Saturday, December 16, 2006

so this is christmas, and another new year

Whew doggie, I don’t know where to start. Ok.. well HOLY COW its Christmas time again! Another year away from so many friends and family! I MISS YOU GUYS. I have been in country for 18 months now…wow. When I was in costa rica I told myself that if I missed Christmas with the family I should at least be snorkeling and while I was able to uphold that last year, I will very far inland this Christmas. My friend Amanda has invited about 20 of us to her house for Christmas. We are cooking a feast and it should be a blast! Then a low key new years in my village perhaps and then my birthday. I’ll be honest, for the first time, i think I might be getting…well older. Maybe one day I will grow up…but I will fight it for as long as I can!

So what updates? In one week, I fell asleep on a bus and woke up to my phone being gone, my bike caught on fire and my ipod stopped working. The next week I lost my cool at the district government official, but will the consecutive bad weeks all was put in perspective when MY HOUSEGIRL GOT STRUCK BY LIGHTENING!!!! She is fine now but here’s the story. Her sister comes by house telling me that stakia (my housegirl) had burnt her hand badly and was at the hospital and they might have to remove it. I thought wow, that is a bad burn. The next day my counterpart (ponsiano) comes over:

P: you hear the news?
J: yes
P: yeah some else got struck by lightening yesterday.
J: oh well that..WHAT? LIGHTENLING? Someone got struck by lightening?
P: yeah stakia was in the field with her hoe and lightening struck the metal end of her hoe while it was in the air. And then someone up the road got struck by lightening but it just messed with his head a little, he will be fine.

Well needless to say that my poor Swahili missed that detail the day before. Wow. She s fine and she has regained use of her hand but still having to go the hospital every couple of days to have the bandages changed and is on house rest as she is prone to infection with the 3rd degree burn on her hands and arms. We are very luck to have a great private hospital near by that is free to all employees of the unilever company (lipton teas) and their families (and since there are only five last names in the village, well I will just say that everyone is family)

So you might ask how one’s bike catches fire…while I was in dar for thanksgiving I left my bike at ponsiano’s storage room. His kids were chasing rats with burning sticks in the storage room and must have dropped some of the embers in the room and few hours later they heard a loud POP. They saw the that the store room had caught a smoldering fire and slowly melted my tires then one of my tubes popped alerting them to situation. Hee hee. I wish I had been there to see their faces! Ponsiano was so scared I was going to make him pay for new tires. And he felt crappy since he knows how I much I use my bike. But peace corps takes care of things like this…new tires should be in the mail soon.

What else….the ipod. Well that still hurts too much to talk about. Though we will see how long before jane goes insane with out music!!!! I will say it involved a long long journey…in the rain.
Work: well i am somehow proud to say that I have some very strong minded female pigs. One in particular has refused to mate and injuring 2 out of 3 of our male pigs. (twice her size) the feminist side of me says: rock on sister! The pig breeder side of me says: invite company for dinner. But before that, we have a few more tricks up our sleeves.

Next the orphans school. This is where is lost my cool. I know hard to believe that this red headed French german girl could do so, but it happened. The district government is responsible for supplying us with transportation for projects. I had had put a month advance notice in for a car for a certain date to go and pick up all the materials for the school (about 2 million shillings worth of stuff ranging from nails to sewing machines). So went to get the car (after several follow up confirmation calls) and it was not there. This is usually the case and well I must have had some pinned up frustration somewhere since I digressed to being a two year and threw a hissy fit. While I cant say recommend this, I will say that two days later the car was there. So in the end, I got all the materials and they are now in the village and school is all set for a grand opening in January. Yay!

The fishies, well after some car issues and an infamous hissy fit, they started their journey from their hatchery to the lake today. (or so I am told) it will take 5 days to put all 10,000 fingerlings into the lake. We have a big training seminar for the fishermen on Dec 29th and then hope to start plant the trees in January.

Both of the projects should be finished by the end of January, well my end of it, the rest is left up to the village for the continuation of the projects. What’s left? Well I hope to have a field day between mine and a neighboring village for the elementary schools to promote HIV/AIDS awareness. Low rope games and soccer match with different organizations coming in giving seminars on HIV/AIDS. Then I really want to start an outdoor classroom for the new secondary school for trees. Plant all different types of indigenous trees with signs explaining their uses. But I am afraid the rains will have stopped by the time I can get funding for that…we shall see. And then perhaps one big project left. Either a sunflower press to start a sunflower oil business for the village or milk cows for the elementary school. I have not decided which or if either are possible. I might do this as an outside project without peace corps assistance. Still looking for funding, time is ticking!

What else, its fruit season!!! Yay!!! I never thought I would get so happy about a mango or some plums…but well when you only get them for a couple of months a year, you get quite emotional upon their return!

Well I hope everyone is having a great winter. If you see my mom and dad, please give them a hug for me. I never thought I could miss someone so much as I do them.


Sunday, November 26, 2006

a few pics

this past october we had our 7th grade graduation. thats rights, school here ends at the 7th grade. i was on the cooking committee this year. it was AWESOME. a whole day hanging out with the women just cooking and gossiping. we cooking for about 300-400 people. i was the official taste tester (though i am still unsure if this was an honor or one of those things where they were waiting to see if i died) :)

at the graduation, the 7th grade class did an AMAZING play showing the dangers of how excessive drinking can lead to bad judgment and therefore can increase your chances of getting HIV/AIDS. this particular scene they are showing how witchdocters (who are publicly criticized but secretly deeply respected) cannot help you if you are sick with HIV/AIDS.

my village doesn't need me. they rock! i got a notice that we were having a meeting and that visitors where coming from dar and thought, "wow, i better go, dar is big time" so turns out my village received a grant that is paying to start a school lunch program to feed orphans. there is currently no school lunch what so ever. but with the new grant, many of the orphaned students are finding a hot hot meal everyday. this angelista and she volunteered her time to cook everyday and refers to the students as "her angels". this days lunch: ugali (corn meal) and cabbage.

