The past 7 days have been long and grueling - and that may be an understatement. As if the journey here wasn't tiring enough, we've been thrown right into things. I'll admit, after Day 2 in Zanzibar I started wondering what the heck I was doing here. My Swahili is not nearly as good as the majority of the students in the program. That in itself, doesn't bother me - many of the grad students here are at the same level as I am and we seem to humor ourselves with what we don't know! The discouraging part is that everything and I mean EVERYTHING, is in Swahili. Our teachers spent the first two days explaining the program, our course options and internship options in Swahili. So, basically, I have no idea what my options are. By default, I have decided that if I can't understand what they are saying when they describe the course, it is probably best that I don't enroll in the course.
Thankfully, my host Mama, Mwalimu Mariam (teacher Mariam), is an expert at teaching beginners. Yesterday, after day two of orientation, I came home feeling pretty lost and frustrated. So many of the students are at different levels and I don't understand the point of spending a whole day introducing us to a program we know nothing about when we can't understand what they're saying. Maybe that was their way of weeding out the students who aren't at the level the need to participate in the electives. Anyway, Mwalimu Mariam said not to worry and sat me down and gave me a Swahili lesson. She is funny and patient and never afraid to correct me! I may have met my match.
I am living in Michenzani Block 5 - if you Google Michenzani you will discover that my apartments look more like the projects. I'll admit, before I arrived, I was a bit hesitant about where I would be staying. It's actually about a thousand times better than it looks from the outside. The neighbors are friendly, the apartment is nice - though a bit hot and stuffy at times - and my room is great. I had been warned that I would likely have a "bucket" shower or no running water at all so I braced myself for the worst. When Mwalimu showed me the bathroom the first day my heart soared (western toilet!)...and then plummeted (no seat on the toilet - haven't quite figured that out yet - and buckets on the floor by a spicket). I went to bed early that night and woke up at 3am hot and sticky. I spent the next 4 hours laying in bed dreading my bucket shower and wishing that I had been lucky enough to have a regular shower. In the morning I went out to the balcony and told Mwalimu I wanted to wash. I wasn't quite sure where to put all of the water from the buckets after I used it so I figured I better get a tutorial. Well, my translation was a bit off and she began showing me how to wash my clothes. I mimed that I meant I wanted a shower and she laughed and pointed up to....yes; wait for it.....a Shower Head!!!!!! The water pressure is pretty much nonexistent and it is a slow drip/stream, but I LOVE it!!! Most of you may remember my first shower experience in Tanzania in January and this topped it. I could not have been happier yesterday morning when I discovered I had a shower!
There are 6 of us girls living in the Block - which we have affectionately named "The Hood". Ironically the 4 guys all live in beautiful mansion-like arrangements here on the island with personal bathrooms, running water, showers and even plasma TVs. But the girls from "The Hood" and I have bonded - we walk to town together and have decided to embrace our living arrangements. Our families are great and it is definitely an experience we will never have again. We're gonna live it up!
It's just after 5am - the jet lag is still bothering me, but each day it gets a bit better.
Signing off from the hood....