Shower frogs, guard dogs, and cheeseburgers

So I walked into the shower in the morning and there was a frog chilling in the corner. He just kinda looked up at me disinterestedly, being all like “sup bro?”, and then went back to staring straight ahead. Not entirely sure how he got there, since entry into that room would involve hopping up the back stairs, through the kitchen and living room, and then David Blaineing his way through a closed door. That, or he came up the drain, which I’d rather not think about. At any rate, me and the frog had a lovely shower together.

Speaking of animals, it turns out that our guard dog isn’t the remorseless killing machine I once thought. We’ve come home late a couple times and she’s just jumped up and tried to lick my face, without so much as a bark. So with that in mind, she needs a name. If it was a male dog, the obvious choices would be Shia LeWoof or Fetch Ruffman. But it’s a girl, so any suggestions are welcomed.

This morning was the first day where we didn’t have a morning meeting in town. In fact, it’s the first weekday where we got to sleep in (10:00!). So far I’ve spent the morning washing every piece of clothing I’m not currently wearing. I’m in a bathing suit right now.

Later today we’ll probably go to the Acropol hotel to get some work done. It’s owned by a lovely (if not slightly eccentric) Canadian lady who gave us free food last time because she’s friends with Donald, the East African regional director for YCI. We also got some of the fattiest bacon I’ve ever seen in my life.

And there are rumours that a cheeseburger can be acquired at her establishment. This is exciting news, since burgers are few and far between. We had one at Ricky’s Cafe last week, which was a hand-made patty on a bun swimming in what looked like thousand islands dressing. It was still delicious, and a step up from every other restaurant in town that has clip-art burgers printed on their menu (if they have a menu), but don’t actually serve burgers. We were at a cafe for lunch 2 days ago that let us name every type of food we could think of before informing us that they didn’t actually have any food yet that day. So anyhow, we’ll be going to Acropol to get some work done. We have a big presentation for Faraja at their weekly meeting on Friday, so we’ll be making a PowerPoint in English and Kiswahili. For anyone wondering, it seems that “Swahili” is the culture, while “Kiswahili” is the language. Like the difference between “Anglo-Canadian” and “English”.

Yesterday we had to pick up some US dollars for a Safari we’re going to take on Saturday. I was a little perturbed when I got $125 US in 5 and 10 dollar bills. I felt a lot better about myself when Lonny stepped up after me and received $125 in 1 dollar bills. I shit you not. It was a brick of money. Needless to say, we now know exactly what Snoop Dogg feels like every day of his life. We rollin’ in it.

It’s supposed to be one of the best times of the year for animal watching, so that’s good news. Our guide says he saw a cheetah last weekend when he went out, which is super rare. The only notable thing they don’t have in Mikumi National Park is rhino, but I saw like a billion rhinos last time I was in Africa (conservative estimate). I could see a rhino walking down the street today and I’d just be like “whatever, rhino”.

I finally got to call my friend Lutangu in Zambia today, which was awesome. I talked to the whole staff that I worked with last time. He says they’ve had a lot of volunteers since Tim, Phil, and I, but we were the most fun. Obviously he’s right. I mean, have any other volunteers insisted that he take them to a local bar called Beer 4 Less, or drink Chibuku out of a rain barrel with him? I’m sure the answer is no. Would he like any other volunteers enough to tell them that the sweet chitanga shorts they had tailored gave them total African street cred, despite the fact that not a single Zambian wore anything even remotely similar? That’s love, folks. I think my favourite Lutangu memory is him solemnly explaining to us that after a night at Beer 4 Less, it would be our duty to portage him to the school like a canoe, sit him up in his chair at the front of the class, put a piece of chalk in his hand, and leave him there until the kids arrived in the morning. I don’t have the money right now, but Dambwa hasn’t seen the last of me. They say most of the students I taught are in high school now, which is awesome. It’s good to know that my complete inability to do (much less teach) long division hasn’t stunted their academic development. If they had a question on the entrance exam about the water cycle, I bet they nailed it. I drilled that one into their heads well and good. For anyone who saw my pictures of the school when I was there in 2008, it’s night-and-day compared to now. It’s amazing what a difference a donor can make. Uniforms, food, a brand new building, a kitchen, internet on site, a chalkboard without a giant hole in it. Here’s the link.

