Posts Tagged photography

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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Ethiopia 101: Your Brief Photographic History Lesson

My trip with Laura to Ethiopia last March/April was a pretty amazing experience and so – even though it is quite behind the occurrence of actual events – I wanted to finally get it up here on the blog. I counted just now and realized that I have now visited 10 (luckily I didn’t need to go higher or I would have had to start using toes) of the 56 or so nations in Africa – and in this sample Ethiopia has been the one place that is the one of those things that is not like the others, the one that just doesn’t belong. I say that in a good way –it was just a very different culture and experience than the other countries in east and southern Africa I’ve visited and for that reason I still wanted to share with you a little of that trip here on the blog.

Ethiopia is a very proud country and makes the point to make it known that they are the only country in Africa to have never been fully colonized. They have a very unique history and one that I certainly didn’t know much about before visiting but if you are interested I found a relatively short but good summary here. What struck me most on this trip was not only how rich and varied the history of the country is but also how it is truly at the forefront of most attractions in the country. You really see the history everywhere you go and the Ethiopian people we met were always very proud of this heritage. Another cool part was that you could often very much interact with the history in Ethiopia. Whereby a 700 year old goat-skin bible might be in a museum behind glass and off-limits in some places (probably for good reason) – here you were given the book and could flip through and really experience it.

Tanzania on the other hand has very little pre-colonial period history that you can actually visit/touch/experience. You can visit a few archaeological sites or see the ancient overgrown ruins of a Swahili trading centre or mosque – but for the most part (perhaps with the exception of Stonetown, Zanzibar) there is very little remaining physical evidence of the thousands of years of life before the colonial period. Ethiopia, as you will see from the photos, didn’t require quite so much imagination to step back in time.

Anyways, this will be more of a lazy man’s blog post – heavy on the photos and light on the written word. But perhaps that is what makes a better ‘travel’ post anyways since my words sure aren’t going to get the idea across or make you start planning you next vacation to Addis Ababa. I’ve tried to select a cross-section of photos from the trip that show off different aspects of the history which we were lucky enough to have visited in our 12 days in the country.

The country also has some more recent history readily apparent in the capital of Addis Ababa. 1974 saw the overthrow of the monarchy system that had traditionally ruled Ethiopia and it’s famous “Rasta” symbol Emperor Haile Selassie through a military coup. The 1970’s and 80′s were marked the terribly violent rule of the communist “Derg” dictatorship and the famines which came to the world’s attention and still mark many peoples’ perceptions of the continent.

Ethiopia is also blessed with plenty of natural beauty as well – although quite different from the lush beauty we find in many parts of Tanzania it had its own charm (which shone through the dust occasionally).

I have previously discussed on this blog some of the stupid things I’ve done in the pursuit of a unique experience. The town of Harar in Eastern Ethiopia is famous for its Hyena Men – who go outside the ancient stone walls of the city each night and feed packs of wild hyenas which come down from the surrounding hills.

Naw, its not really all that stupid or dangerous – there must be hundreds of people who do it each year and I haven’t heard of any issues. But at the time you have that hyena running up and opening those bone-crushing jaws a foot away from your nose…well you have a few second thoughts…but by then its probably too late so you’d best just hold still and try not to look/smell too much like dinner.

If you are interested in seeing the full album of Ethiopia pics check out the Flickr album here.

Baadaye/Hasta la próxima/Until next time,

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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In case you were wondering…

I’m still alive…..Just have not been so good at updating the blog lately.

My apologies for that, I’ve consistently been breaking my goal to bi-weekly/monthly get some kind of an update on the site. It hasn’t been an issue of not having much to write about …there have been a number of amazing trips, dumb/entertaining stories, and even the rare insightful idea that pops into my head. I would regale you with tales and excuses of busy days at work, no power and internet at home, a healthy dose of travel keeping me away, and that lion which ate my laptop – but in the end I just haven’t been making the time. Never fear though, I don’t have any plans to let the site die a slow death of neglect and promise to get back on track. I can change baby, I swear, I’m a new man. Please just keep visiting my site to check-in, I promise things will be different if you just give me another chance.

So what can we expect to see?

Here’s a preview of  both what I’ve been up to since my last update in March and perhaps what you might see on the site soon!

Ethiopia!

Rwanda & Burundi

Roadtrips & Weekend Trips!

Nairobi, Kenya – Leaving tomorrow for a week of work in Dar es Salaam’s big sister city.


