December 30, 2011

small thoughts: eva soap

Yes, I'm writing about soap. The reason being it does such remarkable things, seemingly defying laws of common sense. Also because I've been in a hotel for the past two weeks using it.

When does soap become "Luxury" soap?
A little background: when you stay in hotels in Tanzania, they usually provide you with a towel and soap (already in your room if you're lucky!), and more often than not, the soap they stock is Eva brand. It usually comes in the cute travel size you see in the picture, though I have foggy memories of bigger bars being available when I first started my service. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, this makes it a good item to take with you when you check out; it's small, it's light, and best of all, it's free! Most well-traveled PCVs have a stockpile in their house for those moments you find yourself without laundry detergent or a decent bar for bucket baths.

But why is it so remarkable? Well, for one thing, once you get it wet, it is absolutely impossible to keep it in your hand. You might think this is an ordinary quality of all soaps, but I've noticed Eva is extraordinarily slippery. On average, I probably drop it 3-4 times more than most other soaps I've used. Which is aggravating when you consider how difficult it is to get a lather out of it.

The other peculiar thing about Eva is its staying power. That is to say, once you do get it on your skin, it's quite hard to remove. Lots of cheap soaps leave residue, and Eva is definitely no exception. This goes doubly if you've decided to use it for washing clothes in the sink. My advice to PCVs is don't do this. Just don't. I did it a few days ago and it didn't go well. I rinsed each garment for a good 25 minutes and the soap was still coming off. I finally gave up and ended up with undershirts that had that awful gritty feeling when you use too much soap.

So there you have it; soap that's impossible to hold, impossible to lather, and impossible to wash off if you ever manage to overcome the first two. Pretty remarkable, don't you think?

December 29, 2011

thoughts on 2011

We've nearly reached the end of 2011, which means it's time for inward reflection! Those of you that like to peek inside my head I'm sure are no doubt excited about reading this post. What's nice about inward reflection for me these days is that it's much easier to do now that I've been picking a word each year to hone in on. The idea is to "create a lens" through which you see the kind of person you want to become.

This year, myoneword was HIARI, a Swahili word that translates roughly as "free will." When I picked it, I wasn't really sure how well it fit with the guidelines for a word. It's easy to envision looking through a lens of "love" or "patience"; there are situations almost daily where we find the need to draw upon these virtues to be better people. But HIARI? What does that look like? To be honest, I chose it despite this problem because I wanted to understand more about what it is. We've all come across the paradox that, though God has planned out all the details of our lives before we were even in the womb, He also gave us HIARI. Lots of people have problems with this, including me. How can it be both ways?

December 24, 2011

3rd year perspectives

Last night, it finally hit me that it's Christmas. It was right around the time I was finishing up a beer in the center of the bus stand in my new town, when I felt the absence of my family. But I realize I've been pretty lucky to be so preoccupied with something else. I don't think it could get much worse than being alone with nothing to do over the holidays. Having a new house to fix up, and organize, and decorate, and be excited about has been a wonderful Christmas present for me.

After feeling a little sad, I started to think about the past 2 holiday seasons. How they've been different and how they've been similar. On the first Christmas I ever spent away from family, I was contemplating my impending medical evacuation to South Africa, due to my being diagnosed with foot drop. I was also burdening my counterpart, spending the entire afternoon in his room eating his food and watching war movies (it's the only American movies Tanzanians really enjoy, since the dialogue isn't really important). It sounds really really sad, but that is a fond memory of my early service. I didn't know the teachers at my school very well at that point, but this guy took me under his wing after we hung out, just one afternoon, drinking beers at the local kitimoto shop. At the time, December 25th was one of the better days compared to the others that surrounded it, and in hindsight, it will probably be one of the highlights of my life. Not necessarily because I enjoyed it in the moment, but because it was a showcase of God's grace and love for me when I felt I was descending into a valley.