Plans for tonight: telling our German friends that I can sing their national anthem, and then launching into a heartfelt rendition of 99 Red Balloons.

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Play Day

In case anyone is wondering, Stoney Tangawizi is the single greatest ginger ale on Earth.

It should be made available in Canada immediately.

This past Saturday we got a bit of a treat when we were invited to the monthly Play Day that Faraja runs for children living with HIV in their Home Based Care program. For anyone interested in donating, Faraja doesn’t have any funding to run one in March, and their next one is tentatively planned for April. If you want to facilitate a Play Day for March, let me know and I’m sure I can arrange something. It probably costs a little more than you would expect, since it involves food for between 50 and 100 people, travel stipends for the children, and they’re all supplied with things like soap, cooking oil, etc to lessen the burden on their guardians (often grandparents or other family members).

 I say it was a treat because:

A) we’re working above the project level, so we aren’t often involved with the beneficiaries (aside from focus groups)

and

B) it was fun

We brought a few sticker books, which were big hits with the younger kids. I think we had a Spiderman/Superman combo book (no doubt signed off on by both Marvel and DC), Winnie the Pooh, and Strawberry Shortcake. Not a Mzungu there survived un-stickered. Here’s a picture of me with Pooh on my face:

Here we have a picture of Lonny, with his camera buried somewhere beneath all those children:

We’ve become pretty good friends with some German Faraja volunteers, and they were there as well. Here’s Jan and Makoti doing their best to translate a German book about cartoon bears practising oral hygiene into Kiswahili. The kids wanted me to read it at first, not understanding that A) German and English are different languages, and B) I speak even less Kiswahili than German. Also, there is no word for “bear”.

Here’s Mareen (the other German volunteer) with some bubbles, which may have been an even bigger hit than the stickers:

At the end of the Play Day we ended up sitting in the shade throwing pop-flies for a group of kids to chase with a hackey sack. Here’s a group eagerly awaiting our next toss:

If something jumps out at you in that pictures, it’s because albinoism seems a lot more prevalent here than back in Canada (or maybe just more obvious?). At any rate, I’ve seen a lot more albinos here than I expected.

Sunday was a pretty lazy day for me. Lonny decided to join Irishad in going to Church, but I just didn’t have it in me that morning. I was also suspicious of his claims that the service was less than an hour. Sure enough, Lonny got home around 4 hours later. Apparently I missed some good speaking in tongues though. The power was off most of Sunday, which is an all-too common occurrence in Morogoro. It came back on at night though. For dinner we had Pilau (amazing rice with spices and stuff in it), kuku (chicken), and some mixed tomatoes and onions. For dessert we had ndizi (banana) and some awesome home-made juice. It was pineapple-avocado with a hint of vanilla tonight. A previous meal had mago-banana-avocado. We spent the rest of the night listening to tunes and chatting with Shabogi (Mama Adul’s son) about Bob Marley, Idi Amin, and his goal of joining the Free Masons. I also exploded some brains with the only card trick I know.

Earlier today we met with the head of Faraja’s Traditional Medicine department, and then held a focus group meeting with some of the older kids at the Street Side School in town. We’re now in an internet cafe, and I’m once again planning my revenge on Vodacom and their useless wireless modem services. We were in the shop for the SEVENTH time this afternoon, where were learned that their modems just eat bandwidth for fun when you’re not even browsing, so we’ll have to disconnect between web pages just to be safe. So that’s why our thing ran out of money way before it should have. So I figure any picture uploading will probably happen at internet cafes.

In an hour or so we’re going to meet a man about a Safari. There is a beer here called Safari. But I’m talking about the looking at animals from a Jeep kind.

Later,

-Warren

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Deep thoughts

The more my body acclimatizes to the heat here, the colder our shower gets. My shower this morning was officially colder than a witch’s teat. I’m sure it builds character. On the upside, I now sweat less when I move, eat, and breathe.

