Archive for category Tanzania

The view from up here

Living in East Africa has its definite benefits – one being the opportunities to travel (or maybe its just the mindset as the opportunities exist in just about every place and often much cheaper than here!). With minimal planning you can hop on a small plane and end up in some exotic locale for the long weekend. And while the end location is often the subject of many of my other posts on this site – getting there in the 4, 6 or 12 seater light planes is often part of the fun and half the beauty.

Flying over the Indian ocean and around this country in general offers some amazingly beautiful seascapes and scenery which can really take the breath away. The opportunities for aerial photography are truly amazing and so I’m always anxious to try and land a good window seat this purpose. There is just something about being up high and having this different perspective that makes the patterns and colours we can’t see from the ground so remarkable.

Over the past couple of years I have collected a number of pictures from these various flights which I have been meaning to make into a blog post and share with you for awhile.

Enjoy!

Cheers!

Dan

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Home and Away: Losing direction of the home ice/pitch advantage

No, despite the title this is not really a post about sports. With that out of the way, let’s talk a bit about sports.

The NHL season has started up again back in Canada and I am again faced with the fact that I care less and less about my favourite childhood hockey team – the Toronto Maple Leafs. Go Jets Go?  I am transitioning from being a fairly big NHL hockey fan (though I will always love the WJC, Olympics, and other major tournies) to being a football (soccer –henceforth called football – wow, see how legit I am??) fan. It’s one more sign of being at ‘home’ in a new place I guess. I have always been a footie fan since living in Northern Ireland in 2004 and deciding to make Liverpool my team but it’s a lot more difficult to be a serious fan in Canada. Matches start at 10am on Saturday morning (if you can find somewhere showing the game), little coverage in the press, and fewer people to talk about it with. Now it is reversed and I am completely surrounded by football over here – proper kick-off times, games on every TV in the bar, lots of press coverage, playing football on the weeknights, and the same thing everyone is talking about at work or in the streets the next day.

Appropriately for this, an unfortunately high percentage of my wardrobe here in Tanzania (I argue it’s the most comfortable thing you can wear in this humidity – but others may just see it as a weakness in fashion sense) is made up of football jerseys (Barcelona, Liverpool, Ghana, Bayern Munich, Argentina, Celtic, Toronto FC, Spain, Valhalla FC…). I guess this is all just adapting to one’s surroundings – that and it’s a pretty damn lonely hockey conversation in Dar es Salaam.

It’s been about 5 weeks now since I’ve been back in Tanzania. Did I tell you I was returning to Tanzania again? Yep, I’ve returned for Year 3 (standard entry-level CBA contract you know) – the last of the three original “Canadians”/musketeers left on this side of the equator. The first year was for the adventure, the second for good career move (and more of the first), the third is for a little of both of those…but let’s be honest, it’s mainly for the girl. Maybe this guy is finally getting his priorities straight??? ;) Looking forward to the year ahead!

Speaking of timelines, it has also been 3 months since last blog update which isn’t exactly keeping my promise in this post of doing a better job and promising exciting photos and stories (seriously though, the mountain gorilla one is pretty cool – you should probably harass me until I finally put it up). If it’s any consolation, most of my posts last year were about 30 minute reads and the size 3-5 regular blog posts – so if you average that out I didn’t do too bad…. The last weeks in Tanzania in August were hectic, the time spent back home sure felt hectic, and the first weeks here I have hardly hard time to sit and think let alone write (probably I just need to manage my time better…). But that is just how life is, busy, deadlines, other priorities, and time continues to fly on by.

There is also something to be said for things just becoming more “normal” after a few years and you find fewer reasons/inspirations to write about. We have two new Canadian interns here in the MEDA Tanzania office this year and I enjoy seeing them here and thinking back to my first months adjusting with eyes wide open and a zest for exploring anything and everything new.  In one of my very first posts on this blog I wrote of my experience in the first month that “the ordinary has just become extraordinary on a more regular basis”. I think that there was certainly some truth in this and perhaps I have just started to see things once again more through that ‘ordinary’ lens. A place like this can certainly offer plenty of the extraordinary but it can also wear you down fast until sometimes you just want to stay in on the long weekend and watch a complete HBO series on your laptop. At first I feel a bit sad when I think about that – but then again I think it is entirely normal. What can be a life-changing experience or a heart-stopping landscape for one is another person’s daily life or view from the backyard and it works both ways my friend. We all learn to get comfortable as natural coping mechanism and sometimes that even includes getting a little bit jaded with things and there is nothing wrong with that.

