Monday, October 14, 2013

2 years in!!

I admit it, I have really sucked at writing blogs over the past couple months. The 12th of October was our 2nd year in country. I still remember arriving at the airport in Dar 2 years ago about to burst into tears of fear and excitement. So what have I been up to since my last blog? Late July into mid August I was in my village finishing up teaching about HIV to my secondary students and starting on pregnancy, reproductive system, puberty etc. I did some lessons at the village clinic about personal hygiene and good nutrition, I also worked on some lessons/posters for the nurses to teach and display while I would be out of the village. I finished up our 2nd round of Zinduka graduating another 25 students (,  if you would like to know more about Zinduka, that's the link. My counterpart and I started an anti-corruption team at the secondary school.It was really awesome to see how many students were interested in coming and also the responses we go on the day we separated into teams and debating about various topics. Then in mid August school was going on a break so I did some traveling with a couple other volunteers. We went to Rwanda first, a very modernized, CLEAN city. They have really made headway since the genocide.  We checked out a genocide museum that was very well put together,it really stuck with me when I left.So many people died for such arbitrary reasoning.
After Rwanda we went to western Tanzania and spent some time in Mwanza, what a beautiful city! Rolling rocky hills overlooking Lake Victoria, beautiful sunsets...not so nice people but we got by just fine.From Mwanza we went to South Beach Resort for out COS (close of service) conference.  We had daily sessions about what to expect after peace corps, reverse culture shock, resume writing etc. I have to admit it was really hard to sit through some oft he sessions knowing there was a beautiful beach along with a pool and disco right outside. We were fed so well I know we all left a little more round and very happy. Then I went to Zanzibar with 2 girls and we went humpback whale watching, it was awesome...whales are amazing, huge creatures.
Since then I have been back at my site (we aren't allowed to travel  the last 90 days of our service) We also cant start any new projects so I have been trying to really enjoy the remaining time I have with the villagers (1 month from today!!!!) It has been to years!! The longest, toughest but yet most rewarding experience I have ever had. "Peace Corps, the toughest job you'll ever love." SO TRUE.
Now I am applying for jobs like crazy ( when the electricity in town is actually working), trying to figure out whats next, its scary not to know!I just have to breathe in, breathe out, try not to freak out and take it a day at a time.... and hope I dont have to live with my parents the rest of my life =)
Until next time!!!!
<3 Maria

Monday, July 1, 2013

what up North America.

I have not written a blog for a REALLY long time.I have about 5 months left here which I know is going to fly by. Soooo here is how I have been feeling for a while now...I am terrified to return to the, friends, culture shock etc etc. I have actually been having nightmares (a lot) about coming back. As of now I am this dirty, showering once a week Peace Corps Volunteer, living in a tiny village, eating with my hands, speaking Swahili, completely integrated into a very conservative Muslim society, wear clothes that show my shoulders and knees??? Nooooo wayyyyy, cant do it. I am so accustomed living in a non structured environment, showing up for a meeting at 2pm which starts at 5pm,preparing a life skills lesson for school only to show up and realize school is on a random month break, buying a bus ticket to leave at 8am that actually gets moving around 1030, buses breaking down all the time in the middle of the bush. I am accustomed to and actually kind of in love with the way of life here. Can I come back and work a 9-5 desk job?? Noooooooooo. Will my friends and family understand me and all my jokes about Tanzania, the ppl and the language?
So, yep that is how I am feeling right about now. I am by no means writing this for sympathy, I just want you to know whats up with me these days.

In other news I spent the month of June working for a company called PSI (Populations Services International). PSI is a global health organization that works  to improve the health of people in the developing world by focusing on challenges of life. They focus on family planning, HIV and AIDS, barriers to maternal health, and the greatest threats to children under five, including malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia and malnutrition, also water safety.I spent the month traveling with a family planning team consisting of me, a reproductive health promoter, quality assurance supervisor and a driver ( yep! got to ride around in a private car for a month with a/c!!!!!). My job was to keep a journal about time management, activities done and relationships within the company as well as with the providers and patients. They are really promoting IUCD insertions for women looking for long term method of family planning. An IUCD is a small plastic device inserted into the uterus and can destroy sperm before they can reach the egg to fertilize it. The biggest pro tho this method is that and IUCD uses no medicine or hormones so you experience little to no side effects. I also sat through counseling sessions with the reproductive health promoter and patients, helped interview people to become village health care workers to teach their communities about family planning and went door to door in villages to monitor their work. It was an amazing month and I learned so much and really fell in love with the company and the people I worked. I came up with a few really good ideas for improvement.

