Saturday, July 24, 2010
Our driver went a little of road for this one. Shhh
Not even as tall as that tree. Big deal
Fight! Nah just kidding they just be playin'
Baboon. I got nothing clever to say about this one.
Here's the elephant that almost killed those English people
The N'gorongogo Crater
Zebras in the Camp
Proof I was there, and proof that I'm cool
Friday, July 23, 2010
So I haven’t gotten around to blogging in a while, as I have started to run low on interesting things to talk about. If anyone has any particular questions, feel free to ask, and it might help me out for my next blog.
I want to begin (sort of) by letting everyone know I will not be going back to Vancouver at any point this summer. I get into Toronto on August 27th, and have recently found out I need to be in London by September 1st, much earlier then I previously thought.
Since many people here have very little, and the police presents is quite low (and those you do see are often quite corrupt), theft is obviously something we have to always look out for. However, the community has responded to this problem by taking it into their own hands. I have seen a child get hit in the face for attempting a swipe a potato from the market, and have heard if someone ever steals anything of real value, a mob will form out of basically anyone nearby, men and woman. If (when) caught, the culprit will be beaten to a pulp, and in many cases worse.
On the plus side, this has resulted in a strong trust in your neighbor. On the dala dala’s, I regularly see people taking each other’s purses in make more space, and in order to make proper change, shop keepers will just borrow from anyone nearby without hesitation on either parties part.
People will also help others with money in any way they can. Recently, I accidentally dropped a 2000 TSh bill (About $1.50) into a kind of covered concrete ditch when passing it to a friend, and we were unable to reach it. A crowd quickly gathered to give us ideas, and finally one girl reaches down through a gap with a stick in her hand, and proceeds to move the bill closer and closer to a place where she can finally reach it. It is returned to us without any thought of reward, and the crowd disperses like nothing happened. We personally would have been willing to leave it, but realized that would may be insulting to those around.
For meals here, I basically have four options. First, I can go to one of the nicer restaurants, generally something Indian or European inspired, and expect to pay about 10000 TSh for a meal. Next, I can have street meat, which is usually barbequed chicken, fish, beef, goat, or mutton with French fries, paying around 4000-6000 Tsh. Third is the standard Tanzanian restaurants, where I get a similar selection of meats, but all deep-fried instead (Tanzanian food basically means deep-fried. It’s not calories that are the biggest problem for locals here, but nutrients). Sides are rice and beans, and the price is 3000-5000. And finally, I can cook for myself.
Cooking my own food is for the most part making rice or pasta, with a sauce of some kind to put on top of it. While the ingredients are very fresh, there isn’t a lot to choose from, and for the most part is some combination of onions, garlic, tomatoes, potatoes, green peppers, and carrots (and I can throw in a can of beans or mushrooms if I am feeling adventurous. Basically, most of these sauces end up quite similar, and quite vegetarian, for around 2000-4000 a person.
Last week, I decided to change this, and bought and cooked meat for the first time. But overall, I found it much too tough and chewy, and have decided to leave cooking the meat to the professionals.
Two schools in Mwanza have been partnered as sister schools with another two from London, Ontario (through Western Heads East), and we have been placed in charge of spending the money raised in ways agreed upon between the schools.
For the Buswalu School, I just went yesterday with the principle to pay the down payment on fifteen desks and four tables from a workshop nearby the school. I have to return next week to pay the rest, and then get to go with the tables to the school to have a look around.
The Mtoni School, presently much better equipped in terms of desks and chairs, decided to go a different direction and purchased a computer and printer. There has been some debate over weather or not this is a good purchase, largely due to the fear of theft. Nevertheless, assuming they manage to keep it safe, I think it could be a very good purchase, and allow the school record keeping and document making abilities well above that of what they presently have. I’m scheduled to go Monday to give basic computer lessons to some of the staff, and hope that at some point some students will have the opportunity to have some practice as well.
Well not the most traditional purchase, it does has the potential to help raise the quality of education in a different way, and I look forward to seeing how they end up using it.
The work with the yoghurt Mamma’s has been less hands on as of late. Since informing them of their less then ideal financial situation, they have been doing a much better job of getting out to the market, and July has seen a noteworthy increase in sales and profitability.
There were two major issues regarding the internal relations of the kitchen, and the other interns and I think addressing them has and will continue to go a long way into getting the kitchen back on track.