The original purpose of this blog post when I started writing it (only took me 791 words to get here) was to talk about the feeling and definition of what is “home” when you live abroad for a period of time. I found myself interchanging the two places defined as home quite a bit when I talked to people before, during and after my recent trip to Canada. Was it that I was returning home for a one month visit or was it that I would be returning back home to Tanzania after this short visit in Canada? From where I came or from where I currently am? I still don’t really have the answer. Maybe it is a bit too scary to call one place home and still know you will likely be moving on from it soon enough and might again become a stranger in a new place. You make many new friends and forge a new life while away but at the same time almost everyone still has the friends and ties from where they came. You need to try to make the place where you are now as much of a home as possible and I have been very fortunate in that regard – but of course all the while keeping close to your original home. The interesting part is when you feel comfortable and happy and yet not quite completely…for lack of a better term, at home when in either place but still somewhere in-between. For now, it can often feel as though I simultaneously have two homes – and at the very same time – not really one at all.

Cheers,

Dan

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Honey I Shrunk the Kids: Adventures in Macro-Photography

Yeah…that was a great movie. Except that the part where they got lost in the forest of giant grass blades known as their lawn and then were chased by the monster ants…and then the lawnmower!….that was all a bit scary. Now that that flashback is over..on to the real story of this blog post.

A Generator salesman’s paradise

Well, first one more quick tangent (I heart tangents and the use of parenthesis, as you will see in this proceeding awesome paragraph) as I sit here in a coffee shop and write this to the gentle hum of power generators. Tanzania is a great country with a lot of unrealized potential – and one of the things that is really holding it back at the moment is the power infrastructure. Since May the country has been regularly plunged into darkness as Tanesco (the state owned power company) makes increasingly regular power cuts as it cannot keep up with Tanzania’s modest demands (only 14% of the population is connected to the power grid). They blame it on the low water levels at the hydroelectric dams because of the East Africa drought (power cuts is a problem put in perspective of course next too the drought and famine currently occurring in our neighbors to the north) – but it really just comes down to poor planning/governance/corruption/accountability that have prevented the country from building the right infrastructure.

For the past few weeks it has been between 12-18 hours a day (you start to lose count sitting in dark) without electricity. As my place this year does not have a generator – I find myself pretty regularly reading my my cellphone light (can I use this lack of electricity as a good excuse for not updating this blog more often?). Anyways, with no rains in the weather report until September/October and the situation only getting worse (there are vicious rumours floating of 6 day a week total blackouts), the economy being seriously affected,  and things getting more heated politically – it will be an interesting time (you might even say dark times ahead) to see how the wananachi (citizens) react.

Macro-size your life

When back home last summer for my  break inbetween my two contracts here with MEDA Tanzania I bought a 100mm macro-lens for my camera. I  figured that if ever there was a good place to be for taking pictures of insects, flowers, odd bugs, and generally weird tiny things – Tanzania would be the place to do it.

How is this guy for creepy, crawly? While I haven’t made as much use of the lens as I might have liked due to its general heaviness and the not wanting to slow down travel companions with the extra-time and set-up that macro-photos can sometime take – Tanzania continues to provide plenty of ready and willing subjects

So – join me on a macro-photo tour of some of my favourite photos taken with this lens! Here – nice shades and the texture of the iron and wood help to show its age in this shot

Many of these photos were takenduring a weekend trip to the Amani Nature Reserve about 3 hours north of Dar es Salaam.   This area of the Eastern Usambara mountains is known as the “Galapagos islands” of bio-diversity in East Africa and offers rich rainforest environments full of weird and wonderful things.

Somewhere in the hills outside Amani Nature Reserve there is a butterfly sanctuary that supports some local families where you can come see a wide range of beautiful butterflies and in fact get remarkably close up as this guy let me do.

