Everything you ever wanted to know about life in Tanzania!
WARNING: Do not attempt to read in one sitting.
Greetings from Bumilayinga!
We are doing well. Africa, especially Tanzania, is a suprisingly
delightful place to live. If all of you could pick up and move here,
I would highly reccomend it!
We live daily pretty much as normal Tanznanians would. Essential we
eat, sleep, and drink like Tanznians. Life of a teacher is sweet.
Each month a teacher recieves a salary and we make the same. For a
University educated teacher the salary is 205,000 schilings! So we
each make roughly 150.00 dollars a month. Yes, we live on 150.00
dollars a month and have a small fortune left over every month! So it
seems that all the teachers here should be rolling in the dough
because even with our excess spending (we eat rice as opposed to the
cheaper alternative of ugali; we are constantly buying lots of fruit a
luxury to the average person, we have hired four students to work for
us and we splurge and eat spaghetti once a week!) we are incapable of
spending our monthly salary in a month. However, most teachers are
either saving for college, or putting their siblings through school,
or sending the majority of their money to help support their family.
Money is interesting because you can live off so little here, and yet
a bag of pasta cost 2500 shillings, we have bought a bike (95,000
shillings) for half of a teacher's monthly salary. It seemed like a
fortune to us yet it has become somewhat of a necessity. Half a
month's salary for a mode of transportation isn't a bad deal. We hope
to buy another bike when we receive our next salary.
So, each morning, during the week, we either wake up at 5:45am
(inorder to make tea or coffee) or at 6:40am. (in order to run out the
door for school.) To start a fire, we either use already hot coals
and add new to it, or use kerosene and a match. Getting the fire
going and hot can be simple, if there is the perfect amount of wind.
Otherwise, you have to fan and fan and fan. (I'll admit Matt does most
of the fanning) It takes about a half hour to get it going if we're
lucky. Then boiling water takes time. Then we have tea! Typically,
people don't eat until 10:30am, tea time, but our home is too far to
leave school and start a fire.
We leave for school about 7:00am, it takes an entire 20 minutes to
walk there, longer if we don't push it. The students assemble at 7:30,
have announcements, and sing their school song and the Africa/Tanzania
National Anthem. Class begins between 7:45 and 8 depending on
assembly. Now, we are entirely responsible for two classes. Preform,
is an intensive English course for thes wanting to start Form 1 in
January. As you probably know, secondary school here is supposed to
be taught entirely in Englsih. We have a total of 60 kids in the two
sections of Preform. There is a great dispartiy in their English
knowledge, so that is a huge challenge. It depends on the Primary
school they attended. They are also supposed to learn basic English
there, but most don't. The curriculum designed by VST is fun and easy
to teach. It is based on the English syllabus from Tanzanian Primary
school. however, we teach many songs and games that the kids LOVE.
Simon Says, the Hokey Pokey, Mother May I, and all the Bible songs
you've ever learned.
The students are anywhere from 12-20 years old, but they all get in to
it. I should mention, in Tanzania, if you are not "chosen" to go to a
Government secondary school, based upon grades, you have no options
except to pay for a private school. They can be millions of shillings.
VST charges 40,000 schillings if you come from that village. (for a
boy) There are discounts for girls. It is less than half of what a
governent school charges. So, many of the students are older, due to
them starting late, because now they have a school they can afford.
So, we teach until 10:20 and then there is a 20 minute break. Women
from the village, and some students, come and sell mandazi, or fried
bread. Sometimes they have sambusa, samosas I think? They are both
delish and are 50-100 shillings. That usually holds us over until we
get home from school, although sometimes we bring peanuts or bananas.
Then we teach again until 2:30. The students assemble again and then
may go home. We walk as fast as possible home to eat! We are starved
in the afternoon. At home we normally have left over rice, with
vegetables, or Old Bay, bread, bananas, whatever.
At 4:30 the students have to go back to school. They do work, like
carry bricks, water, sweep and whatever else needs to be done. At our
home, we have three lovely girls that come around 4:30. They are
excused from school work to come helps us. Two of them, Beatrice and
Atu come to help with household things. Atu normally does dishes,
gets water, washes clothes, and anything else she can get her hands
on. She has a sweet personality, soft, not so good with English but
works without being asked. She just does whatever she sees that needs
Beatrice looks like a swimmer, I think. Skinny but solid. She is
energetic (slightly ADD) and can light up a room when she is
comfortable. She took some time to warm up, but now she is fun to
have around. She can cook almost anything. She makes bread about once
a week for us, and will cook rice and vegetables in the afternoon. We
keep them in "hot pots" and then we dont have to cook dinner. Her
rice is incredible! Much better than we make on our own.