Point and Shoot

There have been a couple of cool developments these past months on the photography side of things as well. Some of the photos I took last year have gotten a bit of recognition which is always nice. Not that I want to make this all about me or anything – but every once and a while you gotta let the world know.

A photo I took in November 2009 while on a field visit in the Ruvuma region in southern Tanzania was selected to grace the cover of the 2011 USAID President’s Malaria Initiative Annual Report to US Congress. I don’t want to brag or anything – but I think this might mean that Obama himself might have even flipped past it while bored in some meeting. Or at least some members of Congress gave it a glance. Okay, at a minimum a lot of poor Interns had to see it while reading the report on behalf of their Congressman/woman. Fine – a proud contribution to a paperweight in some fancy offices and libraries in Washington D.C. It isn’t my favourite photo or really too special but hey you take what you can get!

Speaking of the big international aid donors – A couple of pictures I took on this same trip made it into the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria’s photo exhibition as finalists in late 2010 but the link is now down.

Another cool win in this area came last month when a Tanzania bookstore chain held a photography contest for their 2012 Novel Idea Calendar. They asked for a max. of 20 entries of People, Landscapes, Ocean, and Wildlife from Tanzania which would make up their Tanzania tourism calendar for the year ahead. I managed to place 2 photos into the final 48 of 1,300+ entries and in the end managed one of the final 12 spots with a picture taken from the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro on December 2009′s climb with Pavan! Just call me Mr. June from now on…

A quick sample of some of my other entries (I only have the Zanzibar ones online at the moment) which didn’t win but just might entice you to come visit.

So, sometime in the future I promise some more posts – Ethiopia, Rwanda & Burundi, Roadtrips & Weekends, and more Dar es Salaam everyday life are all on tap.

In other news – I’ll be back home in Canada on August 23rd for at least a little while – so if your based there, I’ll hope to see you soon!

Given that I arrived here in Tanzania in September 2009 – was back last July/August – and now will return again in the summer  - this makes for approximately 28 continuous months of summer weather and counting….

Cheers,
Dan

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The Portuguese have left the building…A Photo Tour of Ilha’s Ibo & Mocambique

Hello again world,

In my earlier post on the Mozambique travels last week, I promised a follow-up on the second half of the trip down to Mozambique. Don’t say I never deliver the goods. This week – I proudly present Part II – Ladies & Gentlemen, the Portuguese have left the building…

A very Wiki History lesson to set the stage

An abbreviated and inadequate history: Mozambique was colonized by the Portuguese empire in 1505. They stuck around for several hundred years and built up colony with an impressive resource-based trading empire. Fast forward to 1975 when the Portuguese decided to pack up and leave after a war for independence and regime change back home. Upon independence on June 25, 1975 – a good riddance law was passed by the new government ordering all Portuguese to leave the country in 24 hours with only 20 kilograms of luggage! I guess lesson is always travel light – you never know. Mix that misguided policy  in with  the economic decline of these indian ocean trading companies and associated government in the early 20th century et voilà  - you have yourself the makings some very eery but fascinating ghost towns.

Needless to say, these places make for some amazing photography sets and I had a field day on this trip as everywhere you turned there were a hundred beautiful and very unique photos waiting to be made. Here’s some highlights – enjoy!

A Photo Tour of spooky Ilha do Ibo

We first visited the more remote and less known Ilha do Ibo in the Quirimbas National Marine Park. Wasn’t on the original itinerary but once we read about it we had to move plans around to make it happen. Easily my favorite spot on the whole trip and one of the most fascinating places I have ever visited in this life of mine.

I could show a hundred more from this place but must show some restraint!

Tired of photos already? Too bad – It’s Ilha de Mocambique’s time to shine

The second of these amazing historic places we visited and spent New Year’s was the somewhat more famous, a bit less abandoned, a lot more touristy, former capital of Portuguese East Africa - Ilha de Mocambique:

As mentioned in the last post – all these photos and more are available for your viewing pleasure in Flickr Set that might just make you drop what your doing and buy a ticket to Mozambique – right here after the link.

Catch you on the flip side

Up next – headed to Ethiopia at the end of March for an exciting 11 days of travel goodness in Northern Ethiopia and around Addis Ababa. Very excited for this trip – should be something very different culturally and geographically speaking than the travels made around Tanzania, Northern Mozambique, and Kenya so far this year.  Plus, as a true fan of delicious food served in large quantities…I’m excited for the prospect of being surrounded by Ethiopian food!

