Friday, January 29, 2010

Pictures from Mtwara (and before)

For 2 weeks I was down in Mtwara.  My friend Kabir requested more pictures to be posted, so here there are.

The volunteers at Mtwara took real good care of me while I was there fore homestay.  Apparently, the homestay period is the most depressing part of the 2 years.


Seven volunteers now. Two will leave in April.

The Indian Ocean.

In front of the Old Boma at Mikindani, a neighboring town.

On the plane coming to Tanzania.

Going to Kipepeo Beach, just south of Dar.

On New Years Day, we decided to spend the free time playing Starcraft, a quintessentail Korean activity.  Of the seven volunteers, three are here to teach computer, so we set up a network with no problem.  Here's the photo of the good work:

First Day of Class

Today was the first day of class, or should I say, the first day of school. The school did open, and students came. Classes, however, didn’t start. I always thought that the school would prepare the class schedule during breaks, before school opened, but apparently in Tanzania, the first week of school is synonymous to the week of preparation.

The students from morning cleaned the classrooms. The staff had a three hour long meeting. It began in English, but ended in Swahili. The Headmistresses went on a tirade on the low Form 2 student scores (only 11 out of 180 passed) and on the teacher’s lack of work ethic. The Headmistress told me later that she plans to buy sugar so that the teachers would have tea in school, rather than at home. This plan (hopefully) would prevent teachers from skipping class during mid-morning tea.

The meeting was torturous. The room was extremely hot, with only one small fan working. At least an hour was spent announcing which teachers will be teaching what subjects, and which will be in charge of homeroom duties. Both of these information were posted on the bulletin board.

Also, the class schedule is still work in progress. This means that there will be no classes tomorrow.

Jan 18.


I went to school today and saw the scores for the rising Form 3 (equivalent to 10th grade American style) students. George was ranked 1st in class. He’s also a member of student council. His science scores were in the 90s, but his social science scores were in the 50s. His average score of the nine or so exams was 73.

He’s rank 1 out of 180, and he just avoided C-.

Jan 17.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Math Department of Saba Saba Day Secondary School

I am now a member of the math department of Saba Saba.  There are 4 teachers, each teaching 24 periods.  The teachers are:

Form 4: Mr. Mawazo
Form 3: Mr. Hideki
Form 2: Mr. Kim (me)
Form 1: Miss Yang

Mr. Hideki is a JICA volunteer and Miss Yang is a KOICA volunteer.  Mr. Hideki leaves at March and Miss Yang leaves at April.  Mr. Kim doesn’t start work until mid-February, but the term starts next week. 

So Madam Headmistress, what happens when these volunteers aren’t around?

Well, that’s a problem, but not a lot of solutions I’m afraid.  We’ll get some help.

Apparently, this is a nationwide problem, and is one for science as well.  So multiply the above problem by two, and then multiply that by a very large number to see the teaching shortage here.

Jan 16.


classroom building

in front of the school

Some Bizarre Development Projects #1

As an aid worker, I have the opportunity to observe some bizarre development projects implemented by foreign agencies, whether government or not.  To start off this series, I begin with my very own school, Saba-Saba Day Secondary School.

When I did my first tour of Saba-Saba, I was first struck by its threadbare facilities.  Then I was struck by the existence of five computers.  They seemed so out of place in a school that did not even have proper ceiling.  An NGO called NO-PC (the name actually sounds the exact opposite from what they do) donated five computers to the school, along with a subscription to Internet.  How nice of them.

One problem, however, is that the computer OS is Linux, which I’m not how useful it is for the students here who enter a world of Windows.  The anti-Microsofters can debate this one out.

But perhaps the real problem is that they just gave the school five computers, and left.  No one in the school knows how to work these computers.  If NO-PC intended them to be educational, then they fail for not providing the educator.  The computers will move from the staff room to the library, but still, there is much confusion over what to do with them.  I think everyone at Saba-Saba would have been much happier with a photo copy machine, or a projector. 

Of course, you’re more than welcome to help with the above two.

Jan 15.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Korean-English-Swahili Lost in Translation

On Christmas Day, I committed my first faux pau. I try not to blame myself too much, and in my defense, there was a Korean-English-Swahili lost in translation.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, my peers and I are learning Swahili from a Korean teacher, who attends the University of Dar es Salaam for Ph.D. Naturally, the course material is in Korean and Swahili. Under the list of Swahili phrases we had to memorize, there was


Nenda zako, which in Korean is translated as

네 갈 길을 가라, which in English is translated as

Go your own way.

On Christmas Day, a couple of us were in a bakery, waiting for some people. For inexplicable reason, there were tons of children flooding in and out of the bakery. A handful of them took interest on the presence of us orients, and began to chat with us. It was indeed a pretty picture of international lovey dovey lets hold hands people of all color, until we ran out of Swahili vocabulary, and began to seriously share our ex-girlfriend stories. The stories were intense, dramatic, and entertaining, and the four of us were so absorbed, but the kids kept on interfering with intermittent questions about our name and age. We briefly paused the exciting stories to figure out a scheme to shoo these kids away. I was reminded of

Nenda zako, go your own way.

 I thought, yes, this would be a pretty polite way to drive away the kids. The phrase “go your own way” sounds a lot like “okay, it was nice talking to you, so why don’t you do what you were doing before you met us, and we will do likewise.” In order to assure my politeness, I even decided to add “excuse me.” I faced the kids and said,

Samahani (excuse me), nenda zako.

And instantly, their faces blanked, and they left the bakery immediately. By then, I knew I made a faux pouts, and hurt their feelings. I imagined them telling their parents how rude and nasty Koreans, and specifically Korean volunteers, are. What a disservice to my country!

It turns out that “nenda zako” is a rude way of saying “go away,” and 네 갈 길을 가라 isn’t far off either. I’m just glad that the phrase isn’t as rude as “fuck off.”

Sorry kids, next time I’ll just say “basi.”