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


“Goats, goats, and more goats!” sings Bret, who likes to make up songs as we walk.

We’re on our way to climb a mountain we’ve aspired to for the past two years. Bret unexpectedly knocked on my door this morning as I was psyching myself up for my classes. After the necessary pleasantries (mostly involving his eating a few scones and drinking a cup of tea) he proposed that we launch an attack on said mountain. Always glad of a semi-legitimate reason to shirk my duties, I readily agreed. And so here we are, loping down a dusty road (when cars pass we run up the embankment and are nonetheless enveloped in the voluminous dust clouds caused by their passage). We’re periodically asking Tanzanians for directions, sometimes running into people I know from town. it’s surprising, really, how many folks out here recognize me.

We reach a pretty large village and stop next to a path ask a passing child (who’s herding a few cows and a couple sheep) which way we should take to get to the mountaintop. Without much thought he points to the path we’ve stopped next to; we go up it but, after a few dead ends, decide it isn’t the path for us. He seemed too blithe in his pointing. Silly us–we wind up taking that path down the mountain, and probably could have cut an hour off our time if we’d given it a try.

But regardless, we continue along the road. Everyone directs us farther down the road to ask someone else; eventually, fed up, we pick a likely path and just go for it. After a short and irritating detour in which we are escorted down the mountain we’ve just climbed in order to sign the village’s guestbook (we would have had to pay for the privilege of climbing had the village headman not known me and been impressed by Bret’s command of the local language) we’re on our way. The path is vague. And steep. And often consists of loose dirt at an impressive angle, downed branches, or exciting combinations thereof. After a fair amount of getting lost we find a real path and the peak is in sight. My heart is a hammer and my breath is heavy in my throat. “I will conquer this mountain!” sings Bret, “As soon as I catch my breath!”

And we do conquer it, arriving at the top in acceptable if not peak condition. I stop to wrap my left knee in a bandage; my right knee responds by beginning to beg for attention as well, rendering my descent slower than normal.

On the way down, we pass a grouping of huts that features a number of Tanzanians, largely elderly, doing what they do best. Which is to say they’re sunning themselves and chatting. One grandma in particular insists firmly that we have some tea, and chairs, tea, bread, and scary-looking meat are produced for our enjoyment. We chat with them for a bit; they are delighted to learn that we are teachers, and make it known that they would have been even happier to welcome us (if such a thing were even possible) had that fact been known in advance. After some seemingly-hilarious comments on my part and the grandma’s part (the biggest hit being my saying that I didn’t want to marry anyone at all as a reply to her suggestion that I marry an African) we continue on our way. Farther down the path, we encounter a mama we’d seen heading into town as we were leaving. She gives Bret a length of sugar cane and, when I say thanks but no thanks, takes her handbag off her head and hands me a few bananas. We thank her and all parties walk in their respective directions.

Walking back, Bret asks me if the back of his neck is burned. It is, I tell him, but not too badly. Am I burned? He looks at my face. “I can’t tell. You’re too dirty.” (Once we get back I look in the mirror and realize he’s right.)

We’re almost home, taking a shortcut up the mountain that my school is on. “I love how proud they are of their mountain,” Bret says fondly. “‘Our mountain is so tall! You must be so tired!'” And it is endearing–the grandma we talked with while she gave us chai said repeatedly that she’s afraid of the mountain–it’s too steep. Everyone we talked to was very impressed that we made it as far as the village, much less all the way up to the peak. “But when we say we’ve gone to Matema by foot,” Bret notes, “it’s not impressive.” Baffling, really.

This is the sort of day when I really appreciate Tanzanians. Aside from the jerks who made us detour to the village office to sign their book, everyone we talked to (and there were many of them!) was polite and gracious, often going out of their way to make us feel welcome. Even the women farming in the fields put down their hoes and engaged in lively conversations to try to reach a consensus on the best way for us to get where we wanted to be. As we get into a conversation with the women we’ve inadvertently followed up the final slope, I think about how unlikely this interaction would be in the US, and I feel very lucky to be where I am.


Comment from david Digges La Touche
Time September 14, 2010 at 10:15 am

My experience in North America has been that experiences like that are more common out West and in Canada, than here in the Northeast . They’re more likely to start talking to you or to bring you home out West.

Comment from Annie
Time September 14, 2010 at 3:57 pm

I think you saying you don’t plan on getting married had a similar reception to me telling the Rwandan children that I don’t believe in a god.
Silly Americans.

Comment from Chris
Time September 14, 2010 at 8:15 pm

Sounds like such fun! Miss you!

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