I liked this photo for the vibrant colours and also the nice shapes of the flower in a row going out of focus. I am definitely still learning to use take macro-photos and don’t really ever use a tripod which can be pretty key to getting steady pictures that are sharp in focus – but so far so good for the recreational use.

Almost stepped on this guy while hiking around – maybe you think he looks big here because of the macro-lens – but I assure you he was actually a pretty huge bug at least 2.5 inches long. Check out the red eyes!

Random shot here but thought it was a nice break from the flora and fauna. Soda bottles sitting in a basket offered some options for practicing with my new lens

This is a definite favourite shot of mine. The detail worked out pretty well so that you can see the pollen and the star-shaped yellow fits perfectly into the top-right corner of the picture and the pink and yellow just explode out from there.

Got pretty lucky that the shutter setting managed to nicely capture the motion of the wings while freezing the rest of the body so that you can see the nice wing colours.

So I am clearly not a botanist – and I have no idea what most of these flowers are called. I am trying to think of better word than just saying “flower” in every description but failing so far…

Aha! Bamboo – I know the name of something finally.The greens and yellows of the bamboo trunk made for some nice patterns and the tiny hairs on the trunk were also a cool focal point as well.

I really, really like this photo! It was taken in a restaurant garden in Burundi during a daytrip into the countryside.  The ‘flower’ buds are exploding out at you and about to burst!

Aha, Would you believe it? – I actually know a flower name shown here – the rare East African violet! I was lucky to find some in bloom when I went and they didn’t disappoint with their dark violet with flecks of silver shine colour. In fact, some flower enthusiasts come from across the world for special trips just to see this beauty in bloom.

Well, there you have it. I hope you’ve enjoyed my Honey, I shrunk the kids inspired tour of this corner of the world through a macro-lens. There’s another whole world of detail down there – hope to have more to share with you another day!

Cheers,
Dan

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A day in this Bongo life

I’ve spent about 15+ months now in total living in Dar es Salaam. Originally stemming from it’s Arabic name  ’Harbour of Peace’. Commonly just goes by Dar. Shortcoded DSM. On the streets – Bongo (slang for brains…you need them to survive in the city). Call it what you will – it’s been ‘home’ for some time now and as such has been a big part of my life and experiences over here in Tanzania. Mimi ni mBongo kabisa.

Now that I think about it, it’s climbed up to 4th in terms of the places I’ve spent the most time living in (New Hamburg, ON -> Santa Cruz, Bolivia -> Waterloo, ON ->DSM ->Toronto, ON)  - so I figure I owe it some kind of tribute and it will give you (wherever you are) a chance to learn a little more about this city.

So…somehow this has once again turned into a blog post dominated by the photos and a bit shorter on the narrative. Blame it on laziness and not wanting to write so much or on wanting to showcase some favourite pics – but either way I figure pictures can be one of the best ways (worth a thousand words? - and if that’s not good enough there are real words in all the captions…) to express some of the day-to-day life which I personally experience in this city.

And in the end, I wanted to get out at least one post  in March and with leaving for Ethiopia in a few hours …time was of the essence – so enjoy some random bits of writing and photos from this year so far in Bongo!

Dar has an official population estimate of approx. 3 million people and growing at a crazy fast and rather uncontrolled pace – it’s estimated it will reach over 5 million people before 2020. This growth has mostly been in the form of the unplanned sprawl in every direction with the complete lack of any scaled capabilities in water, sewage, roads, and other infrastructure.

When I arrived back in Dar this past August – I had the task of finding housing. Housing in Dar is the tale of two markets – Generally high-end houses and apartments with rents similar or exceeding Toronto and other major Western cities and the more local housing market where monthly rents are often measured in tens or low hundreds of dollars instead of thousands. Trying to find that inbetween was a long and defeating search – but eventually managed to hit a nice sweet spot. On the positive side -the three weeks of searching everyday after work meant I got to visit all kinds of new unexplored areas of the city and got to see inside some of the world’s most hideously kitsch decorated apartments (this coming from a guy who’s decorating remains frozen in-time to 1st year university dorm styles…)

Dar is generally not one of the top places to visit when people come to Tanzania – maybe a transit point that gets a day or two but its generally not a destination in itself. But that’s one of the thing that I like about living in Dar – you can generally go. All I need to do is go to Zanzibar for a weekend in high season and be surrounded by tourists and people selling things to all the visitors..Jambo rafiki!… and I’m reminded of this again.

