- 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
Wednesday, February 1
Dear Mom and Carol,
I hope you’re enjoying Rome, and your feet are holding up.
Things are getting back to normal after the break. It was so nice having you here. Now you can understand what’s up when I write.
Miss Inkpen is getting over the loss of her beloved dachshund, and says her other one is very lonely. Hunters have been wandering around with their guns to no avail. That leopard is long gone. It has good taste, I think. A well-fed dachshund looks just like a juicy sausage.
I’ve been trying to resist stuffing myself with mangos now that I know the rash I get around my mouth is from the skins. Who would have thought that poison oak and mango skins contain the same irritating chemical?
Kay took her car into town for repairs today and rode back in a taxi. When she arrived, the driver demanded too much for the fare. She offered him the usual price, but he refused. Kay said, “Take it or leave it.”
He left it and drove off, cursing. Now she’s scared he’s going to return and chop her up. She went to Miss Inkpen with her tail between her legs, and Miss Inkpen laughed. So much for Kay’s fears of machete-wielding taxi drivers. Kay lived in northern Tanganyika with her family when the Mau Mau were chopping up settlers, so she has grounds for her fears.
Misc: Freya is fine. She has lost lots of weight and looks much better. She was already pretty pudgy when she ate the molasses candy you sent me. I was hoping for some retribution, but she showed no signs of a stomach ache.
The kittens are really wild and fun to watch, occasionally venturing outside. Daring little guys. Now I must answer the heap of mail I received as a result of my August Christmas cards.
Wednesday, February 8, 1967
Dear Mom and Carol,
The banks were nationalized on Tuesday. I’m not sure what that means but most banking ground to a halt, a big problem for savings account holders like me. I don’t know if they’ve started to cash checks again, but I’m broke. I have no other way to get money because everything is deposited directly to my account.
President Nyerere made an important policy speech Sunday in Arusha. It is still only available in Swahili but from the comments I hear, he railed at the corruption that is stalling economic development, and praised the socialist model as a solution. He does not want people to believe money from the outside is the answer. If everyone works hard, the country will develop and become sustainable. All big companies will be nationalized, that sort of thing. We don’t have any big companies in this area but I like his ideas. He has some good ones. I hope they will work.
Remember the lake flies last year? They hatch when it rains about now and die in fluffy heaps under the lights. Anita, who teaches Home Ec., wasn’t here for the hatch last year. This morning she went up to her cookery classroom. Some of the girls were looking out the window, which is unusual. A fishy stink hit her when she opened the door. Several giggling girls were standing next to one of the ovens, which held not a pie, but tiny lake fly patties. The piles of flies are mostly air so I imagine it would take one huge pile of flies to make one bitty patty.
The cooks had to be local girls. Last year, one of the girls told us, with disgust, “Some people like to eat the lake flies.” Not many of the girls wanted to try them this year either.
I asked Anita if she tasted one. “Oh, no. Not me!” she laughed. “I just let them finish their baking project and then started the class.”
I’m making rat cages from debes, boxy aluminum five-gallon cans of cooking oil from the school kitchen. I need to remove the bottoms. It’s a very noisy process. Lots of whacking which reverberates in the aluminum sides. A machete is the norm here for such projects, so you pound in the tip at the edge and hammer it around until the bottom falls out. A giant can opener would be much quieter, but when in Rome…oh, yes, that’s where you are.
Freya is in heat, and all sorts of canine rapists are hanging around. Kay tries to keep her inside, but the dogs smell her and lurk, hoping. We talked about little diapers, but had trouble visualizing what to do with the tail. A determined suitor will not be deterred anyway. Vigilance is the only solution to protect her chastity!
ETC: The weather is quite cool and occasionally rainy. I’ve replanted my garden. Wish me better luck this time. No leopard lately. Maybe the hunter did shoot him. What a waste of a gorgeous animal, I say.
Monday, February 27
Dear Mom and Carol,
I finally was able to do my favorite demonstration in biology today, one from my high school class. It was so cool I wanted to repeat it, but never the equipment. You fill a large bell jar with water, cover it with a deep, flat-bottomed dish and invert the whole thing carefully. Put an inch of water in the dish to seal the bell jar and insert a tube under the lip. Give the lecture about lung capacity, hyperventilate, and BLOW into the tube until your lungs are empty, and your face is red. The water gushes out, leaving your air in the bell jar! Amazing. After the exhale, mark the water level on the bell jar. Invert again and measure how much water it takes to fill to that level. That’s my lung capacity. Impressive.
I love having a lab full of things to play with. I let a few of the girls measure their own lung capacity, but I don’t think they had their hearts in it as I did.
Last night, students from Bwiru Boys Secondary School came over for a play. They were loud and rowdy while the girls were presenting the play, so Miss Inkpen told them to leave. They refused. Their behavior was near riot stage, in her opinion, so she called the police. I thought it was just normal for them, but I wasn’t responsible for the girls. The police came immediately and forced them out of the hall and back to their school. A few of the boys apologized, but most were still belligerent.
