Partial Eclipse, Totally Awesome!

So about a month and a half ago I heard of this really cool program through Astronomers Without Borders, where they were campaigning to send solar glasses to schools across Africa for students to safely view the annular/partial eclipse on the 1st of September.  I contacted them and asked if it would be possible to be a part of this, as I just so happen to work at a school within the path of the eclipse.  Over the course of the next month I did a mini project with my students where I asked them why they chose to continue studying science (physics and chemistry are optional after their 2nd year of secondary school). I shared photos of them with AWB to help fundraise. I also did a couple of email interviews to help raise awareness of the project, and was quoted in online articles with both Sky and Telescope and National Geographic. Each of them wanted to highlight the eclipse to help get the project funded, and they wanted to talk to someone on the ground, who would be receiving the glasses and teaching about astronomy. Really, they wanted to know why I thought it was important to teach students in rural area about science. You can check out both of the articles in the above links. It was fun for me to see my name in articles from two amazing magazines! Thanks for such a neat opportunity!

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-Here is one of my students showing that she wants to be a doctor when she finishes school. I’m not sure if you can read it… It says “I want to save life of people.” Just the sweetest thing.

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– All my form 4 students holding up signs about why they study science and what they want to do after secondary school.

After the campaign ended, AWB was quite short of their goal. However, every dollar earned is still good for one pair of glasses, so many people still got to enjoy the eclipse! I got word that I would officially be receiving the solar glasses and started casually telling my students about eclipses to get them excited. About a week before the eclipse I still didn’t have them in my possession and was getting concerned. It turns our that they had arrived in Dar es Salaam but were being held at customs in the post office. They would not let the package be claimed. This makes me so mad, but that’s not what this story is about. My friends from Astronomers Without Borders worked with another amazing organization called UNAWE Tanzania, who contacted yet another organization on my behalf. A group called Travelling Telescope said they could share some of their solar glasses for my school. I was so excited that another way to get these teaching aids had been found so quickly, but hesitant because of how close it was to the eclipse. I still didn’t want to announce to all the students that we would be getting these awesome things to view the sun with, in case it didn’t happen. No sense in getting their hopes up. 

Since I was still unsure of the solar filters and I wasn’t simply going to let such an opportunity slip away, I needed to find something to do. The day before the eclipse I went to all 8 classes at my school, briefly taught them about eclipses and told them there would be one tomorrow. We all went outside and I demonstrated my pinhole hole projector I built as an alternative method of viewing the eclipse. The students were then free to come to my evening session is they felt like making one as well. About 20 students showed up and we made simple pinhole projectors out of card board boxes. It is just a card board box minus one side, and then you poke a hole in the end so light can shine inside the box and project an image on the opposite wall. As the moon eclipses the sun, the image inside the box also becomes eclipsed.

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– Students building pinhole projectors to safely view the eclipse.

My contact at UNAWE Tanzania told me that the solar glasses would be put on buses and sent to my school. It’s a system that works surprisingly well, and faster than the mail if you live close to a main road. The group from Travelling Telescope was coming from Kenya to be within the narrow path of the annular eclipse, and they sent the glasses ahead on a bus. They miraculously made it to Mbeya, about 5 hours away from me, the night before the eclipse around 10 pm. They were put on another bus set to pass my village late that night. I set my alarm for 2 am, and woke up to no new information. Around 6 am on the day of the eclipse I got a call that they were delayed further and were about to pass my school. At 8 o’clock the bus came around the corner into view… And it didn’t stop at my bus stand. I started running after the bus as I called the driver on the phone. In my panic, I tried to tell him in broken Swahili to stop, and that he passed me. He figured out what I meant, stopped and I ran through my village like a crazy person to get the solar glasses. And I got them! And I cried. I was sooo happy to actually have them in my hand, after a month of trying to get them, and just 2 hours before the eclipse started. It was just amazing timing!

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-The 53 solar glasses donated to my school. Thank you so much Travelling Telescope!

