A Letter From Jeff Goveia
- Africa, Tanzania
July 11, 1993
I'm sorry it has taken so long for me to write, but things have been unbelievably hectic for the last six weeks. This is the first really free weekend I've had in the entire time that I have been here. It's been a great time, though.
I'll try to give you a little idea of what's happened so far. As I mentioned in my last letter, my first stop was in Chicago. This was called staging and its main purpose was ... to familiarize us with the Peace Corps and each other. Our training group consists of 17 people—15 men and 2 women—not the normal gender split. Seven of us are 23 years old, including the two women. Several are in their late 20s and early 30s, and the remaining three are 38, 51, and 66.
All of us are going to be teachers here. Five are physics teachers, six are math teachers, three are chemistry teachers, and then there's one economics teacher, a geography teacher, and a teacher trainer. Except for the one teacher trainer, we are all what the Peace Corps calls "generalists," or, in other words, we are all from non-education fields ... though we are all .. knowledgeable in our subject areas. Five of us are engineers, several are chemistry and biology majors, including one Ph.D. in physical chemistry, and the 38-year-old is a pharmacist.... Really, some of these peoples' credentials are amazing. The 66-year-old teacher trainer was the head of the American schools in the Panama Canal Zone, the 58-year-old just finished writing the premier program to aid in the design of Stealth technologies, and I've already mentioned the Ph.D. This is really the most amazing group of people I've ever been associated with.
The country of Tanzania is also an extremely pleasant surprise. It is really amazingly beautiful. The town I live in, Arusha, is a cross between Hawaii and southern Colorado. The city is at the base of Mount Meru. Meru is almost 15,000 feet high and rises above Arusha. Arusha itself is in the rolling foothills and is covered with huge tropical flowers, banana trees, palm trees, and ferns. The housing here is fairly varied. There is everything from mud huts with thatched roofs to large stucco homes with red clay tile roofs. The house I live in is a government-owned duplex. It has three bedrooms, and running water and electricity—though neither is very dependable.
My host family for training is really neat. The father is the head librarian for a science and technology library here in Arusha. The mother is an extremely happy lady. She is always smiling or laughing, but she is busy from sunup to sundown cooking, cleaning, and working on the farm. They own about three acres outside of town. They have three children—two girls and a boy, who range in age from 18 to 23. They all live at home. The oldest daughter works at the post office. The middle child helps her mom at home, and the younger boy is going to secondary school. The father and the son speak English pretty well, but the daughters speak almost no English and the mom can't speak a word of it. Thank goodness my Swahili is getting better. I am currently able to carry on a conversation with the mom without too much assistance. Unfortunately though, our formal Swahili lessons ended last week, so I'm on my own now.
Training thus far has been focused on Swahili and Peace Corps policy, but in the last two weeks, we have gradually gotten more education training. Our teachers for the education components are all fairly important members of the Tanzanian ministry of education. One of them is the head of the department that develops the curriculum for every government school in the country. He is the head of the teachers here and he really gets into his job. He has really gone out of his way to welcome us to Tanzania.
Next week we are going to visit the schools we will teach in. My school is an all-girls Catholic boarding school located near the town of Bukoba, which is on the western shore of Lake Victoria about 20 miles south of the border with Uganda.
Several people have told me it's the prettiest area in Tanzania. I can't imagine, because every place I've been has been lovely.
The trip there should be really interesting. It starts with a daylong bus ride across the Serengeti to Mwanza. From Mwanza I'll take a steamboat trip to Bukoba. It should be fun!
Well, I'd better be going. My Tanzanian mother is yelling at me to come to dinner. I hope to get a letter from you soon. Mail takes about two weeks to get to and from the States.