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Diaries
Last Updated: 08/18/2005
Dispatch from Tanzania
Regina Eddleman

Regina Eddleman has spent the last six months in Africa working with youth programs that include HIV/AIDS peer education in Zimbabwe and peacebuilding and conflict prevention in Tanzania.

In Zimbabwe she worked closely with the youth to facilitate discussions on HIV/AIDS related issues in local schools, assisted in training camps and communications. Zimbabwe has one of the highest HIV/AIDS infection rates in Africa and the world. There are no words to express how the pandemic has affected every fabric of the society in a country already suffering from an economic and political crisis that is said to be the worst since they won their independence. In Tanzania, Regina also works closely with the youth, developing workshops, mentoring and assisting them in their own proposal writing and projects.


I have been in Tanzania for over a month now and I am definitely glad I came here for this experience. Last week I put together a makeshift, week-long peace building course for six Tanzanian youths. They are very interested and active in their peace club and want to begin their own peace education seminars to give to other peace clubs. I think they enjoyed the class and really came to realize all the different aspects of peace building and how difficult and creative it can be. They understand more fully the importance and possibilities of non-violent resolutions to conflict. I am also finding much reward in teaching. I teach English to another youth and now he and the others call me "Teacher" and "Sister Regina". It meant even more when my student sent me a text message saying "Thank you teacher for teaching me. I am so happy now because there was darkness in my head but now I can see the light..." And the others' inspiration to peace education is very inspiring for me. I continue to be impressed by their motivation and intellect.

I am currently working on the logistics for the Education for Peace workshop in Zanzibar next week. There is a two-day workshop and a peace march during the Zanzibar International Film Festival. I am really looking forward to it because we will have four days off to take it all in (traditional dance, music, art and films) and Zanzibar is a very historic, beautiful and Muslim island off the mainland. Afterwards, I am going to the north island of Pemba to meet up with my Swedish friends for a few days and then back to the mainland to a nice village to meet some ex-pats the Swedes had met earlier and then back to Dar.
 
Where Zimbabwe was emotionally difficult, Tanzania is more physically difficult. Two of my Swedish friends caught malaria (one thought to have been cerebral malaria) but quickly recovered. The other, an American guy, got food poisoning. Me, I had a severe back pain due to either a bacterial infection or the dalla dalla's that I now take to work and home. Dalla dalla's are old vans into which they try and cram as many people as they can. Then they go over torn up dirt roads, often cutting through traffic by some side dirt path. This is very jarring at times and you have to sit in awkward positions to fit everyone in. If you want to get close to the African people, this is one way to go about it. Sometimes your bum is in someone else's face with you standing in the middle of a van, while some else's armpit is in yours. I have decided I need to stretch out in the mornings to avoid pulling a muscle.  The traffic here rivals rush hour in any American city and rules hardly apply. At the hostel we are set between two Islamic Seminaries and next to a catholic church. There is a pretty even 50/50 Christian/Muslim population, except on the islands. So, I wake to Islamic prayers at 5 a.m., while some evenings I listen to choir practice, the hymns drifting in through my window. Then, of course, there is their rooster that crows at 3 and 5 am.

My great concern at this point is back in Zimbabwe. There has been a military campaign to knock down what President Mugabe says are illegal shacks and to fight black market corruption. This has led to over 300,000 homeless and a couple children being crushed. Most are just poor peoples homes. Father Rogers says the fuel shortage is worse than ever and everyone is really depressed. I was more concerned when I heard that they were going to tear down houses that were set up as offices which is how the Jesuit Project is run and I received an email from Blessing saying that life is not the same anymore. She writes, "Things are not well this side. Everything seems to be going crazy. Maybe by the time you come back I will be homeless.


Offices, houses, almost everything is being demolished. The atmosphere here is just the same as if the country is experiencing a war. Transport has become a major problem, if you think of going anywhere you ask yourself if you can bear 4 hrs. in a queue. It's painful to live in this part of the world. Our country is dying. Pray that your mails find me alive."  The African Union refuses to condemn Mugabe and says they have more important things to worry about in Africa. It must have been heartbreaking for the Zimbabweans to hear. It all breaks my heart.

Tanzania is the darling of the aid world, while Zimbabwe is sanctioned and funds withheld because of Mugabe even though he is not the one starving or having his house torn down. Well, there are so many stories to tell and describe but I hope to tell them in person sometime soon as I miss everyone horribly and hope to laugh and talk with you again.

Regina Eddleman holds a master's degree in International Peace Studies from the University for Peace.


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