School's in session...

Ah, I love the smell of this hotel. It smells like the air that comes out of your dryer vent, which i used to sit next to outside of my house growing up, inhaling the hot air until the dryer shut off and the lifeline was gone. the smell of this place provides a nice juxtaposition to the smell of my armpits. seriously, i don't even understand how it works. somehow you are just transformed. it's not even that hot out.

i know i talk about smelling a lot, and Sam brought to my attention that i talk about using the toilet a lot. I'm sorry, I know it's true, but i told him that i think the bathrooms are the biggest cultural difference you have to deal with on a regular basis. he thought it was funny that the language wasn't first on that list. but lots of people speak English, and they love to practice it with you. i use my Swahili, they use their English. bathrooms are number one. but I'll try to stop talking about them. except to tell you how awful the one at school is. it's just an incubator for not-yet-matured flys. it's one of the worst. and i have to drink so much water because your mouth gets dry from the dust and exhaust, so there's no holding it through the school day. I'm used to it now. i think i could come back home and eat something out of my gutter. ok, maybe not.

i also know that i use "Africa" a lot, when i am in Tanzania, and not everything is going to be generalizable to all of the African continent. but many of the cultures are similar, and honestly, it just sounds better, for dramatic purposes. so forgive me. i get aggravated when people use Africa instead of naming a country, but sometimes it's appropriate. Like T.I.A.

So school has begun. the first day was a little slow-going. while many of the kids understand English, everything has to be translated. they love playing games, and we've got some good ones. they have a decent knowledge of HIV, but in some regards they are totally lacking. there are MANY myths that have to be dispelled. we had a lecture today on modes of transmission that turned into a very long question and answer session. i was astounded at some of the things they believed. apparently i am viewed as the resident scientist, so explanations of the immune system and many of the details on HIV transmission are deferred to me. i do my best, but I've sent Corrado an email of questions today so I know that I'm sharing the facts.

one of the ones that was most frustrating is that the belief that condoms aren't 100% effective. this is used as an excuse to not use them, and it's incredibly frustrating. We tell them that when used correctly, condoms are 97% effective. GSC recommended that we just say the other 3% is people not using them correctly, which makes no sense and is a lie, but they think is better to avoid confusion. Oh no. Not in our class. The kids are smart and they challenged that statement. I said I thought we needed to tell them the truth, that nothing is 100% effective, but i understand the hesitancy. but that's what we need to do. educate. lying to them is not only stupid and unethical, it also just increases the distrust in condoms and in the US. That's evaluation point number 83 on the Global Service Corps evaluation in my mind. I have a lot of suggestions to make.

One kid kept asking over and over about different situations of HIV transmission, and had taken up about 10 minutes himself, finally asking if you're a man having sex with a woman with HIV, but you're wearing a condom, but you have some open sores in the area around your penis...etc,e tc......I finally told him that he shouldn't be having sex with anyone if he has open sores or they have open sores because that probably means they have an STI. we're getting to those tomorrow. they want to go over every situation...if someone with HIV coughs their hand and then touches your eye.....if someone has sores ion their mouth and get blood on their toothbrush and then you use the toothbrush and you have sores....if a person with HIV bites you....it was endless. we addressed as many questions as we could, as well as we could. it was exhausting. but really great.

tomorrow I teach opportunistic infections and mother to child transmission, again cause I'm the science nerd. i think because I'm the oldest at our school they just think I'm the smartest. probably true. :)

i am soooo very happy about my homestay. my family is great. my baba (male head of the house) and i had several discussions last night about Castro, Cuba, and how much Vladimir Putin drinks. I didn't tell him that my nickname is Vladimir Gluten cause I didn't think it would translate well. just like when someone put a clay star on a rock today and said it was a rock star. not a one. tough crowd. my mama (female head) is great.she is a very forward-thinking woman, and had started an NGO for women's rights and for battered women. her two grandchildren, victor and veronica, live with us because their mother lives in Dar Es Salaam on her own and runs her own business. their mother was beaten by her husband, so she got a divorce. That is fairly unheard of in Tanzania, so I was quite impressed with the progressiveness of my host family. They're also Catholic, it seems, so that adds to the taboo, I suppose. My Mama and Baba own their home and all of the building surrounding a courtyard out back. it is broken into 8 apartments which they rent. they are very kind and generous people. my kaka (brother) came home yesterday adn greeted me in french, Spanish,and English. he's taking language courses so that he can be a guide on Kilimanjaro. He has climbed it 14 times as a porter. They are all really wonderful, and are honored to have n American. I'm honored to have a relaxed atmosphere. Yesterday I came home right after school and Mama took me to her neighbor who is a tailor. i'm having two skirts, a bag, and a headband made out of two congas and a piece of one kitanga, which are all cloths made here. my Mama really wants me to have a suit made, with r\trousers. you might be able to picture what that would be like, if you have any idea of the fabric I'm talking about. African women look great in these suits. I would look ridiculous. but we'll see. i bought a beautiful kitanga for 15000 shillings yesterday that i may have a blouse and skirt made of. no trousers. i would look like a peacock.

i should probably stop here. i have dinner tonight for the volunteers that are leaving after two weeks. i can't believe it's been two weeks already, and it also seems like months. Time does weird things in Africa. I can't even begin to explain it. I hope to get to teh internet tomorrow, otherwise I will be on safari to Lake Manyara on Saturday, and hiking an extreme climb at Mt. Meru on Sunday that other volunteers said is totally ass-kicking. I'm ready for a little more challenge. i ran after a friend yesterday and it felt really good, however my lungs were burning from the exhaust. i live on the highway, basically, so it's REALLY bad there. i went back inside and did a little boxing, sit ups and push ups. it was good. okay, my time is out so I'm going. imani!

2 Responses on "School's in session..."

  1. Hi Kate! I love the blog! I think of you every day. Thanks for sharing your story, all of it, even the "potty talk." That's always one of the first things I want to know when I go somewhere new- what are the bathrooms like?

    Julia says:

    Kate, you rock my world. I'm riveted by your accounts. And, as a new sewer, I'm dying to see the fabrics you're buying! Lots of love! Julia S.