Entry Via Letter
Sorry this set of blogs is so late. I’ve currently been tied up in a million different projects and seminars, including going to Dodoma, the capital, for a Peace Crops seminar/training. Dodoma is very small and not very interesting, considering it’s the nation’s capital. It’s surrounded by dessert on both sides, and though it contains the parliament building and the President’s home, it wasn’t that much bigger or that much more interesting than Dar es Salaam, which is huge in comparison.
Among Dodoma’s assets are stores that sell M&M’s and Snickers bars, and 2 soft-serve ice cream shops. Needless to say, those of us who attended the seminar probably gained a bit of weight. (After eating only rice and beans for 3 months, don’t judge!) The schedule for the day was never complete without a trip to the ole ice cream shops.
We went though many workshops on AIDs/HIV trainings, and administrative sessions. One of the more fun sessions was a lesson on how to make Peanut Butter, and I’m giving serious thought to purchasing a peanut/meat grinder… we’ll see.
Returning from Dodoma proved to be just as busy, if not more busy that usual. Now that my grant has passed, I’m able to start my peer educators on their tour of the ward, which includes solidifying a program for HIV/AIDs prevention and setting up a time table among all of the schools for when we will arrive. I’ve also been preparing and teaching 4 lesson plans for the 4 classes that I teach at the school. I have been trying to finish setting up our library, which consisted of moving all of the books (and there aren’t many) from the rat infested storage room to my office, where kids can come and check them out, just like a library. (The teacher at my school was against this idea for two reasons: A – It took effort (mine not his) to get all of the books in one place, B: “The students steal the books,” thus it’s better to leave them in storage closets where the rats can chew the covers off and nobody can use them – and who needs to read the book when there are so many (2) teachers at the school to teach every subject?) Needless to say, same old struggles keep coming up, and a few new ones as well, it’s been busy.
When I left for Dodoma, I was aware that my suitcase had some type of gross bug living in it – every time I dug to the bottom I could find 20-30 good sized ants on every piece of my clothing. It wasn’t until I began finding the bugs everywhere – a swarm hiding in the bookcase, 50 crawling down my wall in an orderly fashion at 9 at night, thousands in the unused suitcase under the bed – that I splurged and bought a can of bug spray. My student and I went though every room in the house, looking for places where they may hide and spraying – then removing their little corpses and eggs. Normal infestations of bugs aren’t so bad, but these bugs congregate in the dozens and always set their eggs and nests where they gather.
After a successful day at school and a large supper, my student retired to the room where he studies at night and I went to bed. Around midnight I woke up with a single bug on my forehead, and annoyed, I batted him off. Before I could get back to sleep, I had a strange itching all over my head – like my pillow was moving. Thinking that my hair was the problem (I had left it down because I had just washed it) I reached back with a scrunchie to tie it back with my hair tie, and instantly recoiled when I hit 7-8 of the bugs that had decided to swarm in my hair that evening. Snapping on my flashlight I saw my pillow covered with ants, and when I sat up, ants began falling from my hair to my shoulders. Screaming, I untangled myself from the mosquito net (which had proved to be useless) and turned my head upside down, trying to shake them off. My student burst into the room (having heard the screams) and having taken a look at the situation ran for the bug spray. This then turned into a battle against the bugs and the student.
“Mwalimu, close your eyes”
“Don’t spray that stuff in my hair”
“It’ll kill the bugs”
“It’ll kill my hair too! Do not spray it”
“Why you so stubborn”
“You want to pick dead bugs outta my hair?”
It went on like that until all of the bugs (and their eggs) had fallen from my hair to the floor, and were then sprayed. Needless to say, I did not sleep well that night!
The next morning I realized as I was getting dressed that the majority of the bugs had relocated their base to my clean clothes on my desk. Annoyed and without clean clothes to wear to school, I sprayed the nest, killing nearly a hundred and allowing the gassed corpses to remain strewn about the room. When I returned from school at tea time to plug in phones, I walked over to the book case where my solar battery and outlets were and watched a solidarity ant crawl out. Cursing under my breath I picked up the power strip and gave it a good hard shake and millions of ants began spilling out of the outlets, which now weren’t working at all. After spraying these ants and taking the time to clean them up, I walked the two phones to the teacher with a solar charge next door. His laugh and look of surprise was too much for me, and I began to cry. Immediately (crying is a big deal in Tanzania, most people never cry) both teachers and a random guest of theirs followed me home to see the problem. Though I had cleaned up the bugs from the outlet, I was able to show them the ones all over the bedroom, and their eggs, and immediately both teachers said I had a “big problem”, as contrary to my belief, these bugs were not in everyone’s home as a result of the rainy season.
Amos immediately called over 3 students, brought a ladder, and told me to send them up into my flimsy roof, so that they could look for bugs, and possibly the source. They arrived without knowing what was going on, but once the heard that they would be climbing the roof the excitedly ripped off their shoes and grabbed the flashlights. One student, Rashidi, wore my headlamp, which made him look just like a miner as he entered the ceiling first.
The three of them were in the ceiling for about 5 minutes before Rashidi called, “Mwalimu, I don’t understand what we are…… Ay Jamahi!” (Kiswahili for Oh my god)
Grinning, I replied, did you find em? I was answered by the sound of shoes slamming into the ceiling tiles, and the words for “kill them” being shouted in panicked Kiswahili. Shazimu (another student) poked his head through the ceiling tiles.
“Mwalimu, they’re everywhere! Millions!” The three of them sprayed and swatted for 10 minutes, with the writing bodies of gassed ants falling from the ceiling tiles, and me and the 4th student (Bakari) dodging out of the way.
Finally, an exhausted but triumphant trio of students jumped down from the roof, all slightly dizzy from the spray fumes and all grinning ear to ear.
Rashidi flipped his school uniform shirt back on, popped the collar, and strutted to the door and said, “If you have any more problems, just let me know, I’ll spray again”.
Shazimu popped up behind him and began arguing that since he (Rashidi) got to spray this time, it would be his turn next time.
Bakari then stepped in to remind them both that he hadn’t even gotten to go in the ceiling – it should be his turn next time.
I halted the conversation and told all of the boys there would not be a next time, all the bugs were dead and I did not want them coming back.
The boys looked from one to another, and then all turned to me, giving me that “She’s white. She just doesn’t get it” look, and continued to argue about who got to kill which bugs the whole way back to school.