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

Of the Days Annoyances These: the First Week of Classes

I have sort of met all my classes at this point.  Apparently no one shows up the first week, or expects anyone to teach.  Also, sometimes people take the keys to the lab and disappear with them five minutes before my class is supposed to start, so I can't start until 20 minutes late because I am hunting the keys, by which time the students, as is really their prerogative, have disappeared.

Keys in Tanzania: never not an exasperating and poorly managed situation.

Today I made the mistake of showing up early, when will I ever learn, for a 7:30 class, had to wait for the registrar's secretary to arrive so I could get the keys to the computer office and try a bunch of the unlabeled keys there to see which opened the lab.  Exactly 3 students appeared for class, so I told them to come back next period and bring all their friends.  I supposedly have a class this afternoon, but I have also heard that there are supplementary exams, whatever those are, during that class period.  So I'm not holding my breath.  At least no one cares if I just go back to my house, which is good for my blood pressure, particularly on exasperating mornings like this when clearly the only response to the world is to go drink coffee in the privacy of my home and play violent computer games until calm.

On the plus side, my multimedia students seemed somewhat excited when I met them.  Apparently my predecessor told them about me, and they loved my predecessor and have told me they expect excellent teaching from me as well.  Well, maybe that's a plus. No pressure or anything.

edited to add:  about 20 students came to the afternoon class, so I decided to just lecture them because clearly they are the ones who care.  It was fun.  This was the multimedia class, so I talked about the project they'll be doing over the semester (I'm making them make music videos), talked about the necessity of planning a concept and not letting the media overwhelm the message, and then showed them a bunch of my favorite anime music videos as examples to give them ideas of what was possible.  I'm not sure what they thought, but I had fun, and the young man who likes to carry my projector for me and talk to me (I need to be careful he doesn't start hitting on me) said that they were not used to teachers who made them create things, and I think he said it like he thought it was a good thing.  So that was nice.

Tanzania's Ugliest Kanga, Half Now in Skirt Form


Anyone can dress in a drab and unimaginative yet inoffensive fashion.  Americans, for example, are wedded to their jeans and t-shirt uniforms.   It takes planning and a good dressmaker to be this much of a fashion disaster.  The other half of the kanga is going to a friend of mine in the states, in exchange for a book of raunchy classical Latin poetry.  This seems a fair trade.

I am very pleased with this dressmaker, really.  I had such a fabulous dressmaker in Morogoro, I was worried about finding another lady. They are everywhere, really, but one has to find a good one who can surprise with the arrangement of the fabric.  Also, a good friendly relationship is important.  In this case, the border of the kanga was turned into a waistband and a ruffle along the bottom, which I rather love.  There is a small morning market near the school, and the first time I went there, I got the usual calls of "mzungu"* and gave my usual response, which is a long Kiswahili speech about how I have a name and people should greet me, after all, it's not like I yell "mtanzania" or "mafrica" at people.  The result was that now an entire group of mamas in one corner of this market remember my name, I buy things from them, they help me find things, keep other people from hassling me, I am learning their names, and overall going to the market is now a very pleasant experience.  I asked one of these mamas about finding a dressmaker and she directed me to a friend of hers, who made this skirt for me, after which I had to show it off to the mamas in the market who are my new friends and who all have opinions about what sorts of things I should get made next.   This is why I have too many clothes.  But I abandoned quite a few that I wasn't so pleased with back in Morogoro, so I have to start over now.

*white person/foreigner.  It's nice that my entire character can be summed up in a single word that describes my race that complete strangers can and do yell at me.  

In Which I am Upset by Machines for Ladies

This makes me sad.  It makes me really sad, not just because of the condescending attitude toward women, but because having decorated computers as a purchasing option is actually something I really really want, but I don't want to pay the price of bowing to sexism for it.

