The views expressed herein are mine and not those of the Peace Corps.



Useful Acronyms

PC Peace Corps
ICT Information & Communications Technology
PCT Peace Corps Trainee (pre-swearing-in)
PCV Peace Corps Volunteer (post-swearing-in)
PST Pre-Service Training
CBT Community-Based Training


Pretty much since the Christmas festivities ended, I’ve been leading an exceptionally quiet life and barely leaving my house. For two days straight I didn’t go outside at all (the second day I was going to, but then the rain came) and on the first day I didn’t even change out of my pyjamas. It’s very strange: in America, I would go stir-crazy if I didn’t leave the house, but here it’s relaxing and pleasant to stay in my house and drink tea and read books and do crosswords and practice the mandolin all day, then watch a movie on my computer before I go to sleep. It’s not quite that I got nothing done, either: I did some little things around the house, and finally got around to washing clothes. The backs of my fingers are still sore from the latter task…I think that the American amenity I miss most is the washing machine.

Yesterday I promised myself that today I’d get out of the house and go for a walk in the mountains I can see from my back windows and my porch. So around eleven I left the house and, not five minutes out of the school grounds, said hello to a middle-aged guy who then wanted to take me, his new friend, home to meet his mother. In America this would be really weird and I’d run the other way, but in Tanzania it’s pretty standard so I went to his house and met his mother and made conversation and drank a soda. They had a cat with kittens, and I think but I’m not sure that she said I could have one, so I’m going to go back to visit in a couple days and ask about them (I didn’t feel quite comfortable asking right away). So that was a pleasant interlude, and then I walked on, down into the valley.

And Stephanie called me! She had done Jirushe, a cell phone provider deal whereby you pay around $1.50 and can talk to anyone on that provider for as long as you want from 5 A.M. to 6 P.M. Usually phone calls here are crazy expensive–we all use texts–but Jirushe makes them reasonable. So we had a nice long conversation, and that was wonderful. Eventually we said goodbye, just as I was approaching a village. I said hi to everyone and one older woman grabbed my hand and took me to her little shop, where I was given another soda to drink as well as some very salty, distressing-looking meat soup (the meat was, I think, pig skin with the bristles still on). I had a couple spoonfuls of broth and pronounced it delicious but that I was very full from the soda, and that seemed to be okay. I eventually made my escape by pleading the impending rain and my desire to be home before it hit. It was a good strategy, and when I go back I’ll have to time it so that I can use that excuse again. Otherwise it can be nearly impossible to get out of conversations here.

Tanzanians in general delight in the idea of teaching wazungu (white people) Swahili, but here once they realize I know Swahili moderately well, they want to teach me the local tribal language, Kikinga, and to them it’s basically the funniest thing ever. Tally pointed out to me something I hadn’t noticed, which is that Tanzanians laugh when they’re happy, not when something funny happens, but it’s sometimes hard to remember that! But anyway, one of the women taught me the tribal greetings (I already knew the main one) and then I was encouraged to use them as we walked down the road so I could be shown the path back to Makete. Everyone was tickled pink.

So the older woman and I walked hand-in-hand down to the path back to Makete. Here in Tanzania woman-woman and man-man physical contact is totally normal here, such that seeing two middleaged men walking down the street hand-in-hand is something no Tanzanian would ever look twice at: homosexuality is illegal and also, according to Tanzanians, doesn’t exist here, so of course there’s no problem. The path was down through the less-inhabited part of the valley, where they grow trees for timber and plant gardens. My walk over had been on the road, past houses and people, but now I felt alone, as though no one was watching. I walked through a pine forest, through meadows with beautiful wildflowers, past children working in a garden. A few other people were on the path; I greeted them and walked on.

I went to the market to buy some vegetables and then headed home. I was boiling water for a bucket-bath (they become less frequent as I get used to being greasy) when a crazy pastor I’d run into at the market a couple times knocked on the door and I had to let him in to be polite. So he sat in my living room and gave me his entire life story, in decent English, including how his wife died five years ago and God told him not to marry again because God would provide a wife when it was time. I decided to tell him that I have a fiance in America if he asked, but he didn’t. Probably I should have mentioned it anyway. Then he told me about how Jesus made him high (his English was okay but not the best!) and asked me what I knew about the Holy Spirit. Eventually I thanked him and stood and he asked me to sit down again so he could pray and then he would leave, so he prayed for me (in tongues…) and then, mercifully, left. So I was finally able to bathe, the sunburn I’d acquired during my walk despite judicious sunburn application stinging in the hot water. I had a quick dinner of chapati and jam (I am the healthiest! No wonder women in the Peace Corps tend to gain weight!) and now I’m clean and in my pyjamas again and back in bed with my book and my computer and my tea and all is well. It’s a good way to end any day, whether all I did was sit inside or whether I went for a nice walk and met pleasant people.


Comment from Chris
Time January 9, 2009 at 6:36 am


Comment from Herr Jenkins
Time January 9, 2009 at 8:45 am

Is Christmas the one-day affair it is here, or is it longer as it is in other places, like Germany?

Comment from LRS
Time January 9, 2009 at 10:36 am

I really enjoyed this post!! Hi, Marie. I have been missing you a lot and pinching myself for not writing. West Philadelphia is beautiful, but my apartment is filled with mice– I killed my 20th yesterday.

I laugh when I’m happy, too– the type of being happy when I keep being surprised by my own delight. I liked that detail a lot.

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