Archive for the 'Tanzania' Category


Where I Live

When Prof. Zero (you should really read her remarkable blog) posted a favorite cities meme, I thought she put too many parameters around the cities we could nominate.  I was particularly put off by the size requirements, as I’ve come to learn in school how varied cities are in size and scope, not least because the boundaries between cities and suburbs, and urban vs. sub-urban life is rarely as clear as we pretend.  And bigger does not necc. equal more urban.

In response to protests, including mine, she offered up what she called a “self-tagging town meme,” to which I finally responded the other night with a stream-of-consciousness thread of my favorite cities, that included a heavy dose of random memories and specific characteristics that matter to me in cities.

One of the things I love about the M.A.S. is that he and I both look at cities critically and value urban life deeply – mainly, we crave the density, walkability, accessibility and diversity that many cities offer (what is with suburbs and the absolute absence of sidewalks, for instance???).  I believe that if we go through life together, we will be able to live in a variety of places, because I trust our ability to knowledgeably evaluate and recognize if places have the characteristics that we seek at a much deeper level than a schools/taxes/property values equation (though all of that goes into the mix).

Though I hope you’ll read the professor’s posts and my comments, in short, I gave a shout out to:

1) Hartford and economically struggling but ethnically vibrant old NE/MW towns everwhere;

2) Boston, ‘cuz that’s my hood;

3) Krakow, ‘cuz its collegiate, historic and amiable personality – not to mention Krupnik honey liquer – nurtured me through the very dark hours of visiting Auschwitz and Birkenau;

4) New Orleans (though this is more of a love-hate relationship);


5) Memphis.

Seattle, Minneapolis, Houston, Bismarck, ND and Vegas (“Adult Disneyland”) got shout outs too.  L.A., London, NYC (public transportation “nirvana”) and Dar are in my big city category.

Cities I could live w/o:

– Chattanooga, though I did find its train-station-sized-airport charming;

– Ft. Worth;

– St. Louis;

– Philly (“somebody else’s Boston”);

– Atlanta.


Of course, there’s no place like home, or my couch, at this moment, for that matter.

What are your favorite cities?  Bonus points for your stories.


Tanzanian Leader Takes AIDS Test

Now this is what I call leading by example…


Oh, I got sh*t to say…just not here

Though it appears I’m suffering from some serious writer’s block this month (does Pfizer have a pill for a blogger’s performance anxiety???), I am chiming in on my usual sites around the net.  I’ve been endlessly haranging Wesley about immigration, and he’s been so responsive and deliberative that wonkish-types from that other Cambridge university are trying to recruit him to their inner circle (stay strong, Weboy!).  Will it be long before his banner reads:

Media, Politics, Fashion, Movies, Music and Immigration. In roughly that order.

Meanwhile, over at Pandagon, I’ve been – rather sloppily - weighing in on specific cases of our immigration fiasco (mainly, that the wife of missing-in-Iraq soldier Alex Jimenez – from Lawrence, MA – is possibly under threat of deportation at the moment).  Another commenter, however, brought up this story of a man beaten to death last night when the car he was riding in hit a little girl (she was not injured).  It’s an ugly world we live in when our country reminds me of Tanzania, and not in a good way. 

In Dar es Salaam, where I lived, theft was common – during my last week there, a young boy stole my cell phone out of my hand through the open window of the car I was riding in while we sat in traffic.  It happened so fast it took a moment before I bellowed, “MY SIMU!” (simu is swahili for phone).  And he was gone.  My E. African friend Sala got out of the car and tried to question all the Tanzanians standing on a nearby porch who witnessed the theft, but it seems no one saw anything.  Given I was leaving and it wasn’t my phone to begin with but an extra of my American friend Kristina, the incident turned out to be more email fodder than anything else.  But K had warned me when I joined her in TZ several months prior, never to yell thief (“Mwezi”) if robbed, as mobs were known to chase culprits down and beat them severely/to death.  Here, it brings new(er), horrible meaning to Don’t Mess with Texas. 

Sigh.  As part of my blog-soul-searching these days, I’m circling the world wide web looking for new blog communities and some inspiration for my next big re-org of the RP.   I’m tired of feeling like I’m writing in relative isolation, though it’s no easy task sifting through 30 million blogs for even a few you’d like to visit, comment on, and link to regularly.  Wah.

