Hello Friends and Family!
I hope everyone is doing well in the States and elsewhere. The other 40 volunteers and I finished our Pre-Service Training in December and have since moved to our permanent sites across Tanzania. I am living in a village in the northern part of the country, located in the Kiteto district of the Manyara region. My village is a sprawling wooded land spotted with mud and stick homes called bomas that are inhabited by people of the Masai tribe and connected by footpaths that cut through thick forest. I am excited to call it home for the next two years.
The day after our swearing-in ceremony at the US Embassy, I packed my belongings into a Land Rover along with four other volunteers stationed in my region and departed on a two-day journey to our new sites. After spending one night in a town named Kibaya, myself and the volunteer who would be living in the village adjacent to mine traveled the remaining 80 kilometers to our sites.
Upon arrival at my site, I was nervous as to how I would be received by the village community. I knew only one person when I arrived – my village chairperson, or mwenyekiti, who travelled with me from Kibaya to my village. I was relieved that we got along well – he helped me buy a charcoal stove and other supplies at the market and even began to teach me a few words in the tribal language – but was worried that I might be treated as a foreigner in my new home and especially anxious about the language barrier I expected to face. The Tanzanian Peace Corps staff had informed me that they used a translator to communicate with the non-Swahili-speaking members of my village during their visit to my site before my arrival.
Over the next few days, my initial anxieties about language and acceptance quickly dissipated. I discovered that, although the village population strongly favored the Masai language, many actually did know Swahili and were excited to talk to me and ask about who I was, where I came from, and what I was doing in the village. I continue to be surprised by how receptive my community has been to my presence. I find myself being brought gifts of milk, encouraged to participate in ceremonies and attend local events, and invited to neighbors homes to eat. One of my neighbors even slaughtered one of his goats to celebrate my coming to visit him on a Sunday afternoon.
I recently got the opportunity to attend a celebration for the circumcision of a youth in my village where I learned about some of the more interesting aspects of Masai tradition, such as song, dance, methods of slaughtering livestock, and the bloodletting of cattle, where a cow is not killed, but its Carotid artery is punctured and a quantity of blood is drained for human consumption. I found it interesting to learn about the significance surrounding circumcision itself. In Masai tradition, boys are not circumcised until they reach their teenage years and the circumcision is viewed as a rite of passage into manhood. After a boy is circumcised, he moves up into the age class of Morani, or warrior, and is referred to and addressed as such in greetings. He is also allowed to marry and wear the four-piece shuka, the clothing characteristic of the Masai warrior.
Check my Facebook page for more photos and videos from the last few weeks. Also, I have updated my mailing address in the Contact Me page to my current address here at my site.
Thanks for reading! Keep in touch.