After that – end of April will bring a 5 day Easter weekend trip with friends to the city of Kigoma and the Gombe Stream National Park on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in the western edge of Tanzania. Gombe Stream was made famous by a certain Ms. Jane Goodall back-in-the-day and her research on primates in this remote area. The park offers the opportunity to hike up into the mountains and (hopefully) observe the chimpanzee troops in their non-zoo habitat. But besides this, I’ve heard it’s an amazingly beautiful place, great hiking, and offers a chance to visit and swim (Bilharzia be damned) in Lake Tanganyika - the remaining on the list of Africa’s 3 main Great Lakes after trips to Lake Victoria and Lake Malawi last year. Lake Tanganyika, unlike me at my grade 6 track and field meets, has a number of impressive non-participation ribbons including: world’s longest lake, world’s second deepest lake, world’s second largest body of fresh water, and offers nice views into the neighboring DR Congo across the lake. Advanced warning of possible obnoxious future facebook status update: Dan Albrecht is…peeing while swimming in Lake Tanganyika and looking into THE DARK HEART OF AFRICA!!!

Given my track record with this post – you can expect to see a blog post and photos of these trips sometime in June…2012

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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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Even more past Ayoba Time – Stories and Pictures from the 2010 South Africa World Cup – Part II

Welcome to Part II of my posts about the June/July adventures travelling down to and around South Africa for the 2010 World Cup. If you missed Part I – you can check it out here. That said, this is (as usual) just a collection of ramblings, pictures, and stories with very little common-thread…so its not so much necessary that you go back and read it…I’ll leave it up to you.

Tales of ordinary murder

No, this is not a reference to all the hype and media scare which built-up to the World Cup about how every fan was risking their life to visit SA. Lucky you – it’s a new addition to Dan’s “I doubt Oprah even reads everything on her book club list” Book Club! Throughout much of my time in SA, I was reading a book that I would like to tell you a bit about and add to the reading list: My Traitor’s Heart: A South African Exile Returns to Face His Country, His Tribe and His Conscience by Rian Malan. First off, warning for all you young children that read this blog before bed-time – this book ain’t a Fun with Dick and Jane light-hearted jaunt. It was definitely one of the darkest and most disturbing accounts that I have ever read. That said,  South Africa under apartheid in the late 80′s was not a pretty place for anyone.

The book is an account of a white South African Afrikaaner who returns to SA after many years to become a journalist covering crime cases. He tells the compelling story of SA through the lens of the crimes he reports on and what they say about this society. It is a very raw and personal account of his own battle to understand the entrenched racial systems, his own place in all of this, and the violence that were very much tearing South Africa apart when he wrote this account.  I really enjoyed his writing style -unedited, emotional,  honest, confrontational, and conversational. Here is (one of the more intense) snippets:

“…I think I should rest my case right here, for fear that I lose control, leap off the page, and tear out the throat of the nearest enlightened white man.

….Am I upsetting you my friend? Good. Do you want to argue? Do you want to tell me about the evils of apartheid? Do you want to talk about democracy and the allied civil and human rights that fall under the umbra of its name? Okay. Let’s open my bulging files of tales of ordinary murder. You choose your weapons and I’ll choose mine, and we’ll annihilate the certainties in one another’s brains.”

Phew! Don’t let that scare you though – he’s not that raging angry the entire book! During 4 weeks travelling through SA, I read a lot of other historical accounts and visited the both Nelson Mandela and Apartheid museums  (all amazing as well) – but I have to say that this book provided a completely unique level of analysis and eye-opening understanding. If you are interested in learning more about SA under apartheid and especially the turmoil and events that began the chain of events which led to Mandela’s release – I highly recommend you check it out… of your local library branch (everyone is looking to save money in these hard times you know).

Think happy thoughts and look at the pretty pictures

Was that a bit dark and troubling? I don’t want to leave you with bad taste in your mouth about that beautiful country. No, that would be no good…we must do something to fix this. Or do I just want a chance to post more photos? Either way -Let’s take a tour through some of the breathtakingly beautiful scenery in South Africa as captured through my camera… which was at last fixed and operational for the final 3 weeks of the journey.

The photos from the trip are starting to make their way up onto my Flickr Page little by little – so if you want to see more check out the South Africa Roadtrip Set here.

