Return from Pangani...

I wrote this about days ago but couldn’t post it until now, so after I post this I will write another blog with updates! :)

So this past weekend us Tanzania Peace Corps Trainees (plus 6-8 Current Volunteers) went to Pangani for vacation. I have not heard of any other Peace Corps countries letting their Trainees go on vacation, so it’s pretty sweet that we did! We stayed at an extremely nice resort for like 50% off because the woman who runs the resort is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer and loves having us come every year.

We had tons of fun eating wonderful food that wasn’t simply rice and beans and ugali (oops I have yet o mention ugali. You should google it to learn more, but it is a Tanzanian staple. It’s basically boiled cornmeal, lol. You normally use your fingers to scoop some up, roll it into a ball in your hand, then use the ball to scoop up some beans or mchicha (veggies, most of the time it’s spinach) then eat it. My family lets me eat with a spoon, bless them). Anyway, yes we were eating wonderful food, and swimming in the pool as well as the Indian Ocean constantly, and at night we played drinking games and spent way too much money at their bar. Like I mentioned before, my bed was on the balcony and it was glorious waking up every morning to the ocean. I fortunately escapes any jellyfish stings, wasp stings, and broken toes this weekend! There was a wasp’s nest located outside the house I stayed in, so we had to sprint in and out to try and avoid them attacking. Poor Taniquey got a wasp sting to her face! Then later she got stung four times on her arms.

So we returned home Sunday by bus. We all crammed into two buses, and please keep in mind that the roads here are definitely not all paved…and it had rained! Oh boy. So it took us 3 hours to get home, and was such a complicated trip. I was on the bigger bus, so when we reached a hill that was muddy, we all had to get off the bus, and our bus driver all the sudden accelerated (with us in the road, in front of him) and we all had to scatter and leap off the road. Imagine 20 wazungu scattering from an accelerating bus! Hahaha, hilarious. It was scary though…. He successfully made it up, so we had to walk up the hill and get back on the bus. The smaller bus made it up the hill fine without having the people get off, but then a short while later we reached another hill where they had to get off. I was in the very back of the bus, smooshed in with 4 other guys and my stuff sitting on top of me, and since we were the last to try and get off, our bus driver just started driving before we could. So we got to race up the muddy hill on a huge bus. It was like a roller coaster, so we cheered and kept our hands up the whole time. Once we reached the top we were like “Let’s do it again! Again!” hahaha. The rest of our bus trip back was just a repeat of that… The bus sliding around the muddy road (pretty scary, actually) and us sweating ballz in the bus.

When I got home, it was like 8:30 p.m. And Maria’s mama escorted me there after I walked Maria home (which I was grateful for because I was afraid of snakes in the bushes), and my family was asleep! Which makes me wonder if they only stay up later when I am there? Hmm I don’t know. But my mama came outside to let me in, and she stayed up a little so she could wait for me to use the choo, lol. I’m lucky because she doesn’t normally do this – many other girls have to be escorted by their mamas if they want to use the choo at any time during the night. Rarely when my mama wakes up from hearing me leave the house for the choo, she’ll get up and wait.

On the subject of transportation here…. it’s pretty insane. We mainly use daladalas, and they are basically vans that become “clown cars.” An insane amount of people will fit into them. You try and sit if there’s a seat, but if not then you just stand, holding on to the seats and trying not to fall onto people. Also because we are white they will try to swindle us… yesterday Jamesy and I went to Tanga and fortunately he speaks way better Swahili than me, so when people tried to swindle us he could reason with them. With his help I was able to get a soccer ball for a couple thousand shillings cheaper. Though it is true that I need to practice doing that myself!

Next week is Tanique’s birthday, so James and Maria are going to come over to my house and my mama’s going to help us bake her a cake. On Sunday we’re going to Tanga, so I’m going to navigate around to find a good supermarket and get ingredients for a chocolate fudge cake. The Peace Corps gave us awesome cook books that are specific in finding ingredients here and using a jiko (stove) and oven made out of charcoal and two sufurias (pots) and rocks. I’m also going to get ingredients to make my family french toast, because they want me to make them some Marekani chakula (American food) and I really want french toast :) (thanks for getting me hooked, Larissa!)

