Posts Tagged zanzibar

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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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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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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and this episode is called…

I think this post is going to need a real quick background clarification before we get into the good stuff so let me try my best here.

There is a “game” that we have started playing here in Tanzania amongst us three roommates that is called “and this episode is called….”.  The credit goes to Zach for the genius of coming up with this game while back in Canada. The concept of the game is quite simple yet very entertaining for us (surprise, surprise). You basically just take your real life experiences and try to give the experience a funny/witty  episode title which summarizes the experiences events the best. This is generally done the next morning while re-capping the night’s events with everyone sitting around throwing out ideas until one comes along that just captures it all perfectly. In a rare and bold occasion – one can actually pre-name an episode, telling their friendsin advance “this episode is called….” to really set the expectations for the day’s/nights events that will follow.

To get a better idea of what I am going for, here are the episode guides from two TV shows that I absolutely love and one that I absolutely love to hate:

How I Met Your Mother

Entourage

Friends

With no further delay, I present to you – the episode guide to our first two months in Tanzania.

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Episode Guide – Season 1:

Arrival in September –  October 31st, 2009

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Original date on air: September 15th (Pilot Episode)

Episode Title: Welcome to Mzungu Paradise

Episode Summary: Dan arrives as the third and final roommate in Dar es Salaam to join Zach and Jeremy (who have been in place a few days already) in their MEDA internships and new lives in Dar es Salaam. Not given much information on what to expect before arriving – our heroes are all shocked to find themselves living in the nicest accommodations they’ve ever had in the heart of what they dub “Mzungu (white man’s) Paradise”. The first week is mostly spent breaking their few possessions by playing soccer in the spacious and empty apartment.

Beinvenido a Dar es Salaam

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Original date on air : September 19th-21st

Episode Title: Zanzibar’s man of the ladies/Poa kachize kamandize

Episode Summary: A trip to Zanzibar on the long weekend celebrating the Muslim holiday of Eid is a great time and a hell of an introduction to how beautiful Tanzania really is. Along they way they meet a new character named Elvis  -  a local historical tour guide who fits in way too perfectly with our three heroes. Elvis’ smooth operation with the ladies and his desire to land a mzungu girl make for some hilarious times (“This original theatre production is called..Lucy meets Elvis”).  The group of four explore the winding streets of Stonetown, pet sea turtles, go snorkling, visit a mosque for an Eid service, visit Elvis’ family, enjoy countless beaches & sunsets, and generally have one of those “is this for real?” kinda weekends.

Old port and customs house in Zanzibar

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Original date on air : September 21st

Episode Title: That’s what she said

Episode Summary: Our heroes bring the “that’s what she said” joke to Tanzania beginning this weekend and teach it to everyone we meet. Some catch on to the concept better than others resulting in some pretty hilarious moments and a lasting legacy is created. We will now leave this country a better(?) place than when we found it.

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Original date on air: September 24th – October 9th

Episode Title: The curious incident of the malaria pills in the night time

Episode Summary: Zach and Dan both make the unwise decision to take their malaria prophylactic pills at the end of a night on an empty stomach and then going straight to bed.  Waking up to “heartburn from hell”, excessive gas, and a painful sensation every time one eats or swallows – the next week is full of discomfort, regret, and google searches of “what the hell is happening to my stomach”, “malaria pill heartburn”,and other related terms to make sure that they aren’t dying.

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Original date on air: September 26th

Episode Title: The people you will meet on the beach in Kigamboni

Episode Summary: A weekend camping trip for our heroes to the nearby southern beaches of Kigamboni introduces plenty of new and interesting characters to the season plot. After sitting around a Rasta campfire sing-along for much of the night the group moves to find itself sitting around a table with; Winston, a chill rasta from Malawi with a hilarious british accent, Saif, the  woman’s underwear collector Tanzanian, an opinionated American Peace Corps volunteer, and a mzungu  tour operator dude from Swaziland who for some unknown reason is wearing a  bra and make-up. Needless to say, this night ends with explosive results…

Futbol action on the beach in Kigamboni

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Original date on air: October 3rd

Episode Title: Bows, arrows, and near death experiences at the Bagamoyo Arts & Music Festival

Episode Summary: A weekend trip to a nearby town of Bagamoyo for their famous arts and music festival takes a scary turn when our Mzungu-African hero Zach is mistaken for a local trying to break into a resort when climbing a fence. He escapes the close call unharmed and returns to spend the night chilling on an abandoned boat on the beach and hearing the re-run of the legendary and elusive “The dancer with a heart of gold” episode.