I am all for having the option of decorating computers.  In fact, as long as I could get the hardware I wanted I would be willing to pay a small extra fee to get the machine of my choice covered in rhinestones.  I don't know why we don't have personalization options for the chassis as it is, frankly.   Computers are a ubiquitous feature of life, we should be able to make them fabulous, and Turing bless people who have been doing things like this to their desktop machines for years. This does not mean that personalization options should be marketed as an option to women who, it is implied by complete lack of specification thereof, don't care about the technical aspects of their computers.  What's wrong with a marketing strategy along the lines of "a computer that's fast and fabulous?  Combine sequins with new quad core technology at that actually has good battery life despite being a quad core, with such and such ram, and an SSD..."?  A lot of computer scientists really like shiny things, as a (male, for the record) friend of mine put it, "we're like magpies that way."  If marketing sequins in a technical way just seems impossible because sexism,  and holy lady Lovelace, the womenfolk couldn't possibly care about what kind of processor they have, one could get a lot of mileage out of special science fiction-y designs and product-placing them in our favorite geeky shows like Dr. Who, Battlestar Galactica, Dr. Horrible's Singalong Blog, etc.  What's the advantage of a capitalist society in which advertisers can and do make up needs and traditions (see engagement rings and Santa Claus for notable revenue-producing examples) if I can't get products decorated in silly ways to appeal to my demographic?  Oh, wait, I am a geeky woman with an advanced degree in computer science, according to advertisers, such a demographic doesn't exist, because being a woman puts me into a special category of consumers which is just like a regular category except can't figure out technical things and has longer nails.

This unfortunately, seems to be a growing trend in marketing electronics to women, make it inferior, but pink, and market it to women who are clearly too stupid to have any idea of what makes a good technical product.   As Jezebel points out in writing up Fujitsu's press release, there is almost no time taken to explain the technical features of the this lady computer, but plenty given to describing its appearance.  The only halfway technical features given are lengthy explanations of the bloatware, which is 1) NOT a good thing, and 2) marketed on the assumption that women are vapid and also too dumb to install their own applications if they want scrapbooking and horoscope programs.

I have spent too much of my life getting an education in computer science and trying to inspire other women (and also myself, it gets upsetting and depressing at times) to brave the too often unwelcoming-for-women culture that is computer science and related fields and get geeky and change the world to have to put up with this kind of sexist tripe from manufacturers and advertisers.  Computers are general purpose machines that should exist to perform tasks to make our lives a little easier, not to reinforce rigid and damaging gender roles.

Nagging Questions about Christianity and Farming, Answered!

I recently asked a friend of mine who blacksmiths recreationally if it is actually possible to beat a sword into a plowshare.  After some consultation of Wikipedia to find out what a plowshare actually is (how were we supposed to know?), his opinion is that it would be possible, but difficult, and it would require more material than just the sword, and some forge welding, and it would make a lot more sense to just beat the sword into a coulter, because that's already about the same shape.

So now we know.  But we still endorse no-till planting over plowshares, even if it doesn't make for as famous a metaphor for peace.

Nagging Question about Islam on What May Possibly be the Eve of Eid-el-Hajj, but We Won't Actually Know Yet if it Really is the Eve, or the Day Before the Eve, or Some Unrelated Day Until it Actually Happens

There are many things I don't understand in this world, matrix multiplication for example.  The non-commutative nature of it deeply disturbs me.  Another thing, how is it that Muslims never know when their holidays are going to be?  I know it depends on the moon, but what the moon is going to look like on any given day is a well-solved problem, and Muslim astronomers did most of the solving.  They were, in fact, renowned for using empirical astronomical observations.  So the fact that I never know when a holiday is going to be until I show up is annoying and baffling.  I asked a Muslim volunteer about this, and her unsatisfactory response was that it was like a period, you know about when it is going to happen but you never quite know exactly.  This is not a valid analogy, as the phases of the moon are affected by constant forces that do not involve anything so unpredictable as hormones, environment, nutrition, general physical condition, stress, age, etc.  So I still don't understand why Muslims aren't drawing on their own heritage of excellence in astronomy to figure out beforehand when holidays happen.  I am all for people getting time off from work for their religious occasions, but when religious holidays are also national holidays it would help a lot to know actually when they happen.  At least a day or two in advance would be nice.

