2007.12.05: December 5, 2007: Headlines: COS - Tanzania: Greensboro News Record: Andrew Clark reflects on two years in Tanzania as a Peace Corps Volunteer

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Tanzania: Peace Corps Tanzania: Peace Corps Tanzania: Newest Stories: 2007.12.05: December 5, 2007: Headlines: COS - Tanzania: Greensboro News Record: Andrew Clark reflects on two years in Tanzania as a Peace Corps Volunteer

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Andrew Clark reflects on two years in Tanzania as a Peace Corps Volunteer

Andrew Clark reflects on two years in Tanzania as a Peace Corps Volunteer

The first year was probably the hardest of my life; the second was the best year of my life. The first year it's all about adjustments, getting used to a new life, being on your own in a way you've never had to before. The second year, not only are things easier, you start to see the impact you're having.

Andrew Clark reflects on two years in Tanzania as a Peace Corps Volunteer

Reflections on two years in Tanzania

Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2007 3:00 am

My son, Andrew, 26, recently completed two years' service with the Peace Corps in Tanzania. He taught math at a secondary school for girls near Lushoto. Here's a Q&A:

How would you sum up your experience in Tanzania?

The first year was probably the hardest of my life; the second was the best year of my life.

What made the difference?

The first year it's all about adjustments, getting used to a new life, being on your own in a way you've never had to before. The second year, not only are things easier, you start to see the impact you're having.

What were the difficulties?

Language, not understanding the culture, not knowing the proper way to act, not being used to sticking out. It's hard being the one people are always staring at because you look so different.

What can you say about Tanzanian culture?

It's very open and much less solitary than American culture. People aren't used to being alone, ever. If you're living by yourself, people want to come and sit in your house for hours so you're not alone. Americans like to have some time to themselves.

Tanzania is a poor country. How do people live?

Most are just subsistence farmers. They grow enough food for themselves with a little left over to sell. Most people live on very little. There aren't many employment opportunities, especially for people who aren't well educated.

Did you see much potential in your students? What obstacles do they face?

Absolutely I see potential. Their obstacles are lack of books and other materials, like computers and lab equipment. For the girls, there's an idea that they aren't good in math and science, and they give up too easily.

Tanzania has wonderful natural resources and wildlife. What were some of your most memorable moments?

Seeing chimpanzees in the wild at Gombe (where Jane Goodall did her primate research). It was amazing to go to the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater to see all the animals they're famous for, the lions and elephants, to see Mount Kilimanjaro and the great beaches on Zanzibar.

What do you think you accomplished, and what did you learn about yourself?

I think I was able to help my students with their math but also show them and other people what Americans are really like. About myself, I learned I'm capable of adapting to a completely different kind of life and becoming self-reliant.

You mean living without electricity in your house, that sort of thing?

Surprisingly enough, you adapt quickly to not having electricity. It's not one of the hardest things to do without, by a long shot.

What's harder?

Not having transportation. Going anyplace to buy anything but the most basic goods, you have to plan a whole day. It was a three-hour round trip to town, by walking 45 to 50 minutes to a main road, then waiting for a bus. In the rainy season, that was difficult.

Did things happen to you that could never happen in America?

Bacterial dysentery, I guess. So many things. The kind of transportation a minibus designed for 15 people carrying 25 to 30, or bicycle taxis. School situations, where most students don't have books. Or the fact that I was teaching 120 teenage girls, and they all thought I was cool.

Would you recommend Peace Corps to others?

Absolutely. But I would say, make sure you're doing it for yourself because if you're trying to change the world, it's too easy to get frustrated. People who are too idealistic don't last long.

Is there something appealing about life in Tanzania that we don't have here?

Yeah, it's a much more laid-back life. People don't experience the kind of stress we have here. Once you accept that people don't care about doing things on a schedule, it can be very liberating.

Will you go back to Africa someday, or will it be somewhere else next?

I definitely hope to return to Africa but I don't know if it will be for a long time or just a visit. As for somewhere else, it's too soon to say.

Contact Doug Clark at 373-7039 or dgclark@news-record.com




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Story Source: Greensboro News Record

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