Updates Since March
In the time since my last blog post, the TZ21 project conducted some trainings for the teachers at the schools that will receive computers. The trainings included general computer use skills, use of the TZ21-created educational e-materials, use of the TZ21-created school records/management system, and improved methods to teach reading to kids who are just starting in school.
I sat in on a fair amount of the training, and it seemed to go very well, so that’s exciting. It was also my first time to see the educational e-materials, which seem to consist mainly of well-designed and well-created video lessons, which incorporate teaching methods that aren’t generally known in Tanzania, so it’s exciting to think of Tanzanian teachers using these videos and learning from them.
We’re set to begin installing computers in just a few days. The first installations will be taking place in Zanzibar (the islands off the coast) rather than Mtwara (where I am), so I won’t get to see them. But even so, it’s great progress. It shouldn’t be too much longer before we start installing in Mtwara.
So far this year, I’ve spent more time staying in that beachfront guest house in Mtwara town than I have in Tandahimba (where I live). This is for a variety of totally legitimate reasons.
A major factor, is that the regional TZ21 office is in Mtwara town, and my computer doesn’t have Microsoft Office (only OpenOffice, which messes up the formatting on spreadsheets), and the internet connection in Tandahimba is frequently too weak to send/receive attachments. I’m going to be receiving an official Office-equipped laptop to use from TZ21 in a couple of days, and have tried different types of modems for a better connection, with some success.
I also went to Zanzibar for a week or so, to help the Zanzibar Ministry of Education (they’re fairly self-governing there) to work on a plan to computerize its offices and schools.
And I went up to my old village! It was great to see everyone again, and to see how the school was doing. My replacement volunteer is in many ways different from me personality-wise, and she’s had some really great new ideas for activities to do with the kids, so it was cool to see that.
When I left my village last year, I had cats, whom I left temporarily in the care of my replacement volunteer (because at the time I had no place to live in Tandahimba). So when I went up to visit this time, I brought cat carriers up with me, and when I came back to Tandahimba I brought the cats down (which went much more smoothly than I’d feared!). I’m really glad to be reunited with them.
Southern-Style Tea Drinking
If you may recall, when I was new in Tanzania I was surprised at how much sugar Tanzanians put in their tea (typically 2-3 heaped spoonfuls in a typically teacup). Well, now that I’m in Mtwara I’ve discovered an additional surprising tea-drinking custom here.
In Mtwara, tea is typically served in teacups with saucers. When the tea is poured, the cup is filled all the way until it spills a little. The way folks down here typically drink tea is to pour a little bit from the cup into the saucer, then to drink from the saucer, then later to pour a little more and drink from the saucer again, and so on.
The point to this is that the tea in the saucer cools down rapidly. So even if the tea in the cup is scalding hot, if you pour a little into the saucer it’ll be drinkable right away.
During my leave in the US, some friends in Seattle showed me an Asian custom (I think it was Chinese?) of having tiny saucer-shaped teacups that only hold a couple of sips’ worth of tea, and pouring into them repeatedly from a teapot full of very hot tea, so that the tea in the pot would stay hot while the tea in the cup would cool down rapidly to drinkable temperatures every time you went to drink. Same principle as southern Tanzania.