Friday, July 12, 2013

Time for a LITTLE Reflection

As I wind down my service, and time in Tanzania, I'm taking a moment to reflect on these last 2 years.  I've already been asked if I would do it all over again, and the answer is "YES!"  These 2 years weren't easy, but it was truly an experience that changed my life.  I learned so much about myself, life lessons, and work I DON'T want to pursue post service.  (I still have no idea what I actually want to do when I finish.)

When I first arrived in country I thought, "what have I signed up for?"  My homestay family cooked with corn husks, dirty dishes, never washed hands with soap, my bathroom was a hole in the ground, and our water source was FAR (but clean!)  Little did I know this situation/lifestyle would be lavish in comparison to my next 2 years in Singida.

I moved to Singida, saw my house the very first day, and immediately thought, "no way, Jose!"  No light entered my house without both the front and back doors being open, and it looked like with one huff and puff, the wolf would be able to blow all the clay and rotten wood down.  I gave myself one week.  And during that week, I had no time to think about my living situation because I was among the most welcoming and friendly people I had ever met.  They didn't know me from Sam, but welcomed me with open arms, gifts, cooked me meals, and gave me a new name! (If you come to my village now, no one knows me by Tanique, only Mwambura.)

For the next year and ten months, though I struggled with having the dirtiest water I could NEVER drink, to rain water that I praised (fill in the blank) for, to no water at all, I was thankful for the opportunity to see and experience just how Tanzanians are living.  It made me question so many things-especially favor/grace/afforded opportunity, but also helped me learn the importance of simplicity, and appreciating the things in life that really do matter.

I fought through the bats that terrified me(I thought I was coming home during this period), the rats that ate my food, not having charcoal to cook food, having no food to cook, finding my purpose here, washing 3 weeks of laundry by hand, waiting days to shower because I had no water, or being frustrated by not being able to charge my phone because it was cloudy (and in those moments I became grateful for the rain we needed over a silly charge), and learned to appreciate the struggles.  They taught me something.

Being here makes you cherish water, and you will never be so wasteful again.  Not eating everyday makes you thankful hunger is not a reoccurring feeling, and helps you understand why students don't do well in school, or attend only when it is available.  All of my struggles and challenges have made me appreciate what I did have, instead of thinking about what I didn't.  Though I may not have the most motivated/eager village, I lived among people who were willing to give me their last, always welcoming me to their meals of not much substance, and into their lives.  They accepted me as part of their community for two years, became my family, and looked out for me in every way possible.

While we come here to help, and to address some of the challenges they face, I realized it was important to just experience them, because half of them we couldn't change.  I experienced them, and tried to appreciate the good that surrounded them.  I was never one to desire materialistic things, but from living here, I desire a simple life, for the rest of my life.

As long as basic needs are met, what else do you really need?  Love.  Family.  Friendship.  Balance.  You have to find the small things that make you happy, and be able to see/appreciate those through the challenges and struggles.  What I take away from my entire service, and what will stick with me for life is the swahili phrase "hamna shida" (most everyone hears me say it ALL the time); meaning "no worries."  I believe things are the way they are supposed to be, and we have to learn from, and appreciate them in that way.  So thank you Tanzania, and thank you Peace Corps for heightening my outlook on life, helping me to become so positive, and increasing my patience level to one I never thought possible.      

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Girls Empowerment Conference is Going Downnnn

The last weekend in February!!!  It's going to be a really busy February because we are finalizing the girls conference, I am working on building this market in the village, teaching 10 English periods, and starting a new year of our health club!  Luckily the water tank is finished, and students are able to get drinking water at school now (though the rain has been quite sparse this rain season!)  The school's new goal is to raise enough money (about 200 dollars) to get a pump for the well, and it will be much more sanitary.  As things unfold with these projects in the upcoming months, I'll keep you all updated!!!

Here's a link to the finished well!  Enjoy!!!

