Thursday, July 29, 2010


The word 'rafiki' has many meanings.  While the dictionary may fool you by saying that it means 'friend,' other variations exist.  They include:

1. Dude
2. Person
3. You, as in "Hey you"
4. There, as in "Hey there"
5. Rich foreigner

Way back during training, in response to a lecture regarding the identity of a volunteer, I asked "how can I overcome the tradition that identifies me as the helper/ pseudo-savior, and the local people as those who absolutely need my help?"  And in response, she recommended me to think about the meaning of KOICA's new brand "World Friends Korea."  Instead of such dichotomy, think of myself and the locals as friends.

Friends, as in dude, person, you, there, or rich foreigner?  Despite the new warm and cuddly PR initiative, volunteers struggle to break free from the asymmetric relationships and conceptions formulated by the people around us.

Saba Saba Secondary has a new headmaster.  I've met him twice and at both times, he called me rafiki.  In fact, he said "ooooooooooh rafikiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii."  It's an odd feeling, especially when there is a strict hierarchy in the school system.  Hearing the word rafiki made me feel both foreign and uncomfortable.  On the second occasion, after greeting me "ooooooooooh rafikiiiiiiiiii" again, he asked me whether there was anything my organization (ie the government of Korea) could do to assist him in painting and cleaning up the school.  Volunteers dread questions like this because we're dispatched more as human capital rather than santa clauses with huge gift bags.  Am I being classified as definition number five?

Hey let me introduce you to my bathroom!

There are a couple of rules in regards to using my bathroom.

1. Never flush the toilet.  Water comes from the pipes once every 3 - 30 days, so I need to be strategic with my 500 L water tank.  Use the water from the buckets instead.  In most cases, 1-2L will be enough.  In case of number 2, see below.

2. Collect the shower water.  It'll be enough to flush the morning business.  Plus it cleans the toilet, every day. 

I think that's about it. To summarize, why let the water go down the drain, when you could use it to flush your toilet?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Dry Season

there are two nicknames for the dry season:

1. the hot season (as opposed to the really hot season)

2. want some sandstorm in your house babe?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Would it shock you if I told you that the largest movie screen in East Africa is located in Tanzania?

Would it shock you even more that my first movie in the theater in 6 months happened to be Date Night?!

I'm sure if you had seen the movie you would agree with me that Tina Fey is good looking, and that the movie wasn't very good.

So I decided to redeem myself by watching Toy Story 3 before I came down to Mtwara.  And at this moment, I proclaim to the world that my dear friend Tory cried towards the end.

And perhaps if you're thinking "really?" or "who's tory?" well, the Blind Side is the only movie that i have ever cried to, and Tory's my testicle buddy (a korean not-so-vulgar slang for good-old-friend, or the korean equivalent of BESTI).

Is spontaneity necessarily creative or confusing? 

And with that, I end this post.

Monday, July 19, 2010


Damn that was a good break.  For the past three weeks, I had a sweet vacation, watching some of the sights of Tanzania, and just having a good time meeting new volunteers and becoming closer to some old ones.  It was nice to have a giant increase in social interactions, and now it's a bit eerie to be back in the somewhat solitary life.  To make matters a bit more difficult, I have received terrible news that my headmistress will be transferring to another school.  After relying so much on her in both social and work aspects of Saba Saba, I feel like I am up for a new start.

And so a picture is worth a thousand words, but a thousand more bites (or byte? whatever the plural for the unit of computer memory is).  Here's a parsimonious selection:

This is my travel companion, Lim Sunguang (aka Julius).  Julius works in a sweet ass office in Dar es Salaam, in an institution that trains important people.  He helps out with various IT and computer work.  We became travel buddies for both wanting to spend less and not plan too much.  A trip inside Julius' head was also a trip in itself.

There is a famous resort in Zanzibar amongst the volunteers for its special discount ($75 a night).  Not too cheap, but with unlimited booze and food, plus all the nice five star resort service, it is quite popular.  Julius and I decided at the last minute to follow our friends there, but was persuaded Miyoung, our host for one night, to have a thriftier trip in Zanzibar.  So we did, and we spent 4 days eating cheap food and exploring this free beach.

Julius and I did manage to meet up with the rest of our friends, when we all decided to crash at a volunteer's house in the heart of Stonetown.  The streets of Stonetown is a complete maze, and I lost all sense of direction.

And then we left on the first ferry, which was so bumpy that about 10% of the passengers vomit.  The weird French animation shown in the ferry with a lot of boobs and annoying sounds did not help with the sea sickness.

For our next destination, we went to Mbeya, where Youngsin lived.  He was spending his last days in Mbeya, saying good bye and packing, so we thought, what a perfect time to crash.  We took the 24 hour long train, which wasn't as comfortable as we thought, and we both had diarrehea.  We ended up missing all the signs of Mbeya (not too many tough), pooping a lot, and playing Monopoly on the computer.

After full recuperation, we went up to the Usambara mountains, known for its hiking and views.  We first thought of doing the three day trekking from Lushoto to Mtae, but that I soon realized that I wasn't fit enough, so we just took a bus instead.

The view was stunning, with clouds rising during the day, and falling below our feet towarrds the evening.

A volunteer from Zanzibar visited Mtwara before, and took some photos of the school.  

Oh teaching sometimes is such an uphill struggle.

And this is Kyungbok, my dear neighbor/friend/mentor/co-worker.  She left, and I will forever miss her.