The final chapter

Have you ever thought you were really tanned, but it turns out you’re just kinda dirty? Really? Not me. I’m just really really tanned. I told people I’d come back from Africa looking like Wesley Snipes. Dark and broke have been achieved in spectacular fashion. Slim is pending. You should all hang out with me in the next week before my tan goes away.

So let’s see, where did I leave off? Ah yes, Zanzibar. You should all go to Zanzibar sometime before you die. It’s pretty much the coolest place on Earth. I hung out with a couple Canadians I met in my hotel for most of my time there. David from Lethbridge AB, and Natalie from Kapuskasing, ON (a town north of the “here be dragons” line on your map of Ontario). Here’s a bad picture of them on the awesome rooftop terrace our hotel had. They’re on the left and right in the first picture. The middle is a Latvian guy named Alexander who pulled an entire tray of prosciutto and edam cheese out of his bag upon his arrival at the hotel the day before. He had just come from Singapore, which explains where he got fancy foreign food products. It doesn’t explain how he kept them from going bad. He’s clearly a master of cold-chain management.

On my last night in Zanzibar we went out for dinner at a fairly swanky waterfront restaurant, where I ate swordfish. Got some nice pre-sunset shots of people playing soccer on the beach and swimming off of what looked like the gas tank of an old tanker sitting out in the bay.

Isn’t the sky awesome?

On my last morning there David had an all-day diving course. So while he was off being Scuba Steve,  Natalie and I took a lovely stroll around town in full tourist mode. We took pictures with cannons, we visited the old fort, we shopped for souvenirs, we drank Tangawizi by the waterfront. We did it all.

It was kinda overcast, but no heavy rain. It rained quite a few times while I was there, but nothing heavy, and nothing that lasted more than a couple minutes. It was kinda nice. We got some lunch afterwards, but that was pretty much the extent of my trip to Zanzibar, as I got on the ferry back to the mainland at 3:30.

I spent the night in Dar es Salaam before flying out the following afternoon. This gave me the opportunity to hang out with Megan and Lindsay once more. We met at Lindsay’s place before going out to see some live music at a place called Sweet Eazy. We arrived there in a bajaj, which is a hilarious little taxi without doors. It’s basically a blue metal golf cart. They were everywhere in Dar (none in Morogoro, for whatever reason). Here’s what it looks like from the back seat:

It was pretty awesome, as there was a 7-or-so piece band playing covers all night. Lindsay’s friend MT sung in the band, and although we were promised a Michael Bolton serenade, it didn’t happen before I left. I did see one of the band member’s fathers get up and sing La Bamba looking like an older, blacker Austin Powers. I wish I could have stayed longer, but I didn’t want to make my taxi guy stay out too late so I left around midnight. There were a number of creepy old European men with what were surely hookers, as well as one incredibly drunk girl who claimed her name was Beyonce (doubtful) and made us take her picture.

She then tried to take a picture of us with comical results. I think she went 0-for-12 or so with trying to use a camera. I’m surprised she could stand.

And that was the last of my Tanzanian adventure. From here on out, it’s all about my return trip. And sorry kids, no pictures.


My return trip is a harrowing tale of boredom and woe. I hit 5 different airports in a 23 hour period, and managed very little sleep. My itinerary:

Dar Es Salaam > Addis Ababa > Rome > Washington > Toronto

Such is the price one pays for a $1400 return trip to Africa.

The flight from Dar to Addis was only a couple hours, and actually pretty entertaining. This was because I was sitting next to a couple Chinese nationals who seemed to have very limited experience with packaged foods (ie: airplane food). When we got our meals, the first thing the man next to me did was empty his sugar packet into his mouth. His friend emptied it into his glass of wine (Ethiopian gives you little wine bottles, it’s a wicked airline). He then poured his entire salt packet on his salad, while leaving the Italian dressing untouched. He poured the pepper packet into his hand, and looked at it thoughtfully for a minute. He sniffed it, but he was still curious. He then licked an entire palm-full of black pepper. He was not impressed. He repeated this step with the coffee creamer later on in the flight.

They had clearly been in Tanzania for a while, as they seemed to be pretty fluent in Kiswahili. Their English was about as good as my Chinese. It must have been quite a sight for any locals on that plane to see a white guy and two Chinese guys having (very basic) conversations in Swahili.

