Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Trevor in Tanzania week 6 (and a half)

Blog Number Six
Hello everyone! Sorry it took so long to get another blog online, the computers have been used heavily for programming lately as we are nearing the end of our eight weeks here. The volunteers are starting to work on the final activity reports, and throwing an event for International Women’s Day has taken up most everyone’s time. International Women’s Day was March 8, and Alysha took the lead to plan the day. The plan was to host an event at one of our partner organizations, Umati, for approximately fifty people. Youth Challenge International donated gift bags to hand out to the female participants and the group decided to fill the bags with a calendar and a nutrition guide. Each month of the calendar had an image of an influential woman from history and today. There was a write up under all of the photos as well. We arrived at Umati around 2 to set up decorations, music, chairs, a power point presentation with further information about issues women are facing in our world today, and a mural. The mural was about six feet by six feet and in the centre read International Women’s Day. There were felt pens provided, and we encouraged participants to write a message about whatever they felt the day meant for them. The mural was a great success. So many people wanted to write their message we had to add a few extra sheets of paper to the end.

The crowd came in just after three, and activities were set to start around four. We had four speakers lined up, two from local NGO’s, Donald (East African Volunteer Coordinator), and a class participant, Zhara, who is managing a women’s only sober house. Alysha was the mc for the event, and Fatma translated for her. She stood at the front of a long row of people, and addressed the crowd of approximately 100 with a media camera about two feet from her. She did a great job introducing the speakers and welcoming everyone to the special day. Other than Donald, the speeches were in Swahili, so it was difficult to understand the issues that were addressed at the event, but from what I understood, the women were able to highlight their personal experiences while promoting their NGO and the work that gets done by the women working there. The speeches finished up, volunteers handed out pieces of cake and juice, and participants were encouraged to talk amongst one another about International Women’s Day and what it means for individuals and women in general. I was really proud to be a part of such a well organized and run event.

Some of the participants of the event were students from the Department of Substance Abuse. Mostly men, they were there to support Zhara, and to further spread their message of the importance of sober houses on Zanzibar. There was a narcotics anonymous meeting that night at 7, and I was invited to attend. The students wanted me to understand what they are working toward, and were eager to show me the sober houses they have created. I accepted their invite, and for the umpteenth time here, I stepped out of my comfort zone. We walked as a group of eight through small back roads to where the meeting was being held. We passed by where the previous sober house was located, and made our way to the meeting. It was only 6:20 when I got there, so there was a lot of time to visit the people in the house and better understand the system they are currently working with in an effort to provide support and change for one another. I certainly had mixed emotions entering through the metal gated entrance. I was nervous because I wondered how they would accept a foreigner coming into their private space. I walked through the gate and time froze. Everyone turned and stared at me. I gave a small wave and said hello. I was greeted and told that I am most welcome to come into the sober house. For the next forty minutes I was basically on a tour. People were coming up to me and showing me the books they use to support members at meetings, and was directed to the many messages placed on the wall. “I can’t, but we can”, “Just for today”, and “keep it simple” were written on three separate sheets placed next to the Malcolm X poster. On the wall beside that was a large sheet with the 12 step program written on it. The house was clean, and I read the list on the wall explaining the roles and responsibilities of the participants. Group A was in charge of the kitchen, B in charge of the toilets, C health issues including taking participants to the hospital if their detox was too difficult to manage, and D was in charge of cleaning the front and back lawn areas. The schedule for the participants was strict. Monday to Friday had each hour of the day scheduled. The morning had participants spend the first hour in what was titled a “feelings session”. There were breaks through the day, but from 9 to 5, participants were expected to attend the various meetings and be 100% committed to recovery. Saturday and Sunday had meetings scheduled as well, but they are allowed to have a visitor on these two days.

I spent about 20 minutes with the program manager, Mani, and he explained further the successes and struggles the sober houses are currently facing. He said there are three currently open for men, each hosting approximately 30. There too is the sober house for women, currently with six ladies using the service. The government has done little to financially support the houses and Mani tells me that the limited money they do get is used up quickly by the rent. They pay about $1600 a year for rent and there is little money left over to provide extra services to the participants. The government will come and visit and Mani told me that the vice president of Zanzibar came to the house a few months back. I asked if there was any support given and he told me that he felt it was all talk as they haven’t seen support. The goal for aid money from the government is to open up another house, and improve resources available to the recovering attics. He worries that when the government does recognize their need for financial assistance, they will look to change the program and take control of the recovery process. Mani is really proud of running a grass roots recovery program and although he wants the financial aid, he doesn’t want outsiders having too much of a voice in their recovery. The house was three bedrooms with a small kitchen and a small living space. The front and back yards had most the space and that is where most of the participants were found. Three bedrooms for the 29 people recovering from heroine to share. I asked if there are any problems or conflict, and was quickly told they do not tolerate any violence, abusive language, arguing, or raising of voices.

The meeting lasted from 7 to 8:30 and I sat quietly observing the process. We gathered in a circle and everyone had a turn at speaking about what recovery meant for them and how far along they are with their recovery. The man running the meeting read from the Narcotics Anonymous book in English, and it was quickly translated to Swahili. Of the ninety minutes, five was in English. When it came to my place in the circle to speak, I thanked everyone for inviting me into their private space, and offered words of encouragement surrounding the areas of support they are able to provide to one another. The meeting ended and I was told that I was welcome back anytime. I asked one last question at the end of the night to Mani and that was about the success rate. I said how many people out of ten succeed, he said 3. He added, if we are lucky. But like any person in a supportive role, he took a positive attitude and reassured me that even if he helped one person recover, he was proud. I thanked him for the work he does and again thanked him for allowing me to experience the sober house.

Nassor, the man who invited me to the meeting, walked me home and on our way we stopped into the second sober house. A participant from computer class greeted me and told me that he was working just like me, a volunteer he said. I asked him how long he has been volunteering for and he said a year and a half. Participants live in the house for four months, enter a recovery program for the next four months, and then return to the sober house for a minimum of four months of volunteering. Like the first house, I was welcomed back anytime, and they were trying to set a time on the spot. I told them I have a lot of work to complete for YCI, but hope to return before I leave the island.

