Trip Start Nov 19, 2002
14Trip End Dec 13, 2002
The safari was an incredible experience. But pretty much confined to the tourist route. After heading to Mtwara, I got to see what 99% of the tourists miss.
My sister Sarah teaches math and physics at an all-girls secondary level boarding school. My first day in Mtwara I got to see her school and the students. It was the last day of exams before break. The girls are great fun. They wear red and white uniforms when in class and green ones outside of class. They are very happy, extremely polite and friendly. Much better behaved than any American class I've ever seen. I met a few teachers too. Mostly they are local Tanzanians.
My sister told me a little bit about the educational system here which I wanted to share
At school, many administrators only show up for work half the time. And when they do, they're frequently intoxicated. Many teachers leave the rooms during exams. The students are already doubled up on desks so the temptation to cheat isn't too far away. Here corporal punishment is used too. There are supposedly rules about how many lashes and what kind of stick. However, the headmistress lets the teachers use their own discretion. The male teachers tend to take liberal advantage :(
Another story may help put some perspective on the lifestyle here
The opportunities for education and employment just aren't the same. I've heard the stories and seen the pictures before: refugee camps, poverty and so on
I arrived in Mtwara on Thanksgiving. Some of the gifts I brought Sarah were packages of freeze-dried turkey, mashed potatoes, dressing, green beans and cranberries from a camping store. So we celebrated with an easy meal that only required boiling water. The first American food she'd eaten in a year.
The next day we went into town. Sarah often writes about riding her bike there to do errands. I, deciding to be a trooper, wanted to do the same. Whew!! Only 5 kilometers, mostly downhill and I almost died. It was hard to keep up with her. Did you know it's hot by the equator? Even during the summertime? Sweat, sweat, sweat. It was fun to go to the market and see all the local artisans with their crafts. Before long I talked my sister into getting a taxi around town. And back up the hill to school.
I've got a whole new appreciation and respect for my sister now. Around the house, the electricity and water are good only intermittently
It's kind of disheartening to hear some of this. I hope I haven't bored you with same-o same-o stuff. But I wanted to give an idea of the culture and mentality here. This was an important part of my experience that I wanted to share. It's challenging for my sister at home and at school but I am impressed by how she handles it all. It may be one of those things that you don't understand until you go through it.
On the lighter side, one of the things Mtwara is known for is wood carvings. Some of the best in Tanzania. So I loaded up with animal carvings in remembrance of my safari. Sarah had a bunch for her Peace Corps friends. On the flight to Dar es Salaam, we could take onboard as much as we could carry - about three large bags each. After that, we each have 20 kilos of baggage allowance. The problem...we're still 69 kilos over (over 150 pounds). International flights charge a penalty of $10 per pound. I was getting a little nervous. So Sarah starts negotiating in Swahili. Our penalty is only $35 dollars. And she negotiates it down to $28.