- Leopards at My Door: Peace Corps Tanzania, 1966-7, Introduction
- First Term
- First Break
- Second Term
- Second Break
- Third Term
- Third Break
- Fourth Term
- Fourth Break
- Fifth Term
- Fifth Break
- Sixth Term
- Looking Back on the Peace Corps Experience
Monday, September 18
Dear Pop, Mom and Carol,
We shifted classes around, expecting three teachers would leave for National Service but then the plans changed and they are still here and teaching, which is great for the rest of us. Right now I’m only teaching 20 periods a week, because I was supposed to take Form 1 Physics-with-Chemistry. A new British volunteer is coming who can take it.
Now that the national athletics competition is over, my team hasn’t been practicing. No one else is doing any extra activities either, and we won’t until Sister gets them organized, which may be never. I try to teach and not let the disorganization get to me. It’s tough.
Anita and I are down to two dogs and 3 1/2 cats. The half is one that hangs around but isn’t ours. We can take the extra cats to the new city kennel that is opening soon. There are lots of stray dogs in the city, too. We almost lost a cat the other night. Anita and I were reading in the living room and the cats were outside as usual. Then night exploded. A leopard jumped onto the porch and skidded across the slick surface. The cats scattered in all directions. Furry bodies everywhere. He would have caught a tasty dinner if he hadn’t been off balance. I saw the whole thing, and I’m glad he didn’t get one. Even though we have too many, I wouldn’t like to see one ripped to shreds.
The leopard was in no hurry to leave, so I got a really good look at him. He sat on the porch with his back to us, watching for dinner to come by. He was only ten feet away (and a glass door between us). What a beautiful animal! Better luck next time, Mr. Leopard.
The new teachers are getting settled now. The two typing people are really nice, but one, a Canadian (External Aid, the moneyed class, higher salaries and less training than we have), might blossom into another Miss Jeavons.
It’s almost like a hardship post here, lately. For the last week, we have been without water for several hours each day. It’s unpredictable, and the school doesn’t have backup big storage tanks. The workers are also repairing the electricity. It goes off without warning, just at dinnertime. Exasperating. Anita and I have an electric stove, so we just pack up our dinner and traipse up to the gas stoves in her cookery room. Nice to know the right people.
Sister asked again today if I wouldn’t extend. The more she asks, the quicker I am to say NO! If it weren’t for the teaching, which is no longer a challenge, and the administration of the school, which is inadequate, I’d stay. The teachers are fun,though they are always leaving and being replaced. Most of the students are hard workers and easy to be around. This location is idyllic, nice house, lake view, gentle breezes. I guess I’d have to think of something useful to do or the Ministry would kick me out. Details.
Anita and I arranged to take some girls to “The King and I” tonight, but it was changed to “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” not as great.
Monday, September 25, 1967.
Dear Mom and Pop and Carol,
Oh, nature is in full bloom. We have an ant colony by the power pole next to the house, and in the evenings the winged males emerge. A fabulous commotion of birds gathers in the waning light for a tasty meal, at least 15 species in the mixed flock trying to grab a fat ant. I guess most birds will eat ants if there are lots of them.
I’ve sent photos of the birds that sit still. Two tiny birds are very colorful. The Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu has powder blue underparts and face with a bright red cheek patch (surprise!). The African Firefinch is a little bigger and has an olive back and wings and brick red on its belly, throat and face. The name is better than the color on the bird. It’s a subdued red but not fiery. Even the Grey-headed Kingfisher was in fray, so it doesn’t just perch over the water to look for food. Any nummy tidbit is welcome. There were lots more birds, but I didn’t have much time to watch and look through the bird book. I took pictures with a borrowed 400 mm lens on a camera owned by a generous friend. He lent me the book, too.
Anita is a serious bridge player, and she loves to host bridge games with the other aficionados. It’s nice because people come and visit, but I’m not a player. I sew and work on my butterfly collection. I’ve mounted three sets of butterflies, now displayed on the wall. Quite well done if I do say so myself. The standard comment by visitors: “Have you seen the new film, ‘The Collector’?” What are they implying?
We are seeking a new home for Sydney, our new dog. He is not home much and isn’t much fun. This leaves only Simba, Anita’s puppy. She is sweet and neurotic, very shy and always sleeps under chairs. Unfortunately, she’s getting too big for that and hasn’t realized it yet. Last night, Anita got fed up with the dogs playing in the house and tried to confine them for a while. Simba dove under a tiny stool, jumped up too quickly and ran around the room with it stuck to her haunches. That didn’t help her neuroses but we were rolling on the floor, laughing.
