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.
- 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.
- 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!