After a few months living here I finally went through with my ambitions to buy a bike to pedal power myself around the city. Foregoing the easily available cheap Chinese road bikes – I’ve managed to finally procure myself a mountain bike.  Riding a bicycle down Kimweri Ave in morning rush hour traffic of bajaji’s, pedestrians, dangerous dalla-dallas, equally crazy SUV drivers, and a host of other vehicles and random obstacles – I wish I had one of those helmet cameras to take you with me. It’s been great though to get around and to take aimless rides through new neighbourhoods and just explore the city with my camera. Most of the pictures in this post are from those Sundays on the bike.

Dirty Dar – According to this Forbes article from 2008 – Dar was ranked the world’s 12th dirtiest city – according to a Mercer Health and Sanitation Index Score. It’s certainly not something that is reflected in my day-to-day life as we have regular access to water and sewage (although the latter also flows rather freely in in ditches nearby as well) -but it is a huge issue for many areas and much of the city’s population. While Dar is a beautiful city in many ways, it is definitely also a very dirty one. Garbage is everywhere and burned on the streetside because of lack of proper disposal options.

The multi-cultural make-up of DSM along with the large expat and business population has made for a decent selection and variety of restaurants to choose from. I certainly can’t complain anyways (not that I was going to with 3 sushi places) when speaking with friends living out in more remote areas where only the TZ dietary staples (generally ugali/rice/chips with fried beef/chicken/fish) are available. Still, there are things I would rather not admit to which I would do in a heartbeat for decent Mexican food right about now…

This time around I have been lucky enough to get involved in plenty of different sports to stay active. Regular Football Tuesdays and Fridays, Basketball Wednesdays and Floorball Thursdays have given a much needed outlet to run around and added some routine to the weeks. A proud member of the Valhalla Vikings F.C. – 2009 Dar es Salaam World Cup champions!

There are about 4 different styles of paintings you can buy from the artists and street sellers in Dar -Vaguely categorized as  Tinga-Tinga, Masaai, Zanzibar,Wildlife, and generic african style. Walk into any mzungu home and your often guaranteed to see the same stuff. I can understand you go with what sells – but someone needs to step up and diversify! Now that I mention it, its not just artists – but is often apparent in the general business environment. There are sections of town/the road known as the place to go for any particular item. The problem is – they all sell the exact same thing and are all in a row. Go with what works – but I have to think that being the 9th shop in the area selling mobile phones is not the best business plan.

It really struck me on my second week back – sitting in the plastic chairs, a somewhat cold Safari Lager in your hand and a plate of chipsi mayai in front of you. The the nighttime temperature and humidity down to a more comfortable level, listening to the ting ting ting of the Taraab or Bongo Flava music playing loudly in the background and being lulled away by the table conversation in a language you don’t yet fully understand. It had a very strange and comfortable familiarity to it all being back in Dar.

Likewise there were parts of Canada and western life which I experienced while being home this past summer that felt more foreign. Dress codes? Closing times? Checking the weather forecast? Rules and laws that are enforced and require obedience? Not being able to afford eating out every night? Uggh

Some of the uncontrolled growth in Dar – along with questionable military safety measures/motivations – have led to a pair of tragedies in Dar recently. First in April 2009, and again in February this year – Army bases with surrounding residential populations turned into horrible scenes  when munitions depots caught fire sending  explosions over DSM. I live about 25km away from the site but that night our windows were shaking from the blasts – I can only imagine how bad it must have been for the neighbours.  Read the BBC article here

As nice as the climate is in Arusha, as much of a quiet and stress-free life I am sure one can live down on the shores of Lake Nyasa, as beautiful mountain views there are in Lushoto, and as much of a tropical paradise is Zanzibar…I don’t  think, at this point in time, there’s anywhere else I’d rather live for a long period of time in Tanzania. In terms of social life and a variety of things to do – Dar provides the most (and its not much -hence high ratio of Vicky Mendoza diagonal incidences?)