Due to the uncertainty of getting the glasses, I hadn’t really pitched it to the other teachers at my school. I wasn’t sure if all my students would be in class or if they would be free to watch the eclipse with me. Luckily for us all, the eclipse started just as our chai break began. I gave a pair of glasses to each of the three teachers standing next to me, and their reaction of excitement set the standard for the rest of the day. The head master of my school came over to look and he loved it too. All the students were allowed the next two and a half hours to come to the football field with me to watch the eclipse. All the teachers came, students from the primary school came flocking over and anyone who happened to be passing by stopped to see what was going on.

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– Some primary school students stopped by to see what all the commotion was about.

I spent significantly more time taking pictures of my eager students than watching the eclipse, so here are some of those:

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– Some of the other teachers and even students helped the younger ones enjoy the eclipse too!

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The pinhole projectors were also a success:

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Here I pose with my head master and second master as the show off how proud they are of the solar glasses:

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And some shots I took of the eclipse through a solar filter:

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Shortly after maximum eclipse, my students had to return to their classrooms. I took this opportunity to watch a bit of the eclipse for myself and then I brought a few pairs of solar glasses around the village to show random people the eclipse. Most of them said they noticed it get colder and darker, but didn’t really know what was going on. I heard some very interesting ideas from around the village. Some people thought it was witchcraft but I think they were mostly joking. Very seriously a few people thought it was Judgement Day, and that the world was coming to an end. I even had one person ask me who won, between the sun and the moon. After some explanation of what he was asking me, I understand that he was under the impression that the sun and moon had collided, and wanted to know which one survived the collision. I heard some all kinds of explanations, and am very glad I went out to teach people other than my students. They also all seemed to enjoy the glasses very much:

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At the end of the day, I was exhausted. It was one of my best days in Tanzania so far, both for the eclipse itself and the fact that I got to share it with so many of my curious students and friends. I want to give a huge thank you to everyone at Astronomers Without Borders, all the donors who supported their campaign, UNAWE Tanzania, and Travelling Telescope for all the support. This day would not have been possible if even one of these groups did not help me immensely. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate all of the support. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Thanks for reading,

Ryan

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Time to dust off the old blog…

Wow! I’ve been in Tanzania for over a year now and the time is flying! It’s been a looooong time since posting on here, so this post will be all over the board.

I have been back at my site for a couple of weeks now, after traveling through the north of the country. I met up with some friends I hadn’t seen in a long time and went on Safari at Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro Crater and even hiked up Mount Kilimanjaro! So much fun to reconnect with everyone while also crossing off major bucket list items. I’ve wanted to hike Kilimanjaro for years, and I finally did it. It took us 6 days through the snow and cold and elevations I’ve never reached before, and it was well worth it. The hike is worthy of a post of its own, but this will have to suffice for now.

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Here’s my selfie of “Ryan and the Lions,” at Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area.

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My Kilimanjaro summit photo, both saying peace and highlighting my 2nd of the 7 summits! (the other being a very easy walkabout up Kosciusko in Australia)

After the typical tourist loop I spent a little time hanging out at some other volunteers sites in Same district and doing some day hikes. It was a nice change of pace from the go-go-go! just before. From there we travelled to Tanga to celebrate the 4th of July. A ridiculous percentage of Peace Corps Tanzania was there for the festivities. We went out to a sandbar just off the coast where we could be as American as we desired without disturbing the locals. As the party went on, the tide rose and we all had to hurry back to shore before our venue disappeared.

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On the way to the sandbar… “The Americans are coming! The Americans are coming!”

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My class of Education 2015 volunteers! So great to see so many wonderful people all in one place. ☺

After my travels, I headed back to Dar es Salaam to help welcome the new class of education volunteers. I was one of two lucky resource volunteers to be there and answer all their questions. They are all so excited to be here and I’m excited to have some of them come out and be my new site mates! Karibuni Rukwa!!!

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Welcome to Tanzania ED 2016! Sorry I photo bombed your welcome photo. See if you can find me in there with all those bright faces! 😊

Now I am back at site. Yes, I do actually teach physics here. We had June and most of July off and I took full advantage. But things here are back in session and I’m loving it! I had to say farewell to my site mates from ED 14 (you will be greatly missed!!)  and am now able to relax at site for an extended period of time, before showing the new folks the ins and outs of Rukwa in September.

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See you stateside, Sarah and Jason. I could not have asked for better site mates than you both. I look up to you both and love you so much! Rukwa misses you already!

