Better late than never

(This entry was written a week ago, and I’m using Lizzy’s computer to post it.)

It’s been a crazy, crazy week. We went to the market in Dar, which was where I picked up my favorite Swahili greeting (Mambo!/Poa!, or roughly “[How are] your matters?/Cool!”) and spent about a week at a hotel in Korogwe, doing orientation stuff- a refresher course on the basic Swahili grammatical structure, culture lessons, getting to know the other PCs, and exposure to spoken Swahili and the soko (market) of Korogowe.

I really enjoyed the first four days of orientation and found the information very useful, but in the wee hours of Friday morning I got some sort of stomach bug/food poisoning, as did 1/3rd of the other PCs. In addition, Lizzy was a bit feverish, though she most likely didn’t have what I have (I wasn’t feverish). We postponed our trip to Kijungumoto from Saturday to Sunday, since we weren’t sure how Lizzy would feel Saturday morning and I was dehydrated and exhausted by Friday afternoon. Lizzy felt well enough to go to the Korogwe market on Saturday, but I had to sleep and recover fluids most of that day.

I did manage to get out and about in the market for a few hours on Saturday, and I observed the buying of khangas (long peices of cloth that can be wrapped around the head/waist/wherever) and Kate’s lovely dress. We also bought me some bananas- the bananas here are smaller and greener than the ones in the US, but they taste fresher.

Sunday morning I finally felt fine (thank you, killer antibiotics) and we headed off! I was excited to meet everyone and see our house, and to finally put all the things we learned over the summer and in orientation to use. Kijungumoto is gorgeous, with green/grey hills undulating past each other on both sides of the road, and our house is really, really nice, with a huge sitting room with two armchairs and a couch, an attached pit toilet, and a bedroom for each of us (mine has its own attached pit toilet/floor drain for bucket showers!) A crowd of young men helped us unload our stuff and move it into the house, and some of the mamas filled our water tank for us (for a fee, which we found out from Ana was more than we should have paid. Oh well, we’ll do it ourselves from now on, and use going to the well as a chance to talk to the women, who don’t say much when they’re with their husbands.)

The highlight of my day was meeting Mzee Salim, who is an elder here of about my parents’ age- I believe he said he was born July 18th, 1957- who took the time to chat with us both when we first arrived and when we later met him walking along the main road that divides Kijungumoto. He sat with us for an hour or so and we talked in a mixture of English and Swahili about America, Tanzania, the weather, politics, a little bit about his family- he actually took us to meet a large swathe of his family, which is no mean feat, as his family makes up either 75 people in the 2,000-person village, or 75% of it (we weren’t clear on the numbers.) Either way, most of his family was forced by the government to move to Kijungumoto due to the first President of Tanzania’s Umojaa policies, which moved people from their scattered, shifting homesteads into more centralized villages and set plots of land. He grows about six different crops (we weren’t expecting that much diversity!) including bananas, maize, cashew nuts, and coconuts. He’s already invested a lot of time into us, and I think he’s definitely someone I’d like to talk more with and get to know, as well as someone who could potentially be a mover and shaker of our project.

And now for the bad news… I was feeling fine and chipper when we were meeting everyone yesterday, but we ended up going into our house and making dinner at around 9 pm, and by then we were all pretty drained. So we made a quick and dirty dinner of peanut butter and nutella smeared on Quaker Oats bars and rice krispie treats, went through our impressions of the day and plans for the morning, and went to sleep. Or at least, everyone but me went to sleep, because all of that sugar after three days of eating nothing (or at best, some white bread and bananas) almost immediately made me feel kind of ill. And then I found, to my surprise and embarrassment, that I was suffering one hell of a culture shock.