Last thing – come visit! Seriously – while… less serious offer for you random internet visitors who stumbled upon this. You are making a decision you’ll someday regret right now as you currently tell yourself that you’d love to but you just can’t because of X,Y, and Z. Make it happen and you’ll have the 5-star luxury of a blow-up mattress and guaranteed adventures in Dar!

Anyways, hope you enjoyed and got to see a slice of this guy’s Bongo life!

Cheers,

Dan

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Mozambique by the road less, less traveled

Hello world,

It’s been awhile but have no fear – another dusty foot philosopher is back in February with some photos and tales from December/January’s overland travels down to Mozambique!

I wanted an adventure and I found it

This trip undertaken, with roommate Zach over a 10 day Christmas holiday break, took us down from Dar es Salaam into northern Mozambique  - a known route but one not often taken. I had spent most of the first four months back in Tanzania sticking around Dar on the weekends and generally falling into a rythym and normality of life. I was itching it get away from that so we went out seeking a good adventure and found it.

Will try to capture some of that 3 day adventure getting down there in this quick summary. I’m conscious of those out-do each other travel stories so will try not to do that but just tell a fun story! “oh yeah…you think that sounds crazy? I once traveled through {insert little known African country} on $1USD per day,  riding an near extinct species of camel, in the middle of the civil war, sick with malaria and cholera, and with only a toothbrush, a pack of gum, and my wits to survive”.

On the road again

Day 1 had us leave Dar early Christmas eve morning on a bus headed down to the very south of Tanzania -Mtwara. With no tickets purchased ahead of time (apparently a bad idea on one of the bigger travel days of the year) we had to pay extra (count the times this happens with me –  #1!)and squeeze ourselves onto one of the few buses headed down to Mtwara. 12 hours in the hot sun on bumpy roads, kids on laps, and greasy fries and the trip was off to a good start.

We made it into lovely Mikandani, a small old town just outside of Mtwara at dusk and spent Christmas eve at a lovely dive centre eating a good meal with tons of red-faced British men working out on the natural gas rigs off the coast. Mikandani is a beautiful little historic town – used to be a Arab swahili trading centre back in the day and had quite a bit of charm to it and was quite nice to explore -highly recommend it!

Early Christmas day morning we were off to the Ruvuma River which marks the border between Tanzania and Mozambique. This was the big unknown part of the trip -I’d done some reading online and from others accounts it seemed as though it was possible to do – although it had got quite a bit more difficult since the ferry sank 3 years ago. Read in the hostel the night before crossing that this was one of Africa’s least used border crossings and the river was filled with hippos and crocodiles – oh my!

The mini-bus down to the river took about an hour and being our only option to get there ended up being one of the more expensive dalla-dalla rides in TZ history (#2!). A quick  price was agreed and from there we hopped in a row boat with our bags and we were on our way being paddled across the wide Ruvuma. Did you cringe when I said ‘a quick price was agreed”? Yeah, unfortunately you weren’t there at the time to give us that warning.

Needless to say, the currency of the transaction changed once we were in the middle of the river and theres not much you can do when they stop the boat in the middle of the river, hippos about 30 meters away on either side, and demand payment.  For those of you counting at home…that’s #3.

Once we got the price to a respectable compromise and were safely to the other side – we faced another similar situation. One lone transport option to get you from A to B – they name the price and you can only negotiate so much so you pay your “stranded mzungu tax” (#4!) and be on your way or end up stranded in the middle of nowhere. I was hoping to see some elephants and maybe a lion out here in the bush as I had read there were some large wild animal populations out here – but unluckily (some might say luckily) didn’t end up coming across any.

After bumping along on these sand and red dirt roads on this afternoon I truly earned the “dusty” in this blog title – covered in a thick layer of dirt and grime. Fun ride overall though and we were in high spirits. We pulled into the town of Mocímboa da Praia that night and found a sketchy bus station place to crash for a few hours.

Sitting  on another bus from 4am the next day gave me some time to reflect: Northern Mozambique was very much like Tanzania in the end (and why not when borders are drawn up on maps and many tribes/cultures are in both). Swahili was more useful than any Portuguese words for most of the trip and the north of the country seemed to have been barely influenced by the Portuguese compared to what I might have expected and heard but I expect this is much more true the further south you go.