Now that I’m locked into school mode again I’m spending a lot of time with my students. They love to see my photos and hear about my adventures, and it’s a great way to practice their English, and for me to practice my Kiswahili. I’m so thankful that I can enjoy time here at site with the other teachers and my students. So many truly amazing people.

We are gearing up for an annular solar eclipse on September 1st, luckily best viewable from Tanzania. My students are getting excited to experience something that they learned about in the classroom and have a field trip without actually having to leave our school. With the help of Astronomers Without Borders, I’m hoping to get solar glasses so we can all safely view the eclipse here at school. Check out their campaign page on the link above.

Peace and Love.  Thanks for reading.

– Ryan

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I finally bought a bike!

Wow. So it’s been a while and my (very short) streak of posting every two weeks has clearly been broken. A lot has happened since I’ve last been on here. It would be impossible for me to catch you up on all I’ve been doing, but I’m having a great time and loving every day.

Last weekend I went on an adventure with the bike I recently bought. Another teacher from my school, Denis, and I, rode our bikes to Mtetezi to visit Machuga and Donald, two of our students who graduated last year. Before the end of the year I want to make it to all 7 of the villages that feed into Mpui Secondary School so that I can see where my students come from and what their lives are like outside of school.

Many aspects of this adventure were “truly Tanzanian,” and helped me feel even more integrated. For starters, we said we’d leave at 10 am. When Denis came by my house just after 10, I had lost track of time and was not finished painting a section of my living room. When I finished, it took me a while to find Denis who was off getting his haircut. We didn’t end up leaving until just after noon. Setting a time for something is normal here but it would be strange for something to actually occur at the decided time. “There’s no hurry in Africa,” Denis always tells me.

So we set out at 12 to visit our former students. Shortly after starting I had already reached a record distance away from my village down this dirt road. Everything was new and exciting to me, even though I was so close to home. A little while into the ride, 4 dogs came out of the bushes barking and my instinct was to run. I pedaled as hard as I could on my new bike, but it is not like my bike at home. I couldn’t go too fast, and the dogs easily kept up with me snarling right next to me. I realize that me going faster probably would them up and made them feel threatened but it was too late to stop now, and they eventually got tired and returned to the bushes. A little while later, we came to a point where a small bridge had washed away and the road had been flooded from the previous night’s rain. We decided to ford the river, which came all the way up to our knees. Cars do not drive this way in the rainy season so fixing the road is not going to happen for a long time. Or ever. Shortly after the water crossing we reached a very steep, very bumpy mountain. We had to walk our bikes up, which took a long time. It was hiking while pulling our not so light bikes up the mountain, which is exhausting. When we made it to the top of the mountain, Machuga was waiting for us, so we knew we had reached out destination.

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As we rolled in Mtetezi, I could feel all eyes on me. It’s not likely that many (or any?) white people have been to this village so you can imagine their surprise when I just casually rolled up. As much of an outsider as I clearly was, they were extremely welcoming. I had to turn down three invitations for lunch, and a fourth would not take no for an answer. I had a great Tanzanian lunch of Ugali, fish, fried egg and yoghurt/sour milk. The people who lived in this home cooked for us, and only us. I didn’t know it before sitting down to eat, but they had already eaten lunch, so they cooked an extra time so that Denis and I could eat.

After lunch we went to the primary school to meet the headmaster and some of the students. They were as surprised as the rest of the village to see me, and even more so when I said that I’d be their physics teacher next school year if they passed their exams.

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We then went to the farms of both Machuga and Donald. It was a nice walk just to get to them with beautiful views of the countryside. Rukwa is so beautiful during the rainy season. We crossed a river and could see the farm covered rolling hills in the distance. I could have sat by that river all day, enjoying the sounds of birds and rushing water, and gazing at the hillsides covered in sunflowers. Machuga grows a lot of sugar cane so we got to cut some and eat it fresh off the farm. They also grow corn, beans, oranges, bananas and lemons. They have extremely successful farm, especially considering they just graduated from high school last year. They both already work so hard to provide food and money for their families. It was kind of a proud parent feel for me to see how successful they have already become. They both took the day off of farming to show me around their village, and I know that means a lot of work didn’t get done that day. The people are so friendly here and continue to show me that they will sacrifice a lot for their visitors.