I lay awake for about two hours while my mind gibbered in broken Swahili and my thoughts flipped from one new face to another. I was already feeling sick, and worried about being sick again, and there was all this new information to take in, and on top of that my cell phone wasn’t able to call anyone. I was also shocked at how alone I felt when it was just me in the room- it was SO DARK at night and I hadn’t had a bedroom to myself for 2 straight weeks. I threw up a couple of times over the course of the night, and around 1:30 PM I knocked on Lizzy’s door and told her what was up. She let me stay with her for the rest of the night and talked me through some of my anxieties- she couldn’t talk me out of being desperately hungry and simultaneously kind of nauseous, but she helped with some of the psychological stuff. I tried to sleep after that, but there was some kind of tiny beeping noise going every second that just wouldn’t shut up, and by the time I decided I couldn’t ignore it and got my earplugs, it was almost 6 AM wakeup time.

The upshot of it all is that I got pretty much no sleep last night and was an emotional wreck this morning, which has been significantly alleviated by a) ginger tea, b) rice, c) finally being able to call my mom, and d) thinking about all of this in the light of day. My team is currently meeting the headmaster of the primary school here- I was going to try and go with them, but given the state I was in when they left (before elements b, c, and d) I think they were right that it wouldn’t have been very productive for me. I’m disappointed that I’m missing this meeting, since it’s the first semi-official one, but by posting this I’ve at least done my duty to one portion of my investors, and made sure I’m not eating my rice too fast. Also, once I post this, I’ll be able to include element e) of my recovery, which is sleep.

(I wasn’t able to post this last week, but I’m feeling much better and I’ve updated the main blog with what we’ve been doing this week! Also, if you want to write to me/send me things, you can do so at this address:

2Seeds Network
Kelly Trop
PO Box 506
Korogwe, Tanga, Tanzania, East Africa

I hope to be in touch again soon!)

And we’re off!

After returning back home to Pennsylvania’s verdant Lehigh Valley, I spent about a week running around to doctor’s appointments, stores, and other people’s houses. I got in one last Lindy and Blues night in Philadelphia with Posfe (‘Posfe’ is the collective noun by which I label all my high school friends), as well as one last Posfe bonfire at Sonya’s house, before I had to leave for my New Jersey relatives’ place, which is closer to JFK airport.

Also happening this last week was my yardsale. It was a good excuse for my friends to stop by and chat, and in fact I received a surprise visit from Sarabeth, Caleb, and Janelle, the slightly younger generation of my friends from Camp Brainerd! When asked what brought them out to my neck of the woods, Sarabeth replied “I saw you were having a yard sale, and I really like yardsales and I really like you!” After hanging out and chatting with me for an hour or so, she and her cohorts went home with armfuls of my clothing, books, and beanie babies. ๐Ÿ˜€

Between my friends, people from church, and people who just came for the yardsale, I raised over $50 in yardsale sales alone, which is not too shabby when you consider that the most expensive item I sold went for a mere $3! I also received almost $150 in straight-up donations, either at the yardsale or afterwards, from people who had meant to go to the yardsale but hadn’t gotten around to it. With that ~$200, the most recent financial report, and my own calculations, I think I have at least $6,192 in the bank or on its way there!

I’m really touched by everyone’s willingness to support me in this endeavor, whether it’s financially or just by telling me they’ll be thinking of me and wishing me the best (or by posting a song about my future exploits on my facebook wall.) The phone at my uncle’s place has been ringing off the hook for me for the past two days. ๐Ÿ˜€ I’m going to do my best, for you, for Kijungumoto, and for me.

These last three days have been full of preparation, both physical and mental, for the adventure ahead. I stayed up until 4 am packing on Sunday night, but that meant that it was done by Monday! That has given me some time to read up on the agricultural information 2Seeds linked us to, and also to talk to my family here in New Jersey. I realized last night that this week is the first time I’ve actually talked with this particular aunt as an adult- before, she’d always been the adult and I’d been the child, and I hadn’t gotten to know her as a person very well.

My aunt moved here from China 18 years ago. I asked her what it was like, with specific reference to language acquisition. She said that though she’d been one of the best at English in her classes, and she understood at least 50% of the BBC broadcasts and other similar sources of spoken English before coming, when she first arrived here, she found that she couldn’t understand anything anyone said for a while, and her speaking wasn’t much better.