A brief tutorial on how to make tax-free billions off the taxpayer

Overall, the World Cup pretty much lived up to all my expectations. South Africa put on a great show and were amazingly hospitable hosts for the tournament and proved all of the bad press and nay-sayers wrong which was certainly nice to see. Unfortunately, how it will do with the giant white-elephant stadiums and debt legacy that these giant world events leave a country/city with is a different story.

To skim the surface of this topic  - the most corropt sports organization in the world, our host FIFA, made off with $3.5 Billion USD in TAX-FREE profits from the event – meanwhile  while the SA government was saddled with an estimated $2.9 billion USD in debt to build new stadiums and airports for the two month event. Congratulations goes out to the taxpayers of Russia and Qatar – the recent winners of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups… BUT since there isn’t much to do about that now and its all a bit depressing (blame the system not the fan, my friend) – I think they should be lauded for a truly great achievement and for showing the world a different and truly capable side of Africa than many might have expected.

Just can’t shake that poser feeling

That said, there was something a little bit off the whole time. This nagging feeling I just couldn’t shake. Like a square peg and a round hole, like most of us on that first day of Grade 9 in high-school, like the Pope giving the key-note at  World Condom Day  - I just didn’t quite belong (yes, i am pretty sure i just made that up -go ahead, google it). It felt like everyone there had one distinct advantage over me in the are-you-a-legit-fan-or-just-some-poser-who-can’t-name-a-player-on-the-pitch assessment that sports fans often do when meeting….they actually had their country participating in the tournament.

There were even quite a few other lost Canadian souls at the tournament. At one game in Joburg I rubbed my eyes when I saw a banner hanging from the stands reading “Newfoundland and Labrador – Canada’s Soccer Capital“. Really? Really? Too much Newfoundland Screech for some hoser I think.

…but a super interesting poser at least?

May I present to you, the jury, Exhibit A in the prosecution’s case of Grand World Cup Posering:

During the World Cup travels I found myself  interviewed on four different occasions by the time I headed home by various international tv stations. (What can I say? I am on my way to the personal goal of becoming one of those most interesting people in the world who gets invited to fabulous parties for the sole reason that they are interesting and might make the party more interesting just by their presence.) In a true mark of a World Cup poser, I was supporting a different team in three of the four interviews.

  1. Supporting Argentina – interviewed by Argentinean TV outside the Ellis Park Joburg stadium before the Argentina-Nigeria game
  2. Supporting Denmark (who the hell supports Denmark? Dislike of Dutch > Fear of being the lone Denmark fan I guess) interviewed by Bolivian TV - In the Soccer City stadium -Joburg after Netherlands – Denmark game
  3. Supporting Spain interviewed by Japanese TV – fanwalk outside the Capetown stadium on the way to Spain -Portugal game
  4. Supporting Argentina, interviewed/made the butt of many jokes by a Brazilian comedy show – In a bar across the street from Capetown stadium watching/crying during the live- next-door Germany- Argentina debacle.

So you see, the evidence has clearly been broadcasted out to the world to judge and convict me of crimes of world cup fan posering. But until the year that Canada makes the World Cup (see you in Brazil 2014?), I guess I’ll  have to be that hardcore fan that tries and tries, but just doesn’t quite fit in.

What’s on tap barman?

Since it’s already almost mid-December and I likely won’t get another chance to update you before the holidays are here – thought I would provide a quick update and seasons greetings.

Time is flying by -can’t believe I’ve been back for 3 and a half months already – and I know it will only go faster and 2011 will be here before we  know it. I will be heading south this holiday season for 11 days backpacking around Northern Mozambique and spend the holidays there. It’s a bit weird spending christmas away from family and friends but I’ve found that hitting the road this time of year makes it somehow easier…so very excited for the adventure ahead and will hope to share some good stories and pictures in a new post next year!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Years to everyone!

Cheers,
Dan

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Slightly past Ayoba time…Travels to the 2010 South Africa World Cup – Part I

Well, okay…a little more than slightly past Ayoba time…but better late than never?

Check your calendar Dan, you’re about 5 months too late with this post. You gotta get your priorities straight and stop living in the past. (Am I allowed to use the cliche excuse that I’m on African time?). So maybe being on time isn’t my thing – but I think there are still some cool stories and philosophizing to share so even if this is maybe no longer categorized under current events, I hope you’ll make it past this paragraph.

