africa

Pamela's Xmas in Africa

- for the Grateful Web
Dar- for the Grateful Web

I hope the Holiday Season is looking to be a happy one, and the transition into winter is welcoming!  The change in seasons here is as abrupt as elsewhere in Africa, from last month bone dry and blazing forest, field and brush fires all around, adding smoke to the already dusty air and to now flash flood downpour every afternoon, usually clearing off to a cool crisp evening and a fresh sky of sparkling stars.  Gardens are flourishing again, and field planting has begun. 

I'm continuing work with the beekeeping and chicken projects, the school garden and tree nursery, and conducting health seminars.  Together with several very enthusiastic students, we've started an after school youth group to focus on issues such as animal husbandry, sustainable farming practices, life skills, and environmental education.  I just recently painted a mural of the world map at the school, and next year hope to do more educational murals, perhaps incorporating creative assistance from the students.  Next year my focus will also be on building fuel-efficient stoves and completing the school and community library, which will be funded by a $2,100 grant recently received from the US Embassy. 

Life in the village has been good, but I definitely have been needing to get away for a while!  I just came from Dar, where I began the process of purchasing the books for the library, but I also went to see the doctor, and for some R&R on the beach!  I had a couple extra days to spend on Zanzibar, where the volunteers hosted a full moon beach party!  It was a great time - we ate incredible amounts of seafood - octopus spaghetti, lobster, and a fish barbeque.  I wish you all could have been there!  I wish every one of you could come visit to experience swimming in the waves of the turquoise blue Indian Ocean.  If you were to come visit, you could also experience listening to the Muslim call to prayer on the roof of a hotel in downtown Dar es Salaam at sunset, and eating Indian and Ethiopian food!  But I realize how unfeasible this is for most of you, so I hope I can share with you my experience s as much as possible.

After returning to site today, I will be leaving again on the 20th to go to Lake Nyasa (Malawi) with my friend Gwen and her family who will be here to visit, then spending Christmas with other volunteers in the town of Mbeya, and continuing on with my friend Carolyn to take the train across Zambia to go to Victoria Falls for New Year's!  Woohoo! 

Will it really be 2004 already?  I have a feeling time will fly again next year.  It will begin with even more traveling.  After returning from Zambia, I have to go to South Africa AGAIN, this time to have gallbladder surgery.  It has been giving me problems, and the doctors decided it would be better to take it now, rather than wait for another attack when I'm way out in the bush far from medical care.  I will then return to Dar for the last few days of our Mid-Service Conference.  After possibly spending a few more days on the beach, I'll be at site for the month of February, and then will be back in Nebraska for most of the month of March for my sister's wedding!  YEAH!  I hope to see some of you then!

International politics in Africa and more Pamela

The Serengetti - Tanzania, Africa- for the Grateful Web

Hi Everyone!  How are you?  Hopefully staying sane in this insane world!  I am continuing to listen to VOA and BBC every day, and glad to hear the war is (maybe?) nearing an end.  It has been interesting hearing the differences in American and British perspectives, although we are "united in the war effort".  The British angle is definitely more analytical and objective, expressing more views from other nations as well as their own.  Most Tanzanians don't think the war is justified, and they don't like Bush.  They think he is using excessive force to accomplish a task that should have been left to the United Nations.  We are not seen as a liberator, we are seen as a big bully and it's quite embarrassing to be an American right now.

At the village level, the war has had an impact on my ability to initiate projects, because the grant review process was stalled until the war ends.  All first-year Environment/Agriculture volunteers were scheduled to go to Dar Es Salaam March 23-29 for meetings on how to fine tune our grants and implement projects.  However, just prior to this, the war began and our meeting has been postponed until a date that is still unknown.  Also, we were put on modified standfast, meaning we were not allowed to leave our regions.  A week later we were put on full standfast, and not allowed to leave our villages except to buy supplies.  This lasted for two weeks, and now we are back on modified standfast.  When the war began, there were several Muslim protests held around the country, but nothing potentially violent or dangerous resulted from them, so the Ambassador and Peace Corps staff have relaxed a bit.

I have still been keeping busy - gardening, building a rainwater harvester, talking to people to prepare for projects, teaching English, reading a lot, and traveling.  After we found out we weren't going to Dar and before we were on full standfast, a couple other volunteers and I traveled down to the town of Njombe to visit our volunteer friends there.  We took a bus out to a village 3 hours east of Njombe, and I would have to say it was the scariest bus ride of my entire life!  The road was muddy and the terrain was very mountainous.  At one point, the bus was spinning tires trying to make it up a hill, and a guy jumped out to run along side the bus with a block of wood!  I assume he was our emergency break system !?!  Once we arrived at our destination however, the ride was well worth it.  The landscape there was absolutely breath taking - steep lush and green mountains covered with tea, other crops, and forest, and surrounded by thick mist.  On high points you could see out over several layers of mountains, probably for hundreds of miles out onto the plains.  It was incredible!

