Sunday, September 26, 2010


My name in Swahili is KIMU.  This is the result of 1. many Swahili words end with a vowel; 2. my host mother/former Headmistress could not pronounce Tommy; and 3. nobody can pronounce Jungyul without being uncomfortable.  I didn't realize that my name was spelled so until I checked the attendance, and I saw that the students thought of me as Kimu.

There are three large branches of Swahili names.  Christian (Joshua, Catherine), Muslim (Ramadani, Fatuma), and Tribal (Mwilenga).  And then there are just awesome names.  Here are some of my favorite:

  • Prosper
  • Perpetua
  • Mambo (equivalent to "what's up" colloquially)
  • Happy
  • Msafiri (traveler)
  • Jumanne (Tuesday)
  • Mbaraka (man of blessing, or just the first name of OBAMA)
  • Goodluck George

Thursday, September 23, 2010

El Fin

Finally water has returned.  Last time I thought I was dying after 10 days.  Well, this time it was six weeks (maybe more, I don't know I lost count).  It has been a dark time.  I've coped, using a variety of measures, and even managed to do my own laundry.  The thought of doing laundry during a water shortage may be counter-common-sense but it actually lifted up my moods.  Life goes on without water, and laundry is part of it.

During these weeks I've also wrote an editorial bitching about this, and sent it to the Daily News.  Obviously it wasn't published, as I have not bragged about it on the tomzanian.

This had me thinking, most, if not all, problems facing developing nations are very similar to those facing developed nations.  Termite infestation, building roads and bridges, supplying water, saving the economy, inner-city schools, etc. are common problems with surprisingly large number of similarities.  The fact that I didn't have water for six weeks is not something that is so cool and hard core volunteeresque.  It shows that the politicans here suck.

Well enough of complaining!  Party with water!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Mpapai Nyuma ya Kwangu Umeanguka

All right kids, I admit it.  I live in a crazy corner of the world that nothing like where I have lived before.  Once a friend remarked that my life reminds her of the movie the Gods Must be Crazy.  I was in complete denial, and tried to write a blog post how it's not that different at all.

It turns out, she's right after all.  There are sandstorms in my house (this does not make sense does it?), I have seen more species of insects on my bedroom floor than my entire previous life combined, my infrequent tap water is translucent (using my Korean exaggeration skills), and my students suck at math.

I digress.  I just wanted a pensive way to introduce my big event of the day.  The papai tree that once stood behind my house has fallen.  Damn, it doesn't sound as dramatic on writing.  THE PAPAI TREE FELL.  I guess it's just one of those things that isn't so cool unless you've experienced it yourself.



And yeah, the papai tree is full of sap.  It's moist and fleshy, so the insects will have a party tonight, tomorrow, and so on. 

One and a half papai fell with the tree, but they were far from ripe, so I let them be.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Previously I have remarked that it is rather sad to know that I will live longer than most of my students.  Statistics clearly shows that the life expectancy of a South Korean is much higher than that of a Tanzanian.  Although, as any statistical measurement is, it is a generalization, the distinction in the availability of health care makes this harrowing difference believable. 

I have also noticed that this statistical difference (oh I'm sure a very small p-value) is reflected on the daily Tanzanian life.  That is, I observe a high rate of death around me.  Over the past month, a student's mother, another's sister, and another's friend passed away.  Mr. Prosper, a fellow teacher, went to his grandfather's funeral over the weekend.  One particular death I will never forget happened a couple of months ago.  In the middle of the night, I heard a loud wailing.  It turns out there was a death in a neighbor's family.  People gathered for condolences, but I didn't go because one, I was not acquainted with anyone in the family, and two, I didn't know how to react.

In fact, thinking about the past deaths, the list goes on and on.  Azizi, a young teenager who lives across from me, lost his mother after she had a surgery on her uterus.  And now, my other neighbor has a growth in her uterus too.

A lower life expectancy and a high birth rate in developing societies indicates that death looms.  And the decrepit medical system also indicates that if you're sick, be ready for death.  When my students ask for permission to attend a funeral, or to console a friend who's experienced a death in the family, I see grief.  But being so frequent, the grief seems to be anticipated and routine.