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I then got to meet both of their families buck in the village. They were so excited to meet me and said they’d heard there was an American teacher here. We had teas and chatted a bit in Swahili before we had to head back to Mpui. As is apparently customary, they each gave me a chicken. So yea, I have two chickens now. Luckily for me one is female and one is male, so hopefully, if they fall in love, I’ll have chicks running around my yard pretty soon. Mostly I can’t wait for free eggs! Another stranger in the village gave me about 5 kilograms of beans, so it was a pretty successful day in terms of gifts, and I wont be lacking in protein any time soon.

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It was not quite like the bike rides I’m used to at home, but definitely not lacking in adventure. This day was maybe my favorite day in Tanzania so far. Seeing where my students come from is such a rewarding experience. Everyone, including strangers were so welcoming and excited to meet me. Even though I went as a visitor, this day made me feel so integrated. It’s amazing how far a little bit of the local language can go. People stopped what they were doing to stare and were pleasantly surprised to be greeted in Kifipa. More than anything else, riding my bike home the last 15 miles with beans and chickens strapped to the back is evidence of integration. I can’t wait to go on another bike ride adventure and try to see more of the surrounding villages!

 

Thanks for reading.

 

-Ryan

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Education in Tanzania

My students have begun taking their end of the year exams, which is a pretty high-pressure situation. For me, it means the school year is winding down and I will soon get to do some traveling and see all my friends again. But for my students, it means pass the tests, or you don’t get to move on to the next level. Writing this, I realize I’ve never really explained the school system over here. Seeing as I am over here to work in the education system, I suppose you should know more about it.

I teach at a Secondary School, which is the equivalent of a High School. The grades are called different things as well. Freshman year is simply called form 1, sophomore year is form 2, and so on through form 4. Unlike the in the States, people in each grade have a wide range of ages. Across all 4 forms that I teach I have students that are 13 all the way up to 22. Some of the older students have been in school this while time, and have either transferred schools, or not passed an end of the year exam, forcing them to take the entire year over again. There are many reasons for older students to still be in what we think of as high school and some of them seem a little embarrassed to still be in class with people much younger than them and a teacher barely older than them. I think it shows perseverance. It is all too easy to drop out of the school system here, so for someone to show enough commitment to continue going to school after repeated setbacks shows determination.

At my school, each form is split into two streams. This means there are enough students in each grade level to split into two classes so that the class sizes aren’t too large. The students in a particular stream will then take all of their classes together. They will be with the same students for the entire school year, and will not really interact with the other half of students in their form. Each stream has their own classroom, which they spend the entire day in as well. Teachers rotate classrooms when the class ends, rather than the students moving as they do in America. This means I don’t have my own room. The down side to this is that I cannot have my materials in the room or anything setup prior to entering the classroom. This isn’t as big of a problem, because the science equipment I would have in my classroom in America is not present at my school here. There are a few things like beakers and graduated cylinders available in the shared laboratory, but I don’t have the key to that room yet. The plus side to each stream having their own room is that I can have class at pretty much any time. If I didn’t finish my lesson in one time, or want to teach something extra to a stream that needs more practice, I know where to find them, all the time. I don’t have to make an announcement about meeting up after school, or anything like that. I simple go in the room when they have no teacher.

Oh yea, they don’t always have a teacher in the room here. As crazy as that sounds, it’s true. On a given day, each stream may get all of the teachers to teach or they may get none of them. There is a lot more independent learning here. Absenteeism is an issue with both students and teachers, but it’s actually pretty good with the teachers at my school.

This is a very brief overview of some differences I’ve noticed between teaching in America and teaching in Tanzania. Things like this are normal to me now, so I almost forget that they are educational to those of you back home. I am sure there are many other things that are very different that have become routine to me, so if you have questions, or a request for a blog post topic, please send them my way!

Thanks for reading,
Ryan

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Presidential Election

As they do every 5 years, Tanzania held their presidential election today, the 25th of October. There is only one party who has ever held power of the country and this is the first time that another party has a real chance to win. The country seems pretty split and things are getting quite exciting. Since there are two large, differing views right now there have been many rallies and a few demonstrations for each party. Peace Corps has its volunteers here in Tanzania on a “standfast,” meaning we’re not allowed to leave our sites for a total of two weeks, and hopefully things will calm down quick after the elections.  Tanzania has very different laws about what you are allowed to say about politics on the Internet, so I’m going to stop there, but I highly encourage you to do some research. It is a very interesting and historically close election. They should have the results out in a few days.

