Africa: The Peace Corps

After having served in the Peace Corps and traveling with RPCVs in the countries they have served in, I find current and returned volunteers to be a wealth of information.

Some blogs and such that I’ve been reading and thought you might want to check out too.
That, and it’s been a slow inspiration week, as far as writing goes.  So, I’m being a little bit lazy.  As I told someone the other day, sometimes I respond to emails and text messages in my head, and forget I’ve never really responded.  I’ve gotten a few blog posts written in my head this week, but not much typed out.  So this will have to do, for now.  I’ve got one about travel friendships coming up, but I just need to sit down and type it out.

Anyways.  Some other Tanzania blogs (and two from other people I will be traveling with). Enjoy!

Two people I will be traveling with:
My Journey to Africa
Missouri Care Action Network

Some Peace Corps Blogs:
Teaching English in Tanzania
27 Months in Tanzania
An American in Tanzania
Blue Moon of Tanzania
Tumaini: Okie on the Savannah

Happy reading peeps.  I’ll have more stuff soon.

Africa: Food (pt. 1) You had me at coconut milk…

As with pictures, there will more than likely be one post about food…

I’ve been on a bit of a domestic tear the past few days.  Not cleaning, but cooking.  While I was house sitting, I had access to a real kitchen, which I always enjoy instead of my tiny/hot one.  There’s something about having a cool ocean breeze nearby that makes domesticity that much more appealing.

On Saturday, I stopped at the store and they had filet mignon on sale, as well as some of my fave dutch yellow potatoes, and dinner was born!  Oh yeah, and some yummy green beans.  Oh, and the wine.  Don’t forget the wine!  I had some of that while I was cooking too.  Eating it outside by myself with no sound other than the occasional bird and the ocean was pretty nice too.  I don’t make time often enough to cook, for myself, or for other people.

Food is one of my favorite things about traveling… and who am I kidding, it’s just one of my favorite things.  There are meals that I’ll never forget while traveling or living overseas.  The first time I had oka (and lots of things in Samoa).  The pupusa I had hot off the grill in El Salvador.   The best comfort food ever – rice, beans and chicken, in Havana, washed down with some Cuba Libre.  Thanksgiving dinner last year at Home in San Francisco with Matt – where we both were trying to figure out what was in that cranberry sauce that we were losing our minds over (turned out to be red wine, of course!).  Curry and roti in Suva.  A bagel in NYC.  Chowda in Boston.  When Jill and I went to Ben’s and CakeLove the same night in DC.  Ok, enough already, you get my point.

I’m looking forward to making some more of those food memories in Tanzania.  What I’ve found on the markets alone look amazing.  I came across a Taste of Tanzania recently and am liking what I am seeing.  Anytime I see spices, coconut milk, chapati and mandaazi (which look an awful lot like panikeke, hooray!) I’m a happy gal.

Now I’m hungry and thankfully it is time for dinner…

Africa: Gender Roles

A male friend of mine who would kill me if I used his real name on here who shall remain nameless likes to call me a man hater.  Teases me about my “higher education” and bossiness.  What can I say.  I’ve been very lucky to get some good education (even from the Catholics – thank god for the Jesuits.); and yeah, I’m kinda bossy (only because sh*t needs to get done).  BUT, I’m not a man hater.  Never have been, never will be.

I’m not June cleaver, but I could be. Find me a man who can make enough money to support me and my lifestyle and I’ll be happy to cook you a few meals and have a drink ready for you when you get home.

When I lived in Samoa, “dated” in Samoa and eventually got married in Samoa, it was a lot different than it would have been in the US.  While it is complicated no matter where you were, I actually found it refreshing at times to fall into a more “traditional” gender role (gasp!).  Maybe because things seemed more equitable there than in the US.  Boys are taught to cook from a young age (at least in terms of the umu and the saka), they do the heavier housework (at least my ex did) and I enjoyed cooking in the evenings (what else was I gonna do when I got home from work)?!

So this discussion today with my man-friend got me wondering about things in Tanzania in terms of gender.  I remember being young and dumb and a feminist and heading off to Samoa thinking I knew a lot (now I’m just old and dumb and a feminist) about how things should be.  Notsomuch.

So, I’m hopeful with this trip, that I’ll be a lot more open-minded…. or at least I’ll try.  I was doing some research today and came across this site, and the UNFPA’s site in Tanzania in order to get a better idea of the issues.  Things like FGM, “development,” HIV/AIDS are all pretty darn complicated… I’ve got opinions on all of them, but maybe I’ll save those for some later posts.  What I do know, is that Tanzania has signed CEDAW, and the US still hasn’t gotten around to that…

Thoughts?  Gender roles for you at home?  Abroad?  Better/worse than the US?  Talk to me people!!

Africa: Weekends.

I woke up this morning to a lovely view of Kaneohe Bay, courtesy of my house sitting gig (courtesy of T and J).  I have to get up and get productive eventually, but waking up to a view or something out of the norm always makes me appreciate my weekends more, for some reason.  (Like the Hau’ula weekend did not too long ago).