I have worked hard teaching computer classes, and being invited to the Sober Houses showed me the participants appreciate my effort and want me to be a part of their lives. After a long week of work, it was time for the volunteers and I to head to the north beaches on the island. A lot of the beaches look the same here, beautiful white sandy beaches with turquoise water and palm trees. This beach had all that, just that much nicer though. The sand was the softest I have ever walked on and the atmosphere was special. There was a large outdoor restaurant and a place to sign up for all sorts of water activities. I casually walked to the counter more curious about prices than interested in participating, but found myself wanting to go for a dive. The man behind the counter was from England, and he phoned the neighboring resort to see if he could organize a few people to go in the early afternoon. I left his counter and arrived back over an hour later when he had found two others to go. Thankfully, I have my PADI scuba ticket, and was able to do a dive that lasted about an hour for $65. I saw so many different fish, all more colorful than the last. There were clown fish, trumpet fish, gold fish, flute fish, and I swam up to a blue spotted sting ray. The water was very clear, and the current didn’t affect our dive one bit. Everything worked out well, and it was such a treat to explore the underwater of the Indian Ocean.

I will finish up this blog with some of the challenges and experiences we as volunteers face in Tanzania. First, I would have to say the power is a major issue. We have to always have a backup plan while teaching in case a power failure, but besides teaching, it gets so hot here without power. I can handle the darkness an outage brings, but sleeping in a room that is already 30 degrees without a fan is unbearable. Next, the food! Simply put, I struggle only eating rice and beans every day. There are other options, but not always near to where I am. My home stay does a great job at making sure food is prepared, but I eat small portions as I do not enjoy the food. Water is another issue. We must drink a lot of water to stay hydrated, but the water is boring to drink and I get fed up with the taste. Luckily, I saved all my packets of Crystal Light for the last few weeks so I have been able to get the water I need in me. The Dala Dala is another area where I step way out of my comfort zone. It is difficult to get pumped for a day at work where I walk to a bus stop in 32 degree weather, oh right, the weather, I will get to that next, but I walk to the bus and get on with the other 17 people crowded into a 12 seat van. When people have to get off, we all have to shuffle over and my original seat gets changed about four times each ride. Sometimes I start in a seat that is comfortable and one that will be easy to exit, and within three stops I am somehow in the back right corner of the bus, my least favorite spot! It gets hot in the bus, and the seats mostly have lost their cushion as I have been learning more and more how to sit on what feels like nothing more than a piece of metal. The weather, well what more can I say, it’s hot, oh, and humid. Old Spice didn’t do their high endurance challenge here, as my deodorant lasts maybe 30 minutes. The rains are coming however, so I better be careful as to what I am wishing for. I share a room with another volunteer, something that I haven’t done since Camp Laurel back in 2003. Although the language of Swahili is beautiful, I often wonder what people are talking about and if the information concerns me. I have learned some of the language, but I would recommend volunteers take a course at home before coming. Every time I leave my home I have to turn on what I call politician mode, smiling and waving to the hundreds of eyes looking at me. Every move is watched here, and often their curiosity is followed up with me being called Muzugu. There is garbage all over the roads, and what garbage that has been collected is mostly found in a pile being burned. And one last thing, the noise! There is noise pollution everywhere her. It’s difficult to think sometimes. People talk really loud, and sometimes I cannot tell the difference between people talking happily or angry. If someone wants to talk to someone, they will just shout their name until they answer. Once answered, the conversation may continue from a distance. The roads area one lane each way, but honk to pass is standard here, so there is always someone honking. The mosque will play its part in noise five times a day with the call to prayer, and people seem to play music here a lot louder than back at home. There is no one to call for a noise complaint here, but the neighbor will often play music from 6 am to midnight, and by music, I mean bass. But look, I say all this honestly not complaining just stating what it is to live here as a volunteer. I understand that I give up a lot of personal comfort and space, but it is all for a great experience. In this blog alone I spoke about participating in an International Women’s Day in a foreign country, attending a Sober House, and understanding more about the government and how support is doled out. There are sacrifices, but there are massive rewards as well. I am still happy to be here, but am also keen on coming home soon. I have reached my half way point, and in 10 days from now, I will be on the move again. I will head over to Dar Es Salaam to catch up with the tour that will ultimately take me to South Africa. I have already been offered a burger with all the fixings by one reader of my blog, and I hope more people step up and take me out for wonderful food in an air conditioned restaurant when I get back home!
I will be home in less than six weeks. I am doing as everyone is telling me and enjoying every moment as I know the time will be over quickly. Thanks for everyone who has been emailing me with words of encouragement. Ha ha ha, lucky I saved this, as I am typing, I just experienced a power outage! Better get out of the house and seek out a place with power and a fan!

As an idea of how a Dala Dala drive can go, on my way here I stopped about every 13 feet to pick someone up, and the donkey that was pulling a cart managed to get to the office before I did.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Trevor in Tazania, Week 5

Programming is just flying along, as we have moved past the half way point in our classes. Although I have three classes each week of both Business and Basic Co mputer, my heart lies more with the group from the Department of Substance Abuse. Monday had us back at the Zenj Clove Cafe where we gave our participant's a sheet of paper with a set of instructions. The class unfortunately had to partner up again due to a lack of functioning computers, but they were able to work together to get through the assignment. For the first time, I was not frantically running from computer to computer demonstrating how to use a mouse or open Word, but casually walked the room behind each computer ensuring the correct steps were being taken. There are still many questions, but I am learning more an more that the discovery method of teaching works best here. When I simply show a task, they will comprehend the command, but ask me the same question the next class. Now, when a question is asked, I will go over to the computer and ask them how to preform the tasks one by one. When asked, "how do I change the color of the title?", the answer is no longer shown to them rather I will ask "what do you do before changing any text in Microsoft Word?" I look on the screen and see the cursor move to highlight the text. Once it is highlighted, the cursor will move to the "A" filled with color in the Home tab, and shortly after, I notice the text change from a standard black to say blue. A smile fills their face as they realize their capabilities on the computer. They know how to work through the issues they are having on the computer, and it is important for me not to solve all their problems anymore. My confidence rises with each class that participants will be able to work together to create Word documents they want, I now just need their confidence to rise quickly as I only have three more weeks with them. We made the assignment slightly more manageable in hopes more people would finish, and it worked. Because they were able to complete the worksheet, they were smiling and I had adults coming up to me explaining how proud of themselves they were to be able to finish. Monday was a success all around, and Tuesday and Wednesday's classes were used to review the materials so that next Monday will go even smoother.