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Original date on air: October 6-13

Episode Title: Zee Germans are coming!

Episode Summary: The everyday Dar es Salaam life of our heroes is turned upside down with the arrival in their social lives of a band of, at times equally wild, German friends. Craziness, misunderstandings, and many good times ensue in this particularly intensive first week of hanging out together. Jeremy returns from his brief trip to Canada to find that life did indeed go on without him and zee new characters play roles in many future episodes.

some of zee Germans here

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Original date on air: October 10th

Episode Title: The soaking wet guru on the roof

Episode Summary: A night out to a beach club for our heroes and zee Germans turns very wet when Dan decides to throw a German friend into the pool fully clothed. In short order the whole group is in the pool to the shock and entertainment of all the other guests present. Dan ends up dispensing worldly advice on the meaning of life to the gathered group of strangers from his perch cross-legged atop the roof of the bar’s washroom hut.

Malaika House beach bar in Dar es Salaam: the scene of many a crime

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Original date on air: October 17th:

Episode Title: The most wonderful 10th interesting fact about Jeremy/ The most unnecessary bottle of Konyagi ever.

Episode Summary: Our heroes host a smashingly successful dinner party for everyone they’ve met in Dar so far. Wait a minute, guys can cook? A game of “tell me 10 interesting facts about yourself” takes an unexpected turn late at night with  most wonderful and revealing results. Dan makes another (retrospectively) bad/(good?) decision in the groups ongoing complex relationship with Konyagi (the local spirit). A wedding is crashed and the group replays last weeks swimming incident and begin to gain a bit of a reputation around town.

the definition of a love/hate relationship

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Original date on air: October 21st (I think…)

Episode Title: Getting lucky Tanzania style

Episode Summary: Celebrating a recently arrived  friend’s birthday at zee German’s house, the main characters are gathered on a mat in their backyard. Drinks and food are had and stories are being told when a sudden cracking sound breaks the conversation and Dan hears a whooshing sound right before being clocked on the back of the head. Lying in the grass, he’s overcome by a strong odour that smells kind of like a mix of soap and coconut…has our hero died and find himself sent to some kind of a Body Shop lovers heaven?  No, it ends up being a cluster of some kind of coconut-like palm seeds dropped from the tree over head and cracked him in the head. Later in the evening a Tanzanian friend lets him know that getting hit by a falling coconut means you have luck coming your way. Lucky him.

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Original date on air: October 25th

Episode Title: I have an O-face gun and I’m not afraid to use it

Episode Summary: After having a (for once) relaxing weekend staying in and around Dar, our heroes have their friends over on a Sunday night. A Canadian friend Shehz returns to Dar for the weekend to join the group and a new game is invented which involves a charcoal barbeque fan “gun” that has magically revealing powers.

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Original date on air: October 30-31st  (Season 1 Finale)

Episode Title: I came to Mikumi for the lions and all I got was this lousy hangover

Episode Summary: Our heroes and their German comrades head away for a weekend roadtrip to a nearby region called Morogoro which houses Mikumi National Park for a safari. Friday night is mostly spent sitting in traffic but it doesn’t harm the party atmosphere in the back of the Land Cruiser. After a Saturday spent searching for lions the group returns that night to a safari camp in the bush and find themselves somehow invited to partake in a most delicious feast of fresh fire roasted lamb and an open bar party on Halloween night. The hostel reservations aren’t used as people catch an hour or two of sleep under the stars, in the car/on the car hood, etc. No lions spotted on Day 2′s safari either…but that might have just been because everyone slept in car the whole day…

The whole Mikumi safari gang in a rare awake moment

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There you have it, the highlighted craziness from the first month and a half of my time in Tanzania as captured in Season 1 episode guide format. Intrigued to hear the full stories? Well, I think we will have to save those for another day when I see you next in person. But I promise, if you stop and ask me to tell you about “the episode where..” I will be happy to share because I  love telling good stories.

A few quick disclaimers:

-This is completely from my point of view and told as episode stories so certainly not representative of everyone’s views & experiences. Some of the episode titles were determined by the group as mentioned above, others are just ones I came up with for this post.

-These episodes highlight the funnier and more ridiculous experiences that we have had thus far in Tanzania – and ones that I feel should really be told –  but we also do plenty of very serious work and are usually  good citizens. Don’t judge me based only only this!

