Friday, November 25, 2011

The American Consumer

          Walking outside our home, and throughout our village, we always come across many adorable children playing with the same home-made toy. This toy consists of a fairly long, skinny stick, stuck inside the top of a flattened plastic water bottle. All over they push this water bottle with the stick and make truck and car noises. They may play bumper cars, or compete and see how fast they can make it go.  Yesterday, I was sitting on the ground waiting for Michael, when I noticed a boy, about the age of 5, throwing a plastic bag in the air and laughing as it filled up with air like a balloon and slowly floated down to the ground. He repeated, and found amusement in every fall.
            My first thought after seeing these simple toys is how easily amused children can be, yet what would happen if I gave one of those toys to my future children back home? Should I feel sorry for these children because they are forced to play with what we would label “trash” instead of real toys? Or should I feel sorry for us, because our lives are completely ruled by over $15 billion marketing and advertising campaigns? The same market that is continually increasing the debt of parents and families and fueling more desire and jealousy all for the quick and short- living surge of status and achievement; in other words, conformity. We have just entered into the best time of year to witness this: Christmas time.
            Christmas is the time of year to spend genuine time with the ones you love; to be thankful of everything you have been given, and to show your appreciation for your relationships. However for most, although family is still involved, Christmas is the time to spend hours making wish lists, waiting in long lines before the sun comes up, and waking up to a tree seeping with gifts. It is safe to say that capitalism has transformed the holiday season from a time of family appreciation into a time of “who is worth the most”. 
            America is the “land of the free”, but how free are we? We are trapped with the longest work hours, most work stress, and shortest paid vacation of any other developed nation… all to pay our bills. Over 2 million Americans are still working to pay of last year’s Christmas bill, only to double it within this next month.  America is the “land of the opportunity”, yet it is the developed nation with the highest disparity between the rich and the poor; making it harder to jump income levels. Living within this culture, you hardly stop to think about it. It is my time away from the television advertisements, materialistic environment, and the constant struggle to earn a dollar that has truly opened my mind to our drone-like, fallacious lives.
            If many Tanzanians were thrown in this culture they would probably act the same way, but they aren’t . . .so they don’t. The Christian Tanzanians who celebrate Christmas truly do celebrate it by merely being with the ones they love and feasting. They do not spend the next year paying off their credit cards because it was expected of them to buy expensive gifts for their friends of family. As a matter of fact, they do not even have credit cards, and I would argue that they are happier for it.
            Yes, it has become deeply engrained into the American Christmas to load your trees with gifts, and there are good intentions behind it. My question is simply... why? Why buy your daughter a lap-top when her other one is still working? Why buy overly-priced DVDs and CDs just to make the stockings look thicker? Why is one gift, from the heart and personalized, not the norm anymore?  As an American, I was guilty of this unnecessary over-indulgence, but to me now looking in from the outside, it is just laughable. I found myself just as happy waking up to a wooden giraffe Michael widdled for me out of piece of wood as any other Christmas before this.
            Instead of spending unfathomable amounts of money on holiday gifts this year, go on a family trip, or make a gift together. The less debt you accrue, the less time you need to work to pay for it, the more you get to live. If Tanzanian children can improvise in the name of fun, why don’t ours? I guess what I am trying to say is: Live life, don’t buy it.

Merry Christmas! 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Can you take the Culture out of Sex? Female Genital Mutilation.