Quite the opposite approach has been working in Business Computers. Kanny and I have changed our teaching style in an attempt to have the participants become more engaged in the class. We beging the class showing all the skills we hope they can learn in Power Point for example on the projector screen, followed with an assignment sheet with everything we went over in the first 15 minutes of class. For the most part, participants in this class only need to see how the task is done once, and then enjoy spending time on their personal computers practicing the skill. This week Power Point assignments were given, and by the end of class on Wednesday, they were doing a mock slide show presentation for the class. Kanny and I stressed the importance of having each slide look professional, and it was exciting to watch a presenation with pictures, annimations, and transitions properly used. Friday was day one of Excel, and the class was used to demonstrate many of the functions used in Excel. Monday's class will have the participants copy tables and use the sort and function options.

Environmental Programming this week was very exciting. Alysha and I were invited to a remote village about a 45 minute drive from our office. We passed by hundreds of palm trees, a construction zone, even had our driver accidently hit the rooster trying to make his way across the road before arriving at the village. We were greated by the "large" and "small" leaders of the community along with about four others that were participating in environmental initatives. I walked into a building made of cement blocks about a foot high each. I counted thirteen up the wall before focusing on the tin roof supported by pieces of wood wrapped with string. There were four window size openings on the feature wall, with about a foot between each opening. No glass, screens, or anything in the window, just open air coming into the area used as the office. I took my shoes off before entering and sat on a mat layed out on the floor. An introduction demonstrated the language barrier, as the people of the village did not know enough English for us to effectively communicate. Our translator was unable to explain the concepts to us as well, so the leader handed me two pieces of paper with Swahili writing on it. They were neatly tied together through the top hole punch by a piece of fabric, and I was told to take the paper back to my office to later translate. The English words we did understand were, trees, beans, and fish. Alysha asked what did they want from us specifically, the environmental issue our translator told us was they needed to purchase a cow to transport trees from two miles away. Not exactly the programming we were hoping for, but maybe the letter will expain their needs in greater detail. Quickly, we realized this meeting was not going anywhere, and the leader asked to show us around his community instead. I discovered that "beans" was not beans, but bees. They showed us hives they had set up spread over many acres of land. The small leader put her finger to her mouth and sushed us as we neared the hive to ensure we didn't disturb the bees. As it turns out, the community relies on sales of honey to neighbouring communities. As we walked, I wondered how long it would take us to get to the river the leader mentioned where the fish are. I didn't hear any water near by, and knew the ocean was far, I was confused. We stopped at a hut however, and discovered a cement structure with four walls about five feet tall. A look inside showed about six inches of water in what was now known as a tank. The leader grabbed a stick and began stiring the dark brown muddy water. Fish began to break the surface from frustration of being stabbed at. Our translator explained how the community needs to learn more about raising fish and need to develop ways to ensure the water remains clean. He explained how the fish feed off left over rice and bread. The tank was only about three and a half feet wide by about six feet long, but we were told there are 120 fish in the tank. Don't know what we as YCI volunteers are going to support this community with in terms of environmental issues, but it was an amazing learning experience to witness how the community is living off the land while creating strategies to create a better life for themselves. After a photo and thanks all around, we were given a bottle of honey as a parting gift. Each of us were to put our finger in the ketchup shaped jar and try the honey infront of the audience of nine community members. I was thinking how I could put on my best smile and say how much I liked it regardless of the taste, but after licking the honey from my finger, I honestly was pleasently surprised as the honey was very good. We were welcomed back anytime and their smiling faces sent us on our way. Our second environmental meeting was much more structure and was at our office. The partner organization described their needs with planting trees, but welcomed our eagerness to address the issues of waste management on the island. For the sake of trying to keep this blog somewhat short, I will get into these issues more next week. It does however seem promising for YCI volunteers to bring their ideas forward to this organization in hopes of spreading further awareness and education to surrounding communities on waste management issues.

The weekend was very exciting as the volunteers and I booked a trip to Prison Island. In what I call a forty foot canoe, we slowly moved towards our destination. Powered by a 15 horsepower engine, we fought the three foot waves and only looked ahead to more white-capped waves. Our first stop was just off the coast of a really small uninhabited island. The would be 30 minute transport took closer to 50, but we got there safely. We spend just over an hour using our snorkels to view the beautiful coral reefs below. There were so many different species of fish below us it was difficult to count them all. My favorite was viewing the giant clams that would change color as I swam towards them. There were creatures which had on average 10 inch spikes from their ball like bodies, so I stayed well away from those. Their color was black, with some small areas of red, but I found them to be the most beautiful creatures in this area. From there we swam back to the boat and fought the waves again for another 30 minutes or so where I did nothing but regret not taking a Gravol. I think the others did too, as the boat ride over was VERY quite. Prison island was beautiful and filled full of history too. The island was used to keep slaves before being sent out to European countries. We explored the prison cells and saw the gate that linked the prison to the ocean. The gate was called the gate with no return, for once a person went through the gate they would be used as a slave and not be able to return to thier homeland and families. It was a sad time for us, but the history is important. Also on the island are giant turtles. We spent a lot of time feeding the turtles cabbage, and we all enjoyed our time petting their long necks. There are over one hundred turtles on the island and the oldes one was 150 years. What a great experience! The day was crazy hot, and our time and energy were done. We made it back to our island and spent the rest of the day relaxing at Stone Town cafe. Sunday was spent exploring the market, and I spend a great deal of my budget buying all sorts of interesting things from Tanzania. I have taken on the ambitious task of reading a book titled The State of Africa, written by Martin Meredith, so hopefully when I get back I will know just that much more about what is happening on this continent!. Another week down!

