Posts Tagged Songea

and this episode is called…Season 2

Hello viewers,

All apologies for the lengthy delay in the release of Season 2 of and this episode is called… I’d like to blame production delays or a union strike or something else out of my control but really it’s just been the fact that I didn’t get around to finishing this for post for the past 5 months and it has sat 75% complete in my drafts the whole time. Life got busy with visitors, work, and more travels hand this always takes longer to write up and post pictures than I think! It was tempting to just leave it be and die a peaceful death in draft mode –but just hated being this close and not publishing it so I’ve got my act together and put this bad boy up.

It seems the ratings on Season 1 were satisfactory enough for the network to pick up the shows and so Season 2 picks up where Season 1 left off at the end of October 2009 and takes us through to the end of December 2009. If you don’t know what this all is referring to, I would encourage you to take a quick read of Season 1 and the explanation at the beginning of the post.

With no further delay, I present the episode guide to Season 2!

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Days filled with red, green, and blue  – November 1st -9th

Finally managing to get out of Dar es Salaam and see some more of the real Tanzania, Dan heads to the south of Tanzania to get a better understanding of MEDA TZ’s programs in the field. The dirt is bright red, the trees and bright green, and the sky is beautiful blue and goes on forever.

For a trip recap and photo tour – check out this earlier full episode post!

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The colours and faces in the crowd

Mama Kikwete and Me – November 4th

The work trip to Ruvuma results in Dan being present at a regional program launch where an accidental meeting with the first lady of Tanzania occurs. The awkward mzungu moments don’t stop there though as a case of a mistaken identity throws our hero into the forefront of the event. The prospect of a speech in a new language in front of several hundred people and the first lady? Hakuna matata. “Mambo vipi Madabe? Malaria Haikubaliki! Asantini sana”

For full episode recap and photos check out this earlier post! Update: This episode has now been published in the latest version of the MEDA Marketplace magazine! p.s. Does this  make me super-menno?

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How not to act out the word “Kinderpunch” – November 9th

Dan returns from his roadtrip (I heart 14 hr bus rides) to join a group of friends gathered at a apartment for a delicious dinner, and later, a game akin to charades and Taboo. The word “punch” is one of the words given to our German friend Michael to act out but the meaning is, well…lost in translation. Roll on the floor/pee your pants/so hard it hurts – kind of laughing ensues when Michael, to our delight, goes ahead repeatedly trying to act out the German Christmas morning “kinderpunch” scene but ends up in some compromising positions.

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The case of the mystery txt msgs from Celine Dion – November 1st, 9th, 13th…

This episode begins with the aforementioned Michael giving the your Canadian heroes a hard time about how we all must love listening to our #1 export to Tanzania, the music of Celine Dion. As Dan later enters a hotel far away in Songea later that week, the music of Celine fills the reception. A random urge to record the love song lyrics in a text message and send them to Michael is executed and repeated every time he hears Celine for the next few weeks or so. What he doesn’t realize is that back in Dar poor Michael didn’t have his phone number in his phone and so he’s convinced for the next few months he’s receiving love notes from a mystery woman. Near, far, whereevvvvverrr you are…

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Tuesdays with Morrie Nancy – Tuesday evenings, November 10th, 17th, …Dec 8th

Our heroes enrol in Kiswahili lessons in an effort to force themselves to keep learning since it can often be difficult to practice and learn living in Mzungu Paradise. The teacher is a kind middle-aged woman named Nancy, but she doesn’t know what she is in for with her three new students. With each passing week the homework and sentences made up in class get more and more ridiculous as they bring in the street slang Kiswahili learned from friends and their own immature humour into the particular lessons of that week. Maybe this is why our heroes still have horrible Kiswahili after months of living in Tanzania? Maybe, but it’s made for some outrageous things said in class, great laughs with Nancy, and turned our Tuesdays in the classroom with Nancy into something to look forward to.