For your reference back home – It’s Ayoba Time! was the advertising campaign being run by the World Cup telecom sponsor MTN and played incessantly everywhere in Africa during the lead up and main event itself. The Ayoba vuvuzela “tune” was a common sound heard whenever you were in a World Cup host city and  may have interrupted more than a few conversations along Durban’s Florida St. restaurants and cafe’s as we got everyone into the world cup spirit during a particular night of revelry.  And yes, the 2010 World Cup was exactly like that street party scene in the last shot of the ad.

Editor’s Note: Part I…what’s up with that?

As I have been told many times and have readily admitted on this blog before – I have a bit of a problem keeping things concise. This post has been in various progressive forms of draft mode since I returned to Canada on July 9th – and with each of my visits it grew and grew in size until became in danger of becoming  an unreadable-in-one-sitting-novel. As such, I have split the post into a two-part series (and they are both still bloody long!) – more dusty foot philosophizing to love for all of us!

“baby, I would follow you to the ends of the earth”

Where I left off on this blog  during the travels down to SA we were headed to the Zambia/Zimbabwe border to see the mighty Victoria Falls and I promised not to do anything too stupid. Well, the jury is still out on that one.

The first of my two “at the ends of the earth” moments I experienced on this stage of the trip was from the air. It was  the less-stupid decision we made to take a ultra-lite/micro-lite flight over the Zambezi River and Victoria Falls to get a birds-eye view. When you visit the falls from the ground level you truly understand why the indigenous people here called the falls Mosi-oa-Tunya or “the smoke that thunders” for all you non-Kololo speakers. I loved that name the moment I first read it. It’s (obviously?) neither of those things and yet it fits so perfectly. When approaching the falls from the ground you can see the mist rising up from miles away and a hear a dull roar where the river suddenly drops off. When you get up close on the trail that goes beneath the falls – you are completely soaked,  can only see a blanket of mist in front of you,  and can hardly hear each other over the roar of the water.

The ultra-lite flight is the perfect counterbalance to intensity of the ‘smoke and thunder’. You soar up into the air with no walls keeping you in and your bare feet hanging off the edge and blowing in the wind. It’s a glorified go-kart with wings and until the jet-pack becomes commercially available (The Jetsons promised me such technology by now…) – I think it might be the closest thing to human flight available. It was eerily quiet and peaceful up there and you see a side of this spectacle of nature that you thought was the sole domain of those BBC Planet Earth film crews or National Geographic photographers that us mere mortals weren’t allowed to witness.

I don’t know if this will make sense to you but I will try. There are moments in life when you are just purely happy. When you have a big goofy smile on your face that starts to hurt your cheeks but you can’t reign it in. When you say to yourself, “damn…Louis Armstrong was right”. Where, if real-life had a soundtrack, there would be an epic classical masterpiece hitting its crescendo during this scene. When you know that what you need to do in life is chase these moments, that feeling… maybe it is a person for you or a place or an experience…but you need to find it wherever it is on this planet…. and that the bad parts of life or stress of work  and earning a paycheque is purely there to enable this. Yeah, it was kinda cool like that.

The less intelligent “at the edge of the world” moment was a bit more straightforward. Put one foot in front of the other and walk off a cliff.

According to the stats I just looked up on their website – the gorge-swing jump was a “160 ft pure Free Fall…….Reaching speeds of up to 180 Km/h.” and was supposed to last 4 seconds or something (yes, that is enough time to both fully comprehend that it was a stupid decision and subsequently urinate your pants) before the rope catches just above the ground below and whips you into a high-speed swing across the tree tops. I would like to say that if I had thought more about those numbers at the time I wouldn’t have done it – but that’s probably not true. Ah well, you learn your lessons (and your whiplashed neck and lower back pay the price) – I have absolutely zero desire to ever do any “extreme” jumping again. Well, I should probably be completely honest with you – we climbed back up to the top and proceeded to try the  aptly named tandem-death-drop where you tie yourself at the ankles and waist to a buddy and flip backwards off the ledge. But going forward…I have absolutely zero desire to ever do any “extreme” jumping again.

“It’s the people that make the place”

Okay, so maybe this is obvious as well -but isn’t it kind of funny how a place, a neighbourhood, a city, a country even – can be defined in your memory not necessarily by its actual tourist attractions or natural beauty but purely by the people that you meet there?

