February 21, 2010

things to come

I think this may be the longest interval between entries since I've gotten here. My apologies to those of you in America that have been on house arrest the past few weeks because of Snowmageddon, you've probably been bored out of your mind and looking to me for something to read. If things still haven't thawed yet, then grab a blanket and some Swiss Miss while you read on. I was actually planning to make this entry a short one, just to tell you about the exciting things I have planned to put up here on the blog, and I will still do that. But given your situation of being perpetually snowed-in, I'll include a story to help you pass the time.

I have some exciting things planned for this blog in the coming weeks! Hopefully I've uploaded some more pictures, and you're looking at those now, but I've been continuing to take lots of film with my camera, so another video is in the works. I also have a comic planned. I'm not sure if I ever told you all about the comics I drew during PST, but I was notorious for them at our CCT days. Most Fridays we would have to break into groups at least twice to prepare some kind of presentation, usually on a subtopic of the lesson we were discussing. By the third week we became very accustomed to using flip chart paper to list bullet points, so most of us have now mastered the art of organizing and condensing our thoughts onto large sheets of paper. If you know any employers looking for this skill, tell them to search the network of RPCVs. Why the PST staff used this learning technique so much, we're still a bit baffled, but we definitely grew tired of it after we reached the halfway mark of training. The comics, however, softened the blow of these sessions for many people, so by the end I was usually handed the marker and flip chart paper no matter what group I was split into, based on the assumption I had another genius idea ready to be illustrated with stick figures within poorly drawn panels. Near the end of PST, I was even approached about putting some of the comics in future editions of the PST literature. I'm still working on that, though. Anyway, I have a comic set to hit the blog soon, along with a third video. Both will likely be about my first three months of service.

Now that I think about it, not only was I notorious for comics at our CCT days, I was also notorious for taking pointlessly long videos with my camera, many of them on the order of 15 minutes or more. Yes, they certainly do seem pointless and long at the time, but the shadow montage is an example of what you can do with pointlessly long videos when you pick out the good parts.

I guess I've rambled aimlessly enough now, maybe you'd like a story? Well, if you remember the story about Moshi (it's two posts back, I believe), I've actually been escorting him home at regular intervals since. It's usually a welcome good deed after I've majorly blown it in the classroom or I feel like I've done nothing all day. So far, the count is at 4 (counting last night, which was a special case that I will get to later), and I remember each occasion by what our topic of conversation was. I've already talked about the first. During our second walk we talked about his history in Tanzania, and how he has lived here in this town since before I was born (1985), and during the third we discussed what we think heaven will be like. He told me it's going to be one "sherehe kubwa," to which I responded with laughter, "sherehe kubwa" meaning a huge party. Certainly doesn't sound far from the truth to me.

This past occasion was special because I had a few of my fellow teachers with me. If it weren't for the fact that they too were intoxicated, it might've been another pleasant walk to Moshi's house. But most of the time I was inundated with drunken candor, be it numerous inquiries of whether I was attending church the following day or not, or explanations (coming from someone inebriated) of why Africans show respect to their elders even when they're inebriated. I was tempted to feel overwhelmed at many junctures, but I think I managed to keep a fairly good perspective on things until I reached my house, nearly an hour after we started on our stroll. While I won't remember any of the talking points from last night, I will remember it as the walk in which, out of a group of 5 people, I was the only one that didn't relieve himself in public.

I would say "only in Africa," but I'm pretty sure things like this happen in America, too.

February 7, 2010

energy with no outlet

I was planning to write this entry on the fly the other day in the Internet Cafe, but when I got to town there was no electricity. All the better, I suppose, as I can organize my thoughts a little better now.

On Friday morning, I was visited by one of the PC/Tanzania staff in the education sector. It was not a big meeting in any sense, just a friendly site visit to see how I'm doing at the school. We talked for a little bit in my house about various things, mostly semantics concerning any issues I've experienced or cultural problems I've witnessed in my first three months. Then we walked back to the school grounds where I introduced him to the headmaster and academic master. He gave me a packet at the end of our meeting, which I opened after he left to find it contained various Peace Corps newsletters and brochures. I'm not sure why, but I spent most of the next hour or two reading through most of it. I guess it was the inspirational stories contained within that got to me because after I finished, I was a ball of energy, brimming with desire to start a million different secondary projects that afternoon. I probably would have done just that if it weren't for divine intervention.

