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Week Four

Monday, Oct. 4, 2010

For the past two weeks I have been fighting with a bug called a “jigger.” It’s a disgusting, infinitesimally small black pest that somehow finds a way to burrow into and under your skin. Once there and settled, it lays eggs, which creates a giant egg sack. Jiggers only go for the feet and toes; especially under your nails. I have now cut my nails down to oblivion in order to avoid anymore tucking in behind my toenail. My total plucked out of my feet with a needle and tweezers is eleven. There is still one, as I am typing, burrowed in the left corner of my right big toenail. I attempted last night and the night before to extract it, but came up short of my goal because I didn’t feel like poking myself with a needle anymore. Therefore, I am most certainly not sick of Tanzania, but I am completely and utterly sick of jiggers! I have tried to avoid them by wearing closed-toed shoes, socks, as well as scrubbing my feet and toes with a toothbrush and bar of soap every other night or so, but nothing seems to keep them away! They are like a lion on a fresh kill, a snail on a wall, a suction cup on a window, they are simply inevitable.

As for adventures over the past week, for our economic policy class, we were split into groups of five or so, and then ventured out in to the village to conduct focused interviews. We learned about PRAs, which are participatory rural appraisals that are basically an outline to the “how tos” when it comes to interviewing people living in a rural areas. We attempted to use the methods of observations within our interviews, but it was difficult to seem “undercover” for the most part and just observe. Our questions regarded local resources and their issues. Our main goal was to identify the top five issues in Rhotia and create a venn diagram from that. This project was much harder than I thought it would be. I know we are a scene when we walk out into the town. People shout “mzungu” (white person)and point at us; sometimes it seems positive, sometimes not. Everyone notices us of course and wants to know why we are here and what we are doing. We always respond with, “Sisi wanafunzi” (we are students), but that doesn’t seem to change any looks or comments or responses. The gist is, is we are white people, we are very noticeable, and most think we are here to give them something.

In regard to our interviews in Rhotia, they were definitely a challenge due to the hesitancy of the people. It was hard to find people who wanted to talk with us and who would be open and honest. We talked to a nice array of people; a father of six, a mother of eight, two teenage girls, a group of old men, and then a very successful farmer. Those conversations were not too awkward because everyone we talked to liked sharing their opinion on the questions we asked them. However, like I said before, we are only students and we are here to study and because of this, asking them questions about their lives and their resources and telling them how their answers are going to be reported makes me feel guilty for asking them any questions, because we have no way of making a huge difference within their community, at least, not now. With respect to our interviewees responses, the most popular issue stated was education and its lack there of. Most children are sent to primary school, which is basically the elementary level. If the pass out, they can go to secondary school, which is more expensive, or they simply stop going to school and start working within their families because they cannot afford it. Young boys will most likely work with the livestock (if the family has any) and the young girls will help their mamas clean their home, do laundry, and cook. Education here is simply too expensive and does not provide enough quality teaching to help children pass out of primary school. Students only get one chance to pass and if they do not succeed, all opportunity is lost. In other places such as Karatu, there are private secondary schools, and some children have the chance to go if their parents are wealthy enough, but that is quite a rarity. Other things mentioned were drinkable water, capital issues, famine, drought resistant seeds, firewood, employment, etc.

There are many complex issues in Rhotia including a poor and absent government as well as minimal aid organizations. The people simply live with what they have and make the best of it. In retrospect, all the people truly need is a little opportunity, and from that comes the betterment of resource availability. Where can this opportunity come from? I will leave you with that thought….

Salama (peace),

Katie

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Tags: Katharine Kurtz (Kenya

 
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