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YAY! You found my blog. So this is intended to keep you all updated on my adventures in Africa. I will do my very best to update it as often as possible :) Miss and love you all

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Goodbyes and last times

Health group. The business seminar went great!!! I was really happy with the NGO and my health group. SIDO has great teachers and they did a wonderful job with the group teaching them all about how to run a small business and how to make 5 food products. It was a great success and my health group LOVED it! What a fantastic last project with my group :)

The business seminar finished up Saturday and on Sunday I had a small going away party with my Mama and my counterpart Joyce. It was informal but they really put a lot of thought into it and I had a lovely time. It was so random because it was me, Joyce, my Mama, and then they also invited my carpenter (who has made all my furniture) and the village veterinarian (who has helped me take care of all my crazy cats). Even with the odd group of people it was a great little party. My mama cooked duck (so good!!), potatoes, rice, beans, and vegetables. They brought everything to my house and set up the table all nice. Joyce also brought beers and she and I wore our jeans! Talk about a crazy time!! Joyce gave me a really pretty shall and my Mama gave me 2 handmade clay pots. I LOVED both presents. Before dinner, we each said just a few words and I got choked up. All these goodbyes are too hard. We took some pictures which are up on Facebook which you may have seen. At the end, I let the others leave and then I gave my Mama and Joyce their presents. Each got 2 picture frames with pictures of me and them, a photo album full of pictures from my 2 years and a note to each of them, and then a phone because months ago both of them had their phones fail/broken and I am going to need to be able to call them!! They hugged me, were overwhelmed with their gifts, and almost started to cry. It was an emotional but terrific evening.

Monday and Tuesday I did the usual around the house and in the village with a usual health group meeting Tuesday. At the meeting, they mostly talked about my going away party and practiced the song they wrote for me. They are so cute!

Wednesday, I went to town to get some last minute things done. Then that evening I went to two other site-mates house along with my site-mates Megan and Nicole. They threw a going away party for me and made such good ‘tacos’ and a berry cobbler. The meal was delicious!! The rest of the evening we just hung out and chatted. All five of us haven’t been together just us in a long while, so it was really nice to visit and spend the night together.

Thursday, we all left early because we had work to do. Nicole and I went through the small town of Muheza to get to our villages. There we stopped to have tea and some breakfast. Afterwards, I headed back to my village. I got some work done in the morning and then I tried to take a nap that didn’t work out because people kept stopping by. Finally, I just got up because I had to go to my health group’s Thursday meeting at 2pm. They again, just continued planning and went over the specifics of my going away party Saturday and practiced the song. Adorable. When I got home, I went for a run, got water (yay! It’s been dry’ round here lately), and talked to me friend up north about how hard this all is…leaving our villages.

Friday morning my milk man visited me and he was passing by my house. He brought me a letter that he had written to me and it was full of such kind words. He also wanted to thank me again for the going away presents that I had given him. We had a wonderful conversation; I am going to miss him and his family so much. Later that morning I took a donation to my primary school. It was a donation from home of soccer t-shirts, shorts, soccer balls, pumps/pins, jump ropes, and a Frisbee. They were also so grateful and were so excited about the equipment. It’s so fun giving people gifts/donations/making people so happy. They too, had so many nice things to say and we took pictures of the occasion. That afternoon, I did my usual of working out and also prepared dinner because I was having a couple students over that evening. I also had a meeting with my health group again. I pretty much just read my book while they went over the details for my going away party the next day. When I got back to my house about 5pm, Tullo and John were already there. We chatted for a bit and then 2 teachers from the secondary school came by. We all hung out and chatted for a while and the teachers also filled me in on about my going away party they were having for me on Monday. After the teachers left, I gave my students their going away presents which consisted of school supplies. They absolutely loved everything! They also got a bit emotional about having to say goodbye to me soon and thanking me for their gifts and everything. They are such wonderful students and are so dear to me. Just as all the goodbyes are going to be, saying it to them is going to be so difficult. When we finished chatting about things, we ate dinner. I made spaghetti for them again which they really like. We all ate a lot and had such a lovely evening. As they were leaving, another teacher from my primary school stopped by. She hadn’t been at the school that morning when I dropped off the donation because she has malaria but she wanted to come by and see me. She was so sweet. She was so sick but still wanted to come by and say hello and chat before she didn’t have the chance to again. We sat and talk for a while, mostly about me leaving, staying in contact, about education, etc. I really like her and am glad she stopped by for a short while because I hadn’t seen her since we closed the school. When she left about 8pm, I spent some time in the phone with my friend. Then later than usual, I got a knock on the door about 9ish. It was one of my other favorite students. She grandmother is in my health group and I hadn’t seen her also since before the school closed. We talked for a few minutes. She is such and an adorable girl and I love her to pieces. She was also in my FEMA Club at the secondary school along with Tullo and John. I was so glad to see her after such a long school break. All in all, a very good day, but still full of goodbyes which is so hard to handle and I am not even done yet.

Saturday I woke up kind of late, about 9am. This has become a usual thing the past few weeks because I don’t work much anymore and my milkman (as I said many blogs ago) doesn’t come by my house in the morning to deliver milk because his cow is pregnant. Anyways, when I got up the first thing I did was work out. I was expecting my friend later so I wanted to make sure I got my workout in. Mid-morning one of my site-mates arrived and then the other about noon-ish. We hung out most of the day, chatted, and were waiting to go to my going away party at 230pm. When the time arrived, we headed to the village office for the party. They decorated the office and had everything set up so nice. The party began with introductions, then some of the members some words about our time together, they gave me my going away present, sang a song about our 2 years as a group and what we have done, and then we all shook hands and many of the mamas were getting tear-y eyed and actually some of the guys too. It was so sweet, but as soon as the first mama started crying then I started. I couldn’t help it! I got all choked up. Then it was my turn to speak. I had written it out, but I was so flustered and half crying my Kiswahili was terrible and I kept having to dab at my eyes. But they loved my speech and encouraged me all the way through it. They are the warmest, most loving people. When I was finished I gave them my gift, which was a photo album that I had made. It included pictures from the whole 2 years and also a copy of my speech that I had made in both Kiswahili and English. In the back, I also put 4 picture postcards of Washington, so they could see what it looked like and remember where I was originally from. When I was finished, one of the major figures in the village government (I forget his position) made a speech. I always love his speeches!! He is such a smart person with a worldly view of thing for coming from a small village. Note: he is also the grandfather of one of my favorite students John (who was also there as my CameraMan). His speech was wonderful and I really enjoyed it as usual. As we concluded the party, a few people say a few more short things and we all shook hands and took some pictures. It was absolutely perfect, touching, and I enjoyed every minute as emotional as it was. When we finished, we head over to where the food was being served. We had a great meal that the mamas prepared. It included the usual meat, rice, beans, cabbage, potatoes, oranges, and soda. I ate way too much which makes them happy. After we all finished eating, we took group pictures and said our goodbyes. It was a lovely day.

Later the girls and I returned to my house. We didn’t do much other than watch TV shows on the computers. We were pretty sedated by all the food we had eaten. When the computers died, we chatted for a bit, and went to sleep.

Sunday, the girls and I went to Tanga for our last trip to town together. When we arrived, we got breakfast at the nice hotel and ate until we hurt again :) It’s a buffet with American breakfast foods, like cereal with COLD milk, so you have to eat a lot haha. Thereafter, we spent the whole day poolside, swimming and I worked on my tan before I have to leave this beautiful sunny year-round place. That evening, we went to our favorite Indian restaurant to eat way too much again. I think I have mentioned this before but Tanga (the closet major town where we go) has a high population of Indians. Therefore, the Indian food here is to die for and is the best I have ever had. So I had to go to our favorite restaurant one last time and get all my favorite things!! Delicious!! And to top it all off the girls had surprised me by inviting some of our friends in Tanga. It was such an awesome surprise!! They were there when we got there and I was so freaking happy!! We had some beers, chatted, laughed a lot, and ate a great meal. They also surprised me with a going away present that I will treasure forever. One thing was a hand-carved welcome sign in Kiswahili (‘Karibu’). The other (and most sentimental) was the card that was signed by all my favorite people in town, including the guys from our internet café who have helped me immensely for the past 2 years, my mama that works at our fruit place, and the owner of our other small mom’n’pop Indian restaurant, and the girls/volunteers. It was the best card EVER!! Later, after a long yummy dinner, we got back to the hostel and watch The Tourist. The movie, of course, is simply fantastic because it has my bride-to-be in it, Angelina Jolie. And to add, it’s got Johnny Depp too. Not a bad combo. Again, I had a great day but sad, weird, and all of that too.