Here’s hoping that in the interim, I get another shout-out on Universal Hub for repeating the M.A.S.‘s comment that Boston public access television is like some version of state-run tv, given his theory that 24 hours a day one can find Mayor Tom “Mumbles” Menino in front of the camera (the latter link has some amusing audio).  Watching Menino go so far as to speak at the blessing of the Pine Street Inn/Partners Healthcare’s new outreach van finally prompted the comment.  (What can I tell you, we’re urban planning nerds; we were enthralled). 


Ee-i Ee-i Oh

Fresh off a wedding weekend in the Hamptons, I’m both inspired by (and all set for now, thanks, on) the quaint and rural-ish charm of eastern Long Island, and surly about being back in my own urban world chock full of assignments and looming responsibilities.  With 16 web pages still opened on my PC as I sort through the news and blog posts from the weekend, my need for commentary eludes me.  Instead, I long to be sitting again with D- on the back porch of her brother’s Bridgehampton rental while the M.A.S. swims and sunburns on a glorious Monday afternoon, or to be submitting to Jake’s teasing over brunch in E. Hampton on Sunday about my “logical” falling for the M.A.S. (this was Jake’s summation of my story of how I “decided” to date the M.A.S. after carefully considering the evidence that I was a) choosing not to date anyone else even though he and I were just “friends,” and that b) though we were only “friends” I was spending all my time with him).   My gorgeous pink and red rose bridesmaid bouquet is drying in front on me on the kitchen table; I can still smell the flowers’ fading scent.  I’ve got a plethora of new freckles and some modest color of my own after a couple hours at the beach with a Vogue and my man on Sunday afternoon.

But I’m compelled to post, to not lose the momentum of last week and for you, dear readers, because I know visiting a blog that hasn’t been updated in awhile is as frustrating as repeatedly checking an Evite to see if those curmudgeonly “Not Yet Replied” offenders have finally decided to RSVP.  Henceforth is my Hamptons-inspired, modified “link farm,” acknowledging that I’m fulfilling neither the letter nor the spirit of the definition of “link farming,” but am instead just posting a bunch of stuff I enjoyed reading recently in the hopes that you’ll check them out too.  

Obviously, let’s start with his post about gentrification in which Wesley leads in by calling me a genius (ignore those other links that got my hackles up)…

Continue reading ‘Ee-i Ee-i Oh’



Two nights ago I had dinner w/a former colleague – a terrific single woman who I never really got to know before as she was always several degrees above me in our rigid office hierarchy.  Over dinner, I promised her I wouldn’t evacuate the city w/o her should it come to that; she feared having to get out of the city on her own, sitting in traffic for hours w/no one to talk to and scheme with.  Interestingly, despite often feeling so alone here or in the world in general, I never worried about having to get out of NOLA on my own.  I always assumed I’d evacuate with my roommate in the direction of his relatives in Texas (assuming a flight north wasn’t an option).  In exchange for promising Robin I’d take her with us, she agreed to bail me out of Orleans Parish Prison should my unpaid moving violation from February ever catch up with me.

It’s weird feeling reliant on or expectant of my roommate in this way.  We have an awkward intimacy – not quite friends but more than colleagues – stemming from a past friendship turned affair that ended predictably explosively and painfully.  While I take a perverse pleasure in being the antagonistic roommate that eats his food and blocks his car in the driveway, i also find myself eating ice cream with him at midnight, and playing co-host to a dinner party we’ve disjointedly thrown together.  Because when you are on your own in foreign environments – be it Dar es Salaam or, sadly, post-Katrina NOLA ’06 – companionship takes on a different form.

This guy Ronald once summed it up for K in Dar.  He was this shady mechanic who drove her absolutely batty by charging her too much for shoddy work that took too long, while at the same time making sure she had spare cars and doing other favors for her to make her life easier in Dar.   Once, as she thanked him, he said simply, “you don’t get by on your own here.”  And it was true.  People stayed with you when you got sick, picked you up when your car broke down, gave you a place to stay when you needed one, lent you their clothes, invited you on trips at a moment’s notice, and generally made sure you were never alone unless you deliberately went out of your way to be.  When I came home from dinner with Robin I said to my roommate, “do you have an evacuation plan?” He replied he’d head to TX to his family, and added, after a moment, “you’d be welcome to join me.”  “Of course!”  I thought to myself.  Doesn’t he know how the ex-pat system works??




I am sitting in one of my favorite sundresses, a $5 purchase in Dar that fit me and the steamy weather perfectly.  Two years later in New Orleans, the dress is equally suitable.  I have spent the morning in my pj’s going thru my TZ photos, to get them ready for a much belated album.  Probably not a coincidence to finally go thru this process as I get reaquainted with NOLA and its people and all of the thoughts it stirs up each time. 

