Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Let's Try This Again

There's been no posts for a number of reasons. In Kampala, blogger wouldn't upload any posts & I wrote and posted three that never showed up. So, you all lost a weeks worth of info from Kampala - which isn't a huge deal because we were just at the conference and not much happened.

Then, I didn't have access to a computer or internet connection in Mwanza. The Mwanza club kept us super busy and there wasn't enough time to break off, walk downtown and sneak into an internet cafe.

Now, here we are in Arusha. Bill and I are staying with an American ex-pat named John who has a computer, internet connection and the good will to let us jump on whenever we need. Thank you John.

So, what to write.

We stayed at the Speke Resort in Kampala Uganda for a week. It was nice if you like staying in high security compounds surrounded by guys with automatic assault rifles. We were there for the Rotary District 9200 Conference. We met people from Eithiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Tazania as well as the other Canadian GSE team (from St. Catherines) and the American team (from San Diego).

The conference was billed as an environmental conference so naturally I was pretty excited about the discussions and seminars they'd be offering. Unfortunately there was very little on-theme content. As a result, we spent a lot of time doing very little. Fortunately we got time to rent a boat and head out onto Lake Victoria. One of the more ironic and mind-boggling things we found out, was that the Speke Hotel - home of the Rotary District 9200 conference "Our Environment Ourselves" - is built on a wetland. A practice specifically prohibited by Ugandan Federal Law. Except: The owner of the Lodge is good friends with the President of Uganda.

We did get a chance to spend a day in downtown Kampala and that was mind-blowing. Kampala is busier than Dar, more aggresive than Dar and dirtier than Dar. However, we found a fantastic traditional Ugandan restaraunt above the main intersection below the state house. There are Marabou Storks flying around all over the place and they're ugly buggers. People in Uganda hate them because during the Idi Amin years, the storks used to pick the bodies of the dead.

Out of Uganda and off to Mwanza on the 21st of May. Mwanza was really cool. Bill and I got a ton of freedom when we weren't with the Rotary club. Our hosts were out of town and left us three bedroom, two story walk up flat in downtown Mwanza. We basically had the entire place to ourselves and the freedom to come and go as we please. Naturally we left whenever we could and spent some time walking the streets of Mwanza.

The girls unfortunately had much tighter controls placed on their time as their host was paranoid about security, lived behind a locked gate and wouldn't let them leave on their own. As we've run into irony all the way along, it seems that Mwanza shouldn't be any different. Before we left Alberta many of us watched Darwin'd Nightmare a documentary film about the Nile Perch fishing industry on Lake Victoria based out of Mwanza. The owners of the Nile Perch Fish Company were portrayed very badly and the industry was essentially accused of starving the local population. The reason being that the introduced Nile Perch are outcompeting the local Tilapia and other native species to the point where local lake dwellers have nothing to eat. The owners of the company came off looking really bad. Imagine our surprise when we meet the girls' host and lo and behold, he's the guy from the documentary. It gave us lots to talk about and surprisingly he was very forthcoming and willing to talk about the industry, the film and it's effects. He went so far as to give us a tour of the fish plant and answer darn near anything we asked him.

The rest of the Mwanza stay for me was great. I spent time hiking and climbing in the hills above the city. In order to get up onto the rocks you have to climb up through a massive squatters' settlement. It's incredibly well organized with mud & stick housed set into the rock faces. The people were super friendly & once they realized that we weren't from the WHO and that we weren't looking to relocate them, they were perfectly happy to let us past and up onto the rocks.

From Mwanza we flew to Arusha, where we are now. Arusha sits at the base of Mount Meru. In terms of climate it's completely unlike anywhere else we've been. It's cool, damp, get's lots of rainfall and everything is green. There's even moss growing in the trees just like on the west coast.

We spent three days on safari (our mid-point vacation to ourselves). We hired a Land Cruiser and a driver and spent three days in Tarangirie, Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro Crater National Parks. Pretty impressive with the laundry list of animals you'd expect. In three days we saw: elephants, giraffes, lions, cheetahs, warthogs, wildebeest, hartebeest, servals, blue monkeys, baboons, spotted hyenas, a black rhino, hippos, countless birds, nile monitor lizards, a chameleon, gazelles, antelopes and on and on...

Lots of pluses to being on safari and a few negatives. Lots of issues around disappearing wildlife corridors, genetic viability, habitat distruction, etc... To many to go into detail here.

I had a fantastic meeting with a guy named Clive Jones who was with the African Wildlife Foundation & now works on renewable energy projects including PV work. That was one of the best two hour periods I've had since I arrived.

Two more days in Arusha then off to Moshi, Tanga, Zanzibar, Morogoro & then back to Dar es Salaam.

Later all.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Missed A Few

Missed a couple of day there. we've had two very long days with two very long nights.

