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Updates!

Updates, updates! Myself, along with eight other volunteers from the Singida and Katesh regions, have been working hard to prepare for our upcoming Girls Conference. It will begin next Wednesday in Singida town. Each volunteer will bring five girls from their local secondary school to town for a four-day seminar dealing with women’s empowerment, life skills, HIV/AIDS education and women’s health. Joseph and I will be facilitating the session on goal setting and role models, and I, of course, will be leading the condom demonstrations (it’s kind of my “thing” these days). I’m excited for the girls. For those that are coming from more rural villages, this could be their first time to leave the village. Just exposing them to a world outside the ville will be valuable and the last day will include a panel of women who all work outside the home. I will most definitely let y’all know how it goes, hopefully with lots of pictures, too!

September 10th was significant for two reasons: one, I turned 25. (Thankfully, no quarter-life crises yet…knock on wood!) Last year, I celebrated my birthday with several other volunteers. It was fun- we raged. This year, however, I was happy to spend the bday in the village because it also just so happened to be Eid, the Islamic holiday that breaks the 30 day fast of Ramadan. Ramadan is always scheduled according to the lunar calendar. No one ever knows until a few days prior, when exactly it will be. So it was hugely coincidental that it fell on my birthday this year and let me tell you, Muslims throw down for Eid. Goats were slaughtered and folks feasted. Even the Christian population gets into it. Of course they don’t celebrate in the day’s events, per se, but the feeling of festivity is definitely contagious and permeated the entire village. I went to my friend, Mama Bilali’s house and ate with her family. It was great way to spend the day.

Mama Bilali and I on Eid/my 25th birthday

Other big news: Joe announced to me that he has begun looking for a wife. That’s huge news. After over a year of spending almost everyday together, Joe has definitely taken on the role of little bro, here in the village and I’m excited for him. I wish I could say I’m nothing but happy for him, but I’ll admit that the prospect isn’t entirely thrilling. When he explained how things will happen, it surprised me (but perhaps shouldn’t have), that the proposal, engagement and marriage will all progress very traditionally. He will choose a girl much younger than himself, most likely one of my students from Form 4, he will negotiate a price of cows with her father and the terms of the deal will be finalized with little input from the girl. I don’t know, I guess I just expected Joe to be different. He’s heard me preach about women’s empowerment and gender equality for over a year, now. He knows I wholeheartedly disagree with the concept of bride-price, but he here is, perpetuating the old-as-time practice. I can’t entirely blame him. After all society’s perspective hasn’t yet changed enough to where marriage without first negotiating a bride-price is even an option. Of course I want to Joe to be able to marry. I just wish it could be different.

Graduation at Masinda, the secondary school where I teach, was great. The ceremony took place under a large thatched banda that the students had built and decorated the week before. They had prepared a play about HIV/AIDS and even sang some songs. Then each was presented with a diploma. Mzee Mkuki, my baba, served as the guest of honor. I was so proud to see each of my students march up to shake hands with the dignitaries and receive a diploma. After all, I have been with these kids for a full year and it was special to see them finish school. Joshua, Joe’s little brother, was among the graduates and I’ve never seen Mama Mickah smile so big.

The graduates.

One of the songs/dances my girls had prepared

The audience. There were well over 500 people in attendance.

My secondmaster, Revo, the MC for the day. That’s me in the background sitting with the other teachers.

Me with Joe’s little brother, Joshua. I had just given him his gift (I got him a shirt).