Thanks for reading.

– Ryan

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Site is hard…

I realize that it’s been a long time. Truly I just didn’t know how to describe all of the things that I’m experiencing. I wanted only to show you the beautiful things and avoid complaining on the Internet, but I recently remembered that I created this blog to educate people of what the “real Tanzania” is like. I now realize that I would be doing all of you a disservice to only tell you about the positive things. After all, the difficulties are arguably more important in shaping my service and ultimately who I become.

I’ve started teaching all four grades of physics since I am the only physics teacher here. I keep joking (kind of seriously though) that I am the head of the department in my first year of teaching. I have 20 periods per week, which requires 9 different lesson plans. I know it doesn’t sound like a lot of actual teaching, but the lesson planning is what gets me. The time I spend out of class preparing really adds up. When I’m not in class or lesson planning, I spend most of my time figuring out how to survive. Things we often take for granted like cooking dinner or getting water that is safe enough to drink end up taking a lot of my time and energy. Life is very different here, and will take some further adjusting on my part. I learn something new literally everyday that makes communication or everyday tasks a little bit easier.

There have been times already in my short three weeks at site when there was nothing I wanted more than to go back to America. There are other times when I’m delighted to be in Mpui and two years just doesn’t sound long enough. It truly is an emotional roller coaster. One day can be entirely different than the next in terms of the things I experience or the way I react to them.

Biggest challenges:

  • Loneliness can set in when I long for a deep conversation or spend too much time in my house alone. It can be frightening to think about just how far away I am from other volunteers, or America. I find that it helps to call home every once in a while (another thing I fall behind on, sorry) just to catch up with friends and family. The other volunteers have helped a lot as well. I think it’s a challenge as I move around because I have families in so many places now. No matter where I am, I’m going to miss somebody.
  • Corporal Punishment crushes my spirits every week. This may come as a shock to a lot of people, but at my school, students are hit by a stick on a daily basis for doing things “wrong,” at the discretion of the other teachers. The female students are usually hit on the hand while the male students are usually hit on the butt. On top of being hit, the students are sometimes forced to kneel in the dirt or even walk around on their knees. This results in them getting very dirty, which may lead to them getting into more trouble at home, and definitely leads to them having to clean their uniforms before coming back to school the next day. Things like showing up late to school, not bringing water on your assigned day, doing poorly on exams, not wearing your uniform or not having it clean are just a few of the examples of things that bring out the stick. There have been multiple days where it takes everything I have to hold back the tears as this takes place. I’ll give you one specific example:

The worst day I had in regards to corporal punishment was in my first week of teaching. We had just received the form 2 (sophomore) students’ national examination scores for the mid-term and it didn’t go well for the vast majority of them. Shortly after receiving these scores we had a meeting to discuss what we could do to increase the scores on the next exam. I tried my best to politely and sensitively tell them that it would be beneficial to always have a teacher in class (don’t get me started, that’s a topic for another day). They all brushed that advice away and unanimously agreed that the students must be “punished” right away. “The punishment must be immediate and strong,” they said, so that the students knew that the reason for being hit was their low test grades. At this point I had to remind myself that we were in fact still talking about human beings, and not just a terrible way to treat a dog. I tried to set an example of my own advice by attempting to leave the meeting right when my class started, only for them to stop me. They said I couldn’t go to class because they were going to be punishing my students at this time. I am ashamed to say that I didn’t make a stronger stand for my class. I feared that might just bring a harsher punishment for them later as a way of getting back at me for defiance. I also am not well enough established here and didn’t want to alienate myself in my first week. My hopes are that after being here for a while and gaining some more respect, I will be able to make a difference on this point.