Last year was the Christmas that provides the contrast to the two that book-end it. Thanks to the generosity of my parents and grandparents, I got to fly home for the holidays. And it was different from every other Christmas I'd had in America before because I had spent a year living with the other 3/4 of the world (and was going back after two short weeks). I didn't feel guilty; I didn't preach at my family or friends, that they should think harder about how much they take for granted; on the contrary, I was having trouble registering that the past year had actually happened. It was a strange feeling, but I had a new appreciation not just for the things we have in America, but for the people that were a part of my life (Peace Corps Volunteers/Staff and Tanzanians included).

And now, another Christmas is upon us. My contract with the Peace Corps ended before Thanksgiving, but I decided to extend for a year so I'm still here. I could have flown home for Christmas, on the Peace Corps' dime this time, but I've decided to take my leave in March so I'm still here. While it's certainly difficult to be away for the holidays, it's easy to see that God has His hand in how it's all working out.

Had I gone back to the States, I would've had to come back still homeless. The work on my house probably wouldn't have started until mid or late January, getting dangerously close to when we are scheduled to host our "Project Launch" down south (middle of February), featuring honored guests such as the United States Ambassador to Tanzania and the President of Tanzania himself, Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete. In all fairness, my living situation would've been low on the list of priorities.

Had I gone back to the States, I would've missed out on yet another Baseball season (you never know how much you miss something until you go 2 years without it), probably leading me to ET (Early Termination of Service) to avoid watching more incomprehensible Cricket matches. Spring Training can't get here soon enough!

So to my family and friends back in the States, if you're reading these words, know that you're in my thoughts, that I love you all, and that I wish I could be there with you to celebrate the holidays.

Heri ya Krismas, Mungu Awabariki, Allah Akhbar, na tutaonana hivi karibuni!

December 22, 2011

renovating...or rebuilding?

Repairs are underway on my house, and I've been pondering the above title since we started yesterday; some of the things we're doing (like hammering iron bars into the aging brick and mortar infrastructure) make me think there's something more substantial going on. Despite my doubts of its structural integrity, I'm quite confident the fixes we're making now will keep the house standing at least until I leave, if not for the duration of the TZ21 project (which is the ultimate goal). There's also nothing stopping the utter excitement I feel about beginning my second life in Peace Corps, in a brand new setting with new people, and (hopefully) with a fresh perspective. My house has been a big part of this so far, acting as the gateway at which this new life starts.
The video above is just a sampling of the various things that have happened over the past two days. In it, you can see the roof being patched and painted, the interior wood frame being coated with used motor oil (natural termite repellent, apparently), cracks in the concrete being fixed inside and outside, ceiling boards finished in the living area, etc. In addition (not in the video), mosquito nets are in the windows, the electricity has been rewired, and the light fixtures are working as of this evening!

I'm pretty amazed at how fast things are getting done, but there's still plenty left to do. More ceiling boards, more concrete work, stuff in the bathroom and the kitchen, the other side of the roof needs to be painted, among other things. I honestly think moving in by Christmas is a real possibility; as long as I get a bed with a mosquito net in my bedroom, locks on the doors, and we make sure the choo is functional, I would consider it safe to spend the night inside.

A house would be a nice Christmas present, I have to say. But I've already got a plan for the Christmas present I want to give to myself. It has something to do with my living area. I'll share more details in another entry in relatively short order, just be patient!

December 12, 2011

annual conference

I got back from the annual conference last Thursday, just in time to celebrate Tanzania's 50 years of independence not in Dar, which I'm convinced was probably a good thing. The traffic there was even more unbelievable than usual leading up to December 9th, and the rains that fell during the week certainly didn't help (the road from my hotel to the annual conference flooded BIG time on Thursday). In any case, hongera to Tanzania for being free for 50 years! It's funny to hear some other volunteers are running into Tanzanians that honestly believe they were better off as a colony of western countries; I've heard one or two people broadcast that same thought.

As for the annual conference, it went as well as it could have, considering the schedule set for it. We accomplished most of our objectives, and it was helpful for me to learn more about the Implementing Partners involved with the project (except for Agile Learning, who's in charge of the Education Management Information System; they didn't show up). Unfortunately, we really didn't get to deliberate on what Creative calls "emerging issues," or perhaps this is a generic real-world work term that I hadn't heard before. They're basically roadblocks and problems that keep us from getting things done. For example, one of our current emerging issues is getting electronics through customs; the pilot equipment arrived in Tanzania at the end of September, but wasn't cleared to leave the airport until the week we installed it. And that was just kid stuff compared to the procurement of equipment that will happen early next year.