First, due to the fixed schedule that resulted in the Mamma’s always working with the same people, two different “groups” formed, each under a different leadership figure. Both groups thought that either they were doing more work, or that the other group was making more money. This resulted in individuals not putting in the extra effort required, and caused overall productivity to drop.
Secondly, one of the two leadership figures in the kitchen recently decided to start up a second yogurt business of her own. While not really in competition with the Tukwamuane kitchen, it has created a lot of resentment from the other Mamma’s. Not only does it show a lack of commitment from the groups appointed chairperson, but it has also resulted in a sizable decrease in the time she spends working with the group. Interestingly enough, instead of using this to unite the remaining group members, the second leadership figure responded by starting another yogurt kitchen of her own. She has also been having the Tukwamuane buy extra milk to sell to her at cost, in some way shoving her other business in the face of her co-workers. In addition to the previously mentioned issues, Western Head East (WHE) is upset because the yoghurt these two Mamma’s have been distributing is not probiotic, the main reason they were given the skills to make the yoghurt in the first place.
While the first issue appeared to be having a larger effect on the kitchens operations, it has also been much easier to deal with. Since the Mamma’s have recently been spending more time at the market, they have been working in larger groups, and no longer with just the same people. Additionally, since the two “leaders” of the group have been spending less time with their fellow Mamma’s, the rest of the group has in some way bonded over the bitterness they feel towards the whole situation.
The second issue has been more difficult, as all Mammas’ are part owners of the business, and are therefore difficult to discipline. In addition, WHE has no legal authorization over the kitchen, so as interns we can only make “recommendations”. However, the apparent plan is to have everyone sit down together, and basically give the two “lone” Mamma’s an ultimatum in regards to which kitchen they plan to go forward with. In addition, they will be holding a vote at the next group meeting for a new chairperson, letting the two Mamma’s know that their power is not guaranteed. Finally, we hope to update the group’s five-year-old constitution, and make opening a rival business just cause for expulsion.
Intern’s success year to year hasn’t always been as great as many individuals hope. This has largely been contributed to cultural differences, and the Mamma’s unwillingness to change. But I have also found that a large reason is that many of the changes made are just changed again by the next set of students. The biggest example of this is bookkeeping, with each new set of interns trying to change it in some way. While there are many things I would have done differently from the start, I have to weigh any changes I want them to make against to likelihood that it will just do more harm then good.
The biggest modification I hope to make is in regards to their pricing scheme. Presently, there is no discount for buying larger amounts, and in many cases customers could buy multiple cups of the smaller sizes, and end up getting more yoghurt for less money. The problem with this change is it’s not just the Mamma’s who have to adjust, but also their entire customer base (many of whom are quite used to taking advantage of the pricing, as the better value sizes sell much better).
WHE hopes to open a new kitchen in Mwanza in the near future, so working towards this goal has been taking up an increasing amount of our time. We have recently met with a one new woman’s group, and plan to meet with one or two more, at which point we will decide who we think is most capable of running a kitchen efficiently and effectively. However, before a group can begin operations, we will need to obtain start up funding to purchase the necessary equipment.
To do this, we have been looking through different local, national, and international organizations that give money to like causes. We have found many potential grant opportunities, but most will take at least a couple months (at best) to receive, meaning we would have to leave the finishing touches to future interns. In our favour is that we are also looking for loans of little to no interest in the place of a grant. Many times, when a group is given everything for free, they never understand the full value of what they have, and do not work as hard as then need to to be sustainable. When the money needs to be paid back, it lets them know that failure is a possibility, something we don’t think the Tukwamuane group has ever really felt.
Monday, July 5, 2010
This last weekend I finally went into the wild on a safari with a group of about 12 other people. Places visited include the Serengeti, which is basically just The Lion King in 3D, the N’gorongoro Crater (formed over 2 million years ago by the volcanic eruption (of a mountain larger then Kilimanjaro) so explosive the whole volcano went with it), one of the most densely populated mammal habitats in the world, and the Olduva gorge, the location of some of the earliest hominid (pre-human) fossils ever found.
Some of the animals sighted include lions, cheetahs, elephants, giraffes, hippopotami, rhinoceros, crocodiles, hyenas, monkeys, baboons, buffalo, warthogs, a fox, flamingos and lots of other birds, to go with the countless numbers of zebras, wildebeests, gazelle and other deer like animals, to name a few. I was surprised at the number of animals that would hang out right near the roads, with our driver even having to swerve and stop quickly a few times just not to not hit one running in front of us. More then once we even saw lions cross the road right between two cars.