On Thursday we find out where we Shadow, which I’m very very excited for!! Khalid said he thinks our CBT group might be scattered throughout Dodoma, but who knows. I really hope I get to shadow a Health volunteer so I can get some ideas for the future. Also, next Friday I’ll find out where I’m being placed!!!! I’m soooo eager to find out, my gosh. I am also extremely nervous for the first three months at site…it’s going to be so challenging. I’m definitely going to bring a bottle of wine and some chocolate for that first night. And I might make sure my phone’s charged so I can call my mommy if I freak out! Haha. I laugh but it’s true – I’m gonna freak out.

I’ve realized that I haven’t put up very much Swahili for you guys, so I’ll come up with some simple sentences that I actually say a lot lol.

Mambo! Jina langu ni Caitlin, lakini ninaitwa Cate. Ninatoka Marekani, jimbo la Kalifonia. Mimi ni voluntia wa afya kwa Peace Corps. Ninakaa familia wa Masawe. Ninapenda wali na kabechi sana. Sipendi pikipiki. Jana, nilienda Tanga na Jamesy. Tulienda banki na tulikula chakula. Jumamosi, nina jaribio.

Okay it is kind of hard coming up with stuff without being told what I need to talk about lmao. But I basically introduced myself, said where I’m staying, said I like rice and cabbage, I don’t like motorcycles (they almost run me over constantly), and yesterday James and I went to Tanga, and on Saturday I have a test.

I have been doing well in Swahili… I got a B+ on my first big test, but we’ll see how I do on Saturday because it is a speaking test. I have to practice explaining how to cook wali, but I am pretty confident in explaining my family (whether it’s my American family or Tanzanian family).

I have tons of ideas floating around my head about what I want to do in my village. My first three months will be dedicated to integration and getting to know everyone, and getting a feel for living here. After IST (In-Service Training) they’ll give us new manuals the current volunteers have made us with instructions on lessons we can do (so awesome, thanks guys!) so I’m pretty excited about that. I really want to get involved with youth groups – I would absolutely love to work with separate boys and girls groups and develop good rapport with them so they can feel comfortable talking to me about subjects that are taboo here, especially sex. Many women villagers here do not use pads for their periods because they are expensive, so they wrap kangas (kind of like a skirt) around them like a diaper to function as a pad. If that’s the case in my village then I would love to have a class with them where we sew our own pads. Ah, so cool! Also I am extremely interested in setting up a girl’s youth week where different volunteers in my region bring some girls from their schools and we have a whole week together, kind of like camp. I suck at trying to explain this, but it sounds like tons of work but awesome.

I think it’s obvious that I typed this all up before logging on to post it! :) Seeee Laz, I can learn. Hope this is tons more information that’s interesting to you guys! I’ll be going to Tanga again on Sunday, like I mentioned, so I will go on the internet there. I would love to hear some of your voices soon (Elnora, Laz, Larissa) so set up a time with my mom and have her text me the time and CALL ME! :) Love you all.

P.s. In case you’re wondering it is a torrential downpoor outside my house. Soooooo loouuuud on my tin roof!!!!!!

Kenya: Halt Crackdown on Somalis

Kenyan police and other security agencies should stop arbitrary arrests and detentions, extortion, and other abuses against Somalis during security operations. The government should also halt summary deportations and ensure that any undocumented Somalis are given the opportunity to file asylum claims.

On April 4 and 8, 2014, Human Rights Watch visited Pangani police station in Eastleigh and found hundreds of detainees packed into cells designed to accommodate 20 people. Detainees had no room to sit, and the cells were filthy with urine and excrement. Police were also holding detainees beyond the 24-hour limit proscribed under Kenyan law, without taking them to court. One man at Pangani station complained to Human Rights Watch that he had been held for eight days without being taken to court.

Read more.

Photo: Leyla Ali Adow, a Somali arrested in a police sweep, reacts after being processed for deportation at a holding station in Nairobi, Kenya, on April 9, 2014. © 2014 Reuters