She has my HEART

One of my students in my health club truly is a bright star :)  Every time I talk her face lights up, and she hides her face in her hands.  Just as much as she was drawn to me, I was to her.  Her name is Sophia, and I've decided to have her live with me.  She comes from a neighboring village, and walks an hour and a half, one way, to school each day.  Sophia has taken this walk since she was 6, and leaves every morning, without breakfast, hiking the worst path I've ever seen, to get an education. (I wanted to put up pictures of the mountains I climbed, the sand I slid down, and the eroded cracks/crevices I walked in to get to her house, but I forgot my camera).  Not only does she walk this distance one way without food, but then studies all day, and returns, without eating once.  How one can concentrate (and still be number 4 in her class) I have no idea!  However, for the time being, it won't be something I have to fathom because I've decided I want her to live with me :)

She's going to live at my house, and be 4 minutes from school, where she can easily study, and eat 3 full meals a day.  I'm not sure if she is more excited to live with me, or me with her, but she is moving in Sunday.  I recently went to my banking town and bought her a mattress, a solar light, and stocked my house with food.  Next month, I want to buy her more clothes, better school supplies, and a frame for her bed.  However, for now, my house is a step up!  She was living communal style, in mud huts, with her entire extended family.  I know she was helping with household duties, and still managed to excel at school.  I can only imagine what she'll be able to do this year!  I think more than anything I'm excited to watch myself grow and evolve as I live these next 9 months with her.  If just walking to her house was a humbling experience, I can't wait to see what the future holds, and we are able to teach each other!!

World Aids Day 2012

On December 3rd, 2012 my villagers and I held an event in the village, in recognition of World Aids Day; I put up pictures on Facebook, but haven't had an opportunity to write about it until now.  It was definitely a highlight of my service thus far, and it was really nice to see everyone come together for it.  I was most proud of my students in The Bright Star (my health club) who not only organized a skit, but wrote and performed a song, to teach about HIV.

The day started around 9 am, with an opening speech given by myself, the village leaders, and the nurses who came from Singida District to test.  We then opened two classrooms at the primary school for testing, and were able to do so until 4 pm.  The plan was to test until lunch, but due to such a large turn out, the testers were willing to continue testing for the entire day.  We were able to test over 200 villagers, who otherwise wouldn't have been tested (as no one likes to use the health clinic, due to lack of confidentiality, and tests.)  I also got tested, and my students followed suit!! (All 20 of them, I was so happy :)

After lunch, my students performed their skit and song. The skit taught about the consequences of having multiple partners, having sex without a condom, and early pregnancy.  The amount of people who came to watch was surprising, and motivating too.  After the students' performance, a person living with HIV gave his testimony, reassuring people that life does not end if you are HIV positive.

(While you'd think health/sex education is culturally taboo (because no one talks about it!), I think this entire time they just needed someone to initiate it; someone to facilitate discussion, and wasn't afraid to do so.  I think as a result of World Aids Day, people are more open and willing to talk about these issues, and I feel the students and my committee have the skills and knowledge to do another event.)

We ended the day with a basketball game between the teachers and students, a soccer game between our neighboring village, and a video that night.  An organization called PSI came and set up a projector on the soccer field, showing two videos about HIV, and using condoms.  I could not have asked for a better turn out, and was really happy we were able to pull off such an event.  It was definitely something me nor my villagers will forget!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Give A Xmas Gift A Little Early.....

As you all now, I have been diligently working on a few projects including the World Map, World Aids Day Celebration, and Tree Nurseries. I have received funding for my latest project: Water at the Secondary School....while the Organization funded my project, they would truly appreciate donations so they can continue to fund many more. Join me in helping others get clean drinking water, and check out my latest project while doing so!!!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Livin' and Lovin' T to the Z

It has been 3 months without a blog and for that I apologize! In the past three months I have learned a lot, accomplished a lot, and realized how much I truly love Tanzania! I have also realized while I really love what I do, my career and my sanity may prefer relief work, as opposed to development work.

The month of May went quickly. I did a lot of teaching! I really enjoy teaching English to my Form 2 students, and I think they appreciate my different teaching style. I have worked with them on English structure, writing and speaking. We've completed our first story book, and written letters. I was able to teach them during school vacation, and I truly enjoyed being the only teacher there, truly to teach, and from the heart. I wanted them to have fun, and learn at the same time; that doesn't happen to much in a typical classroom setting. I know they enjoyed learning with games just as much as I did. (And the winning team at the end of the week enjoyed their “blow pops” even more!)

I've also been teaching my Health Club with a counterpart (They have named themselves The Bright Star and we are working to register with FEMINA). We had a WONDERFUL session on gender, and the students loved it so much, we continued to discuss it the following week. Needless to say, that was my favorite topic and lesson. Those students will also be going to my primary school in two weeks to teach them the hand-washing and how germs spread lesson themselves. My principal at the secondary school was so enthused that she also asked them to prepare a skit. It's so true when they say our role as a volunteer is to simply facilitate.

