The content of this blog does not reflect the positions of the Peace Corps and is solely the responsibility of the author.

In Which I Tour a Textile Factory

Peace Corps Tanzania is making commemorative kangas for us all, for the 50th anniversary celebration stuff last year (50th anniversary of Peace Corps itself, and Peace Corps in Tanzania, one of the first posts to open).  Last year was also the 50th anniversary of Tanzania, so lots and lots of celebrations, and after a lot of arguing over design, this kanga is now finally going to production.  The reason I know about this is that the largest factory in East Africa is 21st Century Textiles, which is apparently in Morogoro, and they are making our kangas.  Which I still wouldn't have known about except that I and my sitemate were nominated to go proof some kanga samples pre-production on the basis of geographic proximity.  It ended up taking three hours, between waiting for them to set up a machine, prepare the dyes, run the sample through the washing and drying machine to ensure the dye would set, and have me approve the start of production.  We took the waiting periods to wander around the factory, during which time I had flashbacks to every story I have ever read featuring orphans suffering in the terrible, noisy, hot, and dangerous factory conditions of back in the early days of the industrial revolution, when girls working at looms in textile factories had to cut their hair short or risk it getting caught in the machines, and sometimes they'd lose fingers, and have to work 10 hour days for about 2 cents an hour, and stagger home exhausted to abusive parents who took their wages and spent it on booze.    At the end of the tour and having approved the kangas, we were asked to speak to the factory owner, because he was extremely confused about why 2 American girls who lived in Morogoro were wandering around his factory.

the factory

newly printed fabric coming off a machine

barrel thing for printing the peace corps design

Prepping the barrel things: dye is pumped inside, and the machines turn the barrels.  As the fabric passes underneath, the barrels, it picks up the dye, 1 color per barrel.  I do not entirely understand how this works.  Why do the white parts stay white?

preparing the dye

making some adjustments to the barrels

our kangas!

other fabric being printed

and more fabric

a folding machine

piles and piles of fabric

Stories of Magic: Witches and Burning Schools Part 3: Binarily Searching for the Culprit

Another building housing the girls just burned down, this one at a slightly earlier time because they have guards hanging out during the times the previous buildings burn.  Still no fire extinguisher.  However, due to a growing shortage of housing, forms 1 and 3 (the forms that don't take national exams) have been sent home.  If they keep splitting the number of girls in half like this and housing the halves in different dorms, they will be able to isolate the arsonist in O log n time. 

Stories of Magic: Witches and Burning schools, part 2: the exorcism.

The secondary school that had two buildings burn down and concluded witches called in a pastor to pray over everything for a while.  The school has yet to purchase a fire extinguisher.

Rastafarians and Things

My friend George in Mgeta has an insanely talented Rastafarian friend, introduced to me only as Ras or Rasta, who performed feats of strength in honor of George's guests.  

Rasta preparing for things.

Rasta hanging from things.

Rasta eating fiery things. 

Rasta climbing things.  

Rasta baby climbing things!

Things on Rasta.

picking up one guy by the teeth while holding another. 

spinning bicycle wheels on Rasta.  

Hiking in Mgeta

So I went to Mgeta for a few days this week for a friend's birthday party.   Mgeta is a lovely little village in a valley about 1 and a half hours drive into the Uluguru mountains from my site.  The Germans settled it because they thought the mica deposits might be valuable.  They aren't, of course, but they do make the roads glitter.  Somehow the Germans missed the gold in the river.  Which I appreciate it: instead of mining camps, you can go swimming in a beautiful river in peace, and scoop up the soil from the bottom and see the gold flakes in your hands.

100 Year Old Church in Mgeta Part 2


Black people being led by white saint
white saints

White Virgin Mary stationed so as to inhibit the view of a praying black man.

White Jesus in front of picture of black Jesus 

100 Year Old Church in Mgeta Part 1

Built in 1905 by German colonialists.  

In Which Termites seem to be Eating my Twanga

Or something is.  I don't know what it would be other than termites.  

In Which I Consider What I am Doing as a Peace Corps Volunteer

All my students have left to do their student teaching at secondary schools around the country.  I would probably be more productive had I not been robbed last week and lost my laptop and spent a certain amount of time being angsty and mopey and all social with other volunteers in the course of which I discovered a really cheap spa, and now my feet are clean for the first time since I began service, and this is a very odd feeling.  But at some point, I will get myself together and think about doing some lab maintenance and make some nice posters about the history of computers and the difference between left and right clicking.   I also need to figure out how to be a better teacher.

Some things I actually do really well.  Example: instead of lecturing on network components, I took my students on a field trip to the server room to show them our network stuff.  Several other teachers have remarked on what a good idea this is and started doing the same thing.

I also have to give each of my classes one lecture a week on pedagogy.  Were I to follow the syllabus on this,  I would do nothing but lecture on the format of lesson plans.  This is the same for every subject, and I refuse to be the fifth teacher in a row to make the students draw precisely layed out charts of lessons so I do things like force them into a discussion of corporal discipline (I got them to disagree with me!)  or, on one memorable occasion, walk into the classroom and announce without warning that they
would now be practicing teaching, and "you there, you have 5 minutes to teach the class on a subject of your choice, here's some chalk, go."  I even managed to get them to give reasonable feedback to each other on that one.   And the class monitor (one student who has some special job that I don't fully know what it is) ran after me as I left the classroom and asked for some chalk so they could continue to practice.   I'm very proud of that lesson, for all that it only happened because I had a sore throat that day.

But I desperately need to actually structure my lab classes.  I have about 60 students per class, and this is impossible for one person to run alone.  I need to have a system in which the students who get it more become teacherlets and assist the students who get it less.

Also, I so don't spend enough time doing lab maintenance.  I'm the type of teacher who goes home at the end of the workday, takes a cold shower, and then lies down and reads for a while, works out, makes dinner and goes to bed.  Teaching is tiring, it's about 90F most days, feeding myself and keeping my house as not a cesspit of my own filth is tiring, but I still need to make time to go through the lab, make sure the connections are really connected, and delete and remake the generic student accounts because the students do bizarre things to their accounts like delete most of the items in the menus and create tons of new folders.  Fine, practice, whatever, but it makes things difficult for the next student.

I also need to make some nice diagrams on how to keep the network connected for the teachers.  I had this, but it was on my laptop, and not backed up.

In Which I Get Distracted

So my house was robbed.  I'm fine, the house is fine, Peace Corps is supportive, but I lost my laptop.  So I'm borrowing my sitemate's computer and using it to post photos of my kittens back home in the US, because this is clearly important.