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contemplating island life

Island. Music. Fever.   -November 13-15th

The weekend is filled with trips to the north beach and nearby island of Bongoyo for lots of sun, football, and exploring. Sunday night holds an amazing concert with some of Africa’s biggest music stars (Angelique Kidjo, Emmanuel Jal, and Youssou N’Dour) performing in Dar. And finally, a bad fever hits our hero. The doctor rules out malaria (so the “I survived malaria in East Africa – 2009” t-shirt order must be put on hold for now) but in a rather relaxed manner tells our hero that “it sure looks like H1N1 to me”. A bit of a scare but luckily it was not and our hero recovers quickly to continue the adventures of Season 2.

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hold yourself back

“so…are you here with the moustache guys or what?” – November 12th -17th

In honour of the great prostate cancer fundraising initiative Movember – and because it is awesome to have an excuse to grow gross facial hair – Jeremy and Dan shave their beards down to moustaches for a week. Most Tanzanian friends and co-workers just think we are actually trying to look good (we did look good. damn good.) and the joke factor of young guys rocking moustaches that exists in North America seems to get a little bit lost. A night out at the Alliance Francaise cultural centre (yes, we do visit such high-brow cultural institutions) provides the episode title when a random guy tries to pick-up our friend and asks the episode title question in disbelief.

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Lushoto viewpoints

The accidental Nachtwanderung–November 18th

Three characters head off for a weekend trip to visit the Usambara mountains in the Lushoto region north of Dar. Several hours and a few different buses on Friday afternoon/night takes the gang within a 30 minute drive of their final destination by 9pm and they arrange for a pick-up as all local buses have since stopped. Fast forward to 2:30am and the gang is hiking the last few km’s into Lushoto town in the pitch black of night after a few hours of stop and go car trouble. Beautiful hikes, chameleons, amazing farm fresh food, and Lion King-esque vistas will follow…as if those stars weren’t worth it already.

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Wake up to make-up – November 25th & 26th

It’s Friday morning, about 10ish and our hero sits at his desk when a horrific thought leaps into his mind…oh crap, did I remember to wash the make-up from last night off my face? The episode flashes back to explain how he got into this particular predicament the night before (and to keep our faithful viewers/readers from starting rumours). While having drinks after watching a comedian perform at the local community theatre, a make-up case is discovered left at our table by the previous occupants. Somehow it becomes a good idea to dress up Dan with eyeliner and lipstick (we are at a theatre after all people) and he spends the rest of the night with a painted face and a top hat. Luckily for him, the morning shower took care of what he forgot before showing up for work and he narrowly escapes having to give some awkward explanations to co-workers.

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I’m on a boat?– Nov 27th

There’s something about a hazy wake-up to find you are on the roof of a random wooden boat floating out in the warm waters off the white sand beaches of Zanzibar and watching the sun rise up and slowly light the clouds bright orange and pink …something about this that just provides the perfect ending to a night/starting to a new day. Hmm, can’t quite put my finger on what it would be – let me know if you figure it out.

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It’s the pirate juice that makes you dance on the bar – Nov 28th

The Zanzibar crew hire a boat to take them down the coast to a more tourist-oriented beach party than last night’s affair in nearby Kendwa Rocks. Why go by boat? – as our new waiter friend says “why not?” Excellent point and we have no counter-argument. As Kevin Garnett would say “anything is possible!”. Zach and Jeremy befriend a bartender and invent a new drink- pirate juice in honour of Zach’s Somali pirating compatriots. One part pirate poo, one part gold, one part sea water, and one part Konyagi – hold the pirate poo. More dancing, more craziness, and even a dance party on top of the bar.

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Mock awe of the roof top views of Dar harbour  from the Kempenski hotel

A rooftop tour of Dar es Salaam – Dec 1st

Our main characters meet up with friends for a celebratory drink and choose as the location the rooftop bar above Dar es Salaam’s fanciest hotel for it’s rumoured nice view. After a pricey drink or two and a nice but not amazing view over the harbour at night – we learn of the existence of another, higher up but slightly less “legal” rooftop viewing area to tour. Crawling through a broken glass window atop a office tower yields some very beautiful night time views of Dar – well, until security shows up.