That was a short, comfortable part of my trip. The flight leaving Addis was considerably less fun. To start with, I learned about 10 minutes before boarding that the flight stopped in Rome (it wasn’t on my printed itinerary). Luckily we didn’t have to leave the plane, but some angry looking Italian men did board at about 3:00 in the morning. I spent the entire flight from Addis Ababa to Washington in the middle seat of the middle row. In my estimation, this is the worst seat on the entire airplane. No aisle to stretch out, and not only no window, but too far away to even see out the window. I was sitting beside a guy named Adam, who was part of a church group that had been giving out reading glasses in Ethiopia for the past few weeks. He was basically Matthew McConaughey but with more religion and less thumbs (he was missing a thumb). A good guy, but had some pretty strong views on religion, or specifically, all the things that Ethiopian Orthodox does wrong. I think that was pretty much par for the course on my flight, as everyone but me seemed to be either an Ethiopian-American, an American coming back from missionary work, or an American bringing an Ethiopian kid back.

I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep, and my ass went numb after a while from all the sitting. The airline itself was great though. Ethiopian Airlines feeds you every chance they get. Been in the air for over an hour? That’s a feeding. The sun came up or went down? That’s a feeding. It’s been 2 hours since your last feeding? You better believe that’s a feeding. In a 12 hour flight, I think they served like 5 meals, not to mention snacks and drinks. They also give you mustard yellow socks and sleep masks on the overnight trips.

We finally got Washington, which is unfortunately in the United States of America. I say this, because US customs and security is equal parts ridiculous, incompetent, and just plain unpleasant. To begin with, why do I have to fill out a massive customs form just to get on a connecting flight? So yeah, I got lectured by the customs agent for not having that done. And I got lectured for not lining up in front of the customs desk (the lady directed us to line up by the gate and go one at a time to the next available desk…so at least one of them is an incompetent boob). From my experience, any US customs agent (whether in an airport or at the border) will be an ass. I think it’s in their job description. This is amplified if they have a mustache. That’s not to say that Americans are asses, or people with mustaches are asses. But if they’re combined on someone working border security, there’s a 100% chance they’ll be an ass (prove me wrong America). Mine had a mustache and a crew cut. He was an ass.

So I finally got through that moved on to security, which gave me an option between giving the United States government a naked picture of myself for posterity, or having my balls touched by a man in blue gloves. I chose the ball-touching. Unpleasant, but seriously, I don’t need the CIA having pictures of my junk. So once they determined that I was not in fact bringing a dick-bomb into their country, I was through to the airport. New plan: never connect through the USA again.

Once in the airport I was delighted to discover that while United Airlines had confirmed me for my flight to Toronto, they couldn’t give me a seat because they had sold them all already (lol, what?). So yeah, we’ll take your money, but we’re out of seats. So I had to go to the United gate a couple hours before takeoff and get put on the standby list. I wasn’t the only one either. They had double-booked like 6 people for our flight. Luckily I was the first one there, so I had first dibs. This was a 12:00 PM flight that got in to Toronto at 2:00. The next option was a 4:30 flight that connected through Chicago (why?) and got into Toronto at 11:00. Thankfully the good lord smote one person on my behalf, and I got the one and only ticket that came available for the flight.

Got to Toronto, had a lovely chit-chat with a suspiciously pleasant customs agent, and took a cab home.

And that was the end of my trip.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment


So I got in to Dar on Monday, where I was met at the bus station by Domitila (YCI staff). We took a lovely stroll over to the Ethiopian Airlines office and got my ticket sorted out, and then we went to Subway for lunch. Oh yes, Subway. It was pretty much like the Subways back home, except they had Indian subs on the menu and the cheese slices came individually wrapped.

Later than night I met up with Megan and Lindsay, two friends of my friend Kate’s who are working with Amref. We went to a giant outdoor restaurant that hosted us and one other couple all night. Apparently it’s the place to be on weekends though. They played Garth Brooks and Michael Bolton on the request of one of their friends, who joined us after we ate.

