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1964-1972 > Peace Corps Tanzania> Second Break

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Leopards at My Door: Second Break

Friday, August 11, 1966.

Dear Family,

g
Dhow on the Lake (KS)

Goodness. A letter from each of you! Pop, when I decide to rough it and become a hermit maybe I'll go out to your land in Prince George. I'll write a book about beavers. Do they have a high school there in need of a clever science teacher? If the beavers can stop the river, it can't be too huge.

Saturday, the last of the girls left for home without incident. The week was a complete loss; some girls didn’t even attend classes. Sunday and Monday, I spent 12 hours in the physics lab. Every piece of equipment is now in its proper place and has been recorded. A complete inventory hadn't been done since the school opened three years ago. Some equipment had never been listed. What a chore, but it's over.

Changes that have been made in our house:

1. A new dog, Dogger. She broke her leg two weeks ago and still has a bandage. Very intelligent and is getting used to the three cats.

2. We finallly have bookshelves for Kay's 20 feet of books, which she’s busy installing, alphabetically by author. It looks so much nicer than my black cardboard bookshelf (2 1/2x3 feet) that the Peace Corps provides all volunteers. It comes full of novels for our reading pleasure.

3. We have large balloon-shaped Chinese lamp shades in the living room. Better than the naked light bulbs dangling down.

4. We have the material for some living room curtains.

 5. We have a huge collage, 59" x 75," for one wall. Not yet installed.

6. We have a leopard skull, waiting for the brain to drop out.

Most of those things, except the skull, are thanks to Kay. It is so nice having a TEA for a housemate. If I bought those things someone would find out and reduce my living allowance. No danger of that. No money.

l
The Leopard Skull (after cleaning)

The skull is from the leopard shot on the grounds by the askaris (game wardens) from the game park. Someone in the next valley came out his back door to see why the chickens were squawking like crazy and saw the hind end of the leopard disappearing over the wall. It had already enjoyed several chicken dinners. The askaris felt it had to be removed, and since they didn’t have the trap available this time, it was shot.

As the biology teacher, I got the skull. Actually, the head less the pelt. Lucky me. We’ve had discussions with everyone on how to clean it. The best idea is to put it on top of an ant mound and let them do the job. It seems to be working.

The weather is getting quite warm. I'm very grateful that these houses are cool, with often a good breeze from the lake. If I could swim in the lake, I would certainly not ever leave this place. It is so perfect. My frustration at not swimming is extreme. I have to settle that issue somehow. Then I’ll take up residence.

Well, tah-

Harriet

Friday, August 24.

Dear Family,

The long pause between letters was due to the vacation, which (sigh) is over all too soon. I took a bus to Moshi Thursday for 15 1/2 hours. The next day I rode another bus south to Korogwe where I searched for the girl’s secondary school, not knowing if Anne Wiggins or Nancy O'Donnell would be there. Luckily they were, and I spent the night with them, while the Catholic sisters who run their school were on retreat.

Saturday, we three went by bus to the Kabuku Settlement Scheme, not far south of Korogwe. “Scheme” sounds shifty. Some manager’s idea. It's more like a cooperative. We met some Canadians on the bus who had climbed Kilimanjaro with Steve Sterk, the PCV from the boy’s school next to Bwiru. He made it. News travels fast.

On the bus, we passed healthy fields of sisal that I assumed belonged to the settlement scheme. When Cathy picked us up at the highway, she said the big plants were owned by a Swiss company, and unfortunately the bottom had just fallen out of the sisal market. The plants at the settlement scheme are still tiny.

sisal
Agave (sisal plant)

Cathy is one of three white people at the project. A nurse in maternal and child health, she helps the midwife and is learning about delivering babies. There is also a German volunteer, Manfred, and an American Friends volunteer, Tom, who plays the guitar well and sings Bob Dylan to the night sky. Cathy lives in one of the four villages of the settlement scheme but will move to a concrete block house in the center when it is ready. She now lives in a mud hut and sleeps in a tent.

We stayed three nights in a caravan, a big camper parked near Kathy’s tent. It gets very hot during the day! I’m supposed to be working here since too much relaxation time is bad for us Peace Corps Volunteers. As a project, I caught three rats which lived in the thatch roof of her new house. Monday and Tuesday I puttered around here while she took care of the pediatrics clinic, babies and all. Wednesday we drove to Korogwe and picked up supplies, including whitewash. Thursday, we mixed the whitewash, and Friday and Saturday we slapped it on the inside of one of the staff houses. While we were working, the water tanker arrived to fill the holding tank. Without ground water or wells, all house water is delivered by a big truck to a 55-gallon drum. Tom says he is going to build a shower for Cathy's new house by putting a tank on the roof and installing a hand pump to fill it. The sun will heat the water, and she will have hot running water. Makes you think twice about water use!

Cathy was a bit low while I was there. The settlement scheme was a good idea, but no money has been provided for anything even though people are arriving every day from areas where there was no land for them. It will be six years before the crop will be ready for harvest. Who knows what the price of sisal will be then.

I hope my visit helped cheer her up. The move to her new house should raise her spirits, but disorganization, rats, bugs, dirt, and poor food take their toll. Luckily, the two men are congenial. After seeing Cathy's situation you can take my complaints with a grain of salt. This counted as work days for our PCV obligation.

I had quite an exciting trip getting home. I hitchhiked to Arusha to get the bus to Mwanza and had a chilling adventure, but arrived back home very but late, safe and sound. (Click here to read the full story, Hitchhiking to Arusha).

We still have no head mistress. This could be an ungodly term discipline-wise.

Harriet

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