Friday, March 26, 2010

I Contribute to Global Warming

This is my dumpster. 

No government agency nor company like Veolia comes to collect the trash here.  In my community, everyone is his or her own trash company.  We burn all the shit we want to throw out.  Including plastic!  Yes, I contribute to global warming, directly!  I wish I could be a bit more environmentally friendly, but hey, at least I bike.

At least there's someone benefitting from this.  Of course, plans of improvement are always welcome.

On another news, I bought my first custom made furniture for $12.  It's a mirror!  I made sure it was 50cm by 80cm, so that it approximately fits the golden ratio.  Being a math teacher, I couldn't resist such nerdy act.

And this reminded me of this:

This legendary shot of my friends eventually ended up on my college web portal, 1600grand.  We took many of these bathroom mirror shots, which are all absolutely fantastic.  These guys keep me strong here. 

Monday, March 22, 2010

Life without Water

I've recently moved into my house, which is provided by the school.  Due to my predecessor's parsimonious lifestyle, there is a lot of work to do.  For example, the outer-room is missing a ceiling board.

One major annoyance of this new house is that it has a water problem.  It has a 500L tank, which is filled whenever water comes in once every 3-200 days.  Right before I moved in, it was full, and fortunately, my predecessor filled the four 70L water buckets that I newly bought.  I've been using the bucket water for shower, kitchen, etc., and I've been relieved to know that I have the 500L tank filled up.  But somewhat surprisingly (or unsurprisingly considering how things get done here), the tank has been empty since Sunday.  Now, I'm expecting the worse and conserving water.  For example, as I was preparing for dinner, I had to go take a leak.  At that moment, I knew that such act would entail using about one liter of water to flush.  So, I waited until I finished dinner, washed my face, and flushed the toilet with the washed water.

And as I was writing this post the power went off.  Interesting to see how the bugs are coming closer to the candle light, and for now, killing them with fire is my new entertainment.

Hey how about some pictures!

As Alice, my predecessor, was finishing off her work at Saba Saba, the school prepared a half-day good-bye party, which included this student's ridiculous act of kungfu.  People here think Asians know all kinds of kungfu.

Moving in sucks. I decided to utilize the mask that was a in the medical kit provided by the Korean taxpayers.  

Alice wanted to do a Korean festival, which included a field day, taking pictures with Korean traditional clothes on, learning how to write your name in Korean (inspired by my friend Joe Novak who one day wrote his name in Korean after reading a wikipedia entry on Korean language), a gallery of posters on Korea, and a movie presentation.  

My students! Adamson and Sabrina.  They make going in to class 2D worthwhile.


Field day!  The sun here is just so damn hot.

This kid's shirt says "mzungu," which literally means, "white person."  It is often used for foreigners in general, because most foreigners in Tanzania are, well, whiter.  He was also doing whatever possible to touch this poor girl as much as possible.  He even sang the top TZ song "Nipigie" to her upon my request.

This festival, which happened over two weekends, was a lot of hard core labor for all of us.  This is what happened to us in the end.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Culture Clash

By that, I mean a real giant clash that makes room for absolutely zero overlap, just for today. 

I’m a bit anxious these days because I’m quite a bit behind schedule in terms of teaching, and the students will be taking their mid-term exams next week.  Given that the students are extremely behind in their mathematical skills, I am eager to max out on every class time.  But in the middle of my third class, a student came to call all girls outside for a girls-only assembly.  It turns out the female teachers wanted to check the length of the girls’ skirts.  Most skirts come down right beneath the knee, but even with the slightest sight of the knee, a student will be punished.  I then looked at the kids, and felt pity (ooooooooh the post structural gaze!) as they are in puberty, and naturally, growing out of their skirts rather quickly.  Then, I think about how some families would have a hard time purchasing a new skirt for the growing child.

Anyways, I was more pissed at how I was left with all the boys in the middle of the lesson.  I continued on with the lesson, but I let my last class just do their homework instead.  And being frustrated, and not having much more work to do for the day, I left class early.  I’m getting used to the first period starting half an hour late because of the assembly/ disciplinary punishment/ sweeping, but for now, I do not understand why mass disciplinary action / ultra-conservative uniform check has to happen in the middle of the day. 

Friday, March 12, 2010

Trying not to forget things

Two mornings ago, I met a lady who checked into the guest house the evening before.  She asked me what the trick to the shower was, and I told her that it works at random times, so she must fill her two buckets at all times.  she had the "oh, I see, that's very interesting " look.  Then, she was even more surprised to find just bread and tea for breakfast.  When I experienced this encounter, I realized how far I've come.  I definitely saw my earlier self in her, but now, I would rather use the bucket water to shower, since the small dirt sediments of tap water would sink to the bottom of the bucket.