Also, it was pretty annoying paying the stranded mzungu tax so often on this journey- but in the end I couldn’t blame anyone too much. At times it was our own lack of caution and finalizing terms in advance and other times just people trying to take advantage of a rare situation that had presented itself. It was Christmas time afterall…

Pulling into Pemba the third day afternoon was a beautiful thing. The city itself was nice but nothing spectacular to write home about and the highlights were a long awaited shower, good food, relaxation, beaches, and meeting our new travel buddies – two other Canadians working in Mozambique who would end up travelling around with us for the rest of the trip. The remaining days were a less adventurous but a lot more relaxing!

All these photos and more are now posted in a Flickr Set for your visual stimulation here.

Stay tuned next week for the follow-up blog post Ladies and Gentlemen, The Portuguese have left the building” for photo tours of two amazing history-filled islands we visited in the remaining portion of time!

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Finally, a political race with some mystery

Thought I would write today a little about a common theme that is running through both my life here and perhaps also yours. It’s an election year here in Tanzania and the country which is scheduled to go to the poll every 5 years will vote for its new president and parliament on October 31st. Back home in Ontario, voters went to the polls to elect a new mayors and city councils on Monday, Oct 25th (really Toronto? Rob Ford? Maybe I’ll stay abroad 3 more years…) and then there are my American friends who have their mid-term elections coming up next week on November 2nd. For the political junkies out there, it’s a fine time to be alive.

I must admit, while I do not claim to be any kind of expert or really hold anything much beyond common knowledge about politics, I do find myself somewhat hooked every time an election is in the news. So, perhaps not a political junkie – more of an elections junkie. During the American presidential primaries in 2007, I had a Super Tuesday reminder in my Outlook calendar and stayed in to watch Barack and Hilary duke it out as the live results came in on CNN. I have been known to closely follow foreign elections of which I should really have no interest in at all and can’t pronounce the candidates’ names properly. I find advanced polling numbers addictive and analyzing campaign strategies strangely attractive. Should I stop now? Anyways, as such, I’ve been quite interested in this weekend’s election here in TZ and thought I might bring you up to speed on the unpredictable world of my first Tanzanian election campaign.

As I often do, I’d like to add a disclaimer in here for any readers I might upset with anything I write – I know everyone always says avoid talking about politics, religion, and sex – but, frankly speaking, the weather and the local sports teams make for boring posts– so, pole sana, I’m just an outsider looking in and giving my particular perspective! (stay tuned for future posts on sex and religion I guess).

Let’s start out with a inadequate 30 second history lesson. Tanzania gained independence from the UK in 1961 and as with many other of these fledging states, turned to its independence leaders and founding political party to lead the nation. Tanzania was fortunate to have the strong leadership of  Julius Nyrere during this formative time and has escaped much of the government-military merry-go-rounds and ethnic group divisions that have famously marred many of its neighbouring states. However it was not until 1985, when under pressure from foreign governments and donors, that the country agreed to abandon it’s founding one-party political state. Even with the introduction of multi-party politics and elections in 1985, the ruling CCM party has never had a serious challenger for the business of running this country – winning the elections thus far without serious challenge (capturing 81% of the vote in the 2005 election.)

Here we are in 2010 and against what I certainly seemed to expect (another runaway victory for the incumbent Jakaya Kikwete’s CCM) we might just have a real race on our hands. Despite what seems to be an outspending by the ruling CCM of their nearest rivals by at least a 10:1 margin (if not 10x that amount) – a party which last election only garnered 5.8% of the vote called Chadema and their presidential candidate Dr. Wilibrod Slaa are gaining a strong following with their anti-corruption and change message (but more on that later). A huge CCM advertising campaign is underway and has absolutely covered the entire city of Dar es Salaam – I would estimate their green and yellow billboards must cover close to half of all available advertising spaces in the city.


