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Colleen and Christian Hiner's Peace Corps service in Tanzania
Colleen and Christian Hiner's Peace Corps service in Tanzania
The Hiner’s Peace Corps adventure overseas
Friday, August 13, 2004
By Leslie McLaughlin
Caption: Christian and Colleen Hiner are ready to enjoy a night out in Lambo, Tanzania, East Africa. All dressed up and no place to go.
As you may recall, Colleen Hiner of Pine Grove and her husband, Christian Hiner, had left for their two-year Peace Corps service in Tanzania. They had finished the assigned training and language classes and finally arrived in their village of Lambo just before Christmas. They moved into their incomplete house which only had cement walls, floor and a tin roof and now, even six-plus months later, the house is not completely finished, but things move slowly in Tanzania. Colleen’s mother is Laura Rogers of Pine Grove and a long-time employee of Raley’s.
Following here are extracts from Colleen’s almost-monthly e-mails to friends and family that give interesting insight to the couple’s new lifestyle:
Christian built a chicken coop, finding it very difficult because of shoddy tools and materials, such as non-uniform, uncured and very heavy hardwood. The hammer broke and the nails bent but when it was done, he had really accomplished something. The coop and chicken run, which is called a “banda,” is a marvel to Lambo’s locals as they see it protects the chickens from hawks and snakes at night and it’s easier to find the eggs and keep track of the chickens. The village chickens roam free and must fend for themselves.
Colleen’s job has been busy doing “women’s work,” such as cleaning the house and clothes and a lot of food preparation. Much of the summer has been spent cooking (and cleaning) and more cooking and “here brings the term ‘homemaking‚’ to a whole new level.”
She reports that “... the house still isn’t done but a Peace Corps representative is coming to visit so we hope she’ll be able to set things in motion to complete our house, now that we’ve been living here for several months! Other than that we’ve just been trying to get used to all the dirt and bugs and just being less clean generally.”
They tried their hand at making homemade “cheese” and pronounced it good, more like salty cottage cheese than the feta they were hoping for and they have been making a ‘wastewater’ garden. “Work has begun ‘pole pole’ (very slowly) on a fence so we will have less watoto (children) staring into our windows.”
They were informed they need a Tanzanian housecat because their Americanized cat, named “Paka,” was having trouble catching and killing the panya (rat) living in the rafters of the house. Now they have acquired a “native” housecat named “Pili” and the two get along well.
There was an incident with a deadly poisonous snake at the house as Christian came upon a black, slithering snake and almost kept walking until it coiled up and fanned out its hood. “He promptly retrieved his fimbo (long stick locals use to fend off dangerous animals) and smacked the hell out of the black, spitting cobra. We decided we’d rather kill it now at 14 inches long than have it come back at six feet.”
Colleen tells of celebrating another Peace Corps Volunteer’s birthday where pork was to be the main event. She and Christian volunteered to get the pork and went off to the butcher who turned out to be a kijana with a panga (a youth with a machete) “who whacked us out three kilos of pig leg, bringing us to a new understanding of the term ‘butchered.’ We proceeded to have it for every meal that weekend - roasted, stewed, re-roasted, hot, cold, for breakfast and that sort of thing.”
They were able to build a storeroom, she said, in their courtyard “to store the offensive garage-like items such as hoe, tools, extra wood, buckets and garden items that were previously sitting in our front/kitchen/dining/non-bed room. There were, of course, the normal frustrations of doing any kind of contracted work, such as the fundi (craftsman) not showing up when scheduled but because our house has only two rooms, it is good to have the garage out of the kitchen.”
Occasionally they can get to other villages and went to the “mnada” at Dareda, a slightly bigger village nearby. A mnada is a big fair-like event that takes place once a month and is well-attended. “One of the highlights of the mnada, is the nyama choma (grilled/roasted meats) which is made fresh on the spot. We had the experience of watching goats becoming meat, right before our eyes - and theirs! The goat heads were on the ground below skinned carcasses, while first the feet were removed, then the body was cut in half. We had kind of intended to purchase some meat to bring back to our house for that night, but we changed our mind.
“While in the U.S. we were vegetarians, though there is something to be said about growing your own food, instead of buying it sterile, wrapped in cellophane from the grocery store. Though there are surprises!
“Another moment of surprise was when we were riding one of the nicer, smaller buses back to our village and the windows kept falling off the bus. The passenger nearest would simply grab the window and hold it in front of them while the bus continued driving. No surprise, no annoyance, just acceptance. We are learning.
“Another contrast is back home, we’d typically be organic supporters, but here the prevalence of genetically modified or chemically treated seeds is intense. The farmers aim for the least chance of crop failure as whether or not their crop succeeds really does have a direct relationship to whether you eat or not or if your child/children can continue in school. Because as environmentalists, we are aware of the potential issues of genetically modified food, so we don’t want people to become dependent on technologically advanced mbegu mpya (new seeds) when it may turn out just to be a ‘quick fix‚’ that could cause more problems in the long run. But how do you tell someone who is starving that they should chance a lower yield because it could be better for them in the future?
“Our faith in the Tanzanian mail system has somewhat been restored when we received a package from November which we thought was lost. Turns out it had been shipped ‘surface’ rather than ‘air‚’ so it actually made good time in four to five months.
“We had our first visitor, Christian’s younger brother Kyle, arrived at the airport and since his flight was delayed for some hours, we entertained ourselves watching a huge bird, 4 to 5 feet tall with a beak at least 18 inches long, forage for thrown scraps of other customers. We found out later this bird was a Marabou Stork.
“We took Kyle on a four-day safari to the Lake Manyara National Park, the Ngorongo Crater and to the Serengeti National Park and saw tons of animals. It was a wonderful experience and we look forward to repeating it with future visitors. Hint, hint,” she said.
Speaking of “future visitors,” Christian and Colleen are looking forward to visits by Colleen’s mother, Laura Rogers, who is expected at the end of September and Christian’s parents have expressed an interest in coming next spring.
“We had the pleasure of meeting some Baptist missionaries who were very nice and hospitable to us Peace Corps mongrels. We had gone to their house for a real American barbecue. The house was like a little slice of the U.S. - propane grill, refrigerator and there was Jell-O! And mayonnaise, cookies, a TV, nice sound system not to mention electricity and running water. We were completely satisfied with the food alone but then they consented to watching the end of the ‘Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Return of the King,’ that Christian had picked up in Arusha the last time we were there. It was truly a revitalizing day. We are so glad to be here, but that little taste of home was definitely yummy!”
| This Month's Issue: August 2004|
Teresa Heinz Kerry celebrates the Peace Corps Volunteer as one of the best faces America has ever projected in a speech to the Democratic Convention. The National Review disagreed and said that Heinz's celebration of the PCV was "truly offensive." What's your opinion and who can come up with the funniest caption for our Current Events Funny?
Exclusive: Director Vasquez speaks out in an op-ed published exclusively on the web by Peace Corps Online saying the Dayton Daily News' portrayal of Peace Corps "doesn't jibe with facts."
In other news, the NPCA makes the case for improving governance and explains the challenges facing the organization, RPCV Bob Shaconis says Peace Corps has been a "sacred cow", RPCV Shaun McNally picks up support for his Aug 10 primary and has a plan to win in Connecticut, and the movie "Open Water" based on the negligent deaths of two RPCVs in Australia opens August 6. Op-ed's by RPCVs: Cops of the World is not a good goal and Peace Corps must emphasize community development.