High point:

  • The people here are amazing! I’ve gotten really close with Tanzanians and some other Volunteers over my three months. The other teachers that work at my school have been very welcoming and are always excited to practice English with me and teach me a little more Swahili. I haven’t gone a day in the country yet without hearing at least one person saying “Karibu,” which means welcome. They are welcoming me to Tanzania, into their homes and into their lives. The network of other volunteers is also amazingly supportive. Everyone was at least as excited to meet me as I was to meet them. They have showed me around and already offered up travel ideas, which I can’t wait to take advantage of!

Site is hard… But I’m adjusting and there are always positives to make the negatives not hurt as bad. I think I’ll be able to keep up to date with this blog now that I’m a bit more settled into my life and routine here. I miss you all. Thanks for reading!

-Ryan

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When Life Gives You Lemons…

I have returned to Korogwe after visiting my future home in Mpui, Rukwa!! It was an amazing, long trip on which I met so many current Peace Corps Volunteers in Iringa and Mbeya along the way. Each one of them inspired or excited me a little more than the last about my upcoming service. Many people have been apologetic or joke with me about how far away my site is from what we know. While I am in fact the farthest volunteer from the Peace Corps Office in Dar, I am happy to be out there. I love to see the less traveled areas and enjoy seeing everyone along the way. I will make the best of my unique situation… When life gives you lemons…

Mpui Secondary School has about 400 students who regularly attend class. On my first morning there I introduced myself to the whole school, in both English and Swahili. Dressed in solid purple uniforms, students stared with amazement, wonder, excitement and even a little fear about meeting a white man. Instruction is meant to be in English, so I led off with “Hello, my name is Mr. Ryan Lemon.” The students responded with resounding laughter, over the extreme difficulty of saying my name. The trouble with the letters “R” and “L” make my name a very difficult one to pronounce correctly. “Lion… Lion Remon?” That’s good enough for me. The next thing I said to the students was, “I will be teaching physics here for the next two years.” To this, the students gave me a standing ovation for about 20 seconds. I had to hold back tears, I was so happy to have students that genuinely appreciate having the chance to learn. They currently do not have a physics teacher, so they are excited to have the opportunity to learn and are patiently awaiting my final arrival to start teaching in a couple of weeks. Not having a physics teacher for so long may have set some of these students back a ways, but when life gives you Lemons, you have a chance to learn.

My house is on school grounds and is government housing, which means it is fairly nice. It is way larger that I could ever need, including a living room, three bedrooms and an enclosed courtyard to do my cooking in, or to keep chickens. I have a solar panel that powers the the lights and an a couple outlets inside. Parts of my house will need to be changed, but I have plenty of time to make furniture or paint the interior rooms. I got to check out the town a bit and see where to find the bus stop, the police station, the health center and the market. The market visit made me a bit nervous, as I did not see a single piece of fruit. Any vegetable I could ever want was present, but fruits were nowhere to be found. I believe that they are seasonal and will come with the rain in a few months. Perhaps the best way I can combat my fruit deficiency: inside my courtyard is my very own lemon tree.

I’m so glad life gave me lemons.

-Ryan

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Site Announcements!!!

Today we had site announcements!!!

The 56 sites we were assigned are spread over 14 regions, all over the country. I have been placed in Rukwa, in west Tanzania. I am the only volunteer in my class to get assigned there, increasing the grand total number of Peace Corps Volunteers in Rukwa to a whopping 3. Many of the other Peace Corps Volunteers apologized to me after hearing that I was being sent alone. I could not be more excited by this fact. I cannot wait to explore the less traveled regions of Tanzania and truly immerse myself into the culture and language. More than anything, my placement tells me that Peace Corps believes in my abilities as a Swahili speaker and as a teacher to be able to operate with very little contact with other Americans. I’m not saying it will be easy. I don’t want it to be easy. “We do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”  I realize that is a quote from Kennedy’s speech about going to the Moon, and not starting the Peace Corps.  However, it is somehow easier to draw comparisons:  I am going to a land very unknown to me, I will be one of three Americans there and the journey takes about three days…

I will be teaching biology and physics at Mpui Secondary School, in Mpui, Rukwa, Tanzania for the next 2 years. I don’t know many details of my site or town or even region yet. I think that is why I am so excited. Next week I will be visiting the two current volunteers in the region and I’ll be staying a couple of nights at my new home to test it out. As I learn more about my future living situation I will keep you up to date. Thanks for reading.

