Friday, August 8, 2008

5 minute posts

6:48 minutes left on the internet cafe timer so I thought I'd shoot off a quickie... there has to be a better way of saying that. Prepare for short sentences and random thoughts!

We went to Mikumi. We saw animals. Stay tuned for pictures. I'm in Njombe right now shadowing a PCV to see what life is like after training. It was awesome. I ate Frank's Hot Sauce and spaghetti and grilled cheese and mushroom soup and more. Right now I'm going to Iringa to see more PCVs and PCTs. Tomorrow we leave for Dar es Salaam to find out where we'll be serving for the next two years. After that it's back to homestay for a week. Then we swear in and ship out on the 20th. I'm really excited, which is difficult to decipher from such short sentences. Also, I read Lord of the Flies. It was ****ed up.

I'm going to be an uncle!


Sunday, July 6, 2008

Ups and Downs

Yeah, it’s been a while since I’ve been able to update the ol’ blog. Believe me, I’ve noticed too.

Peace Corps has been awesome, shitty, and everything in between. It’s not uncommon to head home from school at an unbelievable low and fall asleep at a fantastic high or visa versa. The pressure and stress of not knowing Kiswahili is countered with small steps in the language, technical trainings, and spending time with friends over a cold Kilimanjaro or Safari at the esteemed Rudewa bar.

Here’s a bit about my village! I’m being trained in Rudewa, a village in the Morogoro region. Its population is 12,000 and everyone farms. Everyone. I live with a family of 3… baba, mama, and my kaka, Abduli. Baba speaks English and owns a gas station along the main strip. Mama doesn’t speak English but makes a mean plate of rice and beans… not to mention the French fries and ketchup I get every now and then. Abduli is 3 and was circumcised two weeks ago. He stopped crying a couple days ago. Thank god.

After 3 weeks of training, I’ve got a decent grasp on the language. I still have a long way to go, but I’m feeling a lot better then I did on day one. I only have a couple more weeks of language before training is usurped by site shadowing, a trip to a game reserve, and other filler activities like that.

A few apologies: Haven't been able to find the time to write anything that's terribly meaningful. Hopefully this general update will suffice for now. Also, I’ll get around to uploading some pictures sometime soon.

I hope everything back home is well and I hope to make some phone calls once I get my cell phone!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Staging: Staged.

Staging ended today. I am an official Peace Corps Trainee. I don't know any more Swahili, but I'm pretty confident that the taxpayers will provide enough for some decent training. Word on PC Avenue is that training is physically exhaustive... 8AM - 6PM, six days a week. They came through with the PC concept of "walk around money," or as I have come to call it, "beer money." DC has been awesome!!

Turns out that the first obstacle has already risen for me. As I was registering yesterday (the first thing PCVs do with the PC), the first woman in the gamut of workers recognized my name and said, "Ohhh... you're Andrew."
"Yyyeahh..." I respond.
"You're a special situation."
"Uhh... okay."
"Haha, you look nervous."
"I'm having trouble with the standard situation. I don't know how I'm going to handle any special situations."
After a good laugh (read, she laughing and myself with a halfhearted grin on my face), she explained that I wouldn't be flying with all of the other volunteers when we head out tomorrow. Instead, I'll be getting a later flight and meeting them in Zurich after they have a layover in Frankfurt... definitely a plus for your's truly. I get to hang out in the hotel an extra two hours and, coincidentally, this allows me to pick up the package that was overnighted to me since I left my camera at the homestead. It just goes to show you that half of everything you do is luck and the other half is how you look while doing it. Turns out I'm damned lucky and damned good looking.

Until I get the official wording of the PC disclaimer, this one will have to do:
This blog is my personal work and does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Peace Corps.

Now I'm immune, right? Maybe... but not as immune as I'll be tomorrow morning when I get vaccinated. Au revior!

