Training Weeks 1-2: Bug Bites and Dirty Feet

Disclaimer: In this post..I am doing my best to describe things I am seeing and write them down. I am not evaluating what I am seeing or forming generalizations or opinions. There is so much that goes into a culture that making evaluations based on a few days or a few actions is completely inaccurate.

Another Disclaimer: Get some snacks, this is a long update.


July 19-23

So the host fam is awesome. I have a correction: I only live in my house with three people, and three other people live in another house within our courtyard and share the outdoor kitchen. Super communal. My host parents have two kids: my brother Humphrey is 10 and stays at boarding school, and my sister Rahel is 3.

A salamander lives in my room; we saw a bus rolled over on the way to school.

Joseph and Muddy (my LCF’s) are great. I think they like learning about American culture in addition to teaching us about Tanzania and Swahili. (We have explained Tinder. It was very shocking.)

The food: I have eaten ugali, salty lettuce/spinachi, chicken, chipsi, rice, beans, bananas, oranges, bread and avocados for the past week. I’ve also been drinking a lot of tea. One day, the school had peanut butter and jelly set out with the usual bread for chai. Bless up. Breakfast is at 6 when I get up, Chai is at 10, Lunch is at 12:30, soda break (some days) is at 3:30, and dinner at my house is at 8:45/9:00.

Bucket bathing is easy except the bathroom is full of mosquitos and other bugs, so I am covered in bites. I also have to walk outside to get to/from the bathroom, so my feet are never actually clean. I have just stopped using conditioner altogether and my legs are super hairy; I don’t even have the energy to worry about those things. I couldn’t figure out how to brush my teeth for like 4 days. I spit into the bucket my mama gave me instead of filling it with water and spitting outside or down the choo. It took a couple days to get it, but now I know (because someone finally explained it to me in English).

I have cut what they call ‘salad’ (basically very small lettuce pieces cooked with a ton of salt, an onion, and some carrots) and washed dishes. I have washed clothes. A pastor came to the house and repeatedly asked me when I am coming to church and why I am not. I have seen Indian soap operas in Kiswahili on tv. Tv is very important it seems. My family watches a lot of soccer, news, and occasionally rugby.

I have bought kangas and kitenge. (kitenge gets made into a skirt or dress when I take it to a tailor, kangas are pieces of fabric I’ve mentioned before). I got the kitenge made into a skirt and shirt. I have gone to the Sunday market and been stared at continuously. I have had my bag carried to and home from school by kids (they insist, I insist no, eventually they just win and end up with it). My first day of school, we had to go up and down and eventually cross a small creek to get there…after that day we went a longer but safer way.

One day, the keys accidentally got locked inside the Peace Corps car while it picked us up to go to the other, farther away school. It took a long time and a lot of Tanzanians to break in so we could go.

My CBT school was having teacher training for the teachers, and we were asked to attend. It was interesting. Tanzanian schools focus on everything being measurable and assessable. The trainers taught basic teaching strategies like how to count off to put students into groups, how to turn and talk in pairs about a question, etc. It was interesting. It looks like classes are going to be pretty big and there seems to be a low English proficiency.

All secondary school classes in Tanzania are supposed to be taught in English because they have government exams written in English. A challengforeseeingrseeing after meeting some students and observing a class is a low level of understanding when it comes to English, even very basic words. We’ve really been focusing on strategies to deal with this in training (i.e. if it is important, you have to write it on the board or students will not be able to write it down, speak slowly, use very basic language, have students repeat what is written on the board, etc., etc.)


July 24-30

So many things have happened.

The first thing I think is that I am exhausted. My brain is just oversaturated every single day. 6 days per week I have training/school for 10-12 hours when traveling is factored in. In the evenings when I get home, I am with my host family trying to speak Swahili. Lately, two girls (both 15) come to my house every night to talk and play cards or whatever they want to do. Alone time is not a custom I have observed here. As another PCT perfectly put it: “Always tired. Never alone.” It isn’t really appropriate for me to go home and hole up in my room to relax. I am ‘on’ 24/7. As an introvert, this has been a challenge.

Every day I have to explain to someone new that I am in the Peace Corps (how tf do you explain the Peace Corps), from America, I will be in the village I am in currently for 10 weeks and then somewhere else for 2 years. I am teaching math and have a college degree. This involves gesturing, broken Kiswahili, people talking way too fast at me and so much frustration probably for both of us.

Tanzanians so far haven’t understood why I say nimechoka (I am tired) at the end of the day. They ask, “oh you were teaching?” and I mean no. I wasn’t. I am tired because everything around me is new, culture, language, people, constantly being stared at, I am trying to remember to appropriately greet every person I pass and deal with kids yelling mzungu! (white foreigner) at me.

NOW. That would make it seem that my experience here has been bad. It has definitely been hard but not ‘bad.’ There are just as many good things that happen every single day that make it worth it.

My dad does his best to explain what is happening in the news and translates it to English for me a lot of days. One day he surprised me with candy. My mama thinks it’s hilarious when I say “jamaaani” meaning “woow.” (Ex. When the cooking fire gets big, when my sister was covered in food because she feeds herself, when women walk with things on their head and don’t have to touch them, when there were like 300 mandaze balls on a tarp in the outdoor kitchen, when mama was dressed up for the wedding). There are days when Muddy or Brett play music on their phone while we are walking home (throwbacks I’m not expecting and it’s great). Two of the people in my compound got married and there was a reception type thing at my house. The food is always really, really fresh and really good. Making a chapatti, avocado and salt burrito? Ohhh man. The best.

Even though they are here every single day for hours, the girls that visit me have really been a positive thing. Explaining that American teachers at their school will never use a stick on students. Playing uno with them, teaching them how to shuffle cards, blowing bubbles. Showing them pictures from American and seeing their absolute SHOCK and answering their questions, always in broken English/broken Kiswahili: which one is your boyfriend? No really. Which one is it. You’re just friends with all of those boys?? What is that.. special eyes? I got to explain makeup. I got to explain an artist (thanks to jess). I think they thought some of my clothes were very scandalous but it came across as a lot of curiosity. They couldn’t believe I can do a handstand or that we all did it for a picture (Adrienne Brandon) and they couldn’t figure out which way the picture went. One wanted me to teach her but we are all in skirts and they were both in hijabs and it just wasn’t possible at that exact second. I got to teach how to braid, what is a peace sign in a picture, and I am called auntie Sarah.


On another note, after graduation, I was excited to “leave work at work” after 4 years of college. You know that time when even if you aren’t in class, you are still working. I am now seeing this is what teaching (lesson planning especially) is going to be all over again. I start teaching Form 1 Math on Monday with the first topic being Algebra. Excited/nervous/everything. It’s funny because I have never taught anything (besides tutoring) and now have my own class to manage for 80 minutes tomorrow(?!?)

Honestly, I am just taking things as they come. I am reminding myself that everything that has been changing and thrown at me so far has worked out to be fine. (I know it has only been two weeks but keep in mind that my life was dumped completely upside down.) As I’ve said before, it feels like I have been here for months but also feels like I stepped off the plane yesterday. The individual days are longggggg but when I look back and see that a week has passed already it feels crazy.

Get my Whatsapp contact info from my family (or message me on facebook and I can give you the number, it may just take longer) to keep in touch!

Here are some pictures:

The van we take to school. Brett is probably explaining Tinder (or something else) to Muddy.


The day the keys got locked in the car and a bunch of people came to help.


Taken on the ride home from school. Seriously it looks like this every day.


Anotha one.


Cliche sunset pic I had to post.






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