Today was awesome, but tiring. Did our first session of actually teaching and it was great! The students gave us good reviews, and it sure felt good to be doing what I came here to do. The school we’re teaching at is a vocational secondary school, so we’re working with late teen-early 20’s students, the highest-risk age group. The school teaches many vocational courses, including tailoring. I was so intrigued, I asked the headmistress to see the tailoring class, and told her that that is what I used to teach in the US. It was really neat to see my old career manifested in such a different country. Most sewing machines here are pedal-powered, as electricity is a real luxury. The cool thing about this, is that many tailors work on the (awning covered) sidewalks in front of their shops, so they can chat with their friends, and watch the world go by while they work, which is so much more pleasant than sitting in some stuffy room all day. The students, however, work in a classroom, and I was overjoyed to be able to greet them, and tell them I used to do the same sort of work, and teach it as well. I also told them how hard it is to find good patternmakers in Los Angeles, and wished them well in their careers. The headmistress said she has been desperately trying to find a volunteer to help teach tailoring, and would love it if I could teach sometime. I said I’d be happy to give her about 1 hour a week, to try and help, so we’ll see how it goes. It will be interesting to teach something so familiar with a translator, making it a whole new experience.
Then I did some shopping downtown, and discovered that blackouts are so common here that everyone has a generator! Many businesses were open, with noisy generators belching diesel fuel out front, making me long for the fresh country air that exists only a few steps away from downtown Arusha. Apparently some a-hole multinational (Bechtel, presumably) decided that hydroelectric is the best type of powerplant to build in a place that has no rain fall most of the year, so the dry season can mean months with no power. Why it’s spotty during these rainy days (this is the heart of the 2-month long rain season) is beyond me. I sure wish someone (BP, perhaps???) would bring affordable solar to the people here in Africa! Even natural gas is bought in canisters, there are no natural gas pipelines around to bring gas to people’s stoves! If hot water were as important to people who’ve done without for so long as it is to me, I’d consider buying a solar water heating system for the woman who owns the place where I’m living, but she needs a PV solar panel much more than she needs hot water. She’s concerned that when her current job ends in 2008 she won’t be able to afford the $32 p/month electric bill. I read in “Business in Africa” today that Lake Victoria has experienced a 45% decrease in water since Uganda built a dam to power a hydroelectric plant. But that’s impossible, so I’ll check the facts and get back to ya. I think what they meant is that 45% of the loss could be attributed to that dam, but did not specify just how much the water level had dropped.