The next morning on Monday, Megan and I headed out early because we had stuff to do in our villages. As soon as I got back, I got ready and went to the other primary school to deliver the soccer equipment donation. They loved everything too and were super excited. The Headmaster is extremely nice and I was so happy to bring him the donation because I really haven’t done work with that school. Too many schools, so little time. I also had to say goodbye to my friend Editha. She is one of my best friends in the village and is a teacher at that school. So when I left the school, I had to say goodbye to her which was really sad.

After the primary school, I went to the Secondary School again. Two teachers had come over Saturday to tell me that they had planned a little goodbye for me and to come on Monday. When I arrived, the students and I first took a million pictures. My two favorite students, John and Tullo, led me around the whole school to take pictures with everyone. I haven’t looked at all of them yet but we must have taken close to 300 pictures. Practically, each student wanted their own picture with me. It was endearing and exhausting smiling that much too haha. When the students got their fill of pictures, I sat in the office, read, and ate a snack. That afternoon, the teachers set up a little goodbye thing in the office. I sat at the head table with the Headmaster. Most of the teachers took turns saying a few words, we had soda and cake, and they gave me a gift. I also said a few words, nothing scripted though. It was very nice of them but also a little awkward because it was never my favorite thing I had done (so I really wasn’t going to miss teaching haha). Thereafter, the teachers had finished with their small celebration and they gathered the students for the end of the day ‘assembly.’ My headmaster made a speech, as well as John and Tullo. They all had very nice things to say. Then I made a very short and sweet speech that I totally winged. As everyone was leaving, the teachers and I also took some pictures together. They were really funny and wanted to look at every picture we took. When I was ready to leave, 2 of the teachers walked my most of the way home which was very nice of them because it is pretty far. One my way home, I stopped and said hello to the doctor and nurses at the Health Dispensary. We had a nice conversation about leaving Kicheba and returning to America. Then I headed home where I just hung around the house while I had a constant trail of visitors coming in all afternoon through the evening. Again, I had to say some really hard goodbyes. I’m getting sick of saying goodbye; literally it’s been making me nauseous because of all the sadness and other emotions making me so upset and flustered. I don’t want to leave but I also can’t wait until this is over. I don’t know how much more sadness I can take.

That night, I did major packing and organizing, hoping to get most of it done that night. I wanted to have as little as possible to do my last night in the village. I didn’t want to be stressing out too much the last night trying to get everything together. I think I did a good job because it didn’t leave me with much to do the next day.

My last day in my village. Tuesday, I woke up and hung around the house for a little while. I cleaned, called to arrange for my taxi the next morning, and then I went out into the village to get something to eat (I had no food in my house). I also wanted to take some last minute pictures. As I was out and about in my village, I greeted and said goodbye to many people along the way. It was weird walking through my village for the last time. It was so surreal; I can’t explain it. I stopped at two ‘restaurants’ to have tea and something to eat. After a while, I took my camera’s battery to get charged so I would have it for my last going away party later that day. Then I stopped by my counterpart’s office and gave her some things I wanted to get rid of; we talked for a few minutes and then I left and she went back to preparing for my party. While I as hanging out at home, I busied myself with some more cleaning, playing with the kids, and reading. The afternoon went quickly and about 2:30pm I was escorted to my party at the village office. Though the party was similarly structured as the other parties, it was just as delightful. This party was with the village government, so I was happy to see some people I don’t see often, especially this one elder who I absolutely love and I think is the most adorable and kind man. They (as I have said many times) had many kind things to say that just simply warmed my heart and made me feel so special and appreciated. They are the kindest and most caring people that I have ever met. I got two more going away gifts, one from the whole village government and one personally from the WEO (Ward Executive Officer). I also again had to make a small speech. I didn’t prepare this one either but it went well…until I started crying. Then I just wrapped it up by saying ‘thank you’ and quickly sat down. I cannot keep the tears in check these days. Things are just too emotional. At the completion of the party, we had soda and took more pictures. It was absolutely magnificent. When I got home, I hung out with my mama and kids for a while and then I started to get many visitors, so I just mingled around my house as visitors kept coming and coming one right after the other until about 9pm. At some point, my loving mama brought me dinner so I could eat. I had my favorite, rice and beans made with coconut milk and vegetables. Finally, after everyone left…I got one more visitor haha. But really, after I closed and locked my door about 9:15pm, I bathed and did more organizing/cleaning up (it’s crazy how that stuff never ends). To wind down, I drank some milk I got earlier, typed some of this blog, and hung out with my Sparky-look-a-like who I have become very fond of. By 11pm, I was exhausted, so I just read a bit and went to bed. Besides the fact that it was my last day which in itself was so sad, I had a lovely day with my village and villagers. I couldn’t have asked for a better end to my life in a small yet amazing Tanzanian village.

Wednesday I woke up early and I did a few last minutes things but for the most part I was ready. I had prepared well, which I am glad I did. I wasn’t stressed out or having to run around doing a bunch of things. My closest site-mate came over from her village and came to my house to head to town with me. While we hung out waiting for the taxi to come, many of my students came by the house to say goodbye before they went to school. Especially, my primary school kids; it was so sweet!! About 8am (and on time!) my taxi arrived. By that point several members of my health group had come, my mama, neighbors, doctor, milkman, and kids were and my house to send me off. I hugged each and every one of them and started to cry (just a little bit) and quickly got in the card and did what I had to do. Leave. In the car I was OK. I think I was just didn’t believe that I wouldn’t be returning. When I got to the small town of Muheza, Nicole and I had tea/breakfast, I returned my PO Box keys, and pick up some skirts for my tailor. After that, I got on a bus and headed to Tanga. In Tanga, I ate at my favorite fruit place, ran some errands, and posted this blog.

Next on the agenda is to head to Zanzibar until Sunday. While I am there I am going to relax, de-stress, reflect, tan, and….get my PADI scuba diving certification! So cool, right?! I will be able to scuba-dive anywhere in the world. I am super excited. Many of my friends have scuba certifications and now I will be able to dive with them. YAY. Sunday I will take the ferry over to Dar and meet up with my friends who are also finishing their service at the same time. We will wrap up things at the office Monday through Wednesday and then very late Wednesday night I will leave for America. At 9:55pm Thursday evening I will be landing at Sea-Tac Airport. I don’t know what to say.

Random pieces of information:
- Frak is gone now too. I think they found new families because they knew I was leaving. And just maybe they are the smartest cats known to man and they knew with all the other goodbyes, they knew I was dreading saying goodbye to them and just walking away, abandoning them. So, they took it upon themselves to just head out and I have to believe that they are alive, okay, and just with new families or living the rolling stone life free and wild in Africa.
- My Sparky-look-a-like is so cute. I took some pictures of her. I swear she could be related to Sparky. She has been hanging out around my house with me and has become more and more comfortable with me. I think she is also very smart and new I need a friend during my last weeks here. Call it animal intuition.
- As you may have heard, I have cancelled my home coming party. Though I was really looking forward to it (for 2 years!), the date just didn’t work for many people. I don’t intend to reschedule it; it would be odd to have a welcome home party several weeks after getting back and after you already see many people. But I will keep you posted if anything changes and in the meantime I am sure I will see some of you around anyway.