Saturday, June 7, 2008


There we have it. That's what I'll be living with for the next two years, excluding a few medical items provided by the taxpayers. The above items are packed away into a hiking backpack, a wheeled piece of luggage and a carry-on backpack. In an amazing stroke of luck, my group is allowed to keep all of our luggage with us throughout training as opposed to leaving one at the Peace Corps office during our pre-service training (PST). That made packing and distributing weight soooo much easier... a fact much more appreciated as I found this out after the trial pack.

It's 1:15 AM and I'm typing away, avoiding some paperwork that is expected of me upon arrival. My flight departs from Columbus at 9:25 tomorrow morning and arrives an hour and a half later in Washington, DC. My country director sent me an itinerary for the first few days and, since the whole thing is busy and complicated, the gist is that we'll be getting to TZ on the evening of the 11th, doing some traveling and training, and meeting our host families on the 16th. Naturally, I'm nervous as hell. I hope they like Frank's Hot Sauce.

I'd post more, but it's going to be a long day tomorrow and for me to put up with it, I'll need a few hours of sleep. Take care everyone and I'll see you in a couple years!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

On roller coasters and waiting

Something funny happens when your only responsibility becomes watching weeks turn into days and days into hours, counting down to the beginning of the next two years. In my last post, I mentioned I couldn't compare these experiences to anything. However, after having nothing but time to think about this, I've come up with a decent metaphor that almost hits the nail on the proverbial head.

At [insert favorite amusement park here], no doubt you've waited in line for a roller coaster that, for a lack of better words, looked scary as shit. So you're standing there in line with nothing to do but catch glimpses of the cars flying down the rail and chat nervously with others waiting for the ride to start as well. Every once in a while, you'll hear a few people walk by who just finished the ride, saying how amazing it was or others who might mention how cool it would be to ride it but could never make the commitment at that point in their lives. So again you wait in line with people who are probably thinking the same thing you are: This place closes at 11... is this coaster worth riding?... I could be riding the tea cups or bumper cars or getting my law degree... And then you get the point where I'm at: you get into the coaster, give your belongings to an attendant (they promise you'll get it back), and strap yourself in. A week from now I'll be at the top of the first hill and plummeting straight into the forests of Africa. And everyone knows that the worst part of the first hill is the wait.

Alright. Now that I've gotten that down in writing, let's take a look at what I'll be surviving with for the next 27 months!

Peace Corps Packing List: Andrew Zacharias


  • Pants/Shorts:
    • 1 Jeans
    • 2 Work cargo pants
    • 1 Sleeping pants
    • 2 Shorts
    • 2 Gym shorts
    • 1 Nice khaki pants
    • 1 Quick-dry pants
  • Fleece jacket
  • 1 Hoodie, 1 zip-up hoodie
  • 1 Beanie
  • 1 Baseball cap (White Sox or Yankees, preferably White Sox to hide the fact that I’m a Yankees fan.)
  • 2 Clip-on sunglasses (attaches to glasses)
  • 1 Board shorts, 1 ass-tight Speedo
  • 1 Windbreaker or rain jacket
  • 3 Button down shirts
  • Many boxers
  • Many socks
  • 5 Short sleeve t-shirts
  • 1 Jacket/tie
  • 3 Bandanas


  • 1 Dress shoes
  • 1 Running shoes
  • 1 Chacos (huge discount for PCVs!)

Personal Hygiene and Toiletry

  • 1 Toothbrush/Toothbrush case
  • 1 Tube toothpaste
  • 1 Roll of floss
  • 1 Antibacterial lotion
  • 1 Downy anti-wrinkle*
  • 1 Deodorant
  • 1 Cologne
  • 1 Spare glasses, 2 cases
  • 1 Laundry bag
  • 1 Stain remover
  • Sleeping pills
  • Claratin or other allergy medicine
  • 1 Shampoo
  • 1 Soap
  • 1 Sunscreen
  • 1 Shaver & Charger
  • 1 Nail kit / Tweezers
  • Travel tissues


  • Ziploc Bags (medium or large)
  • Powder mixes (drinks, sauces, soups, dressings, etc.)