Last night some MIT and Harvard-KSG folks sat around in my living room drinking Abita and eating pork ribs and red fish.  Good times.  Talking to one of them for awhile, we compared notes on his stint in Uganda and mine in Dar (Uganda, with Kenya and TZ, is one of the main countries comprising E. Africa).  His work in Uganda was disaster-related, so we shared that in common as well.  We talked about how much our experiences here reminds us of our experience overseas.  One of his more astute comments was how while the contents of the trash heaps differed in E. Africa from here, there were nonetheless trash heaps in both places unlike we’ve seen elsewhere.  I laughed and described to him how Kristina and I used to say, “turn left at the trash heap” to guide visitors to our apartment in the Upanga section of Dar.   

One friday afternoon in Dar Kristina and I gave our co-worker Limbe a ride to a “bar,” where he joined other men for “happy hour.”  It was essentially a wall-less thatched hut on the side of the road with a bartender and some stools to which men pulled up and drank beer.  Yesterday afternoon – Friday around 5pm – I rode my bike through Central City and passed a group of black men seated around a plastic table with cups and bottles of beer in front of them.  Though the house structure behind them was sturdier than Dar’s roadside bar, it nonetheless served as some sort of commercial establishment where these men probably gathered regularly.  There are many many informal small businesses here that operate out of people’s homes – living rooms converted to restaurants such that you almost don’t notice it’s also a residence until you pass through a non-commercial kitchen to use the bathroom in a back hall stacked with buckets, brooms, shoes, etc.  Like Dar, and low-income, often minority communities in the U.S., informal entrepreneurship abounds as people disconnected from or lagging in the mainstream economy figure out ways to support themselves and their families.  Touching this is one of my favorite aspects of my work.

There are other means of connecting and bridging the many worlds I’ve moved through down here.  Ironically, it was a 2 hour conversation with a white, male community leader last night that brought me back around to my a) Lower Manhattan mostly immigrant SB owner stint and b) low-income, minority business development work around the Southeastern U.S.  Last night I heard from the co-chair of the Broadmoor Improvement Association about the community’s plan to rebuild.  Though I have worked with other CDCs here, I rarely experience the vitality and intimacy of working closely with community representatives who work to change what they live through on a daily basis – be it a sudden disaster like 9/11 or Katrina, or the chronic trauma of disinvested inner-city neighborhoods – like I used to in these other communities and as I did last night.  Either because they are recent transplants to NOLA, disconnected executives from national intermediaries, or New Orleanians who lack leadership and energy, most of the folks I’ve interacted with in other neighborhoods have lacked this all-consuming, personal fighting spirit that is so inspiring. 

On Friday, the other member of the M.A.S arrives for his third visit to one of our favorite stops on our emerging world tour (NYC and Boston being the 2 other destinations so far).  With this white man on Monday night I sat in a parked car in Mattapan (one of Boston’s black and reputedly roughest neighborhoods, along with Roxbury and parts of Dorchester), while we consulted a map to figure out how to get to a new restaurant in Dorchester.  Through my open window I looked around while he figured out where we were, and since I’ve been thinking about his practiced ease at moving through not only black communities but new and unfamiliar environments.  Like me, he appears to put down roots in each city that becomes his host for however long a period of time.  This, along with his ability to consume large quantities of alcohol, his appreciation for my Masshole roots, and his need to analyze everything, is one of the many shared aspects that led to our establishment of the Mutual Admiration Society over lunch at NOLA’s Marigny Brasserie back in January. (The M.A.S. currently is headquartered in Boston, MA.)

Now friends from this winter and spring in NOLA are leaving as the summer sets in, and a new group is arriving.  Just as in Dar, with the constant welcome and good bye parties, there is a never ending stream of people to get to know and drink with here.  And with each visit, New Orleans becomes a new node in a network of friends – old and new – and memories that stretches from Boston/NY/DC to the Gulf Coast and abroad. 


Global Cocktail Network

i’m in a bar in Krakow tonight (the “new york”-ish schmancy place; I always find that one), and this threesome of brits behind me start talking about this african bailey’s irish cream equivalent called amarula, which i drank in tanzania. so here i am in poland, feeling like manhattan, listening to brits talk about african liquor with which i’m familiar.