Back home we are inundated with a barrage of data and predictions from political experts throughout a campaign. Daily polls are released tracking the fortunes of each party/candidate and a person can quite often have a very solid idea of who will win their particular election long before they get the chance to cast their vote (I’m still waiting to vote in an election where my riding isn’t already a foregone conclusion). Exit polls and the vast amount of data available are often allow television channels to make their ‘calls’ on the victor moments after the last polls close and even then only in the closest of races are the results unknown before you go to sleep that same night.

Here in Tanzania, there have been polls conducted for what I can tell seems to be one of the first times, and the published results have been causing quite a stir. For much of this race the anecdotal evidence (seems as though number of people showing up at a public rallies was the #1 barometer ) seemed to point to Chadema gaining some very serious traction. However, when the first opinion poll came out it at the end of September it predicted the usual CCM victory by 71% to Chadema’s 12%. An October 10th poll by another organization had CCM pegged at 61% with Chadema scoring 16% again causing much controversy. Then a new poll was released by a third organization on October 16th which just threw everything off balance again as this one predicted a 45% victory for Chadema to CCM’s 41% – a swing of 30%+ in the results in two weeks time! Of course, there has been  little  information made publicly available on the statistical methods or validity in any of these polls and so everyone is left to question the means and motives behind them… which only adds to the mystery surrounding Sunday’s vote.


I must say, for me anyways, there is something very refreshing about the mystery and certain unknown before Sunday’s vote here. Purely as an election-watcher, it is kind of nice to not know in advance for once which direction the election will go. On a more serious note though, with some limited occasions of campaign violence, fraud allegations,  and trouble already occurring before the voting – here is to a sincere hope that whatever the results, the losing side can be gracious in defeat and no violence will mar the proceedings and the results. Here is also to hoping that whichever party and whichever officials get elected, they take their mandate seriously and look out for the progress of all Tanzanians. At a minimum, its always good to know there is strong competition this year – because a strong opposition keeps everyone on their toes and everyone wins from more accountable government.


Well, this post is long enough already and since this all probably isn’t as interesting as I think it is…I’ll wrap it up. Hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into what is surely a soon to be extinct phenomenon…a political election with a little remaining mystery before the votes are counted.


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A global recession hurts fishing boats too

The life and times of the unemployed boats of Mafia island:  A Photo Essay

This is just an opportunity to share some photos which were taken last April during a last-minute weekend trip to Mafia Island. Ended up jumping on a flight and finding myself another piece of Tanzanian paradise sitting about  a 45 minute flight south of Dar es Salaam. We found ourselves on a beach the second day with a few hours to wait until the tides came in and we could leave on a snorkelling trip we just negotiated (the horrors!). The beach and shallow waters were littered with a number of boats in various states of use and disrepair and I spent the next little while trying to capture a bit of this with the camera. Without any further ado…my photo essay (and slightly disturbing accompanying captions) on the unemployed boats and dhows of Chole Beach, Mafia Island, Tanzania.

If you want to check out more – the full slideshow from this trip is available here on my Flickr account.

Academic Note: The recession link is probably unproven – not sure how closely the fishing villages out here are linked to Bear Stearns, AIG, and Citibank – I just took a lot of pictures of boats not in use – but that could have been because of the tides…

A very cool reason to go back:

When we visited last year in April it was unfortunately not during one of nature’s coolest spectacles which occurs off the coast of Tanzania every year – the visits of the whale shark to the feeding grounds of the Rufiji delta.

“Very little is known about the world’s largest fish. Weighing up to 35 tonnes, the whale shark has poor eyesight and relies on its sense of smell to track prey. Off Mafia Island, whale sharks congregate in large numbers in order to feed. Some may travel as many as 13,000km (8,000 miles) to visit rich feeding grounds. The water is enriched by nutrients that have washed out to sea from the African river deltas.”  - BBC Oceans

Apparently it happens every year from October -March,  so I hope to take advantage and make the trip this year. I’ll update you if it works out and see if I can find one of those underwater cameras here in TZ.