Sadly did not get to see any leopards, as we had really hoped to see one up in a tree. Also never saw any hunts/kills, but I hear that those are quite rare to come across.
Only saw one male adult lion, but he was doing what male lions do best. Sleeping, with a quick 10-second burst of something else, which supposedly they do about 700 times a week in “this” season.
We had only seen cheetahs from afar until the last day, when our driver went a little off the path (which can get you in lot of trouble) to a tree hiding four young ones just lying about. This was especially nice as generally any of the more rare animals had about 5-10 cars parked in front of it before we even got there.
As we were camping, when the second day began we spotted a small herd of buffalo grazing maybe 20 meters from our tents, which we all though was pretty neat. This was by far trumped at the next campsite, however. When attempting to build a fire in the dark, someone pointed out an elephant in the bush next to us, where I had just been a little earlier collecting thing to burn. Then a little later, we came across a pair of Zebras just wondering between the tents. The next morning, another elephant was found very close to the campsite, and I almost got to see my first kill. A couple of English people, against the warnings of everyone nearby, decided to go into the bush to find a cell phone lost the night before (not sure why he was in the bush the night before in the first place). After walking maybe 5 meters away from the elephant, we see it start flaring its ears, and even take a couple steps towards the pair (at this point I though they were done, as it looked ready to charge). With everyone yelling at them to “Get Out Of The BUSH!”, they final emerge with the cell phone raised in triumph, to receive a stern warning from the camp ranger. The people most displease with all this were the English guys in our group, who started to see where their country was getting its reputation from (the genius’s almost killed by the elephant are future doctors).
This night at this campsite was also the coldest I have been in a long time, easily worse then any recent memory in Canada. I had heard it was going to be bad, and brought the warmest clothes I had with me. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring anything very warm with me to Africa. Then in addition to being under dressed, due to a situation outside my control my shoes were inaccessible, and for the first extended period in my life I was reduced to wearing socks and flip-flops.
I have been getting many questions/comments regarding yoghurt and the project am working on. I want to start by saying I do not personally make any yoghurt, and do not even spend too much time around the yoghurt-making kitchen.
The main purpose I am here for is to 1) assess the sustainability of the kitchen in Mwanza, as well as the WHE project in its entirety, 2) work on expansion in the Mwanza area, as well as 3) try and put together a general framework for expansion for future groups all over east Africa to use.
So far, most of my effort has gone towards the first objective, as it was a much bigger issue then we first thought when we got here. I’ll begin by saying that most people here don’t think of business in the same way we do in Canada, and generally go about their lives in a very day-to-day fashion. This leads them to have difficulty correctly comparing cash inflows (revenue) with cash outflows (expenses) when thinking in terms of profit, especially when expenses are not paid for immediately.
The long term focus for the yoghurt kitchen in Mwanza has been to get production high enough to help a sufficient amount of people in the community, allow each Mama to take home a good salary, while generating enough left over funds for future investment in other projects or woman’s groups. While production was still not at this desirable level, it was only when examining the kitchens cash records that I found yoghurt sales to be at a consistently lower lever then milk purchases. This meant yogurt was going bad each day, and would either have to be thrown out or distributed to the Mamas families, significantly affecting the kitchens profitability.
This was all quickly evident to the fellow interns I am working with and myself, but the problem was conveying the situation to woman with no formal business training and little education in general, without hurting their confidence in their ability to run the kitchen independently (the goal is more or less to get each kitchen to a sustainable point and move on).
We have since tried to shift the focus away from production to sales, working with the kitchen on ways to increase revenue, while trying to figure out schedules to keep the workload fair. We have seen positive results over the last week, but need to see it over a much longer term before we can be too self-assured.
In regards to my second overriding objective while in Africa, my group has found some contacts for potential groups that could operate a kitchen in the future, and plan to put some meetings together in the near future. Additionally, we are looking into different sources of financing to get these groups going, some of which may come from organizations WHE has worked with in the past. This objective should be the main focus for the rest of my internship, especially during the next month, as there is only so much work we can do with the present kitchen.