I’m sure I’ll be enjoying my work during the week when I’m in Tanzania, but I’ll probably enjoy the down time I have as well. My weekends and many of my evenings will be all mine.  Free to do with what I please. There will be lots of options for exploring, for sure.  A weekend in Zanzibar, there are lots of national parks nearby with possibilities for mini-safaris and other fun stuff, some cultural possibilities, or just going out to wander, as I sometimes like to do (as long as I remember that curfew!)

Hope everybody has had a good weekend – wherever they were!  I’m headed back to town soon, and while I won’t wake up to the ocean, I’ll wake up to my own bed, and there’s something to be said for that too!

Africa: Religion

I remember wondering if I was going to find “god” in Samoa. What I found was oppressive Christianity, or as I like to refer to it, the last bastion of colonialism.  That doesn’t always go over well with my friends in/from the Pacific (or my family for that matter), but it is how I feel. I can’t reconcile the critique of the colonial agenda and not include the church in those accusations and responsibilities.

I did what I needed to “fit in” in Samoa… and actually grew to love, okay, like, church. Mostly because of the choirs. (That’s where the single folk hung out and had fun in the village – and it was a good opportunity for me to practice my language.)  It was THE most beautiful singing I’ve ever heard.  Listen for yourself.. ignore the synthesizer, but listen to those voices.

During my time there, I was Catholic, Methodist, Seventh-Day Adventist and most recently, Congregational.  It all was fairly the same.  Wearing white and being scared I might sweat all the way through my puletasi. I think part of the reason that religion felt so oppressive to me was because there was only one major faith (and because it was so hot out).  Tanzania has a little more religious diversity, which I am looking forward to experiencing and learning more about.

The stats seem to vary, but the CIA fact book (oxymoron? you decide) says that the division is: Christian 30%, Muslim 35%, indigenous beliefs 35%, with Zanzibar (the island off the coast) being 99% Muslim.  I’m excited to learn more about the indigenous beliefs and see what the Muslim experience is like there.  I’m always interested to learn about traditional epistemologies/healing/worldviews – something Samoa and Hawai’i have both taught me a lot about – and oddly enough, in both places, it’s not too big of a deal to “do” christianity and some of the traditional stuff.  I appreciate that flexibility.

Hopefully I’ll find a good choir to hang out with in Tanzania.  This one looks fun.

Africa: Pictures (Pt. 1)

I went ahead and put the part one there because you know there’s going to be more than one post about picture-taking.

Randomly, on twitter, mostly, there have been pictures popping up of Tanzania.
I’m so excited just to think about the photographic possibilities.  The landscape. The animals.  The people.  It will all be new.  Hawaii and Samoa and Aotearoa have provided some amazing backdrops.  This, however, is unchartered territory.


Seriously?  Zebras?  That aren’t in a zoo?  With the flowers?  And the lake?  And the mountains?  It is overwhelming.

And these trees?  They’re like 1,000 years old.  And that sky?  That moon?  (OK, Samoa has the best view of the moon I’ve ever seen, but this one looks to be a close second).

I got myself a DSLR for a divorce christmas present a while ago, and it was the best. investment. ever.  Except now I want a new one.  I’ve learned some.  Need to learn more.  You think I can talk Canon or Nikon into hooking me up?  Or anybody know anybody who works at Best Buy and can get me a discount? This isn’t exactly a cheap hobby.  I know I’ll be fine either way, and the old Canon can pull her weight if necessary. I’d just really like to have some new bells and whistles (and lenses) for this trip.  Maybe I should start tweeting these guys and see what happens.

In the meantime, I’ll be dreaming in pictures.  And about the day that I’m taking pictures for National Geographic or Lonely Planet.  Or anybody, really.

Africa: Language (how I will end up saying a bad word no matter what)

It all started quite innocently in the early days of language training in Samoa. Suluga (the oldest and most amazing language trainer) was going over words with my original language crew (Sana, Kelleah, and Suzie).

We were doing descriptors (tall, short, fat, skinny… blah blah blah). And Suluga blurted out puta in a sentence (which in Samoan means fat).  Sana and I gasped and then fell to the floor in a fit of giggles.  Immature, sure.  But it was funny.

As I’ve traveled and tried to learn words along the way, these situations end up happening more often than not.  The worst part is, is that it usually involves a bad word.  Why it never happens with the good words, I’m not sure.

Another example:  After living in Samoa for a little over three years, spending some time at home in Ohio and then moving to Hawai`i, I was immediately greeted with “E Komo Mai” all over the place.  Again.  The giggles.  And a little bit of shock to see this “profanity” splattered all over the place.

So, I’m reading my volunteer stuff the other night.  They really suggest learning as much Swahili as one can.  I’ll do some studying, because nothing’s worse than not being able to communicate (just ask my host family in Samoa).  I was going over the basics, and immediately come to another of those words:  mimi (which means “I” in Swahili).  I had flashbacks of Keliana telling everyone in Samoa about her (grandmother) Mimi and how everybody would kind of smile politely and then wonder what in the world she was talking about.  Mimi in Hawaiian is pretty benign – urine.  But in Samoan – it is the slang way of referring to female genitalia.  Good times.  So now everytime I say “I” in Swahili, that’s what I’ll be thinking of.

This is the stuff that keeps my inner adolescent occupied, people.