.Right now I am in Dar writing my final report for the company and everything here is extra chaotic because Obama is arriving today. They picked 25 volunteers to meet him unfortunately my name was not drawn out of the hat. Tomorrow I am on my way to the coast to spend the 4th of Julyon a sandbar in the middle of the Indian Ocean with some other volunteers then It's back to the village.....and it will be Ramadan by the time I arrive. Should be interesting to see how my coping mechanisms from year will come into effect this year. If anything it will only make me a stronger person.
Until next time,

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Missin my village!

Well the last month has been interesting and as always proof I'm not in Kansas...Ohio...umm the United States anymore. It all started at the end of some traveling I did with a few volunteers. A couple nights in a row I had a fever and my lower abdomen was starting to hurt. The night before I got back to my village I stayed in a gesti (hostel) with 2 other girls and thats when I felt horrendous. I had a fever  that was so bad I was laying with only a kanga wrapped around me sweating so much that the entire bed was soaked through all while shivering like there is no tomorrow and had some wicked abdominal pain. I finally manged to get up and go hunt for the shower to wash all the sweat off myself. Well there was a doctor in the gesti and after one look at me he insists I go to his hospital and test for Malaria. I still have no idea how I managed to pull myself together enough to walk to the hospital. He was a great person and really helpful, he tested me (negative), gave me medicine for my fever and put me in a taxi back to the gesti all for about $1.

The next day, by the time I get back to my village I  was once again laid out with the fever and the pain which is getting worse.I just took medicine and slept until the next day. The next day I woke up to about 50 babies screaming and realize it muct be a busy clinic day ( the clinic is about 10 steps away from my house), and I should get up and make my way there. I then realize I am in so much pain I can not stand up. I text the nurse that I am really sick and in too much pain to walk, so she comes to my house but the door is locked so she can't get in.After about a half hour so slow moving I manage to get up and open the door. The nurse has two guys carry me to the clinic and I spend about the next two hours laying on the bed there.After taking pain meds, drinking a ton of water and sleeping a little the pain and fever are worse then ever so I call the Peace Corps Doctor and basiaclly cry to him "HEEELLP ME, I FEEL LIKE I AM DYING." Within an hour a car from the local hospital comes to pick me up and take me to the nearest city, Dodoma, which is about a 2 hour car ride away. THAT was the most painful 2 hours of my life. Its all a dirt road until about the last 45 minutes. With every bump I was crying out in pain feeling like my abdomen was going to burst. I spent about 3 hours at a clinic in Dodoma having different tests done and IVs hooked up to me. Luckily a couple other volunteers came to see me bearing gossip magazines and snickers =). The Peace Corps Doctor was on his way to get me from Dar es Salaam but he had a good 6-8 hour drive. After finishing up at the clinic me and the other 2 volunteers went to on of their houses. Bless their hearts for all they did for me- helped me walk, sit, stand, lay down etc. They were so awesome.

The next morning me and the doc head to Dar because thats where the fancy hospitals are with the best care. Also, PC headquarters along with the medical office is located in Dar. We go to one clinic and they do some blood work, xrays and a CT scan. They ruled out that I had appendicitis and all other life threatening conditions.Next we head to the fanciest hospital I have ever seen and thats were I am admitted and spend the next 15 days. When I first arrived on a Friday they told it seemed like I cut myself while shaving with dirty water and got an infection. Which hey, that can happen when the water in your village looks like this.
Anyways, on that Friday they said it should clear up and I would be on my way on Monday. By the time Monday rolled around I a had a bacterial infection spreading down my leg and I was still in pain with some massive  lymph nodes. Finally after many days and meds the infection localized into a mass which needed surgically removed. After getting approval from Washington to have general anesthesia the last thing I remember was being in the operating room, someone putting meds in my IV telling me it was time to sleep then the beginning of a conversation about Tanzanian beers I like, I am curious as to how long that conversation lasted.  The doc took a culture of the fluid and tissue and sent it to Nairobi...results bado (not yet)  Then I woke up, had staples in my leg, spent a few more(many) days in the hospital then I was released. I have to say that there were actually certain things from the hospital that were worthy of being missed- the ocean view and watching the sunset over it everyday, AIR CONDITIONING, fresh smoothies and grilled cheese on my demand....ummm pressing a button and having someone come running?

I had to stick around Dar for about a week and a half until getting my staples out so one of the PC staff hooked me up with his friend who was going on vaca and needed a house/dog sitter. I am actually still at the house for a couple more days and I can tell you that I am absolutely spoiled. The house is so gorgeous  but thats not even what matters, it has running water!!! a shower...with hot water!!!!! wifi!!!!!  air conditioning!!! a dog that I can snuggle with and take on walks!!! Lets just say village dogs aren't exactly cuddly.
I got the staples out of my leg today and cant wait to get back to my village!!!I do however  I think after living with all these convinces for so long that it could be a rough adjustment period....but it's only a matter of time until I am back to showering once a week, wondering if I am really tan or just really dirty, running around barefoot, preaching about condoms in Swahili while sweating my ass off and loving every minute of it. Peace Corps oh Peace Corps...I wouldn't have it any other way.
I am also considering not shaving again until I get back to America.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The time I had a parasitic blubber arthropod living in my foot!