Because I recognized that my motivation and drive had no real focus or clear intentions, I decided it might be a good time to write a blog entry to organize my thoughts. Whether or not I was in control of my own actions at this point is still somewhat unclear, because I ended up on the rocks near the cell phone towers behind the school. A great idea, given the path is nearly straight uphill, and it was the middle of the afternoon. But I had come up here the previous Sunday to write a few notes in my e-journal about my pre-week prep for classes (I will address this at the end), so I figured a little peace and the view might do me some good.

Once I reached the boulder that overlooks the town, I left my bag and everything in my pockets under some tall bushes at the bottom, symbolizing, I thought, my desire to bring only myself before God for a little quiet time. I found that it was anything but quiet inside my head when I finally climbed up the rock. I tried to sit down near the front to survey the land below, but I couldn't sit still. I was still buzzing with ideas and thoughts in disarray, so tense that they literally made me pace back and forth. It was the strangest feeling being so wound up like this, maybe I was on the verge of a panic attack? But that doesn't seem like the right spirit. It felt more like things were going to burst out of me uncontrollably, and now that I was on top of a rock that had been baking in the African sun all morning, I also felt like I was going to burst into flames. After having to unbutton my shirt because I was overheating from the pacing, I decided it was better to dismount and sit on the slab of rock that was below me. At least there I would be shielded from the sun.

I should devote a little bit of time to telling you all about this slab of rock I've found near the cell towers. Last Sunday, I walked up the hill to have some quiet time and think about the coming week, and after I spent a few minutes overlooking the town, I descended to the slab below. I'm not sure how to describe it, other than it's just perfect. It sits at the bottom of this boulder that I've climbed on top of a few times (see most recent panorama), and it's sort of wedged underneath another boulder, effectively creating an overhang that graciously blocks the sun until about 2 in the afternoon. Did I mention you can lay on it like a bed? It functions equally as well as a seat, allowing your legs to hang freely in the glorious breezes that frequently pass over the rocks. Perhaps I will post pictures of it sometime. I have a feeling this rock is going to be very important to me during my service here in Manyoni.

And so, I descended to my home away from home and sat for a few minutes. It is here that I finally started to calm down. Slowly but surely, an unmistakeable Peace began to overtake my anxious thoughts, and before I knew it, I was nearly unconscious. For fear of injuring myself if I collapsed in my leaning seated position, I reclined on the rock and allowed God to continue speaking His Peace.

I tell you what, there's no quieter moment than when God speaks Peace into your heart.

And this was with huge generators running not 100 feet from where I lay, as there were electricians working on the cell towers up there (the power had gone out in the afternoon, and I can only assume they were making sure the towers were functioning properly). After about 15 minutes, I arose and considered getting out my laptop to start an entry, but decided to go ahead and walk into town and maybe write one at the cafe.

I had gone up the hill hoping to organize my thoughts and make sense of the tension I felt inside. When I came down, nothing had really been resolved. I never could make anything of what I was feeling, but I had peace. If God was telling me anything, it was to be patient and wait.

Now, about the e-journal I mentioned earlier. Since I started teaching classes, I have been keeping little notes on what I've taught to keep tabs on progress through the syllabus and to write impressions on how the students responded during that particular class. I've also been writing entries detailing reasons why I haven't been able to teach certain classes, whether it's because the students are cleaning the school grounds for the umpteenth time, or it's because they're being punished to clean the school grounds for the umpteenth + 1 time. As I mentioned above, I also write on Sundays about some of my aspirations for the coming school days as a "Pre-Week Prep", as well as reflections on how the week went on Fridays as an "End of Week Wrap-up." I'm considering ways I might make this available to you all so you can get an insider perspective on what I'm actually doing here (given the blog entries I publish seem to be about everything BUT my job), though it needs a bit more thought at the moment. I want to make sure I don't create any issues for Peace Corps before I do anything.