And that’s that.

See you in America,
Jessica

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Even so close to the end the time is going by so fast

I last wrote a blog on June 4th and already a month has passed. It’s just unbelievable. (I wonder how many times I have said that in my blogs if we counted??)

Since then…..

Primary School. As I said in my last blog we closed the school Friday June10th. I thought I would be done teaching, however the school continues to teach two of the grades for 3 weeks and they asked me to help. And though I was looking forward to finishing up my teaching I agreed to continue teaching for a week to help. The two grades were 7 (the class I had been teaching) and 4 also. I taught them English. But of course the school was not prepared. I came to the first day after closing the school with no idea what I was going to teach and no lessons. I asked what we were teaching and they just said ‘do a review.’ Ok then, just review the English language…in a week?!!? That’s when I asked for specifics and they gave me a book and a couple chapters to review, I entered the class and just rolled with it. The grade 7 class was great as usual but the 4th graders did not know any English!! Though they have had it for 4 years, so reviewing anything was just silly because I don’t think they knew it in the first place. But, oh well, I did the best I could and they were good students. I only taught for the first of the 3 weeks, so I finished June 17th.

That weekend the 18th, all 3 of us in the area went to one of my site-mate’s house and she also had a friend over. And guess what we did again??? We killed a chicken again!!! YAY, I’ve done it twice now, so I’m pretty much an expert and could live in the wilderness living on my own devices ;) This time I got my friends to take much better pictures and ALSO a video which I am going to have to get from my friend’s camera because it’s a must-see. That night we just made dinner and had a girls night, just good food and a movie.

I went back to my site the next day on Sunday and just hung out. I got there early and did some hardcore cleaning. The kids, of course, helped me clean. Then for the most of Sunday and Monday I hung out at home, relaxed and worked out as usual. I did get some work done but I really don’t have much work to do anymore, so my time is becoming more and more free. Monday, I got ready to leave to go to Dar on Tuesday morning.

Tuesday morning of the 21st I went to Dar for the 50th Anniversary of Peace Corps Celebration that was to be held on the 22nd. I was really excited about it because Director Williams of the Peace Corps was coming from Washington DC and the celebration was going to be at the United States Embassy. When I arrived, I went straight to the office to get some work done and drop off a bag I pre-packed for going home. I know; I’m genius! I packed the bag and took SO much of my stuff to Dar when I went for the 50th, so now I don’t have to carry it to Zanzibar on my way to Dar when I officially leave.

50th Anniversary of Peace Corps Celebration. The whole day was incredible! During the day of the 22nd, we had roundtable discussions with the Director himself and his staff. I spoke to them personally and had great conversations. They were really informative about where Peace Corps is going, what their plans are, how we can stay in the PC, about going home, etc. We covered numerous topics. I spoke a lot with his staff too about going home, finding a job, and using the Peace Corps resources that are available stateside to advance in grad school and/or getting a job. They were extremely helpful and I got both of their business cards and they said to email/call for anything. The whole meeting with them was fantastic!! After the roundtables, we had some free time that a lot of us used to get work done at the office. Afterwards, we went back to our hostel and got all jazzed up for the celebration. PS- I have not been that dressed up (or clean for that matter) or took that long to get ready in my whole 2 years I have been here, haha. When we got to the embassy some of us had ‘jobs.’ My job was to seat people after they checked in; I was a hostess. That was actually pretty fun because while I walked people from the entrance to their seat, I was able to chat with a lot of people from Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs), to local officials, and Embassy employees. After everyone arrived, we all sat down and they commenced the celebration. The whole evening was magical. The speeches made were amazing; especially one made by a volunteer brought me to tears. During the speeches, there were also a few performances made by PCVs intermixed. We were served appetizers and it was an open bar while we sat. When everything was completed, we were given dinner which included SO much food and they gave us giant plates so we had plenty to eat, including cake (yum). As the evening came to a close, we all mingled, and I chatted again with the director and his staff. Director Williams is quite a remarkable person, as well as very personable. I really felt privileged to meet and speak to him and his amazing staff.

After the event, a lot of the volunteers went out to a bar. My friends and I stayed for a short while and then head to the hostel to go to sleep. We were exhausted. The next day we had free, so we went to the office, yet again, to get work done. I had a really productive day. One of the things I did that day was speak to the Peace Corps about extending. For a while now, I have really been wanting to and considering extending. So I chatted with the staff and they gave me some positions that I could extend without hesitation. One really has my interest. It is a position extending with the PMI (President’s Malaria Initiative). It is a 13 month extension (including a 1 month home-leave). The position I am interested in sounds really interesting and the PMI itself is one of a kind. It would be amazing to be a part of the worldwide roll out of this initiative. It has many major backers, like World Bank, John Hopkins University, USAids, etc. It would, no doubt, be a great experience, plus I would get to stay in Tanzania longer and not come back to America where I would have to fill my time for a year before grad school. However, regardless of the of the benefits, extending for 13 months would have me finishing here the end of September of next year, which obviously would disrupt my wanting to start grad school in the same month. Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that I will be coming home and staying home, without extending. It was hard to come to this conclusion because I really do love it here and without grad school to begin this September it was a really tempting offer. If there had just been a 6 to 8 month extension similar to the one I wanted, it would have been perfect. But, I guess, I will just have to suck it up, leave Tanzania, return to America and its awful economy and try to find a job while re-applying to graduate school. It’s only a year, right?!

Ok, back to that evening. Some of us ended up staying until the office closed at 5pm and then went to go get dinner. We got a ‘burritos’ at a ‘Mexican’ restaurant. There were SO good considering where we were. I mean, you can find a lot of good food when you go into town, but trying to find ‘real’ Mexican food is like trying to find a corvette here. (Note: when I get home, let’s go out to Mexican food every day!!!!!). We also got real donuts for dessert and I warmed mine up and they were beyond delicious! After hanging out for a bit, my friend and I finally got back to the hostel, showered, relaxed, and watched a movie. At some time in the middle of the movie we went out for a late dinner of Indian food (‘street chicken’). After getting back to the hostel, we barely finished the movie and crashed from exhaustion.

The next day on Friday June 24, I headed home. For the next week through Thursday, I didn’t do a whole lot. I have kept up on my running and working out. I had 2 meetings with my health group and I went to town once to get fruits, vegetables, and some work done for the following week. I slept in nearly every day until 9am, which is more times I have done in my whole 2 years here! I also spent a day hanging out with my milk man and his family. Other than that and I hang around the house; I am running out of things to do.

Friday July 1st, I went to Tanga Town to meet with my friends. We met up, hung out, and all went out for dinner. The next day, Saturday, I think I told you all about what we’re going to do in the last blog so to say the least we had A LOT of fun. Just some highlights: while on the boat, my fabulous sunbathing hat flew off my head so I immediately jumped off the boat to go rescue my fabulous hat. Yes people, I rescued my hat, but (you may have seen it in pictures) I got it on Zanzibar, its big, purple, and just plain fabulous. There was no doubt I was going to get that hat back!!! And the boat came back and got me ;) Other highlight: my best friend here and I started ‘partying’ for the 4th of July about 7:30am (don’t judge) so to say the least we were pretty smashed by mid-day and had a hell of time. IT was so much fun!! Nothing crazy or dumb, just us having a blast all day!!! Another note: we were going to have to say goodbye the next day (she’s extending and I’m not) so it was our last big hooray before we parted!!! All in all, the day went great….good food, sandbar, good friends, swimming…..everything, it was a fabulous last 4th of July party in Tanzania. After we got back from boating, I showered, changed, and went out to dinner with my bestie. We ate (much needed) and then we were asleep by 7:15pm haha :) WHAT A GREAT DAY!