In any case, the venue for the conference was the gorgeous Double Tree hotel in Oyster Bay. We didn't actually stay there (it costs ~$255/night), but we got to hang out by the pool and eat at the buffet. I definitely felt a little mshamba (like a yokel, redneck) in the midst of such luxuries. They had these glasses of red and green...something scattered across the tables, and I was endlessly fascinated with them until I finally summoned the courage to pour some of it into my glass of water. Turns out it was some kind of concentrated syrup that was supposed to add flavor to water, but it was honestly pretty gross. Mshamba-ness aside, I think it's a good thing I'm still a ways removed from the finer things in life (like strange, high fructose corn syrup-based water flavor enhancers). I'm starting to see that the big danger in international development work is losing touch with who you're trying to help. Even just being in Mtwara town I've noticed it's a problem, so I can't even imagine trying to do it in a place like Dar.

November 19, 2011

random synapse

We just finished a workshop out in a village called Lukeledi. I don't know why, but I really like this place. From what I can tell, or from my very limited perspective of the area around the primary school, the village itself has nothing. It does have korosho (cashew nuts), but that's about it. Despite how impoverished it is, I still find myself wanting to stay here. Not forever, but at least a little while.

Why do I feel this way? Is it guilt, for being one of the lucky few born in the richest country on the planet? Is it the desire to help, and to improve the lives of the people here? Nope. I just wish my life was simpler. The people here are simple. They live simple lives. I'd like to think if I was boiled down to my essence, I'd find the same thing within me. But it isn't true. My life is complicated. Really complicated.

I suppose it's ironic then, that the reason I'm here is to make their lives more complicated; having computers in their community certainly won't make them any easier. Well, at least not yet.

October 21, 2011

new house, video coming

Lots of things have happened since my last post. And unfortunately, lots of other things haven't happened.

One thing that has happened is that I've paid a visit to my future house! Super exciting! Of course, given that I'm referring to it as my "future house," I'm implying that it isn't my current house. No. I'm still a nomad. And I'm closing in on two months since my departure from Singida. Yeah. It's getting a little old living out of a duffel bag. I refuse to unpack anything, so I've been stuck wearing the same work clothes since the beginning of September. It'll be nice to wear a short-sleeve collared shirt after this is all over.

September 22, 2011

sound off

It's been a slow two weeks.

Not really a whole lot going on in my new line of work just yet, but I'm getting paid to stay in a 3-star hotel on Zanzibar...hard to complain about not having much to do. It is a bit unnerving to think that I've been living out of hotels since the beginning of September though, with no end in sight. I'm still in the dark about my placement since I never got a response about my scope of work from the Chief of Party. That also means I have no job outline, but I've been keeping myself busy preparing for a presentation to persuade our team to try some outside-the-box techniques for developing training manuals. As long as this goes through, I'll have plenty to keep me busy for the next year. If it doesn't for some reason...well, I simply refuse to think in that direction.

September 5, 2011

another beginning

Apologies for the lack of updates and tweets in the past 2 weeks; it's been hectic with preparations for my new leg of service, and my phone battery is another story. I got a replacement today after showing the broken one to a sales clerk. She commented "imevimba," to which I blindly replied "yes, imevimba," not knowing at all what "vimba" meant. Turns out it means to become inflamed, or in this case, to bulge or swell. It wouldn't fit in the battery compartment anymore, to the point where I could barely close the casing on the back. Anywho, new battery, good times.

Expect some tweets this week; I'll be in Dar at a beach-side resort for a team building retreat with my new family of co-workers! Should be informative and fun.

August 21, 2011

house "innovations"

I'm back at my house as of yesterday evening, and it looks like a dust devil has wrecked havoc on its insides. Mostly because of the ongoing renovations that started while I was gone.