so as i mentioned in the last blog, i am helping to establish a seamstress school. these are the current four students (who will finish school this december and have agreed to volunteer to help with the opening of the larger facility). We are using the same teacher in this photo, who has been amazing so far in helping as i have NO IDEA what materials are needed in starting a sewing school (eg they use old newspaper as practice materials for cutting patterns as opposed to using expensive cloth..brilliant!)

the man with the land (and therefore money and power) in my village goes by the name of jua kali... or fierce sun. he is about 75 years old and cute as a button! he wears a floppy gilligan's hat and rubber boots everywhere he goes. every year at harvest season he rents a tractor and trailer and the whole village helps in harvesting his fields.

so i went to the school and sat down the headmaster. i told him that i was tired of being left out of village activities and that i wanted to start being included in the activities of the school. he responded, "good. we need help carrying bricks from the valley to the new secondary school at the top of the hill at five am tomorrow morning, i look forward to seeing you there." no need to tell you why i have made a life choice to stop complaining.

a group of us decided it would be a good time to climb a mountain...why is it always a good idea at the bottom and not so good half way up? actually it was beautiful. so many different plants i had never seen before and there where tons of wild blackberries and raspberries toward the top!

so my friend amanda decided it was time for a bit of vacation and invited me to hang with her at the best hotel in this country. i take lounging seriously!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

ok so i know that it has been awhile. (once again) i actually have some good excuses for the delay in writing..i have been working. well, more than normal. well, i worked for a couple of days...but i was darn productive in those few days.

Pig update: all 17 pigs are still alive and well. We had one fright. Apparently, one of the female pigs likes to “dance”. Well that was the Swahili translation of the reason that was given when one of the pigs had broken a leg. They said that the pig gets soooo excited when it sees people that it dances and somehow broke its leg (not that they have been skimping on the feed by any means). So I had to play vet. I went into town and bought plaster and some antibiotics. You should have seen the look on the faces at the pharmacy when I told them I needed to plaster a pig’s leg!! But an even better site was three adult men holding down a pig while me and a mama reset the leg and put on a splint and plaster-taped it. That was definitely a Kodak moment that I did not have my camera!!!! The pig is going on well these days. Hopefully she will be in full recover very soon. If you would like to send her get well cards, you can do so at the address at the top of this page and I will make sure she gets them.

HABARI NZURI!!!! GOOD NEWS!!!! I got my fish grant approved. I am the proud mama of 10,000 little itty bitty fishies. We have this beautiful lake in the village. Really it is gorgeous set in the rolling hills, however there has not been much reason to protect it. So local business have been using it as sort of a dumping ground and many people have been planting eucalyptus there (which is a high water consuming tree and could be cause of the dropping water levels). There are a few fish in the lake but are not much bigger than minnows. So my boss comes by the village and says, “why not make this lake useful?” After many many many many meetings with the government officials and village government, the village designed a project that would introduce a small breed of tilapia to the 540hc lake. The simple project design is this:
The local fishermen will go through training to learn sustainable lake aquaculture fishing practices. They will then fish the lakes on schedules that will be designed by the government official for fisheries in the district. After six months the lake will be in full production and expected to produce 200 kilos of fish every week. From each catch, ten percent of all fish caught will go directly to people taking care of orphans and to the existing school lunch program for orphans. There will also be a tax of ten percent of fish caught that will go into an account that will be used for several purposes. Some of the money will go to the costs of transportation to get people to and from the closest HIV/AIDS testing center. Some funds will be allocated for transportation to and from the closest treatment center for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). These costs are actually quite low as we are fortunate enough to have a testing and treatment center within 15kilometers of the village. Other money will go to the purchasing of school supplies and school fees of orphans that have been identified in need of these services. This year there is an expectation of 22 orphans that will pass their standard 7 national exams, but have no resources to continue their education. Ten percent of each tax will go into a pool of money to help maintain the project. This will help cover costs of any future problem than might occur included another removal of weeds.
The fishermen will then sell the left over fish. The costs of the fishermen are low as their only needed equipment is nets, lines and hooks. Since the lake is located within in the village, there are no transportation costs. This makes it possible for the costs of fish to be very low and quite affordable to most everyone in the village.
The village has also agreed to build a water outlet structure to help keep any overflow of the lake under control. This will help protect the environment around the lake and protect the lake incase of flooding. The village government also agreed to plant 600 trees around the lake to help protect the water and the ecology of the lake. Very little of the land around the lake is in use but exposed to heavy slope erosion in which the trees can ease this problem.
Stay tuned for further updates on this one...hopefully all will be completed before the rain starts in December.

As soon as i got to my village, people asked for help in the continuation of a vocational school for orphans. (My village of 2,600 residents has 199 orphans!!!) A group of 12 people had started a tailoring school with their own finances and were currently educating four young girls. After many attempts at funding, we finally got the project approved. Starting in January, there will be 40 students going to two schools; one for tailoring, and one for carpentry. The program will last one year and in addition to their technical training they have lessons in life skills and HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention. all in hope of trying to break the cycle that made them orphans in the first place. but the center still needs a name…what do you think: The Jane School, or Centre LeGrand???? Just a couple of ideas? (good thing I am modest!)
So this project is REALLY big and fortunately i dont have to DO a whole lot, just supervise. But the village wants to throw a big party for the opening. I am totally excited! It should be a blast. And to top it off, this was the grant that i had told many of you about that i would have to ask for money. But since i found money within the country, i will not have to pester my loved ones for donations. So since you are off the hook for guilt ridding obligations of contributions...send me stuff!!! (just kidding....ok not really)

I won’t lie, it hasn’t been all roses around the lands of tanzania. I was really feeling this (apparently not so mythical) one year slump. But it all ended when the village executive officer told me that the village was very lucky to have me. That one statement made all the pains (well most of them) worthwhile. Who needs running water or a sit down toilet when you are appreciated. So the moral of this story boys and girls is to tell people when they are appreciated!

So now that the lesson is complete, i am going to sign off for now. I hope all is well over there in the lands of the west. Know that i am here missing and loving you all.