So about a month and a half ago I noticed what I thought was a blister on the bottom of the foot and just figured it would go away. Well 2 days ago I noticed it was huge and making my entire foot swell so I decided to go ask my neighbor, who is a nurse, what to do about an infected blister. Turns out it was a blister, nope, not all all. The minute I showed her my foot she tell me I have a bug living in it and she needs to cut/squeeze it out and warns me it's going to be painful. She was not lying about the painful part! When she finally got the gross (but kinda cool?) jigger bug out of the foot I thought it was over then I heard her say "mayai" EGGS! She knew I had enough of the pain so instead of cutting them out she put kerosene on them hoping they would die....they did. So that was an interesting experience. I got a taste of the village health care= lack of resources, tools and medicine. I guess I should stop walking barefoot around the village.

It's been so long since I have posted. Over the holidays I, along with some other volunteers went to the local missionaries house. Talk about a real American Christmas, it was great. Then I spend New Years in Zanzibar with about 6 other girls. Zanzibar is so beautiful, it has amazing beaches with gorgeous sunsets, great shopping and is maybe about the most humid place on the planet.We went to a full moon party on North beach, that was awesome, I haven't been around that many wazungu since I left America. After Zanzibar a few of us went to Mafia Island to swim with whale sharks. was about the coolest thing I have even done.The 2 guys that took us out of their boat took  right up to the whale shark then are like JUMP IN!!!! NOW, JUMP! We were scared because the thing is so huge and right under, but we JUMMMMPED, and got up close and personal with the really big fish. It was so awesome. Here is a pic. You can see us a ways behind the shark.

Right now I am in town with 3 other volunteers and we are starting a girls empowerment conference tomorrow that lasts until Monday. We each have 5 girls coming from our secondary schools, it's going to be great! We are teaching about puberty, HIV/STDs, early pregnancy, goal setting and loads of other stuff. At night for fun we are having talents shows, watching movies and having a beauty night. I'll write all about it after it's done!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

World AIDS day and stuff

Yeah, it been a while!! I have lots to say on many different topics. FIRST: World AIDS Day was December 1st and I held an event in my village with the help of a local NGO. The NGO provides education about HIV by using local tribal music (Warangi) and dancing, it was so cool. They also did skits, has a choir sing some songs, drum circle and had a PLWA meeting. About 100 people came to get tested, with the stigma being so high this was impressive. Overall it was a successful day with just a few expected minor annoyances. I also gave a speech in Swahili, it was terrifying.

SECOND: Development work is the most frustrating but rewarding work I have ever done. Sustainability is key with development work. For example, if I want to build a water tank in my village first I get a group of 6-10 motivated people in my village to be trained how the tank works, how to fix it if it breaks and to help build it. I apply for a grant help with the cost and the village government is also responsible for providing 25% of the cost which can be dirt, bricks, people for labor etc. With the above the village takes pride in the project that they helped work for, people gain skills and are empowered. However when you have large organizations/NGOS going into villages building water tanks (or anything) with no help from the village and minimal to no training provided villagers start to expect things to just come to them free of charge and labor. Also what happens when there is a problem with the water tank when minimal to no training is provided? The villagers sit around and wait for someone to come in and fix it, or just build another one, free of cost and labor. It is so extremely frustrating to try to do SUSTAINABLE work when people expect easy and free, with no sustainability. My view of foreign aid has completely changed. However when I see sustainable change done at the grassroots level that I had a part in the feeling of accomplishment is so rewarding it beats all the frustrations of development works and makes it worth the struggle.

THIRD:I bought this lemon lotion that smells so wonderful. I have never been a huge fan of lemon smelling anything and one day I realized the lotion smells like a typical American household cleaner. It dawned on me that I miss being and and just clean in general so much that I walk around all day smelling like a bottle of Mr Clean. I am okay with this and still use the lotion. In fact another volunteer smelled it, bought some and now uses it everyday as well. I MISS CLEAN.

FOURTH: I started a womens empowerment group in my village and they want to start a chicken project, buying selling chickens and eggs etc. to make money and improve their health as well as their families. The only problem with a chicken project is that more times then not when a volunteer tries to do one all the chickens die from newcastle disease or many other diseases. Once the first chicken dies they fall like dominoes. It involves a lot of training Its the kind of project that volunteers make fun of each other for doing and that we sort of all try to avoid. Well the women in the group are so motivated that I decided to man up and go for it. Wish me luck.