Two weeks ago, my headmaster grew worried about what he had to do to get ready for my replacement; Peace Corps had sent him a letter about coming to Dar to pick up the new Volunteer, but they hadn't told him how to prepare for his arrival. To quell his fears, I gave him a tour of my house and provided a list of repairs he should make before the end of August. He repeatedly called these repairs "innovations," which I find so hilarious and strangely heart-warming that I haven't corrected him yet. As a matter of fact, I might start using it that way myself just for the hell of it.

So now I've returned, and much to my delight, something actually got done while I was gone! Granted, it would've been nice if they'd run a broom across the floor after they finished working, but the back room finally looks livable! I'd actually like to move my bed in there now (see video). Also amazing is that they patched the hole where the bats were getting in (and more recently a swarm of bees, don't ask), so I think that problem is finally taken care of.

They still have some ceiling boards to put in above the kitchen, but I consider the house already substantially improved from its condition throughout the past 2 years. Hopefully the next volunteer will keep it this way, and the bats won't find another way in...

August 19, 2011

cos conference is over, but my service isn't

It's official: I'm extending for a 3rd year!

I'm still exhausted from last night's "closing ceremonies" and subsequent 4-hour dance party, not to mention the interview this morning that sealed the deal, so I'm not going into detail, but I'm working with a project called TZ21 Basic Education. It's essentially an initiative to incorporate computers and ICT frameworks into primary schools in Mtwara region and on Zanzibar. From the meeting I had with the Chief of Party, it sounds like I'm headed for Mtwara. I am, however, attending a team building retreat in about 2 weeks here in Dar, and participating in a 2-week-long needs assessment on Zanzibar right after. So most of my time in September will be spent away from site. Perfect timing really, since that's when my replacement will arrive. He'll get to spend a good amount of time getting to know the lay of the land on his own, which is what I was hoping for.

I'm not sure what will happen after that; it all depends on when my accommodations down south are ready. I wasn't given a time-frame for that, but I'd imagine end of September or sometime in October would certainly be reasonable.

So yeah. Exciting times. You can stop worrying now, Mom and Dad!

August 7, 2011


July was a low key month for me. Mostly because I had to live on less than $40 after my vacation on Zanzibar (totally worth it). We started back at school around the time of my last post, and I've been busy teaching Form II and Form III Physics ever since. I also started a computer class for interested students after school. We've only met one week so far because of the electricity situation (don't ask), but I'm hoping to have them word processing and filling out spreadsheets with practical applications. My idea right now is to have them create a budget for the school's Form IV graduation ceremony, and then write a cover letter for it to the Headmaster who will "approve" it and release the funds (all hypothetical of course, but it may be cool to have the headmaster's stamp on their hard-copy budgets). After that, I'd really just like to teach them  touch-typing; they pretty much know how to navigate the applications of a computer, but none of them can type without staring at the keyboard.

July 16, 2011

religion is crippling tanzania

Forgive me for engaging in silly hyperbole, but to some extent I do believe this is occurring in Tanzania. I think even those of use that are Christians, if we observe the situation long enough, notice that it is inhibiting progress. Progress of what, exactly?

Well, as an educator myself, I make the argument that religion is inhibiting intellectual progress. It isn't difficult to see; at my school, we have 2 class periods (80 minutes) on our weekly schedule set aside for "Religion." We also get out 80 minutes early on Fridays for those that practice Islam. Four class periods out of the weekly 40-some doesn't seem like that much of a sacrifice, but I think it does do damage when students are trying to figure out how the two, education and religion, should coincide and fit together. I like the way C.S. Lewis puts it:
Nowadays most people hardly think of Prudence as one of the "virtues." In fact, because Christ said we could only get into His world by being like children, many Christians have the idea that, provided you are "good," it does not matter being a fool. But that is a misunderstanding. In the first place, most children show plenty of "prudence" about doing the things they are really interested in, and think them out quite sensibly. In the second place, as St. Paul points out, Christ never meant that we were to remain children in intelligence: on the contrary, He told us to be not only "as harmless as doves," but also "as wise as serpents." He wants a child's heart, but a grown-up's head. (Mere Christianity, "The Cardinal Virtues")
In other words, "religion" is not an excuse for being uneducated. In Christianity, it is quite the opposite.