Next week, we are programming more for International Women's Day (March 8th) and will continue with Computer and Environmental Programming. We are realizing how fast our last three weeks will go, so we are all trying to enjoy our time together to the fullest. Thanks for reading my blog, and I miss you all very much!


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Trevor in Tazania, Week 4

The weekend of the 12th began with us volunteers taking in the Sauti za Busara Music Festival. The buzz around Zanzibar was that this music festival is one of the best put on in all of Africa, and judging from the crowds of tourists we encountered throughout StoneTown, this was true. After enjoying our dinner of Zanzibar Pizza in the night market, we arrived at a fort, where the event was being held. I walked in first and asked the man at the door the admission price for the night. He responded, “Are you from Zanzibar, or just visiting?” I thought the answer was fairly obvious, but appreciated his politeness. If I was a resident, the price was 2500 shillings, or about $1.70, as a visitor to the island, the price was 25000 shillings, or about 17 Canadian. I tried to explain that I shouldn’t have to pay the visitor price, as I confidently told him I am not just visiting, rather living and working here (everything is up for barganing here). I asked for a deal and he agreed to a two for one price. I grabbed the closet volunteer friend I could find, Alysha, and tried to bring her through the gate with me. After a hand shake that saw 25000 shillings transfer hands, we were in, half price! We entered at about 6pm and danced and enjoyed the music until midnight. We watched three bands onstage and they all put on quite a show. A variety of unique instruments were used, and the dancing was spectacular to watch. It was such a great time that we went back on Sunday and took in another few bands. My weekend was action packed with great music and new friends surrounding me, I even managed to get up on stage during the Sunday show to show off some of my dance moves. Don't worry, there is a video of that episode that I am sure I will share when I get back home!

The volunteering for YCI has been going really well, and we have reached the half way point in programming. Kanny, Fatma and I had our third practical session on Monday and challenged the participants to create an exact copy of a Word document we made for them. Their delimmas are still present, but we didn't have to show anyone how to open Word, and there wasn't any issues using the mouse either, so progress is being seen! Business computers has been a fun and interesting class to teach as well. We are learning that although the materials we are teaching are somewhat advanced, the process of teaching the professionals remains slow. Many people have brought their lap top computers to class and it is nice to have them follow our actions we put on thoverhead projector. That is when the overhead projector works, as power outages and connection problems remain an element to overcome. The class is very shy, but once we show new ways to use a program they have been using for years, they become excited and ask a lot of questions. The participants hold high positions within local NGO's and it is exciting teaching a room filled with the people that are working hard to create positive change on the island. Environmental programming has been comming along as well and Alysha and I have created a draft proposal for YCI to work with local partner organizations. We used composting as an example of how YCI volunteers would like to spread awareness and educate citizens on Zanzibar about environmental issues. We have researched the benefits of composting and have begun addressing many of the current issues surrounding waste management on the island. So many days here I find myself feeling a little off, and it is mostly because of the poor air quality. Plastics, papers, and anything that could burn gets burned here. There are days where the burning is really bad and Alysha and I are really eager to leave some programming behind that may begin to change the way in which people handle their garbage. Next Thursday, we will be visiting a few partner organizations to find out more specific environmental needs, and will determine the governments position of waste management on the island. It is really easy for me to tell people not to burn all their garbage, but it's not about telling them what not to do, it is about providing plausable alternatives and at this point I certainly don't have those answers. I do look forward to meeting the partners however, and hope to begin finding some of the answers that are desperately needed. I only have a month remaining so, for now, it's more about leaving something behind for the next group of volunteers to take to the next level.

Monday night had me with Mr. Victor, as he wanted me to call him, is Nyla's school teacher and he invited me to attend one of his night courses to interact with his students. Nyla is Damtu's daughter and lives at my homestay. Nyla wouldn't be in this class, and I was truly on my own to attend this meeting. I didn't know what I was getting into, but Mr. Victor tried to calm my nerves and helped me feel comfortable. We rode the Dala Dala together and arrived at a small language school in a nearby village. I entered the room and was greated by the class that was just getting out of session. They asked me where I was from, and then didn't waste any time getting to the more difficult questions. I was asked about the issues I saw facing Zanzibar, and was questioned about HIV and AIDS staticistics as well as why the European Union wasn't contributing enough to the development of Africa. I certainly didn't have all the answers, and selected my words very carefully. One participant, George, caught my eye. He was more of the funny guy in class, but his english was strong and he wanted to chat more with me one on one. He explained his struggles with pursuing further education, and talked about the difficulties obtaining employment on the island. He told me he was registered in the night course to learn enough english to work for a hotel in StoneTown. He told me he was lucky because he knew the owner of the language school and didn't have to pay to attend the classe. His fear was that regardless of learning english and aquiring job skills, there simply isn't many jobs for him to apply to. I enjoyed my time with him, as it seemed he has a lot of drive to do what is needed to move forward here, but he does have an uphill battle ahead. Later, I took his phone number and was able to connect him to Shaib so that he can possibly register for a basic computer course ran though YCI the next time a group of volunteers is here. He was excited for the opportunity and hopefully it will help him continue to fight for what he wants out of life. Mr. Victor ended my time with George and brought me back to the classroom that was now filled with about forty participants. He introduced me to the class and I was welcomed by having two students sing to me. The first was a boy, and he sang about half of what I thought was a hip hop song. The next was a girl, and she sang Celine Dion's Because You Love Me. She did her best, but it was a very difficult song to sing, but I appreciated the effort never-the-less. This class continued with the questions the first class had. They asked me what I truly thought of Zanzibar and questioned the education system in Canada. They wondered what history of Africa I was taught and asked a lot of questions about the support a Canadian girl would receive if she became pregnant in high school. Here, she would be expelled from school. I was questioned about condom use, and one guy in the back stated that they are just a piece of rubber that doesn't actually work. It was an overwhelming experience, but I feel that I handled myself very well. I have been struggling to know if my answers were helpful to them, but as Mr. Victor told me later, it was more important for the class to be able to ask questions, hear my accent, and mimic the english I used. These were strong young Tanzanians and although I was put in a tough situation, I learned so much about their issues and ours.

