1 October 2015

So, it’s October. That happened. Things are going well in the village. The weather is noticeably warmer now, though the rains have yet to truly come. Most mornings these days are overcast and foggy, and there’s usually some drizzle off and on – not enough to make the ground soft. The sun usually shows up mid-day and it gets really windy. I’m still waiting to dig my garden beds, but I plan to collect some cow manure soon to pile up and let compost in preparation. I might dig up enough dirt to make a bag garden or two (using a sack people usually store grains in, fill with a mix of soil and compost with a column of rocks down the middle for effective water distribution, cut some holes in a few rows around the outside for planting seeds, and also plant at the top of the bag). I’ll be sure to take pictures when I make them.

I’ve been busy getting my hands on some government documents to assist in the formation of water committees both in my vil and the neighboring vil (the ward village). We have a meeting planned for Sunday in the neighboring vil, and one later on next week for my vil. I have also made contact with the drilling expert who did a lot of work with the water technology in my village. He will be coming to the village on Tuesday to assess the issues we are having with broken technology. I’m meeting him in town tomorrow to finalize details and deliver a letter requesting his help. He will also bring the district water engineer. Hopefully that will be a successful and illuminating visit, and hopefully the meetings to discuss water committee formation with go smoothly.

Also, I’ve been spending a great deal of time planning out four sessions to teach the theory behind, and many steps of, project planning in a community. I’ve been sorting through all my notes from early service training to develop lesson plans in English (almost done), and then will work to translate everything with one of my counterparts, who will also help me teach the sessions. It’s a work in progress. I have also borrowed the science curriculum and the biology curriculum from the primary and secondary schools, respectively. I plan to look through those to gain an understanding of what the children are currently being taught so that I can develop some ideas for the environmental/conservation/agriculture club I want to start for interested students. I hope to do some activities at both primary schools in my village and at the secondary school in the neighboring village.

You might be thinking, wow that’s a lot of traveling, 9+ kilometers one way for the secondary school, but don’t worry: I won’t be walking. I made a very exciting purchase last time I visited town! I finally had time to look around for a bicycle, and I found a really nice, used mountain bike – Giant brand. The gears are a bit sticky sometimes, the back breaks are a bit weak, and the front breaks work rather unevenly, BUT I think it was a great buy. I feel comfortable riding it up and down the hills on the uneven dirt roads, and that’s what counts. It cost me 200,000 TZ shillings, which is about $100, give or take (not sure what the exchange rate is looking like these days), but Peace Corps reimburses volunteers up to 200,000 for bicycles, so I’ll get that money back. It was a good deal anyway for a mountain bike. It’s rare to see a mountain bike for sale in my banking town – mostly you can only get road bikes for about the same price. Anyway, I’m very happy with my find, and now I can get from place to place without it taking a full day of walking! Plus it’s pretty sexy…

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I spent a wonderful day last Saturday at the wedding of one of the village leaders. He’s a fun dude. His wife is from a neighboring village, and while she looked so very unhappy during the ceremony, that’s what brides are supposed to do during their weddings here – a constant frown. She was fighting a smile for some of it, though, and she lightened up a bit during the “after party” so I know that she’s human at least. No, I’m joking, I congratulated her a few times and she seemed like a very nice, more than slightly nervous young woman.

The ceremony took place in the morning at one of the churches in my village. There was a lot of music (some really not-so-great singing amplified in over-used microphones), and at the start of the ceremony, the wedding chairperson (a relative who planned it all) started it all off by having groups of family or friends from other villages rise and wave to the crowd. Then, of course, he called me from the back of the church (I was trying to be inconspicuous – never works), and had me come up front to the small stage to sit with the people who would be reading passages from the bible during the ceremony. He had me greet everyone, and luckily that’s all I had to do, verbally at least. I of course listened intently, clapped enthusiastically when I was supposed to, and danced regally when they decided we needed to hear more of that over-amplified singing (luckily, they had a few tracks prepared that did not involve live vocals). Even though I had to take on these unexpected roles, I certainly got a great view of everything!

After the ceremony, I was told to get into the priest’s car – along with the bride and groom, because that’s where I belonged apparently – and we made our way to the groom’s father’s house for cake, gift giving, and food. The close family and friends (including me obviously) were ushered under a tent – some large tarps decorated with cloth. To start, the bride and groom cut their cake and fed it to each other and also to their parents. The gift giving lasted a long time after that – lots of individuals, friends, family, community, school, and church groups paraded their way along the saw-dust covered ground and beneath the tarps with gifts of dishes and tubs and buckets and blankets and cloth. When that was over, we ate! There was rice, pilau (seasoned rice) beans, cabbage, chicken, pig, goat, and sauce. We also got a soda. After we finished eating, it was about 6:00pm and I was exhausted. All in all, it was a fun day.

Next up on my to-do list is to get myself a new bed and mattress (I’m currently borrowing mine from the village and have been told it’s time to return them). And then we’ll see how the meetings and visit goes next week!

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