Saturday, September 16, 2006

hallo....the tanzanian way of saying hello

this is a dhow. a traditional fishing boat of tanzania. this is what i "caught a lifti on" (or found a ride on) with my bike accross a bay in zanzibar.

so, as you might have read last christmas i went snorkeling. and you might have read about the evil sea urchin attack of 2005 (that occured on my feet) and well these are the boots that i found that would prevent this from happening again. so once again, practicallity over style in my book.

so this is my good friend amanda. itis her website that i am stealing photos off of. i would use my own photos, but come on you know that i am lazy!

so, my friend amanda says to me, "jane turn around" so i do. but the walking stick that i am using finds its way to my foot just intime for her sto snap a picture....lovely. you dont think i am over dramatic do you?

Saturday, July 15, 2006

its been awhile

sorry guys, its been awhile. the last update was in early may i think. well now it is mid-july. wow..time is FLYING. ever wish you could take a stick and just stick it in the spokes of life to get things to stand still for just a second to catch up. things seem to be flying around me so fast that i feel i cant quite appreciate what is happening in the moment because something else is right on that moment's heels. anywho, i am getting a bit too deep. that type of philosophy is best for when i am alone at site. so just to fill you peeps in on what has been keeping me so busy.

well i finished up with the "march of the pigs". in the end i was able to get a total of 17 pigs, and even had enough left over money to buy some books on future projects. the people in my pig group rock. they are saving the money they invested and starting to organize another project all on their own, with out financial assistance, to start another livestock breeding program. thought they are arguing over whether they should do milk goats or chickens. i am staying out of it and letting them work it out on their own!!! i did suggest they call the district governments livestock specialist and ask for his advice. we will see.

i on june 2nd i left my village to go be trained on how to help train the new volunteers that are coming. it was fun. i got to see several volunteers from around the country that i have not seen in long time. as well as hang out with the training staff that trained me. it is amazing how much they remember everyone of us. i then went to the lovely city of arusha for a week. the highlight of this was getting to see a couple of friends from back home. the school that i went to in Philadelphia is starting a program in arusha and they were coming to work out a few logistics of the program and invited up for the week. it was so great to see familiar faces. a bit weird at the same time. as anytime when you see old friends that you haven't seen in a while, you have to remember they don't understand all the references that you (or they) might have picked up along the way. in made me start thinking about what its going to be like when i go back to the states. hmmmm...well, time will tell.

i think went on a week long bike tour through trip of a lifetime for sure. biking is great. my friend megan (who used to be a competitive mountain biker)and it went together on a girl power mission. we did one day ride and then two day rest. on the days we rode. we went about 60kilo (about 35-40 miles)on the days we rode. so it wasn't too strenuous for little ol' me. it was beauti-FUL! white sand beaches, palm trees, and crystal clear water. cant complain. oh but the i cant even think about it without salivating!!! i had (in one meal) shark, swordfish, lobster, shrimp, octopus, and squid for less than $7. all from local guys out doing a days work. i do have a change of careers though. i found this guy who lives on the beach and dives for seashells. selling seashell by the seashore is legit and i want to do it!!!!

so then i went back to the training site and spent a week with the new trainees. talk about having the ol ego stoked. nice to have 20 people think that everything you say is so important. it was fun. i got to go visit with my homestay family. when i knocked on the door, my host mom didn't hear, so (as per custom) i entered anyway. when she saw me she dropped what she was holding and started screaming in delight. oh...wait...i'm a little amongst yourselves...ok ok..i'm better. so yeah it was fun. and it was great to meet all the new trainees. being there brought back a lot of memories of training and how much i have been through in the last year.

so then two days back as site. pigs are all still alive. thats good. and i found out that people are starting sell some of the vegetables that i've been selling seeds for. that is great. i even heard a rumor that they are trying to find a truck to start coming to village to pick up vegetables to sell at the big market in mafinga. wow. that was a long term goal i was hoping for, but had not even discussed with the village in any depth. good things...they dont need me. so i left again for my mid service conference in dar es salaam. it was too cold in the village. really cold. really really cold. try living in a breezy concrete block while its 30 degrees outside. not fun.

however, dar es salaam is a pleasant climate this time of year (the only time of year that it is). mid service conference is when we all the people that you trained with (that are still in country) and take stool samples together. as if the peace corps friendship bond wasn't tight enough, group stool samples should pretty much cover any turf that hasn't been covered. there are a few more issues covered at mid service (like a urine test) but mostly thats it. so there is some free time. that is where i am now, using my precious free time to email my loved ones (in other words....send me stuff!!!) i also went out a got my first professional massage. a full body massage...and i mean FULL body. i blushed...several times. i also have been doing a bit of research on how much weight in food that a human stomach can digest in one day before it explodes...i hope to find the answer on monday when we are going to an all you can eat rib restaurant. (i would like to reiterate the difference between urban/rural lifestyles in tanzania).

so that pretty much brings us up to date. i finally closed out two grants so i am working on two more. one of them will be asking for contributions from home, but i dont want to talk about till it is approved. but if you are going out to dinner sometime over the next couple of months, or want to send me a package, take the money and put it aside for me. i need to get 40 people to make a one-time donation of $40 so 40 orphans can go to school every year in my village. when i am approved i will send out a request for funding and directions on how to donate.

what else...thats it. keep writing and sending emails. i love news from home. i hope this finds everyone well and happy. let me know what you are up to. i miss you all very very very much. (i can not believe i have been here over a year already!!!)


Saturday, May 06, 2006

and now for something completely different

As the story always goes, I had this long letter typed up to send, and
we lost power. So here is a shorter version.
So exciting part of my month…making a carrot cake with carrots that I
grew myself. From scratch without an oven. And to take it a step
further…I even grew the carrots with compost that I made myself. So
Martha stewart go back to jail..we don't need ya here!

A little house cleaning…note address change:
Jane LeGrand-Peace Corps
Mafinga, TANZANIA, East Africa

Hopefully this will make things less confusing for the post office. I
would dare say a fool proof system, but I will refrain from making
comments on the fool status of the Tanzanian postal service.

Next. Peace Corps has starting allowing blog sites like this one from
volunteers…that me, always by the rules! But I need to say…hemhem:
Now I am legal. I am glad, living on the fly was stressful.