Two such experiences from our trip stand out which made me want to include this observation here. The second was in Durban, SA. Two strangers in a city meet some people out while watching a game. Instead of the easier/safer/conventional goodbye we are invited into their lives for our 3 days in Durban. Keys to the apartment, cooking dinners, visiting workplaces, going to house parties, exchanging good books & music, and lots of jokes makes Durban stand above its more famous Cape Town and Johannesburg counterparts in my books.

The first was in Bulowayo, Zimbabwe where six dirty, smelly, pretty much random travelers were taken in and made a part of a family for our brief  stay. Cooking barbeque feasts, giving relationship advice, white-bread eating contests, joining  family monopoly night, and sitting around the living room hearing personal stories of how one family dealt with Zim’s unbelievable inflation crisis of 2008 and why they choose to stay when the easy path to just leave is available. That’s what I will always remember about Zimbabwe.

I guess the moral of the story is  - be kind to strangers, be especially welcoming to guests, and just know the effect you can have when someone else passes temporarily through your world.

“This is Africa’s World Cup”

The hype starting building even before we arrived in Tanzania a full 11 months before the opening kick-off. What started then as an email sent out to my fairly unknown two future roommates in Dar while preparing for last years trip (and I copy and paste) – “Hey guys. I’m looking at possibly staying until the beginning of June and then hopefully heading to South Africa to take part in some World Cup festivities before heading home” – turned into those 3 guys booking their return flights out of South Africa with no plans of how to get there – turned into some purchased game tickets – evolved into some rough plans involving trains, boats, buses, and cars – and finally turned into a reality. kinda cool.

In the months leading up to the tournament I talked with a lot of people about it and that buzz just kept on building. Everyone was excited that Africa had an opportunity to be on the world stage and play host to the world’s game. It didn’t matter that SA was the official host – this was Africa’s World Cup and I was told that many times over. I particularly remember meeting a man in Mbeya, Tanzania who, when I told him we were going,  told me he was religiously buying bottles of Coke to look under the cap and try to win the grand prize trip and tickets to the final. He laughed and said he knew he wouldn’t win but how could he not try? This was once in a lifetime and this was Africa’s World Cup.

As we got closer to the World Cup (both geographically and chronologically) it was like there was a giant funnel on the continent – draining everyone you met down to SA for the opening. Of course, its sad that most of these people we met heading to the event were foreigners as well – and only the most privileged percentage of Africans on this continent were able to come experience their very own continent’s World Cup in person. But I think you could probably argue the same about Canada hosting the Olympics or other major events like this held anywhere – and in the end the immense continental pride and ownership was still there at all levels.

“Welcome home, we’ve been waiting 200,000 years”

Finally, I’ll leave you with a video of Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s speech from the launch concert the night before the opening game. He welcomes the world to not only South Africa – but all of Africa which I thought was a very nice touch given the proud ownership of the event that we saw throughout the continent on our travels.  ”Africa is the cradle of humanity”  and so if we go far enough back…we are all African. True that, Archbishop, true that.

Welcome home world. Now doesn’t that just bring a tear to your eye?

Stay tuned for Part II of this post dealing with some of the actual World Cup fun ….coming soon (or at least sometime in the next 5 months…)

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“Africa does not exist”

Over the last month and a half while I was at  home in Canada and talking to people about coming back for the year ahead, the word ‘Africa’ was often used as the geographic reference. Makes sense, it is the continent of my destination. However, I read the introduction to a book a few weeks back that made me stop and think a bit about this and I thought I would share it with you in this post.

The term ‘Africa’ is used so commonly for the sake of convenience and in a sense is correct – but it is also an extremely, extremely broad term and simplification. My experience coming to Tanzania will certainly be much different than another person also headed to ‘Africa’ but spending a year in Egypt, Mali, South Africa, or Somalia. Different worlds really. But then I guess I could also say the same on a more micro level – my experience living in a major city such as Dar es Salaam is a completely different world than a rural village pretty much anywhere else in TZ. Reality is that simplifications are useful and sometimes necessary…but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be aware of it and making an effort to go deeper when possible.

Here is the quote from the author’s introduction to the book which got me thinking about this and probably does a much better job conveying the idea than I just did. Ryszard Kapuscinski is a Polish journalist who worked as a foreign correspondent in many parts of Africa since 1957 and the dawn of many independent nations and reported events and day-to-day life over the next forty years. The book is called “The Shadow of the Sun”.