Pictorial Narrative of Dar

Ok, so I’ll be home in 6 days.  But I wanted to get the last round of photos up before that, to keep the fans at bay before I embark on my Northeast Reunion tour.  J 


These are from the last month, and capture: The Rugby Ball, my trip to Songo Songo Island, and my trip w/K to Kisolanza Farm House in Iringa, TZ.  There are some miscellaneous of my apt and roommates Natalie and Susanne as well. More difficult to capture on film was the amoeba I’ve been incubating for the last 3-4 weeks.  I finally broke down and went to the doc this past weekend – given the Jamaica experience, you may understand my reluctance to seek overseas medical care – and he prescribed an antiprotozoal and a dewormer.  “Just like Taylor,� my mom said, comparing me to her dog’s occasional antibiotics.  I’m feeling much better if not 100%, but at least I’m back in mostly full form for my last week here.



Here’s a quick narrative to accompany the pics…


The Rugby Ball:  Check out the dress and the cute peeps.  Janie is a blast who calls me Sex and the City so of course I adore her! J  She wore this great corset that proved too complex to remove after 6 hours of drinking.  Comfy pjs.  The guys on either side of Janie are Aussies living in Arusha who play on the Arusha Rugby Team (For those of you who remember, Arusha is the jumping off point for the ill-fated Meru trek.).  They won the league and the cutie kissing Janie is Chris, Man of the Match and lucky recipient of an American kissing bandit’s affections.  Captain Pants is Paul, our friend from the boat ride at the beginning of my visit here.  Captain Pants after watching him swim in his tighty-whities.  He’s a delight.


Songo Songo: This is an island off the coast of Dar that has natural gas.  Songas, a Canadian private sector development initiative, is bringing this gas to the mainland to make TZ the go to place in East Africa for electricity.  It has World Bank funding, and thus is required to spend a certain percentage of profits on social development goals.  My friend Alex manages the Songas project, and I may do some consulting on a microlending program for them.  We spent the day on Songas checking out their progress and wandering around the villages that are the recipients of the disruption from the Songas initiative and therefore also the social development activity. 


Kisolanza Farm Lodge: K and I spent 3 wonderful days in Iringa region, TZ, in the Southern Central part of the country.  An old English farmhouse on which the proprietor was raised; inexpensive and accessible.  We were the only guests given it’s the off-season.  The service and attention to detail was exquisite.  Fresh meals 3x/day made of the farm’s fruits, veggies, herbs and livestock; hiking for hours around the property and villages; scrabble games with Mark, the pseudo-Asst. Mgr; a trip into town to the local market; fresh flowers and a fire each evening in the rooms; hot showers; tea/coffee with fresh-baked muffins or brownies as you wish; a ride back into Dar rather than 8hours on the bus; it was heavenly.  This is the Africa people fall in love with.  This country is gorgeous.


Finally got some pics from our roof and my other roommates, Germans Natalie and Susanne.  Natalie is 24 and the most easygoing, carefree person I’ve ever met.  She’s a wonderful roommate as nothing bothers her, she loves to share, and she’s always up for doing stuff.  She makes me feel old and jaded.  J  Susanne is a friend of Natalie’s who has been living w/us off and on since we moved into this apt.  She is a delight and also exceptionally good-natured.  “Oops!� is a treasured response when you tell her anything from “I lost my keys� to “I lost your car by driving it off a bridge while trashed�.  (This I have not done.)


It’s Thursday afternoon here and I’m running some errands before I ease into the weekend.  Two more beach trips, dinners and parties Fri-Sun to say goodbye, facial and pedicure Saturday, and packing Monday.  Departure Tuesday.  Back thru Jo’burg.  Arrive JFK 7am on Wednesday! 


Soft Rock while You Work

Bit of a disconnect, and also some things never change…


Sitting in an office in Africa listening to We Are the World…was that exclusively Ethiopia or were we feeling generally benevolent to the entire continent with this one?  J  Part of the always changing, always entertaining list of American favorites that form the soundtrack of the experience here. I think I’ve mentioned this already, but it’s back in full force in my life… Dated country favorites are highly popular (Kenny Rogers, anyone?), anything we’d consider Soft Rock is wildly embraced (Celine, old may-I-add-TERRIBLE Phil Collins, etc.), and random R&B/hip-hop are intermixed w/the Swahili hip-hop that is much more common.  I share an office with 4 Africans my age, and all the music mentioned here, plus more local lively stuff, plays constantly.  I am happy for the music, both known and unknown.  And fortunately, everyone’s a fan of replaying their favorites constantly, so in exchange for 5 rounds of Dit Moi by the Afrogoro Band, we get 2x Thriller and We Are the World.  Sing it Springsteen!


It’s great sharing an office with people my own age.  Familiar and unfamiliar perspectives to share; email addresses to exchange.  I have been told in the last two days that I am Tanzanian (Tan-ZANE-EE-an), as my Swahili rapidly improves and I learn how to wear kangas.  Just in time for my return home!  Excited and sad about this, inevitably.