September has just begun and all the kiddies at home are going back to school. My little brother (coolest lil’ bro in the world, I might add) has begun his first year of college. Miss Julia, my sister, is leaving the woods to embark on her next journey in the city for her first year of Uni, as well. I am super excited for them; and partially jealous… If only I knew the things I did now when I was their age.
 This past June, we took a beautiful 5 day train journey down to see Victoria Falls and then back up again through Malawi, where we relaxed by the lake and visited the awesome ‘museum’ of the Malawasaurus and a 1.5 million year old humanoid jawbone. Fun stuff! I highly encourage gazing upon the waterfall pictures on Facebook… more so, I definitely recommend the trip to visit this natural wonder… it’s hard to walk away from a sight like that without a deep feeling of appreciation for life.
My 23rd and Michael’s 25th birthdays were definitely unique this year. My birthday is on Nane Nane (8,8) a Tanzania holiday, so we had the day off of school. Our good Massai friend, Kisiyoki, took us to a huge Massai celebration.  This celebration was also a male circumcision and a female genital mutilation party (as it’s called back home). As you gasp, there are two things I should mention:
1.                          No, we did not witness these acts… the cutting takes place in the morning and the celebration is around the afternoon while the children are recovering.
2.                           Attending does not mean that we are condoning. FGM is still a ritual that is highly culturally engrained in many areas, our area happens to be one of them. In order to be critical and to hold a solid argument, it is important to first explore and discuss this issue with the actual people who perform them… as sociologists would say: Step outside of your cultural lens for a full interpretation. This was my goal.
Not every ritual is given the excuse of being globally acceptable because of its deep roots in that population. FGM is one of those practices where either way you look at it… it is a crime against human rights, it is stigmatizing against women, and it should be removed. However, instead of getting angry and deciding that the Massai in my area as woman-hating, primitive people; I asked why. Why, in the globalization era of the 21st century, are females still having their external gentiles removed?
The answer, I believe, can be found through conversation. The Massai elders I have spoken with have said that the people who still practice female cutting simply do not know any better. So yes, ignorance can be attributed to the problem. I truly believe that the main driving force for FGM is not to intentionally diminish the status of women in their society with violence. Both female and male circumcision is their custom for determining when an adolescent (around age 13 to 15) is ready for marriage. And this has been the custom for many, many years. The ignorance surrounding this issue stems from the fact that the female cutting has been engrained in this society for so long, that they simple do not know that the female clitoris has a function.
From what I have gathered, they believe that the cutting of the female has the same affect of the cutting of the male… only a change of superficial looks, and not the voiding of a function. There is a big difference between the functions of the female clitoris and those of the male foreskin. Many of the Massai who practice FGM do not understand that much more is taken from the female. This thought was further proven by a conversation my friends and I had one night with an older Massai, at the village bar. He asked why he hears women shouting and moaning sometimes during the nights when he stays in the city hostel. We explained to him the female organism. He was confused. He simply did not know that the women in his culture do not do this because they do not have the tool to produce this intense arousal. Therefore the very long absence of the clitoris in this society has hidden its evolutionary purpose. Interesting, huh?
            Also, it has been made clear to me that female circumcision is not mandatory for acceptance into your tribe. This means that awareness is growing. If and when an adolescent girl is circumcised is the decision of the female elders in the tribe. The men have little to no say, although, stigma does play a part. They may not want a wife who looks “abnormal” (to them, that is).  Remember, the practice of circumcision is the ritual to signal the child’s coming of age. So, to them…if the men went through with their circumcision to become a man, than a girl who is not circumcised is not yet a woman.
            Now think of yourself as an uneducated Massai young woman. You can persuade your elders to excuse you from the ritual, but then you may lose your chance of marriage and be forced to marry outside your culture. Even if you have already discovered and enjoyed the stimulation yourself, is it worth it to forgo the procedure and sacrifice marriage and social status? For most, probably not, so they go with the flow. The ability to place yourself in another person’s shoes is very important to understand the full issue and all of its social strings.
            It is important to also note that FGM is illegal in Tanzania. The problem, as one can expect, is the implementation. How can the Tanzanian government trace the people who practice FGM without asking to violate some privacy? The one thing the Tanzanian government can do is increase probability of Massai children attending school. Education is the healer of all ills, and it the strength of education will only increase in time… and there will be a day when there is absolutely no excuse for FGM. Once you become educated, it is now your responsibility to act as a decent citizen of the world. I know this will happen.  I have discussed this with many Massai women, whose parents did not force circumcision upon them. ..These women are also college graduates.
            This was just one of the many thoughts provoked by my time in Peace Corps. Also, these are theories that I have inferred from my experience so far alone with the scope of the Kibaya Massai. They may not be the same for other population groups, and they may also change as I continue to grow with my people. Love and miss you all.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Little Aid Gone a Long Way