I woke early the next morning and got on the 7:00 ferry to Zanzibar. The Ferry was really nice, although the in-voyage movie was Mr. Bones, which is basically Ace Ventura 2 without the part where Jim Carey crawls out a rhino’s ass. It’s one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. At the docks in Zanzibar I was met by someone from my hotel, the Princess Salme Inn. Although a little pricier than some, this place is pretty awesome. And frankly, I’m worth it. AC, a full bathroom complete with toilet and proper shower, queen sized bed, etc. All in an old Arabic-style building that looks to be made entirely of white plaster. And the staff has been great. And they have a fridge full of beer and pop on the honour system. And free wireless internet. And a rooftop patio where I received a free breakfast of eggs, toast, mango, pineapple, guava, banana, watermelon, and coffee this morning.

I dropped my stuff off at the hotel and took a little tour of old Stone Town. Saw the Sultan’s palace, the old slave market, the fish market, the waterfront, etc.

Last night I met up with some fellow Canadians at the hotel, and we went for dinner at Mercury’s, which is (supposedly) a Freddy Mercury themed restaurant right on the beach. There were a few pictures, but our dreams of eating seafood to the sound of Fat Bottom Girls were dashed.

This morning I ate my awesome breakfast and then went out for a half-day spice tour. It probably doesn’t sound as cool as it is. Basically, they take you into the forest and show you all the stuff that grows there. I think I’m missing some, but we saw: nutmeg, turmeric, vanilla, cocoa, cinnamon, jackfruit, star fruit, black pepper, aloe, coffee, coconuts, lychee, ginger, lemongrass, and whatever the plant is that contains quinine. Cinnamon bark tastes just like cinnamon.  It’s amazing.

We also found the plant that Indian women use on their foreheads.

Also learned that nutmeg makes girls horny (the guide’s words), and ginger makes men “very powerful”.

After that, they took us to an old bathhouse that the Sultan made for his wife back in the day. The story goes that she didn’t want him to have more than one wife, so out of spite he took 99 more to make it an even 100. So he’d send her off to the spa every week so he could play with his other wives.

We got lunch included (the total price was $15 for the day). They made us Pilau with curry and chipati. We then went to the beach, which was secluded and amazing. The water was really warm. White sand, azure water, palm trees, shells and coral everywhere, little outrigger boats moored further out. It had it all. And no sharks. It didn’t have sharks. So it was perfect.

Zanzibar is a pretty magical place, all-in-all. Before I left I had a chat with Susan, my program manager at Humber for about an hour. She mentioned that at night the sky seems so close that you can touch it. And after being here, I understand what that means. It’s dark purple after sunset, and it seems like it closes right in on you. It’s pretty cool.

Tonight, live music!


Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Parting thoughts for Morogoro

I may be tempting fate by saying this with 4 days before I fly home, but when I die, they should bronze my stomach and put it on display in the Smithsonian. Stats:

  • Trips to Africa: 2
  • Total time spent (in months): ~4
  • Countries visited in that time: 4 (6 if we count airports)
  • Instances of even the smallest stomach issues: 0

So while I’ve escaped Scot free so far, I did get a good look at Malaria last night as Azzim has a pretty bad case of it. It’s not pretty, but I think he’ll be fine.

I leave for the bus station in about an hour for Dar es Salaam. I’ll miss Morogoro and everyone I’ve met here. A month isn’t long enough to get restless in a place. But it’s time to go I guess.

Oh, I found Obama chewing gum at the local shop. Obama should run for president here. Hell, he could run as “dictator for life” and still be elected around these parts. I’ve seen Obama brand gum, pants, pens, soap…pretty much anything you can think of. The gum tasted less like freedom and reform than I thought, and more like strawberry. Perhaps fittingly, the flavour didn’t last very long.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What a goat looks like on the inside (wait for it)

So I guess a few things have happened since my last entry. I ended off with the Chamwino Girls Club’s international women’s day celebration on Sunday. The actual date of international women’s day was Tuesday the 8th of March. After a morning meeting at Faraja, we rushed over to the stadium to see the parade and speeches that happen every year. Here’s what we found:

Turns out that all the events were basically cancelled the morning of, for some unknown reason. So that sucked.