A Cheese of One's Own

Like many if not most volunteers, I have developed an odd obsession with cheese.  Part of my inability to keep cheese in my house has been heretofore the lack of refrigerator, a problem now remedied.  The other barrier to a cheesier lifestyle is cost.  The obvious solution, therefore, is to attempt my own cheese.  This requires self-reliance and an understanding that cheese makes many appearances in olden times (at least in the fantasy novels I read where a rind of cheese often appears in adventurers' packs or accompanying the dinners of prisoners) and is therefore not something which can only be produced by the magical ways of the gods of the modern grocery store.  Fortunately, the Peace Corps cookbook includes recipes, and as it turns out, cheese making is really easy.

Needed: citric acid, aka lemon juice.

Boil milk in improvised double boiler.
Once the lemon juice is added, the hot milk will almost immediately
separate into curds and whey, holy chemical reactions, Batman!

Straining through the cheesecloth that my mama thoughtfully
sent me from the states. 

The leftover whey can be used to make bread in place of water or milk. 

Pineapple with cheese.  Today, I win life.  

In Which I Succeed in my Little Advertised Quest to Find Tanzania's Ugliest Kanga

It has silly fish on a terrible mustard yellow background.  I actually saw this in Mwanza some time ago, but it was only at a wholesale shop that would not let me buy just the one and I didn't love the hideousness enough to buy 10.  But now it is mine and it will be a hideous skirt, and I will wear it.  Next up, the quest to find the kanga which is of mediocrity the epitome.   After I find it I will realize that mediocrity, by its nature, doesn't really epitomize, and the kanga will vanish in a puff of logic.  

Usigeuke miba ukanichoma, which might mean, may you not turn
away from the thorns you stabbed me with.  Cuacrossamerica, help!  Translate!  

Edited to add: second and third opinions on the kanga suggest it should be translated "Don't turn away Thorn, you have stabbed me" or "you shouldn't turn from every thorn that stabs you."  These kanga sayings are written in Ye Olde Kiswahili and are difficult for us non-native speakers to figure out.

Edited again to add: The second opinion is right, thorn has to be vocative, otherwise it would be usigeukia.  (I think).  You know what would be helpful here?  Punctuation.  

Edited once more to include an image of a Bolivian textile, helpfully emailed to me to demonstrate sublime ugliness.  I find it more boring than eyecatchingly ugly, but I know you, my darling readers, are well versed in aesthetics and well be able to educate me on such ugliness.

Friday Fabulosity

It has occurred to me recently that I am forgetting how to be fabulous.  Recently I was in Dar, and encountered a nice coffee shop, catering to Europeans, in a shopping center which had an escalator, and realized suddenly that I was dirty.  It was, perhaps, understandable, given that I had been gallivanting about Dar, in all its glory of heat, sweaty cramped buses, leaking sewers, and dust.  Nor had I actually showered the day before, because I was out late and the people I was sharing a guesthouse room were already sleeping when I got in, and so I did not avail myself of an admittedly quite nice hot shower that doesn't even administer electric shocks when one touches the faucets.  Normally, a superfluity of dirt and sweat does not faze me in this country, it seems rather an inevitable condition, and if I fail to bathe for days on end I start getting compliments on the shininess of my hair.  I gave up worrying about the state of my clothes even before that of my person.  However, when I walked into a nice European style coffee house inhabited by clean Europeans, I felt distinctly uncomfortable and dirty.  This is the sort of place that, in the states, I might have swept grandly into on my way to the opera, freshly bathed and dressed to the nines, and languidly ordered "something fabulous"* and now I just feel out of place.  So now that I have a fast internet, and neither money nor teaching for one more week, I am spending time on the web finding delightfully fabulous and decadent things, and I present to you, Delilah Jones, the High Flying Floozy.

*Baristas get used to me.