July 14, 2011

it's coming: the archipelago

I was going to wait a few more days before I posted this trailer, but I'm just too excited to share! I know it's been a while since I promised footage from my vacation, but editing and sifting through 8 days worth of HD video on an under-powered 10" netbook is actually quite difficult. Hopefully this will tide you over until I can put something long-form together. Share and enjoy!

July 4, 2011

personal reflections: budgeting the future

This entry comes from the free ramblings in my private journal.

Written on July 3rd, 2011
One of the things I've loved about my time here in Tanzania is the walks into town. It's a rare occasion that I don't enjoy them or feel like they're wasted time. There's always something to think about, something to ponder, something to figure out. It's actually because of these walks that I'm feeling the need to write these thoughts down.

Today I thought about the situation here in Tanzania in relation to development, and the role of foreign aid in that development. I reflected on what kind of impact I've made in my year and a half, and if it has benefitted Tanzania at all in the grand scheme of things. I thought about this because of a friend's exploits to stay another year in a much different capacity than a PCV, and because of my own curiosity as to how much time and energy someone needs to give in order to really accomplish something for the people of Tanzania.

June 29, 2011

on return

I just came back to the mainland yesterday after spending over a week on Zanzibar. It's difficult to succinctly describe how incredible Zanzibar is, so I'll simply leave it as that, incredible. I went with a friend originally with the intention to spend most of our time at the Zanzibar International Film Festival, but plans quickly changed after we found out how expensive life on Zanzibar was, and after we discovered how much else the island has to offer. We snorkeled, we shopped, we lazed on the beach, and we saw Shaggy in concert!

I have a ton of footage to go through from the trip, so keep your ear to the ground because the clips are coming!

June 1, 2011

important things come in "short" timeframes

We're in the waning days of terminal exams here at school. Hard to believe I may not be here much longer. Between my vacation later this month to Zanzibar and COS conference at the beginning of August (and assuming I land the extension down south), I have only a precious pair of months left here at site.

May 18, 2011

burdens of a free software advocate

Sometimes it just sucks to be a Linux lover.

This post is most-definitely nerdier than the average update on this blog, just forewarning for those of you less technically inclined (or less inclined to pay attention to such things). It's been an awful past few days in the world of technology for me. First and foremost, I picked up a Vodacom mobile broadband modem while I was in Dodoma this past Monday, thinking it would be a good investment for my work here and quite possibly beyond this time and place. I haven't had much of a chance to test it out until today, and it's been nothing but frustration.

May 17, 2011

crushing these manuals...and my coccyx

We're so close! I just returned from a trip to Morogoro; a subset of us that spent two weeks there in March made a second appearance to receive feedback on the not-yet completed manuals we've been writing for the Ministry of Education. We're now buckling down to get these submitted to the Ministry, and the brunt of the work is placed on my shoulders. It's mostly my fault for choosing to do things a certain way, a way that's difficult to replicate and train others to assist with. The job I refer to is the illustrations in all three of our books (one for each science subject); I'm in charge of digitizing drawings and making them available for inclusion in the manuals.

May 3, 2011

growing a conscience, or victims of time?

Given that you've made it to my lowly blog to read this, I can only assume you've seen the MLK-quote phenomenon sweep across your web browser, either on Facebook or Twitter or some news site scavenging for hits. It's probably even landed in newspapers all over America. If you haven't (maybe you've been unconscious the past few days?), here's the quote for your reference:
I will mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

May 1, 2011

the sweeter side of life

Putting a video together with the monstrous amounts of footage I have has proven to be quite difficult. It's also much easier to edit when you're closer to it in the timeline (it's been a while since all the stuff I filmed was actually filmed). So alas, no video...yet.