“…this is therefore not a book about Africa, but rather about some people from there – about encounters with them, and time spent together. The continent is too large to describe. It is a veritable ocean, a separate planet, a varied, immensely rich cosmos. Only with the greatest simplification, for the sake of convenience, can we say “Africa”. In reality, except as a geographical appellation, Africa does not exist.”

Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to finish the book before leaving– so can’t add it to Dan’s Book Club reading list just yet. It is supposed to be one of the classic memoir/travel books in the Africa literature section. From what I got through, it had many interesting insights into countries and their citizens in the early days of independence and I look forward finishing it some day soon.

Tangent: The thing I find about travel books – they are cool to read when you are far away, or even just visiting a place – I highly recommend the strategy of reading fiction or non-fiction about or from a place where you are or will be travelling –even if its an all-inclusive resort in Mexico or something. But when it goes into rich descriptive detail for those who have not experienced it, describing riding the crowded (understatement) public buses or visiting the colourful market…it’s a lot less exciting to read about when its already your day-to-day life.

Anyways, when I read that quote it helped me realize that – despite having now lived and traveled on this continent for almost a year – I really have only experienced a small piece of it and can only really say that I now know some of Tanzania and flashes of Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa from the “epic” trip. It also underlined just how much of a simplification it is when we say – “yeah, I’ve been to Europe/Africa/South America…etc” as if we now have it checked off the ‘to-do list’ –  when in reality we have experienced only a small part of that world. I  hope to get to better understand Tanzania, this little piece of the continent, in the year ahead as I am sure I barely scratched the surface last time. I also hope to see and experience some new parts – Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Mozambique are all on the current to-do list for the year ahead. Ethiopia, Sudan, Morroco, Egypt, Tunisia, DRC, West Africa…hell, really the rest of the continent….on the hope-to-see -maybe-someday list.

Even then though, as Mr. Kapuscinski so eloquently put, I don’t think I could really check Africa off the ‘to-do list’  - because that destination just doesn’t exist.

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Most sequels suck – but hopefully not this one

Hello again and welcome back to the another dusty foot philosopher blog!

First off, all apologies for the major gap since the last post. The last post came from Zambia during the self-declared epic trip down to South Africa for the World Cup. Certainly had every intention of making some more updates since then but surprisingly enough, finding an internet cafe and writing a blog post wasn’t so high on the priority list during the World Cup.

I don’t have such a good excuse for why there was nothing done in the month and a half spent back  home visiting -thats just laziness I guess. Had a much needed time relaxing and seeing family and friends back home though and very thankful for that opportunity heading into another long stretch away.

If you don’t know yet – I am back in Tanzania already for round II. At the very end of the last contract here I agreed to return to Tanzania for a one year contract beginning end of August. In the end, it came down to a great job opportunity here and experience that I don’t think I would be able to get elsewhere at this time. I would love to share more about the new job, but a few things need to clear up yet and I will try to keep this one relatively short so that will have a future post.

What Hollywood has taught me about life (besides the bad guy is wearing black, the high-school outcast can still get the girl, and that animals really can talk) is that, when it comes to sequels, they mostly suck…especially if they try to do the same thing.  The list of horrible sequels is not a hard one to compile; Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd, Jaws II: The Revenge, Star Wars Episode I – The Phantom Menace, Speed 2: Cruise Control, Son of the Mask….it gets ugly.

I definitely thought a lot about this before coming back – this year won’t be the same as last year and it can’t be the same. Probably shouldn’t be the same. Need to approach it with a different storyline, different expectations (or maybe no expectations?), and different goals. I mean, most obviously, Zach and I are back but we’ve lost the third musketeer. Who will the thieves target now that Jer is gone?…I think I am in trouble.

So, I guess what I am saying is….let’s make this particular sequel more of a “The Dark Knight” kind of refreshing goodness and a little less of a “The Next Karate Kid” failed imitation.

I am definitely planning on keeping up the blog again for the year ahead. I really didn’t like the idea of it at first – but have really come to enjoy sharing some stories, pictures, and occasional ramblings with the friends and randoms that visit. I have about 7 drafts of new posts either started here on my computer or sitting in draft mode in my brain which I hope will someday see the light of day. I can’t promise anything but I will try to make some more regular updates in this year ahead.

Until next time (but hopefully not too long),

Dan

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