So briefly on what I have been up to. Kazi. I am the proud mama of 15
new piglets. I think I already explained the process of my pig grant
in a previous post (perhaps aprils). But the grant is now approved and
I am now working on what could be the highlight of my peace corps
experience. Due to time shortage, I will just take a bit of grant
write up to explain. This grant also has been approved.
This project started off as a small endeavor to introduce people to
new vegetables. At the beginning of the year, I established a
demonstration garden at my home. People came by and asked about the
different vegetables that were growing well such as cucumbers,
watermelons, carrots, and a variety of leafy greens. The previous
volunteer in my site had done a project on vegetable diversification
and I had assumed that people within the village would be at least
familiar with these vegetables. However, that is not what I was
observing. Many of the women would look at my cucumbers and ask what
they were and how to cook them. In response, I started showing
individual women at my home how to prepare and cook these different
The problem with most vegetable diversification projects is that many
villagers do not know how to prepare and cook these vegetables once
they are grown. There is also an element of pride among the women
where they do not want to confess this ignorance. While they do not
mind acknowledging it amongst themselves, they seem reluctant to admit
it to me. Therefore, to reach a greater number of villagers in their
comfort zone, I took my cooking to the streets, or in this case, the
kilabuni. Or where people hang out and drink.
The first experiment involved a large pot of kachumbali. This is
something that many of the women make already but includes a
combination of tomatoes, onions, and sometimes cabbage. I took this
familiar food and added carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers, and cabbage.
I then went to the local kilabu and set up a table where I had
containers of the separated ingredients and then a large quantity of
the more nutritious kachumbali. People were able to taste the
ingredients and I was able to explain its preparation. I was amazed at
how many people had never tasted cucumbers or even carrots before.
This was a huge success (I laughed so hard at some of the older
women's reluctance and facial expressions to the cucumber in
My hope is to conduct bi-monthly taste tests at various kilabus
throughout the village. I want to introduce different foods that
utilize ingredients able to be produced within the village, and
prepare them in ways that are familiar to villagers. For example, I
might introduce eggplant by combining it with leafy greens and
creating an improved mchuzi for ugali. By taking a local food and
adding a new material, people are more willing to attempt to prepare
it themselves.
The project will also include the introduction of seeds. I will buy
seeds from town in large quantities, bring them into the village, and
sell them by the spoonful. This helps subsidize the price of the seed
by avoiding the cost of individual transport to town. In addition,
many people are unable, or unwilling, to purchase large quantities of
seeds when they are unfamiliar with the vegetable and are unsure if
they will be able to successfully grow the new vegetable. By selling
the seed by the spoonful, there is very little lost investment if they
are not satisfied with the new plant. By buying large containers, I am
able to sell the seeds for Tsh100– Tsh200 per spoonful depending upon
the cost of the seed. Requiring villagers to purchase the seeds
creates incentive for people to take care of this investment. Also
giving a value to the seeds will encourage the harvesting and saving
of seeds for future plantings eliminating the need to continuously buy
So yeah..that is it…I have two more grants in the process…but these
will be asking for some financial support from my friends and loved
ones…as well as any stranger that might want to donate…but more on
that later.

So anywho..better jet back to village now..i have a couple of more
pictures I want to put up..but the network is running SLOW and I cant
get them loaded…hope all is well…send letters…

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Peace Corps Life

Peace corps hard at work...MY BOYZ. from left: Chris "the sweetheart" Brown, Patrick "the Mick" McElroy, Matt "Matt Maria" Maria, and The John.

If you are not hard core...karibu peace corps. this is what happens to your feet! this is my friends feets, but i as requested i will name no names. really...wash those things!!!

Food Preservation at its finest!

making bread with the nun

my mamas from the village and The nun. she might be short, but she is fiesty!

an impromptu jam session that happened while waiting for the jam to cook.


my cat, johnny, hunter extraordinaire in action.

The other cat...chakula. this IS his best angle.


as many have asked about how long my hair is, maybe this pic will satisfy some of those inquiring minds...

because where else am i going to find an outfit like this, and not be ashamed to wear it!?!?!

Saturday, April 01, 2006

hey out there

hey guys. just wanted drop a few lines to give you all an update to what i am up to these days. first i will start with projects...first, my chicken project was canceled due to the scare of bird flu. it is not in country but you never know if or when it might pop up. I would feel bad if i had a lot of people invest their time and resources into a project and then have to cull their chickens. so that is put off. i am not going to say that i wont do it because starting a chicken project is one of my major goals here and i wont give upon it yet. so anyway, i have switched to pigs. we have a ton of pigs already in the village but they have been so inbred that there is a genetic disorder that has left many pigs paralyzed in the hind legs. so i will be helping educate people on better pig breeding and care. i will still be helping a local guy start a business for feed supply that was part of the chicken project. i hope that everything goes well. i am waiting now for the project to be approved.

i am trying to start a shop class at my local school. our village is surrounded by lumber yards and many of the villagers have their own tree plantations. the school came to me and wanted me to buy desks and i really just dont want to dump money into the village (nor does peace corps) and so i thought the class would be a good introduction into a skill that will be useful for later in life. One of my concentrations is that it is equally taught to girls and boys. this will empower girls to realize that they also can do carpentry work. also i feel that skilled trades is a great exercise in logic and math. unless you are the most awesome craftsman, much of the work is problem solving and project planning. so these are things that i would like to see more taught in the village. this is also pending approval right now.

the project i am just starting to write up is trying to start a health group. this will include a few people in the village that will be trained as HIV/AIDS educators. they will be able to answer basic questions and provide information such as where is the closest testing center. by giving the capacity to people in the village to educate, i hope that the project will go on after i leave. but this is just starting and i probably wont turn in the grant till a few months down the road.

so those are the things i am working on. as you can see i deal with pretty diverse stuff. i also just completed a week long seminar where i was trained how to teach HIVAIDS education. it focused a large part on cross-cultural training and was quite interesting.

so village life, well things are good. i am working on trying to find ways to integrate more. my language skills are just awful. but i am still working on it. i hope to be in the village for the whole month of april, but it seems there is always some random bit of paperwork that calls me to town (or is it the ice cream?)

and for those of you that dont know, wendy, a dear friend of mine, died of leukemia last week. it has been a challenge dealing with it so far away, but i am comforted in knowing that i have such amazing friends that have been there to help stephen (her fiance) and her family cope with such a tragic loss. wendy is an amazing woman that i am so happy to have had the privilege to know. she has and will always be an inspiration for me. thank you guys for keeping me informed and for all the emails and phone calls i have received. i miss and love you all.