The afterparty

 

Nyika, the dog, has taken to stealing my underwear when he’s bored. It began one day while I was doing laundry. Apparently, the attention he was receiving wasn’t doing it for him because out of nowhere, he races off towards the center of Ihanja, a pair of my bright green and polka dot panties in his mouth. I took off after him and thankfully, caught him before he made it to the cluster of little shops where people hang out. Then, just last week a little kid who I didn’t recognize came to my house and knocked on my door. I answered it and he handed me a dirty bra covered in sand. He simply goes, “Your dog is a thief” and walked away. Nyika sat there grinning, watching the whole thing. Jeeeeeeeze…

I plan on spending this month working on my village projects. With school out and no Peace Corps seminars/workshops in the nearby future, I’ll be able to focus all my energy on my chicken and OVC projects. I’ll also be getting ready for my trip back to the States. As the rainy season will most likely start in my absence, I’m going to try and have my shamba planted before I leave. We’ll see if that happens, it may be too soon. Oddly enough, I will also put up the few Christmas decorations I have as I will not be returning to Tanzania until the beginning of December and I would love to come home to a festive house!

Thank y’all again for the continued support from home. The letters, cards, packages and facebook messages are always appreciated! XOXO

Tanga

Tanga
 

 

During the month of August, I had the opportunity to see my host family in Tanga. School was on break and I decided to use my time off to pay them a visit. After our community theatre workshop, instead of heading straight home I booked a bus ticket east, back to the coast, where I had lived with the Lupatu family and received all my training for Peace Corps.

The ride there was pleasant and as I approached Tanga, I began to notice the familiar stretches of sisal plantations. The Usambara Mountains gradually came into view and coconut trees became more and more numerous until they lined both sides of the road. I arrived in Tanga town and stepped off the bus to the sweet, salty air blowing in off the ocean. I booked a hostel with a couple of other volunteers who were also visiting and we spent the remainder of the afternoon exploring the town. During our training we were kept under pretty strict regulations and confined, for the most part, to our host villages. So I had never spent any real time in Tanga town and enjoyed getting to know it.

Tanga town is different than any other town in TZ but it’s difficult to explain how. I think it is just that beautiful coastal culture mixed with the dominance of Islam. It is located directly on the water and streets are dotted with mamas carrying baskets on their heads, selling their catch of the day. There is a small port where you can go and watch the boats unload their imports from Zanzibar and Pemba. Food is different, too. While the national staples of ugali, rice and beans are ever present, the smell of exotic additional curries and coconut dishes waft into the streets from the local restaurants and for about eight cents a street vendor will offer you a grilled octopus tentacle on a toothpick. No matter where you find yourself sauntering through the town, a mosque always seems to be emerging on the next corner and at certain times of the day, the call to prayer dominates the air of the entire town. But besides all that, there is just some intangible, indescribable element that separates Tanga from all the other towns I’ve visited. Perhaps it was the intriguing way the women whisk by in their baibuis (we know them as burkas), nothing exposed but mysterious eyes and hands and feet decorated with intricate henna designs. In some ways it seemed to lack the typical chaotic racket of other Tanzanian towns although the same street vendors hawk their wares while the same daladala conductors hustle you to buy a ticket. Or maybe it was the architecture- old, crumbling and German-influenced from the days of colonialism, the two story buildings with wrought iron balconies briefly bringing to mind the French Quarter down in NOLA. Regardless, I fell in love. Being there solidified, once more, my love for the Tanzanian coast and I hope someday to visit again.

Of course, that’s how all Texans dress, right?

After a night in town, I awoke excited. I headed to the bus stand to find a daladala going to my family’s village but not before making a quick stop at the soko (market) to pick out the perfect gift. In TZ, one does not visit relatives empty handed, it would be considered the height of rudeness. I shopped around a bit before deciding on a robust-looking rooster. I made the purchase and the old man who sold it to me was thoughtful enough to stick it in a plastic bag with a hole poked in it for the chicken’s head. That way, I could take it on the daladala without disapproving looks from the conductor. I hopped on the next daladala bound for the village of Lusanga and was on my way.