I have been enjoying myself here too, and it hasn't been all volunteering and attending meetings. Wednesday was a holiday here so we had the day completely off. I went for lunch at an Italian restaurant and enjoyed a plate of pasta. All the volunteers joined Charles and I at our homestay for the movie The Hangover, which had about 40 minutes cut out due to sensorship. Saturday the 19th was a great day as we booked a spice tour. I met a tour guide when I was at the music festival who simply named himself as Mr. Octopus. I had heard that past YCI volunteers have used his services and took his number down. He gave us a good price and he extended what would have been a 4 hour spice tour into a 7 hour trip that had us exploring a slave cave and the beach along with providing lunch at the spice tour. I took about 100 photos through the day and learned a lot about the various spices grown here on the island. The cinnamon tree was my favorite! Looking forward to our weekends ahead include an opportunity to scuba dive or snorkel, as well as taking a trip to Prison Island where slaves were once held before being sent to european and north amrican countries. There is a lot of history in Africa, both rich and poor in nature. I love the learning process I am going though here and am excited for Prision Island and all the other history lessons. Plus, there are giant turtles I will get to meet close up on the island! The beach is always beautiful and the volunteers hope to continue to explore those on the weekends as well. Only four more weekends before I lose the group though, so we are trying to pack it all in! I try my best to capture the past weeks adventures into the blog, and hope everyone is enjoying it. I miss Canada a lot, and to be honest, mostly miss the food! I will continue to take many photos and post them on Facebook or the blog when I get a chance. It takes about 20 minutes to upload a photo under the best situation, and sharing the internet with five other volunteers makes it difficult to get them online. I miss you all and thank you so much for reading my blog and supporting me!

Love, Love, Love


Friday, February 11, 2011

Trevor in Tanzania, week three!