Friday, February 17, 2006

hello i guess it really has been since december that i have added anything to the ol' blogsite. so there is a chance that many of you are probably not checking it...but HA! you never know when there might be an update from me. so...its been are you? how have you been? yeah yeah i hear ya. me i have been good. i wont lie, this past month has been a bit rough on the ol' jane-a-roo. we were told the month following our in-service training (the last update) would be rough and we would loose some good people. it has been and we did. cant quite pin point why. perhaps because we have been here for 8 months now...cant say you didn’t try in eight months. also we are actually expected to work and get projects done. mind you there is very relaxed enforcement mechanisms for doing this...but it is expected maintained on a personal level, which could be are always your worse critic. for example thoughts of "what am i doing here anyway...i have read a book a day for the last week. i am wasting tax payers' dollars. i don’t know kiswahili yet...i am never going to learn it. i could be working toward a career right now not working on my squats while in the restroom" that is the sort of stuff that has been running through my head and while my literary knowledge is growing, so are the arguments to stay. i actually have completed my first project (well there is still some paperwork that i am waiting for). At the end of january i organized a seminar for 30 women from 10 villages to come to a 2 day seminar on better nutrition and food preservation. it went much better than i could have expected to. we had a lot of fun and really think that many of the women might actually try to follow through with what they learned. as a follow up each village was supposed to teach what they learned in the seminar back in their village...which i am estimating that 300 now have a better understanding of how to achieve better nutrition with products that can be grown in the village. there is also the chance to small business development. we taught jam making and storing and also bread making. both can be used to sell for added household income. to say the least it was very rewarding to see so many women having the opportunity to not only learn something new, but just get out of the village. leave the kids behind and meet new people and open up and get a chance to tell their story...not an opportunity that is easy to come by for these ladies. next drying.
i am also still working on trying to improve the livestock management of chickens. but really...all the knowledge and materials are already available in the village...they just have to realize it...they know how to do this...they just the confidence. so i am trying to stay has hands out as possible. so i have a group of 12 people that are organizing 9 separate seminars on various aspects of chicken care and then we are going to build 6 chicken coups, start 2 businesses (one to make chicken feed and one to sell veterinarian supplies) vaccinate every darn chicken in kihanga and then bring in 120 top breed roosters. those that attend and have their coup built and have their chickens vaccinated will receive a brand spanking new rooster to breed with their local variety type to improve egg and meat production.

i know this is SO exciting for you to read. so here is a little blurb on tanzania that komal sent me from reuters...
Baby feeds on dog's milk
Thu Feb 9, 2006 8:56 AM ET

DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) - A Tanzanian mother went into hysterics when she found her six month-old baby suckling dog's milk, a local daily reported Thursday.
The mother left her son on a mat while she went to hang clothes in the yard of her Dar Es Salaam home, Uhuru newspaper said. When she came back to find him suckling on the dog, she screamed and rushed to her brother's house to seek advice.
But the brother managed to convince her dog's milk was harmless. "Since that day the baby is doing well and hasn't had diarrhea or any signs of illness," he was quoted as saying.
Another relative, who witnessed the incident Monday, was also unperturbed. "The baby was satisfied, since his belly was full and his lips had traces of milk," he told Uhuru.

and here i am teaching better nutrition....sounds like this baby already found it some! on a more somber note...i would like to tell everyone to visit wendy's website... please. i just found out about her relapse (on a selfish side note, i would like to take a moment to say that i am here for two is pointless not to tell me news that you might think i will find disappointing. all that happens is that every time it has been awhile since I have heard from someone, my over active bored imagination in the village makes you in some kind of harm, so if there is something i should know....just tell me. i am a big girl and i can make my own decisions how to handle it...if it is news that you dont want me to hear alone...that it is better to have someone else there, call the peace corps office in DC. they have people that will come to my house and be there with when i hear bad news. sorry just a tangent) so anyway..check out wendy's site and buy one of Stephens dreads!!!! hee hee can even see what different hairstyles would suit him and maybe help him choose his new locks!!!!!

well i better head...i will try to post more regularly. maybe work up a funny story of some kind. believe me there is plenty of fodder from the funny situations that i find myself in to come up with something.

hope you all are well...and just a side note...the total letter count for the month of january (my BIRTHDAY month) is 3. though i am sure this is just due to the slow postal service...i am sure.

love to all

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

ho ho ho

happy holidays from the lands of tanzania. i hope that everyone is having a very festive holiday season. i have a few moments and thought i should write a bit of an update. seems i get to do this about once a month...and well it is that time again boys and girls. so the last update was just after thanksgiving. well i returned to site and prepared for our inservice training seminar (ist). i worked very hard for the short time i was in the village and got all my materials prepared. so i was in my village for four months after swearing in. during this time we were expected to get to know our villagers and some of the major problems that they face. it is a very loose, indirect communication needs assessment. then we made wish lists. a list of everything that villagers believe that will make their life easier, then my wish list of all the projects i would work on if i could choose, and then compared it to a list of approved projects by the peace corps. if a project appeared on all three lists then it goes into a suggested schedule of projects to attempt. i have PLENTY to work on the next two years. a bit overwhelming as of right now. the first large project (my food preservation projects should be coming to an end within the next couple of months) is a chicken project. this is a 6 month long project that starts with seminars on how to make chicken feeds (there is a guy in my village that has agreed to let me use his machine to grind raw materials such as corn, millet, fish etc) then there will be seminars on building chicken houses. one of the most difficult obstacles between both of these is to try and use as much local materials as possible. building the large elaborate chicken wire houses and bringing food for the chickens that has to be bought is not as sustainable. chicken feeds are more expensive that what people feed their whole family. but if you can use stuff that is laying around then it is more likely that people will continue the practices after i leave....well that is the idea anyway. so after about 6 months of intense education then i hope to have a large amount of top quality roosters brought in as breeding stock to improve the local varieties. SO that is the boring details of what i hope to be doing for the next few months. there are also a bunch of smaller projects i hope to be working on though i will spare you details and maybe bore some of you with some letters.