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Poor BBQ never quite recovered

Somebody forgot to tell us it was a Wednesday night – Dec 2nd

Our heroes decide that it is time for them to use their apartment to host yet another bash with our friend Elvis in town for a visit and imminent departures. Their Mzungu Paradise apartment is the venue and they invite their Dar social circle over after work for a “make your own pizza” dinner and following party. Sounds innocent enough for a Wednesday night – but not with this group. The party goes late into the night and a particularly brave group heads out on the town but the problem is…bars often don’t really have closing times in Tanzania. Dan wapi? No worries, everyone makes it to work by 8!

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A different kind of German D-Day – Dec 3rd

This is one of those sad episodes where a major character gets written out of the plot by the producers. It’s sadly a often reoccurring theme over here in this ever-shifting Dar es Salaam community and this one is the first of many departure days. It’s Steffi’s last night in Tanzania and the group gathers for a last party at zee Germans place to bid farewell. Live swahili guitar playing and singing keeps the party going late and lots of goodbyes are said. Could perhaps our cast re-unite for one of those cheesy TV reunion special episodes where you find out what happened to all the main characters when they all grow up (like those Saved By the Bell spin-offs)? Only time and lots of peer pressure for Germans to come visit Canada will tell.

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Your friendly neighbourhood action hero – Dec 12th

Dan and Jer decide to take a mini-weekend trip to nearby Bagamoyo just an hour’s dalla-dalla ride north of Dar. As they negotiate prices outside the bus, your hero notices someone walking away with a phone just like his in hand. A quick check in his backpack and yep, its not there anymore so the suspect is tailed. He realizes it soon enough (I kind of stand out) and a full out chase is on through the winding alleys on the Mwenge neighbourhood. Good triumphs over evil and the walk back through the winding alleys gets some props from the residents who watched this unusual action based episode live from the pubs, shops, and homes. Thankfully, no thieves were mob-beaten in the making of this episode.

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hey True North strong and free, consider yourself stood on guard for.

The mission statement is..ummm…Miss Uganda? – Dec 15-18th

It’s MEDA Tanzania’s staff retreat and the Canadian trio is busy in the weeks heading up to the event with planning and logistics. In one of those, “Okay Zach, I will believe it when I see it with my own eyes…oh my, my.. its true…” kind of moments, we learn that the Miss East Africa 2009 competition is being held at our same hotel the duration of the retreat. A great retreat filled with days of powerpoints and group discussions and nights of beers with co-workers is capped with your heroes even singing a rousing version of O Canada at the staff Christmas party. I was never good at memorizing those organizational mission statements anyways.

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Up above the clouds on Mlima Kilimanjaro

It’s Kili Time – December 25th-30th

Tanzania is the land of Mt. Kilimanjaro and your hero likes adventures and high places. It’s a match that was meant to be and so the plan is hatched for a solo mission to the roof of Africa over the Christmas holidays. In one of the greater last minute decisions in history – a good friend from back home decides to move some work flights around to join the trek on less than two weeks notice. Climb mountains? Dan and Pavan start up the 5,895m of Uhuru Peak on Christmas morning and successfully summit to an almost full moon and sunrise 5 days later. Check out a full photo guide to the episode here on Flickr and photo summary here on the blog!

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What's up MTV Africaaaaaaa? Welcome to my crib.

Hello MTV Africa, welcome to my crib –- December 31st – January 3rd 2010

Out of the freezer and into the oven. Dan and Pavan make it down of their frozen mountain top perch in time to catch a flight taking them to meet up with the his sister and the rest of the group in the tropical heat of Zanzibar (Round III!) for new year celebrations. The group’s reservation at some beach bungalows are “lost” and they find themselves homeless with no free beds in the tiny village. Never fear, this is Tanzania and life seems to just work out. The group ends up making last minute random connections and renting a beach front villa for the 3 days resulting in the filming of the very first MTV Cribs – Africa episode.