Week three! I can hardly believe it!
Another week has passed and the classes are in full swing. Basic computers remains to be just that, basic, but the participants are showing much promise. On Monday, the class went to the Internet Café to have a practical session. I created an assignment for the class to work off of during their time on the computer. The questions were instructions to produce a paper on Microsoft Word that was identical to the one I had given them. Step one; write the date at the top right hand side of the page. But wait, I forgot, to get to step one, they have to know how to open a new Word document. I went around the room, as did Kanny and our local volunteer Fatma, and placed my hand over so many of theirs simply to show how the mouse works on the screen. The participants were reluctant to move the mouse quickly, but slowly warmed up to it by practicing moving the cursor on the home screen. There were more problems than just opening a word document too. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t doing the work for them, and stood patiently in the room that was easily 35 degrees. I look up to see at least five fans on the ceiling of which only one was turning at half power. I mentioned this to Kanny and she replied something to the effect of, “are you sure you want them on, look at the dust on them.” A closer look told me the fan blades were actually meant to be white, not the black I initially thought they were. There was a major language barrier between myself and the owner of the shop as well, and I wasn’t about to waste my time explaining personal discomfort. There are about twenty computers in the café, but today, only about twelve were working. We managed to partner up everyone, which I think helped in the long run anyways because they were able to help each other through their issues, but even then the room was crowded. I felt so sorry for one participant. He shows up first to every class including this one. The first computer he sat on was having troubles signing in, so I asked him to move to another computer. After about ten minutes of him trying, he put up his hand and asked for help opening Word. I tried, but only to discover that Word wasn’t going to work on that particular computer. Now he was moved to his third computer. When he opened word and began typing, the document took on a life of its own and wouldn’t respond to any of the commands we were trying to give it. He was only able to do a small number of things, but he took it well and is eager to learn for the next time. His example was just one of many challenges we had at the café. One computer simply turned itself off with about fifteen minutes to go; leaving two guys making great progress left just sitting there wondering how this happened. The challenges with the mouse continued for many, as there were no mouse pads, and the space to move the mouse around was very limited. For some, when the mouse on the desk ran out of space to move, they thought the cursor wouldn’t be able to move higher. I had to show them how to lift the mouse and put it back down on the table. With challenges come successes however and the class started to move forward quite well. Kanny, Fatma, and I moved around the class without a moments rest for the entire sixty minutes. Hands went up every time I made eye contact with someone and the learning process was in full swing. One man, Jackson, was able to complete the document with about ten minutes remaining in class. He then switched places with his partner on the computer and showed the new user how to move through the functions. There is a large discrepancy between the knowledge they claim to have learned during theory classes and their abilities during practical. We make it look so easy when we are teaching that they too think the process will be easy. It is not for them however, and we have already adapted our teaching style to ensure they are getting the most from every class. Practical session was yet another amazing experience here for me. I care for my class a great deal and am working hard to ensure their success.
When leaving class on Tuesday, I was invited by some of the participants to a fundraiser event that night. The cost was $50 a ticket, and it included a dinner and some entertainment. I was eager to learn so much more about the problems facing people with addictions problems on the island, and was also curious to see how the issues were being addressed. This was my chance to show my class how much I supported their recovery, while I would learn so much more about the issues affecting Zanzibar. I was told the fundraiser starts at 6:30 and put on my nicest outfit here to attend. The event was WAY richer than I thought it would be. There were government officials present, including the Minister of Health, Minister of Education, and the Minister of Tourism and Sport I believe. I was under dressed and felt it immediately. The women were wearing extravagant dresses and the press was there to document the event. Although I showed up at 6:30, no one else came until about quarter to eight. I sat nervously along the wall which overlooked the Indian Ocean. Waves crashed below me as the tide was coming in over the beautiful white sand. A student from computer class arrived, and my anxieties eased. At least now I would have someone to show me around and explain what was happening. His name is Sabri, and to be honest, a favorite class participant of mine. Sabri is the guy that enters the room and everyone wants to talk to him. That was demonstrated at the event, as Sabri was mingling with some of the higher ups immediately. He was keen to introduce me to them as well, and made me feel very comfortable being there. He explained the issues he had with the event however, and said that he felt the government officials and the people at the event were just making a business out of recovering attics and they didn’t know the real issues. He felt this way because many of them were not actively involved with their recovery process, and he felt they can’t relate to the problem. There was an open bar at the event and that seemed unfavorable to put in front of substance abuse victims as well. It is a fundraiser never the less though, and it was nice to see so many people there. I sat at the table with people from my class, as well as some other people I had the opportunity to meet. Some of them were running sober houses on the island and were proud to tell me that there are now five sober houses on the island. I took down Mani’s number, the man who runs sober house number one, and hope to get Shaib and the group of volunteers to go and do a visit of the house during our stay here. There is so much passion and energy into what these men and women are doing, and I support their efforts 100%. There is even a woman in my class who was successful in opening the first woman only sober house on the island which currently has six participants. I was able to meet the mastermind behind the sober houses as well. He was an incredible man with an incredible story. Eight years as a heroine user before quitting and trying to help so many others through recovery. He spoke to the issues so well when he addressed the large professional crowd. The table I was at was cheering and giving him words of encouragement throughout the speech, and he ended up inviting them up onstage to introduce them and tell what sober house they were involved with. Their faces lit up, and it was a proud moment for a group of people that haven’t seen many great moments lately due to their past drug habits. A moment with Sabri had me ask him where he sees his life going from here. He simply said to me, “my life is in gods hands now; I have made all the wrong choices in life, so it is time for god to show me my direction.” The twelve step program is heavily used though the sober house program, and religion is a large part of many people’s lives on the island. I hope for Sabri in the way that he rebuilds confidence enough to make great live decisions in the future.
The rest of the week went well. Business Computers started and it was very much interesting to learn the difference between business computers back home and here. The first class had us open a Word document and show the participants the uses of the header and footer. Next we showed how to properly enter a cover page, and how to insert a new page rather than hitting enter a bunch of times to get to the page below. Proper insertion of pages numbers was shown too, and the class used the full hour practicing the new commands. The next class had us go over inserting a table of contents, and how to insert citations into a document. Some of the proof reading options were covered as well.
Week two of Environmental programming continued, and Alysha and I have been learning the challenges of creating a new program for YCI. We are focused in on one particular area now, that is a composting campaign, and are looking for resources to create a proposal to hand out to the partner organizations. We are working closely with YCI and hope to continue creating a product that will be used by many volunteers here in Tanzania.
So, I am certainly starting to miss the luxuries of home. I have been rationing the Cliff bars that I brought down, and have one for every three days that I am here. They taste amazing! I have been getting more and more into the food here, and have been eating a lot more fish. A lot of the fish that shows up on the table is smaller than my pinkie finger, with the head and tail still on it. It takes some getting used to, but they are quite good when really hungry. The treats, food wise, here come sporadically, and the rice and beans have become the norm. Alysha found some cookies that are like Oreos, and I enjoyed every bite of it. They sell bottles of pop here, and drinking from one makes me feel I am living in the 1920’s. The return system here is strange. I bought a bottle of pop for 1000 TSH, or about 65 cents Canadian. That same bottle of Coke say will cost me 600 TSH, or about 40 cents, if I have a bottle to replace the one I am using. So basically I got 400 TSH as a refund. However, if I take a bottle to a store and ask for 400 TSH for it, I will get nothing. There is no return for bottles, rather replacement. Odd.
I found a pool table outside under a tarp near a local store. During my walk toward home the other day, I went over to see the action. I asked how much and was told 500 (35 cents), a game. There were four people ahead of me waiting for a game, but the crowd of about twenty wanted to see me play. I didn’t want to be rude and instead sat to watch them play. After the game was over, a man approached me and insisted I play next. I pulled out 500 and took the cue. A man came out from the background and grabbed the other stick, I had an opponent. I asked if they brought out their best, and someone told me “yes, he is very good.” I haven’t shot pool in a while, and was worried about my skill at the table. The balls were smaller, and the pockets were too. I would have to adjust my playing style to hold my own. The man wanted me to break, but I insisted he did. He didn’t make one and I started to hear people in the crowd say “Mzungu!” This means white person. They were interested in me, and I was for some reason nervous to play a game I have been playing for years. I made my first shot and felt good about it before barely missing the second. He missed, and then I missed again. Now he showed his skill, making four balls in a row before just missing a ball in the side pocket. I made three in a row to counter his effort, and the game was tight. I had a long cut into the corner pocket and knew I wouldn’t make it. For some reason I took it anyways, and the cue ball bounced off the far wall after hitting my ball, and bumped the eight ball into the side pocket. The game was over! I gave a huge smile and thanked them for the game. I wanted to win so badly and show them my skill. It was a very fun experience and one I will remember every time I shoot pool back home.
My heel has been improving every day, but I do walk with some discomfort. With each day it does get better, and I really hope I get the chance to play soccer with some locals before I go. My bigger issue was the sunburn I got from the beach on Saturday. It was the worst burn I have had in my life. It made the small burn on my back feel like nothing. I lost range of motion in my ankle because the skin became leathery and swollen. I found a tub of water and have been soaking my feet every day since Saturday. The burn has recovered with only a few blisters, and the lesson has been learned. I am not coming home with the tan I had hoped to have; it simply isn’t worth fighting against the African sun!
Receiving phone calls and emails from home has been such a treat. I am able to connect with Stephanie often, and really enjoy that support! My aunt Jackie and Uncle Stan, you might remember them from my fundraiser event at the curling club, surprised me with a call this week and it was very nice to hear from loved ones. Thanks again for all of those reading my blog and making me feel connected to home. Please post comments, and write about things you would like to know more about while I am here. I have so much to write, and try and keep it as interesting as possible for you all. I miss everyone so much and look forward to seeing everyone in two months.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A day exploring Stone Town

My shower


Some boys playing at the beach


Group lunch at the beach on the east coast of Zanzibar

Me taking in the beach

I am trying to get more photos on here, but the internet connection is weak and it takes a long time. I will try as the week continues and blogs continue.