And how some things never change…worst thing that could have happened for my productivity here…I have email access from my desk.  Never mind that it is a dial-up and for a staff of appr.30 we have two dial-up lines.  I’ve essentially appropriated one as mine.  At least I’m not taking up a gigabyte of space on their server.  Still…imagine if the US was not so many hours behind!  I’d probably send this financially self-sufficient microfinance organization back to the donor table with my local phone bills.


Swahili lesson tonight, and gift from the US for my mwalimu (teacher).  Two bottles of Sam Adams.  Kiobya, the mwalimu, teaches the Peace Corps volunteers every year, and I am convinced he is convinced all Americans are alcoholics (walevi – case in point that I’ve learned this word in a country with ONE mental health facility).  Anyway, in our discussion of Kilimanjaro and Serengeti lagers versus Budweiser, I described some of our local brews.  K picked up the Sam in NYC for him.  Yingling and Brooklyn Lager next time.  J


Given that I will be home in almost exactly four weeks from sasa hivi (right now), maybe these emails will be less frequent.  I do have some more pictures to post now that K’s laptop is back.  Stay tuned. 


St. Patrick’s Day in Dar

Ok, so there’s really no such thing.  But I did explain the concept to the staff here, and even made one of them a card.  The discussion led to their awareness that I am Catholic, and one, Augustine, spent most of lunchtime trying to convince Kristina and I that we needed to go to church in order to get to heaven.  Had a pretty interesting conversation actually, and I told him  that if I made it to heaven I would be sure to let Mungu (God) know that I did it w/Augustine’s help.  He replied that that would help him get credits there.  True Catholic thinking.  🙂
There are actually many Catholics here, which is so interesting that in theory I share this in common with the Tanzanians I am meeting.  The Country is ~45% Christian/45% Muslim. 
Switching gears:
Often I feel like there are ants crawling on me.  And there often are.  Have I shared this already?  Lately I’ve been waking up to discover I am covered in little red bites.  My legs were devastated after a night out on Saturday.  It’s a recent phenomenon, the level of bites, and they are not from mosquitos.  It’s not so pretty.
We had an amazing day at the beach on Sunday for Kristina’s 29th.  About 10 of us assembled, primarily American women, and drank beer and wine and leafed through Vogues and Peoples etc. while our rafikis (friends) Bjorn and Pedro grilled fish for us.  Bjorn had a video camera and he got some excellent material, incl. Kristina and I singing Britney Spear’s Lucky in his car on the way.  I am crossing my fingers he makes us copies as he’s promised. 
I also am in the process of getting some pictures up on the ‘net, finally!  I will let you know when they’re available.  I am a pretty terrible photographer, even w/the digital camera, so hopefully you’ll be able to deal w/the fuzziness of some.
Swahili lessons are progressing smoothly.  I am really enjoying picking up the language, albeit slowly (pole pole).  It’s an interesting language in its maximization of a few words and letters to express multiple similar concepts.  For example, ndege = bird AND plane AND someone attempting to fly.  Nzuri is practically the only adjective they have, meaning good.  You use it for just about everything.  And Ku added to the beginning of a verb changes it to the infinitive tense and is also used to mean “to you”.  (I went to visit you = Nilikukwenda kutembelea.)  To communicate you largely attach prefixes to verbs so a word with initially 6 letters (kwenda) becomes 12 letters.  And they are often k,m,w,i,n.  It’s relatively easy to grasp once you get the rules down pat.
Kristina and I are going to a Muslim wedding ceremony tonight for the sister – Saphia – of a woman we recently met here.  (Introduced via a friend of a friend)  We went to her bridal shower on sat night and were the only 2 white women among ~70 Tanzanians.  People were decked out and K and I were wearing simple linen numbers and looking very plain.  We joined the dancing – we basically walk/mildly groove in a circle around 1+ women in the middle gyrating their butts.  I was pulled into the middle at one point and managed to keep up, but I could feel the flush in my face from mortification.  The women seemed to enjoy this mzungu’s best efforts.  So the wedding is the religious ceremony that officially makes this couple married according to Islamic guidelines.  The fiance lives in Boston, so his brother is standing in for him.  Saphia flies to the US next week for another ceremony with her fiance.  I have borrowed the requisite garb (salwar kameez) for tonight and am relieved to finally blend.  😉
So just wanted to share the updates.  Not too much else to tell.  It’s raining here more often.  It smells great and cools the city down so it’s refreshing.