December 22, 2012

earning my 'R'

It was recently brought to my attention that I haven't made my "farewell" post yet. For those not in the loop, November was my last month at work, and December 19th was my COS date. So yeah, I'm done. Despite having internet access the whole week before then, I neglected to write anything here. Leave it to me to wait until I'm in the airport getting ready to leave, dead-tired because it's nearly 1 in the morning.

The past 3 years have changed my life. Deeply. So deeply, in fact, that I can't bring myself to write about it. Maybe after Christmas, when I'm home and I'm caught up on sleep. You'd think 2 days in a 5-star beach resort in Dubai would revitalize you, but I was there on Friday night. December 21st. Which was notoriously marked as an "End of the World!!!" date. So yeah, I went out to an "End of the World!!!" party. Was it worth the 120 AED (about $32 USD) I spent on 3 beers? Probably not. But who stays in their hotel room on a Friday night in Dubai? Nobody does that.

November 30, 2012

posts from the past: reclaiming joy

I've been going through my backlog in recent weeks, and thought you guys might enjoy rereading -- or maybe reading for the first time if you're a newbie -- posts from earlier in my service. One of my favorites is reclaiming joy, because it has great pictures and references some shadowers we had in Singida -- most of whom have just COS'd! My how time flies!

November 21, 2012

unaweza kunichukua?

Even a Peace Corps Volunteer fresh out of Pre-Service Training can understand the meaning of this question. And it's a loaded one when it comes from the mouth of a kid.

Since the beginning of November, I've been away from home supporting the TZ21 field office in town. It's hard to be away that long, so I've tried to assuage the sting of living out of a suitcase by staying at the beach house, where we PCVs have most of our holiday gatherings. Two days ago, I went out for an evening swim after work, and I met a kid who was already out in the ocean practicing his doggy paddle. As is customary among the children you meet on the beach, he wanted to show me all of his swimming techniques and the neat tricks he could do underwater. We did this exchange for a while, until I got concerned about how dark it was. This kid was alone, so I figured he had a long walk back home and I didn't want him to stay late on my account.

"Where do you live?"
"I live near a hotel in town."
"It's getting dark now. Aren't your parents worried?"
"I don't have any parents."

I had a feeling I wasn't going to like where this was going.

November 12, 2012

blogger refresh

Admittedly, I've been more engaged in reading blogs than writing them recently. The only word I can think to describe the feeling I get when I read about the adventures of others, the things I experienced early in my service...I feel refreshed. Which is fitting, because part of that word, "fresh", is what it felt like when I was in it myself. It's precisely the feeling I wanted to convey in the name of my own blog.

I'm very proud of our new group, and I'm thankful that many of them are taking their time to share their struggles and joys with the rest of us! If you'd like to get in on the action, check out the blogroll on All the blogs in my sidebar might be a little outdated (although some RPCVs that are home now are still posting!), but I'll update them soon!

September 3, 2012

10,000 hits!

I just checked the stats on my blog -- apparently my ramblings have recently hit 5 digits! Thanks for your loyal readership! As a token of my appreciation, and as a way to reflect on when it all began, I'm embedding my first video for your enjoyment. In fact, I think I'll do this every once in a while during the last 3 months of my service...stayed tuned for more trips down memory lane!

July 20, 2012

mahitaji ya wengi (the needs of many)

When was the last time you gave food to someone who was hungry?

Before last week, it had been a long time for me. Sadly, I had sunk into the attitude most Volunteers don as their service wears on -- I'm just as poor as they are, why do I need to give anything? I've already given up enough just coming here, right? While it appears to be true on the surface, it is a dirty, vile lie.

May 10, 2012

kkk: big problems in tanzania

First off, no. It's not what you think. It is indeed an acronym, but it stands for something different in the Education sector of Tanzania. The order varies depending on who you ask. In fact, you could ask the same person 6 times and get six different combinations of the same three things:

Kuandika. Kusoma. Kuhesabu.

March 7, 2012

on kony 2012

Update 10 March 2012
I've done a little more looking over the past day or two and have found some better sources of information. Those that are friends or followers may have already seen me post this elsewhere. Unfortunately, it seems like all the information people are referencing at the moment is from op-ed news articles which, while they do include some relevant information, are generally only talking about people's reactions to the video and their opinions of Invisible Children. While that's all fine, I'm not looking for opinions and what people think about what's going on in Africa. What I'm looking for are the unabashed facts; what is actually happening on the ground in the Congo/CAR/South Sudan, what does Invisible Children and Co. want to accomplish, how do they want to go about it, and what kind of data do they have to back up their claims (i.e. the LRA is alive and dangerous).

March 6, 2012

shika isn't dead

No really, Shika hasn't kicked the bucket. But I'll be the first to admit things have stagnated a bit in terms of getting new people to maintain the book and keep it fresh. Though I'm working on a big fancy USAID project now, I'm still a Peace Corps Volunteer, and as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I like to keep my hands in things that other Peace Corps Volunteers are doing (or at least should be doing). Things like hands-on science!

In the past few days, I've been buckling down to get some documentation together for people who want to help us edit and write new content for the manual. My original idea of whipping up a few wiki pages with dry instructions, however, has suddenly blossomed into the desire to write a veritable handbook, complete with diagrams, graphs (I love graphs!), and of course...
"The width of the planting bed should be approximately one  yaNYANYANYANYA!"

March 1, 2012

financial findings on the first of the month

The saga of graphs continues! Today is the 1st of the month, which is an exciting day for me; it's the day that my finance management application spits out monthly reports, outlining fun things like "top variations in spending" and generating sweet graphs to show income vs. expenditure. It's so wonderful when you can enter such simple information into a program and it shows you a thousand ways to look at it.