In Which I am Still in Love with my New Site

My new school has a lab technician who is not me!  This is exciting.  It is also exciting that I have reasonably firm approval to teach introductory programming, and do it in Python rather than C.*  Meaning I can make a Python install CD, show up, spend a certain amount of time showing the lab technician how to set Path variables in Windows and open a terminal to test the success of setting the variable, and then leave, because I have important things to do at home like make cookies. Not only do I not have to do all the lab work myself, I actually taught someone something about doing things to the lab computers, which is so much better than at the college, where the people who claimed they would "work together with" and "learn from" me had a tendency to answer their phones at the beginning of the process and then disappear for hours.   Though as a side note, that a lab tech doesn't know how to open a terminal terrifies me ever so slightly.  I accept this to a certain extant from even American undergrads, who know nothing of their computers except how to get online and possibly some word processing.  But a lab tech??  What do they teach in schools these days, grumble grumble.  Or I guess actually those days, since, like most teachers and some students, the lab tech is older than I am.  Still, in my day, all we had were terminals and ASCII art games!  Windows 3.1 even was a thing of the future.  Get off my lawn, all ye who rely wholly on graphical things.  

*Not that I have anything against C, in fact I think it is a delightful language.  Everyone should know at least the basics, but for beginning programmers, I think Python is easier and more fun.

Killing Flowers

The Mbeya institute grows flowers decoratively!  One of those things you don't realize you like until it is no longer a landscaping feature.  Incidentally, the Kiswahili word for flower, ua (pl. maua) is the same as the verb meaning "to kill."


Fuzzy red trees.

Banks of many colored flowers, it reminds me of 
azaleas back home.

Fuzzy purple bushes.

Daylily!  The boring kind, but still. 

These purple trees are everywhere.  They are a little past full bloom now, but they are still spectacular and I adore them. 

We are a garden
With plants and birdsong moving through us
Like rain.

In Which My Computer Problems are Still More Complicated than the Average Person's Computer Problems

At my new home, I get an average internet latency of ~200 ms.  At my old house, I was getting, on a good day, between 400ms and 600ms.  To put this in perspective, websites load up to around 2000ms latency, but after around 800 ms you have to turn off images and be really patient.  Above 600ms video streaming isn't really worth the trouble and above 400ms it requires significant buffering time.  The point of all those numbers is to explain that at 200ms a lot more is possible on the internet.

Turing bless some amazingly generous friends of mine for providing me with 1) access to a stateside machine with permission to use it as a proxy server provided I set up RSA authentication rather than passwording into it (it's a reasonable stipulation), and 2) the password to a Netflix account with unlimited streaming.  The reason I care is that a lot of fun stuff from the states is only available to US IPs, for example, Netflix, a lot of Youtube videos (including Funimation's entire catalog which they tantalizingly uploaded to Youtube and then geoblocked outside the US.  Jerks.), the Daily Show, anything on NBC, and Pandora my favorite music streaming station.     Needless to say, having access to this stateside machine made me really excited.  Until I decided to check the internet speed on it and almost cried when I realized what I lost by leaving the US.  6ms latencies?!

Getting access to everything was pretty straightforward except that I've never set up a proxy server. I am the dumb kid of the CS department.  Nonetheless, with Google I can do anything.  The main issue was getting Netflix, because I can't run that natively under Linux.  Netflix uses some magical special proprietary player that doesn't play on Linux.  Fortunately, this is one of the things I can use a virtual windows machine for.  That becomes much more complicated with proxy servers involved, because even with the proxy as the system wide network setting on the host, it is not immediately obvious how to get a guest machine to use the proxy.  At least, not on VirtualBox it's not.  This shouldn't be a huge issue for me, really, because weirdly enough I am one of the world's experts on networking in virtual machines.   Also, I now have Pandora to provide me with music while I work on this.  But because I have a tendency to hack my way through problems rather than really acquiring expertise it became easier to install Cygwin on the VM so I could have a Linux-emulator to set up a second proxy server specifically for the VM (okay, so it's probably possible to do a proxy setup and Windows, but I understand how to do it on Linux)  Which is when I figured out that Cygwin's ssh key authentication is a little strange but ssh has helpful debugging output.  Another reason to do this out of a Linux emulator rather than using Windows system tools, I don't know how to troubleshoot stuff on Windows.   Anyway, I am now running a proxy out of a Linux emulator on a Windows virtual machine hosted on a Linux machine.  Which is running the same proxy at the same time.  Go me.  The amazing thing is the virtual machine and emulation isn't enough of a bottleneck to make streaming video off Netflix impractical.    