I cannot get over how fast time is going by; we have already been in country for 9 months and graduated PS over a year ago! This is made obvious by the fact that our first school semester is coming to an end this week. Next week will consist of only giving and grading exams, and then the students are free to return home.  With a new semester approaching in July, the school fees are due once again.
 Before we left, we stopped by State College to say goodbye to our amazing college friends (most of whom have just graduated!! Congrats!). Michael’s best friend, Fletcher, generously gave us $100 to go towards the kids in some way. For awhile, we discussed how we could make the most impact with his aid. With a new semester coming… and with ample time to get to know the students individually… we decided to use the money to sponsor a few students to continue their education. Plus, We are strong advocates that an educated society is the driving force for a country’s development. We went to our school’s financial mister and asked to help us choose the students with the most need. Little did we know that he would pull out a multi-page list of all the students who have yet to fully pay their tuition. . .many of whom are form 4 (seniors) who will not graduate if they do not pay the 4 years of accrued school debt. It turned out that Michael and I were ignorant in thinking that the students who were attending classes were the ones who paid fully.  
After discussing the numbers, we determined that Fletch is able to sponsor multiple students because the school fees are actually very small compared to the American dollar. After the conversion, a child can attend school by paying less than $12 a year. I assume that, to Fletcher, giving $100 was no huge impact on his wallet. To many other hardworking Americans, this is only pocket change. But here, that same amount of money means a whole year of schooling to eight students, or a full 4 year education to 2 students. This is a HUGE difference. It is experiences like these that I know will never allow me to look at the American dollar the same way as before I left home. I can tell how difficult it will now be for me to try to buy an overly-huge flat-screen TV knowing how many families I could have helped with that $2,000. Looks like our future home might be quite boring.
Now the painful process began of trying to decide which, and how many, students are to benefit most out of Fletcher’s kindness. We are currently trying to decide based off of their school performance and family background. This is overwhelmingly difficult because the performance we know is only based off of a couple exams (what about the poor test takers? Or the students who are forced to fetch water and farm after school instead of study?) Also, how much importance does the family give to education? Are they spending the money on alcohol instead of their child’s fees or are they choosing between feeding their many children a piece of meat once a week or contribute to their education with the little expendable income they have? With the latter, how can you judge?)  The decisions have not been made. . our plan is that once we have chosen and spoken with the students that we will make them write Fletch a thank you letter and send some pictures. Fletcher, our school staff could not fully express the amount of gratitude towards you…even though you probably thought your contribution was minimal.
This took up a more writing than I thought, so next week I will write about our experience with female circumcision. Yikes!

Miss you and love you all
Thank you Fletcher.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

This Last Month. and 50 yrs of PC

March 1, 2011 marked the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps. Since I am a volunteer, I feel compelled to express my gratitude towards President Kennedy for giving us this ‘experience of a life time’ . . . and of course to persuade more volunteers for the next 50 years . . . along with the rest of my usual blogging J.
 Neither Michael nor I grew up with the desire to join; in fact, it wasn’t until mid-college that we gave it any thought at all. I believe I can accredit the curriculum we have taken, and the professors who taught us, for pushing us to question our world and for opening our eyes to people that live outside the American boundaries. With this shift of thought, I cannot imagine sitting anywhere else right now other than Kibaya, TZ and I am thankful for the Peace Corps for putting me here.
Michael and I have now been teaching for over a month and a half. We are finally getting to know our students individually which makes teaching much more intimate and meaningful. We gave our students their first exams last week to see how much of our teaching they are able to understand (since it is in a whole different language). The majority of their scores were good, even though they all thought they would do horrible. When I gave the tests back to my freshmen they were so happy they asked for another one. Tomorrow morning I am gong to attempt to take my juniors into the laboratory and have them do an acid/base experiment. I believe it will be their first time working with chemicals, so we will see how it turns out. One of our frustrations is the high proportion of teachers meeting that just happens to interrupt classes. . It is mandatory for us to attend, so our syllabus falls behind and the students just sit in their classrooms. We are trying to develop some ways to push the meetings after class time.
The other day Michael interrupted our conversation because there was a little chameleon walking on my head. We wanted to keep it but our dogs will just have it for lunch.
We have a really close teacher friend, Samson, who came over this morning for our homemade banana and mango pancakes. It was very interesting explaining to him the concept of credit cards (they do not exist here) and how the majority of Americans are in credit debt. He was quite confused as to why people spend money they do not have in the first place, only to pay more for it in the long run. . We explained that it confuses us too but that, in America, the material objects you possess have more of an impact on your friends and neighbors than the red numbers in your bank account that you can keep hidden. It is so interesting how the idea of a credit card seems so normal to our culture, and yet strange and as Samson put it ‘stupid’ to other cultures. He also couldn’t believe how much we are charged for college tuition after we told him our college debt. . and that our university was not even an expensive private one. Our conversation led into African politics which was super fascinating. I think it is these cross-cultural exchanges that are rewarding.
In only two weeks we are leaving to meet up with our training class that we haven’t seen in a few months for more training, and then we are going to home with our good friend Doug to the island of Pemba for a week. Speaking of Doug, we sold our goat the other day.
 I will end with a shortened excerpt from Pres. Kennedy the day he signed the PC into action:

“The initial reactions to the Peace Corps proposal are convincing proof that we have, in this country, an immense reservoir of such men and women—anxious to sacrifice their energies and time and toil to the cause of world peace and human progress.

“We will only send abroad Americans who are wanted by the host country—who have a real job to do—and who are qualified to do that job. Programs will be developed with care, and after full negotiation, in order to make sure that the Peace Corps is wanted and will contribute to the welfare of other people. Our Peace Corps is not designed as an instrument of diplomacy or propaganda or ideological conflict. It is designed to permit our people to exercise more fully their responsibilities in the great common cause of world development.

“Life in the Peace Corps will not be easy. There will be no salary and allowances will be at a level sufficient only to maintain health and meet basic needs. Men and women will be expected to work and live alongside the nationals of the country in which they are stationed—doing the same work, eating the same food, talking the same language.

“But if the life will not be easy, it will be rich and satisfying. For every young American who participates in the Peace Corps—who works in a foreign land—will know that he or she is sharing in the great common task of bringing to man that decent way of life which is the foundation of freedom and a condition of peace.”

I apologize if this post is very sporadic. I miss you and love you all,


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Don't Forget to Bring your Hoe

After two months of idle ‘relaxing’ and exploring, Michael and I have finally begun teaching. Michael is teaching Biology and Math to the first years (our Freshies) and I am teaching Biology to the third years and chemistry to the youngins. The experience has been great so far, yet mind awakening.
            Primary school here in Tanzania is mandatory and free for all children, while secondary school (the equivalence to our high school) is optional only if you pass the primary school test… which covers everything you have ever learned in 7 years of school primary school. If you pass the test, and if you can afford it, then are allowed a secondary education.     
            In order to continue with their education, there is a number of things the students must bring: A hoe or machete, their own desk and chair, a 20 pound bag of corn kernels or flour, their 4 piece uniform, a bucket, fees for all their food, the guard, and misc. school fees (about 30,000 - 40,000 shillings), package of computer paper, and of course all the regular school stationary supplies. If you live in the dormitory, you have to also bring a mattress. The major problem about all these necessities is that the majority of the families these children come from can hardly afford their normal household expenses. If a student cannot afford everything on the list they do not get to attend classes…and the poverty cycle continues. Luckily, we work with some exceptionally caring teachers. They allow students to attend class while their parents are slowly bringing in the items over time.
            For the students who are enrolled, there are other struggles. There is over 750 students here at Kiteto Sec; yet only 10 teachers, including Michael and myself. This means that the class sizes are enormous and the teacher work load is heavy. The school itself does not receive much money from the Tz government, so there are no printers, or copy machines. No overheads, nor a computer lab. The students do not even have textbooks. Their only material for studying is their hand-written notes. Teaching aids are all hand-made and worksheets and study guides are nearly impossible to obtain. The black board and chalk is about the only resource most teachers have. Our school is lucky enough to have just received some laboratory equipment from the government, and the science teachers are eager for Michael and I to teach them how to use the apparatus for experiments. The biggest struggle for us, however, is that the classes are taught in English to students who speak Swahili. The language barrier is the biggest heartache.
            With all this said, I cannot wrap my mind around how excited these students are to learn. They struggle to understand what we are saying, but try regardless. Many of them are aware that an education is the only way to a secure job, and they realize that they only have one chance. The students are remarkably polite, and appreciative. They work in the farm between class, sweep the dirt from the school grounds, clean the classrooms and teaching lounge. Many sit in the classrooms after school has ended to review their notes over and over. They do not have a choice at lunchtime, just beans and Ugali (flour and water).
I can’t get over how remarkably lucky we were as high school students. . . with all its privileges and plethora of lunch choices. School is free for us. Our parents do not have to make the choice between buying meat for our family or paying our school fees. How are we given all the textbooks, overhead projectors, and now computer touch boards we need; when I see students sharing notebooks because they cannot afford their own? I understand the underlying politics (I won’t even go there) but my bigger question is why do I have to come here to know about this amazingly huge and unfair gap? Why was I allowed to complain about school and lunch food when I had every opportunity in the world at my fingertips . . . merely because, by chance, I was born an American? Why were we so ignorant when appreciation was due?
Yet, these students are not angry. They do not question their circumstances. They just learn and do what they have to do. . .and for me, witnessing that is what life is all about. My students are not the only ones learning, so am I.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The funniest "Crap" story ever!!