Another volunteer, Amanda, and I with our the gifts we picked out for our host families

Another volunteer, Amanda, and I with our the gifts we picked out for our host families

Reuniting with my host family was unforgettable- the hugs, the laughter and the incessant chatter of catching up. I was surprised to see that my little brother, Kombo, had shot up a solid five inches but relieved to see that the littlest sister, Saumu, hadn’t changed a bit, but remained the sweet, shy girl I had remembered. My other host sisters, Fatuma, Ashura and Bahati-all young women-were dying to know what I had been up to since they had seen me last. Mama Lupatu was exactly how I had always remembered her- enormous and sprawled out on a woven grass mat in the courtyard. For a second, I wondered if she had moved or even changed positions since last August. Many stories were exchanged. After all, it had been a year since we had last seen one another. I did my best to answer all their questions about Singida, some of which were so bizarre you would have thought they had just assumed I moved to Mars (yes, children in Singida go to schools). The best part was being able to converse genuinely and candidly. When I had left to move out to Singida, I felt very close to my host family but had not yet acquired Swahili skills adequate enough to talk freely. Upon visiting them, however, I was able to tell them all about my new life and all the experiences from the past year. We laughed about the funny times we had misunderstood one another during homestay and they caught my up on the latest village gossip. At one point while my mama busied herself inside, Bahati and Fatuma, even whispered to me all about their boyfriends! I had no idea!

The littlest of my host sisters, Saumu, grating coconut for our evening meal

My beautiful sister, Bahati. (I told Joe he should marry her. He said if she converted to Christianity, he would consider it.)

My host mama, Mama Lupatu, assuming her usual position in the courtyard and trying her hand at applying henna to little Cheusi, technically, my host family cousin?

Little Cheusi wondering how long she has to wait with that stuff on her hand.
 
(That thing in the background with the writing on it is woven from sisal and is used to keep the flies off of food. The saying “Tunda La Roho Ni Upendo” means “The fruit of the spirit is love.”
 
I had planned on visiting for the day and returning to Tanga town that night. I ended up staying in the village for three days. After I complained to Mama about the lack of good food out in Singida, I think she took it upon herself not to let me leave without gaining five pounds. It’s true, “ain’t no cookin’ like Mama’s!” Each night we feasted. Fresh fish, coconut rice, ugali, coconut beans, cassava leaves cooked in coconut milk, fresh mangos, papayas, pineapples and the sweetest oranges and tangerines in the world- food I only dream about in my Ihanja.
One thing that surprised me was how much I appreciated being called by my real name (well, almost, I was still “See-see-LEE-ah”…close enough). Out in Ihanja, fewer than five people know my real name. I’m only “Balima” to everyone there. That’s how it’s always been and I’ve never minded it. In fact, after I got past associating it with an eating disorder where you make yourself barf, I felt honored to have received a Kinyaturu name and it’s definitely grown to be part of my identity. But there was something mildly refreshing and heartwarming about once again, being “Dada Cecelia” (Sister Cecelia) in Tanga.

I also got henna’d up in Tanga. In predominantly Muslim communities, women apply henna to their bodies for significant events, weddings, births, etc. Mama Lupatu suggested during my stay that I have some henna done. I agreed. The young girl who offered the service was quite the artist and went to town. I left Lusanga with my hands, feet, arms and legs covered ornately in black and rust-colored designs. She tried to do my chest and back, too, but after sitting still for over five hours, I had to draw the line somewhere and politely declined. Her work was beautiful and I was so excited to show it off back in Singida.

Trying not to fidget like a six-year old while I get my henna done.

She did a great job! It lasted about a month and everyone in Singida loved it.

The last day, I said goodbye and there were more hugs and promises to call, write and visit again. I was so happy to have come and overwhelmed by the warm welcome. I realized just how much the Lupatu family had done for me and how much I cared for them. I welcomed them to Singida and got back on the bus with a basketful of oranges they had given to me as a gift.

DRY

                                                                  

Last month marked the peak of the dry season out here in Singida and the surrounding landscape could not be more desolate. Any vegetation we may have enjoyed during the short rainy season has long since turned to brown sticks and the seasonal winds have picked up again and envelop Ihanja in a constant whirl of dust. The conditions haven’t left me in a sour mood, however. In fact, I’ve come to appreciate the grasslands and stop often, as I bike to school, to enjoy the wide-open space. It’s true that there is a certain beauty in a desert and sometimes I find the sand, thorns and occasional animal skull, bleaching in the sun, reminiscent of one of Georgia O’Keefe’s studies of New Mexico.