Tanzania Week 2

Jambo! Habarni? (How are you?)

The beautiful language of Swahili is spoken in about five countries in Eastern Africa. The language originated in Tanzania, and is used in Kenya, Zambia, Uganda, and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I have been in Tanzania for almost two weeks now and have started to pick up on words spoken in Swahili. I learned how to thank people (Asanti), and being the Canadian I am, learned how to say sorry, Poli (the i is pronounced as an e sound). With each passing day, at least one new word is entered into my vocabulary. I have learned the numbers, and after a few minutes of thinking, I can say any number between 1 and 10'000. This is helpful because most of the items I have been purchasing cost under 10'000 Shillings. On many occasions, I have had to tell the shopkeeper "Pole Pole," asking for him or her to slow down their speach in hopes of me handing over the correct amount of money.

I took my new language skills into the classroom, as programming started this week. Monday was designated to plan the week of classes and we divided ourselves up in pairs for each course. The courses we are offering here are basic english, intermediate english, basic computers, intermediate computers, business computers, a class on HIV and AIDS education, as well as programming for environment initatives. I drew the basic and business computer classes, and will work on environmental programming as well. The basic computer course runs three days a week consisting of two days of theory and one day of practical. Alysha, a volunteer from Vancouver, teaches the course on Tuesdays with me and Kanny, from Montreal, will teach on Mondays and Wednesdays. The course is offered through the Department of Substance Abuse and runs for eight weeks. The class consists of members of the community who are clean and sober and are working hard to get their lives back on track. During the first class, I asked the participants to go around the room and introduce themselves. My translator, Fatma, a twenty year old local volunteer, gave the simple instructions and around the room we went. Each and every one identified themselves followed by a title of "recovering attic." It was a moment I will never forget in my life. I introduced myself and tried to make it as clear as possible just how much I wanted to be there to help them learn computer skills. A warm Karibuni Sana followed my speach, meaning I am most welcome. Alysha, Kanny, and I prepared a pre-test for the class and did this for two reasons. First, we wanted to know their level of computer knowledge, and second, we want to compare the results of the exam from the first class to the last to track their progress. The test consisted of 23 questions. Six questions were labeling parts of the computer, the next ten were multiple choice, and the exam finished with seven matching questions. The highest mark for the class was slightly over 50% and the class average was 23%. I asked, by a show of hands, how many people have used a keyboard before? Two of the twenty two people put their hand up. We have a lot of work to do.

The second class is business computers. Kanny and I are working together on this course and we are the first YCI volunteers to run the course. The goal here is to teach the volunteers and staff of the local partner orginazations computers at a higher level. Powerpoint, Excell, Microsoft Word, and Outlook are going to be key areas of study. These people know computers, but want to know the finer points of a variety of programs and want to feel comfortable creating professional documents. The class will begin on Monday, so, for now, Kanny and I are working on a pre-test and course outline. My third job is environmental programming. Fridays at 9am, Alysha and I work together to determine what enviornmental issues Zanzibar is currently facing, and how can we create a course to teach others about awareness and the steps individuals can take to have less of an environmental impact on the island. This is a huge topic to take on, but we will work with partner organizations over the next eight weeks and try to come up with something special to leave behind. As a start, we are trying to come up with a composting campaign or education around recycling. We also hope to work with a partner organization in hopes of doing a day to clean up the local beaches.

Alright, I have to go back to the experience of teaching the students at the Department of Substance Abuse. Just to give an idea of the level we are teaching at I will highlight some of the things covered in the first week of class. First, we gave a handout with a photo of a monitor, printer, microphone, mouse, keyboard, and a disk drive on it. The first time going over the terms, the class mumbled the words and were hesitatnt to confidently say the answer. After two days of repeating the words, the entire class say the words aloud as I point to the pictures. Success! It was then time to teach a few more words: icon, cursor, start button, tower or central processing unit, and on button. We went over the keyboard and mouse and the two topics took 45 minutes to teach. I am learning the importance of patients, as it is sometimes hard for me to stand in front of the class and think did it really just take 10 minutes to expain the functions of a shift key. My expectations are high for the class however, and I will work very hard to have all the students feel comfortable turning on a computer, opening and using a Word document, the Internet, and have all the students comfortable sending and receiving emails. I mentioned to the class that one of our goals was to get everyone an email address, they began to clap, cheer, and say Asanti Sana (Thank you much). I have never imagined a life without being able to connect with family and friends at the click of a button. Our third class covered the basics of Microsoft Word. We learned how to open Word, use the keyboard to type sentences, use bold and italics, and centre text using the paragraph tab. Working with a translator slows the pace of the class down, but it is very helpful to ensure everything we are saying is understood by the class. The class is teaching me Swahili words, numbers, and colors as we go, and I try to use Swahili in my class to show them how the learning for both of us.

Friday night the group of volunteers went to Stone Town and checked out the night market. There is at least one lantern at every table, and the entire market had about 30 tables. This area had more tourists around, and we were able to meet a few Amerians who are studying at the university in Dar Es Salaam. I ate a "Zanzibar Pizza" filled with chicken, egg, and a bunch of vegetables. I also tried sugar cane juice. The sugar cane is put into a press and the man at the market turns the wheel and the juice runs down a tray into the bucket below. I had a large glass for under one dollar. I have begun to open up more about my eating habits and have now tried shark and have eaten the fish that shows up at the table as a full fish. Lots and lots of rice and beans here and I eat a lot of bread. I found a store that sells Mars bars and I have been treating myself after work to one of those. The mangos are amazingly fresh. When we cut into one there is a mess of juice. I have drank a lot of fresh juices and have stopped on many occasions to enter a restaurant type place just to sit down and have a glass of juice.