When the kids return in September from their month long break for the census in August, we will be planting banana trees at the primary school and health clinic. The chairperson of my sub village volunteered to water the ones at the health clinic everyday, and just showed me there are in fact people interested in helping me, help them.

I am also doing a chicken project with the Women's Empowerment Group. The plan was to do a village wide training, and then build the coupe with the group (including a feeding schedule, growth management and financial management plan). Two weeks ago, I went to town with the President of the group, and we made the budget. I wrote the grant, submitted it to Peace Corps, and decided yesterday to retract it. (I was accepted to our Grants Committee as a peer reviewer of grants) and during training this week I realized I want to re-do my grant, and have them write it. When I leave, who will write a grant for them? Who will reach out to resources both in our district and region? I need to equip them with the skills to be able to do this. I'm going to start from the beginning, edit as needed, but have them write every piece of the grant, and see the steps involved. To me, this is capacity building; I shouldn't be doing it for them. While they did give input, I did the work. I'm really excited to make these changes.

Lastly, our Girls Conference will happen in February 2013. Our region has never had one, and this will be a lot of work, but we are all fully committed. I'm also really excited about this.

My garden is doing well, still volunteering at the health clinic, and trying to make educational posters to put up every month. I also have another project in the works-details to come in the next blog! :) Stay tuned!

Top 10 Things I LOVE about (peaceful, peaceful) Tanzania!
  1. When I go to a duka to buy phone voucher and there isn't any, they send someone on a hunt FOR ME to find it; everyone takes care of me, even in the big cities when they don't know me!
  2. Once I lost my phone, and the entire bus stopped to look for it, until it was found.
  3. I have lost my favorite Nalgene 3 times, and all 3 times it has been returned to me.
  4. I don't have to fear guns because no one in the village has one. I feel more safe living here than in the States.
  5. When I go to the market, my market mama always throws in extra vegetables, just because. (And I buy a weeks worth of food for about 4 dollars!)
  6. Life is simple! While time isn't of the essence and sometimes bothers me when I'm trying to get things done, things are stress free and calm. There aren't 1,943 things to get done in one day.
  7. Kids can make anything into a toy, and while we think they don't have critical thinking skills, I don't think they could get any more creative.
  8. All the awesome income generating activities that make great gifts :) I've gotten some lovely paintings, pottery made from clay in my village and jewelry that you're going to LOVE! Also in this category, the awesome craftsman that can fix ANYTHING for practically a penny (this includes clothes!)
  9. When I leave my village and return, you'd think I was arriving in my village for the first time; the kids take my bags to my house, my family makes me dinner, and every one greets me! (And my village bus makes sure I have seat number one, right in the front!)
  10. The genuine people, and the greetings! At first it was annoying to go through 5 greetings with everyone, (and the question “where are you going” still bothers me), but I really appreciate people valuing taking the time to sincerely say Hi! Random people on the streets, and in the village, will not only greet you, but welcome you to whatever they are doing (including eating!) Sharing happens all the time, and between a lot of people who don't have much. It's beautiful!

Monday, April 9, 2012


Can you believe I've been here 6 months?  As they say here, the days creep, but the weeks fly; it's so true! I get too overwhelmed with all I could share to actually sit down and write, so I apologize for not blogging sooner.  I figured I have no choice now that I've been with electricity for the past three weeks.  (I GO HOME TOMORROW morning!!)  I could not be happier.  I never thought I would miss my village so much!! 

So what have I been doing these past three months?  I've been working on a Village Situational Analysis, which is similiar to a needs assessment.  I visited every sub-village (my village has 5) to talk with the leaders and villagers, I volunteered and observed at the health clinic, I observed the teachers at both the primary and secondary schools, and I just simply hung out with villagers, to figure out what the needs were in my village. I had almost two meetings a week, ranging from a simple school board meeting, to an entire ward meeting, with all the village officials in my ward. This was all done to better understand what they would like to see as future projects.  What was apparent to me from arrival, was the lack of access to water (but I had to make sure this was also a concern of my village).  I have been catching rain water, and using that for bathing, cooking and washing clothes.  My villagers and neighbors use a dam, which here is called a lambo.  Some sub villages are as far as 4 kilometers, and they walk that in one direction, to fetch water everyday.  During the rain season (which is from October to March) rain water harvesting is simple and efficient.  However, I, like my villagers am concerned about the dry season.  They dig holes underground (similiar to excavation) and wait for the water to rise; I suppose I'll be doing the same once the dam dries.  Needless to say, at some point during my service I'll be working on a water project.  I've been doing a lot of research of best practices/methods, potential NGO's to partner with, and how to network with Water Authorities here in Tanzania/Singida.  Another large issue in my village is food security. Everyone grows corn, sunflower and beans.  Not the most nutritious food, but it's food.  The sunflowers are used to produce sunflower oil, and that's a large income generator (along with onions) for many of the farmers around me.  We can only access tomatoes and mangoes in my village; for everything else we go to town (about 48km) which is difficult for some.  I considered trying to work on bringing a market to my village, but along with the other potential projects, including access to water, I think that one is out of my reach. 