The downside to this accustomization is that those that at first seemed to be fun stories to write and share are becoming ordinary routines.  Everyday, there are encounters or moments that are personally valuable, but wouldn't end up here, or anywhere else, because it's just another part of daily life.

For example, on communication: I try my best to speak Swahili because I've realized that both students and teachers react completely differently when I speak Swahili.  They're more responsive and friendly, and such attention is better than the lack of it.  Having been here for only three months, my vocabulary is extremely limited, but knowing the words "masiha magumu," or "tough life," has served me well.  One day, I saw that Mr. Kombe's shirt had a hole on the sleeve.  He said it was an ironing accident, but I said it's because of "maisha magumu,"  and since many clothes worn by teachers here have wears and tears, a group of teachers with maisha magumu was formed.  Then, the term spread to ubiquitous things with nominal difficulty, such as teaching a class, or hot weather.  It seems that this joke of maisha magumu should be dying down by now, but it's continuing thanks to Madam Mambo's keen attachment to it, and I'm definately the top beneficiary.

Friday, March 5, 2010


One gratifying aspect of being a foreign teacher is that there are stories to tell every day.  Most often, these stories are too small, or relatively uneventful, to share.  They don’t come even close to those stories that start with “when I was in a small town in Africa…” Yet, these daily occurrences make me appreciate the fact that I’m here, and perhaps more importantly, provide me with entertainment.  Kyungbok, another Korean volunteer who teaches biology at Saba-Saba, and I share these daily, and I think we learn more about the community we belong to as we experience them.  Here’s one to share:

An hour into my class after tea break, two students came in late.  I asked one of them where he went, and he said that he went home to eat because he didn’t have breakfast and was famished.  I let him in, and then asked the other one, and he said he did the same too.  So jokingly, I asked whether he was the first one’s brother.  To my surprise, he said yes. There was an atmosphere of slight humor in the classroom, so I decided to investigate further.  I checked the attendance register, and found that their last names were different. Aha! I caught his lie! So I asked,

 “If you’re his brother, why is your last name different?”

“Different father, same mother,” he replied.

Oh really?  So I asked the first one,

“What’s your mother’s name?”

“(some Swahili name)”

And the second one replied likewise, so I decided that to let this be my first exposure to the extremely common illegitimate child/ divorce/ unplanned pregnancy/ mixed up family culture of Tanzania.  But then a couple of girls started to giggle in the front, and one of them said that they are not brothers at all.  So, being a bit upset, I called on the boy, the girl, and a smart student to translate.

It turns out, they aren’t really brothers, but from the same tribe.  When I asked him whether they were brothers, he meant “as if a brother.”  I’m sure somewhere in this whole incident he said something misleading in order to escape punishment, but I got tired of being lost in translation, and decided to let this one be a story that ends there.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

First Day of Teaching

Yesterday was my first day of teaching, and it was pretty tough.  Standing for 6 periods, speaking and writing non-stop.  It seems that after all that, it is I, and not the students, who learned a lesson.

Teaching at Saba-Saba is pretty tough labor for a novice like me.  In all the classes, my voice had to compete with those of students next door (where are their teachers?), and the blackboard was just literally a board painted with blackboard paint.  After all that, my throat and my forearm felt stressed, and I was covered with chalk.  Perhaps more importantly, I think I made a mistake by teaching the “cube-root” and the “fourth-root,” when I should have stuck to the “square-root” only.  I think I confused the hell out of the students. After I came back to my guest house, I naturally passed out.
So lesson learned: take it easy.

First Mail

I got my first mail!  It’s a wonderful birthday card from Carlye and Joe, all the way from Boulder, Colorado.  The card took 11 days to reach Dar es Salaam, and there more to reach Mtwara via air mail.  It was the first thing I received when I went to school on Wednesday, and it completely made my day.
Here’s the lovely sight:




Most Korean and Japanese volunteers who teach in secondary schools live in houses that the schools provide.  One afternoon I was hanging out in front of a Korean volunteer’s house, and saw something very funny.  Hideki, the Japanese volunteer, was blowing bubbles outside his house, and Mr. Mawazo and his wife was amazed at the bubbles.  Mawazo, being so astonished, impressed, and entertained, decided to take a picture of the bubbles using his cell phone camera. 

I blew bubbles when cell phones were as big as bricks and cameras all used film.  So who said development has to be linear?