  • Shortwave radio
  • Camera / 2 memory cards
  • Guitar (room permitting)
  • iPod
  • 1 Flash drive (1GB)
  • Laptop
  • DVDs
  • 2 Journals (pretentious-looking, of course)
  • Drawing pad
  • 1 Deck playing cards
  • The Cube

Office Supplies

  • Pencils
  • Pens
  • Notecards
  • Day planner
  • US Map (larger the better)
  • World Map (larger the better)
  • 2 College-ruled notebooks (nothing too big)
  • 2 Folders
  • Address book
  • 1 Superglue (heavy duty, super serious business glue!)

Outdoors Supplies

  • 1 Multi-tool
  • 1 Sleeping bag
  • 1 Sheet, pillowcase
  • 1 Camp towel (lightweight, fast drying)
  • 2 Nalgene bottles


  • Beef jerky
  • 2 Frank’s Hot Sauce

Luggage/Travel Items

  • 1 Internal frame backpack
  • 1 Wheeled bag
  • 1 Carry-on messenger bag (leave plenty of room!)
  • Document holder
  • 1 Umbrella


  • Current converter
  • Solio solar charger
  • Extra batteries
  • Small amount of seeds for home garden
  • 6-7 TSA approved luggage locks
  • Something compact to hold numerous photos
  • 1 Digital watch (cheap, with alarm setting) / Extra battery for it
  • 1 Roll duct tape
  • Flashlight & Tripod
  • Cash


  • Ohio items
  • Miami University items
  • Candy
  • Pencils, pens, etc.


  • World War Z – Max Brooks (Mel Brook’s son. A not-so-futuristic UN official history of the global zombie crisis. Awesome!)
  • Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies – Jared Diamond
  • Farewell to the Working Class – Andre Gorz
  • Slaughterhouse-Five – Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Lord of the Flies – William Golding
  • Animal Farm – George Orwell
  • What Is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng – Dave Eggers
  • Beasts of No Nation: A Novel – Uzodinma Iweala
  • Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
  • Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams (Kind of have to read this one… it’s obligatory.)
  • Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer

Well there it is! Granted I haven't tried packing any of this up yet to check the weight requirements, but the majority of such items will keep me going while I'm busy fighting poverty, hunger, and the forces of Skeletor.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Chapter 1


19 days from now, I'll be in Washington D.C. experiencing all the hubbub and ecstasy that is the Peace Corps' staging event. The enormity of it all finally hit me last night after ordering my hiking pack. Removing myself from family, friends, and good ol' American freedom for 27 months is going to have a major impact. I'm still trying to staple down the words and form them into grammatically correct sentences in an attempt to convey what it is I'm feeling, so I'll let you know when I do.

So, let's talk about what I'll be doing! I applied in late October, had my interview on November 1st ('07) and got my nomination on November 21st. After months of pussyfooting around the medical/dental/optical tests, I received and accepted my invitation on March 14th to be a Village Based Facilitator in the Environmental Education & Sustainable Agriculture in Rural Communities (EESARC) program. Having spent the summers of my adolescence slaving away in my grandparents' field, I was a shoe-in (or something like that).

With only 19 days left before having to report, I've put together a list of things I want to do before I leave. This, of course, does not include things I have to do, like... y'know... pack, apply for an absentee ballot, shower, etc.

1) Re-beat the best video game of all time: Zelda - Ocarina of Time (almost done!)
2) Get in three games of golf and beat my friend at LEAST once.
3) Eat five Jr. Bacon Cheeseburgers in one sitting.
4) Watch the following movies:
--- Donnie Darko
--- Holy Grail (Monty Python)
--- Wizard People, Dear Reader (a re-narrated spoof of the first Harry Potter... YouTube it... very funny!)
--- There Will Be Blood / No Country... out of obligation since I haven't seen them yet.
5) Take a bike trip... overnighter if possible.
6) Eat some Indian food one last time (hopefully there will be some places in Tanz).

Well, I think that's enough for the first post. In the next few posts, I'll cover my packing list, pertinent information on Tanzania, and hopefully a podcast of what I'll be listening to when departing the States.