After talking with my advisor here in Peace Corps, we've decided my intial projects won't require money, and will be strictly capacity building, (which is perfect, because that's our purpose here); to facilitate, and help our villages help themselves.  I have started a health club at my secondary school, and we will begin meeting every Monday, next Monday.  I have a counterpart who wrote the application with me, and helped pick the best leaders, who can take what they learn, and teach it to the students at the primary school.  Other potential projects include a tree nursery at my primary school, a sweet potato garden for income generation, and teaching permagardening (first with my health club, and having them teach others).  I also REALLY want to work on HIV/Aids education and address HIV stigma because that is a large ("swept under the table") issue in my village.  STI's and UTI's which indicate people are having unprotected sex, are the second and third most treated illnesses at my health clinic, yet there are ZERO reported cases of HIV/Aids.  Due to lack of privacy (and now lack of a doctor) no one uses our health clinic for these resources, or to be tested.

I also have a Women's Empowerment group who are so EAGER and ready to work with me.  They are the most self efficient and sustainable group I've come across thus far.  The only thing they need from me is facilitation; they are amazing.  They make wonderful pottery from soil in the village over (a WONDERFUL income generating project) and all they need is a venue to sell it.  We are currently working on making charcoal for cooking from paper, harvesting a small shamba (farm) and will be starting a "group bank account" when I return. 

So what's next?  When I return to my village, the plan is to fix my garden so that I have an example once I begin teaching others how to make them.  The chickens ate all of my seeds, so the first step is to build a fence.  I'm not sure I'll be able to plant until the rain season returns due to lack of water.  However,  I have found an NGO based in Arusha that will give packets of seeds of indigenous vegetables here in Tanzania, so seeds are not an issue!  I will start teaching life skills and health education to my health club, and volunteer at the Zahanati (as we no longer have a doctor!).  I also want to plan a regioanl Girls Empowerment Conference (with fellow volunteers in Singida!) for the month of August.  My last goal is to attend a grassroots soccer Zinduka training, which teaches us, and two members of our village techniques to teach HIV/Aids education through soccer.  My next blog will be an update of my WORK!!!, now that I can finally begin.  I'm so excited to return to such a wonderful place, and thankful for all the lettters, packages, and support from home which keep me going!  I promise, the next blog will come quicker than this one!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

What's that place called America?

I've been living in Singida since December and have had an interesting experience to say in the least!  I absolutely love my village and it is absolutely beautiful.  I look out in the morning and see nothing but plains, greenery, farmland and the most extraordinary stones/rocks.  If I stand about 10 feet from my house I can see Mt. Hunang, which is the second largest mountain in Tanzania.  I’ve made great friends with all the teachers at my primary school, since that is my new home, and I’ve made a best friend in the one.  She has a three year old son that apparently I will be bringing back to America to study (which is what I find I’ll be doing with many children!)
I’m currently working on a village needs assessment to figure out what my work will be for the next two years.  Right now I’m thinking I’ll be teaching health at the Secondary School, which is like high school, and starting a health club there.  Those two are definite.  As for projects, I’m highly considering a water project because after rain season ends in March I’m not sure where I’ll be getting water from.  We all currently use buckets to catch rain water, and my primary school has two large rainwater harvesting tanks.  My village also really wants a soko, which is a market; the only things you can buy in my village are mangoes and tomatoes.  Of course you can also eat what you grow, which is why I planted a garden about 3 weeks ago.  Unfortunately the chickens ate almost every seed I planted but I have a few promising tomatoes and squash to transplant.  I feel like I’ve also planted at the end of the rain season because it hasn’t been raining much.  Maybe next year I’ll have my own food.  (I also need seeds, so Karibu (welcome) sending me seeds J)  Most people in my village plant various types of greens, beans, and the harvest crops are corn and sunflower.  They bring the sunflower to town to produce sunflower oil. (Speaking of, that’s something else they want; a sunflower mill).  The sunflowers are now starting to sprout, and seeing fields full of them every day is breathtaking. 