The following is a journal article written yesterday by husband, Michael. This should be a story of extreme embarrassment on my behalf (if I had any shame), but it is just too darn funny to keep it our little secret, so I put it in my blog:

          So Mindy and I just arrived home from downtown with Flo (the German Anthropologist) and Thomas (the Aftrican tribesman). The sun just set as we returned home. All of our laudrey from earlier in the day was still hung out to dry, and Savannah and Mogley (our new puppies) were anxiously waiting for us. When we entered the courtyard, I had noticed that the wind had blown off some our clothes that were not pinned. The dogs took advantage of this, and have been playing and chewing with my underwear and a pair of Mindy's. I picked them up and started whipping them around in an attempt to get the dirt off of them. As I was whipping, I realized that they smelled so very bad. I kept putting each pair up to and touching my nose and face, to get a big whiff, to see if they needed to be rewashed. The smell from one of them (Mindy's) was horendous and had a great amout more dirt than my own pair. I began to ask the dogs "Jees guys, what the hell did you do to the underwear, they smell like crap!?" Just then it hit me like a ton of bricks and I had just realized what I was holding and putting to my face multiple times.
        It turns out that the dogs did not get into a pair of Mindy's underwear that were freshly cleaned and had just fallen down from the clothesline. The dogs had actually found and dragged out the pair of underwear that Mindy had gone diarreha in the night before and had just hidden them under rocks in the courtyard. The story is that she was eating with us downtown the day before, and nature hit her, so she had to leave us and rush home (a 20 minute walk). She didn't quite make it home in time so as soon as she got home she got a shower and didn't know what to do with the underwear (there are no trashcans here just public holes of burning trash) so she put them in a bag and hid them under big rocks in our courtyard for the time being. She told me all of this that night when I returned home. Once I realized I was holding and smelling Mindy's now brown, once pink, underwear, I stood there in horror while Mindy (who realized it at the same time) broke out into a pain in the gut laughter, and almost peed her pants. I'm glad she took amusement from my dismay in sniffing and bringing her diarreah filled underwear  up to my nose. It is also interesting how she failed to dispose properly of her goopy-poopy underwear (she says she didn't want the neighbors to see it). Well funny enough, I had paid off for it tonight...and we did dispose of the deep hole of a huge turmite mound.

I apologize if this story makes you grossed out. The funny thing is that everything happened so perfectly and unplanned that it couldn't have been better in a movie. I guess that I am a wife than only Michael could love. . . and I am soo glad to have him even with all that he has to go through. The fact that I post this entry probably leads you to the idea that the rest of our PC experience thus far has been fairly uneventful. We do not start teaching until mid January, so in the mean time we have been hanging out with fellow community members, cooking, and reading. We will be enjoying the holidays together with a couple other PC people... and exchanging hand made and heart filled gifts (the non-material type).  Happy holidays!!

P.S. A wish list can be found on the side of the page if you would like to send us some goodies within the next two years.

Love you, miss you


Friday, December 17, 2010

A few life lessons from the Tanzanians

Michael and I are very fortunate and appreciative to have been born in such a developed country as the U.S.A. We were given the opportunity of further education (along with massive debt) as well as the opportunity to live and work in another country through the Peace Corps. Our awareness of this is one of the reasons we joined the PC; so we could take the knowledge we have gained as Americans and teach it to the Tanzanian students. But, what we have noticed is that the Tanzanians have some valuable life skills that most Americans do not have… and there are many sociological reasons for this. Sure, Michael and I are able to teach them complex ideas such as the number of electron orbitals correlated with a specific element, or the synapse mechanism through which neurons communicate, but here are a few lessons on resource management that Tanzanians follow (and many Americans don’t) that are vital for a sustainable world :