Sunday, we woke up early and when to get some breakfast just a few of us. Then I had so say goodbye to my bestie. That was not fun!! I did not like it!! But at least we have plans to meet up in Ireland in May for her cousin’s wedding (man, that is going to be a kick-in-the-pants fun!!) The rest of the day, I relaxed, hung with remaining volunteers, got lunch, went to the market, and then went home.

Monday, I started my last project. It is a business seminar that I organized through a NGO called SIDO for my health group to begin an IGA. I think I also explained this in my last blog. It’s Monday July 4th through Saturday July 9th. So that is what I am doing all this week from about 8am to 3pm. It is going very well; I am really happy with SIDO and the attendance of my health group. It’s a nice way to wrapped up my work here.

Little nuggets of information:
- I have now read 60 books
- Frik has been MIA for 2 weeks now (I hope he just found another family or a girlfriend and he’s ok)
- That puts me down to 1 cat left, Frak, and I feel terrible that I am going to leave him here though I know it’s better for him. I just don’t want to say goodbye to his cute little face.
- I still have my village goodbye parties left (they have been rescheduling due to many things) I still have to endure saying many more goodbyes. BLAH.
- I leave my village in 15 days and Tanzania in 24

See you way freaking soon!!
Jessica

Saturday, June 4, 2011

I don't even know what to say.......

Okay, so last time I left you guys I had just gotten back from Dar from my COS conference and Evan’s trip. I didn’t think much had happened since then; it was just only about 4 weeks ago, but a lot can happen in a short time here!

First, electronics seem to hate me these days. I really hope this stops when I return to America because it is so frustrating!! I think I may have mentioned some of this in previous blogs but here’s a summary: my computer, ALL my flash drives, my external hard drive, and my camera’s memory cards are all WACKED OUT from viruses; I dropped my camera when it was open, so it’s not working; I accidentally dipped my ‘Tanzanian’ cell phone in the water, so it’s broken for good; and my 5, maybe 6 years old blackberry is on the frizt and gets awful service, but I’m just hoping that it lasts for the next 7.5 weeks. Like I said, technology has turned against me.

On a good note, I have found homes for almost all my kittens/cats. My site-mate took one kitten and another friend up North took the other 2 kittens!! I am so relieved that I found all the babies homes!! It took so much pressure and stress off my mind. I also found a home for Sparky, but she changed her plans without telling me. Another friend up North planned on taking Sparky and I again was so happy to have found her a home!!! So I packed her up and took her to my site-mate’s house the other weekend where I was going to meet my other friend from up North. He was coming down to visit, go to town, and pick up Sparky. But, while we were hanging out at the house, Sparky decided to split. She left and hasn’t been seen yet. I feel so bad about it; I’m still hoping she comes back to my site-mate’s house so my friend can take her on his next visit. But if not, I know she’ll be fine; she was always the toughest cat. And she’s the one who ran away! I was trying to give her a home for when I left! Last on the cat news, I have decided that Frik and Frak will be staying here. It still breaks my heart to leave them here, but I must. I don’t know where I will be staying in the states, for how long, and it will cost too much to bring them home. Plus, they are used to being outside all the time and roaming around. It wouldn’t be right to bring them home to the city and keep them cooped up in an apartment or house. I am going to give my Mama money to feed them for a few months until the next volunteer arrives. I just hope she actually uses most of the money to feed them and that the next volunteer arriving in August will like them and take care of them :)

That same day of the whole Sparky fiasco, I spent the night at my site-mate’s house. We had a great dinner of squid, fish, and shrimp that had been bought fresh in town. Our other friends visited for the day and prepared the whole meal. It was delicious! Along with the seafood we had salad, rice, carrots, and green beans. So good!! After that we had a TV show marathon that continued the next day until I left in the afternoon.

Alrighty, my friend who took 2 kittens had come down to my house for a few days to teach. He works for an NGO and teaches about the importance of planting trees. Note: people cut down a lot of trees here for building and especially for firewood, but they don’t plant trees, so deforestation is becoming a big problem. Therefore, he came down to teach at my Primary School and my Health Group. First, I showed both my Standard 7 English Class and my health group a video on permaculture, planting gardens, and making natural fertilizer. When my friend arrived, we did some prep work and went to the Primary School teach. To begin, he taught a lesson in the classroom on the importance of trees, why we need to plant them, how to plant them, and what we were going to do that day. Then we went outside to begin the dirty work. We had such a great time planting trees with the kids!! We made a mixture of sand, dirt, fertilizer, and water with our hands. The mixture was put into small tree bags where we planted the tree seeds (shade trees). We got super dirty and had a wonderful time planting about 200 seeds. And if any of you saw my status on FB, I ate a worm just to get a rise outa my students. They thought I was crazy haha. They were supposed to bring my candy or chocolate for eating the worm but I keep forgetting to ask them. I want my prize!

The next day we did the same lesson with my Health Group. We began in the office with a lesson on planting, farming, trees, and what we were going to do that day too. Then we went to one of my group member’s house and made two practice beds where we planted trees. We planted different trees than at the Primary School. These trees will primarily be used for firewood and planting around farms as a fence. We also made the same mixture to put into the tree bags. These we just prepped and will plant seeds into later. We also had a great time!! I took a lot of pictures that I will post as soon as I get them from my friend (remember my camera is broken blah).

I have mentioned this project before but it has been ongoing for quite some time. Last year I started asking NGOs for donations of books, pamphlets, informational packets, etc. about health issues. For the past year, I have been slowly collecting materials. The materials were to be used to install a small Library/resource center at the village hospital. A few months ago, I finally had collected enough materials to get it started. I asked a local carpenter to build a book cabinet. This I bought myself as my own donation (it was only about $37). He took a long time to build it (about 2 months!), but he finished last week!! I was super stoked to get this project really underway. The cabinet was brought to the hospital the next day and the doctor, nurses, village government, and I all met for a small celebration of the resource center’s opening. They really put a lot more effort and thought into the celebration than I was expecting and I really appreciated it. They were all so excited about its opening. So for about an hour and a half, we sat outside the hospital and the doctor and I spoke about the purpose of the resource center, how it came about, and that everyone is welcome to use it. Then some of the village officials said some words of appreciation and we took a bunch of pictures handing the keys over, opening the cabinet, and putting the books and materials into it. It was a lovely day! I am so proud of the resource center! I will be putting pictures up this weekend. (Note: this was part of my ‘perfect day’ for those who read my status on FB). Short history of the hospital and purpose of the resource center: so there is one ‘hospital’ in the village. It is located in the center of the village and it is not much bigger than my house. It has only 1 doctor and 3 nurses and serves the entire village of 3,500 people. With so few people on staff and so many to serve, patients often have to wait for a long time. Also, in general, getting health information (aka books) of any kind are hard to come by. Therefore, when I presented my idea to the doctor last year, he thought the resource center was a great idea and that the patients would really benefit from it, so that’s when I began the project. Now that the resource center is open, patients can read about all kinds of important health information while they wait. The topics covered are vast, such as maternal health, HIV/AIDS, malaria, children health, effects of drugs/alcohol/smoking, nutrition, puberty, etc. Many topics are covered, so that the patients can become informed about making good behavior changes concerning their health :)


Secondary School: Last Friday May 27th, we closed the school for break after completing the exams. It was really weird because it was the last time I was going to teach at the Secondary School. The school will be closed until July 18th. And with me leaving July 20th, I obviously won’t be teaching when the school opens again. Today, I just turned in my grades, so I have officially finished working at the Secondary School. It is really starting to sink in that my time here is coming to an end.

Primary School. This week we have our last classes and then we begin exams next week. After June 10th, I will be finished teach at the primary school too. Wow.

This past weekend, my site-mate came to visit me at my place and we killed chickens for dinner! Yep, that’s right, I killed a chicken with my own hands and a knife!! To kill a chicken, you hold on to the wings under your foot then you hold on to it’s head and cut its head off at the neck. My Mama was there the whole time and she helped us clean it after, i.e. cut off it’s feet, take off the feathers, skin it, take out the guts, etc. After that, we cut it up, cooked it, and ate for dinner along with rice, cooked carrots, and rolls. It was a delicious dinner! And now I know how to slaughter a chicken!

