Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Every Textbook Project

I'm trying to make Sabasaba Secondary the first public school in Tanzania to equip all its students with textbooks for every subject.

This space is to be continued.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Volunteer Soccer Story

Overseas volunteers (or study abroad students, poorer expats, world travelers etc.) do indeed have colorful stories.  Strangely though, they can be grouped by similar content. 

For example, there's the volunteer bus travel story: oh, it was supposed to be a 6 hour bus ride, but the car broke down thrice and it became 3 days, with the little baby constantly puking on me.

Or the volunteer bureaucracy story: I went to the Department of Something for some reason, but I was referred to another Department, where the secretary did not speak any English, and then I went to another office to see a tall dark stranger who asked for my passport as well as my cell phone number, and then I had to go to the police and ladiladida.

Or the volunteer water shortage story: I didn't have tap water for 6 weeks, so I flushed the toilet with the shower water, and didn't shower for the last 3 weeks and smelled like poo.

Here's the volunteer soccer story:

I was watching Arsenal vs. Liverpool, and it was tight match.  A bit cagey, but both sides producing some spectacular saves.  And then towards the end, it started to get exciting, as the desperate Arsenal players got a bit more aggressive.  And when it hit the 80th minute, reaching the peak of any dramatic football match, the electricity got cut.


Friday, April 15, 2011

As an Intruder

Thought I'd ramble a bit more about development.

It is risky to come to conclusions based on a single anecdote, but the impact of the one that I am about to mention was so strong that I am about to do just that.

A couple of months ago, I was asked by a Korean NGO to select two students to receive solar lamps (lamps charged by solar panels) as part of their pilot lamp distribution project.  I naturally thought of the students that I gave scholarships to; Rose was the first in my mind.  Rose's situation is abject, and abject maybe too much of an overused word to describe the level of decrepitude she lives in.  Her home makes me ponder the statement: some lives are less valuable. 

So Rose received a solar lamp, and she was glad.  But as any NGO work goes, in fact any professional work, there had to be follow-ups, observations, reports, and pictures.  Recently, the NGO contacted me again to visit her for these purposes.  I let Rose know, and she was visibly upset.  It puzzled me, why would a recepient of a donated lamp be upset?  Is this another cultural barrier?  I insisted that she lets the visitors do their work, as it is a commensurate cost of the free lamp.  She reluctantly agreed, but also forced me to promise that this would be the last visit by a foreigner.  I promised.

Then a couple of days ago, I received a phone call from her father.  He expressed similar discomfort, citing that the neighbors have taken note of the frequent visits, and are bothering them.  I soon relayed the message to the NGO, and they agreed to replace the visit with a conversation.

Although the magnitude of this development work was small, it still disturbed the local population.  So many in this field try to minimize the negative consequences, but they are intrusive in nature.  Whether it be a thirty minute visit, semester long research, or large scale food distribution, the development work and the worker do not remain outside, but are very much inside, embedded and even uncomfortably stuck.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

It Is What It Is

must be the most illogical cliches of all time.  It = what it is.  8x = 8x.  Does that mean there are infinite number of solutions?  What is it?  IS??  IZ?? What???

Starting this Friday, for a week and a half, Sabasaba Secondary will host both the district and regional UMISETTA, which means that students from all over Mtwara Town and Mtwara Region will play various sports on school grounds during the day, and sleep in the my classrooms during the night = no classes

What else could I say, but it is what it is.  It is an odd point in which extreme frustration meets extreme understanding.