Over the last week, Lonny and I managed to finish all our work for both Faraja and YCI. That’s right, project is over. Our total output came out to 50 or so pages worth of work plan and annexes for Faraja, as well as various other reporting for YCI. Here’s a picture of me leaving Faraja for what is likely the last time:

It’s hard to believe the month is just about over. I leave Monday morning for Dar es Salaam, but we’ll get to that later.

For our last bit of quasi-YCI-related field work, Lonny and I stopped by the weekly girls club meeting in Chamwino with some pictures we had printed out from the event on the weekend. They seemed pretty pleased with them, but infinitely more pleased with the giant bag of candy we bought at Pira’s just before coming. There were 10 or so teenage girls there, and they absolutely demolished the bag in a matter of minutes. Of course, I’m sure you already knew that the best way to impress the ladies is to offer them candy (preferably out the side of a van). I’m pretty sure I got a marriage proposal from a 17 year old. In fairness, she’s nearly 24,000 years old with the exchange rate. Here’s a pic with the leader of the girls club, whose name is too long and complicated for me to ever remember.

Pira’s is the only thing in town resembling a grocery store. It has 2 aisles, and some tiny shopping carts, and is the go-to place for many hard-to-find products. When I told the owner that I was leaving, she gave Lonny and I Pira’s shirts. For free! The tag on mine reads Size: F. Which probably means “For sure won’t fit you”. It looks like a medium.

At some point last week I remembered to take a picture of chipsy-mayaye. I’m sure I spelled that wrong. But anyways, it’s chips (fries) with egg cooked on top of them. This particular batch is pictured with mishkaki, which is pieces of beef skewered on what appear to be bicycle spokes and served with pepper sauce. This wasn’t the best representation of either dish, but here it is.

Last night we took the family (Mama, her son Azzim, and Dada Rosie) out to Dragonaires, which I gather is the swankiest restaurant in town. There were more white people there than you’d see in a restaurant in Toronto. I had no idea there were this many mzungu in town, or where they’ve all been hiding. It was pretty surreal. I had a steak with melted cheese (yeah…), Lonny had pizza, and the others had chicken and fish.

Today we went to the maasai market in Dakawa, which is about an our outside of Morogoro. Lonny couldn’t make it because he had tummy problems, but I went with a couple German friends (Jan and Mareen), and our friend Yangalai (a living breathing Maasai). He was great as an explainer, translator, and bargainer. We did the entire trip by daladala, but we had to catch it from the main bus station. Here’s a picture of vendors chasing a bus, trying to sell things through the windows.

I don’t think I’ve talked about daladalas before. It’s basically a clown car cleverly disguised as an extended van. There are usually about 16 seats or so (in a van that would likely be a 12 seater by Canadian legroom and girth standards). I’ve counted upwards of 24 people in a single daladala before. Suffice it to say, you get to know everyone pretty well, including the babies that are occasionally foisted upon you. Here’s Mareen, Jan, and I crammed into the back seat with some other guy:

And here’s the view in front of us:

The trip went smoothly enough, and the market was pretty cool. It was much bigger than I expected, and basically divided into 4 main areas: cow auction, shops, goat processing, and food and drink stands.  As promised, it was full of Maasai and cows. Surprisingly, we were the only three white people there.  This earned us mad street cred, as outlined in article #71 of Stuff White People Like.


I’ll warn you, from this point onwards you’ll be privy to what a goat looks like without all that fur and skin holding it together.  As it turns out, animals don’t spontaneously divide and jump into shrink-wrapped Styrofoam trays at the grocery store. A little human TLC is involved:

There were goat parts being cooked all over the place. I didn’t realize how much smoke I inhaled until I blew my nose when I got home. And yeah, this blog is getting more gross by the second. Things smelled surprisingly not-terrible, even at the hacking and skinning stage. Here’s some cooking taking place in what I assume is the traditional fashion.

Jan, Yangalai, and I got a leg, which was served to us in the obviously traditional black plastic bag. Mareen settled for rice and beef soup. The goat was kinda chewy.

With Yangalai’s bargaining assistance, I successfully acquired some sweet loot. That is to say, I bought three items that will not be in my carry-on because they are lethal weapons. That’s as much as I’m telling you for now.