The last objectives will mostly wait until the final 2-4 weeks of my time here, and will require me to compile information from many other interns from different kitchens, past and present. The more of an understanding each intern has of the people and business climate in East Africa, the more valuable this framework will be, but this is something that only comes with time. Also, the longer I wait, the more current the information will be, and the more time others have to put together what they think is most valuable.
Sadly, Argentina is out after a humiliating loss to the Germans (or so I hear, I missed the quarterfinal games while on safari). Now Holland, my #2 team, takes the reigns after their massive upset of Brazil. I know many Germans and Dutch staying in Mwanza at the moment, so that would be a fun final to watch.
As for the Canucks, I think they are looking good for next year after some shrewd moves by Gillis to address the teams weakness’s on the bottom six and insufficient defensive depth. With San Jose and Chicago both losing important players due to cap problems, and Lidstrom and Rafalski both getting a year older in Detroit, I like the Canucks chances of taking the West next year, and hopefully more.
And I guess I’ll throw a way to go Lions in there. Way to Go, Lions!
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
On Saturday I played ultimate (Frisbee) with a group of about half ex-pats and half Tanzanians. Frisbees are not too common here (when I have tossed around the one I brought there are generally some locals looking confused), so I was lucky to bump into the right people who invited me. They play every week, so I should be able to get a good number of games in with them before I head home.
Then during the game I was asking if anyone knows of any regular soccer games, and a few of the Tanzanian guys (most well educated people here have pretty good English) let me know they were playing the next morning at eight. I wouldn’t have minded the time, as it is a lot more comfortable running around early in the day, but due to forces outside my control (peer pressure), I didn’t get home until pretty late the night before, and didn’t get quite as much sleep as I would have preferred. But, along with one of the guys I am living with, I forced myself out of bed and helped lead (I use that term very loosely) the African/ex-pat team to victory against the Indian team. There is a surprisingly large Indian population in Mwanza and in Tanzania as a whole, and by Indian I mean the real kind, in case anyone was confused.
Overall, I have started to get to know a lot more people living and staying here, and have been able to watch many of the more important world cup games with good-sized groups. I have also managed to get onto Lake Victoria twice in the last week, once on a large boat with about twenty people, the other a small sailboat with four others.
Always examine packaged goods before buying: It is not unusual here for bugs to get into food, and grocery store return policies are not quite as liberal here as they are in Canada (shocking I know). When you are all excited for those cookies you just bought, seeing ants crawling all over them can be a real downer.
Clothing donations don’t always go where you think they do: There is a used clothing market across the street from my apartment filled with everything from shoes to bras to hockey jerseys. I have even heard someone found a shirt from a soccer tournament they played in when they were a kid. People think they are giving away their old closes to help the poorest of the poor, but instead it just goes onto a clothing rack, or pile, in a different country (how it gets to the market I am not sure). While there are actually a lot of nice things being sold, as soon as you show the slightest interest in a vendors merchandise, they will begin shoving everything they own in your face, making casual shopping quite difficult.
When taking a cab, always ask before hand how much it will cost, and know what the price should be: Cab drivers will generally try and charge white people a higher price then locals, thinking we won’t know any better. It is important to know what the correct price will be, and make sure you bargain down to it. However, when asking after the ride has finished, you don’t quite have the same level of bargaining power.
Barbers don’t use scissors here: On my way to go to one of Mwanza’s countless barbershops (I choose the “Executive Barbershop”), I started to realized that basically every male Tanzanian had a very similar, very short haircut. Within two minutes of sitting down, the large majority of my hair was scattered over the floor. The barber did spend another forty minutes (not an exaggeration), however, cleaning up the sides and edges with different length razors. So my hair is now the shortest it has been since I used to get buzz cuts at the age of eight. I do feel like my head has been keeping colder though, so overall I kind of like it. On top of this my electric trimmers battery blew when I plugged it into the outlet here, so I have to use a razor now. Add that to the sunglasses I am wearing regularly for the glare and I look like a whole new person.
Driving here is generally chaotic: Passing in oncoming traffic on the highway is quite common, and most people push it much closer then etiquette says to do in Canada. People will speed up to the many speed bumps, then quickly slow down. Any roads outside the city require drivers to sway side to side wildly to find the path of least resistance, as the dirt roads will just get worse and worse until they get fixed again. Few cars have working seatbelts, and fewer people ware them. Motorcycles are often seen swerving between traffic. And best of all, the other day only quick reflex’s on the part of the driver stopped the car I was in from getting struck by a cow coming out of a bush. But on top of all this, I have seen no dangerous accidents. I have seen two minor ones though (cars scraping each others sides), both of which I was in one of the cars for.