I realize most people that I know who read this blog don't care about any of this, but I had a good time.

A Few Thoughts on my New Home

I have a balcony in my house.  I like it.  I like to sit and look at the mountains and not have anyone bother me.  Birds are building a nest in the corner.

There is a homeless man without pants who wanders about screaming and eating out of the garbage pits.  What connection he has with the school that brought him here, or has prevented anyone of authority from removing him from the premises, I do not know.  On the other hand, there are no facilities for caring for those who are homeless and/or mentally disturbed.  There are no incidents of his hurting anyone (I really hope.  The two volunteers previous to me report no incidents), and the place is crawling with security guards, so I guess why not?  It's not like he has anyplace more healthy and reasonable to go.  Either his family abandoned him or he's an orphan probably.

I am now in a house that gets an average internet latency of 200ms.  This is awesome.  The fabulous bearded volunteer I am replacing and whose house I am sharing for a week watches American sport tv on a regular basis.  I joined him for an evening of baseball, which unfortunately included a lot of American commercials as well.  At least two products promised, in so many words, that using them would "get girls" or cause one to "get laid."  The advertisers must assume that men are highly gullible or that women (not girls) are contractually obligated to provide sexual favors as a reward for obedient consumerism.  Either way, this is sleazy.

Russian plugs are weird.  But at least the Russians who built the place abandoned plenty of industrial equipment which is just sitting around.  Children and I play on them.

I am suddenly not so much missing one of my hardworking girls in Morogoro, because apparently by failing to forward her text message to 10 people within 60 seconds, I do not love Jesus.  I'm fairly certain Jesus wouldn't care about such things, and I'm having trouble coming up with a deity who would.  This would be beneath the God of the Machine, but perhaps there is some minor network god who really likes counting things who might care.  Possibly this could be seen as a sacrifice to Mark Zuckerburg, greater saint of Empty Gestures Leading to Greater Corporate Profits.

Refrigeration is awesome!  I can keep non-onion vegetables around for more than two days!  Even avocados!  My shopping is going to get so much more efficient.  However, it does seem a bit of a cruel joke that I have a refrigerator in a cool place like Mbeya but didn't have one in the weltering heat of Morogoro.     Regardless, I think I'm in love with this refrigerator.  I have never felt so intensely emotionally attached to a machine since I met the office copier that could also scan entire books and had a built-in stapler.

Rigging Silks Off an Abandoned Industrial Crane

Totally doable!

For the gathering crowd of watching children, this was the most exciting thing that happened all day.

In Which I get up and Go

This week I said goodbye to my students.  My new class that I haven't been teaching very long wasn't very bothered by the news.  I like them, they seem to like me, but I've only been teaching them for about half this term, and I keep being absent what with mandatory Peace Corps conferences, an important Peace Corps meeting, and a week spent in Mbeya deciding I wanted to move.  My other class seemed more startled and saddened at the news, which surprised me.