So that was my day. Basically, it’s all goodbyes from here on out. On Monday morning I’ll be heading to Dar es Salaam, where I’ll have to stop by the Ethiopian Airlines office and make them fix my return flight and print me a ticket. After that, I’m planning to meet up with some friends of a friend. On Tuesday morning I’ll head to Zanzibar for a couple days before flying back to the motherland.

Ps, someone explain all these Charlie Sheen references I’m seeing on the internet.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

International Women’s Day

So we had ourselves quite a weekend. As I’m sure you know, we spent Saturday in Mikumi National Park harassing wild animals. We were pretty tired after that, but alas, no rest for the wicked. March 8th (Tuesday) is International Women’s Day, and we helped a local girl’s club organize their first annual Women’s Day event in Chamwino (the poorest area of town). Lonny and I designed an info sheet for the girls participating, helped set up the sound system, and were charged with documenting the whole thing. I’ll admit, I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of spending what little free time we had on Friday and Saturday pouring through USAID reports and the UN Human Development Index to collect facts for the info sheet, all for something that didn’t really have anything to do with our project. Also, the sheet had to be in Kiswahili, which made the selection of Lonny and I even stranger. But we got it done. Extra marks if you can find the mistake we missed. Handout.

So Sunday morning we got up early to get our stuff printed, and then headed into Chamwino. The first event of the day was a debate. I believe the topic was something to the effect of “is education the single greatest impediment to women achieving decent work?”. So the girls divided themselves into YES and NO sides, and had at it for a good hour at least.

The guest of honour was a local woman who is head of one of the wards or streets in Chamwino. I think I zoned out quite a few times, as I couldn’t understand anything. But these kids outside seemed intently interested in women’s issues.

That, or they just wanted to stare at me the entire time, and occasionally take a shot at my arm hair when I wasn’t looking.

As the debate was winding down Lonny and I joined James (Faraja volunteer) in setting up the sound system for the day’s festivities. Unfortunately the equipment had been dropped off a few hundred metres from the site, and the speakers and amps were absurdly heavy. But we got them there eventually.

The thing kicked off about an hour and a half later, and there ended up being a pretty huge crowd. There was a lot of talking that I didn’t understand, but it looked like the girls (as well as Makoti and James) were doing a great job on the mic.

YCI funded the event, and recruited Dj Andrew, who is apparently pretty well known in the area. He was a superstar on the turntables, that’s for sure.

So the girls prepared speeches, danced, and sang. And a local hip-hop group got on the mic later as well.

There were a few hundred people there for sure, and at least 13 children in this tree.

And of course, wherever there is a digital camera, there are about a thousand adorable children demanding to have their picture taken.

At one point a man came out of his house carrying a baby, handed it to me, smiled, and then took it back inside the house. I’m pretty sure I’m good luck around here. Lonny had no such honours bestowed upon him, but here he is stealing a child’s nose:

The only downside of the day was one guy kept wandering into the middle and trying to grab the microphone. I thought at first that he had a mental condition, but it turns out he was just blind stinking drunk.

At the end of the day we gathered for some group photos, as well as some more of the neighbourhood kids. Here’s one taken a split second before his friend kicked the tire out from under him for no apparent reason.

And here’s the rest:




Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Good and Bad News

I’ll start off with the good news.

Lonny and I went on a game drive today in Mikumi National Park. We got up at 5:00 today so we could get there early enough to see all the good stuff, since many of the animals like to hide from the sun in the afternoon (Mikumi is about an hour away, I reckon).  Here’s Lonny asleep doing his best Al Bundy impression on the way there (note, I don’t think his hand was actually down his pants).

Luckily for us, the weather was great. And by great, I mean not sunny and hot for once. It was overcast all morning, which made for a lovely 20 or so degrees, and it actually rained lightly for a bit. So this meant that the animals were oot and aboot.

We were in a 9-seater van with a huge moon roof, and it was just the 4 of us (me, Lonny, our guide Charles, and the driver). So Lonny and I were able to comfortably stand on the seats and basically be sticking out of the roof of the van from the waist up. There was even plenty of room for Charles to join us up above the roof when he needed to point things out to us.

On the drive to the park we saw a few giraffes and elephants out the window, but the first animals we were really able to see well in the park wereBuffalo (Buffalii?). Not the water kind, just regular. And let me tell you, they’re as majestic as you might imagine. Sitting in mud, covered in flies, staring blankly back at the van.