WHEN GOOD TIMES GO BAD. so i went to this seminar in Amani national park. it was great. beautiful rain forest. i saw several species of monkeys that i have never seen before. chameleons the size of my head. long walks to waterfalls. all is well in the serene rain forest. till DUM DUM DUM....i was sitting on the couch all ready to go hang with some friends when my friend lizzie turns to me and is surprised the shade of grey my face had turned. i suddenly realized i was too weak to stand on my own. after a lovely night on the bathroom floor some good friends take me to doctor (which i was fortunate to be staying next to the malaria research institute of tanzania where there are a number of doctors on hand) they believed that i had giarrdia exsaserbated with food poisoning. wow. that felt great. i really thought that i was never going to get better. it only lasted a couple of days but when i woke up that third morning i sweat there was a bird singing outside my window as the sun broke from behind the clouds. so it has been a week since then...i feel great. and being a little more careful with what i digest.

so fortunately i was feeling better before arriving to the beach on christmas eve. the hotel we were staying at had a seafood buffet with so much good food that i ate till i was sick again. OH MY GOD it was SO GOOD!!!! i did cut my hand while cracking the fresh crab though. fooey. then i woke up christmas day and went on a 5 hour snorkel trip. great stuff. i found nemo...several times. i also saw some lion fish and some of the most amazing star fish. so many beautiful fish. then i realized that swimming for 5 hours with your bum in the air is not good for the backs of the legs....rough bus ride the next day. so with a sunburned bum i go to say goodbye to the sea when it gave be a final farewell by stinging me with a SEA URCHIN!!!! oh my god that hurt. for about 1/2 an hour i thought i should start writing a will not knowing if it was poison in me or what...then it went away...completely. just a few days afterward now and not a sign it even happened.

then just after christmas i went to dar es salaam (port of peace). when i thought i would try out the deadly sin of gluttony. wow. one day i had 3 lunches. one of with was subway (the only U.S. fast food chain in tanzania).

no i am meandering my way back to village. i will spend new years eve with a group of volunteers in the district before heading back to the village on new years day. there is apparently some ex-pat club with a pool that we are doing new years eve at. it should be fun...then back to site. and i will have to camp out there till the end of the month. but i would like to remind all that my birthday is jan 13th. i dont need much...just an email...or a letter...a simple hello.

well unil next time. hope all of you a happy new year.


Monday, November 28, 2005

hello everyone. i had typed this LONG message yesterday giving a witty commentary on the last few weeks of my life, when the electricty went out and i lost it all!!! so now it will be the shortened version minus any wittiness as i need to catch a bus back towards the village in a few minutes.

work is going well. though i seem to be back to a 40 hour work week. which i know i wont get much sympathy from most of you, but you dont have to walk a kilometer to fetch water, and cook everything from scratch on charcoal. in the snow. going up hill. etc etc etc.

thanksgiving: poor poor ambassador. for the peace corps, i would say we were VERY well behaved, though i thought the peace corps staff was a bit apprehensive putting so many volunteers together in one place with an open bar. we thought for sure we would drink them dry....but the ambassador kept the libations pooring! though only about a quarter of us got to eat thanksgiving dinner, they ran out of food fast! the rest got canned baked beans. (you KNOW i got food, i was in the front of that line FO SURE) i felt sorry for some of those guys (though not enough to share my turkey) some of them had not eaten for a day trying to save room! hee hee

the dentist: so i go to the peace corps office to check in with some medications and they ask if there was any other medical problems. i have had a mild tooth ache and thought surely it would take forever to arrange a dentist appointment and then xrays then return for filling so i should get the process started. within half an hour, i was sitting at the dentist office. so i have heard rumors that this dentist was CRAZY. but the volunteers love to embelish stories so i thought this might be the case. no. i walk in and the man is YELLING. violently. is is swedish and sounds like the swedish chef but i was not amused. at one point he shook his head so hard that his lips shook while he was moaning the gutteral moan. finally he barks at me to sit in a chair. i sit. he immediately grabs the drill and ask me whare my cavity is. i tell him it is on top but i am not sure if it is a cavity or what, but before i could get it out of my mouth "WWHHHIIIRRRRR!!!!!" i push my head against the back of the chair and he stops and says, "maybe i should give you some novacane!!!???" what the? so he does and while i am waiting for it to set, he calms the far extreme. there is loud classical music playing and he is humming along. everything is completely white. i realized i had just walked into stanly kubricks A Clockwork Orange. i, for the first time in my life, actually made a happy place in my minds eye...and really went there. so he is drilling away and suddenly stops and says "oh this is not good. it has broken, not good at all!" again, what the? since i had all this stuff sticking out of my mouth, i was unable to ask what broke...and he did not seem to care to mention it. i still dont know what broke. the session ended with him saying that the filling would probabaly not last long and that i would need to come back soon....right.

allright i better jet. i miss you all and hope to have some quality email time soon to send everyone messages. but until then back to letter writing. thought that had slowed even with the workload growing...

hope all is well!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

bit o update

hey everyone. just a bit of an update. it is now about november 12th (maybe...been in the village too long) that means i have been out of the country for about 5 months now. one of tose things where it seems like forever and a couple of weeks at the same time. things took a turn toward the slower end of life since my last update with all the over acheiving jam making. (not sure if my new title of jam master jane is going to stick) but starting monday all that will change. i have to start preparing for my inservice training that starts the week before christmas. it will be in a national park though!!! apparently walks through the rainforest will be part of the training! hee!