Work is going pretty well. We’ve finished our preliminary round of interviews with the department heads. In total, we’ve spoken with Micro Credit, Malaria, Legal Aid, Home Based Care, Street Side Schools, Orphans and Vulnerable Children, and we’ve had extensive meetings with Norbert, one of the directors of Faraja. This coming Saturday will be the monthly Play Day that Faraja puts on for the kids with HIV that they work with. Lonny and I are invited, and it should be a fun day. I think we’ll also get a chance to speak a bit with the kids about Faraja’s work with them.

Everyone here has been really helpful. Not only the folks at Faraja, but anyone you meet on the street as well. A man explained to me yesterday that Tanzania’s first president made it a priority to ensure that Tanzania was the friendliest country in the world. I think he succeeded.

Next weekend we’re planning to get our game drive on and go see some animals in a nearby national park. And the weekend after that, Maasai Market! And then that’s it. Time is going pretty fast here. We’re already 1/3 of the way through our project.

We got the door to our room fixed today, which is exciting. A couple days ago I literally ripped the handle right off the door, which is odd because I don’t think we’ve had spinach once since I got here. So during the day we McGyvered it shut using a sock, a key, and tape. It’ll be nice to not have to deal with that anymore.

Our now-working wireless modem has been a lifesaver. It means we don’t have to go to the internet cafe every day. It seems like every cafe in Morogoro is just teaming with viruses. I’ve seen cleaner bills of health at a Pussycat Dolls concert. Lonny has already had to format his flash drive once. I’ve been alright so far, but my anti-virus is working overtime.

Yesterday some kids were using a couple of old tires as a springboard on the street outside our house. I’ve included a couple pictures here. Other pics include our trip to Chamwino (the poorest area in Morogoro), the local barbershop where I get shaved once a week, one of the Keepi-Lefti’s (roundabouts, seriously) in town, a pic from a visit to our friend Baisa’s crib, and another shot of the Mosque across the street. Enjoy.

Thought of that day:

If you know a Japanese person with the fairly common surname of “Kumamoto”, don’t let them visit East Africa. In Kiswahili, that name roughly translates to “fiery vagina”.

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Vodaphone wireless modem: 5, Warren: 1

We lost many battles, but we won the war. After 6 visits to the Vodaphone store and one phone salesman who never wants to see us again, we finally achieved internets. He literally just hung his head and sighed when we walked into that store for a second time today holding a modem that STILL didn’t work, after a week of promises. I will take a strong dislike of this company to my grave, and will cheer loudly against any European soccer team with Vodaphone on their jerseys. But we did it.

Also, I got the best shave of my life for about 30 cents.

It was a day of glorious victories.

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Climbing in the Uluguru mountains

Hey all,

So the internet didn’t quite come through as planned for us. We did manage to buy a wireless modem on Friday, but we haven’t been able to get it working yet, so I think we’ll need Makoti to take a look at it on Monday. After that, hopefully, we’ll be online more often.

The last week has gone really well for us. We’ve been interviewing the heads of the different departments that Faraja runs (HIV, MicroCredit, Malaria, street-side school, etc), and once that’s done we’ll be getting into the serious planning for the institutional capacity work plan.

We met a couple German volunteers in town at one of the project sites, and they happen to live right around the corner from us, so that’s working out well. We’ve also been hanging out with Irishad, who lives in the house with us. Here’s a picture of Lonny and him showing off one of the motorcycle rain coats he brought from Dar to sell in Morogoro. It’s designed to cover the driver, passenger, and bike from the rain. I can’t comment on the safety of such an apparatus. Lonny couldn’t read the Chinese on the package, but I’m pretty sure it said “motorcycle rain jacket”. My Chinese is better than I thought.

Yesterday (Saturday) we climbed up into the Uruguru mountains for the day. It was Me, Lonny, Gasto (YCI volunteer), and 3 other guys Lonny knew from his previous time in Morogoro (Steven, Baisa, and Tom).  We got an early start, so we got to see the sun rising over the mountains to the East:

On the trail it was pretty tough going in parts, especially on my knee. But there was some great scenery. It gets pretty rainforesty up in the mountains, as the clouds hang pretty low.

