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

East Africa Side Story

I'm off to Uganda in a few days.  If we meet up with some Peace Corps Uganda volunteers, we are going to play it with us as the sharks and them as the jets.  I have promised to fall madly in love with a volunteer in Uganda, only to have Peace Corps get between us by calling to say that I am out of vacation days and have to get back to site.  At this point someone will get mad and shoot someone.  Stay tuned for the angsty soul-searching group song.

Some Reasons Why it's More Fun to Teach Tanzanians than Americans

I use terminals a lot.  I don't really think about this much, it's just something I do.  Recently some of my fellow teachers in the ICT department asked me to teach them some basics of terminal commands on the grounds that using a command line interface is "more professional."*  This surprises me because in the US, a lot of people regard a terminal as the most terrifying thing ever.   Along the same lines as how some people will respond to comments about simple arithmetic with bold (and proud?) declarations of how they will not/cannot do math, some people respond to terminals with proud declarations that they could never ever do that.

The horrifyingly horrible root of all terror. 
 Tanzanians don't do that.   Probably because there isn't a lot of social capital to be gained by speaking of one's computer ignorance.  What's with that in the US, anyway?  At any rate, it's fun for me, of all the things my coworkers could ask me to do for them, showing them some basic 'cd' and 'mkdir' is high on the list of things that make me happy.  Making the world a better place through command lines, yo.  Also, I can make my students do simple things via the terminal and they don't know it's supposed to be hard so they just do it.  Being Tanzanian students they memorize the commands without actually understanding them, but it's a start.

*For certain values of professional, I suppose.  

No True Peace Corps Volunteer

So according to people who have it way worse than I do, I'm not a real volunteer because:

  1. I have running water, which I have started drinking out of the tap.
  2. I think an 8 hr bus ride on a paved road is bad.
  3. I have never spent hours of my life watching chickens.  

But I can still make fun of the missionaries who claim that 45 minutes away from town they are "way out in the jungle."

The Things We're not Supposed to Say

As everyone is aware, North Carolina has been doing this, in response to which President Obama said this.  Of course, Obama's statement is probably meaningless in terms of actual policy on same-sex marriage, but the interesting thing about the things Obama says is that it matters in Tanzania.

Obama is incredibly popular here and has the sort of swag often reserved for Disney idols, pencils, shoes, kangas, backpacks, whatever.  As part of greeting an American, some Tanzanians will ask how Obama is doing (to which the answer is 'fine').

Homosexuality is very much not popular here.  It is, in fact, something Peace Corps tells us not to talk about.  Homosexual volunteers who out themselves, are outed, or straight volunteers rumored to be homosexual are all sent home because they are in physical danger if it is suspected they are homosexual.  That's what I mean when I say unpopular.  So when Obama announces he's in favor of same-sex marriage it causes a stir and I am asked what I think about the situation during a college staff meeting.
I would like to say that I responded with an eloquent and persuasive yet culturally sensitive oration that convinced everyone present that equality under the law is the awesome, but I didn't.  In fact, I wasn't really prepared for the conversation at all, because I was trying to explain all the rights marriage grants that people need and got confused over the whole medical confidentiality thing, because Tanzanians don't really do that.*  So it was a disjointed and not terribly convincing speech, but I did get a follow up question that I responded to much better and was able to explain that everyone deserves the right to fully participate in society and that when homosexuals are denied rights we all suffer, and look we have computers because of Alan Turing who was homosexual, therefore if homosexuals don't have rights we might not get nice stuff like our computers!  Appeal to greed!

Actually, if any of my students ever tell me anything judgmental about homosexuals I am fully prepared to throw them out of my lab and tell them they can't have the privilege of using our computers until after they write a letter of apology to Alan Turing. After one of my students told me that on his teaching practice some of his female students made themselves into temptations by wearing short skirts and I floundered in incoherent rage, I sat down and tried to come up with responses for future things students might say to me.  Apparently I need prepared responses for staff meetings as well.

I'm trying to spread the peace, love, and understanding here, but it's hard to do that extemporaneously. 

*Except in cases of HIV/AIDS, which as far as I can tell is the only disease your doctor won't tell the entire village you have.  This may be one of the causes of the great stigma associated, that a person could have it and no one know.  Also probably a contributing factor to nasty speculation and rumours.  

In Which the Morogoro Region Discovers the Greatest Two Minutes in Sports

We had a Kentucky Derby party at my house, and did amazing things like make mint juleps,* play on my silks, hike up to a waterfall, make bacon-avocado-cheese sandwiches, pick our favorite horses based on the names, and go to bed immediately after the race, because it was getting close to 2am for us.

*be impressed that we found mint.  It took wandering around the market asking "kuna majani ya mint?[are there mint leaves?] and then it was very pathetic looking mint, but we had it.

Scary spider in invisible web that I almost walked into.

View from the waterfall

No pictures of us sitting around watching a computer, but I did paint my toenails the colors of the horse I wanted to win.  He didn't.