Things I’ve found interesting to convey to people in the village/discussing life in America:

1.      Every person does not have a farm, and there are job opportunities outside of being a farmer or having a business.  I conducted a survey in my village, and when asked how people generate income it was either biashara, which is business, or a farm, and that was it.  It was hard to convey the concept of factories and how we get the food we eat (here you eat what you grow or what someone else grew, but nothing processed and nothing from a “grocery store”, what is that?)

2.      We do not use corporal punishment in schools, and rarely in homes.  Then the question of “well how do you discipline?” always follows.  The concept of “time-out” and punishment by taking away things/adding extra work (or assigning papers/reports like my Mom used to do) were foreign and funny J

3.      If you cannot find a seat on public transportation (unless on a metro which I have yet to try to explain) you cannot simply stand and ride.  Here, where a car/van/bus seats 10, they will cram in 50.  That thing called personal space DOES NOT exist in Tanzania.

4.      I still have to explain to many people that yes, I am American.  It always helps when I also explain that my grandparents too, are also from America, so that they understand where my descent still remains.

5.      I have never seen a bat in my life because we have/use electricity in America.  At night there are still light posts, porch lights, and lights inside one’s home to deter them.  We also have ceiling boards and our houses are made from various materials, preventing holes in the wall that allow bats to burrow.  (I had HORRIBLE bats in my house that have since been fixed, but everyone thought it was funny I was afraid.  Bats to a Tanzanian are like Frogs to an American; they can’t harm you and the children actually play with them (when they catch them). 

6.      The average family size in America is 2 children, maybe 3.  10 are unheard of.  Here, 10 children in a family just may be the average family size.  Therefore making class sizes in primary school (elementary school) EXTREMELY large.  By extremely, I mean 100 children in "first grade," with one teacher.

7.      In America we have this thing called freedom of religion and there are more than 2 religions.  Here, you are Muslim or Christian and you MUST be one.  There is nothing else and there definitely are not individuals who do not believe, question or do not attend church.  Asking what religion you are is like asking someone what their name is.  It comes up in introductory conversation like where do you live? J

8.      There is not a bride price in America, and our parents don’t have to pay for us to get married.  Well, why not? Here, daughters live with their families until married, and then leave to live with their husband.  It’s more like a transfer of expense, and also a part of their culture.  In America, most females are independent prior to marriage and are already paying their own expenses.  (We also do that weird thing called date, and marry whoever we fall in love with.)

 My cultural exchange continues every day and thus far has proved to be the most rewarding.  Not only can I share my experience of Tanzania with friends in America via this blog, but through my improving Swahili, I can convey life in America to them.  I never say one or the other is better, they are just very different.  Tanzania is the MOST peaceful country I’ve ever been in, and I feel so safe every day.  I have nothing but loving, caring people surrounding me/in my presence in my village, who would give me the shirt off their back, and always welcome me to the food on their table (or floor J).  I feel absolutely loved and welcome and thus far am enjoying every bit of the ups and downs of the village life!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Since November........

Today is just 2 days away from Christmas but it doesn't really feel that way. I have been at my permanent site for exactly a week and think I am adjusting well. It has been very interesting, very hard, and very rewarding all at the same time. I arrived last Friday in Singida town, to two current volunteers who came to town to meet us. The following day I met my mwalimu mkuu (principal of the primary school), my WEO (Ward Executive Officer) and Village Councilor. The three of them came to town to escort me to my new home. When I arrived, I was greeted by what seemed like the entire village. Everyone carried all of my belongings to my house, as the Woman’s Empowerment group wrapped me in their khangas, while singing and dancing around me. From there I was able to briefly look at my house before I was to attend a welcome ceremony at the primary school. I was introduced to the village, given WONDERFUL gifts made by the Woman’s Empowerment group and told to give a short speech. I was also given the Nyaturu (the tribe of my village) name Mwam-bura (which means sent from God during the rain season). So to say in the least I was well received and my village was excited is an understatement. After the ceremony we all had soda and I was allowed to go home to shower before dinner. For dinner, and 2 days since I have had to stomach CHICKEN!! I did it to say Thank You the first day and now even though I explicitly say I don't like meat and I don't like to eat animals I have been served fish and chicken. I am looking forward to returning to my village after Christmas after having gone to the market, able to cook for myself. However, I feel comfortable in the friendships already made and I know any day I don't want to cook I am free to “piga hodi” (knock) and my neighbors will feed me :)