It’s also about the time of year when “palmas” come into season. This village fruit looks similar to a coconut but its insides are a fibrous, bright orange nut. Kids will climb the palm-like trees to get to them or throw stones until one drops. They’re everywhere and are one fruit that cannot be sold or traded as they are too plentiful. It’s just unfortunately that…they are one of the most disgusting thing I’ve ever put in my mouth. Jayce and I, after careful consideration, determined the taste to be “cheesy-mold-foot-fruit.” They are that gross. I get them as gifts often and refuse to keep them in the house because they smell like a cheap tropical car air freshener that’s been kept in an old gym bag for a year. But to the kids, it’s candy. They throw them at walls and trees until the hardy husks crack and then suck on the fibrous nut center. You know it’s palma season when 8 out of 10 kids will have highlighter orange faces around the clock. It’s too bad I can’t enjoy the fruit with them.

August also signified the one-year mark since my arrival in Ihanja and the return of the chilly nights and intense dryness only heightens my awareness of the time that has passed. Looking back and reflecting on each significant event of the past year, I’ve realized how broad the spectrum of my experiences has been. Highs and lows, challenges and triumphs. In some ways it flew by and in others, each day I was so far away from family and friends at home was felt acutely. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by some of the successes I’ve enjoyed and I’ve been knocked off my feet with disappointment when things haven’t gone according to my plan.

The struggles I’ve experienced in the village are typical of any PCV here in Tanzania. Having to constantly remind people that I didn’t come to TZ to hand out wads of cash, having to adjust (or scrap altogether) prospective work plan timelines to accommodate those of the locals, who operate on a very different system of schedules, feeling detached from the rest of the world, trying to reconcile inevitable cultural differences while maintaining a foundation of respect. But while all of those things left me occasionally discouraged and frustrated, I was able to view each as a mountain to climb, one step at a time, one day at a time. Other things I wasn’t able to tackle quite as systematically. Over the past year, the times that were the hardest had little to do with my life in Ihanja. They were always in relation to momentous occasions back home. My roommate, Anna’s wedding, my grandmother’s funeral, my brother’s engagement, Erin’s wedding, a friend’s surgery, even last year’s National Championship. Missing out on those events definitely tested me and at times, made my heart ache more than a little. But then, I suppose all that’s normal and if Peace Corps were a cakewalk, more people would sign up. I’m just banking on all these challenges eventually contributing to the somewhat vague “personal growth and fulfillment” promised in every Peace Corps recruitment brochure. They better. Lord knows I’ve missed out on enough.

Despite the hard times, I can honestly say that it’s been worth it and I’m still happy to be living my life like I am. More than that, I’m most thankful that I’ve never had to convince myself to stay, because I’ve really never wanted to leave. Of course, I wanted to be home for significant events but at no point in my service so far, have I wanted to throw in the towel and call it quits- I’ve never had to “stick it out”. Too many good things have happened. It’s been exciting, adventurous and eye-opening and I can’t imagine my life without certain individuals like Joe, Mama Mikah, Mama Daudi and her family, Beatrice, my students, etc. Also, when things have worked according to plan, the feeling of accomplishment that ensued is something I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world and the lessons I’ve learned have and will continue to shape who I am.

After a year of trial and error, discovering things that work and don’t, I have a better idea of how to approach the second half of my service. I look forward to the upcoming year and am excited to see how things will turn out!

Blah!

 I broke a tooth today.  Not very happy about this.  At all. 

      Rice here is sold by the kilo and comes loaded with tiny sticks and rocks.  It must be cleaned and thoroughly washed before it is cooked.  Apparently today, I wasn’t being as vigilant cleaning as I should have been and am now kicking myself as the oversight cost me a solid quarter of my back left molar (which I promptly swallowed).  It surprised me how little it hurt initially.  I chomped down on the rock and definitely felt something but continued eating.  It wasn’t until I noticed the new jagged precipice with my tongue that I decided to check things out in front of a mirror.  I opened wide and freaked out a little.  I mean, a significant chunk was missing.  Now, I can feel it.  My tongue is raw from rubbing the rough edge of my molar and there is a dull pain that begins at the back of my jaw and extends to my chin. 

