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

Marafiki zangu

If you’ve friended me on Flickr and I’ve friended you back, you should now be able to see a picture of Bret and Jess, my two sitemates. This is as good a time as any to tell you about the Americans I live closest to.

Jess is a health volunteer who’s been in country since July and at site since September. Health and environmental volunteers here have to formulate and execute their own projects, and their first three months at site are supposed to be dedicated to integrating into the community, so she’s just starting to do stuff. Right now she’s teaching English at the elementary school and teaching “life skills” (sex ed and also how to make good decisions) at various schools in the area. She’s from upstate New York and majored in communications in college. She’s very sociable, very dynamic, very friendly. Walking around with her is as bad as walking around with a Tanzanian: you have to stop every five feet to greet someone and have a conversation. All the neighborhood kids greet her by yelling her name and running up to hug her. She loves to dance (hilariously) and sings, too. She’s also very short: maybe 5’2″. Bret’s very tall, and so is Philip. One of her favorite activities when she’s at his house is to stand on a chair so she’s taller than he is.

Bret’s an ed volunteer from my training class, teaching physics and computers. He also studied electrical engineering in college, and we’ve had a couple enjoyable geeky conversations about it. He’s quietly friendly and speaks very good Swahili. He tends to engage one person in conversation for a long time, whereas Jess would chat with a lot of individuals or groups. He also dances hilariously, and plays the guitar. While we’re in Njombe for training I want to buy a cowbell, and then we’ll have everything we need to start a band.

Living in the other half of Bret’s house is Philip the German, who’s been there since October. He didn’t have any training in Swahili and for the first few months (somewhat inexplicably) didn’t try to learn, so he’s in the halting basic statements portion of the Swahili-learning experience. As mentioned, Philip is very tall, and also very thin. The Tanzanians identify Philip as “the tall one” and Bret as “the fat one” even though Bret is far from fat (and has been complaining of losing too much weight at site). Philip has finished the German equivalent of high school and is taking a year off before going to college. He teaches the A-level students at their school history and something else…maybe computers. His English is pretty good but when we speak fast sometimes he has to ask us to repeat ourselves. He, like me, does not really dance.

So those are the wazungu in my immediate vicinity (within a four-hour walk) who I know of. I’ve also met some Swedes who are living somewhere around here and one of the Italian doctors who volunteers at the good hospital in the area, a little more than an hour’s drive away. There’s a Swedish nun who works at the hospital in Bret’s town who’s been here forever, and I’m sure there are other folks around as well. Makete’s AIDS rate (the highest of any district in the country) makes it a hotbed of NGO activity and that brings foreigners.

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