I don't normally enjoy this class.  There are a group of students who blatantly don't pay attention and then complain that they don't understand.  They have complained that I spend all my time teaching them the practical use of the computer and don't teach them theoretically.  They have also recently started complaining that I take them to the lab when possible twice a week rather than their allotted once a week and this is, and I quote, "too much movement."  I am not sorry.  Fortunately for my motivation, there are three or four girls who try hard and are interested and I have given up on the rest of the class and just started to teaching to them.  They actually made my last time teaching in Morogoro really great.  We were starting the programming unit, which I really enjoy, so just as an introduction and because I know whoever replaces me won't do this, I went over some basic features of a programming language, operators, looping structures, and functions, demonstrating each with my python shell.  Then I reminded them of all the functions they had used doing spreadsheets, and wrote a summation function in Python and told them that behind the graphic interface they always use, this is the sort of thing that's really happening when they write =SUM().  One of my bright girls was sitting on the edge of her chair and her eyes just completely lit up as she made the connection, and she was smiling all over her face when I told her (well, the whole class really, but at that point I was giving the lesson to her) that this is it.  This is what is happening, your computer is not a magical machine.  At some point someone sat down and wrote everything you use.  She looked as though she got it completely and was really excited about it.  When my normal slacker boy complained that he completely didn't understand anything of that day's lesson she turned around and told him she would explain later.

And lo, the geek shall inherit the earth, and despite stereotype, the geek woman shall stand beside the geek man and we shall create the world that those who make fun of us will use without bothering to understand it, and we shall feel impossibly superior.

After class was over, all my bright girls gave me hugs and wanted email and phone numbers.  One also told me I should remember to pray because that is our only weapon in the world. Had I been mentally quicker, I might have been able to respond to that with some inspiring speech about the helpless mentality of such a statement and rebut that we ourselves are our weapons in the world, we use our own strength to walk forward and help those with us, and prayer is good, channeling all our energy their will not do anything to make the status more quo.   This is, however, not necessarily the sort of conversation I want to get into on my last day, particularly with a woman who grew up in a culture where it is hard to say accurately that there is something real she personally can do to fight the world.  Because sexism.  Also, post-colonialism.  Racist imperial domination is really bad for a society, who knew?  So I took the remark in the spirit in which it was meant, and thanked her.

Afterwards, I gathered all the Peace Corps volunteers in the region and we went to the river behind the college and had a bonfire (that I did none of the work for except bring the kerosene, because two of my sitemates have lots of fun building fires) with watermelon, stale chips from the street, the various dips and sauces that my other sitemate who returned to America left behind and I didn't want to pack because space, and homemade hibiscus wine.  Which is tasty, incidentally.  I also gave them my keys so they could strip my house of whatever I didn't pack once I left.  The last I heard they were really excited and said it was like a market only everything was free and totally vultured the place.  Socialist existence.  It leads to less waste.  Also, I am now in a fully furnished apartment with furniture and everything and I am inheriting another volunteer's things, so it's a reciprocal vulturing.

The Ulugurus after sundown

Back in the day, we were the only two volunteers in the region.  *sniff* nostalgia

He got way too happy about being able to burn things.

A Monkey in Parting

Excited as I am about Mbeya, I am really going to miss Morogoro.  This is such a beautiful place.  I love the monkeys that run around while I do silks.  

In Which I Don't Talk about Masturbation

Sometimes staff meetings rise above their normal boringness when the headmaster uses them as an opportunity to talk about whatever he has been thinking about recently.  He seems to have recently happened upon sperm banks and artificial insemination, and wanted to know if it was true that "women could have babies without a man doing his part."  I actually thought he was talking about parthenogenesis until he explained further.  He asked me if it was true that such a thing can  be done freely at hospitals (well yes, but one has to pay, and it's not really at hospitals, but this isn't the time to explain the difference between TZ and American hospitals), how a woman would select the sperm she wanted (I have no idea), and concluded by wondering how they got the sperm from the man.  I honestly couldn't tell if he was joking or if he truly didn't know, the latter being not so much an impossibility as one might think given that masturbation is so Not Done it's not even a joke.   And I didn't follow up because I can't start talking about masturbation in front of about 100 teachers.  I just can't.  Condoms yes (talking about condoms at any possible opportunity is in my job description), masturbation, not so much.  Which is a pity, really, given that I happen to think we should be pushing masturbation.   I know that sounds odd, but there is a deeply held societal belief that no one can be without sex for very long.  Women in particular are told that they will go crazy if they go too long without sex.