She was also cut off from a lot of her normal emotional supports- her family, her friends from China- and she felt that friendship in America was different from friendship in China. She had the sense that it was necessary to be more guarded here, to avoid possibly being taken advantage of- she grew up in a smaller community, and the easy, sincere hospitality practiced there did not appear to be the norm in America.

She was also a little surprised at the diversity here; America’s fashion magazines and tv shows are still largely dominated by conventionally attractive white people, and I’m sure the concentration was even higher 20 years ago. As my aunt found, the media presentation of the US differs from the reality.

I’ve really enjoyed hearing about my aunt’s experiences, and I can’t help looking to them to give me an idea of what to expect when I move to an entirely new country to live. As my aunt pointed out, the situation is a little different- she was moving in hopes of building a better life for herself, whereas I’m moving chiefly in hopes of a better life for other people, and I have a definite departure date scheduled. But I’m definitely hoping this will give me valuable skills, and perhaps even a sense of purpose. My aunt’s experiences might help me come to grips with both the way my life and perceptions will change, and what changes will go on in the daily life and thoughts of the people of Kijungumoto when we arrive.

I have to wonder what ideas they have of Western culture, particularly the US, that we will confirm or belie. And I’m sure that my sketchy ideas about Africa, poverty, and community will be confronted and readjusted by the next 9 months. I might not know what they are until I get there, though. I think my best bet is to note what I find surprising- and then ask myself, “Why?”

Ten Questions And Answers about Kelly

Here are the answers to the 10 questions I picked from our list. You can read Kate’s here.

What’s your Meyers-Brigg personality?

I was typed as an ENFP, and I’ve found it to be a pretty accurate description all round. I aim to inspire people and I love making new connections- between ideas, between people, between people and ideas… in fact, sometimes I find it difficult to stop thinking of new options and start evaluating and working with the ones I already have. That’s one of the things I want to work on this year.

What’s the most inspiring class you’ve ever taken?

I have to go with the math class I took in my sophomore year at St. John’s College. Before I went to St. John’s, I’d never really liked math. But sophomore year, math blew me away- I loved everything about that class, from the readings to the tutor (professor.) We were reading and discussing Ptolemy’s astronomical calculations and models, Apollonius’s conic sections, and Descartes’s analytical geometry, which amounted to an in-depth, behind-the-scenes tour of algebra as I learned it in high school. Working through all these proofs, and actually seeing how one could use the equation y = mx + b to illustrate the various ratios that defined the conic sections, was a very powerful experience for someone like me, who had never actually understood where those handy equations came from, and thus never really felt comfortable using them.

Seeing (and in a sense, participating in) the development of algebra from geometry was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done. I was connecting huge gaps in my understanding, finding beauty in a place I hadn’t expected, and also good at math for the first time in my life. I had similar experiences in junior math, junior lab, and senior lab, when I finally started getting a handle on calculus and physics, but it took sophomore math and the example of Mrs. Trigg to get me to the point where I could get so much out of those later classes.

Mrs. Trigg is one of the hardest-working people I know. Since, as she told us, math wasn’t her strong suit, she put an enormous amount of time and effort into preparing for each class. And that effort paid off- if we got stuck on something, it was usually something she’d gotten stuck on, too, and so she could give us helpful suggestions on how to get through it. Her discussion questions were always intelligent and probing, and her assignments were some of the most useful I’d ever had in terms of helping me organize and think through information. She made me want to work as hard as she did, because with her it was clear that the amount of effort you put into something was directly proportional to how much you got out of it. Because she spent all of her time learning, she was an amazing teacher.

She showed me that with the right guides, sufficient resources of time and brainpower, and hard work, you can probably learn anything- and that collaborative learning is a very effective way to teach new things. And I that’s a huge part of why I applied to 2Seeds; we have these beliefs in common.

What’s the best Halloween costume of your life?

