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Only 150 days left as a peace corps volunteer.

2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,500 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 42 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

6 posts. Let’s try to do better in 2012!

Hello, Dodoma

Well, back in Dodoland again… This time under the auspices of the WFP+PC. Hopefully will be doing P4P stuff, although the rest of my ‘team’ is in Dar. More later. Still no house. Ugh.

April 2011

Well, they moved my site. In my funk I finally called up my apcd to complain about the teachers’ college schedule, you know, how there really isn’t any teaching to be done most of the year because the students tend to be MIA? Anyway, I thought it’d be a good idea to let PC know that 1) I was done teaching until late August when the students all returned so I had almost 4 months of idleness, 2) that I wanted to travel around and do the roving TC ICT maintenance thing I’ve sorta been doing covertly, and 3) [this is where I made a mistake] that I could also teach other topics. Anyway, it was proposed that I switch sites to Vudoi SS, in Mwanga, Kili region, which is sort of on the other side of the country… Amazingly, it got pushed through pretty fast, and by mid-April, I found myself adjusting to a new house in a new town at a new school. Apparently what had happened was that there used to be another PCV here, who had ET-ed, and the school made enough noise about wanting another volunteer and could provide housing that PC relented and sent me there. Coincidentally, it was one of the guys that shadowed me…

And so, I was once again plunged into uncertainty about the very basic operations of my school. In some ways, it felt like I was a new volunteer–trying to figure out school routines (they’re wildly different between TCs and SSs), teaching form 2 versus teaching diploma students, meeting new people, getting lost multiple times in town looking for the basic amenities like the post office and the soko, etc. Luckily I had a 2 week Easter+misc holidays break during my first two weeks there, so I had plenty of time to figure where things were and get settled in my house. Thanks to the break, I don’t really start teaching til May. I’ve been assigned to teach the form 2 basic maths, and the form 6 ict.

Turns out Mwanga is only an hour away from Moshi, that lovely city with a lot of mzungu-oriented stores. I can only imagine how terrible it is during high tourist season though. Was introduced to a variety of stores, an awesome bar, and the expat’s house. I think it’ll be kind of hard staying at site during the weekends here, as most of my site mates escape to Moshi since it’s so close by.

April was also my last vac meeting; it was also the first time I stayed with expats while in Dar instead of the usual econo lodge. The family was pretty cool, and I can see the appeal of staying with expats. Dunno if I’ll do it again…we’ll see. Although to be fair, don’t know when I’ll be in Dar next…Nothing of value got discussed or done; VAC has fully lived up to my expectations. That’s not entirely true, we expressed our dismay at being unable to get early COS due to overlap. meh.

May 2011

I started teaching the form 2 basic maths. Well, sort of. Since the terminal exams are in June, I only had about a month of class time with them, and well, I thought I’d just review what they should have covered already with their previous teachers, to see how well laid their maths foundation was. In theory it was a review… in reality it was a disaster. It’s kind of funny where the knowledge gaps are, but I guess it just goes to show how bad their previous teachers were, and what happenes when they have different people teaching them at different times. Apparently the guy who ETed taught them sets, which is the last topic of the syllabus. Their normal teacher taught them some algebra and the exponents/radicals stuff. Then there was a TC student who randomly taught about logarithms for a month, followed by a uni student who taught them trig… Talk about seriously disjointedness here. So anyway, I had these kids who could take read log tables and take the square and cube roots of any number, but who didn’t understand order of operations or variables (or negative numbers, but that problem is endemic in Tz). So I got to teach really random topics trying to plug in holes for all of my students, using a somewhat antiquated syllabus, with no resources to consult, beyond the large binder of awesomeness that theresa gave and what I could remember from IB maths (the syllabi are very similar) in high school. Although I still don’t understand BODMAS (PEMDAS just makes more sense), and I’m pretty sure my students were confused over american and british english differences in maths vocab. meh.

The emotional maturity and english level of my form 2s vary greatly, and I’ve finally decided to just give up on the ~90% of the kids who don’t care. It’s the only way I could move on from boring stuff like substituting numbers in for variables, and move on to the exciting world of quadratic equations. Also, they’re all much younger and shorter than the people I’ve been teaching for the last year and half, and well, theyre just in different points in life. However, I can honestly say I prefer teaching the TC students, if only because they all behave and know better (to some extent).