By the time we got to Morningside (maybe 2/3 of the way to the top), I was close to death. Morningside is a 100 year old resort(?) that the Germans built when they were running the show in Tanzania. It was very cool, and covered in vines and flowers (and graffiti). It gives a great view of Morogoro framed between two mountains.

After lunch the rest of the guys made for the top, but I wisely chose to stay at Morningside and wait for them. There’s a local Uluguru man who was acting as the custodian for the week (they rotate shifts, I gather), and I spent the afternoon hanging out with him and some of the other locals who passed by. He ran down to the shop to get food for couple hours, so I had the whole place to myself. I basically spent the afternoon taking pictures, lying in the sun, watching the clouds roll in and out, listening to Bob Marley with the Uluguru people passing through, and just generally chilling harder than I’ve ever chilled before. I don’t regret staying back one iota.

When he got back from the store it turn out he had been buying food for lunch/dinner. The 1500tsh conservation fee that foreigners have to pay probably covered it and then some. Cooking in Moringside was tough since there’s no power and it’s super dark. You can see him using the flashlight feature on his phone (the flash on my camera makes everything look a lot brighter than it was). When all was said and done, we had Ugali, Cabbage, and Stewed Fish.

His friend, mother, and sister came by later on in the afternoon, probably to keep him company. I’m sure he was thrilled to see me there, because apparently there aren’t that many tourists coming by. Imagine safeguarding an isolated building all by yourself for a week without so much as even a radio.

Things got pretty heated up there. A machete fight may have occurred.

Around the time the guys got back from the peak they roasted up some maize. On the way down we saw a mutant duck that looked like it was wearing a Spiderman mask.

All in all a good day.

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Some assorted pictures

("Sister Rosie")

One of the ladies who lives here preparing food. You can see the cooking area in the background.

About to leave for school

Looking a lot like my room at home

what a cock

Angry Rooster

The mosque around the corner from us

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Feb 16, 2011

Long-winded post #1:

So the flight over was about what I expected. It was a long trip, but Ethiopian Airlines is better than you might expect. Service was great, they just kept sending meals our way, and then told us that there were snacks and drinks at the front of the section and we could help ourselves whenever we wanted. This included beer, so I downed many a Carlsberg on my 12 hour flight across the Atlantic. They had little tv`s in the back of all the seats so we got to watch whatever we wanted. I watched a couple nature doc`s, and then put my MP3 player on while I watched James Franco cut off his own arm with a pocket knife on the tv beside me. Pineapple Express 2 is a real downer compared to the first one. For anyone wondering, my route was: Toronto – Washington DC – Addis Ababa – Dar es Salaam.

I spent a couple hours stopped over in Addis Ababa, and kicked off my African adventure the right way by having a beer at the bar with the Ugandan national soccer team who was also stopped over (half of them were asleep on the floor, so I figure they`d been there a while).

On the flight from Addis to Dar I sat next to a Tanzanian girl named Anita who now lives in the States and was back to visit family. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska. Seriously. So having been born and raised in Dar es Salaam, I put her in charge of teaching me Swahili. I got to Dar es Salaam sometime around noon on the 13th.

Customs in Dar went pretty smoothly, all things considered. I applied for my entry visa and work permit, at which point a man in a uniform took my passport and $150 USD and handed it through a window while I stood there worried I`d never see it again. But obviously I got it all back with a two month work permit inside. And my luggage made the trip with me this time. Ethiopian Air: 1, British Airways: 0.

I was met at the airport by Domatila, the sole member of YCI stationed in Dar. She was great, and had booked a room at the Safari Inn for me. Myself, her, Anita, and Donald (the country director) all went out for dinner at a local place. The hotel is pretty well hidden down some back streets and alleys somewhere in Dar. There`s not a chance I would ever find it again on my own. It had a bed, shower (a tap coming out of the wall), a western toilet, and a finicky AC unit in the window, so it was good times. No animal heads on the walls, as the name might have had you believe. Turns out “Safari“ is a just a Swahili word for Journey or Trip. I fought Jet Lag until about 8:30 by watching episodes of Battlestar Galactica (you heard me) on my computer. By that point I had pretty much been awake for 36 hours.