  • Recycle: By this, I do not mean take your plastics and cans to the nearby recycling center. Over 80% of Americans claim to do this anyway. But what I mean is too improvise and re-use. Here, when we go to anywhere and buy a coffee or a soda, we always receive the coffee in a glass mug and the soda in a good old fashioned glass soda bottle. The soda you can either: drink it there and leave the bottle, or if you take it home, the worker will not let you buy another later until you bring the bottle back. The restaurant saves all the empty bottles, and cannot get new soda shipments unless they swap the old for new. With the exception of nice restaurants, back home I can honestly say that (other than rootbeer) I have never received a soda that was not in a cardboard cup or plastic bottle. These containers then get thrown in the recycling bin at my house, but the trash in many others. The glass bottles were just one example. The other is how often Tanzanians improvise. We have come across many neat things such as curtains made of bottle caps, shoes made out of tires, to the ‘Khonga’ which is a cheap, square, and often beautiful, piece of cloth that women use as clothes, baby carriers, hot pads, mops, practically anything.

  • Limited Waste: From my first point, you can expect that here very little is thrown away. Back in my apartment with my lovely roommates, we threw out a whole bag of trash about every other day. Here, Michael and I have used the same small grocery bag for our trash in the last month (it still is not full). Paper towels are none-existent here and a waste of money back home (sorry Dad!).  Our food is completely made from scratch so there are no cereal boxes or pre-packaged dinner boxes to throw away. After making dinner, we only have vegetable peels which can be composted. No food packaging, no junk mail and circulars, and no plastic anything (other than water bottles which we don’t buy)! AWESOME for us and the earth!

  • Water Management:  Wow. I do not even know where to begin with the difference in water consumption. Granted, the vast majority of African families do not have running water to waste but the way they conserve their water is amazing. Even the richest of Tanzanians we have come across have never seen a dish washer, let alone a clothes washer. Everything is done by hand and with the minimum amount of water. And they definitely wear their clothes until they’re physically dirty and do not wear them once and throw them in the dirty clothes pile. Furthermore, we shower using a bucket of water and a cup. We use the cup to pour water over our bodies, and this is no more than about 3 liters for one bathing. We do not have gallons of water coming out of a shower head each minute we wash.  I am not saying that when I return home I will not get a nice hot shower, but I will definitely remember the difference and never stay longer than 5 minutes and turn the water off  (not leave it running) while I am waiting for the hair conditioner to do its job or if I’m shaving my legs. There is no excuse for a whole country of 307,000,000 to all have continuously running water in their daily showers while half of the world’s population has to make the daily decision of whether they will bathe, drink, or wash their clothes with their water rations.

  • Energy Conservation: This is probably the most important and beneficial skill we could learn from the Tanzanians. I will admit my dependency to my car back in the states. I would drive to places I could probably walk too and definitely ride my bike. Practically everyone in Tanzania takes a bus when going between major cities and rides their bike or walks to the local market when they need food. Something else I didn’t think about until I was here is the difference in common appliances. Teachers, here, are decently paid in comparison to the rest of the population and have a fairly easy time finding a job. Their housing is considered middle class and luxurious. That said, Michael and I (who are teachers) do not own a fridge, a microwave, clothes dryer, or any other energy gobbling device. Basically, dry your clothes outside and not in a dryer, or ride your bike to work, or take a bus more often, don’t let the shower run just to make sure you have hot water. Simple things add up. Tanzania does not have to wage a war against other countries to maintain their energy wasting lifestyles, so why does the U.S.? These are all things we know are good for the world but for some (like myself) it takes witnessing the conservation of another culture to learn the lesson.

My main goal with this blog is not to say Americans are wasteful and stupid and Tanzanians got it down. As a matter of fact, Tanzanians are conservative with these resources because they have no choice. They can’t afford to live any other way; they do not do it to save the world and our future generations. However, Americans have the availability to waste and the education to know its consequences, but many still do. I had to actually live within another society to fully understand these differences and I know I will carry these lessons back with me when I return (if I return). I hope this may convince small changes in your daily lives or to install appreciation at the very least. I have learned a lot, and one of the Peace Corps missions is for its volunteers to teach their fellow Americans about the culture and lifestyles they have experienced. So here is some of my take. . . I am sure more is too come.  We love and miss you all. Happy Holidays!