A lot of our PC ed tech training goes into making the T&L process fun and interactive. Well, for maths that falls a bit short–outside of geoboards there’s not much we can do for a lot of the topics. And quadratic equations are a bit abstract and hard to make applicable for my students. So I got the bright idea of making either a trebuchet or cannon. After talking it over with a lot of other volunteers, I settled on the idea of cannon, since it required a lot less work than constructing a trebuchet. Basically, I couldn’t use a sling shot like device because I needed to be able to record the angle of elevation and initial height. I hoped to use that and the flight time of the projectile to be able to derive the quadratic equations needed; and depending on how it went have my students work backwards to see what the angle needed to be to shoot a potato X metres. The only drawbacks to making a cannon were 1) had to find a good fundi to wield together the end of an empty metal tube, and 2) I had to make my own gunpowder. Making gunpowder–not the safest thing in the world, and I’m pretty sure gunpowder burns aren’t covered by PC’s health insurance policy [not to mention risk of blowing parts of myself up]. Finding a good wielder–also slim. Anyway, I managed to get talked out of going the gunpowder route on safety concerns, and into a more mechanical reaction like a bottle rockets have. Only problem is I’ll need to go find out about nozzles. Maybe, depending on what I do in June, I’ll build something.

June 2011

Vacay was once again subjected to the age old problem of communication. Seriously sometimes it’s like shooting fireworks into a black hole, the way we send leave requests to PC and then wait for a response that never comes. This time I snail mailed a copy, emailed a copy, called and texted for follow up, and still never heard back. Maybe I should’ve tried faxing too. Or a bloody telegraph. Well, I planned on going down to M**** with a peer for a week or so. Holy 20hr bus rides Batman! Plans changed en route and I’ll write about it later if/when that leave request gets processed. Sigh. I did get to see waterfalls, rainforests, mountains, and go swimming though. All of which I can do in my region. heh. The company was, wait for it, legendary.

Oh, and I heard more about extending. It seems like PC is intent on sending me to live in a desert. Hopefully it’ll work out and I’ll actually have something to do my third year instead of being unemployed in the US. I’m about 99% committed now to doing year 3 in Tz, and am basically waiting on the implementing partners, etc. I think I’ve got home leave figured out in my head, but once again, that’s gonna ride on the extension thing being contractualised on paper. Looking at a total of 40 days in the US, starting mid December, with the week of Xmas spent in NC followed by a road trip to Mt Rushmore. Why? Cuz I’ve never been. And I’ve never been to SD either, and that, and ND (for which there really is NO reason to visit apparently) are the only states I haven’t been in. Yeah, I’ve been to Alaska and Hawai’i but not the Dakotas. Makes perfect sense.

July 2011

With any luck my extension stuff will be figured out by september (long shot! I should pray to St Jude, patron saint of lost causes more) and I’ll be able to go do that once the replacement happens. Only unfortunate thing is that the current teaching load I’ve got is a bit on the insane side–30 periods of maths, plus up to 24 periods of ict. ick! I’m going to probably ‘drop’ 10 periods of maths though, to be honest. Kinda gave up on a stream… Month ain’t over til the fat lady sings, or some such. So i’ll finish this month’s updates in August :)

April 2011

Well, they moved my site. In my funk I finally called up my apcd to complain about the teachers’ college schedule, you know, how there really isn’t any teaching to be done most of the year because the students tend to be MIA? Anyway, I thought it’d be a good idea to let PC know that 1) I was done teaching until late August when the students all returned so I had almost 4 months of idleness, 2) that I wanted to travel around and do the roving TC ICT maintenance thing I’ve sorta been doing covertly, and 3) [this is where I made a mistake] that I could also teach other topics. Anyway, it was proposed that I switch sites to Vudoi SS, in Mwanga, Kili region, which is sort of on the other side of the country… Amazingly, it got pushed through pretty fast, and by mid-April, I found myself adjusting to a new house in a new town at a new school. Apparently what had happened was that there used to be another PCV here, who had ET-ed, and the school made enough noise about wanting another volunteer and could provide housing that PC relented and sent me there. Coincidentally, it was one of the guys that shadowed me…

And so, I was once again plunged into uncertainty about the very basic operations of my school. In some ways, it felt like I was a new volunteer–trying to figure out school routines (they’re wildly different between TCs and SSs), teaching form 2 versus teaching diploma students, meeting new people, getting lost multiple times in town looking for the basic amenities like the post office and the soko, etc. Luckily I had a 2 week Easter+misc holidays break during my first two weeks there, so I had plenty of time to figure where things were and get settled in my house. Thanks to the break, I don’t really start teaching til May. I’ve been assigned to teach the form 2 basic maths, and the form 6 ict.

