For some good stuff to counteract my last post:
It rained a decent amount today! This was exciting and surprising because the rainy season is supposed to be over by now, rain at the end of May is very unusual in this part of Tanzania. I love when it rains here, mostly because it's a source of water. You see, I don't have running water in my house, so all my water has to be hauled from a tap about a three minute walk away. Well, three minutes the way there. Lugging 20 liters of water makes the way back take quite a bit more time, and really makes my hands hurt. It's not the weight so much as the fact that all the weight is pressed across my hand on the same spot, since I have to hold the buckets by the handle. Tanzanian women can carry the buckets on their heads, but I don't know how to do that, and anyway apparently it's really bad for your back long-term.
So when it rains, I can just catch the run-off from the roof, and don't have to carry water, or get someone else to carry it for me. (I either do this by paying someone or making a student do it as punishment. But finding someone to carry it is also a hassle.)
Also, of course, rain water is extremely pure (Tanzania's not developed enough to have enough pollution for any sort of smog problems, especially since I live in a rural area). Theoretically I could drink it straight without boiling it first, but since I am catching the run-off from the roof, I boil the rain water before drinking it, in case anything from my roof got into it.
But the rain water's still a lot better, because the water that comes from the tap is very hard. It's temporarily hard, which means that when I boil it, the deposits separate from the water. So a lot of yellow-white stuff settles at the bottom of the bucket, and also builds up on my water boiler. (I have this little coil I can put into a bucket that boils the water-- which I need to do now, but can't, because it requires electricity. Another reason to be annoyed by that.) Anyway, the tap water leaves a buildup on my water boiler coil that's really hard to clean off, while rain water leaves it nice and clean (and even tends to chip the buildup so that I can easily pull chunks of it off).
So the rain was a very good thing that happened today!
Also, I'm very glad I have two computers, because the other one I was using is out of charge (well, I don't let it get completely out of charge, I turn it off when it gets around 15%). Now I'm using the bigger one, whose battery doesn't last quite as long. But I still get a lot more computer use during electricity problems than if I'd been a reasonable person who doesn't take two computers with her to rural Africa! (Though by now, when I've finished this post and am about to publish it, this computer's almost out of batteries as well. Oh, well. I might actually be able to sleep soon, and if I can, it'll help me get on a reasonable schedule for Monday.)
Yesterday (or I guess, as of about 20 minutes ago, the day before yesterday) was my students' last day of finals. So next week, I'll be grading their finals (they call them “terminal examinations”) and compiling the data, as well as choosing five girls for the Girls' Empowerment Conference that will be happening in this town in late June. (Sadly, I won't be able to be there because the dates conflict with my visit to America, but I'll be doing everything I can to help organize it until I leave.) I also have to find a female teacher who will be willing to chaperone without being paid. After that, school's out until mid-July!
Oh, wow, I haven't mentioned my trip to America here on the blog yet, have I? Well, I'm going to visit my parents in the USA from mid June to early July. Trust me, nobody was more surprised by this development than I was! We made the decision mid-April, while I was at Peace Corps In-Service Training. Literally, about two days after I found out that there was even the slightest, tiniest possibility it could happen sometime in my two years here, it was decided that it would be happening in two months. I was on the phone with my mom, and I just mentioned-- I swear to the gods I wasn't even attempting to hint at anything-- that I was surprised by how many Peace Corps Volunteers visit home during their service. (As I said, I was at training, so saw and talked to a bunch of PCVs I hadn't seen since November.) And my mom was like, “Well, would you want to do that?”
To which I was like “...well, yes, of course, but isn't it just way too expensive?”
We talked a little bit, mostly theoretically, about when I could visit-- this June during school break just seemed so soon, and my parents are coming in December so it couldn't be then, so maybe for a week during spring break next year? Or maybe June next year? But that will be so near to the time that I'll end my service, it doesn't seem that worth it, does it? And so on. Then I just checked up on some plane ticket prices for this June and emailed them to my mom, just for information's sake-- I wrote in the email that I figured that there was about a 2% chance that it would actually happen. Mom emailed back to say that she'd consider it based on the flight costs, and that she hadn't even talked to Dad about it yet at all. We didn't really figure it would happen.
Ten hours later, there was an email in my inbox that said, “We think you should could come visit this June, and we're happy to pay for the plane ticket.”
And suddenly, in two months I'd be visiting America.
I'm trying not to get too excited yet, because I don't like to be really excited about something for longer than the event will actually take place-- I find that makes it more disappointing when it's over. So I'm not going to let myself get excited until about two weeks before I leave, and right now it's about three and a half weeks.
But it will be really great to see my parents and get to spend time with them. I really haven't gotten to do that, especially with Dad (I've spent a tiny bit more time with Mom, since she visited me in Korea and we went to China together). Since the beginning of January, 2009, I've only been at my parents' house for about three weeks total, and those three weeks were some of the most stressful of my life. It was right after my extremely traumatic experience in China where my everything important was stolen and I was basically trapped there until the Chinese government granted me a new temporary visa, and I missed all my flights, and had to buy new flights not only back to Korea but then back to America. And then, once I got to Korea I had a week to pack everything and run around trying to get everything wrapped up. Once I was FINALLY home in America, I had 3 weeks to prepare everything for Peace Corps, so I didn't even get that much of a chance to breathe. I was so busy and filled with anxiety that I wasn't really able to enjoy my parents' company as much as I otherwise would.
So in the past 20 months, the only time I've spent with my parents (minus the few weeks Mom was in Korea and China with me) was 3 super-stressed weeks. So this really is a pretty big deal.
I'm actually visiting home for two and a half weeks, which is a very long time for this kind of trip. It's actually more vacation days than I've earned from Peace Corps, even taking into account the three month advance that PCVs are usually allowed to take (six extra days). There are some other circumstances about my visiting, nothing major, but enough that I was able to talk to the higher-ups in Peace Corps Tanzania and they agreed to give me five months' advance instead of three.
So really I'm visiting my parents for about as long as the total time I've seen them in 21 months.
I won't lie: I'm looking forward to a bit of first-world luxury too, and picking up some things that will make life in Tanzania easier.
People have been asking if I'll come back-- apparently it's fairly common for a Peace Corps Volunteer who is visiting home to decide just not to return. I am 100% planning to return to my site at Tanzania. I've had some troubles here, but I really do like the work and my students and school. I feel like I'm actually helping my students learn math more fully, and can possibly make some of their lives genuinely better. I really like most Tanzanians as well, for that matter; they really are incredibly friendly.
Plus, if I don't return, it will seriously jeopardize my ability to achieve my future career plans. After cutting short my year in Korea and graduating college with decent but not stellar grades and no close relationships with my professors and thus no shining references, the difference between finishing my two years in Peace Corps and leaving after 7 months could be huge. Staying in America would cause so much legitimate anxiety about my life and future that I highly doubt it would seem worth it.
So yes: I am going to visit America and my parents, and then I am returning to Tanzania.
Well, there we go. A positive, happy post to go right after my rant. I guess a lot of it is about my visit to America, thus leaving Tanzania... hmm. Well, it is a hard life here sometimes, but ultimately I do feel like it's worth it.