My Peace Corps insurance and my passport both expire the first of March. Unless a good job presents itself, I’ll want to be in the U.S. by then. The cheapest way to arrange the trip is to get a through ticket and arrange stopovers, unlimited and no penalty for changes. I told you it was a good deal! Carol, make your plans for meeting me and let me know what you decide.
Still no word about National Service positions for the Asians, so 17 staff averaged 21 teaching periods a week. Pretty easy.
Wednesday, October 4, 1967.
So glad my Kilimanjaro photos made it home alright. The red jackets and most of the other equipment were supplied by the school, British army surplus. I wore my boots only when we did the last climb to the top, and wiggled my toes to keep my feet warm. The Simpsons and Anita started the last day of their climb at 1 a.m., and they were very cold. Ken’s feet actually froze. There were three male instructors in our group, though the course was only for women. One of the men took my picture. The water in the mountain stream was clear, sweet and cold. We followed the stream from the bottom to one hour above the caves. We had to carry water up from there.
Anita said today she is renouncing her Canadian citizenship. I don’t think it will last. I’m afraid the Canadian External Aid people are not good representatives of her country. They must have five years experience before they are hired, they get paid a regular (not volunteer) salary plus 25% overseas pay, plus transportation of the whole house and car and trip to Greece after one year, plusplusplus. They’re sent here as specialists, yet the jobs they do are the same as ours, and we are volunteers. All seven people in Mwanza act superior, bigoted, and prejudiced, and all are undereducated for their positions, humorless, and conceited. They have absolutely no desire to learn about Tanzania or Tanzanians. After six months here, one of them asked what TANU (the only political party) was. The final blow was when Anita found out that one of them is going home for Christmas. She only arrived one month ago!
The electricity and water are back to normal. The dog is not. After Sydney left, Simba was lonesome. One night when we were away, she pulled everything she could up onto the sofa with her. My rain boots, the hammer, clippers. Now Anita lets her sleep under her bed.
I’m sending a tape home of the girls singing. The first two songs were ones they sang for Saba Saba in the singing contest. The others are for Mrs. Berry’s goodbye. I love how they harmonize. Quite unique.
The big bookshelves that Kay sold before leaving were taken today, and our house is rapidly taking on the spare look of a volunteer’s house. Glad I appreciated sharing with Kay. The only furniture that remains is really cheap stuff.
I heard a commotion outside the staff room during break yesterday. At the edge of the building was a crowd of girls and the new biology teacher. She seemed rather agitated and turned for the staff room as I approached. The girls were all looking at a five foot long monitor lizard. It was resting in the sun and eyeing us. We don’t see many, so I was fascinated. The girls were giggling among themselves and I ask what was going on.
“Oh, Miss Dainsone,” Dorah said, “She asked us about that lizard and we told her that it loves human milk and is deadly poisonous. It is not true, but we did not know how afraid she would become.”
I had to laugh. As they joined me, the monitor stalked off, probably looking for a more peaceful place for his morning nap.
Anita says hello.
October 8, 1967, Happy Birthday Al day,
We took the Mary and “Brim” Brimcome, a new couple, to Dancing Table Rock today. Bram works on a survey crew and brought some stereo aerial photos of the area. Really cool! Now I know why we kept getting lost on our runs. All the trails are so curvy; the bumps and outcroppings don’t really have a logical pattern. I guess that is how it is with casual paths laid down by hungry cattle.
They invited us to dinner at their house in town after our hike, and when we returned the house was a total mess. Simba chewed everything she could: my rain boots, my chemistry “bible” and my insect collection board. She is now hiding in the most remote place she could find, under my bed. She never goes there. She is quivering but she’s just lonely now that she’s the only dog.
There is a great hullabaloo because the president arrives soon for the TANU conference. He started on a walking tour several days ago to show support for the Arusha Declaration. It was a spontaneous decision, and he is requiring his cabinet to accompany him. The photo in the paper shows him smiling and greeting people, but the ministers don’t look so thrilled. He is thin and looks fit, and all of them are overweight and out of shape. The first day they walked 12 miles and 22 the next. By the time he arrives in Mwanza, he will have walked all the way from Musoma, about 60 or 70 miles. Meanwhile, who runs the country, I ask?
