Image of Map of Tanzania

Returned Peace Corps Volunteers:

Dominic Preiswerk

Image of Tanzanian flag


My name is Dominic Preiswerk and I was a volunteer in Tanzania during 1993-1995. My primary job was as a high school physics teacher. I taught the normal concepts of Mechanics, Electricity, and Modern Physics, etc., but, as I found out later, my most important function was to introduce the students to the culture of science. I also served as basketball coach; I got this position becuase I owned a ball. Prior to Peace Corps, the idea that I would be a physics teacher and/or a basketball coach would never have crossed my mind. Peace Corps forced the idea that one should not be limited by expectations.

My site was at Minaki Secondary School near the village of Kisarawe, about 20 miles southwest of the capital, Dar es Salaam. While this may sound as if I was within easy reach of the fast-paced, jet-set life of an East African city (ha!), the truth was that my site, nestled in the Pugu National Forest, offered only infrequent reminders of Dar es Salaam. I had enough encounters with snakes, scorpions, spiders, mosquitos, lizards, ants, cockroaches, bees, monkeys, etc., to keep me aware of my situation.

Like many people, I was initially unsure about where or what Tanzania was. When I first heard that I had been placed there, I though, "Great, isn't that just south of Australia?" In fact, it's on the East Coast of Africa just south of the Equator. If I had been told that I was going to the land of Kilimanjaro, the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Jane Goodall's chimps, Zanzibar, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?", etc., I would have had a much clearer image of Tanzania. However, as I found out, most of Tanzania doesn't have anything to do with the Discovery Channel. The animals and scenery are magnificent, but most of Tanzania to me is about the people. There are quite a few of them (about 30 million) and they are very diverse. There are about 130 different tribes, each with its own language, although English and Kiswahili are the official languages. There are coastal Muslims, urban Asians, farmers, fishers, businessmen, teachers, orange sellers, and lots and lots of children. Despite this diversity, some generalizations may be made. Tanzanians are a very friendly, social, open people. For many, it is more important to be welcoming than efficient. Time has no meaning, and there is always room for one more.

School in Tanzania is not quite like school in the States. Julius Nyerere's credo of self-reliance encouraged the construction of many boarding schools/communities. The idea was that, in addition to taking classes, the students would grow their own food and engage in other projects to help out the school. This perhaps was a good idea on paper, but made for some teaching headaches. More than a few periods were cancelled because classes had to weed the farm, carry water, collect firewood, unload fertilizer, or landscape the school grounds. Theoretically, the syllabus could be completed, but due to time and material constraints, more creative measures needed to be taken. The Strength of Materials sections of the physics syllabus was covered and discussed at the local bus crash site where words such as "ductile", "deformation", and "brittle" were given vivid definition.

To me, Tanzania is a country with a personality far different from that of the West. While increasingly influenced by the industrial world, Tanzanians will hopefully taper these influences to their own original way of thinking. When I asked the bus driver if he drove fast, he pointed to the speedometer and said, "Yes, I use all the numbers."

e-mail to Dominic Preiswerk

World Factbook entry for Tanzania.

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Andy Jacobson
Last modified: Thu Feb 19 20:19:02 1998