The running shoes arrived today, and I also cut out 12 blouses for the athleticists. That’s what the girls in athletics call themselves now. I guess “athletician” struck them too much like beautician, which is what I thought when they made it up. They can sew up their blouses on the school sewing machines. Now we will look sharp when we compete, which is important to them. The shoes will help as well. They have been using flimsy canvas shoes or running barefoot and doing fine, but they risk injuries. We can buy the shoes here. Bata brand. Cheap but still cost more than the plastic ones most of them wear around school. And very smart. That’s also important.
Our shamba girl uncovered some etchings on the rocks in our front yard. Most were masses of concentric circles, like the ones we saw on the islands near Mwanza last year. The edges are eroded. We can write it up and turn it into the right people and be famous! Ha.
Not much is happening. Three and a half weeks to exams, and I’m teaching mostly old stuff, so classes are easy. I’m going to escort the girls to Bukoba at the end of the term. It means a free boat trip. I prefer to think of it as a lake cruise.
Saturday, March 25, 1967.
Dear Mom and Pop,
I assume Mom is home by now. Soon we begin the term’s most difficult week, the one after exams and before going home. We do have classes scheduled, but if the girls learn anything it’s not because they tried — because they don’t — and I don’t blame them. Only the most motivated will pay any attention to me. Exams ended Tuesday, Wednesday was a Muslim holiday, and Thursday was a feeble day of classes because Friday and Monday are Christian holidays, and then we have six days of classes before the girls go home. I don’t know who makes this up. Holding any class after exams is nuts.
The regional drama festival was held in town last week, and every secondary school from many miles around sent an entry. Kay directed our girls in “Antigone.” Ours was one of the three best plays, repeated on the last night! Kay has her quirks, but she certainly can get the girls to focus when she wants. Bwiru Boys School won second place.
First place went to the Shinyanga Secondary School for a work produced by Andy Jackson, the chap who drove Kay and me to Murchison Falls. They did a Nigerian play, “The Trials of Brother Jero.” Jero is a fake prophet, cursed by women. It’s the one day in the Brother’s life when he is most severely tempted by women, and comes close to his downfall. The character who almost does him in is a trader and his creditor, who wants her money from him. Jero’s character was played by a very tall boy who wore a wig to emphasize his height, and he was a fine actor. It was excellent.
I’m working on sisal handicrafts. Last year, I visited Cathy Bloom’s work project where the settlement scheme planned to grow sisal commercially. We drove past rows and rows of the fat, leafed plants, that look like huge artichokes, with a spike on the tip of each four-foot leaf. Cathy said they were not, unfortunately, the plants the settlement scheme owned. The sisal is used in crafts, twine or manila rope. You have to bash up the juicy leaf and tease the long, coarse fibres free from the pulp. I tried it on one leaf, and it’s a lot of work.
Fortunately, I can buy hanks of the fiber at the market. Women around the lake craft mats, baskets, coasters and other sisal items, so I thought I’d give it a try. I have a way to go before I can make my fortune this way. Still haven’t perfected the technique of taming the sisal. I tried soaking it; there must be something else they do. I should ask one of the women who weave, but most of the baskets in the market are from further east around the lake.
Kay and I had a long talk about the merits and necessity of birth control with Suleimani. He is a grandfather, very proud of his many offspring and their kids. He may be past procreation, but don’t bet on it. Supporting the family is not a problem, since he’s well-paid by us, so the economic argument went nowhere. He listened respectfully, though he is used to our strange ideas and lets them roll off.
The other night Kay was making a special dessert that needed whipped cream, a treat for some of our guests. She set Suleimani up with the bowl and the cream we saved from our milk. After she showed him what to do, he beat it for several minutes. Kay kept an eye on him while she worked on the rest of the cake. She could see him looking her way for reassurance, or maybe he thought it was a joke. She encouraged him, but was getting worried. Eventually it thickened, to her great relief and Suleimani’s delight. He likes learning new things, especially British cooking.
Misc: The weather now is great. Never too warm, often breezy. The lake is so tempting but no, no, no. No swimming.
Miss Inkpen goes on leave April 15. Her replacement, a nun who headed up a teacher training school, was supposed to arrive this week but hasn’t yet. I hope that isn’t an omen.
Charles and Bette Patterson, PCVs in my group, brought the Bukoba students down to present their play, and we all went for lunch during a break. When I go to Bukoba I’ll stay with them during the layover day, so I’m glad for a chance to be hospitable.
Peter Hughes, the organizer of our boat trip to see rock etchings, came out on Wednesday to survey our rock art. He found new glyphs and was impressed with our collection, so this vacation I will dig about in the dirt. Maybe I’ll find more treasures.