The next morning we went on a short but good hike up my mountain with a bunch of villagers. We went up to the water tank where everyone (but us) proceeded to clean out the tank. The tank is really big and it was full of algae and stuff. It was pretty gross inside but it was fun to watch all the water, mud, and grim be let out. It could have been on Dirty Jobs haha.

Currently, I am‘wrapping’ things up. I have decided the Frik and Frak are staying here, found homes for the others, finished teaching at the secondary school, finished teaching at the primary school this week, just have exams left next week, I have started packing/cleaning out junk, I have started to say ‘pre-goodbyes’ to my students who are leaving for the break and who will return just before I leave, I am taking pictures of all those ‘little’ things that I want to remember, I preparing speeches for my going away parties, giving a few things away, doing some things for that last time, and just soaking up everything I can in the time I have left.

Hard times: I have my going away party with my Health Group June 25th. I am going to A MESS!!! Lots of crying will be involved on my part. I have already cried a bunch of times about leaving, especially when writing my speech.

Fun times: I have plans for July 4th with 20 of my friends from around the area. It’s going to be great times and kind of like a Going Away party for a few of us. We are going out to Toten Island off of Tanga. We are going to go boating, see the island, walk through ruins, go to a sandbar, barbeque fish and make lunch on a sandbar, go fishing, and snorkeling. Then party hard that night haha. Whoo-hoo.

The only real work I have left is my meetings every week with my Health group and a 6 day Business seminar provided by an NGO for my Health Group. This is something I have been working on for a long time, aka it has taken a long time to get the grant (which is a lot of money) approved by Peace Corps. I am really pushing it with this one because I am getting so close to my leaving date, but I know I can pull it off. It’s really important to me and the group because it is going to teach them business skills of all sorts and how to make jam, juice, and tomato paste. All of which are products that are used a lot here, so they will be able to sell them for a profit and make money on their own without the financial support of me, the Peace Corps, or various NGOs. Our hope with Peace Corps and my Health Group is that they will be completely self-sustainable. This seminar will take place July 4-9 and will be my last project of my service.


July 20th I will be heading to Zanzibar for the last time (for now) for a bit of relaxing and mind-clearing. Then the 24th I will arrive in Dar for COS (Close of Service) July 25-27th. After that, I will leave the night of July 27th at about 2am and arrive in WA at 9:50pm July 28th. Unbelievable.

My mental state: In general, I am doing really well as usual. But lately I have had bouts of stress and bad moods, which I have pretty much gotten over now after some long hard thinking. However, preparing to leave here has got me all wigged out. I CANNOT believe that in just 7 weeks I will be saying goodbye to my village and in 8 weeks leaving Tanzania. I have been here for 2 years and I don’t want the time to be over yet. It’s so weird to think about how the first few blogs I wrote in my village, things were so hard and I couldn’t wait to come home when I finished but now it’s the opposite. I don’t want to leave here and I am nervous about coming home. I can’t wait to see my friends and family in the States, but it is also going to be really odd and so many things I don’t expect are going to be really challenging. Returning to America is going to be such a huge adjustment, just like coming here. And beside all that, if you throw on figuring out what I am going to do when I get home and for the next year before I start grad school…its stresses a girl out!! But I have taken some time to think about things and I am just going to calm down, focus on my last few weeks here and what I want to get out of them. Then deal with America and all that comes with it when I get back. All in all, I’m just taking it one day at a time. I mean really…it is not that big of a deal that I won’t be starting grad school until next year (it took me awhile to come to that realization). I will get to where I am going when I get there. And in the meantime, I will take my year off and do whatever it is I want because I can. I am in no rush to grow-up and settle down… hello, I still haven’t seen Southeast Asia!

Other lil’things:
- This blog is a mess just like me, no rhyme or reason, so outa order
- 53 days until I leave Tanzania
- I have read 55 books
- I have been here for 94 weeks
- I may have a mental breakdown leaving this beloved place
- But I am looking forward to my home-coming party when I get back to America…so you all better come!!
- This is not my last blog…you will hear from me again :)
- I will actually being seeing you all soon!

With love,
Jessica

Sunday, May 8, 2011

E & J Adventure

April 15th
Evan arrived!! We (Evan, Nicole, Megan, and I) met up in Tanga and Evan and I HUGGED like we haven’t seen each-other in nearly 2 years!! It was wonderful and so weird to see him in the flesh; I was so happy to see my brother ;) First, we started out by sitting next to the ocean at a beautiful park next to the beach. From there, we went to the hostel and dropped off our stuff. We then headed to the grocery store for snacks and stuff; I stocked up on SO much food because I hadn’t had money or been to Tanga in forever. We also had to take him to get plates of fruit and fresh fruit juice because it is the greatest ‘restaurant’ ever. After finishing our errands, we returned to the hostel and had some drinks and hung out for a while. Thereafter, we went out to dinner at Raskazones which is the best Indian food in Tanga and we had a delicious meal. I can’t remember what we had but everything was so good and I hadn’t been there for so long I was excited to eat there again. After dinner, we returned to the hostel, hung out, and watched a movie…we were exhausted from the day and full of food. Perfect first day to the beginning of the great E & J Adventure.

April 16th
We began the morning with the fruit plate place again. We walked around Tanga, went to the market for fruits and vegetables, and bought traditional Muslim outfits to prepare for going to Pemba Island. After finishing up our Tanga activities, we got on a bus to go to the village. When we arrived at my house in the village, I introduced Evan to my Mama’s and they were so happy to meet him. All the kids also came over to meet him. For dinner, we made the best home-made tomato soup and grilled brie cheese sandwiches. They were incredible; I’m craving some right now! It was so fun because we made dinner outside; we took all our cooking ingredients and utensils outside and sat around the fire. The meal was also accompanied with a delicious beverage and half of the movie Bucket list. It was lovely night!

April 17th
Palm Sunday. My counterpart wanted us to attend church, so we went but we had forgotten that it was Palm Sunday so the service was extra-long. Though the service was a bit long it wasn’t that bad; I haven’t been going to church that often so it was nice to go again and everyone was super happy we came (had never been for Palm Sunday and we took pictures too). While we were at church, Megan arrived at my house and was hanging out when we got home and then soon after Nicole came over again too. It was great!! We hung out and I had the kids clean my house for cookies. We had invited 2 of my favorite students and 1 teacher over for an ‘American’ dinner. The 4 of us spend the afternoon making dinner and had so much fun. Not long before we finished making dinner, Tullo, John, and Editha arrived. We drank sodas, hung out, chatted, and enjoyed each other’s company while we finished making dinner. We made spaghetti, cooked carrots, green beans, and garlic bread. Again, so delicious!! It was the first time Tullo and John had eaten spaghetti and they loved it. They had been wanting to try it for so long and it was fun to have them over and see them so happy just hanging out with a bunch of Americans and eating spaghetti. After our guests left, the most random thing happened: Nicole and I made up a dance routine to a Lady Gaga song (yes, like we were 12 years old), haha. It was awesome! We also actually ended up taping it; so silly!

April 18th
We woke up, they girls left early to go back to their villages, and we had breakfast; not too early. Then we headed to the Secondary School to show Evan the school and because I had biology and a meeting with my FEMA Club. Everything went great at school. I returned my Biology Exams to my form 1 students and Evan sat in on my class while we went over the exam answers. After Biology, we met with my FEMA club. I just instructed them to be prepared to teach their health lessons after I return from my vacation/conference. On the way back from school, we stopped to have maandazi (‘donuts’) and tea. From there, we stopped by my house for a moment and then went to meet with my health group for a very short meeting. A few of the members met Evan and then just Evan and I left because they were going to continue the meeting without us to prepare for Evan’s official welcoming lunch the next day. We were home by mid-afternoon and constantly had visitor’s one right after the other, including the little kids coming over, so there wasn’t much time for rest. Just as it was becoming evening, we took a walk through my village, so Evan could see the village ‘night-life.’ When we were out we sat outside with one of my Mamas and her family; Evan tried a couple meat skewers (most likely goat) while I had 2 glasses of hot milk. Upon returning home, I’m pretty sure we finished watching Bucket List, crashed, and went to sleep after a long day.