FIFTH: All eyes on me. I saw a mud flap on a bus that said this and it pretty much sums up my daily life here, in the village at least. No matter what I am doing I can feel the eyes following me. It's like living in a fish bowl. Soooooo I have started having a little fun with it. Like cartwheeling my way across the road, or tripping constantly, or having a conversation/argument with an invisible person beside me. The reactions from people are amazing. Peace Corps, the toughest job you will ever love? The answer to this is yes, 100%.

Merry Christmas.
I am on my way to Zanzibar to relax in paradise for a week then off the Mafia Island to SWIM WITH WHALE SHARKS.
OH, I also saw rain for the first time in 7 months!!!

Monday, October 15, 2012

The seconds go by slow but the months fly by!

That is how time here works I have been in country for a year!!  I have tried to make a mental list things I do differently (and somethings that I am just so used to I  couldn't imagine going without )now since adapting to the culture goes- I drag my feet when I walk A LOT. I remember when I first got into country thinking how annoying it is but now I am so guilty. I walk around, sit on buses or in my house blaring music on my phone thinking I am pretty much the coolest person ever. I might be listening to American or Swahili hip hop, bongo flavor or Justin Bieber....yea I listen to Justin Bieber and sing along. I drink Smirinoff. I crave ugali (cornflour and water mixed in a substance) and I am disappointed if that is not what my neighbors cook for dinner.I deny dirty change, places wont accept it when I try to pay so I dont accept it as change! I raise my eyebrows and that means "yes".I can suck on sugar cane all day everyday (I bet I have no cavities!) A three hour bus ride breaking down only once is short and easy. I speak "donkey", yea I can steer a cart pulled by donkeys. I pretty much greet every single person walk by everyday. Instead of just telling people no I tell them "ohhh tomorrow I will help you farm or tomorrow you can use my ipod...tomorrow means never. I pick up and snuggle any cute baby I see whether I know the mother or not.I also prefer to ride on a bus with a random persons baby in my lap.I let my cell pones ring really loudly a good 3 or 4 times before answering it so everyone can hear my sweet ringtone.I eat lunch at 3pm and dinner at 9pm, and a day without everything shutting down from 10-11 for chai would be unheard of .IT'S NOT A BUS RIDE UNLESS THERE ARE CHICKENS SWAKING AND SHITTING SOMEWHERE ON THE BUS.
Things I have not adapted to....I don't sweep dirt outside..sure it looks good for about a minute, then the wind blows. I still use toilet paper. Most people in my vill shower once or twice a day, I think I max out at once a week.I dot carry things on my head that often, it's painful.

I prefer to bathe in my courtyard. Why would I want to bathe in a cement room when I can bathe under the sun? I also prefer to walk barefoot in my village, I live in the desert & like the way the sand feels in between my toes. THe amount of thorns I've had stuck in my feet because of this...approximately 847.

I have recently visited some of the volunteers villages that live "close" to me (3hrs away). One of the villages is way out in the bush where people speak click, it was an awesome trip.I got a click name, no idea how to spell it but it sounds something like uncle with a click in the middle.It amazes me how different their villages are from mine. They are so far out with around 3000-5000 really chill people. Mine is on a dirt road that leads directly to Dar with 10,000-11,000 really "poa" people.

Letters and packages are not coming anymore! HAS EVERYONE FORGOTTEN ABOUT ME? Just kidding, I know life goes on.

Monday, September 3, 2012


Not too much has been going on lately. A couple other volunteers came to my village to celebrate Eid-ul-fitr which is the last day of Ramadan.We ate A LOT and everyone was so clean and dressed up. I have never seen the kids in my village so clean! It was pretty awesome. We also taught my counterpart and his friend how to do the electric slide.Tanzanians love to line dance! That was def not something I was expecting.  We went to a cub one night and they did this line dance for a good hour and I was all over it, it was really fun. School has been on break the last month so I haven't been teaching and since a lot of the students travel during break my kickball club has been on hold and we also arent starting Zinduka until school starts back up.So I have been helping out at the clinic a lot and just spending one on one time with people who want to talk about anything health related. I also received Harry Potter books 4-6 in he mail so those have been helping me through all my free time. I love the dreams I have while reading those books, who wants to wake up from flying around on a broomstick?
I have also been sick this past week and while being sick anywhere sucks being sick here really makes me miss little convinces like speaking English, using a fan, cvs pharmacy, a real flushing toilet inside the house...chicken noodle soup. If I want chicken noodle soup first I would need to find and kill the chicken, make the noodles catch my drift. Anyways school starts back up next week and I'm going to start teaching about HIV/AIDs,STDs etc. It will go hand in hand with starting Zinduka(explained in a previous blog) as well! I am happy for school to start back up, I like being busy!