This morning, the girls were supposed to walk five miles to the regional headquarters to meet him and walk back to town with the entourage. After repeated postponements today, now he will arrive tomorrow morning. The plan is for 100 girls to walk the 7 miles out from town to meet and walk back with him. Good luck. They will find it difficult because they don’t exercise much. Sister asked me if I would go with them. I said no because what will happen is, we will be ready at 6:30 a.m. as planned, and the buses will be late. However we get to the meeting place, probably by very slow walking which I cannot bear, we will wait four or five hours, and when we arrive back in town there will be no transportation back to school. Thanks, but I’ve played that game before. Of course all this stuff means school will be chaos with the classes cancelled. What to do with the girls who stay here, which will be most of them (180)?
Some of the new staff can go. It will be exciting for them.
The Asians leave for National Service next Saturday, which means more work for the rest of us, not that we’ve been overworked. My replacement, Bronwyn, is supposed to arrive Tuesday, so I’ll give her some of my classes and mentor her like I was when I came.
Well, Anita and I finally got rid of the cats. After Grimalkin shit a huge pile of worms, we could delay no longer. We drowned them. Am I getting hard hearted? I just grit my teeth and do it. Too many unspayed animals around here! And they all seem to love our house.
Unfortunately, the hyenas haven’t done their job, and the bodies are beginning to stink.
Monday, October 16.
What an exciting week! The TANU conference is in full swing in town, and VIPs arrive every day. Nyerere, Obote (Uganda), and Kaunda (Zambia) are the biggest names. Kenyatta (Kenya) turned back after starting to drive. Mr. Congo declined the invitation. All of the Tanzanian parliament and TANU officials are here. Every extra bed in town is in use. The Israeli ambassador was listed to stay with the Brimcombs, but they got his aid instead. Kay and I drove in to town to gawk. The Mwanza Hotel has a line of flags along the front for the different countries. The international license plates on the parked cars indicate the celebrities in residence. Very impressive. The most excitement we’ve had in a long time.
The Bwiru students have been practicing songs and dances for several weeks and finally presented them last night after dinner. They did a great job. Twenty of the older girls are helping in the convention hall where the speeches are made. I hope they get an earful. Who knows? Maybe some will become politicians. They need a lot of women! It’s all men at the top.
Tomorrow the delegates really get down to business, though I hear the conference is not well-organized. They have a huge agenda. The Arusha Declaration laid out a lot of major changes. Now they have to figure out how to make them happen. Social equality, self-reliance, economic cooperation with the other African states and ujamaa (family hood). If even some works out, it will be progress.
With the Asian teachers away for National Service, and Bronwyn marking exams, I teach 36 periods a week. Arg. Must be some kind of record. But I’ve taught it all before, so there isn’t much prep.
I’m busy making plans for my trip home. My approximate dates of arrival will be 13 Dec to Karachi, 10 Jan to Rangoon/Bankok, 31 Jan Kuala Lumpur/Singapore, 14 Feb Brisbane, 1 Mar Hawaii.
Anita envies me. She wants out!
Tuesday, November 7, 1967
Dear Carol and Mom,
Please get the American Express book that lists all their offices. Very tiny print but handy. I’ll use it when I arrive. All the flights get to the cities I will be visiting late at night so I can pick out a hotel in the book and show it to a taxi drive. Then I can find a better place the next day.
You can send mail for me to the American Express offices in Karachi, New Delhi, Calcutta and Singapore. I’ll pick it up when I arrive. In Thailand, send it to the Atlanta Hotel. In Brisbane, use Lennon’s Hotel. I expect to be in the New Delhi-Kashmir area around Christmas, but don’t send any presents. I won’t be able to carry anything more with me. I’ll only have my old army pack for stuff, plus my sleeping bag. I’m going to get really tired of the two skirts and three blouses I’m taking. I’ll be the only one to know since I won’t be seeing many people for any length of time so it won’t matter.
Today I finally picked up the wooden box of beautiful m’ninga wood that I ordered long ago to get the rest of my stuff home. It has such mellow color, dark with some grain which I like. It is a chest 4′ x 2′ x 18″ and the wood is 7/10 of an inch-thick. The workmanship is not great, but I only paid 80 shillings, which is good because it is bigger than what the builder based the price on. I was almost driven to tears with his excuses and delays! Maybe he was hoping I’d give up, which I almost did. Anita bought a similar one at an auction for 50 shillings, and it is much sturdier. “They just don’t make them like they used to.” Oh, well. It is here and almost packed.
We have the rest of this week to teach Form IV, and then they take the Cambridge practicals in biology and physics-with-chemistry and the exams. Next week we have four days of teaching, a day of exams, and then three more teaching days the following week. The end is in sight!
Friday, November 24.