April 19th
We slept in a little bit this morning and took our time leaving the house. We visited the Health Dispensary to say hello to the staff, but there was only one on duty that day. As we walked to the center of my village, we said hello to a few other villagers and then headed into town for lunch. We went to a place called Mkurumuzi to have pork, bananas, and beer. It was delicious. We made our way back to my village after lunch to meet up with my health group again for Evan’s official ‘welcoming’ lunch at 2pm. We were still full from our lunch earlier and eating was the first thing we did; we had to stuff ourselves full of rice, meat, and potatoes. After introductions and eating, the group secretary explained about the group a bit and we just chatted about America and Tanzania. The meet and greet was wonderful; short and simple but splendid. At home we again had visitors, so we played Frisbee with John, Tullo, and the kids. We had a fun time and the kids got a kick out of playing Frisbee. For dinner, Evan and I made pancakes and they were SO good. I have been meaning to make them since I have been here because they are so easy to make but I never had. I put honey with cinnamon on them and they were scrumptious. I don’t know why it took me so long to finally make them?!?!

April 20th
We left the village in the morning and went to Tanga, got fruit plate again and stocked up on necessities like snacks for our trip. We also used the internet to plan the first leg of our trip (make reservations, etc.) and then went to the airport to go to Pemba Island. We got to Pemba early evening, got to our hostel which was nice and put on our Muslim ‘outfits.’ We went out for dinner around 7pm and EVERYONE loved how we looked. All the locals complimented on how nice we looked and how appreciative they were that we were respecting their religion and culture by dressing appropriately. We had a typical Tanzanian dinner of chicken, fish, spiced rice, and vegetables. And it was amazing because as we were finishing our dinner the ‘Call to Prayer’ sounded from the Mosque and our dada (‘sister’/waitress) invited us to pray with her. So she put out a praying rug for us and we all prayed the evening Muslim prayer together. It was such an extraordinary experience!! In the evening, on the way back to our hostel, we walked around town and experienced a little Pemba ‘nightlife’ and ate some street food again, aka fried foods and I had hot milk again :)

April 21st
Our day started with free breakfast at the hostel and then packed up to roam around town and see where our next adventure would lead us. Well, it led us to rent a Vespa! We got a great deal but the stupid Vespa didn’t even have enough gas to get to the station so we had to get help and push it there to even start it, haha. Evan did all the driving and at first we had a few ALMOST ‘accidents.’ BUT don’t worry we were fine!!! After we got going and got out town we headed to the most north beach and it was easy riding. The ride was through beautiful lush island-ness; GORGEOUS. But we cant say we didn’t have a few lil’mishaps along the way…I can’t even explain it as well as I would like, but it was a HILARIOUS!! The best moment was when we were getting close to the beach the roads started to turn from dirt to sand, so we….well, kind of…..fell over a couple times. Un-hurt though!! When we got to Verani Beach, we checked into our hostel and were the only people there. It was perfect because we had the whole beach to ourselves. After another typical Tanzanian (yummy) dinner of rice, beans, and vegetables, we laid on home-made wooden lawn chairs and just talked, drank, and watched the sunset, sky, and stars. Perfectly lovely evening.

April 22nd
Breakfast first, then started our way back to town. We had to stop to get gas again but we made it to the gas station without trouble! YAY! It was the craziest and funniest ride back to town because we got stuck in a rainstorm and had to pull over to take cover under a tree. It was so funny how wet we got and what a mess we were HAHA. We eventually made it back to town, dropped off our luggage and tried to make it to some ruins via our Vespa before we had to return it but the roads there were so bad and we got lost; no one we asked knew how to get there, so we ended up turning back without seeing them. THEN, our Vespa broke down half way back and it took 4 hours for several passerby’s and the Vespa company to fix it and get us back to town. Oh geez. That short jaunt was quite an undertaking because we almost ‘died’ (NOT REALLY) a million times because of the road and the water (since it had just rained) and then it broke down. We had many laughs!! I’m giggling right now! Two seconds after getting back to the Vespa office and returning our vespa we had to jump on a bus to take us to the ferry docks about an hour south of town to make our ferry to Zanzibar the next morning. When we got to the ferry town, we got a hostel (Panorama Hotel) and got a great deal to stay there because it was the off season. It was beautiful; it was a great room, beds, HOT shower, had a view, and a balcony with a hammock. For dinner, we had street food and then went back to the hostel to hang out on the hammock and drink. That night we also got to talk to our Moms and Maile! YAY!

April 23rd
That morning was great because we were able to sleep in late in the most confortable beds and left about noon to catch our ferry to Zanzibar. Thankfully we were undercover while we were waiting for the ferry because it poured down rain, but it cleared up before we boarded and it didn’t rain while we were on the ferry. Got to Zanzibar safely around 5ish and went straight for coffee and internet. We had trouble leaving the café because we were so loving the coffee and free wireless internet. But eventually we had to walk around to find a place to stay for the night. We actually had trouble finding a place; we didn’t even think about it but it was busy for the Easter holiday. We eventually found a place; it was comfortable place and got a nice room. For dinner, we went to the famous gardens where there is a mass of street food, like seafood, local bread, soup, meat, Zanzibar pizza, wraps, sugarcane juice, etc. We spilt everything and ate so much de-lish food!! For a treat on the way home, we went to Mercury’s Restaurant to have a drink and to watch a band, but it was expensive and SO overcrowded with tourists that we didn’t stay long.

April 24th
Easter. We made it a ritual of starting our day with coffee and wireless at Zenji Café after breakfast. At 9am, we went on the Spice Tour which was so interesting. It was my second time going and I loved it; you learn so much about how spices are made, where they come from, and how they are used. I bought SO MANY spices and more ‘Chanel #5’ oil. We also visited the Persian Baths that were built in the 1840. At the conclusion of the tour, we had lunch where they used many of the spices described on the tour. The food was great, of course. After the tour, mid-afternoon, we got a taxi to take us to our hotel at the most northern tip of Zanzibar. The Amaan hotel was great (hello AC); big rooms, hot showers, nice beds, the works!!! The food at the hotel was expensive and touristy so we went outside the hotel to the ‘village’ and had a great Tanzanian meal made by a mama (she made the best cooked cabbage ever!) and hung out with Rastafarians. We had a fabulous time with the guys and took a bunch of pictures :) We didn’t stay out too late, went back to the room, and went to sleep so Evan could go diving in the morning.

April 25th
We slept through our alarm but Evan still made it to meet with his diving company and I got the free breakfast real fast before going over to meet up with him. I went on the boat with the group and worked on my tan (which was very successful) since I wasn’t a certified diver. The boat ride was fun and I got a great base tan (so important!). After we got back, Evan chatted with the diving guy and rested, while I continued to work on my tan until late afternoon. Thereafter, we got a late lunch at mama’s again and I picked up a beanie one of the Rastafarians made for me (Tanzanian colors). That evening we signed up for parasailing for the next day and then went to get dinner at a ‘touristy’ spot. Though frequented by tourists, the food was OUTSTANDING and right on the water. It was a gorgeous evening…I’m pretty sure Evan put up pictures of our food on FB. After dinner, we took a walk along the beach and called it a night.