From: http://www.livescience.com/php/multimedia/imagedisplay/img_display.php?pic=071231-r-whale-shark-02.jpg&cap=Whale+sharks+are+the+largest+shark+and+largest+fish+species+in+the+seas.+Credit:+Brad+Norman&title=Whale+Sharks+Thrive+in+Australian+Waters&title=Whale%20Sharks%20Thrive%20in%20Australian%20Waters

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Been spending most our lives, livin’ in this Mzungu Paradise…

Hey, hey, heyyyyy

He keeps a blog – he can obviously do a little writing – but did you know this dusty foot philosopher can also spit mad rhymes and throw lyrical hooks with the best of them? (since when is Coolio considered amongst the best of them?) Well kind of anyways…

I moved into our new place in Dar es Salaam two weeks ago now and so for the first time I am not living in the neighborhood we affectionately named “Mzungu Paradise” last year. Loving the new place and new neighbourhood thus far – but maybe I’ll give some updates on that another time. Upon my immediate return to Dar back in August, I was fortunate enough to be taken in by our awesome neighbours from last year while I looked for new housing and so I found myself living back in our same apartment block once again the first three weeks. Ah, how the memories came a’ floodin’ back and inspired the creative juices.

I very briefly discussed some thoughts about the neighborhood and housing we were set-up with in a past post -  and I also promised in that post to someday publish the world-wide debut of my alternate lyrics paying homage to our previous home. Well my friends, despite what CCR sings, this someday has finally come.

This production is based upon on a great tradition – begun while working at Hidden Acres and Fraser Lake Camps – and then honed while a member of the Bare Naked Frosh cover-group at Grebel – and so it is continued here. Taking the music of a popular song and changing the lyrics around for comedic/poetic(?) purposes. This is an art people. I have debated whether it was a good idea to post – but what is the internet for if not for freedom of speech/freedom to express crappy art? I certainly don’t want to cause controversy here or sound ungrateful for anything – I’m just poking some fun.

Orient your geographic-self with the neighborhoods of Dar es Salaam:

View Mzungu Paradise in a larger map

To give credit where it is due – the lyics below to Mzungu Paradise are roughly based off of Coolio’s – Gangsta’s Paradise and then really just changed into a simple rhyming pattern –  and also maybe a little of Weird Al Yankovitch’s parody – Amish Paradise. It is also probably necessary to pay homage to the original Stevie Wonder’s – Pastime Paradise. If you don’t know the tune – listen to them!

Mzungu Paradise

As I walk through these dusty streets of Dar es Salaam strange/

I take a look at my life and realize there’s been little change/

Cause life ain’t that hard for a mzungu like me/

When you live and work in the heart of Masaki/


If I had to speak more swahili that would be nice/

but it’s tough to learn when you live in Mzungu Paradise/

Only had to eat ugali na maharege once or twice/

Livin’ in this Mzungu Paradise…


At six in the mornin’, I can have a hot shower/

With our huge generator you know we never lose power/

You see those Tanesco rolling black-outs are just nothin’ to me/

But you know that this convenience has never come free/


Had to take a taxi home more than once or thrice/

Cause there ain’t no public transport here in Mzungu Paradise/

But  for the peninsula life you must pay the price/

Livin’ in this Mzungu Paradise…


I drink my coffee every morning from a french press/

Cause this AfriCafe instant shit just doesn’t impress/

Who’s idea was the pleather couches in this Dar heat?/

Jer, I’ll trade you for the bowl chair in a heart-beat/


Sippin’ Konyagi with zee Germans once or twice/

Sittin’ at the massive table in Mzungu Paradise/

A bigger kitchen than would ever suffice/

Livin’ in this Mzungu Paradise…


It’s a long way back to the university this at night/

Gotta stay ’till the bajaji’s come again at first daylight/

And that’s not just a line, you know that its true/

My smooth efforts aren’t that see-through/


Rockin’ mustaches straight outta’ Miami Vice/

As we roll through the paved streeets of Mzungu Paradise/

Just call our no-pants roof party ‘epic’ if you must be concise/

Livin’ in this Mzungu Paradise…


Sub-Saharan Africa ain’t so bad in this air-conditioned place/

Sometimes if you want sleep you just gotta embrace/

Living posh here amongst the Embassies and NGO’s/

Now you wish you didn’t know where your tax dollar goes/


It can be embarrassing, but can also be nice/

All these luxuries we have here in Mzungu Paradise/

Mixed feelings, but hey – it’s been a real slice/

Livin’ in this Mzungu Paradise…

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