Much akin to how politicians sometimes release their tax returns during election season, I've decided to open a small window into the financial world of the Peace Corps Volunteer, albeit my status as an extendee on a USAID project skews the data a bit. Below is my financial summary for the month of February.

February 22, 2012

sowing what you sprout

What the heck are these, you must be asking. I asked myself the same thing when I saw them in the town market 3 weeks ago. They were the most exotic bean I had ever seen, and strangely, I couldn't figure out what kind they were, even after searching extensively on the internet. The word I got in the market was fiwi, which according to Baba Malaika (our handy Swahili-to-English dictionary) is a lima bean. Clearly incorrect, as lima beans don't come in a black or dark-blue variety. I was lost until my friend Carol turned me to the other book we got during Pre-Service Training, pointing to an appendix with a list of words for plants and their produce (funny it would have a whole column for plant names, since they're all basically the name of the produce with an "m" on the beginning, e.g. chungwa is the word for orange and mchungwa is the orange tree). In Simplified Swahili, the translation given is the Bonavist bean.

February 20, 2012

power, or lack thereof

Among the many, many small things I like to do when I'm not doing work is collecting data. Allow me to introduce the latest results of one of these ventures, while you consider what could possibly possess anyone to be so smitten with writing down numbers all day.
The fruit of my most recent labors is a graph of the electricity uptime in my town. For nearly an entire month, I kept track of the power cuts that occurred throughout the day. Given how much it happens around here, it was actually pretty difficult to keep the numbers accurate. I figured the resolution of the data wasn't incredibly important; what's more important is to show the general trend of the uptime, which you can see even with relatively inaccurate measurements.

February 6, 2012

i'm tired

Today was a long day.

It started the night before, when I went out with a group of volunteers on a veritable bar crawl to celebrate Super Bowl Sunday. It was warranted, given we had secured a viewing area for the game, complete with projector, TVs on the side for no good reason, and rotating fans which we didn't really need (it can get surprisingly cold here sometimes). After some beers and an insufficient amount of food to counterbalance it, we bought a few snacks (and a bottle of scotch) and took a quick nap before the game started at 2:30AM.

We woke up pretty groggy to say the least. Actually, some of us didn't wake up at all. Only about 50% of us committed to watching the game after our 2 or 3-hour doze. But we sure were glad we got to watch it. Exciting to the end, just how every Super Bowl should be! And it turned out that, right as the game ended, I had just enough time to walk back home, clean myself up, and pack my things for Mtwara: Part 2.

Unfortunately, I waited too long at the office for a ride before I could get to the stand to hop a bus. Perhaps the exhaustion had something to do with that.

Boy am I looking forward to my bed tonight.

January 14, 2012

fun with finances

In perhaps the surest sign of madness since I've started preparations for a monthly budget, I have been doing a fairly extensive analysis on food prices in the soko (market) in town. Shown below is a sample of the table I created with the data I collected this past Thursday, just before I bought my new oven (quite a successful day, I admit). You can get the whole table here.

January 12, 2012

oven at last, oven at last!

To celebrate Zanzibar Revolutionary Day (Zanzibar's "Independence Day"), I've purchased this giant cooking apparatus. It's been nearly two weeks since I moved in and I've had no way to cook for myself. While I went almost 6 months in Singida without cooking anything at home, the circumstances are now quite different. First of all, I'm not scared of poisoning myself anymore. Second, quick access to local mgahawas (small shops that serve food) is quite limited here, and they're a bit more expensive. Lastly, I actually have a decent grip on some culinary skills now, and would like to continue extending them.

January 11, 2012

small thoughts: eye-gazing

The eyes are the window to the soul.
No one really knows where this proverb originated. In any case, I believe there is some inherent truth to this, that simply gazing into someone's eyes can tell you a lot about them. Given how much time I spend staring through people, or with my head pointed at the ground in front of me, I've realized I should be intentional about changing this. Whether it's someone just walking by, or I'm deep in a one-on-one conversation, I'd like to spend a good deal of 2012 looking into people's eyes.

That's not creepy. Is it?

January 8, 2012

a movie theater in africa?

Blackout shutters!
As you may remember, in one of my previous entries I hinted at big plans I had for my living area (check the last paragraph). That was referring to a hasty decision to, as a Christmas present to myself, rig up a home theater system in it, complete with surround sound system and ceiling-mounted projector. Crazy idea, right? I'm still only in the planning stages though, and as it stands there are some rather large obstacles I'll have to confront before the dream becomes reality.

January 4, 2012


On the first day of the year, a man went on a journey. Close to his home there was a hill, and on top of that hill was a cross, set there in cement by someone years ago. The LORD told him, "go to the top of the hill, and I will meet with you there." So he woke up early in the morning, packed his bag with biskuti [English tea biscuits] and water (and a camera), and started off. As he approached the hill, he pulled out his camera so that he might share the story of his journey with his family and friends. "Surely they will want to see this for themselves, so I will capture many videos and narrate the climb!" But this was not what the LORD had commanded, so He caused the camera to malfunction. After a few minutes of fiddling and cursing at the camera, the man gave up and decided to carry on.

When the man began to climb, the path so plainly laid out before him at the foot of the hill ended. Feeling bold, he marched on with confidence that he could find his own way to the top. Within fifteen minutes, his faith in himself was shaken to its core; he had taken no measures to mark his path, and he was heading in the wrong direction. Thinking his climb would be over as soon as it started, and afraid that he may get hurt trying to get down, he began to pray out of desperation for someone to help him. His goal to reach the top now seemed impossible, infinitely out of reach.