Last week, I traveled to another beautiful area in my district, near the village of Ifwagi.  Each of the 17 volunteers around Mafinga brought 3 students (one boy, two girls) to a Girls' Empowerment Conference.  The students learned about women and children's rights, HIV/AIDS, rape, good nutrition, and also fun things like new songs, how to crochet, sew underwear, make corn-husk dolls, and play hacky sack and frisbee!  I think the students had a great time, being away from home and their chores (especially the girls, who haul all the water, wash clothes, and help their mothers cook.)  The volunteers also had a great time.  We set up a tent city and made sure the local dukas (shops) made a profit this month by buying up all their beer!

This weekend, I had the options of climbing Mt. Kili or going on safari in Ruaha National Park, and was leaning towards the safari because it was not as expensive.  But now I've decided to hold off on that as well (until ya'll come visit!), and save my money to go to South Africa in July to see my friend Lori, go to an International Film Festival on Zanzibar, also in July, and maybe go to Lake Victoria in June.  I am having no problem enjoying life here!

Pamela's stories from Africa

- for the Grateful Web

Hi everyone!  Hawajambo wote?

I returned to my village 6 days ago, and have been adjusting well despite a few struggles.  Being in the States ruined me in some ways!  I had a fabulous time there, enjoying all the luxuries that are so often taken for granted, such as daily hot showers, driving, a vast variety of food, comfortable chairs, clean stuff, wine and GOOD BEER.  And of course above all else, I immensely enjoyed spending time with family and friends.  Other volunteers that have gone back to the States warned me that everything would be so strange and that I might have a hard time relating to people.  However despite having felt a bit repulsed by our greed (which repulsed me before I left) I otherwise did not at all feel out of place.  With family and friends, I felt more connected to them than ever before.  Everything felt so comfortable and so much like HOME.  
 
The two weddings I was lucky to attend were very special times.  My friend Lori had a very simple yet elegant wedding set in an old mansion bed and breakfast, catered with Indian food and a scrumptious chocolate strawberry cake that she made herself!  My sister had the big traditional wedding, quite extravagant yet earthy, with gorgeous yellow and orange roses, a hummer limo, huge gourmet buffet at a country club and a raging dance party.  Good times all around, with so many friends and family in town!  Time of course flew by way to fast.
 
The Wednesday after my sister's wedding, I got on a plane again for Tanzania, reminding myself I have only 8 months left.  All my flight connections went smoothly, even having a 3 hour emergency landing in Goose Bay, Quebec to let off a sick person.  I spent Friday in Dar taking care of business related matters, and all day Saturday on the beach, where I ended up sleeping off most of my jet lag.  A great place to do it!  Sunday I took a bus to Mafinga, and Monday returned to the village.
 
I returned to find my house and everything in it intact, except there was dirt everywhere that had fallen from the ceiling or blown in, my clothes cabinet and all my clothes inside and my bed and bedsheets were infected with mildew, weeds had overtaken my garden, one of my (thought to be) hens turned into a rooster, and my cat was missing!  She later turned up; I discovered she had kittens in the forest behind the house because she apparently was scared of my guard who slept there every night.  On Thursday she finally brought them (4 of them!) to live with us.  I love having kittens!  Other things to be happy about (after cleaning and washing everything)  is returning to the awesome natural beauty I am surrounded by, the peaceful solitude, being out on my bike again, and my very welcoming village friends. 
 
I brought back almost as much stuff as I brough to America - all gifts - but to America I brought baskets, wood carvings, batiks, and fabrics, whereas to Tanzania I brought M&Ms, sweaters and sweatshirts (thanks Mom and Dad and Vic!), potholders, calendars, candles, jewelry, and bubbles.  They LOVE everything I brought for them, especially the jewelry and bubbles.  Even the adults have never seen bubbles before and get quite a kick out of them!
 
My last 8 months here I'm sure will go fast, because I have plenty to keep me busy!  This month I'll continue teaching English at the school, organize a second beekeeping seminar, begin making fuel-efficient stoves, and track down another place to buy modern breed roosters.  The Rhode Island Reds I brought a few months ago are not getting it on with the local hens!  (Any advice in this area would be much appreciated!  My uncle suggested country music, but I haven't tried this yet.)  The first week of May will be Girls' Empowerment Camp, same as last year but this year at an Italian convent (= good food!).  Then mid-May I'll head to Dar to pick up my friend Jamie from Alaska.  She'll be here for almost a whole month and we're doing everything there is to do here - safari, village, Zanzibar, and most exciting, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro! 
 
I want to say a big THANK YOU to everyone who donated money for my students.  I now have enough to take (maybe 30!) primary students on safari, buy several books for the new library, and pay secondary school fees for at least 3 maybe 4 students.  I'm still in the process of organizing everything now, but as soon as I can I'll be sending you pictures of the students and hopefully letters from them.  *** If you haven't donated but would still like to, it's not too late.  You can still send checks addressed to me (my mom has power of attourney) at my parents' address.  They'll deposit them in my account there, I'll withdraw the funds from an ATM in Dar, then deposit them in the account I am setting up here.  Wanafunzi wanawashukuru sana!  The students thank you very much!