With Love,

Ryan

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Just another day…

5:00am: Woken up by Call to Prayer from the mosque, if the roosters were nice enough to let me sleep that late.
6:00 am: Stop pretending like I fell back asleep and finally get out of bed to start another beautiful day.
6:10 am: Bathe using a bucket, 5 L of room temperature water and a small pail.
6:30 am: Drink chai and eat 1 egg, 2 pieces of bread with butter, an orange and a banana.
6:50 am: Go greet Sam and Lucy’s families as I gather them for our morning walk to school.
7:03 am: Show up a little “late” to our meeting spot to find a disappointed Andrew.
7:03 – 7:30 am: Walk to school while debriefing last night’s homestay experiences and greeting seemingly everyone in town. Find John at his palace across town.
7:40 am: Pretend like we know what morning assembly is about.
8:00 am: Begin Swahili lessons.
10:00 – 10:30 am: Drink more chai and eat chapati and cassava.
10:30 am -12:30 pm: More Swahili practice, and maybe teach a lesson if scheduled/our teacher doesn’t show up.
12:30 pm: Lunch time! Eat a “Tanzanian burrito bowl” of the day, consisting of rice, beans, peas, and maybe some beef. Eat mangoes or oranges for dessert.
1:30 – 3:30 pm: Even more Swahili practice. Begin to lose your mind if you haven’t already.
3:30 – 5:00 pm: Lesson plan for the next day and catch up on any notes that were missed due to the teaching schedule overlapping the learning schedule.
5:00 pm: Walk home and greet every person in town once again.
5:30 pm: Option of doing homework, going for a bike ride or walk, or learning how to survive at site through cooking and cleaning lessons.
8:00 pm: Eat dinner while watching the news in Swahili.
9:30 pm: Retreat to my room to get ready for bed. Lay under mosquito net while I write in my journal or do my homework.
10:00 pm: Fall asleep before I finish writing in my journal or doing my homework.

This is a pretty standard day so far in Tanzania. My day looks exactly like this 6 days a week, and we have Sunday to rest. Rest here means to do laundry (also in a bucket with about 5 L of water), go to the market, go for a hike, do homework, and learn how to cook over a charcoal cooker. Keep in mind that all of this is done with very little, if any, English instruction from our host families.

I have been living with a host family in a small village called Ngombezi, near Korogwe, Tanga, Tanzania. I am in a “Community Based Training“ group with four amazing people named Sam, Lucy, Andrew and John. We have an exhausting schedule but in all honesty, I love every minute of it. Sam keeps asking me, “When will we not be tired?” … Maybe in two years, but they are going to be the most rewarding, fun-filled, adventurous, exhausting two years of our lives.

-Ryan

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Karibu Tanzania!

I have been in Tanzania for an entire week now!! It seems like so much longer, in a god way. I am one of 59 education Peace Corps volunteers doing training together. Everyone I’ve talked to in depth shares a passion for the same thing that brought us all here, but also has an amazing, unique story of their own. We just finished our first week of 8am-5pm sessions to learn a lot of general, medical and safety information, Swahili language, Tanzanian culture and history, survival skills and plenty of other things to prepare us for what lies ahead.

Yesterday we went to explore Dar es Salaam. It was a Sunday and many shops were closed, so it was not nearly as crowded as it would be on a normal day. It was still quite a experience as we drove the busy streets, and tried to blend in. They drive on the left side of the road, which is enough to get (re-)used to, but there are also so many motorcycles and bikes weaving through traffic. I’m starting to see why we are not allowed to drive while we’re here. There is so much to look at around every corner, and I will post photos as soon as I have them. I did not bring my camera yesterday, but will be taking more photos in the coming weeks as I get to a more permanent location.

Tomorrow morning we will drive about 6 hours north to a village called Korogwe, which I already labeled on my map. We will be split into groups of 5 for a more in-depth look at the language and culture, and begin some observations in classrooms. Korogwe will be our home for the next 3 months, where we will each live with a separate host family. I can’t wait to meet my host family! We will do a lot of training with the other volunteers, but will begin to have our own experiences with Tanzanians that we will get to know very well.

All is well here, and I’ll try to post again as I get settled in with my family. Thanks for reading,

-R

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