      I called Peace Corps medical to inform them.  No one answered but I am dreading the return call.  I’m guessing this incident will require a trip to Dar.  I just got back from traveling and was looking forward to getting comfortable and just kicking it in the ville until our mid-service conference in September.  Furthermore, school is back in session now and I really need to be in the classroom teaching.  Blah…maisha ni mlima, for real. 

      I’m also overjoyed to announce I have a staph infection…again…for the third time.  No lie, I’ve had staph three times and each time it’s less and less amusing.  Slash, I’m not thrilled at the prospect of yet another round of antibiotics.  At home I feel like, on average, I probably take antibiotics once annually, usually around flu season.  But here, every couple months or so some weird and random ailment requires me to take them.  That can’t be good, right?  But alas, staph is gross and I’m tired of having it so I do what I’m told. 

      Maybe, if I have to go to Dar, I’ll treat myself to another box of Special K.  I feel like that will be warranted. 

Chores, chores

 

    

  Did some spring cleaning, yesterday.  My house is spotless right now and it’s such a good feeling.  It’s shadow week and this weekend I will be hosting two girls from the new training class who will come out to Ihanja to see my work and what life in the field is really like.  It’s an exciting time.  I remember my shadow week last year.  I shadowed a PCV down in Njombe.  It was a lot of fun and helped me out in understanding what health and environment volunteers actually do at site. 

      So, in preparation of my guests, I cleaned the abode top to bottom.  I really don’t mind household chores around here (except dishes…I hate doing dishes).  Yeah, they take ten times as long as they do back home but there’s something about a day’s worth of elbow grease that makes you feel good.  Laundry is actually enjoyable.  It takes a full day to do a couple loads but like yesterday, the sun was shining and I had Al Green on my iPod speaks.  Couldn’t complain.  The neighborhood kids came by to play with Nyika and we had a dance party to “Tired of Being Alone”.  And there really isn’t anything more satisfying than a stack of fresh, clean, folded kangas at the end of a day.  Laundry is actually a perk of living in Singida- let’s face it, Singida isn’t exactly a vacation destination, we don’t have too many selling points.  Out here though, it’s so dry clothes are bone dry in a matter of minutes.  It’s the single downfall of coastal regions, in my opinion.  In Tanga, I remember the humidity meant that my clothes never really dried completely and people constantly walked around with the slightest tinge of a moldy aroma.  Gross. 

So, if you’re not a climber but are looking for a reason to visit central TZ…come wash your clothes, it’ll be a ball!

Rock Report

 Finally had the chance to do some climbing for longer than a day.  When Nathan came to visit, we set aside a week just for bouldering.  It was fantastic.  I took him to a place known by locals as Mwamringa.  It’s just outside my friend Jayce’s village here in the Singida region.

      Beforehand though, we had to put the finishing touches on our homemade crash pad.  We took the foam mattress I had purchased to the local fundi or tailor in Ihanja.  We brought along copies of Urban Climber and Rock & Ice to help illustrate.  It was so priceless seeing this Tanzanian mama studying advertisements for Organic, Revolution and Black Diamond.  She did a great job and our crash pad ended up functional and uniquely covered in a kitenge (Tanzanian printed fabric).

      Then we had to go about our next task of satisfying Beatrice who was not ok with us climbing.  She swore up and down that there were spirits in the boulders that would take us.  She claimed they had already kidnapped two other wazungu from Sweden six years ago.  She was stubborn but finally relented when we promised to go with a local, stay together and bring some holy water.

      And then there were boulders.

      Now y’all know, I’ve been saying for a long time that Singida is full of rock.  I’m just glad that Nathan saw them firsthand and can now vouch for me.  Seriously, don’t believe me?  Ask him.