April 26th
Can’t start a day without breakfast…such a good continental buffet free breakfast. Then we went parasailing. SO MUCH FUN!! It was like we were flying. I LOVE IT!!! After parasailing, we waited for a taxi (for way TOO LONG) to take us back to Stonetown. We stayed at the Zenji hotel and ate at the gardens again (to irresistibly delicious to eat anywhere else). We chatted with some Rastafarians again and then found our way to the Old Fort (aka very old castle). There is a restaurant inside and it was practically empty, but we had a couple drinks and played pool, just Evan and I; we had so much fun (but I lost both games, dang-it!).

April 27th
We didn’t plan this day very well, so it ended up being crazy. We went to a travel agency to get tickets to Arusha to go on a safari but the flights were earlier than we thought, so we had to hurry around Stonetown so Evan could see some of it and then we went to the airport to get on our plane just in time. When we got to Arusha, we easily found a place to stay which was great (Arusha’s Backpackers Hotel). But then we had to plan our safari for the very next day and it was already early evening. So in short …it was crazy and stressful but we finally got it planned, ate at our roof-top restaurant at our hotel (convenient and good food) and went to bed exhausted!

April 28th – April 30th
Got up in the morning for breakfast and got picked up for the safari at 9am. We used the same company as I did with my dad, which is a great and reliable company (Vitoria Expeditions). The first day we went to Arusha’s National Park, which I hadn’t been to yet. I really enjoyed this park and had a great safari driver/crew. That night we had dinner with our driver and cook/assistant. We had a really intriguing, fun, and light-hearted conversation over drinks and then went to sleep in our tent. The second day we went to Lake Manyara, had a great day seeing animals, and at the camp that night we saw the same performing group I did with my dad, but they had added routines. They were amazing and we have fun trying some of their tricks and dance moves with them and our driver and cook. Fun night! On the last day, we went to Ngorongoro Crater. We saw a bunch of animals and also paid to go into an actual Masai camp. It was extremely interesting and I learned a lot just by observing the culture (note: in my village the Masai is not well-liked). I was happy to see first-hand how they lived and worked. Overall, the parks were great, we saw a lot of animals, most of which I saw with my dad (so refer to that list in the earlier blog), but we also got to see the White & Black Columbus monkey at the Arusha National Park. They were SO CUTE and I was excited to see such a cool monkey I hadn’t seen before. That evening we stayed at the Arusha’s Backpackers Hotel again and went to sleep exhausted.

May 1st
Another day we did not plan well…or at all. We got up and had breakfast. We thought we could just get tickets from Arusha to Dar that day, thinking there was no way everything could be full. Well, we were wrong. Eventually, we ended up getting Evan on a one-way flight to Dar (there was nothing else availably for me) but he had to make his flight to America so got him on there ASAP. So we ended up having to split up in Arusha and say goodbye….a few hours earlier than we expected but at least he made his flight!! I, on the other hand, had a very trying, stressful, and exhausting day but eventually made it back to Dar that evening. And happily ran into a friend of mine, so we got a hostel together and got dinner. I was so happy I ran into him at the hostel because then I didn’t have to stay by myself, YAY!

End of the E & J Adventure.

May 2nd
My friend and I got up and went to the Peace Corps office to get work done before our conference the next day. Stayed there most of the day and got to our hotel where the conference was being held just before dinner.

May 3rd – May 5th
Stayed at the hotel for our COS Conference, which was great but weird. It was the last time I will see a lot of the people in my group. We hung out every night and had a swell time, especially the last night!!

May 6th – May 8th
Still in Dar. Friday I went back to the office to get work done and ‘clean’ my computer with no luck. It still has so many viruses, it’s practically useless and may become that way until I get home and go to BestBuy so the GeekSquad can rescue my computer…blah. I have also been trying to get my camera fixed because there is a ‘lens error.’ AKA the lens won’t come out, so that is why I still have not left Dar because some is working on my camera. I want (HAVE to be able to) take pictures of my last months in village/ of Peace Corps experience.

As of now:
- Everything is great, REALLY!
- But I am still really stressed out about:
o What I still have left to do in my village
o Whether or not to bring my 3 cats home
o Fixing my computer/hard-drive/flash-drive/camera/everything that could possibly contain a stupid virus
o And saying ‘Goodbye’ to my village…I don’t know how I am going to do this.

**2 MONTHS AND 19 DAYS UNTIL I BOARD A PLANE TO AMERICA**

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY TO ALL MY FAVORITE MAMAS!!
XOXOXXOXOXOXO,
Jessica

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Months, weeks, days, hours, minutes, seconds...they're all numbered

I just read my last blog to see where I left off, which was right after I finished the Half Marathon and I realized I forgot to write my time!! How silly! That’s kind of important for a race haha! Anyhow, I did the half (13.1 miles) in 2 hours and 43 minutes. I know, it’s only about a 12.5 minute mile. But that’s OK, because I finished!! And of course, that means there is always room for improvement for my next one!

Since then…nothing really exciting…..

JUST KIDDING! I got my official COS date (Close of Service)!! I will be officially completing my Peace Corps Service July 27th! Crazy huh?!?! How’d the time pass that fast; 2 years; where’d they go?! So as of now, we have about 18 weeks until I am home! 3 months and 25 days until I am boarding a plane for America! Life is crazy!

Ok really now…as per usual in the village

School. I have no idea what’s going on with school! I have still been teaching at both the Secondary School and the Primary School, but they keep changing the schedules so I’m just going to keep teaching until someone tells me otherwise. Like Friday, my Secondary School decided to have a break this coming week. Then finals are moved up for the week after. Then we close again for Easter Break. Yet the posted schedule for breaks and finals is TOTALLY DIFFERENT than what we are doing. It’s so confusing. The primary school is for the most part staying on schedule but you never know. Last minute changes are not unusual. The weirdest thing is that (as of now) our long break will be mid-June to mid-July and when they open the school again in July, I won’t be teaching because I will be leaving within in the week. But it will be perfect timing for me to have the month off of school, so I can wrap up my projects, pack, clean, and get ready to leave!

Community Health Education Group. We are still going strong as usual. We hosted a cinema night in March. We had an NGO from town come in and put up a big screen and show educational shows. We’ve done in once before and it’s a big hit! The villagers love it and it gets a lot of people informed and watching educational (and entertaining movies). I also handed out condoms for free like they were party favors; everybody loves free condoms! I passed out 700!! Take that stigma!! Whoo hoo AIDS prevention!

Also, with my group. After I found out my date, I had to tell my group when I was leaving. Man, was that hard! When I stood up to speak I couldn’t even get out my first word before I started crying! It was so hard; I could barely control my tears or my words. I was a mess. After I said the date, they were all upset too. My mamas started to cry and the men were talking about how it was so soon. They have been trying (and are still trying) to talk me into staying another year (aka forever). They said I should visit America but come back :) They are so wonderful!! I can’t believe I will have to leave them soon and my whole village. It was one thing to say ‘Goodbye’ to my family in America before I left because I knew I would see them again and it wasn’t really ‘Goodbye’ but rather ‘See you later.’ But here, I may never see my family here again. It breaks my heart.

On a lighter note. My Health Dispensary Resource Center is coming together. I am just waiting on the carpenter to finish the book cabinet who is taking is SWEET time. It’s been about a month but it should be done within the week. Then I will have it dropped off at the Dispensary and put the books in it and we will have a little celebration for its official ‘opening.’ I am really excited about this because it has taken me my whole service to get enough book donations to put this thing together!

Grants. My grants to start an IGA (income generating activity) with my health group and a science laboratory for my secondary school are still pending. I hope they get approved soon…I’m running out of time!

My beloved Evan is coming to visit! He will be here in 13 days!! We are going to have so much fun; it’s going to be ridiculous! I can’t wait!! A little visit from home...just a few months before going home. NICE. Blogs and pictures TBP (to-be-posted…I just made that up; I’m smart).

Graduate school. I got rejected from South Dakota. They said I was just too cool for South Dakota, which of course I totally agree with but they still should have let me in!! Maybe I should have told them about ‘TBP.’ Oh well. As for Denver, I had my phone interview last Saturday March 26th. I think it went well and I will find out either way by April 15th. All this waiting is driving me crazy. I just want to know! (But I really hope I get in too). But if not, I will be on to Plan B (whatever that is…I’m thinking South America, anybody else?!?).

