Leopards at My Door: Peace Corps Tanzania
- 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
This is the text of a book by the same name available from Amazon. Included in that book are two related items: Mountain Women, and Gifts from the Poorest of the Poor.
When the Peace Corps invited me to teach in Tanzania, I was delighted. I had passed through East Africa on my way home from Malawi two years previously while I was in college. I joined Crossroads Africa for the summer as my first foray to the continent, with the express purpose of checking out a possible Peace Corps posting. Small steps. I helped build a brick dormitory, and returned home infatuated with Africa.
As a part of our preparations for Malawi, we watched a scratchy black-and-white film of the independence day celebrations for Tanganyika that had occurred only three years before. The actual event that we attended in Malawi was identical. Only the flags were changed. By the time the Peace Corps invitation arrived, Zanzibar and Tanganyika had united to form the new country of Tanzania. President Julius Nyerere, a teacher himself before becoming an activist, was leading the new country with integrity and enthusiasm.
Tanzania was my dream assignment.
During my two years in Mwanza, the blue air letters were a lifeline to my family, recording for them the activities at Bwiru Girl’s Secondary School and my travels during school breaks. Reading them brought back welcome memories.
My mother wrote to me at least once a week, and I responded to her letters out of habit. Some of my letters were dense with detail and excitement. Others included mundane items written to fill up the limited space, details that today seem almost historical in nature, day-to-day activities and events that make the story real in their detail. My parents shared the letters with my younger brother, Allen, a college student, and my older sister, Carol, a nurse in Portland.
Memories are fickle, so I have been delighted to reconnect with some of my cohorts from that era to fill in gaps and attempt to clarify details. With their permission, I have incorporated some of their recollections. Kay Puttock, Anita Foley, Kathy Simpson and Winnie Goliday remembered school events that had escaped me. George Brose and I struggled to recall details of Outward Bound training, wading through what was done then and what evolved later. They all generously offered photos for my use (noted with initials). I have also drawn on my photos taken during other trips to Africa.
Thumbnails of the Chapters
During the First Term everything was sparkling new to me. I was getting comfortable with the country, the school, the staff and my classes. There was the encounter with the first of several leopards and its subsequent capture. A visit to the nearby Bilharzia Research Lab reinforced my swimming restriction.
During my First Break, I attended a two-week science course for teachers in Dar es Salaam. On the weekend, I joined my Peace Corps group in Dodoma to share stories of our first school term. Afterwards, I visited the enchanting island of Zanzabar.
Becoming head of the science department challenged me in my Second Term. My housemate, Kay, and I were in court several times for two different cases, interesting and annoying. Biology field trips, mid-year exams, hysterical students, inspections and the showdown between our head mistress and the government packed the term.
For half of our Third Term we were without a headmistress and some of the girls became quite unruly. A trip to nearby islands was a good anthropology lesson that linked to rock carvings I uncovered later in my yard. I continued to coach the athletics team. The local murder trial of a Peace Corp volunteer attracted international attention. More wildlife encounters and preparation for the Cambridge Overseas Exam kept life interesting. A wonderfully tough headmistress brought a better attitude to the school.
The Third Break was my longest. I drove to Kampala with Kay and then met my mother and sister in Nairobi for a tour of wildlife preserves in Kenya and Tanzania.
The Fourth Term was relative quiet due to our competent headmistress. We had the usual staff changes, another lake fly invasion and further encounters with wildlife. Life at the school was never boring.
After escorting the girls to Bukoba on the ferry, I stayed at school for the Fourth Break. Our headmistress left after bringing the school to order. While the country was changing around us, we teachers tidied up the school, had a sing-along at the lake, attended a circus and cleaned off more rock carvings in my front yard.
At the beginning of my Fifth Term we helped our new headmistress settle in, ti our great relief. Crossroads Africa participants visited Mwanza for the national holiday and we had fun comparing our Crossroads experiences. My athletics team did well in their meets and another training invigorated my biology courses. The national political party, TANU, unsettled us PCVs by pressing for our departure immediately but President Nyerere came to our defense.
As an instructor for the Outward Bound Mountain School during Fifth Break, I conditioned for and climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro with the eighty young women in the course. After that I traveled to Dar-es-Salaam to coach my athletics team in the national athletics competition which they were fortunate to lose.
During the Sixth Term, TANU, the national political party, held their conference in Mwanza. I did my best to concentrate on my work but preparations for my return home excited me.
Looking Back. More than fifty years after leaving Tanzania, my Peace Corps experience still influences my activities and choices.