Mango season doesn’t last forever: This sounds like a good metaphor for life. I recently found out that Mango season is nearing its end, meaning I will have to eat as many as I can while it is still an option.
Credit does not exist here: Getting any kind of bank loan for most people is next to impossible, there is no almost such thing as a credit card, and even the large majority of cell phone plans are prepaid. Luckily, this well known fact here isn’t always the case. After ordering a special at a restaurant, my group realized we might not have as much money with us as we thought, and were unsure of how much the special was exactly. Fortunately, we had been to the place before and they recognized us, letting us pay part of our bill the next day. I would not be surprised, however, if most places would have made one of us cab home and back, while keeping the others “around” (this was our initial plan).
Sunday, June 13, 2010
I want to start out by saying I love being able to watch the world cup in the correct time zone. I’ve been doing what I can to get some games in, and last night watched the England vs. USA game in a restaurant/bar with at least 20 people from each of the two countries (I don’t know where they all came from, I feel like every Mzungo in town showed up).
Let’s just say my “CA-NA-DA, CA-NA-DA” chant didn’t really catch on. I mostly plan to cheer for all of the African nations, as it would be great to see one make it through a few rounds. However, among the favourites I am picking Argentina (this could change with a few blatant dives) as I want to see an individual player take over, and Messi has the best chance to do that (I really just want to see some goals. I know scores are low, but the 8 goals in the 6+ games so far just do no cut it).
I want to add that I think having the World Cup in South Africa is great for this continent in more ways then I previously realized. When people think of Africa, minds generally go straight to the poverty and charity and to the general burden it puts on the world. This is one of the first major events that connect Africa to a positive connotation, and being here I can tell it means a lot to the locals. Even hearing the song “Wavin’ Flag” (the official song of the tournament by K’naan. I recommend his album) in a local bar/club, the mood just exploded, and everyone seemed genuinely happy and excited.
Now with sports out of the way, let move onto the weather. While it is consistently very hot, and I sweat a good portion of every day, overall it has been more bearable then I expected. Being shirtless in public isn’t really an option here (I know what you’re thinking, what kind of world is this right?), so I have had to learn to live with it. Fortunately the nights cool down enough that sleep is possible, just often using no blanket. We have also had a few periods of rain, when it pours down for about half an hour, the whole town shuts down, and then the sun comes out again and everyone gets back to work.
The food has actually been quite good so far, with a large Indian influence on most restaurants menus. Most menus are quite long, giving me more choice then I prefer. And then when you finally order, half the time they can’t even make it, and you have to look again. But so far I have been eating out too much, and I am going through my money a little faster then I would prefer, so it is time I start shopping a little more.
Two of the three other interns I came down here with will be leaving for Kenya tomorrow morning, so I’m just going to blame this spending on them. Once they are gone I will have to start adjusting to what my life will be for the next two and a half months.
Something I have noticed in Mwanza is the high number of hotels, a number of which are actually quite nice and quite new (some extremely nice). This is interesting, as most of them, especially the nicer ones, seem to be almost completely empty, and this is one of the busy seasons. I have been to a few of the hotel restaurants, and the staff often outnumber the customers.
Also, the service at most restaurants, even nicer ones, is generally quite poor. I think this is due to a mix of the more relaxed culture and the lack of tipping in this country (it’s all about incentives). Everyone seems so nice over here except for the people you’re giving money too. But interestingly enough, while things can take a long time, they never seem to forget anything. Yesterday at lunch, a friend had to use Tabasco sauce as salad dressing. Ten minutes later, she’s just about done, and a big container of salad dressing is brought to her.
Now onto the project. So far progress has been slow, as we are still just adjusting to our role and the country. The last intern working here recently managed to source new packaging for the yogurt, which will hopefully allow the product to be sold in the local market, and at a higher price. However, before this is allowed, the process needs to be certified by a local government organization. Their representative is examining the kitchen tomorrow, and that result will play a large part in what I will be working on in the near future.
We have also been spending some time at the kitchen getting to know the Yogurt Mama’s better, while performing interviews for the research component of the internship. These are meant to give us a better idea of the Mama’s feelings throughout the growth of their business, which is important as we will need to know where the success’s and failures of the past lie when creating the ideal model for expansion.