On the morning of the 14th Donald and I went to the main bus station and caught a bus to Morogoro. It was actually a really good ride. It was a full sized coach bus, with rows of 3 cramped seats on the right side, and rows of two cramped seats on the left. Donald and I were on the left. The windows all opened and we had a great breeze the whole way. For anyone wondering, there was not a single piece of livestock on this bus. There was however a bag in the overhead racks that sounded like it was full of small birds, especially when we hit a bump in the road. For the most part though, the roads were great. It took forever to get out of Dar with all the traffic, but it was smooth sailing from there on out.

At some point, somewhere in the world, someone decided it would be a good idea to make a dark green `Murder She Wrote“ baseball cap. I know this because the man trying to sell me peanuts on the bus was wearing it. I doubt he knew it was a show about a meddling elderly woman. At every stop (there were 3 I think) there were people running beside the bus selling eggs, pineapples, wallets, bags, neck ties, etc to people through the windows. As we got closer to Morogoro the landscape started to become more hilly, and then we started to see the Uluguru mountains in the distance, which Morogoro sits at the foot of.

Donald and I were picked up from the bus station by Mahkoti, who runs the show for YCI in Morogoro. He`s my age, and we`ve been getting along great so far. He was super excited to learn that I have a hard drive full of movies. We went to the YCI office (a tiny little room) and met Lonny, the other Canadian I`ll be working with. Despite his questionable taste in hockey teams, we`ve been getting along really well. We also got to introduce ourselves to a member of the Faraja Trust, the organization we`ll be working with over the next month.

From there we went to our homestay in a neighbourhood at the southern end of Morogoro called Misufini. We`re staying with a local (extended) family. The matriarch of the house is Mama Abdul (from what I can tell, the woman of the house takes on the name of her first born son, in this case Abdul). There are quite a few people who live or stay at the house, and I`m not sure I`ll ever figure out how they`re all related. Mama Abdul`s children are all off at school, but there are still kids around. There are two girls named Fatuma who live here, aged 8 and 3 (Fatuma1 and Fatuma2). Her (adopted?) son Irshad has come back from university for holidays for two weeks, and there are at least two household workers who do a lot of the cooking and cleaning. Her deceased husband’s brother also spends quite a lot of time around, and I think he’s in charge of the dog. It’s not a pet, and when I asked him what it was called he just said “mbwa”, which means “dog”. It’s basically a ferocious killing machine that they let out in the yard after everyone has gone to sleep to deter burglars. If you hit your baseball over the fence of the sandlot and into our yard, just let it go man, because it’s gone.

The house itself is pretty nice, with a big living room with 5 big stuffed armchairs, as well as a small table for serving food. There is a small kitchen which is basically used to house plates and cooking implements. All the cooking happens over a fire in a small building beside the house. The food has been really good so far. Lots of stewed fish, rice, beans, maize meal, etc. They boil water for drinking, although we’ve been buying it bottled in town for convenience. Everything is pretty much eaten in bowls with either a spoon or your hands. You’re only supposed to eat with your right hand, so it’s been an adjustment.

The washroom is a squat toilet, which is actually a lot easier to use than it may seem. I don’t mean to brag, but things have been going very well in there. The shower is a room with a tap on the wall and a drain in the floor. There’s no temperature settings, just an on and off knob. The water is cold, but that’s a good thing. Yesterday I (foolishly?) left my Adidas Hair and Body wash bottle in the shower room. In the morning I saw Fatuma1 come out of the shower room wrapped in a towel with a big smile on her face. Half of the bottle was gone, and there were soap suds everywhere. I have no idea what went on in there, but the results can only be described as a shampoocalypse.