-I refer to us as “our heroes” throughout the episodes. Don’t worry, I don’t actually think of us like this -I just thought it sounded cool and tv-like. Besides, I should probably put in this disclaimer so I don’t get sued or something. “The events depicted in this blog post are  entirely fictitious. Any similarity to any event, places, or person, living or dead, is merely coincidental.” Yes, a hell of a coincidence friends, but now you can’t sue me.

If you do try and sue I will send this fierce Mikumi croc to eat you

Let the fans decide

Is it worth the network re-signing this show for Season 2? If you’re a fan, leave a comment below and I’ll continue the episode guides for Season 2. If not, we will still have just as much fun – I just won’t write about it all here!

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So what do you reccomend doing around here?/ In your face, Lonely Planet

On a number of occasions now while in transport to my destination I’ve found myself sitting beside locals and quickly brought into a friendly conversation.  I have read that Tanzanians have a reputation as being amongst the friendliest people in Africa and they are living up their reputation so far, often chatting up the person beside them if the chance arises. The other thing about these encounters is that people are so quick to exchange mobile numbers. There really appears to be no pre-requisite establishment of a relationship or interest in continued contact before asking someone for their mobile number. I think my record so far after one month is an offer to exchange numbers about  7 words spoken into the conversation.

In these aforementioned situation-  as the new arrival interacting with a local who clearly has much more knowledge of the area – I’ve asked on a few different occasions what there is to do or what activities/sights/events they would recommend for me to do in Dar es Salaam/Zanzibar/or any given destination.

The pride of New Hamburg...

Now I don’t claim to be a professional statistician and I’ll readily admit that my sample size here might leave some pretty huge holes in the proof of my theory – but the answer has been the same each time. They say “not much” to do there – just “meet people and talk with them…get to know the people and that’s what I would reccomend”. I figure that might be understandable if you were asking that question cruising down the 7&8 Highway into New Hamburg, Ontario.. (No disrespect to North America’s largest operating water wheel meant)

–but in this first situation where I was on the plane flying into Dar es Salaam for the first time – we were talking about a country’s largest city, a place with over 3 million people ..surely there is something you could recommend  for a wide-eyed, fresh off the plane young man to do here (even through Lonely Planet dismisses my new home saying there aren’t many ‘sights’ and “an increasing number of visitors bypass Dar completely…”). Needless to say, the best times thus far have just involved hanging out with the people we’ve been meeting and not so much packing our days with sights and to do lists.

the boats of zanzibar at sunset

Another example was on the ferry to the island of Zanzibar, a world famous tropical African paradise just off the coast from Dar. This was the Eid weekend (Sept 18-21st) which celebrates the end of the holy month of Ramadan and we were excited to be there for the big celebrations. On the ferry on the way over, I met some folks who lived in the main city of Stonetown and eventually the topic came up and I asked what he recommended doing during our visit. But same result…not much to do, just walk around, talk to the people, make friends and chill out. No mention of Omani mosques, Portuguese forts, the rich history of the last operating slave market in the world, or the famous beaches and coral reefs that make this one of Africa’s most visited destinations.

mosque & church in Stonetown, Zanzibar

Well, I’m sure you can guess where this is going but it turns out they seemed to know what they were talking about and the best time we had on our long weekend getaway to the island was indeed not in the Lonely Planet.  We met a young man named Elvis who was a tour guide in the old slave market area in Stonetown, Zanzibar and our whole long weekend changed.  On a brief side note, the slave trade history in Zanzibar is  a very fascinating story and although nothing much really remains today of the this place where millions of humans were bought and sold each year – its a must-see place to visit and try to understand from the tours and historical plaques.

It’s a tough thing to capture – the camera doesn’t record it and the friendships formed are always difficult to record in words, so I won’t try to go into much detail of the adventures and inevitably fail. All  of us being immature guys we got along great right from the start when he opened up to us about his quest for the love of a muzungu lady.  We ended up spending the whole weekend with Elvis, just touring around the winding, narrow streets of Stonetown saying hi to everyone he knew in town (i.e. the whole population) and visiting the nearby island beaches with him and his friends. The jokes flowed and good times were had by all. We even had the opportunity to visit his family home just outside the city and sat around and chatted with the extended family for awhile.

Overall, an excellent Eid long weekend and we barely opened the Lonely Planet book…

Elvis & family

p.s. Maybe it would have been a good idea to open the Lonely Planet book….Zach and I didn’t bother learning before hand that passports were required to pass through customs at the island docks and didn’t bring ours.  I can now say that I have  ran through an official customs station and successfully hid from their customs officials  - a fine addition to any resume.


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