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Parker in Africa

Home > Parker in Africa > March 19, 2006

Parker in Africa - March 19, 2006

Dear Everyone,

The rains have finally come. It is certainly and blessing, as there were people dying, even in Kilimanjaro region, from hunger due to drought. Hopefully the rain will help fix our electricity problem as well. The inconsistency of electricity is quite annoying-I have gone to bed at 8pm several nights, haven't had a warm bath in weeks, and can't keep any food in the house because the fridge doesn't work. Tanzania uses hydro-electric power for electricity, so hopefully with the rain season upon us, this great inconvenience will soon go away.

With the rain also comes mud. If I walk from my house to the classrooms, I end upwith about an inch of mud on the bottom of my sandals, and the red mud shows up very well on my white skin. I don't mind so much because it is very satisfying to wash when I am truly dirty.

With the rain also comes farming. It is time to plant maize. As I have mentioned before, the school owns a farm, most of which is taken up by maize plots. About 4 days out of the year, the whole school-students and teachers- are required to plant, weed, and harvest the maize, which is then eaten by the students. We had our first Shamba day (Shamba=farm in Kiswahili) this Tuesday, and it was quite an experience. After breakfast we all walked down to where the fields are located and split up into respective classes. I was put in charge of the form 2 class, which is comical seeing as I have never stepped foot on a farm before. We had big spools of twine that we stretched across the field, and while the boys dug with their hoes, the girls planted the maize seeds. It was hard labor under the hot African sun, and the poor form 1's were completely exhausted afterwards. Most of the students at the school come from urban areas, and have never farmed before, but it's good to learn-we call it "self reliance".

Besides that, I haven't been doing anything out of the ordinary-just work. Before I couldn't find enough to do, and now I have found too much. I'm helping the head office with some treasurer work, tutoring students in different subjects (English, physics, math, French) and grading big stacks of assignments. I'm trying to start an art program at the school, and I have been put in charge of training a group of students to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. I'm very excited because I believe I will be able to climb the mountain and visit the national parks for free as a sponsor for the students.

The sisters I live with keep telling me that I am now a true African woman. I suppose I have adapted quite well. Although I think it might be nice to be here with an American companion, I think I am getting a purer African experience than if I was with a friend or a group. I never see white people and rarely am presented with anything from my culture. When I do find myself with other white people-maybe expats, volunteers, or just visitors, I feel very strange. I have been completely immersed in this foreign culture, and while I think of home often, I have no one to discuss these things with that understands where I come from. I have come to realize that this is now my life, not just something I'm doing if that makes any sense. I'm not a visitor anymore.

Easter break is coming up in a couple weeks, and I plan to go to Zanzibar, which should be fabulous. I'll keep sending updates! Please don't feel offended if I haven't emailed you back-I only get to the internet maybe once a week for an hour. I miss you all! If you have any desire to escape the US, please come visit me here in Tanzania! I hope life is beautiful and happy where you are.

These updates and some pictures which are coming pole pole (slowly) are posted on a website - It's part of the website for the rocket lab I work for at Dartmouth, so check that out too!

Much love,