Our room is medium sized, but is mostly filled by the gigantic beds we’ve been provided with. Mine must be a queen, and I think Lonny has a double. When we first arrived there was just one bed in the room that I swear must have been 7 feet wide. Even though it was Valtentines Day, YCI decided that we should still have separate beds. Temperature-wise it hasn’t been to bad at night. A little warmer than I’d like, but definitely bearable with the fan on. All in all the temperature is a little cooler than it was when I was in Zambia, and a whole lot cooler than it was in Dar es Salaam. So sleeping has been ok except for the fact that I seem to be allergic to the chemicals my bug net has been sprayed with. I’ve woken up two nights in a row with painful redness around my eyes and forehead, and a faint smell of ammonia in my nose. So last night I just took the net off halfway through and was fine. My five-step plan to avoid getting Malaria at night is as follows:

  1. Take my pills
  2. Put on bug spray before bed
  3. Have the fan blowing on me at full blast
  4. Sleep in a super thin silk sleeping bag that I borrowed from my brother
  5. Pound Gin and Tonics like it’s my job

I really hate bug nets with a passion. I stopped using mine in Zambia after a night because it was so warm. I remember one night the German guy in our room was having night terrors and screaming about `mein moskito netz!. It sounded like he was wrestling a bear, and in the morning he was all tangled up in his net. “Yes,“ he said with that expression of solemn understatement that the Germans do best “I sink I had a small probelem with mein net last night“. Aaaanyhow…

Our house is right across the street from a really beautiful Arabic-style mosque, and with the mountains always in the background it makes for some nice pictures. Morogoro is about 50% Muslim, including our host family. Between the morning call to prayer and the gigantic rooster that gives me the stink eye whenever I leave the house, there won`t be much sleeping in. We start work early anyways though, so that won`t be an issue.

Today was a Muslim holiday, so a lot of the stuff in town was closed. We were supposed to meet with one of the directors of the Faraja Trust today, but he had to rush off to Dar to visit a sick relative. Hopefully he`ll be back tomorrow. Our task over the next month is to assess the administrative capacity of Faraja and design a capacity-building plan for the organization itself moving forward (we`ll be dealing very little with their actual programming). One major area I know we`ll focus on will be I.T., and I`m sure there will be other sectors brought to our attention when we start talking with the staff and beneficiaries.

Our neighbourhood has been great so far. This morning Lonny and I played a game of soccer with some local Misufini kids at the side of the road while we waited to meet Mahkoti. I can confidently say that I`m a better soccer player than any child under the age of 5. The ball was a bundle of old plastic bags tied together, so we`re gonna try to find a real ball for them in town. I got a shave at the local barber shop for about 40 cents yesterday, because it`s just not doable in the house. There isn`t a mirror in either bathroom, there`s only cold water, and the only sink in the house isn`t attached to anything. Unlike my good friend Ryan Metcalfe, I have chosen not to put liquids into a sink that doesn`t lead anywhere.

This weekend Lonny, I, and a couple of the local staff are planning to hike up to the communications tower at the top of the highest mountain. These aren`t exactly the Himalayas, but they`re a pretty fair size. I think the Uluguru tribe still lives on the mountain, so that`ll be cool. And I`m sure the view will be amazing. I hear the hike should pretty much be an all-day excursion. If you don`t hear from me after next week, it probably means my fat whiteness was the death of me. In the coming weeks we`re also planning to visit a nearby Maasai market and possibly do a game drive.

Now that I`m in a neighbouring country, I`m hoping to be able to get in touch with my friends back in Zambia. I`d really love to visit the school there, but the airline logistics of it would add another $1000 or so to my trip that I don`t have. I`m going to look into small local carriers that might not advertise online though, and see if anything is do-able. If anyone wants to give me $1000, I will be forever grateful. I will build small statues in your honour wherever I go on this earth. At the moment, the plan for after project is to spend a few days in Zanzibar, and then fly home.

I guess that`s about it. On top of our bi-weekly stipends, YCI will be providing us with a USB modem so we should be able to go online pretty regularly from here on out. I`ll try to keep this updated, but I can`t imagine my subsequent entries will be this long. This has kinda turned into an essay, and I`m usually a pretty lazy guy. I have a cell phone here, and it`s really easy for me to call overseas, and fairly cheap. If any of you want to call or text me, let me know and I`ll give you the number.

Until next time,

-Warren

 

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