Dear Pop, Carol and Mom,
Today is Mary Brimcombe’s birthday. My m’ninga trunk has been shipped off for a boat ride home, and I leave here next Thursday. Last Saturday, Anita and I hosted a “do” for the departing teachers: Steve, Winnie and me and a couple of others. I knew half of the people, and the rest were friends of the new VSOs (Voluntary Service Overseas),Canadian volunteers like Anita. People brought stuff and Anita cooked some side dishes. I helped. We grilled dinner and chatted. The moon was full under a clear sky, a miracle. There was no dancing, so I enjoyed it.
Yesterday Steve Sterk hosted a Thanksgiving dinner potluck. I took potatoes and beans. Jake, a new Peace Corps Volunteer, cooked a delicious turkey. One man brought real grapes! I think they were imported from Greece. On Saturday, Cathy Baker is having another party, a swingin’ one she says, so perhaps I won’t stay so long. The girls are doing their goodbye singing and dancing for us on Sunday.
The rains have come. My poncho is again the envy of all who see it, even though I do get wet. The rain is so hard it goes right through umbrellas as a fine spray. The rivers that pour down our steps and down the gutters are amazing!
I’ve just made the world’s only portable butterfly net out of a wire hanger and part of a broom handle. I’m all set to collect insects on my way back. I have a killing jar, a bit of chloroform and metal box with a hard foam bottom for the mounting process and lots of the skinny pins. The customs had better not interfere.
November 29, 1967.
Dear Mom and Carol and Pop,
Well, school is over, and I must say that most of the staff seem rather grouchy. I’m glad I’m leaving. The Cambridge exam was not overly difficult. The girls should have done all right. They gave a fine goodbye performance for us on Sunday. I think they like to put them together because they seem to have so much fun doing them.
Carol, I’ll write to you at the American Embassy in Tehran for you to pick up when you get there. Say Hi to the Thachers for me. See you in Bangkok. And Anita says Byrd’s custard powder is sold in Canada, so I won’t bring any home. I think you have unjustly glorified it. When it is the only sweet treat, its taste seems unbeatable. But next to some good fatty ice cream, maybe not. Num. Fatty ice cream. I’m ready for some right now!
I must make some food for my train trip TOMORROW!
Friday, December 8, 1967
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
Dear Mom and Pop,
Winnie, Steve and I left late from Mwanza on the train, which is most embarrassing when everyone comes to say goodbye, but most all of them hung on to the bitter end. Mwanza was cool when we left, but Dar is hot and humid. A few days have been nice, but yesterday, whew! I’m sad to leave some good friends behind, but I am so ready for my trip home. So much to see! So much to do!
We stayed at the Salvation Army Hostel until yesterday for our debriefing. It’s a huge place with lots of service-type people, volunteers, missionaries, etc. We all eat in a huge dining hall with screens on the open sides and old, creaky benches. The food is served a course at a time and no matter where you sit the staff always serves the right course even though people sit with friends who are half way through the meal. They keep track by the cutlery at your place. Each course has a knife and fork or spoon. If you refuse a course, they remove the utensils for that one and the next server knows what to put at your place. Clever.
I caught some nice butterflies, and my killing/pinning and storage equipment worked very well.
The PCV conference was not taken too seriously although we have tons of stuff to do here before we go our separate ways. Forms, interviews etc. Two days of saying things we all knew so a PC staff person from Ethiopia could write it down. It was fun to see everyone, some of whom I haven’t seen since we first arrived. Most were happy in their schools, and we decided we were a successful program. We exchanged notes on our next travels. Several people are going to India, but not as fast as I am. I may spend less time in Karachi and more in Rangoon. I’ll see.
In town Monday, I saw one of my students. It turns out that the girls going to Moshi have been camping out in the railroad station since the train arrived from Mwanza on Saturday. The road to Moshi washed out, and no bus was available to take them around it. I saw someone at the Ministry of Education about this, and they promised to find beds for them if they didn’t leave that day. I hope they do but the girls are pretty resourceful.
My credit card has limited value. Peace Corps will pay me back for the airline ticket home so I have to pay for it here. I tried to pay for part of it with my credit card (American Express), only $210 out of $1120, but East African Airways wouldn’t accept it. They have to cable New York for the ok, and there is at least a 12-14 hour wait for a reply. After numerous calls I gave up and used some of my travelers’ checks. I’ll stick to just using the card to buy travelers checks because it’s too much bother otherwise.
I had to cancel my morning flight to Nairobi due to the credit card problem and go this afternoon, so I was able to make good use of the extra time. I took Mrs. Sterk, Steve’s mother, to the village museum. They have models built of all the different kinds of house in Tanzania. Quite interesting
I hope to get a letter in Nairobi, especially from Carol. I still want to leave there around the 13th.