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I realize that this still leaves me many, many months and episodes behind – but I am sad to say that I think this will be the last …and this episode is called post for this time here in TZ. I lost motivation awhile ago to try and keep track and write these up and so the series will have to end here with the end of 2009. I assure you, there have been a few noteworthy episodes in 2010 thus far and perhaps some will make it into some future posts – but most likely you’ll just have to hang out with me in person sometime to hear them. How unfortunate for you.

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Mama Kikwete and Me

This is the story of how I met the first lady of Tanzania….and then what happened next.

The setting of this story is during my field trip in the beginning of November to witness the Under 5 Catch-Up Campaign (U5CC) mosquito net issuing exercise in the Southern Highlands region of Tanzania. I had headed down to the Ruvuma region to get some field experience and see one of MEDA Tanzania’s major programs in action. I hoped to get a chance to see how some of the theory and policies I was working with on a day-to-day basis were really playing out in the field. I also aimed to get some good pictures of the program in action for future promotional material use and maybe even collect a few good stories from the beneficiaries and the program stakeholders to publish.

dance

It started when we arrived in Songea town on the second day and spoke with another program partner who let us know that they just learned that the first lady of Tanzania, Mama Kikwete, would be coming to the district to officially launch the program in this region. I was excited to hear that a special launch event was being planned in a village about an hour north of us and that my colleague and I would be attending as the MEDA representatives but didn’t think much more of it.

Dancers greet Mama Kikwete at the clinic

The day arrived and we headed out in our trusty white Toyota truck for the village. Upon arrival, as the picture above suggests, we find out just how unoriginal we really were as the village was absolutely invaded by an army of white Land Cruisers/Land Rovers from all the government representatives and NGO’s there for the launch event.

A convoy of white SUV's make their way to the launch event.

After an uneventful lunch event with local dignitaries and the first lady, we all headed to the village health clinic where the launch event was to take place. As I understand it (and everything happened here in Kiswahili – so my understanding is likely a bit flawed…) the organizing group had planned for Mama Kikwete to give a speech and issue the first nets of the campaign inside a tiny room in the clinic which could only fit the invited dignitaries and partners but left out the crowd which had gathered to welcome Mama Kikwete.  After we all entered the clinic room and were seated to begin her speech  – she, in a  noble move, requested that the event be moved back outside so that the shut-out crowd can watch as well. So, all the people in the room file out ahead of Mama Kikwete but at this time yours truly was fiddling with his camera and not understanding the Swahili instructions so just stayed sitting. By the time I realize that everyone has left and I get to the aisle I run directly into Mama Kikwete herself who proceeds to give me a big smile and (in English) says “hello, how are you?” and we shake hands. Now, I wish that I had at least tried to break out some of my Swahili and give a nice response in her language. Greet her with “Shikamoo mama” (a proper greeting to your female elder) or at least say something funny that would have made a better story for my blog like “Poa kachize kama ndizi” (some Swahili street slang literally translated meaning Fresh like a crazy banana). Needless to say, I end up just replying in English “very good, thank you” and she was on her way. Boring.

Arrival of the guest of honour

Now, because of this late exit and meeting, I end up filing out of the clinic and right onto the new stage directly behind Mama Kikwete and her entourage and find myself facing out to a gathered crowd of around 500 or so people…I clearly am not supposed to be up here on the stage standing directly behind the first lady with all of the other regional politicians but there wasn’t exactly an easy way out except pushing my way past her and into the crowd so I just decide to stay put and try to look like I belong..

Why am I on stage right now?

