I have delayed finishing/posting this blog for a while, obviously…it may be out of date but still accurate.
8/8, the eighth of August, was a national holiday for farmers in Tanzania. Dodoma hosts the national 8/8 festival. It was like a county fair but African, and people came from all over to see it over the course of a week. Each district had displays of their best crops and various products. Chamwino district, my district, had an impressive display with beautiful veggies, lots of honey and baobob products. Baobob oil is a popular product selling at around $20/liter, said to help control obesity and perform numerous other health miracles. Beside the agricultural products, flocks of people showed up to hock crappy chinese trinkets, nice maasai jewelry, used American clothes, and housewares. Guys rolled in with trucks full of housewares and huge P.A. systems and they rapped rambling sales pitches to Tanzanian pop music for their buckets, basins and bowls as they juggled a housewares acrobatics, launching them into the air and catching them. As impressive as the spectacle was, I wasn’t moved to buy any buckets.
The biggest attraction was the menagerie of African animals. They had surprisingly humane mews displaying a leopard, hyenas, a lion, an enormous tortoise, a chimpanzee, a python, monkeys and other animals. My friend and I met a couple of wildlife master’s degree students who told us a bit about some of the animals, which was a lucky encounter. The highlight for me was seeing a 10-frame Langstroth beehive from Arusha. My beekeeping counterpart/carpenter was in town, so I called him up and we met so that we could look at it together and he was able to talk to a Tanzanian about how it works. We had already looked at pictures together and I had talked at length about the Langstroth hive, but I was nervous about him building one with only a vague idea of what it should look like. This was an excellent opportunity to show him a model without having to go out and buy an example. It was also a relief for me to see that Tanzanians are actually using this kind of hive, and it’s not just me trying to introduce this technology that no Tanzanian is going to use.
And now more than a month has passed since 8/8. Since then, I have continued teaching, and I was lucky enough to travel to a short training on teaching English. There is an excellent organization called Village Schools Tanzania that builds secondary schools in villages (in Tanzania, could you have guessed?) The villages put forward a significant contribution of rocks, sand and bricks, and VST provides the other materials that are difficult to access. They have a “pre-form” English curriculum, designed so that students can learn the English they should have learned in primary school had they been taught properly, to prepare them to start secondary school. I am so excited to have materials and a curriculum to help my students!
It was also fascinating to be introduced to VST. For whatever reason, I have a reflex to be skeptical of missionary work, but this organization, although started by missionaries, does excellent work with education and HIV/AIDS, and doesn’t seem concerned with converting muslims or translating the bible. The missionary couple who hosted us have been living in Tanzania for more than a decade, and their approach to development seems a lot like life-long Peace Corps service. They live modestly and the strength of their work is based in human relationships. They get paid even less than I do, and they seem to spend all of their time in the village. They built an HIV/AIDS treatment and counseling center where people can come to get medicine and checkups. They also send patients with the skin cancer associated with AIDS to receive radiation treatment using designated funds. It was inspiring to see this model of development that appears to be the most effective of anything I’ve yet to see. If anyone were to ask for my advice on making donations to organizations in Tanzania, I would first recommend Village Schools Tanzania without hesitation.
More updates later, for now I’m going to throw this post up so that my mom will stop bugging me to update my blog. Hi mom!