so just intown for the day bout to hop back on the bus. the post office never opened though some of the other volunteers texted saying that i had "a *!&*load of mail" so i hope that is true!!!. i dont know why the posta did not open...perhaps the mail lady is sick or something...who knows. so i will be heading to the BIG city (dar es salaam) for turkey day. the new ambassador invited the entire peace corps to his house for thanksgiving...hee hee free food...and so far EVERY peace corps volunteeri have talked to is going...that poor man has no idea what he is in for.. about 150 someodd smelly dirty hippies giving free food. and he lives on the beach and told us to dress for volleyball! should be a darn good time!!! i have to say thati am ready for a bit of a rest. it iwll be nice to stay away...seeing as i am fairly poor (spent WAY too money making my house super nice...but i think i will enjoy it in the long run) but i am going to be camping on the beach instead of a hotel while there. apparently there is this white sand crystal blue water beach with bandas that you can rent out. sounds NICE!

oh other good cats. johnny a black and white female and then a solid black kitten that i named chakula (swahili for food) but i refer to it more as rotten. so yeah that makes johnny rotten.

so i hope to talk to all soon! sorry not to have sent mail...really expected the post office to be open...but i have many ready to mail out and there is always next time!

love you all

Monday, October 31, 2005

siku kuu halloween/ rat's nest

hey everyone, it seems forever since i have last posted a message. but life in the village got busy fast. i have not made it town for a while, except for brief business related stuff. yes i have business related stuff going on. so today is Halloween and i have taken a 24 hour break from the village and came to the big city (as opposed to the little city close to the house) the was a big costume party of wazungu (a term that is debated whether it is derogatory or not for foriegners). i did not decide to come till the last minute...and was the only one not dressed up. though there where some people that must have been awfully bored in their village because there was a lot of time put into their costume. this morning i started off with hot chocolate cake and banana honey ice cream for breakfast (the catholic diocees just opened this brilliant restaurant to raise get your french press when you order coffee and they have GREAT food) then went out for a cheeseburger at 10am....hee hee, i love being in the city!!!! though i did get randomly picked on by some immigration officers today. it is peek safari season and there is one of the largest safari parks next to the city so there are white tourists everywhere right now. some officers stop me coming out of my hotel and want a copy of my passport, gave it to them and had not realized that the date on my visa was incorrect. long story short, called peace corps....they took care of everything, as they always do.

so i guess i should probably recap a bit on what i have been up to over the last month. the swahili still blows, but improving slowly. a few weeks ago, my village must have decided it was time for me to get to work. i went from reading books all day long to all of the sudden (literally in one day) emerged into many projects. the way projects ideally work is that they are brought to me by the people in the village themselves. this way you know there is a desire and want for the project and you are not trying to convince. really i believe i have said it before, but i am a mere facilitator into what the village needs and wants. so i cant remember if i mentioned it or not, but the last volunteer started many bee projects around my village. after several people approached me and told me they want help marketing their honey, i have started a survey to find just how much honey we produce. so far about 40 people produce about 175liters every three months (it flucuate) together. some take their honey to dar, peace corps volunteers are largest buyer at the village level. they sell some to the locals, though mostly seen as a medicine. the things about our honey is, well, it is the best honey i have EVER TASTED IN MY LIFE!!!!! there is a natural flavor of caramel and vanilla IN the honey....anyway, i am sure this boring but i have been work on a grant to get marketing representatives to come and help me teach local marketing to the bee keepers so they can sell their honey in a more efficient manor.

next the biggest time consumer is jam making. i had invited my fundi (the man that made my furniture) over to my house for tea and served chapati (greasy tortilla) with some peace jam that i bought he loved it and wanted to know if i could make it. i said yes (we were trained how) and to let me know when he wanted me to come teach. thinking that this would be a long way off or that i would not hear anything about it again, i put it out of my mind. but then the next weekend i had a group of mamas (adult women are called mamas) show telling me they would buy all the ingredients if i would teach them how to make jams. the reason this is popular is because fruits have such a short harvest season and they end up feeding all the fruit they cant eat to their animals and then grave fruit the rest of the year. since peaces wont harvest for another month or two, i am using mangos. bonnie (another volunteer) came and helped me translate, i had a HUGE turnout and then had more people tell me they wanted me to teach in other subvillages. so have written another grant to invite the food preservation instructor for the ministry of agriculture university to come and do a large production lessons for the villages.

so as i am not supposed to be grant writing till after i have done my in service training in December, i don't quite have approval yet. though i turned them in and my boss got right back to me saying that they are great ideas and wants to expand on them to make them include other regions that i would be coordinating. also say that he would use my grant as the example of how to write a grant (because i am sure there is much needed improvement on mine) and that it would be completed by the 16th of jan. which is right at the end of peace season so there will be lots of peaches to work with. so things are looking good for the jam making and marketing!

lets see, i also built a seed bed for transplanting vegies and a compost pile that is made from eucalyptus and screen. i actually hammered my thumb in the process. all the materials though where locally gathered or used from rubbish. (sorry been hanging with the brits)

well this seems to be long and am sure an incredibly excitable read..OH OH OH I do i have one good story....hee hee hee, you are going to LOVE this. so the other morning i am laying in bed, being lazy. i put my hand up behind my head to adjust my pillow, and i felt something run across my shoulder and under my arm. i jumped up and sat up in bed. i thought, what was that? must have been a piece of my hair tickling me, surely. or that i was still half asleep and that i was delusional....but to make sure, i picked up my pillow. a 2-3inch long mouse ran from under my pillow jumped off my bed and out the door. i just sat there for a moment, then chuckled then went and made coffee. it wasn't till after a cup that i realized that A MOUSE HAD BEEN NESTING IN MY HAIR!!!! and then i got upset at the fact, that it really didn't seem to bother me. so yeah, after all these years, my hair has actually become a rats nest that it has been called so many times!!!!

on that note, i sign off....