As the official ceremony begins with the speeches in Kiswahili I try as usual for the first 5 or 10 minutes to pay attention and see what I can understand but I quickly begin to lose that focus. By the time Mama Kikwete takes the stage I have completely lost my ability to focus and have slipped more into the back of the stage with the security guards and am just taking photos of people in the crowd. It’s in the middle of playing around with the camera that I suddenly look up to see Mama Kikwete turned around at the podium looking right at me as she speaks in Kiswahili. Oh crap. The few people standing in front of me part to make a path to the podium and someone beside me tells me “It’s your turn, Mama Kikwete asked for you”. Oh crap, Oh crap. I tell them that it’s a mistake and that I am not supposed to say anything during the event but they all seem quite convinced I am wrong and start pushing me towards the podium.   At this point I am still about 75% fearing having to take those last few steps and embarrass myself and there is a smaller 25% that is already finding this pretty hilarious and thinking that this should make an entertaining story if nothing else. I continue to resist and tell them I am not supposed to be up there and I don’t speak Kiswahili but they tell me that everyone is waiting and I should just go up and wave and say a simple greeting. Oh crap, this can not turn out well.

Now we are at the point where a further delay starts to make things awkward and I have pretty much resigned myself to going with the flow so I slowly start towards the podium and try to decide on what I am going to say. The best I come up with (time and language being the major constraints) is “Mambo vipi Madaba? Malaria Haikubaliki! Asantini sana.”  Roughly translated “What’s up Madaba? (Name of the village we were in)? Malaria is not acceptable! (A campaign slogan) Thank you all very much.”  Wouldn’t that have just been special? Just in the nick of time another person pushes through the crowd to reach the stage and take the microphone to respond to whatever the heck is going on and I manage to slip back to my original place avoiding having to get on the microphone in response to a question I don’t know and in a language I am just learning. Phew, close call. Thankfully, the rest of the event goes without incident and we issue the first ceremonial nets of the campaign successfully.

Mama Kikwete giving the speech shortly before my moment of fame

As I later find out from my co-worker, Mama Kikwete asked a question in her speech directly to another one of the partner NGO’s, Engender Health, about whether they could provide solar power units for the village hospital since they were often without power. Apparently since I was standing there on stage and since I was a white person, the people beside me figured that I was there as the representative for Engender Health and hence the whole big misunderstanding. Good thing the real representative decided to step in when he did. It would have been pretty bad if I went up and said my piece above in response to the first lady’s challenge to the NGO to provide the solar power!

faces in the crowd

As we make the one and a half hour drive back to Songea through the rolling hills and the scrubby forests that blanket the Southern Highlands of Tanzania, our MEDA truck is about 5 minutes behind the first lady’s vehicle and her convoy. All along the road home school children have lined the road to greet the motorcade and they wave freshly cut tree branches and the colourful green and gold flags of their political party. When another big white truck appears on the road they begin to wave,  jump up and down, and cheer loudly as we honk our horn and wave back. The sun is setting in that most wonderful East African manner that lights up the whole sky in bright pastels of pink, purple, and orange and it’s giving the whole scene a bit of a surreal feeling to end yet another surreal day here in Tanzania.  I’m sitting in the back of the truck soaking it all in and I tell you that you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. I’m wondering to myself how I manage to get myself into these crazy situations but then I realize that this just seems to happen more over here and the ordinary has just become extraordinary on a more regular basis.

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Red. Green. Blue.

Well this post is running about three weeks behind schedule and the actual events since I returned from my U5CC issuing trip on November 9th – but hey, better late than never I guess.

It was a real cool trip and definitely lived up to my expectations. It was also a bloody lot of driving. It was just over 1000 km each way from Dar es Salaam to the city of Songea where I was based. Including all of the driving we did on each day and the amount of the province of Ruvuma that I saw over my 9 days there I could easily add another 500-1000 km onto that. This puts me around a third of the way across the Trans-Canada Highway to put things into perspective and I can assure you that the roads were nowhere near as smooth.

The other main thing that stuck out to me has to be the colours in this part of the country and hence the title of this blog post. Honestly, it was like someone had taken the Colour and Highlights tuners on a television set and cranked them up way too high and I was looking at the world through this RGB colour-distorted viewfinder. At almost all times I can think of one or more of these three colours was dominating the landscape.