COS Conference. The first week of May (about 2 days after Evan leaves), I will be in Dar for a week for my COS Conference. It’s all about the transition of leaving Tanzania and going home to America. It’s going to be weird to see everyone; we are going to have a lot of fun. A lot of ‘We made it!’ celebrations. WHOO HOO.

My life as a crazy cat lady. So I have a dilemma. As of now I have 6 cats. I know…and stop judging. Ok, so Sparky’s 3 babies are going to be given away. Done. But I will still have Frik, Frak, and Sparky who have been with me for my 2 years here; they are my babies. I have been considering bringing them home with me (it’s possible and has been done by many volunteers). But I have 3 cats. And according to the airlines they will each need their own kennel. Putting them on the plane won’t be expensive but to buy or rent the kennels are pretty expensive. So the whole transport of 3 cats would be kind of pricey, a huge hassle, but I will have them home with me! They are my pets and I have become attached; I just can’t help it, I love them to pieces. I just can’t imagine abandoning them. So I don’t know what to do?!?! The volunteer replacing won’t arrive to my site until November and who knows if they will even like cats. So do I leave them here where they can run free, but they have to fend for themselves? OR do I bring them home to my (probably) apartment and continue to care for them as my best lil’buddies they have been? I am so lost. I just keep imagining them waiting at my door for me to let them in, but I’m not there. I could cry just thinking about it. I hate this; I wish it was an easier decision to make.

Life in general. I have been so busy in the village as usual. My schedule has been packed, which has always good. It keeps me on my toes and makes the time fly. I have also been sick for about a week and a half. I feel better, but I am still getting over it. It was nothing serious, just the flu or something. I slept A LOT every chance I got for the past week :) I am still running, but it’s getting harder with the rain. It gets so muddy! It’s incredible! But so far I haven’t had to change my run schedule too much. But I’m quite clumsy in the mud; I have already fallen twice and almost-fallen about a million times…oops.

Life is a box of Godiva chocolates. I can’t even begin to explain how weird it is preparing to leave here. What a HUGE chapter of my life and its coming to an end. I don’t know what I am going to do as the time to leave gets closer. I feel at home here now, which is so odd and crazy considering how hard it was in the beginning. I don’t want to say goodbye to my family, especially my Mama and my Counterpart and my students and everyone else. What a weird time it is. I will be leaving here; I still don’t believe it. I am going to be an emotional, sobbing, and full of sadness mess. BUT on the other hand I simply can’t wait to step off the plane in America and be home again, to see my family, and soak up everything the first world has to offer. Gosh, changes are great, but hard as hell.

Don’t forget to re-use and recycle! Help to save OUR planet NOW!

With love,
JRC

Sunday, February 27, 2011

LIFE IS GOOD

So last night I arrived in Moshi town around 7pm and met up with a bunch of my friends for dinner. PS: my bus took 7 hours instead of its normal 5 hours. It SUCKED! Anyhoo, I met up with my friends for Italian dinner and I had penne la prosciutto…a few carbs before the big race the next morning. After dinner, we went to our friend’s house and went straight to sleep around 10pm.

The next morning we had a cab pick us up at 6am to go to the stadium where the races were being held. When we got there we met up with other friends and warmed-up. The people who did the full marathon (crazy!) started at 6:30am. It was barely light our yet! Then the half marathon started at 7am. I wasn’t nervous at all…I knew I could do it!!

As the race started, I kept a good pace and just kept steady. The first half was the hardest because it was mostly uphill but I just kept running!!! I walked a tiny bit but that’s all!! I totally thought I would have to walk more but I didn’t! Then the second half was returning so it was more downhill, which was hard in its own way because it was on the pavement and going downhill; kinda hard on my knees. But I picked up my pace and didn’t stop to walk at all!

And then I saw the finish line in sight! And I was amazed! I picked it up even faster with my friends cheering me on and I finished!!! I did it! Me!! How crazy is that!?! And for finishing I got a t-shirt and a medal! I am so excited and proud of myself!

YAYAY!!

2 years in Tanzania. Travelling. Published author. Climbed Mt Kilimanjaro. Ran the Mt Kilimanjaro Half Marathon. And Graduate School potentially in the near future. LIFE IS GOOD!

Love, Jessica

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sauti za Busara

Sauti za Busara (Sound of Wisdom) Zanzibar music festival……Simply unbelievable.

Wednesday morning I first went to teach English at the primary school. I may have not mentioned this in my last blog, but I am now teaching English at the primary school also. I teach the 7th grade and I love it!!! They are really fun and seem to pick up English fairly well so far. I teach Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings. Then I go to continue teaching at the secondary school in the afternoon.

So after my 8am class, I went to my house, got my bag, and headed to town to go to Zanzibar that afternoon! I got to Zanzibar around 5pm. When I got in, I met my friends at the hostel and went out to dinner. There were so many of us, like 20 volunteers on the island. It was so cool!!

That first night we got dinner in the gardens and had Zanzibar pizza and sugarcane juice…so GOOD.

Then around 7pm we went into the Old Fort (really big, really old castle) where the festival was being held. The festival started every day at 5pm, so it was already going when we got in but the first bands are not as good as the ones that follow. When we got in we had so much fun…great music of all types and from all different countries, good company, dancing, drumming, and all sorts of instruments. We had an outstanding time!! That night, we stayed at the festival until the end and left to go to the hostel around 2am.

For the next few days of the festival we pretty much did the same thing every day, which was wake up around 10am, eat free breakfast at the hostel, go to the beach, swim/tan, get dinner, shower, go to the festival around 7pm, have crazy amounts of fun, and then go home around 2a -4a. Seriously tough schedule. Rinse and repeat.

The only deviation to this wonderful schedule was one day I went with a friend to The Slave Museum and the History Museum. Bothe museums were really interesting, especially The Slave Museum because it was so tough to think about what happened there. Later, we also did some shopping and ate Italian for dinner. I got all kinds of great stuff: a super cute ring, hat, paintings, a watercolor painting, Zanzibar spices, a hand-carved Zanzibar chest made out of mahogany wood (so beautiful!), a hand-carved frame made out of ebony wood, and a little hand-carved name plate with my name on it (that was actually a free gift from the designer!).

The last night of the festival was Sunday the 13th. Monday morning I did the usual and slept in and ate breakfast, but then had to pack and leave my wonderful island that afternoon…but we shall meet again :)

Now I am back in my village busy as ever and have already resumed teaching, organizing health clubs, and living village life as usual……

But to come…..
- Mt Kilimanjaro half marathon in less than 2 weeks.
- My dearest Evan is coming to visit in April!!!
- COS (Close of Service) conference is May 3rd. (This is when we will be choosing our COS dates to leave the country, which is going to be crazy because a lot of people want the same dates and only 4 people can COS per day…it’s going to be a battle haha)
- And finally July 18th I will be leaving here for America (if I get the date I want?!?!).

Exciting news!! I got offered an interview with University of Denver!! We will be conducting a phone interview March 26th, YAY. I haven’t heard from University of South Dakota yet, but it’s still really early. More info TBA.

Last thing and it’s random. I am now the new coach for the Secondary School’s Netball team. A bit of an explanation: Netball is similar to Basketball, but different rules and weird. I know what you are thinking; you’re thinking ‘how do you even know the rules are different when you don’t even know the rules of basketball and have never played the sport in your life.’ Haha, very true though. Well, the thing is that there is only one coach and he always coaches the boys (who play soccer) and forgets about the girls. So I am just helping them get in shape, conduct practices, encourage them to stay active in sports, and increase their self esteem. I have watched the sport a lot so I just focus on the moves they make and help them make them better and faster. Fun times.

Happy Valentine’s day, J