love jane

Saturday, October 01, 2005

another beautiful day in africa

hello everyone! the weather here has greatly improved recently. the days have become warm and actually quite hot in the sun. the nights are still on the chilly side...well i would call it down right cold. there is not too much new to report. this past week i had my first village meeting where i sat down with about 20 people and explained who i am and how i expect projects to be instigated (by them not i am a mere facilitator) but all of this had to go in swahili! then there was graduation for standard seven (the end of primary school, which is where most people end thier education). the age varies with the students, as many students are not too certain about thier exact ages. but standard seven is about 12-14 years old maybe. i was one of the speakers at the graduation. i had my swahili teacher help me write a short speech on aids and decisions that they will soon face. my villagers are somewhat lucky. there is at least 2 large companies in the area that they can find employment timber and one tea. lucky being a bit of an optimistic view. long hours low pay. but it does bring in outside income to the village. they also will become farmers. and some of the girls will go off to the city to become servants. there are very view that will continue on to secondary school from my village because there is not one currently close by. not only do the families have to provide school tuition but they have to then provide housing as well which is costly. but they have approval now to start building one in the area, which should be completed before i leave!!! there are also a few vocational school starting up. i visited a seamstress school recently that is a bikeable distance from my village. it is $60US a year and it is a two program and that provides all room and board. so for $120 a child gets the gift of a skilled trade. and a chance to live out of the village for a brief time. the next start of classes is in January, and i might try to help sponsor some girls from my village. maybe help them raise the money somehow selling bread or something. as you can see this is a fairly raw idea in the making.

so guess what the most exciting part of the week was?!?!?! I GOT MAIL!!!! yea! peace corps for some reason sent my mail to the wrong district. so i have now read the mail that was received in dar from august till mid september. i got LOTS of letters from you guys!!!! thanks so much. i look forward to sitting down and responding to them through the next week back at my village. many people have asked me if there is anything they can send me....ANYTHING!!! if is from the states, i would love it. i have actually had a bit of personal tastes change. so now i would probably be considered quite girlie. so some lotion in a ziplock bag in an padded envelope...perfect...even the little travel size bottles rock. body scrubs. conditioning treatments. also any seasoning packets.... taco seasoning, gravy packets...oh those lipton homestyle chicken packet dinners. i know that these high processed foods are probably not the best thing... but the cravings for convience here is astounding. so go the store and find something that fits in an envelope that i can make with water, milk, butter, eggs. dollar store children toys. most kids in the village play with plastic bags bunch together wrapped in string. so anything is an upgrade...maybe some cheap markers or something. whatelse? oh some yogurt culture packets would be nice...into making my own yogurt these days, but i cant find starter here. oh and always beef jerky! hee hee. oh and any magazine. i prefer harpers (thanks jen!!!!!!), atlantic monthly, and any newspaper or articles you think i might like that you get off the net. whatever. books (though expensive to send). so i am also living in a completely empty house. so any thing like taper candle holders, (that is the only size available) PICTURES, shane and juliet i would love to have some pics of the new place. you too kiersten. anypics of people hanging out. i am making a wall of pictures in my living room.

what else??? well i am heading back to village tomorrow. and will probably be back online in a couple of weeks. planning a trip in mid-october to visit from friends in the district south of mine. hmmm...i guess i should sign off now and post this. i am going on a brief hike today up to some of the rocks that overlook the city (i am in iringa right now) i think i will pick up some cheese and bread and wine for a picnic. life in africa is SO difficult, let me tell you!!!!

i hope all is well back home. thanks again to everyone for the letters!!!! i will read everyone of them a million times each i am sure!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

a convent, girls empowerment, and garth brooks

hey guys, so just a brief update..oh but before that...if anyone sends me a package, which i think is defined by a box as opposed to the padded envelopes, please pay customs upfront...not because i am so cheap (which i realize i am) but but because the post has the right to open to package to assess the cost of your custom tax if not paid in advance. and since this is done out of your presence, not ALL materials seem to make it to the volunteer. i know if i opened a box and saw a bag of reese's i would take it...sorry but soem things are just to hard to let pass by!

so i just spent the last 5 nights at this great convent. solor powered showers, permaculture farm, and beautiful grounds oh and most importantly CHEESE...all different types! we had this girls empowerment camp. each volunteer takes three students (about 5th grade equivelent) 2 girls and one boy and then we spend 4 days doing trust building, HIV/AIDS lecutres, low rope activites, sing songs, watch movies, eat good food, and meet people from other villages, see electricity, see life outside the village. this is a great conference on many levels. not jsut seeing friendships build or confidence levels rising, or when boys realize they too can carry water, but just to have the space for 4 days of thier life they are worry free children that are allowed to run and play without all the daily responsibilites that are usually such a large burden at thier age. it was great. the kids were amazing, after about 2 days, the shells started to slip off and they became comfortable and the last night they started a singing/druming/dance session that lasted for hours. i don't have the time right now to go into why there is a need for a girls empowerment confernce and do it justice...but expect that rant to come soon. to my neices and nephews...i think it would BLOW YOUR MIND to see how kids here live. especially the girls. thier lives are hard in the villages. and yet they smile.

also i think i have my first "jigger" which is this worm like creature that enters into your feet and lays an egg sac that must be cut open and removed. (not to be confused with the tick like creature common in the states) i am only in day two. i noticed it yesterday that is, and i have been adviced to let it sit for a couple of days to let the sac get larger, which makes it easier to remove. luckily i am going to another volunteers house this week to help her prepare a wedding cake and she will be able to help me remove it. there is slight chance it is not a jigger since my feet are still covered in blistered from being sunburned so much. but i know that it is prime jugger season. oh the joys of africa.

ok well i better head some shopping to do while in the city. i made brownies this past week on my firewook. and they are DARN tasty if i say so myself. i FINALLY got my cook book and think i might spend the week trying to takle making a pizza. i baught some italian sausage (made from rabbits) and some cheese from the convent!!!! i need to pick up some yeast and eggs (which i am sure after the 2 buses, taxi and 4km bike ride back to the house will be in great condition!!)

well keep the letters coming, i will get them eventually! oh i almost forgot the garth brooks refernce. so i was in a cab ride back from the convent to town, and the cabbie was kicking "ive got friends in low places". so the the five volunteers started singing garth brooks at the top of our lungs. just thought i would share one of the random moments with you. never did i think i would be shouting garth brooks from the inside of a cab in africa!

love you guys!!!!!!!!!!!!!