I could probably write about a few more things, but I got to save some stuff for next week. If anyone has anything particular they are wondering about the project or country, feel free to ask me in the comments section. Also, you can check the blogs of the interns I am here with, as most of my time has been spent with them so far.
Kathleen - http://kathleenheadseast.blogspot.com/
Kinleigh - http://kinleighheadseast.blogspot.com/
Jackel - http://jackelheadseast.blogspot.com/
Some of them have also managed to upload some photos using a program not available for my mac. But I will see what I can do in the future.
Saturday, June 5, 2010
After the week long orientation in London, more then 17 hours of flight time over three planes (two red eyes), a 13 hour layover in Amsterdam (plus over two more hours delayed on the plane), seven hours of jet lag (ten from Vancouver) and a lengthy wait at the Mwanza airport to get our visas, I was finally able to freely walk the country of Tanzania.
I know a lot of people are wondering what exactly I am doing over here. I’ll do my best to help clarify, but a lot of objectives are sure to change or adjust as I learn more of the situation.
My internship is in conjunction with Western Heads East (WHE), an organization through the University of Western Ontario, which has been setting up probiotic yoghurt kitchens throughout east Africa. For those who don’t know, probiotics are active cultures in food meant to help the body in some way. The probiotic in the yoghurt here is taken to assist the human immune system. Useful for all people, but meant particularly to help those suffering from HIV/AIDS (roughly 10-20% of Tanzanian citizen, depending on the location), as well as reduce the risk of transfer/contraction. The yogurt is the medium for the probiotic to grow in, while providing valuable nutrients of its own to customers.
At the same time, each kitchen is able to create employment for the “yogurt mamas” who work there. This then puts a business in the hands of woman, something uncommon in Tanzania.
WHE currently has only three established kitchens, with two more in start up as I write, but the goal is to expand throughout Africa, setting up kitchens in communities of all sizes
I am here in Mwanza with three other interns from the Richard Ivey School of Business (two of whom will soon be moving on to a site in Kenya). Together, we have been tasked with determining the best method of this expansion, focusing on the sustainability of the kitchens without compromising on the overall social mission WHE began the project with.
With five sleeps under my belt (not including the two I attempted on the way here), I have finally moved into the downtown apartment where I will be spending the next twelve weeks, and thus finally should have a more steady supply of Internet. Here are some of the things I have learned/noticed so far:
Swahili time is very different then North American time: Long story short, things move slowly here (except for the vehicals). Two o’clock does not mean two o’clock, and waiting for food or a bill can take longer then I’ve ever imagined. For anyone who knows how punctual I can be, this is going to take me a little getting used to.
English translations can be taken very literally: After finishing dinner last night, a fellow intern ordered a banana split for dessert. Forty minutes later (see above), she is brought a plate with a banana, split down the middle.
Eggs only need to be refrigerated after being washed: Supposedly, chicken eggs are laid with a protective coating that preserves the yoke. But when washed this coating is removed. I hope its true, because eggs here are defiantly not refrigerated.
Outdoor urinals: This one is actually from Amsterdam, but scattered around the city are metal spirals, solid only from around the knees to the neck. I was wondering what they were until I saw someone go in one…
The dawn of the sandal tan: After only a few days, I have been able to notice the consequences of wearing sandals in the sun all day long. It is still a light contrast, but I am quite curious what three months will do.
I don’t really know what else to write about, so here are some top 10’s
Things we are not supposed to do in Mwanza:
1) Ride in the dala-dalas. –Done
-- A dala-dala, for those wondering, is a vehicle slightly larger then your average minivan, but seats 16 people and fits more then 20 (regularly), with the occasional person substituted for a goat or a chicken. They are Tanzanian buses, and are known for their somewhat aggressive driving. But at less then $.20 CAN, I have so far been taking them about twice a day.
2) Ride the motorcycle cabs. –Not Yet
-- A cheaper alternative to cabs if traveling by yourself, the lack of helmets and driving style scares off many mzungus (The non-offensive Swahili word for white foreigner. It can be used to get your attention, or just yelled at you by laughing children on the street). I have generally been traveling in groups, but its something I plan on trying at least once (I’ve never been on a motorcycle before).