I think elephants were next, but I have better pics later on, since they were kinda far. But here’s a wildebeest skull with some elephants in the background. We saw plenty of live wildebeast too, but if you’ve ever seen one you’ll know that the skull is actually more appealing to look at. Enjoy:

We also saw a herd of zebras.

This is about when we started seeing lions. We got really lucky in that we saw 3 different sets of lions. Unfortunately, none of the pictures came out as good as real life. They’re good at hiding, and just lazy in general. Here’s the most exciting action shot there was:

Our next stop was at the hippo pool. Do you think a hippopotamus is really a hippopotamus, or just a really cool opotamus? The hippos were a little far away for good pics, but we did find the biggest millipede I’ve ever seen there. This is for the ladies.

We saw giraffes all over the place, but towards the end of the afternoon we were able to drive right up to a herd of them grazing on trees. I have a sweet video that I can’t upload due to size, but here’s some pictures of them.

We scared them off the road right as another safari van came around the bend. So we have pictures of awesome close giraffes, and they got stuck with crappy far giraffes. This was them as they drove off, presumably in disgust. Do not follow? Challenge accepted.

Our last stop was at a gigantic old baobab tree. We climbed it, and then hung out in the branches for a while with students from a high school field trip who showed up there as well.

On the way back we got super close to a herd of elephants. So while we saw elephants 4 or 5 times during the day, these ones made for the best pictures.

The one thing we didn’t see was Leopard. In Kiswahili it’s called “Chui” (sounds like “chewy”). There was no Chewbacca either. But look at the bright side, I know most of you read this blog in the hopes of seeing baboon penis. Ask and ye shall receive:

We also had a brief encounter with what is truly the most dangerous game:

On the drive back our guides stopped the car in a small village and went into a mud hut with a man. After about 10 minutes, they came out with a black plastic bag full of Topi meat. For those wondering, a Topi is this magnificent bastard right here:

Doesn’t he look delicious? I hear the lighter parts are milk chocolate, while the rest is dark.

And now on to the bad news.

We were about an hour late getting to the park. And that’s because we had to take a massive detour through some rural back roads that ran through small villages. At one point the road narrowed to a tiny bridge too small for a car, and we had to cross (ford!) a river that must be absolutely impassable in the rainy season. It was pretty interesting actually, as soon as you get off the main highway you start to see people in traditional Maasai dress herding cows and things like that. So that’s not the bad news, that’s the inconvenient news. But it was necessitated by the bad news.

We had to take that detour because the highway was closed at one point. And the highway was closed at that point due to a horrific crash involving two 18-wheelers and a motorcycle. One of the trucks was carrying petrol, so in the grand scheme of things it could have been worse. The other was a Pepsi truck, so there was broken glass everywhere. I’m not sure exactly how it went down, but we were one of the first cars on the scene after it happened, and when we arrived there was a guy lying dead in a pool of blood in the middle of the road, and another person pinned alive (for the moment) underneath the Pepsi truck, which a group of men were hopelessly trying to lift by hand. The petrol truck had hit the Pepsi truck from behind, and basically wrapped its cab around the back of the truck. This had wedged the Pepsi truck off to the side and halfway up a small embankment, making it impossible for the men to lift because the outside wheels were sitting much higher than the inside wheels.

So that’s a picture I took as we were first pulling up to the scene. I didn’t take any after we got out of the car and saw what had happened. So in the picture there’s someone pinned by the front right wheels of the blue truck. If you were to look past the cab of the 18-wheeler directly in front of us, you’d see a trashed motorcycle, a dead man, and a lot of glass and blood. I’m not sure if both the aforementioned people were on the motorcycle, or if one of them is the driver of the gas truck, since the windshield was smashed out and I’ve never seen anyone wear a seatbelt here (we wore ours the rest of the way).

So there you have it. An interesting day.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Hipster’s Paradise

Fixed-gear bikes, used mens-league hockey jerseys, ironic sports team hats (Baltimore Orioles!). This is a hipster’s paradise.

Also, if nobody helps me name our guard dog, I’m going to call her Shaneequa.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment