Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Moving Time! New Blogspot right this way please...

I was thinking since I am moving countries - again - I should also move blog hosting sites.

So please follow the link  right to my new blog site where new stuff and new day-to-day experiences will be chronicled for general consumption and hilarity!

Thanks for following.

- K

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Week 25 in Dar Es Salaam: My TZ Life in Numbers

My life here is now more than ever revolving around numbers for better or worse…7, 6, 5 more days left until I leave.

And with this in mind (constantly!) I thought I would write another blog post about the many numerical variations I have encountered in my Tanzanian adventure during my 6 month stay.

My numbers over the past 6 months:

Months with water at apartment: 3 months

Months without water at apartment: 3 months

Bottles of drinking water used: 65x12 liter bottles

Days with electrical outages at the office: 36

Days with electrical outages at the apartment: 9

Break in at the apartment: 1

Rips in my mosquito net repaired with duct tape: 3

Days spent at the Labor Department applying for a work permit: 6

Days spent at immigration applying for Tanzanian residency permit: 5

Time difference between Victoria & Dar Es Salaam: 10 hours

Visits to Zanzibar: 2

Laundry via hand-washing & a giant bucket: 31

Greeting words learned in Swahili: 27

Clothes tailored from patterned fabrics: 9

Units of electricity bought for apartment: 180 units

Malaria Pills consumed: 180

Colorful Masai Flip Flops bought: 3

Ugali [TZ maize staple] eaten: 5

Distance between Victoria & Dar Es Salaam: 15,093km

Sick days: 6

Internet bought & used: 60GB

Books read: 26

 “Fee” paid for getting the water running again: 110’000TZS

Love letters received from strangers: 3

Request for my phone number from strangers: 72

Driven in a Bajaj: 146

Hot showers: 2

Selfies taken with co-workers: 36

Liters of sweat lost: Countless

So that have been a few numbers, some good, some bad but overall the number of times I have had fun and have enjoyed my time here is absolutely immeasurable. 
This time next week I will be on an airplane, so next week’s post will most likely be written en route back home and subsequently be posted from Canada (after a long hot shower and a good sleep in my own bed…yay)!

6 more days left and counting (down).  

Thanks for reading and until next time.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Week 24 in Dar Es Salaam: Photo shoots and International Women's Day at the CDF Office

This week was pretty straightforward in terms of work and routine, so really there is not much say about that. 

That said, March 8th, 2016 was International Women’s Day, and that is something that should definitely be mentioned. I am not only surrounded by incredible women at work every single day here in Tanzania, but have many women in my life that are my close family & friends that are incredible & inspiring role models and leaders to the younger generations of women that are to follow, including myself.

One of many photos to come
International Women’s Day (IWD) is an annual tradition that began in 1908. The day marks a global celebration of women's economic, social, political, and cultural achievements. Each year, new barriers to female success emerge, which makes it difficult to achieve gender equality in all aspects of life. With the new global 2030 road map and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) approved by United Nations Member States, we all have to take a look at how women are affected by each of the 17 proposed goals, as well as how women and girls can—and will—be key to achieving them.

With this in mind, my co-workers had an impromptu photo shoot (one of many) at the office, to celebrate International Women’s Day and let everyone know how awesome they really are. And since everyone dresses to impress here, they of course looked fabulous! And while the ‘selfie’ is alive and well in Tanzania, mere selfies were not enough, and everyone had to re-do their make-up and pose in every position imaginable until the satisfactory photograph would be immortalized on our organizations’ website for everyone to see. I will not tell you how long that took...

Needless to say, if I will not miss the work routine, I will definitely miss the beautifully inspiring & strong willed women I have met here and learn from every day. They scare the living day lights out of any male co-workers we have here, and any visitor that does not show the proper respect gets called out for it promptly.
The one and only unguarded snapshot of Dori

Dorothea Ernest – also known as “Dori” (yes! Like the fish) or “D” (when it’s extra hot and you can’t bring yourself to say her whole name because it is just too d*** hot) – is our MenEngage Project Coordinator. She essentially works in engaging men & boys in getting involved in gender equality, since let’s face it! men & boys really are not involved enough in gender issues (no! gender issues does not mean women’s issues…gender means gender!!!). She is hands-down the best dressed women in the office and comes in wearing high heels every day (which she promptly abandons for comfy flip flops once she’s in the door). She has worked across Eastern Africa with the regional networks of MenEngage and kicks everyone’s ass, but at heart is a motherly sweetheart that is overbearingly worried every time I say I am feeling tired today.

Sophia & Me
Sophia Temba seems to have unlimited energy and always has a huge smile on her face…of course that is, when she isn’t (constantly) talking. She works as the Child Protection Officer and often spends weeks in the field, where she works directly with young girls and women, traditional leaders and government officials to increase children’s protection again child marriage, pregnancy and FGM. Right now she is on a diet – a banana diet – which apparently worked for her when she was 17 to lose a bunch of weight; the description of the diet is in the name – she essentially only eats bananas for 3 weeks. So we are all very supportive, although I am not sure how I should break the whole “yoyo effect” these diets have to her. Either way, she is eagerly trying on other people’s clothes and shoes at the office, when she isn’t busy or when she is. When our office is not a photo studio, it’s Sophia’s personal fashion runway...

All in all I have been extremely lucky to have had such a great group of women to learn from. We have two men and 10 women that work at my organization, so our weekly meetings always do tend to be dominated by the large & loud majority of women. Whether this is Cynthia who can turn you to ice with her stare over her black-rimmed glasses, or Gloria who is our Financial Officer and can add & subtract faster than a calculator, or Lenny who plays the mum of the organization taking care of everyone, and not just because she is pregnant again. Each and every single one of them, has an incredible backstory and has overcome immense challenges, either due to their financial, political, or economic situation but definitely always because of their gender. And that is something that everyone should fight against, since every single one of us has a mother, sister, aunt, cousin or friend that is a women and that we love.

The leaving date is fast approaching, with only 2 more weeks left, but until then I am enjoying every hilariously entertaining & educating experience with my co-workers.

Thanks for reading & until next week!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Week 23 in Dar Es Salaam: Netting 101 AKA the Creative & Frustrating Process of Setting up Your Net Anywhere, Anytime & Anyway!

Although I am nearing the end of my stay here in Dar es Salaam, I still find some things incomprehensible & slightly maddening [besides not having water for the past two weeks...again!].

It is quite unimaginable to sleep under a net every single night until you are in the position of having to do so, and while tucking in my net every evening and making sure I have my book, water, flashlight, etc. all in the net, the light turned off, the fan turned on and the door closed BEFORE I get into bed, has now become routine, there have been many times where my net was perfectly tucked under the bed and I was just about to fall asleep, when I realized (a) the fan was not high enough and (b) my phone or whatnot was not plugged in.
So you get up, un-tuck the net, get out of bed, turn the fan higher to give at least the illusion that there is some movement of air, then get back into bed, re-tuck the net and (finally) can get going with the business of falling asleep. And this also of course excludes the possibility that the net will not crashed down on top of you in the middle of the night, which has happened too many times already. And it scares the s*** out of you! So my bedroom net constructions have become ever more creative and my space under the net smaller and smaller. It started out being attached to the ceiling, but that superglue” was not so “super”, so string was used next, and now I have several crisscrossed constructions of string across my room that somewhat hold up my net to give me enough space to not bump my head on the net when I sleep.

Of course while traveling this net-situation is also always something to consider. First, will there even be a net? Second, how much duct tape do I have to take with me to tape up the holes in this supposedly present net? And how dusty will this net be? Some have been epic constructions of tape, string & a hint of creativity, while others we’re thankfully only for one night and pretty ridiculous….at one point Q-tips stuck in the cracks of walls were involved as points to attach lots and lots of string to keep my net up.

So without further comment, here are some of the more “interesting” constructions I have encountered or concocted over the time spent here, in a country where sleeping under a mosquito net is necessary. 

 My room net: Since I spend most of my time under this net, this is the first one on my list. That said, it is not my best construction; while it started out at being attached to the ceiling and giving me a good amount of space under it, at this point in the game it has fallen down so many times (…while I was sleeping under it) and is hanging considerably lower than it was before. I have it hanging from two different strands of string in X-form attached to random screws in the wall that have been left in from the previous occupant of the room. Needless to say, the space under it is considerably smaller, and my feet touch the net if I don’t sleep diagonally…so now I am one of those people that sleep diagonally, because your feet touching the net is weirdly uncomfortable.


      Mwanza Net: My roommate & mine first construction was in a small (and relatively dirty) motel we stayed at for work, while we traveling to Tarime for a field visit to the projects in northern Tanzania. Needless to say it was full of locals and there we no mosquito nets. Prepared as we were with our handy traveling nets (thanks Lynn….) and our string we attached the four corners on (1) the lamp, (2) the painting above the bed, (3) the edge of the mirror and (4) curtain! While not very stable in the long run, it was extremely spacious and thus all we needed. 
Mwanza Net

Tarime Net

Tarime Net: Once we arrived from Mwanza to Tarime, we had no idea what to expect, but the unexpected turned into a great little hotel (the only one in the town, in fact) that had a fantastic round bead with a big net…and an a/c. What else could you possibly ask for (!?!) It was by far the best net I have ever slept under and the bed, although a weird shape was comfortable and I slept like a baby.

Net Number 4 on Mafia Island: After a gorgeous flight from Dar Es Salaam to Mafia Island, where a single concrete road encompassing the entire island brought us to a charming & little hotel (the only one locally owned & operated, as the other resorts were all owned by Italian corporations….must be something about the name that ‘naturally’ attracts them?!?). It had two great beds with even more spacious nets.
Mafia Island

Safari Tents in Action
Net Number 5 on Mafia Island AKA the Safari Tent experience: While this was a bit tricky to navigate at night with minimal light, this safari tent had everything you needed, all in one. A fan, electricity and two sturdy beds brought the experience of camping and sleeping outside to a whole new luxurious experience. Plus it was so quite on the small island, that I think I have never slept so deep. 

Zanzibar 2.0 net: Doing a spur of the moment weekend trip to Zanzibar was a great little adventure to start off the month of March, our last one here in fact. So when we booked our place on Airbnb again, we found a room with several beds in a beautiful old traditional Zanzibar building. The beds were huge….the nets were not! When you pulled it down one corner to tuck it under, it popped up at the corner of another, and when you wanted to tuck it down on the other end, it slipped off the previous corner…and so on. So you are turning around in bed trying to get everything evenly spread out so you can tuck it in evenly, but really you are just going in circles on your knees because you only realize 5 min. later, that the net is not really meant for beds this size. And then there’s the feet-touching-the-net-again-situation, so you sleep in a small curled up ball. Fun!

Big bed, small net

Needless to say, it has been quite an interesting experience living under a net for the nights spent here.  And being able to spread out in my bed – whether diagonally, straight, or horizontal – without touching anything, will be nice to do again back home in my own bed.

Until next time!



Friday, February 26, 2016

Week 22 in Dar Es Salaam: 30 Days Left

With only one month left, thoughts about home are becoming more frequent, and leaving Tanzania becomes more ‘real’. As usually happens with many of us that live or work temporarily abroad, I have mixed feelings about leaving Tanzania and the beautiful chaos I encounter here every single day.

Nevertheless, I can honestly say that I will look forward to going back because of some things I miss and some things I have struggled with. Of course living abroad always makes you appreciate what you have at home… and the Victoria, the island & the country I call home now, are indeed pretty awesome! I think I might even miss the rain that seems to be more frequent than actual snow in the winter on Vancouver Island […I am sure I will get over this need for rain & cooler weather after a week, or as soon as my feet are freezing & soaking wet, as they usually are when I go for a run at the ocean].

On the other hand, who would not miss the beauty of Tanzania that I have been fortunate enough to discover a glimpse of in these past couple of months? With islands like Zanzibar, open markets with every colored fabric in existence in Dar Es Salaam, and beautiful nature, who wouldn’t miss this country that has 100 different greetings.

I am off to Zanzibar this weekend on a spur in the moment type of trip, which always end up being the best, so this post is early…or late from last weekend. Who knows?! I am not really keeping track of time anymore, all I know that this time next month I will be in the air flying home…and that is good & bad. 

Rooftop sundown-watching
I have 29 more days left here and even less weekends. Beaches need to be visited, more fabrics bartered for and last-minute Swahili slang learned! Post will thus probably be even less frequent, as I am enjoying my last days in this beautiful country.

But hey: Have a look at some of the pictures instead!

Office shenanigans when the a/c is not working
and no one feels like working.

CDF Team

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Week 20 in Dar Es Salaam: How much water have you used today?

Wow! 20 weeks have passed already. And only 6 weeks more to go (!?!) I know people have said this before me & will do so after, but dang that went fast. 6 months felt like such a huge insurmountable time frame; half of a year spent in a foreign country that was so different from anything I had ever previously experienced, sounded like a crazy idea, let a alone, a crazy amount of time. Along the way though, we get used to everything, and so did I!

At this point eating the heavy maize ugali dish with your right hand that you order automatically without a menu (since there aren’t any in TZ restaurants) is normal. I don’t remember the last time I have eaten with a fork! Bumping my head along to the hardcore hip-hop that is blasting in every dala dala bus is my new way of relaxing on my way back home from work and hearing, but only understanding half of the Swahili around me has become so ordinary that every time I hear a different language like English for example, I wonder where it is coming from, and how fast I can run away from the ‘muzungus’ speaking it.

What I haven’t gotten used to though, is the constant issue of water access here. I know, I know what you’re thinking: “Here she goes again, the water!!!” But let me tell you, once you go for an extended period of not having constant access to water (i.e. anything more than 24h) you rethink your whole relationship to water. Whether this means the water you drink, or the water you use for showering, cooking, doing laundry, cleaning, brushing your teeth... we use water for anything & everything.
So last weeks’ water story has to do with the supply of water, or better the supplier. The company that supplies the water, i.e. the Tanzanian Electric Supply Company (TANESCO), is the main supplier of water in Dar Es Salaam, and many of the other urban areas. And since we live in government apartments build by the National Housing Company (NHC) we get water supplied by government water company, so somewhat reliable, or so was my thought. 

Besides the big debacle the second month or so, where we did not have water for 6 straight weeks, we had a somewhat regular flow of water so far. The New Year however brought about a new “fee” of 40’000 TZS that every unit apparently had to pay to the water company to pay off the debt. “What debt, you ask?” My question exactly! So, now it is February (already!) and this back and forth with the company started in January. Apparently previous occupants of all NHC apartments had not paid their water bill, and it was now up to us, i.e the new occupants of the units to pay off the 3 million TZS debt they had acquired. 

So here goes the conversation between the TANESCO representatives, some of my neighbors and me:
TANESCO: “We require you to pay off this debt of 3 million TZS”
NHC occupants: “Why? We did not accumulate that debt! Most of us have only lived in these apartments for a few months or 1 year, and you are talking about a debt from 5 years ago!”
TANESCO: “Yes, we know this, we apologize.” (They say pole sana, i.e. ‘so sorry’ about 5 times, without meaning it really!).
NHC occupants: “Fine, okay. How much is this fee going to cost us?”
TANESCO: “We just want you to pay what you are able to.”
NHC occupants: “What we are able to?! What does that mean exactly?”
TANESCO: No response, lots of shrugging and saying “I will let you know after I talk to my supervisor.”
NHC occupants: “Okay thank you, please let us know.”

2 days later, TANESCO shuts off the water.

So now we pay an extra 40,000 TZS to TANESCO that they keep the water going, and all the units pay off the debt that has not been accumulated by any of us. 

So (a) what we were “able” to pay, was obviously not enough, and (b) it is not a matter of ability: simply, if you do not pay, you don’t get water!

And this seems to be a common theme in Tanzania. Or at least, a theme in relation to water. Water supply and sanitation in Tanzania is characterized by (1) low quality service providers of water access and (2) low quality of water. Slightly more than half the population in Tanzania are estimated to have some form of access to water, although this varies substantially between rural vs. urban areas. Approximately 79% of urban households have the possibility of access to water and 44% of people in rural areas have access to water. I recently read a UNICEF study that showed that only 20% of the Tanzanian population wash their hands with soap before preparing or eating food, and 85% of schools have no functional hand washing facilities. Provision of water supply to the majority of Tanzanians, and increasingly more so for other countries as well, is still a big challenge. And since water, especially drinking water, is so closely related to sanitation, access to clean & safe water is a challenge that every country should put on the top of their national agenda.

So while my 6 weeks of bucket showers, doing laundry & cleaning dishes in big plastic tubs and generally just feeling sweaty & sticky all the time we’re pretty hard & stressful, and my conversation with the bureaucrats of TANESCO completely mind boggling & frustrating, it is always good to remember that in some areas over half the population has to walk for hours to get one container of water, or get water out of a borehole, or drink unclean water. Of course our large stash of water that we have horded like gold, also helps; in the end though it is also important to remember, that water insecurity is not just an issue for a country like Tanzania. Increasingly water scarcity & water stresses have become problems for developed countries as well, but most of us still treat water that comes flowing out of the tap, as a normal thing.

When the water in my apartment was not working, I unconsciously counted the water I was using, every day. Since we stored our water in large bottles, we could literally see how much we we’re using per day; we could count the liters we used for showering, or for laundry, or doing the dishes, constantly stressing about not using too much for this, or for that. It was on my mind all day, every day; living like that, with the constant stress of where to get water today, and whether there is enough to do this or that, is a crazy way to live, and I don’t know how people do it here.
We drink the water directly out of the tap, without thinking about it twice. We use drinkable water to water our flowers in the garden, we use water to clean our floors, we use water to fill up our fish tanks & we use water to brush our teeth or stand under the shower for 30 min.

So think about it…how much water have you used today?

Food for though. Until next week.



Sunday, January 31, 2016

Week 18 in Dar Es Salaam: Chinese New Year & other unusual stuff...

I must confess from the beginning, this will be a short entry. I completely & utterly forgot, and the weekend just flew by so fast that I simply forgot about writing anything down whatsoever. I would like to say that I had some grand adventure or did something crazy this weekend, thus not having any time; simply put, I was busy all week & exhausted all weekend, so really, all I did was sleep & go out for a lot – I mean, a serious amount – of delicious Indian food! Which, let’s be honest, is the ideal weekend: Food & sleep, which is all you really need!

That said, I did end up at another event hosted by the Chinese Embassy’s cultural center with some friends this weekend. I don’t know why & when we started going to all these different cultural centers, but this is something I should definitely do more often back home. It is both fascinating & different from my usual weekend activities of going to the beach or going a bit crazy with fabric-shopping in the chaotic markets of Kariakoo. 
In commemoration of the Chinese New Year this month, the embassy rented the only open green space in the city, put a ginormous stage in it and hundreds of white plastic chairs everywhere, and filled it with even more of Chinese people to celebrate in style, like only the Chinese again: go big, or go home! I have no clue where they all came from, but they must have have crawled out from somewhere, because we, three white people, were the only people there who were not Chinese…like we did not already feel out of place the rest of the time already!!! There was dancing, there was singing, there were big grand & political speeches, and there was rain. Lots of it! So even though it was a thoroughly Chinese affair with high-tech & efficient little helpers everywhere from the embassy, there was a clear Tanzanian tinge to it: with the rain, the lights & the sound on the stages failed regularly (especially during the high-pitched signing ballad) and of course, when the Ambassador held a speech.   

Before I finish though (and go back to work on my next report which is due soon & that I am working on at home as well), have a look at this wonderful blog post from one of my fellow interns that is working with women in the open markets. She specifically is a Resource Mobilization Officers, i.e. someone responsible for looking for funds for the NGO that she is at. Besides being a great friend & incredibly supportive to all the rest of us, she is smart & writes absolutely amazing posts about her crazy work of trying to find, save, scratch together enough money to fund the projects, pay the salaries of her co-workers, and generally just keep the lights going at the NGO. Although I don't usually re-post other people's blogs on my own, this one blew me away, and made by laugh out loud so hard - on the dala dala bus - that people looked at me even weirder than they usually do when they see a white girl on the public transport. Maybe it's because she write so honest & smart, maybe it's because I recognize my own sentiments & sarcastic humor in it as well...or maybe it's just her great titles & funny pictures she uses to get her point across...either way, it is worth a read if you want to understand what we deal with on a daily basis, working for small local NGOs that have to get money from large bureaucratic structures like the United Nations or the national government. Check it out, and you will understand a little more!
Her wonderfully appropriate pictures
"Rainbowbright & Leprechaun / AKA Fundraising from Afar" - By Ashley Eklund