Wednesday, August 24, 2011

New Adventures, New Blog

To those visitors who still come across this blog here and there...

I am leaving for Thailand and India tomorrow! Because this blog was specific to my Tanzanian adventures, I will be starting a new blog. This one will include all of my future travel experiences, and I hope to share them in a similar format to what I did with this one. Thank you for all those who visited and followed Asante Sana.... my new blog address is:

I hope you visit!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Soap My Ears and I'll Follow You Anywhere

Only a couple days before I left, I had one of the best experiences of my time in Moshi. I left for Tanzania having already not had a proper haircut for sometime. After dealing with the scraggly look for six weeks, I finally decided I needed to take care of it. I was very sceptical as to how the haircut would turn out, as I assumed that not many Tanzanian barbers have dealt with ‘white people’ hair before.

The barber shop my local friends took me too looked like one straight out of a Spike Lee movie from the 80’s. I showed them a picture of what I wanted done (courtesy my Health Card), and he went to work. He cut all of my hair with clippers, just varying the number from the side, to the mid-side, to the top. Hakuna scissors. At the end, they spray your hair with olive oil instead of using some sort of product like gel or wax, weird by our standards but it doesn’t really make much of a difference. I was pretty pleased with the outcome, but they weren’t done there. I then got a straight-razor shave from my barber. After he was finished he passed me off to one of the girls there, and this is when I started to regret not going this every single week I’d ever been in Moshi. First, she washed my hair. Sounds simple enough, but when they wash your hair they get all up in the ears and go to town on your scalp. It was awesome. Next, she wiped my face and neck off with a hot, moist towel, like the ones you get on the airplane. After the airplane towel treatment came the best part – a head, face, neck, shoulders and chest massage complete with oils. I have never had a chest massage before, but I’m now convinced it’s the best kind. All this for the equivalent of $3.50. I’m thinking about missing my flight to Toronto and hoping on the next plane back to Moshi so I can marry this girl. Haha.

..One more reason to come back at a later date. :-)

Miss Kilimanjaro

While currently writing this, I am sitting on a bench in an Amsterdam train station. I am no longer in Tanzania, but I was unable to share some of my experiences during the last two weeks of my stay, so the next couple posts will be making up for that lost time, as they are still my tales of Africa.

Last weekend, we – a pronoun that now includes a number of old CCS volunteers, some other volunteers I have met during my time in Moshi, and of course our local friends – decided to attend the Miss Kilimanjaro Beauty Pageant that was hosted at a local club called La Liga. For obvious cultural differences between Tanzania and the West, we didn’t really know what to expect from this event, which of course was the draw for us.

Let me set the scene for you a little bit…
La Liga has the slogan of being “the number 1 club in East Africa”, although advertising claims like this often go undisputed in Tanzania. Usually, it is open Thursday through Sunday and functions much like clubs at home, but with way more lasers, smoke and foam pouring over you while you shakey shakey with what is usually a 50-50 mzungu-local ratio. Unlike what we’re used to back home, people don’t show up at the club until around 1:30, and it doesn’t close until about 8 in the morning. It is complete with light up palm trees at the tables, a stage on which we frequently dance that looms over the rest of the light-up dance floor, and paintings of scandalous women on the walls. It’s a great place, and the location which hosted the pageant.

The show took place on a stage outside the club in the stoned “patio” area. It started out in pretty regular fashion. A mix of famous bongo-flava artists and dance performers kicked off the night with performances of their own in front of the ~500 people in attendance. The contestants then came out and performed a dance together. The girls were all gorgeous, many of them quite comparable to what would be seen in a beauty contest back home, only they wore far more clothing and had a little bit more “junk in the trunk”. They introduced each contestant, at which time the girls gave a speech telling the audience and judges their level of education, future ambitions, favourite hobbies, and the designer of their dress. The names they listed for their designer were not that of big name designers, but often they simply said, “I designed and made my dress myself.” The dresses were crazy, some of them complete with ancient Egyptian-esque head wear.

Just when we thought we became comfortable with the idea that the night might not be that different from what we would see at home, we were shown the talent section of the show. Back home, we would expect them to sing, dance etc. However, at the Miss Kilimanjaro Pageant, the first contestant performed a skit, which I can assure you was possibly the worst acted performance I have ever seen. On top of that, the plot was as follows: a woman becomes a prostitute, she has unprotected sex, she contract AIDS, and then she dies. Hello Miss Kilimanjaro. The next ten contestants performed something of similar quality, either lip-syncing a song, acting in an equally painful skit or dancing in a way that is far beneath the regularly incredible Tanzanian ability. One girl, however, did a comedy act that was actually hilarious. She dressed as a man, stuffed a beer belly underneath her shirt, and did a perfect slap-stick style interpretation of a man working in the fields – this was completely out of place and would never happen at any form of pageant elsewhere, but it was easily the best act.

We left the night, bewildered, unsure whether to laugh of be angry that we paid for the tickets. To top it off, the taxi that took us home had engine problems and could not go faster that 20km/h.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Breathing into a Paper Bag

The major grant application has been completed and sent away with restored optimism; the apartment is clean; my sister has arrived and is enjoying herself; my cooking has reached new heights; and the funding for Tuleeni's new land looks to be in place. All is going well here, yet I find myself in a panic, and in contrast to what would be normal, it is because things are going so well. I have had the disturbing realization that I leave in two weeks. I have built a way of life here - one which I am able to laugh, to sing loudly, to dance without restraint, and most importantly, to make a difference far beyond expectations.

Last year, when I returned home, I found it very hard to live happily with my at-home lifestyle. I struggled to go out with friends and to see value in the day-to-day routines of my Canadian home. Now, I tell myself that I will not face the same problems as I did last year, that I have dealt with this before. I tell myself this, but now it is without confidence. Truthfully, I would have to say that I have no idea how I will be when I return. What I can find comfort in now is that I know I can return. Last year, I left not knowing whether I would ever be back. But now, I know this is a place I will be throughout my life.

My work for White Orange Youth, Tuleeni, Moshi and Tanzania will not stop when I board the plane. This, for me, is a long term commitment, and that thought in itself also provides some comfort.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


It will likely come as no surprise that there are no washing machines here. All laundry is done by hand. It is funny now that I look at how, back home, laundry is seen as a chore when really all that you need to do is pile it into a machine and push a button. Here, it is a labour intensive process that can take all day, depending on how much you've let your dirty clothes pile up. And, what we view as dirty at home does not compare to what is dirty here. Pants are turned brown from mud and shirts are sweated in so much they smell like they've been sitting at the bottom of my hockey bag for a week. You have to scrub, and scrub, and scrub until they smell and look clean. They, you ring out the soap and put them in clean water. Then you ring out all the water and hang them to dry. Luckily, muhaha, I do not do our laundry. That was the deal from the start - I cook, Aubrey does laundry. I definately got the better end of the deal. I usually help ring out the clothes because it is actually a very good forearm workout and quite tiring.

However, I am not writing this post to tell you about Aubrey's laundry woes. Yesterday, we were at Tuleeni in the afternoon, as per usual. I have spoken before about how amazingly grown up and independent the children are, and yesterday I saw yet another example of that. I walked outside the orphanage gate to find Pendo, Queeni and Seleena washing their own clothes. For those of you who saw my pictures from last time, Queeni was the smallest girl at the orphanage. She only weighs about 30 pounds. Although I am not sure of the others' ages, they cannot be older than 6. I walked over and helped them scrub their socks. I am still amazed as to why locals continue to buy an abundance of white clothing even though they have to handwash the mud out of it. I spent about 15 minutes scrubbing each sock, as each time I thought I had done a satisfactory job, one of the girls would point to a small brown spot that I had missed. After my first sock, which they seemed to be quite impressed with, all the kids fought over whose sock I was going to wash next. It was pretty funny.

What is amazing is that I didn't learn how to turn a washing machine on until I was at least 14, and yet these kids wash their own clothes all the time in a fashion that I find to be quite difficult with smiles on their faces. It's a happy place to be.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Fun Swahili Terms

When reading these words, remember, Swahili is extremely phonetic. Its not like English where we have sketchy silent letters to simply screw up the poor spellers. "I"s are pronounced like a hard "E" like in 'seek'. All "a"s are soft like in 'tall'. "E"s are like hard "a"s like it babe. All consonants are just like they are in English, although they may be in weird combinations. Just pronounce every letter.

Shita Sana: "a lot of problems." The irony with this term lies in the fact that many of the problem you may encounter when in Tanzania revolve around the at-home meeting of the first word, the followed by sana, in this context meaning a lot of, is very fitting.

Juzi Juzi (pronounced juicy juicy): "the day before the day before yesterday". The fun with this term more is in the contrast between how ridiculous it sounds in comparison to how bland its meaning is.

Poa Kachizi Kama Ndizi: "cool and crazy like a banana". The fact that anyone would even say this here, and they do quite frequently, makes you understand how much a staple bananas are in the Tanzanian culture. Plus, it rhymes.

Pole Sana: "I am very sorry". Everyone is sorry for everything. Please see my post from last year titled by this term if you have not already. It will give you a pretty accurate account of its usage.

Shikamoo: "I touch your feet." This is an acknowledgment of respect you offer as a greeting to anyone who is older than you. Although its meaning is quite nice, last year we turned it into something of a sexual innuendo, saying things like, maybe if you're lucky I'll shikamoo you later. Not only has this unfortunate trend continued, it has escalated. pole sana.

Nimeelewa: "I understand". The problem with this word lies in the fact that if you fail to pronounce both 'e's and simply say Nimelewa, the meaning changes to "I am drunk". Not really sure who came up with that one.

That is all for now. I figured it was time for a silly post.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Communication Frustration

I, now, have the chance to do a lot of good. For the past week, Aubrey and I have been working ten hour days on a grant proposal for White Orange Youth. Unlike previous proposals that I have submitted, which have been year long projects worth only several thousands of dollars, this is a three year project worth close to a million dollars. If granted the proposal, White Orange Youth will be able to reach over five thousand people in nine districts across Tanzania. The proposal is for an advocacy and empowerment project, fighting for a change in the rights and policies of vulnerable children in Tanzania. It focuses on: creating a platform for the children to voice their needs and gives them the means to do so by orchestrating a massive publicity project and regular meetings with high-ranking government officials. We have a very good contact at the organization that would provide the funds, and have been given great feedback on the outline.
This is our chance to do an incredible amount of good on a far larger scale than we have before, and yet, it has been communication problems that have led to worries about a grant that seemed so promising not so long ago. We are playing email tag with our contact, sending and resending the comprehensive budget that I designed and the project logform that Aubrey has developed. Each time, we get feedback and are expected to make changes to what we have done. If anyone has ever tried this, it can be incredibly frustrating when the feedback is broad. For example, at first I submitted the budget in the format I was given, which was a very streamlined budget. Upon this submission she asked for a comprehensive version so it would be more evident as to what we were doing. So, I created one. Upon this submission, she asked for the budget to be condensed. Urgh.
We have no way to call her and ask specific questions.
It's a struggle... communication breakdown, its always the same. (Zeppelin anyone?)

On a side note, I have near perfected the market shopping. We now have a lot of food, several different spices, and we are eating just as well as I do at home. It's a good life in our humble abode.