It took me a few days to truly appreciate the warm welcome and the food provided. After coming from America where we have personal space and time to ourselves, and immersing ourselves into the Tanzanian culture, you find personal space and time alone don't exist. Therefore it's something that you look forward to when you finally move to your own home. Once I got here, and still had my neighbors tell me when to wake up, when to eat, when to shower, etc. it was slightly annoying. But once I was able to look past the action and see that they just wanted to help and welcome me, I have been more open and able to appreciate it. And now I appreciate (slightly, haha, I can't lie!) the ugali and makunde (bean and corn mixture), even though I wouldn't mind staying in my home and eating peanut butter out of the tub (because that's all the food I have right now!) Though my village doesn't have electricity or running water, they actually have a great system set up at both the primary and secondary school to catch rain water. The headmaster of the secondary school has solar, and that is the only means of electricity outside of the few people that have generators. I don't mind however because I have been without running water and electricity since I arrived. That's a least one transition that isn't new to me! (I did however buy a solar lamp in Dar es Salaam that charges my cell phone and illuminates my two bedroom house.)

For Christmas I'll be going to town, and then to the village of a volunteer that has been here over a here. So Merry Christmas! I am doing well trying to manage the boredom by writing letters and studying Swahili. My job for the next three months is to fully learn Swahili and assess the needs of my village by conducting a Village Survey Analysis (with villagers, the zahanati (health clinic), village leaders and both the primary and secondary school, and meeting the people I will live amongst for the next 2 years. I must say the kids here help me the most and it is slowly progressing. Tanzanians speak so fast that I am still able to pick up a few words but somehow understand what was said! I am going to the post tomorrow so a few of you can be on the look out in about 10 days! That's all for now! HAPPY NEW YEAR TOO!

Lesson Learned and to BE Learned

As I wrote a letter to my dear friend Jenna, I thought this instance is something I wish to share with not just her, but everyone. As a volunteer, one of our goals is to share and educate Americans about Tanzania, and vice versa. Being African American, I am finding something as simple as the color of my skin will be a great teaching tool here in Tanzania. Not only do I have the opportunity to educate many Tanzanians who don't understand the concept of an African American, but to also share this experience with many of my friends in the United States, who may not otherwise realize being “black” in Tanzania is not “easier.” My first encounter with this was upon arrival in Tanzania. At this point the only Kiswahili words I knew were yes and no. Therefore when approached by Tanzanians who assumed I was also Tanzanian, I was unable to communicate. At that point I didn't even know how to say I'm American, let alone I am learning Kiswhaili. During my first encounter with the issue of race, I was having a conversation with two people who were helping me learn simple swahili words and I informed them of America. What they were unable to grasp was that my roots, for as far as my family is able to trace is American. Unwilling to accept this as my race, they told me all “black people” come from Nigeria or Tanzania. Teaching moment number one. The next was unbelievably with Americans. Not only were they surprised to see an African American in Tanzania but assumed although I was with the entire group of Americans that I must be from Africa, but not Tanzania because “my English was pretty good.” Teaching moment number two. The next stemmed from what I imagine to be a common situation to come in the future. While I do look Tanzanian from the color of my skin, and that is my assumed race, “once I speak, it is clear I'm not.” As one Tanzanian has already told me, “I thought you were one of us until you started to talk.” From here he proceeded to tell me I made it to America during the slave trade, and then asked me about slavery. While these instances will be reoccuring, and slightly bothersome, I have learned that it is only ignorance that perpetuates things like this. Instead of taking offense, I will do my best to use these constant interactions as teaching moments, and as my Kiswahili increases, I will be able to do so. I'm putting up this blog just to showcase many challenges that I face are far beyond the rats, the sanitation, and even lack of water. While it is something so simple, it is such a great teaching moment. So many people, as I realized from also traveling to India in developed countries have rarely/never seen African Americans, and along with the projects we have come here to do as volunteers, I feel those of us of color have an additional cultural lesson of America in which we can provide to many who don't know.