This week was rough and I think a lot of trainees would agree with me. It’s been crunch time as training comes to a close meaning our plates are full of assignments, presentations, lessons, and exams. I’ve also been dealing with a very not fun yucky stomach bug which has kept me in the choo wayyy longer than desired. I hope that once I’m at site and have a little more control of my diet and schedule, I’ll be able to get healthy again and focus on myself a little more! Speaking of site… I’m going to Mbinga! Here is a quick summary of my site visit from last week, hope you enjoy! (Pictures below)
Where am I going?
Mbinga is a district in the Ruvuma region of Tanzania. It is the southernmost region of Tanzania and is known for agriculture, historic battles, and being “the best region in the country (says Laurel and Delaney!!). My teacher during PC training is from Mbinga district as well and is a part of the same tribe (Matengo) as my village! Agriculture accounts for the major part in my specific villages economy. Coffee, maize, cashew and tobacco plants are abundant. My district is southwest of the business capital of Ruvuma, Songea. The hottest parts of the year are in October to November with the coldest in May and June. The rainy season starts in December and continues until late April. Mbinga is extremely hilly with undulating nature all around. To get to my village, it’s about an hour-hour and a half drive up a hill. I have been told that it’s about an 18 hour drive to Tanzania’s business capital, Dar es Salaam, but transportation can be unpredictable so I’m really not sure how long it will actually take whenever I travel!
We encountered so many shidas (problems) during our travel there that it took THREE DAYS from my training site to get to my actual village. I was so exhausted and felt the anxiety creep up as I got closer. It was a long drive from my banking town up to my village but the view was incredible and I was pretty much speechless throughout the car ride. I was greeted with the warmest welcome I could have possibly imagined. Around 60-70 women and children were next to the village office cheering and chanting with drums and leaves, a classic Matengo tribe tradition. As I got out of the car they swarmed me and sang welcome songs. I don’t know how else to describe the feeling besides surreal. They walked me up to the office where I was able to introduce myself and say that I was a health volunteer. I was then able to meet some village leaders, sign the guest book, and take in the view. Also, weather was perfect!!! Not too hot and not too cold.
What is my house like?
Not gonna lie, my house needs a little lovin’, but I am really excited to work on it. I can tell that my village has worked hard on it and are continuing to work on it until I move there which is greatly appreciated. I have been told that my village has wanted a volunteer for many years, but have failed the housing standard requirement each time. My house has a living room and two bedrooms. Outside, there is a courtyard with a small garden and a little outhouse which has my bathroom, kitchen, and storage room. The two bedrooms are fairly large and seem like they used to be four bedrooms with two of the walls knocked down. I am not sure what I will do with the space yet but hopefully it turns out nice! The main issues I faced in my house were a leaky roof and a broken fence. I would like to paint it and get ceilings to cover the exposed beams but I will have to save up my stipend to do that. Since I’m a new site, I have no furniture and will have to purchase most of that too. The best part of my house is the view right at my front steps. I overlook rolling hills and acres of farmland. It is a view that will never get old to me.
I was introduced to the only muuguzi (nurse) in my village, we have no doctors. She was incredible at showing me around the village and introducing me to the issues they face. Maternal health is an issue they would like me to focus on, as well as sexual and reproductive health in teens especially regarding the use of contraceptives or rather the lack thereof. Good nutrition projects and life skills were also requested. My Swahili was not good enough to understand the other issues her and my mwenyekiti (chairman) discussed with me, but hopefully I can learn more about them during my first few months at site.
Wow. What a rollercoaster. While I describe all the great experiences I had at site, it was overwhelming too and tears were shed. I just hope to be able to contribute in any way I can. With such a warm welcome, I felt a huge burden to make my village proud. While I still hope to do that, I can’t let it control the course of my two years. I plan to work my hardest and help where I am needed but I do not have to solve, nor will I ever be able to solve all the issues that exist. My role is to capacity build, and assist them in ways where they are able to find solutions to the problems on their own, and to promote cultural exchange. I know the next two years will be full of ups and downs but I am excited to finally move in, settle, and get to workkkk!
Here are some pictures of my house. Once it’s all decorated I’ll definitely show updates! Going to live out my interior designer dreams and make it as home-y as possible. ❤
P.S. Check the Snail Mail link in the menu to see my updated mailing address! (some jalapeno Cheetos would really be appreciated hehe)