As a side note, this may be one of the reasons behind the demon possession of girls, other than the obvious reasons of exam time possession and claiming it is the fault of some disliked teacher.  Imagine one is a teenager in the hormone-riddled morass that is high school, trapped in a world of rigid gender roles, told that nice girls don't, pressured to do it by boys (or raped by teachers.  It happens), told (not in so many words, but the way almost all abstinence-only sex education happens is that boys are assumed to have the want-tos while girls are just the holders of a commodity that boys want) that they do not have sexual desires of their own and are there for the male gaze which it is their own fault if they provoke through dress, but by the way, no sex leads to craziness.  To make this more fun, only prostitutes have condoms, but pregnant girls get kicked out of school and absolutely no one should ever masturbate.  I'd probably have a bout or two of demon possessed craziness myself out of confused frustration.   I'm sure there's also some placebo effects going around, if people told they are poisoned act like it, why shouldn't people who sincerely believe they are going crazy start experiencing some symptoms?  This may also be somehow related to the Victorian beliefs about green sickness and vibrators as cure for hysteria, but that's me wondering about things I know very little about.

Anyway, in a culture that sees sex as something no one can possibly abstain from despite all efforts of the perennial and perennially annoying missionaries to the contrary, masturbation seems the obvious solution to some cultural catch-22s as described above and risky sexual behaviours like having multiple partners, which, based on the girls willing to tell me about their multiple boyfriends, is common.  I can't really have these conversations with men, but a male volunteer friend of mine says that he hears similar things, and late at night in bars when men ask how he manages not to have a girlfriend he has actually tried to explain masturbation, and just wasn't believed.  Granted, the concept translates into Kiswahili literally as "I hold myself" (najishikia) which to me sounds a little odd, but I think the point still gets across.

Of Women, Marriage, and Money

I'm on marriage proposal #4.  1-3 were from complete strangers, on the street, some shopkeeper I was buying stuff from, and some guy on the bus.  For all these men, apparently the natural followup question to a negative response is "why?"  That it is not immediately obvious why a woman would refuse marriage to a stranger who doesn't even know her name says something less than complimentary about this culture.  Some volunteers have made a game out of demanding cows or other livestock goods from their would-be bridegrooms, since paying livestock or the cash equivalent thereof to a lady's father is the usual price for marrying a lady here.   A Peace Corps woman on the Masai steppe has received an offer of 100 cows, and one in Manyara (I think) was told indignantly that while her suitor was not a Masai and didn't offer cows, he could give her 14 cats.  Just to illustrate how much a racist colonial system has turned white people into marriable representations of wealth and power, a male volunteer was offered a car, a shop on Zanzibar, and a flock of goats if he would marry someone's daughter.  Supportive and sensitive to gender issues as the Peace Corps always is, we told him he should have married that lady, because marriage offers don't get better than that, and for men don't typically happen at all.   Who needs love when you've got a car on Zanzibar?  Not to mention goats.

Proposal #4 was a little more awkward, first, because it came from one of my coworkers at the college, second, it was delivered entirely by email*, and third, it kept escalating.  I ignored the initial email and started getting more and more, which became more and more passionate and lovelorn.   I finally responded with a refusal to which I did not attach a reason, because I owe such men no explanations.   The flurry of emails I got from my refusal were reminding me that I was causing him to suffer by loving me until he died and demanding that I pick from a range of reasons for refusal including and limited to:

  1. I do not like his kind of man.
  2. I already have some man.
  3. My plan is to be lonely.   

I'm moving to Mbeya next week.  Since marriage proposal no. 3 came during my week long visit there less than a month ago, we'll see if Mbeya can offer me more annoying suitors than Morogoro.  For the record, I have decided that I will not marry for less than 60 cows and a small flock of chickens.   What my father would do with cows I am having trouble imagining, but I know what I'm worth.

*There are less romantic forms of communication.