Wednesday we spent the morning at a governemtn run school for kids with no other means of support. Rotary has just purchased two uniforms each for all 2100 of them. Today we're giving them 4200 pencils (two per child) and a wall-mounted sharpener.

In the afternoon we were at the CCBRT - a very cool hospital that not only provides surgery and artificical limbs but does comtinuing community outreach to ensure that patients are getting the appropriate follow-up care and physio-therapy.

Yesterday was hard and great at the same time. The morning saw us at an orphanage for children who had lost their parents to AIDS. Mom - this is where your Gogo efforts are making a difference. Very eye-opening & sad.

The afternoon was better for me as I got to skip the trip to the youth remand centre and had a meeting with the Director of the National Tourism School. I got look in on a class that was learning about guided touring. When we get back here at the beginning of June, I've been invited to give a seminar to the class on North American-style interpretation & guided touring. Our Rotary hosts may need to shuffle the schedule a bit but they'll probably make it happen.

Another long day ahead of us.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007


So this evening I find myself drinking Belgian beer, speaking French with a Masai at an Indian restaurant in Dar es Salaam. How Cool Is That!?

Long day and I'm tired. Went to the University of Dar today and then met the Canadian High Comissioner. We gave our first presentation today at the Rotary Club of Dar es Salaam - north. Pretty good effort on our part. Power point worked & people seemed happy.

So far in three days I've shot 125 pictures and kept about 115 of them.

Oh and for all the bird lovers reading this. I woke up this morning all ready to hear and see cool different birds. I opened my curtains and what did I see. Two English House Sparrows and a crow!

Short post for now. More maybe tomorrow. I'm not sure how much I'm looking forward to Friday as we're going to a pediatric-terminal cancer ward.

Gotta sleep now.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Now Appearing In Dar es Salaam

ME! Having a nap. Actually showering then having a nap. It's 4:30 Monday afternoon here, make that 7:30 am in Alberta.

We're here and here's what I've learned so far:
1. Serengeti Beer is fantastic
2. Serengeti Beer is really quite good.
3. I smell kinda funky.
4. People here drive like Formula one drivers on meth.
5. People driving like Formula one drivers on meth, on the "other" side of the road, when you yourself have had a couple and are super tired... well that's merely terrifying.
6. Being met at Customs and Immigration and being whisked through around the masses - very cool.
7. Electricity is pre-paid. Kinda weird, you pre-buy your electricity, enter a code into a monitoring box and get a prescribed amount of power.

O.K. that's it. The heat and humidity and general exhaustion have done me in. Gotta run.

More another day.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Very Tired

Ok, what day is it, what time is it and where the hell am I?

Monday, 6:30 am, Doha Qatar in that 0rder. It's been a whirlwind so far & I'm running on minimal sleep so don't expect much here.

London is a very cool city. Bill, Dana, Carla and walked all over downtown, saw all the cool places and put on about 10 miles. Had a proper pint in a proper back-alley bar and went to all the places you would imagine you'd need to see in London.

It's absolute heaven for interpretive signage junkies. If you like reading signs, London is the city for you. They even put interpretive signage up on the escalators that are under repair in the Underground.

Doha is HOT! 31 degrees C at 6:30 in the morning. You can tell this is a county with some serious money as the airport internet access has two-dozen terminals, all high-speed and all free.

Jumping on the plane for Dar es Salaam in under two hours. Post more later.

Friday, May 4, 2007

One More Night

You'd think that in the last week before leaving, I might post more than twice. You might think that if you were insane.

Between being insanely busy at work - and having more than a little guilt at leaving the Nature Centre so short-staffed, unavoidable as it was - and shuttling the kids to and from their various commitments, and waging a four-member war on whatever virus decided to land on the family, posting twice seems like a lot.

Anyways, it's 11:45 Friday night. Bags are packed. Work stuff is put to bed. Kids are sleeping. New camera has been tested, checked & suitably played with. Passport is in money belt and my suitcase is surprisingly not full. If it wasn't for this thing, I'd be a little more full, however Eagle Creek has made it possible to fold and pack: one pair of dress pants, three-sleeve button front shirts, one pair of MEC rad pants, one pair of convertible pants, two wicking T-shirts, and two pairs of shorts into something smaller than a medium three ring binder.

I think tomorrow will be spent making breakfast. playing tea-party with Ainsley, riding bikes with Kaden (rain permitting) and reassuring Shannon that really, I am allowed to go to Africa and leave her with the kids for 44 days. Does she win the "Best Wife Ever" award? Of course she does. Although I'll apparently be funding a number of "Spa Days" when I get home.

G'night all. Next post will be from: a. London, b. Doha c. Dar es Salaam or d. Wherever the plane takes us.