      It’s about a 30-45 minute approach from Jayce’s front door, with little to no incline.  You pass the village center along the way so each morning we’d stop for chai and buy a couple of waters.  Then, you wind through all these little shambas (small farm plots), past a couple meandering herds of goats and around a mud hut or two. 

      You know when you’ve reached Mwamringa because the only things that reach your eyes are boulders.  Miles and miles of granite dinosaur eggs.  Some small, some enormous, some clustered, some stand-alone.  They’re just everywhere. 

      Now to be honest, the rock quality leaves something to be desired.  A lot of the rock is rather flaky and we quickly habituated to tapping on all the holds to make sure they wouldn’t pop off when we pulled on them.  But even with skipping every shady problem, we never encountered a shortage of great lines.  The amount of rock is just that vast.

      Climbing was great.  I started out a bit worried about how I’d perform.  After all, it had been months and months of not climbing.  But it didn’t take long for Nathan and I to throw grades out the window and just have a good time.  It was challenging for both of us.  Me, because well, over the course of the recent hiatus. I had in fact backslid more than a little.  Muscles I forgot I had were throbbing after the first hour and my poor softened fingertips were pink after day one.  The trust was shaky, too- in myself, my shoe edges, our crash pad.  And Nathan was just forced to climb problems completely different than the style he’s used to.  He’s always excelled at beefy, overhung problems -big, powerful moves to big holds.  Unfortunately, there are absolutely no jugs in Mwamringa.  Everything is super crimpy and balancey.  There are no overhangs but lots of slabs and smearing problems. 

      The challenges were good for us and all in all we had a very memorable experience.  We worked hard but had fun.  There were a few moments when we got completely absorbed in testing out beta.  In those moments, it was just like it used to be back home and Mwamringa may as well have been HP40.

      The last day we took Jayce with us.  He did excellent for having never climbed and my shredded fingers are crossed that he got “bit by the bug” and I’ll have a climbing partner here.  Just in case, Nathan left him a pair of shoes and some chalk. 

      Also on the last day we went to the very top of Mwamringa, a plateau with this amazing 360 degree unobstructed view. You can see the village of Ilongero on one side and Lake Singindani on another. You can see Singida town in the distance and on a clear day, you can even see the outline of Mt. Hanang, TZ’s fourth highest mountain located in Katesh, one region over.  On the plateau are about a dozen or so medium size boulders each with a handful of problems and good landings.

      The last boulder we climbed was this squatty, little thing that had a few easy problems on it, one of which was a completely contrived, but fun, heel-hooking problem and another with a very Horse Pens-esque slap up to a sloper.  We were exhausted.  It was the very last day and the sun had begun to lower in the sky, but we were still going on the adrenaline that always seems to kick in on the last problem of a trip when you’re unsure of when you’ll be able to return.

      Tired but happy, we christened the rock the Vista boulder, set the camera on a timer, and snapped a photo of the three of us with the incredible view in the background. 

      To Mwamringa:  Thanks for the fun.  It’s goodbye for now but may we see one another again many, many times.   

If anyone is interested in coming to TZ to climb, just let me know.  I would be more than happy to arrange everything and could do it on a budget.  As we say in Swahili, “Karibu sana!”- You are most welcome!

Update!

 I’m really sorry for this recent hiatus I unintentionally took from blogging.  Rather than wasting time with excuses, I’ll just fill y’all in on the past few months. 