The dinosaur costume my mom made for me.

When you were 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was 10, I wanted to be a paleontologist, just like every other dinosaur-obsessed 10-year-old in America. I was also into geology at that point, probably because I loved the National Geographic book “Exploring Our Living Planet,” which was about the forces and processes that shaped the earth as we know it. Twelve years later, I still like playing with rocks by climbing and carving them, but I probably won’t make a career out of it.

Would you choose to have the power to apparate (be anywhere in the world instantaneously) or fly (be anywhere in the world in a couple of hours via flight) and why?

I’m glad Kate asked this question, because this something I’ve actually debated with myself, usually on long car rides. Assuming that this power is in addition to, and does not replace, any previous mode of transportation, I’d have to go with being able to apparate/teleport. Any time I forget something in going from one place to another, I could just wish myself back where the item is, pick it up, then return to where I wanted to be. I could visit all of my friends much more easily, get to places that I would otherwise need a car to go to… it would save me a lot of tedious daily transportation time. And for times when I’m travelling with other people and thus the journey is half the fun, I’d refrain from apparating. Unless I’m on some sort of strict schedule, I love road trips with friends and family and wouldn’t give them up.

What’s your favorite website to waste time on?

This is difficult for me to answer, as I waste a lot of time on the internet, but at the moment it might be Tor.com. As someone whose pleasure reading is primarily science fiction and fantasy (with the occasional literary novel or actual science book), it’s consistently interesting to me. They also update often, with book reviews and re-reads, all sorts of genre-related articles, links, and discussions, and the occasional exclusive short story.

If you could meet anyone from history, who would it be and why?

I would meet G.W. Leibniz, 17th & 18th century mathematician and philosopher. I’ve always been impressed by polymaths/Renaissance men, and Leibniz was interested- and good at- everything. He developed calculus independently from Newton, tried to synthesize Aristotle and the emerging scientific viewpoint of his time, anticipated many developments in information theory and biology, and in my opinion has a delightful view of the world. He wrote a lot of letters and short papers, on all sorts of topics, and I had a lot of fun junior year trying to figure out how one person could have so many different facets and interests, and what kind of perspective could tie together all of these disparate ideas. Logically enough, his philosophy (and mathematics, and physics, and theology…) is all about the relationship between parts and wholes.

I feel like I know him fairly well through his writings, but I wish I could have met him in person all the same. And though his taste in headgear is questionable (one wonders how many poodles died to make that wig), he was apparently rather charming in person, especially when one considers the competition. Elizabeth Charlotte, the Duchess of Orleans, said of him, “It is rare for intellectuals to be clean, and not to smell, and to understand jokes.”

Do you have a nickname?

To my friends from high school, I’m Pelly. Before someone gave me a pencil case, I used to always be in need of something to write with, so I’d borrow other people’s. My friend Sonya demanded her pencil back, but she mixed up the first letters and said, “Pelly, give me back my kencil!” and it stuck.

To a small group of people in college, I’m Kellytron. This is less explicable, but “Kelly Trop” sounds sort of like “Kellytron,” so it was probably another verbal slip-up, this time on the part of my friend Rachel while we were on a camping trip in West Virginia. Then we decided that this meant I was a robot, and it’s become a sort of ongoing tall tale/inside joke that at last count involved a ruined alien civilization, my MoonSword (don’t ask), and the Great Rift Valley.

What’s your favorite tradition? (could be family, could be from school, wherever)

I’ve become very fond of Storytellers, which is a club at my college that meets from 10 pm to midnight every Wednesday night. We sit in a circle and tell or read short stories aloud. Milk and cookies are provided. It was the way I met some of my closest friends, and it introduced me to a lot of great stories, as well as exposing me to the art of storytelling. I love that it’s trained me to look for and share stories, because they’re a great way to learn about people.

If you had a million dollars today, what would you do with it (savings isn’t an option)?

If I had a million dollars, I would buy you a green dress (but not a real green dress, that’s cruel!)