Laundry is something that I will no longer complain about when I get home. I spent two and a half hours learning how to do my first load of laundry. My homestay mother, Damtu, watched my every move and simply couldn't resist taking over the job in an effort to help me. I filled up a tub of water, put in a bunch of soap and began washing. She showed me the best technique and she was able to do a shirt in about a fifth of the time it took me. The water becomes dirty fast, so it took many refills to get the clothes washed. Then the process was repeated during the rinse. I had to mimic the washing process but without soap this time. Then, a second rinse finishing the wash process. I hung up all the clothes and hours later was able to fold and put them away. Now, I wash a shirt after I use it so that I don't have to spend hours of my weekend labouring over a bucket of laundry. Never knew how physically exhausting laundry could be.

The main religion on the island is Islamic. A great number of the population is Islamic, and there is a strong Middle Eastern influence here. Friday is the day of warship for Islamic people, much like Christians use Sundays. Every day of the week there are five calls to prayer throughout the day. The first, 5 am. I have been using earplugs at night to get a good night sleep, but often I am still awoken by the call to prayer. The Mosques become filled with men who face north to pray. The women pray from home. I am slowly learning about religion and am very much interested in learning more in the coming weeks. Throughout the day I will see people kneeling on their prayer mat thoughout the village. Work comes second to religion.

No matter where in the world I am, I want to make sure it's not all work and no play. Not only me, but the entire group was looking forward to a Saturday off. Alysha took the lead and planned a day at the beach on the east coast of the island. We hired a driver for the day and each threw in about $7. He drove us for about an hour and we arrived at a beach I have only seen in travel magazines. The warm light blue water smacked against the pure white sand. I had made it to the Indian Ocean! I dove in and played in the water like a kid for some time. I took in as much sun as I could handle, which I later found out was too much to handle as I am now burnt from head to toe, and enjoyed lunch at a restaurant on the beach. I took photos until the low battery light flashed, everything needed to be captured. The day was spectacular and provided a much needed break from the daily routine of life on the island. I learned that where I am living isn't actually called Zanzibar rather Unguja. Zanzibar is the entire collection of islands. The largest of the islands is Unguja, and the second is Pemba, a place I hope to go to soon. Apparently there is amazing scuba diving there and I hope I get a chance to try it out.

Alright, I will leave this blog with a quick story that happened to me here. I was walking from the office toward the dala dala stop when I realized I needed more credits for my phone. I entered a small business and asked for "Airtell", the provider I am using. The standoff began. She didn't understand a word I was saying and nor did I her. Long story short, I purchased 5000 Shillings worth of credit or about $3 worth just so that I could leave the store and everyone would be happy. I was looking at my useless credits when I was approached by two men. They were wearing tribal outfits and were very much interested in talking to me. They didn't speak a word of english, not a word. I didn't know this going into our conversation however, and tried my best to communicate with them. One pulled out a cell phone and pointed at my phone as if we were playing some sort of matching game. I smiled and they started talking really quickly in a language that didn't sound anything like Swahili. They pointed at the phone credits I had just purchased and for some reason I was trying to get their help using the card. I handed one card over to them and they proceeded to give me high five. I guess I just donated 1000 Shillings worth of credit. Quickly, I realized that this was where I was going to get rid of the rest of the credit and handed over the other 4000. They began dancing, laughing, and proceded to give me a lot of high fives. The situation blew my mind. The men looked to be tribal and yet had cell phones. We couldn't use words, but a connection was clearly made. They got the better end of the deal financially, but I now have a story for life. I walked into the next available store and purchaced the proper phone credits. When I was in that shop, I was again the centre of attention. I walk into a place and it goes quiet for about 30 seconds. After the silence, there is sometimes, and in this case, a sentance spoken followed by laughter. I heard the english word credit, and was thinking they were guessing my pupose in the store. I waited for the lady behind the counter to ask me if she could help me, and to satisfy the crowd, I made sure I asked specifically for credit. The people behind me all started to laugh, and I couldn't help but laugh myself. I knew they were making fun of me, but not in a mean way. After the lady gave me the cards I needed I said "Asanti Sana" and turned toward the group of youth. When they heard me attempt Swahili they began laughing again, but this time a voice spoke in english. He said, "ah, you are good." I laughed with the group and left the store. There never is a dull moment here, and that specific moment reminded me not to take everything so personally. They were having a laugh at my expence, but I was able to laugh with them and recognize the comdey in the experience. There is no room for getting my back up here against people. Everyone I have met is friendly, and we are all laughing together.

Life isn't always spectacular living in a developing country. There are many moments each day that make me very excited and happy to be here, but, on the other hand, there are moments that make me think about home. I know I have a lot of love and support there, and it helps greatly moving forward. The smaller frustrations wear off quickly however because everytime I leave the homestay or office I am being watched by so many people. The locals are very much interested in my presence, and I have to make sure that I am always smiling and saying Jambo to the children. Their smiling faces remind me why I am here and whatever small stresses I have quickly fade away. Whenever I am in a dala dala, taxi, or bus, I can look out the window to notice someone staring in my direction. When I first arrived here, it made me feel really uncomfortable. But now, I know the people are curious as to who I am, and the look is almost always now followed by a wave or a thumbs up. I catch myself laughing out loud a lot here, as it is truly a special place to be. Thanks for everyone leaving messages on the blog and to my hotmail and facebook. Everyones support means a lot to me here!

Next week I jump into the thick of programming and attend a few practical sessons with the students. Thanks for reading, I miss everyone a bunch, but am happy and safe here! Setting the alarm for 4:30 am, as I am going to try and track down a fuzzy cable channel to watch the Packers kick Pittsburg in the Super Bowl. Don't bet on it though, I am horrible at predictions!