us, but he will go to his new home later this week. Lia loves playing with him, but he has to go to his new home!
Playing with Lia
The baby sleeping

Saturday, January 12, 2013

First week of school

Well, our “first week of school” has come and gone. I’m teaching 8th grade again which I am pleased about. Jon is also teaching 8th grade. I am doing things a lot differently this year though I will be using a lot of the same material. Going into the new 8th grade classrooms with new students was a great way to see how far my former students have come. I am most excited about the fact I have 60 fewer students this year. Last year, I had 220 8th grade students. This year they are projecting that we will only have 160 students for 8th grade. This means my class sizes will drop to 53 (every time I say that, I see lights shining down from heaven on me and the song hallelujah being sung). I am hopeful I can do a lot with smaller class sizes. Jon and I have implemented very strict behavior rules and punishment but also a very good system for positive behavior rewards. Together, we have scared the students into thinking we’re really mean, though, we’re really excited to rewards our students who try hard.


Together, Jon and I made posters for each classrooms conveying information about points and stamps that can be earned by good behavior for students. They can either purchase school supplies with their points, earn movie tickets to see movies, or earn stamps for their whole class to see a movie.

I went to see my former students, who are now in 9th grade. I am teaching Life Skills class this year to the 9th grade girls after school. I introduced the idea to them yesterday and they were ecstatic. I’ll teach them 2 times a month. The curriculum has been developed by Peace Corps and it includes peer education, relationship skills, learning about HIV/AIDS & other STDs, how to use condoms properly, and decision making. I gathered the girls in a room and told them that I am interested in teaching these topics to them. I asked for a show of hands of how many girls would want to attend. Every single girl raised their hand. No exaggeration. There were about 100 hands high in the air. They LOVE that I have selected to teach them over the boys and they want to keep the whole class a big secret so the boys don’t know what we talk about. I loved it. I also loved when three girls followed me out of the classroom to tell me how happy they are that I am going to continue teaching them.

I am also proud to brag that 1/4 (about 50) of my students who took their 8th grade district English exam,  passed it. This is a huge feat for them. I know 1/4 doesn’t sound promising, but to put it into perspective, only 6 kids from 9th grade passed their English exam and only about 15 of these students will move on past high school education. Also, my school is ranked the worst school in the entire district. So, really, I am counting this as a huge success for me and for my students.

In other news, my former college roommate and one of my best friends sent my students some bubble gum. At first, I acted like only the students who got the top 12 English scores were going to get bubble gum. When I told them that there is actually enough gum for every student, they went into a joyous uproar. Students were jumping out of their seats and whooping with their hands in the air. I could barely get control of the class again after I told them (to their benefit, I had crammed 110 kids into one classroom to give announcements and return their exams).  Jon got a picture of the joy:


Thanks Erin for bringing a lot of joy on Friday to my students!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Every day is Earth day!

When you live in an African village without running water or electricity, every day is Earth Day! A lot of days I can’t wait to get out of here, I can’t wait to get back to America. But, one of the things that I really love about living here and “roughing it” is how gentle our impact on the earth is. We do have a bit of electricity through solar power (you can see about it in this post & this post, too). But, solar energy is so amazing. I have no electric bill and I am not using nonrenewable resources. Sure, I don’t always have electricity when it’s rainy, but it’s so good for the environment, I want all American hippies trying to save the earth to try living like this for a few months.
Similarly, we don’t have running water in the house. We have to go to a nearby water source and carry it home by buckets. This results in some serious water saving techniques so that we don’t have to carry as much water. It also results in water conservation. To be even more earth friendly, you can catch your rain water, like we did last year.
Idea: Reusing laundry water to be our flush water. An idea that developing nations should try to engineer. Why use clean water to flush our toilets?
Step 1: Draw one bucket of water from nearby water source. use 3/4 of the bucket to wash your laundry.
Step 2: use remaining 1/4 of water to rinse laundry
Step 3: when water becomes too dirty to do more laundry such as above, do not discard. This is your flush your toilet water.
Step 4: fill your flush bucket with old, dirty water.
I haven’t flushed clean water in ages. It seems so ridiculous to flush perfectly good water. In fact, our flush water is not only used laundry water, it’s used dish washing water, used mop water, used hand washing water. All dirty water gets used as flush water. It’s my million dollar idea, why not figure out a way to employ these water saving techniques in our nice homes around the world?

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from Jon & I! We celebrated together by eating  a lot of delicious food that we saved for the big night. We canceled our initial travel plans for the evening because I was exhausted from so much travel already and decided just to go home, relax, and spend the evening together.


We started early in the day with South Africa’s fine Amarula drink mixed with milk. It’s a light drink similar to Bailey’s & cream.


We started our first batch of homemade wine. This is mango flavored. If it’s a success, we’ll never buy wine again. And I’ll blog the recipe later after 3 weeks when it’s done fermenting if it’s good.


Lia brought us a new year’s gift….a  chipmunk


We made saltine crackers to have cheese & crackers later in the day. I already blogged the process on my vegetarian blog here if you’re interested in trying it on your own.




We made salmon and vegetarian sushi for dinner.


This was our snacks table to get us through until midnight: cheese & crackers, veggies & ranch dip, bread, pineapple & chocolate fondue sauce, and a plethora of various alcohols: wine, amarula, champagne, and scotch.

We waited until midnight and I made a ball drop presentation out of a powerpoint presentation. In the last few minutes, we turned the computer on, we waited for the ten second mark and we counted down the powerpoint ball drop. When it struck midnight, our neighbors clanged a bell for about ten minutes celebrating the new year as well. It was a relaxed, delicious and enjoyable new year’s eve. Happy 2013 everyone! May you be happy, healthy, and successful!