April 21, 2011

a loooong weekend off

Traditionally, Easter weekend is a long weekend here in Tanzania because we have Good Friday and the following Monday (called "Easter Monday") off. This year it's even longer because Union Day falls on Tuesday of next week, so it's become a nice little 5-day break. As if that wasn't enough, I found out yesterday that my school is hosting this year's Catholic student Easter Conference. I'm not sure exactly what it is, but I've donated quite a bit of money to students so they can go; they walk around town with these donation forms, asking people for money so they can attend the conference. I usually give around 500 /= to each student (a little less than $0.40), since it's normally the case that around 10-12 students ask me for a donation.

April 11, 2011

big ideas, little time

Today marked the end of our O-level mid-term break. It also marked the end of A-level break at our school, so our boarding students returned yesterday. The result: utter chaos.

March 28, 2011

shika project: conference over

The conference is no more. We finished on Friday. Sorry I didn't share much in the past couple of weeks.

I was hoping to update during the conference, but I greatly underestimated how much work I would be responsible for. Turns out I played a critical role in many aspects of the conference, something that would've been hard to plan for even if I had known in advance. We all ended up with a lot more work than we bargained for, but I think everyone took it in stride and coped quite well given the circumstances.

March 13, 2011

shika project: preparation

If you follow my Twitter account, you may have caught a tweet that went out a week or two ago about a science conference. It is sponsored by the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training here in Tanzania, and it's all about creating hands-on science activities (practicals) using locally available materials. The time has flown by since then and we're now making preparations for our first day!

While this post is titled "shika," the conference isn't necessarily about our Shika project. The outcomes of the conference will most likely end up in the Shika manual, however. Our greater hope is that these activities will spread beyond Shika into the textbooks and literature of Tanzania's education system so that they will have an impact outside of the schools Peace Corps Volunteers are placed in.

Tomorrow is mostly about getting things organized for the rest of our time together; figuring out what we need/want to accomplish, organizing that work into a schedule, and buying materials for the practicals we need to perform. While I'm certainly here to contribute ideas (especially in the field of physics), my primary assignment at the conference will be documenting and taking footage of what occurs while we're here. Given we'll be doing lots of running around in town tomorrow buying materials, it should be a fun day :)

March 4, 2011

life post-peace corps & pink eye

It's that time of year. Second-year PCVs are considering their options; to stay or not to stay. I have been looking at a wide variety of things in the recent days and weeks, from Americorps' VISTA program (props to my buddy Casey for bringing it to my attention), to grad school in South Africa, and most recently, the JET program.

Granted, I've decided I'm not all that interested in teaching another year in my village. But I'm looking at the JET program as more than just teaching. Much like the Peace Corps, JET understands the importance of cultural exchange, so much so in fact that the 'E' in 'JET' actually stands for [Cultural] "Exchange." And to be perfectly honest, I've had a personal interest in Eastern culture since I was in junior high school. Yeah, maybe I watched some Japanese cartoons when I was younger (I was, and still am, an unabashed Pokémaster), and maybe I attempted to learn some Japanese on my own at one point. I even took a Chinese Calligraphy class in college because their writing system has always fascinated me; the kanji itself are like beautiful little works of art.

As for teaching in Japan, I think learning about another education system (which will undoubtedly be better organized and equipped) would be a blast, and my role in the classroom would actually be to tag-team with an already established English teacher. Add to that the fact I won't be living below the poverty line anymore (even if I end up in a rural village, which I would ironically love and be familiar with), and there's no way around it. I'm actively excited about this opportunity.

As for the other headline, I woke up with conjunctivitis this morning. I know. Gross. My allergies have been quite active the past few weeks, and given that my average sneeze series has grown from the normal 2 to 3 or 4 at a time, the increase in irritation and wateriness of my eyes has led to excessive rubbing, which has undoubtedly led to this case of pink eye. It's already starting to feel better, as I've been pretty good in the past 24 hours about not touching my face.

But yeah, mostly the other thing :)

February 27, 2011

rocks & robots: february 27

Music credit: Bass Head, by Bassnectar

This isn't the video I've been talking about for the past week, nor does it accomplish any of Peace Corps' core goals, but it's still awesome nonetheless. Share this with everyone you know so I can become a professional dancer when I COS please :)

The other video is coming soon, I promise!