3) Walk around the city at night. – Done
-- This one more so refers to woman (for good reason). And when I did it I was still in a group. Alone is much more frowned upon.
4) Not wear bug spray after dusk. –Done
-- I’ve never been a big fan on loading my skin down with sprays and creams, especially at 30% deet. I’ve mostly just been spraying down my window and bed net.
5) Walk barefoot, especially on sand. –Done
-- I have avoided this on the streets for good reason, but who wears shoes on sand or grass. The reason for this rule is that the sand is on the shore of the lake (see below).
6) Swim in Lake Victoria. –Not Yet
-- Certain bacteria in the water supposedly enter your skin almost instantly, and eventually give you some kind of worms. However, it causes no symptoms for about six months to a year, and all you have to do is take a couple pills back in Canada and you’re good. For this reason, most interns seem to swim and even wakeboard, and it is too hot here for me to pass up on either if the situation arises.
7) Eat street meat. –Done
-- I don’t see what the big deal is here. The meet is cooked over hot embers, and I did check to see if it was still raw (believe it or not). It was cheap, tasted great, and my stomach is fine, so this should become a staple.
8) Eat uncooked vegetables. –Done
-- The street meat has to have something on the side, right. The issue here is that it is washed with the tap water, but I think as long as you don’t drink the water directly it isn’t really a problem (although some peoples systems do require a few days to “adjust”)
9) Drink the tap water directly. –This one I plan on following
-- This is just asking to get sick. So far I have had boiled then filtered water, but I hear an even easier way is to leave jugs on the roof for three days, letting the UV rays kill the bacteria, then filter out the silt. The things you learn.
10) Brush teeth with the water. –Done
-- Like the uncooked vegetables, following this would just be too much of a hassle. I’ve already done it in Mexico many times, so I’m not too worried.
Overall, there are lots of rules you can follow if you want to be extremely couscous, but it’s just not worth it when you’re spending three months in the country. I’ve just decided to push the boundaries until my body says otherwise, let my system get used to the country, and move on with it.
1) In Europe
-- Had never even seen the Atlantic Ocean before my flight to Amsterdam. Nice place, but sadly it was raining and Sunday, so not the best situation to get a fair impression.
2) In Africa
-- Going from being a member of the majority (or at least the largest minority) to having children laughing and getting excited at the mere sight of you is quite the culture shock.
3) Being a millionaire
-- $1.00 CAN = about 1300 Tanzanian shillings (Tsh) which means about $770 CAN = 1,000,000 Tsh. I know it’s not real, but it still feels good.
4) Eating freshly deep fried foods for breakfast
-- So far, the breakfast choice has been either fried or fruit, and not a lot of locals go for the fruit. I’ve been trying to embrace that by grabbing a samosa to go some other random selection each morning.
5) Sleeping with a mosquito bed net
-- And I still seem to get bitten plenty every night. I feel as if Tanzanian mosquitoes will each bite more times then Canadian ones, and are much harder to catch. But I am paying for my malaria pills, so I may as well give them a chance to work.
6) Having a bucket shower
-- Decided to try going for a run just before dusk, and when I came back to my room found out the power was out and the water was not working. So I got to instead use a bucket filled with water from a source of unknown sanitary levels.
7) Seeing an albino person
-- Due to the scarcity of white people, I generally get a little excited every time I see one (no prej). It just took me a second to realize how white this one was.
8) Eating avocado Pizza
-- Meat is less common over here, but avocados are bigger, more plentiful, and better tasting then in Canada, so this one just makes sense.
9) Seeing a wild monkey
-- Saw a couple cross the road I was walking down. When I turned the corner to get a better view, saw about 15 more climbing the trees and sitting around. The Africans didn’t seem as excited.
10)Tipping ten cents and feeling like a good person
- Sounds bad, but tipping isn’t very common in Tanzania. Looking at a plate of food that cost you less then a dollar makes throwing 100 Tsh the other way pretty easy.
I am sure I have missed some good ones, which I will try to add to future updates along with new firsts I am sure to come across. In my next blog, I’ll try and give a better idea of what life here entails. I will also try to post some pictures (they can be very hard to post with the internet here).
P.S. - My number is +255759290803 (from Canada). Texts home only cost me 10 cents, and I have free incoming worldwide. So depending on how much I mean to you, feel free to send me a message or two, and I’ll do my best to reply. Email and facebook should also be checked regularly enough.