      Where did I leave off?  I suppose Mafia.  The trip to the island was an amazing- time to catch up with other PCV’s, long lazy days on the beautiful beaches, a few jaunts out to the sea in some of the locally, handmade dhows, an impromptu swim with a 14 foot whale shark and a refreshing revisit with Tanzanian coastal culture.  Not sure why, but I always find myself unexplainably drawn to village life on the coast, and it’s surprisingly not because of the paradisiacal environment.  Sure, who doesn’t love being surrounded by turquoise oceans, white sands and palm trees swaying in the salty breeze, but I believe it’s the culture that I feel so connected to.  I think it’s the laid back, carefree vibe you get from locals, the mouth-watering cuisine- in coastal communities they add coconut milk to everything from beans to fresh fish to rice- and even the dialect.  The Swahili language actually originated along the coast and to this day the coastal peoples speak their language with impeccable diction and grammar.  Even the building style is intriguing to me.  All houses are quaintly constructed of mud with tall thatched roofs made from palm fronds.  I felt this same attraction to the coast when I lived in Tanga and as much as I love my village in Singida, I oftentimes feel that my heart remains in the part of TZ that runs along the Indian Ocean.

   Nyika, my puppy, is growing faster than kudzoo.  He’s a big hit with my villagers, as he now knows how to “sit, come, give high-fives, lay down, and roll over”.  I’m certain he’s the first trained dog they’ve seen so he’s quite the entertainment these days.  Of course, I’m always worried about him.  Tanzanians are notoriously abusive to animals and disease, snakes (namely mambas and cobras), etc. make for a pretty tough life for dogs here.  Whenever I leave, Nyika is supposed to stay at Joe’s but I’ve been getting disturbing reports from the neighborhood kids that sometimes at night he wanders by himself back to my house.  Not good considering the local hyena population.  But we’ve been lucky so far and for that, I am thankful.

      My family and I have now finalized plans for my trip back to Alabama.  It’s official, I’ll be coming home for my brother and Sara Beth’s wedding in November.  So exciting (a detailed itinerary for visits to various BBQ joints is currently in the works).

      I’ve done some traveling in the past few months also.  I was asked to attend a PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) workshop in Dar es Salaam.  It was followed by a Training and Design Evaluation workshop.  It was exciting to have a hand in how future volunteers will be trained upon arrival to Tanzania and I was grateful for the opportunity to offer my input. 

      My work in Ihanja continues as locals say “pole, pole” (PO-lay PO-lay or “slowly, slowly”).  I have not had to teach for the past month.  All secondary schools are on break.  I have high hopes for the chicken project despite the few snafus we’ve encountered.  The grant I wrote went through and the banda is finished but we’ve had to hold off on buying the first chickens due to a chicken disease epidemic that has swept the area. 

 The OVC identification project is kind of on hold until the chicken project has a better hold.  I continue teaching every Monday to the mamas at the Health Centre.  I feel myself getting more and more comfortable each time I teach and I really enjoy it now.   I’m currently teaching them how to make homemade oral rehydration salts (ORS) as diarrhea (and consequential dehydration) from waterborne diseases is responsible for thousands of deaths each year.  Each time I go to the health centre, I always stay after I teach to help weigh babies, another one of my favorite jobs!  My next big project will be a collaborative effort between nine PCVs in the surrounding area.  We will be hosting a girls empowerment conference at the end of September in Singida town.  We’re all very excited about this and are working hard to make it amazing!

      Also exciting- my boyfriend, Nathan, was able to come to TZ for a visit!  It was great.  He was here long enough to spend a pretty significant time in Ihanja.  He got to meet all my friends, taste the local fare and see my work in the village.  He even received a Kinyaturu name.  Now all the kids that play at my house ask me everyday when Manyunchwi is coming back!  They miss playing with him.  We also got the chance to spend about a week climbing.  So much fun!

      Celebrity status has hit Ihanja.  One of the neighborhood kids had his picture published in Issue #38 of Urban Climber magazine (check it out at http://www.urbanclimbermag.com/themag/finishhold/train_as_hard_as_this_kid/).  When Nathan came he brought the magazine to show villagers.  When little Ben saw himself in an American magazine, well, he couldn’t stop grinning from ear to ear.  It was a very special moment.  His mom actually slaughtered and cooked a chicken for Nathan!

      I believe that catches us up, for the most part.  Next week I’m off to Morogoro, a beautiful little mountain town, with Joe for a community theatre workshop.  Should be fun and helpful.

      As usual, thank you for all the continued love and support from home!

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