Somebody please turn down the RGB

Green. The rain seemed to fall a bit more regularly here in the Southern Highlands than elsewhere in the country that I had visited and this was most evident in the many bright shades of green foliage found everywhere as pictured above.

Red. The soil in Ruvuma was unbelievably bright red – everywhere I looked had some sign of the bright red dirt. The soil is also used to make the brick and mud for many of the buildings which results in the same neon reddish-brownish-orange tone in the majority of the buildings. It’s also fairly dusty the city of Songea (where I spent much of my time) and on the country roads. This results in pretty much everything else (including all my clothes and the aforementioned dusty feet) being covered by a coating of this colour.

You can see the red soil in the region from high above in google maps!

Blue: The colour blue also holds a dominant place in the memories from this trip. Maybe it was just being out of the city and (relatively) tall buildings, but the sky seemed enormous here. Blue is also the colour of the mosquito nets being distributed as you will see in some photos below so this played a pretty major role in my days.

Observations and a few things I learned:

  • This is U5CC Campaign MEDA is running is a huge operation. It really blew my mind to think that I was witnessing this mass distribution of free Long-Lasting Insecticide Nets (LLINs) in action in just a small handful of issuing points at the village level and imagine this happening across the country. To give you a better idea.. there were about 1-4 issuing points in each village. There are about 5-8 villages/streets in each Ward. There are about 10-20 Wards in each District. There are 133 districts across the 21 Regions of mainland Tanzania that the U5CC covers. To efficiently plan, organize, and distribute close to 7 million of these LLIN’s to a population so spread out across the country and hard to reach is just an amazing logistical achievement.

4 of the 7 million LLIN nets distributed through the U5CC program

  • This guy can be a scary thing too little kids in areas where mzungu’s don’t often tread. I had it mentioned to me by parents in a few situations where I made kids run away or cry that I was probably the first white person that their kid had seen. I was honoured.

Would you just look at the pure fear in those big brown eyes...

  • The real work is getting done in the field. These are the troops on the ground and the staff that really know what is happening with the program. Just from being in the field for a week and a half I was quick to realize a number of misconceptions that I had been operating under while working away at HQ and areas where communication can really be improved. It’s a pretty basic observation I guess – but one that should always be kept in mind in any job and any organization – if you want to know what’s really happening be sure to keep in open communication with the front lines.

Line-up for nets at a Issuing point in the city of Mbinga

  • I really don’t know much swahili yet. I had felt like I was making some steady but slow progress while in the safe confines of our swahili lessons, english speaking work, and the big city of Dar. Going out to Ruvuma where there is very, very little english spoken and not much of an effort made to accomodate the english speaker – you realize just how little you really do know.

A LLIN from the U5CC program in use

  • I would be much more effective if I did know the language. It was a great trip and I accomplished everything that I had hoped coming into it. I observed the program in action, took notes, asked questions, interviewed stakeholders, and snapped lots of good pictures for future promotional use – BUT I did really feel quite helpless and useless a good portion of the time as I sat there lost in a verbal sea of swahili… managing to pick out and understand only every 4th or 5th word. If nothing else it was very motivating to try and speed up my learning (Editors note: I’ve been back for 3 weeks and this has not yet happened).

And now for a small sample of the 500+ pictures that I took on the trip…

Tea fields at sunset on the road down south

Goofing around for the camera in Songea

Fish from Lake Nyasa drying in the sun with Tanzanian coast in the background

Looking down a fish drying rack to the world's 8th largest lake

Children on wooden canoe with Lake Nyasa/Malawi in the background

A recent mother laughs at my request for her to model her recently collected mosquito net

Waiting in line with registration card

The Tanzanian way of life is full of colour whether kangas, flip-flops, or dirt.

Learning to carry things on her head early

Hope you enjoyed the pictures!

I will aim to have Part II of my posts from this field trip up soon which will tell you a story about one particular afternoon of my time down in Ruvuma.  What happens when Dan meets the First Lady of Tanzania? A new episode in detail called “Mama Kikwete and Me”.  Stay tuned.

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