Turns out Mwanga is only an hour away from Moshi, that lovely city with a lot of mzungu-oriented stores. I can only imagine how terrible it is during high tourist season though. Was introduced to a variety of stores, an awesome bar, and the expat’s house. I think it’ll be kind of hard staying at site during the weekends here, as most of my site mates escape to Moshi since it’s so close by.

April was also my last vac meeting; it was also the first time I stayed with expats while in Dar instead of the usual econo lodge. The family was pretty cool, and I can see the appeal of staying with expats. Dunno if I’ll do it again…we’ll see. Although to be fair, don’t know when I’ll be in Dar next…Nothing of value got discussed or done; VAC has fully lived up to my expectations. That’s not entirely true, we expressed our dismay at being unable to get early COS due to overlap. meh.

Bado Nipo Nipo

(It means, “I’m still here”… sort of)

So here’s the rest of the entries to catch you up to the present, in a manner of speaking. In another manner of speaking, the present is the hare the tortoise can never catch up to. Pause. English English speakers pronounce tortoise oddly.

Highlights of January: New Years Day atop a mountain in beautiful Lushoto. Zanzibar/Stonetown. Whale sharks at Mafia Island. MSC(?) I should probably add that for completeness. School officially started so students begin returning, allowing me to finally have neighbours again (I live next to the boys’ dormitories). VAC? Also there for completeness. Going home after weeks of travel and enjoying the use of my kitchen once more. Returning to Mpwapwa to find it green.

Highlights of February: Chinese New Years passing without me even realising it. Bovine bowling by bus, aka the bus trip from hell. Parents’ visit. Subsequent trip to Lake Manyara National Park, Serengetti National Park, and Ngorongoro Crater National Park. Animals. Arusha/Kilimanjaro regions, although I wish we could’ve stayed longer. Hot showers. Parents’ visit of my site. That bomb in Dar and the ensuing panic it caused. Taking pictures and being in tourist mode, but not really because I still had to speak Kis.Getting a bit homesick after parents left, since they reminded me of what I’m missing out on; falling into a funk/rut as a result.

Highlights of March: Lack of students, again. The funk continues. BTP assessment. Missing awesome basketball games. Embracing the funk. Goodbyes. Death of a modem. Being so isolated as a result that my news source becomes the PC (and ttc) rumor mill…And finding out international news via friends’ facebook statuses. Like the Japanese nuclear thing. And Libya (WTF?!). Possible site change?

April: Bado.

airtel settings for phones

Somewhat recently, airtel acquired zain’s africa operations… And more recently has been changing settings to reflect the corporate-side changes. For the end user, this has meant some sporadic disruptions of services, including internet, and mysteriously disappearing voucher. Well, can’t do much about the latter, but the former… well I guess we can’t do much about that either. However, here are the “new” settings for those of us who use airtel’s internet services on cellular phones:

For Airtel GPRS
Access Point (APN): airtelgprs.com
Server: 202.56.231.117
Server Port: 8080
Use Proxy: YES
Proxy Address: 202.56.231.117
Proxy Port: 8080
Homepage Location: http://punemobile.com/
Primary Name Server (DNS): *Blank*
Secondary Name Server (DNS): *Blank*
Username: *Blank*
Password: *Blank*

OR

For Airtel Live:
Access Point Name (APN): airtelfun.com
Server Address: 100.1.200.99
Server Port: 8080
Use Proxy: YES
Proxy Address: 100.1.200.99
Proxy Port: 8080
Homepage: http://live.airtelworld.com/
Primary DNS: *Blank*
Secondary DNS: *Blank*
Username: *Blank*
Password: *Blank*

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