The third girl is Upendo, which means love in Swahili. She helps me
study Swahili, for about an hour each day. She is soft spoken, but
likes to teach. She makes up exercises and quizzes.
All the girls love to play UNO with us. We play in either Swahili or
English. I taught Beatrice how to make banana bread and she thought
it was wonderful, "like cake." They are only used to traditional
white yeast bread. I am excited to celebrate their birthdays, one in
December and two in March. We will try to make cake. For baking, you
have to let the coals burn down very hot, then you take most out of
the bottom, put the bread on, and cover the bread with a lid. Then
you fill the lid with hot coals and keep adding coals to the top to
keep it hot. It is a long process, but there is nothing like fresh
We pay each student 10,000 shillings a month. 5000 for school fees,
and 5000 to them directly. Its hard to put into perspective, 5000 is
more than enough to live on for a monght and yet they probably send
money home to family.
The teachers here are interesting. Already, since we have been here,
we have lost four teachers and gained another 3. Many of them teach
while waiting to be accepted to a University. Two left to go to
School dicipline has been quite a challenge for us. When we arrived,
several of the teachers asked us what we thought of beating students.
We kindly explained that it is not permitted in America, but that
often, a punishment of work might be better. The first week we were
here, two girls were brought in front of assembly and beaten for
engaging in "prostitiution." Not sure exactly the extent of their
actions. They each had to write a letter that was read to the school
with their apologies. Then things quieted down a little. But more
recently, it seems that teachers have been hunting for infractions.
Tardiness, improper uniforms, and not completing assigned work. they
have lined students up several times and beat their hands. It is
difficult to exactly understand the reason that a particular student
is being punished. The language barrier makes it challenging. all of
the teachers I am sure, grew up in schools where they were hit. We
also have to remember that it was the same in America not so long ago.
It is something we are dealing with and thinking about.
After school, in the evening sometimes there is a football match.
Either our team will play another school or the Form 1 students will
play Preform. Recently, we've had two staff vs. student games. Matt
was goalkeeper for both. This is as much soccer I think they will
get him to play. The girls don't play soccer, but netball, similar to
basket ball without the running.
It's been getting dark around 7:30 pm. Pretty sunsets and lots of
stars. We brought a star map for this hemisphere, but havent used it
a whole lot. But we will. In the evening Matt and I usually play a
game or read. Our Kindle has been wonderful. I loaded a lot of books
before we came. We are trading it off between the two of us.
Two students, Merisia and Piusi live near us. Their family owns a
store that we go to often. We charge our phone, kindle and ipods at
their shop. They have solar power. It wasnt strong enough for the
computer, but no problem. Sometimes the students come over and
"study" English at our house in the evening. Piusi has been helpful in
maintaining our bike.
So, dinner. I cannot lie. Our food experience in Africa has been
incredible! Not only have we managed variety, but we really enjoy
cooking and eating all the food we've had. Typically we either make
rice, or Beatrice has already made it for us. Then we cook a
vegatable to go with it. Onions, tomatoes, and garlic are always
available. Alot of times we get greens, like collard greens I guess?
We'll cook them with tomatoes and onions. We both really like greens
and cabbage too. Recently we went to a nearby town, Nyololo, and
found green peppers, coconut, mangoes, carrots, potatoes, and lemons.
Last Friday we had a movie night. We watched Lois and Clark and had
soda and ate pasta! I almost forgot! A few weeks ago we had avacados.
We made quacamole and the best homemade burritos ever. These were like
Chipolte style burritos. They were delish.
Its really awesome to know exactly what is in everything you put in
your mouth. Its all natrual and everythings pretty healthy. Of
course, we have our stock of granola bars, candy bars, and peanut
butter. (Gigi, the root beer candy really hits the spot some days.)
(Dad, the spices you bought us are a lifesaver!)
The time is going very fast. It is hard to believe that its already
November. School goes until sometime in early December we think.
There is roughly a month long break. Part of the time we will go back
to Madisi and the other half we'd like to visit Zambia.
Anyway, we've written a book, and could write several more, but that
should give you a good idea of what life is like. I think that Matt
was made to live in Africa. Its a wonderful thing to see him love
this place. Here, he has the gift oof talking to people, not
necessarily his gift in America. I on the otherhand, am pleasantly
suprised how good it is to live here. I hadn't expected to really
like it. I was more under the impression that I could do anything for
a year. We are blessed to have this opportunity and blessed to fit so
We love you all and miss you so much. We both feel that we could live
here forever if we could only bring our friends and family with us.
It is a sacrifice to be away from your arms and words, but a sacrifice
necessary for the work here in Bumilayinga.
We love you,
Emily and Matt