February 21, 2011

slight still delay[ed]

EDIT: Hey, so I haven't even started on this video yet. I'm still searching for the perfect tune, but am coming up empty. Did you know how many genres and subgenres and styles and substyles of electronic and drum 'n bass music there are? There's like, a kajillion. And I get the feeling the music I'm looking for is only in this one specific subgenre/style that's so obscure I won't be able to find it. Maybe I should just break out LMMS and make my own damn any case, this might be one of those "it'll be ready when it's ready" scenarios. If this takes longer than another week, I'll make sure to post something to keep you all entertained.

Stay sweet.

The new video won't be up until later this week, considering I'm still in search of music for the audio track. If you know of any good drum 'n bass or electronic artists with strong rhythms, let me know.

Get excited though, it's about one of the "special" events I mentioned a couple weeks back :)

February 11, 2011

new psas

Unless you're following them on Twitter or Facebook, you probably weren't aware that Peace Corps recently released some new PSA print ads for publications and such. You can find them here.

One of the ads in particular caught my attention:

Let me preface this by reminding everyone that this blog contains my own opinions and has no official affiliation with the Peace Corps as a government organization, and that I understand the reference they are making here. But when I saw this ad, immediately my first thought was "No, actually you're mistaken. There is an app for this. And the process behind it is long and drawn out, requiring infinite patience and a will-power able to withstand months of ambiguity. Oh, is there an app for this!"

I wonder if any other Volunteers reacted the same way after seeing this ad.

February 7, 2011

debates & dodoma: february 06

Just to elaborate a bit on the above, I hope to have two special updates in the coming weeks; one with some rock climbing and another about the Shika project. Both are currently tentative. Cross your fingers that I'll be able to get them in! And pray that I'll be a good teacher in the meantime...

UPDATE: It's been brought to my attention that the Shika site link in the video doesn't work. As it turns out, the site hasn't gone public yet. My bad. You can, however, view our code page, which currently has a PDF draft of the International Shika manual in the Downloads section. Check it out here.

January 19, 2011

permagardening at msc

To prevent dying of sheer boredom at MSC, I shot a short video about our permagardening session on the last day. There's really not much to see; this is more for my own purposes. After improving to an HD video camera during my stay at home, I realize there are other ways to improve my videos besides picture quality. Hopefully they'll become less one-dimensional (montages set to music) in the coming months. Please try to enjoy this first step in that direction :)

January 1, 2011

living [in] a dream

I debated whether or not I would blog at the dawn of 2011, and I suppose you can see where I ended up. The debate existing because I'm currently State-side, and blogging would be unnecessary since my life in Tanzania is now on hold. Turns out a post might do me some good in expressing the things I'm experiencing in the US after spending a year abroad.

Thoughts about this trip have been bouncing around in my brain for 5 months. That's when I first started talking to my parents about coming home for the holidays, and I had been dreaming about America ever since. As December approached, and as I saw my friends take their leave across the Atlantic and come back, I began to wonder what my encounter with American culture would be like. I've heard that reverse culture shock can be even more profound and dizzying than the shock of visiting another country, so I began to think that being back in the US may not be the relaxing dream vacation I was thinking it would be. Would I feel out of place? Would I be overwhelmed? I was preparing myself mentally as I boarded the plane at Nyerere International Airport.

After a solid week and a half back on this side of the globe, I'm baffled. And not in the way I expected. Coming back to America was easy. Suspiciously easy. I'm actually kind of disappointed in how unaffected I've been by my time in Africa. I've made this remark to almost all the friends and family I've seen here: this past year feels a lot like a dream right now, and I've finally woken up. But now there's all these strange pictures and videos of me in some other country, with people I didn't know in America, and I have 3 or 4 different kinds of currency in my wallet. Perhaps if I was back in the United States for the indefinite future, having to look for a job/career, pay bills and such, I might feel a bit different. After all, the best kinds of vacations are the ones where you can forget about all that stuff.

And maybe I'm being a bit melodramatic. I do dread the thought of my return, though. If my mind is trying to trick me into thinking all this didn't really happen, what happens when it's time to come back to reality?