May, 2013 back to May, 2010: (nothing)
When people talk about a developing country, they usually lump every part of that country together. But that's misleading.
I found a neat way to display indicators on a map of Tanzania. I tested it out with Tanzania census data and the result was so neat I figured I should publish it.
If you are not using Internet Explorer (8 or lower), check out a map showing some of Tanzania's development indicators.
As you can see, the level of development varies enormously depending on where in the country you are.
In Dar es Salaam, "mbongo" is the way to be.
An "mbongo" is a cool person, and using the slang term is the first step to becoming one.
The next step is to speak the lingo, often stealing from English. For instance, instead of saying you're "mzuri", you might say you're "fit". This kind of high-school level English sets you apart from your rural countrymen and marks you as a legitimate resident of Dar es Salaam.
Few facets of life in Dar es Salaam are as reliable as the queue.
It begins near sunrise. The dala-dala pulls over, the conductors yells, "I'm going to Posta, climb in, hurry!" and each collected passenger obliges, squeezing into the territory inside until the few gaps between standing people carry drops of sweat to their feet. Hearing a hurried rat-a-tat on the door frame, the driver yanks the gearshaft into place, swings his steering wheel (sustained by electrical tape) clockwise, lurches back into the fray and promptly stops.
Montreal and Dar es Salaam share a love of sport.
Sunday I took a bus around 2 p.m., before the soccer game between Simba and Yanga. The traffic was intense, to say the least.
On another bus around 6 p.m., the radio broadcast the end of the match. All of a sudden, "GOAL!" and Simba took the lead. The bus erupted in cheers and claps.
People high-fived me as I walked down the street.
I am in Tanzania.
I wasn't excited. I wasn't worried. I wasn't afraid. I was only wondering: when does preparation end and the feeling of "Tanzania" begin?
The plan, in broad strokes, is this:
- Work for three weeks for Femina HIP Ltd., the same Tanzanian HIV/gender/sexuality awareness media house I worked with in 2007-2008.
- Work through May and June for Rwanda News Agency, in Kigali.
- Spend July in Tanzania on a secret project.
- In August until the 18th, laze around Tanzania, do some journalism in Tanzania or Rwanda, and/or travel to nearby countries.
Apr, 2010 back to Sep, 2009: (nothing)
Last night I ran my final run in Central Park. Toward the end, I was struck by a sudden urge to sprint to the northern tip of the reservoir and revel in the midtown skyline.
I have stared at the skyline many times before, of course, but final occasions afford some unexpected ruminations. I peered at the skyline, the reflection of the skyline, and my memories of my last big departure: Dar es Salaam.
I had declared the city of Dar es Salaam—the city itself—somewhat unpleasant: flat, hot, dirty, stressful, and sometimes dangerous. My departure last year was painful exclusively because of the people I was leaving: it had nothing to do with the city itself.
Aug, 2009 back to Dec, 2008: (nothing)
A five-foot-tall transvestite, dressed in drag, walks up to me at the Posta Mpya public transit hub late at night in Dar es Salaam, happily yammering words I cannot understand. I smile and shrug, and eventually he moves on to his next comic victim, never missing a beat in his monologue.
Ni mchizi yangu, a passer-by jokes with me: a Swahili pun, in this context straddling the line between, this is my buddy and, this is a crazy person. Out of the spotlight, I am free to look around: I notice that a crowd is laughing at my accoster.
This is yet another little moment from my life in Tanzania which recently rushed back to me when I least expected it. My reminiscing usually begins with smells, sights, or phrases; but this particular memory of Tanzania came from a crazy person in New York:
Nov, 2008 back to Oct, 2008: (nothing)
My website, for whatever ludicrous reason, comes up as the #1 Google Search result for Kisambaa.
Since I am now considered the authoritative source on Kisambaa, I should explain a bit about it: it is the native language of the Sambaa people in Tanzania, who live east of Arusha and just across the border from Kenya. How are you? in the afternoon is onga mshi, and the correct response is tiwedi. I do not know the formalities for morning, nighttime, thanks, or farewells. In fact, I know practically nothing about Kisambaa.
I found a website called Ethnologue Report which says 664,000 Sambaa people exist. I would take that website's information with a grain of salt, however: its entry on Swahili suggests that Kiswahili only has 540,000 mother-tongue speakers, while in reality Zanzibar alone accounts for 1,000,000 Swahili people and I expect a significant subset of the younger population of Dar es Salaam (population 3,000,000) also speaks Kiswahili better than any other language.
Factoid: most native Kisambaa speakers know Kiswahili as a second language.
Sep, 2008 back to Mar, 2008: (nothing)
Beaches being beaches and white people being rich, some Maasai warriors earn a living making crafts and selling them to tourists. I have a Maasai friend who used to do this.
Saturday afternoon, Alex, Caitlin and I found ourselves relaxing on a beach at Cholo's, an incredibly chill beach-side bar. Cholo's, as Caitlin's Blog explains, is run by what we refer to as impostafarians (Rastafarians minus their religious beliefs). It may be the most relaxed place in all of Africa.
On this particular afternoon, we were disturbed from our relaxing by a raised voice. looking up, I saw a Maasai warrior attempting to sell his crafts to the tourists fifteen feet away. The voice we heard was that of one of the Rasta owners of Cholo's.
It was clear the Rasta was drunk: he began to shout, toka! over and over again. (Toka! is an extremely rude and emphatic, get out!) He had somehow acquired a Maasai stick (a half-stick, half-club just over a foot long). He used the stick to try and rally nearby dogs to his cause: the peaceful dogs were comically unhelpful rounding up the Maasai. We had to turn away and laugh.
Challenge: I never wrote all I could and this is my last Challenge-inspired entry. Include five sentences I dreamed up which I had anticipated publishing (because I thought they sounded powerful and exciting) but which I never turned into blog entries.
I can buy a camera lens with as wide an angle as physically possible, but it will still be too narrow to capture reality.
I could argue that a wider camera lens would actually project less information. A mountain framed by a banana tree; a misplaced Habs jersey; a lopsided dala-dala; a motorcycle hanging from a tree: pictures merely project ideas, not reality. More information would obscure the ideas.
Similarly, my blog can only project narrow ideas: it cannot reflect reality. These Challenges I have been using on my blog have been helpful in reminding me of that.