Monday, June 18, 2007

Late Night In Doha

Is not as exotic as it may sound when you're trapped in the transit area of the Doha International Airport. Duty free & fast food is the name of the game here. Oh and a free high-speed internet connection if you have the patience to stand in a queue for a 1/2 hour to get on-line. Anyways, Doha is perhaps even hotter than the last time we were here. And it's 11:30 at night so things can only get better. We fly out at 2:30 am for London and then race between Gatwick and Heathrow so we can wait there for three hours. And then... nine hours on Air Crapnada for the final leg home. On the way out we had the lovely experience of going from Air Canada (ugh) to Qatar Airways. It was like trading in your rusty old Ford pickup for a new Mercedes S-Class. On the way home, we doing the opposite and getting the truck back. Oh well, it's headed in the right direction. The plan is to sleep on the way from Qatar to London and then stay awake from London to Calgary. That way, I should be tired when we land at 6:30(ish) pm, go home stay up for a few hours and go to bed at a reasonably normal time. What could possibly go wrong???? I'm looking forward to some of the small things. Like, not wearing any of the clothes I've been recycling for the past six weeks. Like, eating something I can readily identify at sight. Like, driving in normal traffic at normal speeds surrounded by sane people. Anyways, there's a bunch of people waiting for the machine so I'll do the polite Canadian thing and give up my spot. Later all.

Friday, June 15, 2007

One Less Mzungu In Africa

At least there will be in three days. It's Friday folks & we leave on Monday.

We just got back from a really quick trip out to Morogoro which, if you've never been there is east of Dar approximately half way to nowhere. Morogoro has a univeristy, two tobacco processing plants, some very nice people and a Rotary Club. Morogoro sits not quite close enought to some very cool stuff.

Things we may have wanted to see - like the Mikumi National Forest Preserve and the Uluguru Mountains - were deemed to be too far away by our hosts. Now, I could actually see individual trees on the mountain from the house I was staying in and while the meeting with the Director of TAFORI was ok, I could've been to the moutain, had a hike and been back in time for our afternoon program. But... apparently, unless something is located directly in your back yard in Morogoro, it's too far away.

So, Morogoro was what it was. A small industrial/college city that lives on the brink of irrelevance. Most of the group say that this was one of there favourite stops but for me, it had neither the hustle & bustle of Dar and Kampala nor the peaceful tranqulity of Tanga, Zanzibar or Mwanza.

So, good bye Morogoro.

Bqack in Dar now and apparently, according to our hosts, it's on for the next couple of days. they're throwing us a two night party at a couple of locations - fortunately one of them is the house that I'm staying in. the parties aren't just for us but they seem content to wrap a number of things together and call it good.

See ya in a few. Later.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

If it's Tuesday it Must be Dar

Well three days off in a sleepy island town can do wonders for the body & brain. Jambiani, on the east side of Unguja (the largest island that makes up Zanzibar) is the absolute definition of "sleepy tille town".

We spent our thee days off on the beach, snokelling, napping, taking picutres and eating. After the running around of the last month it was a much needed break. Yesterday's dives were the two best I've ever had.

We met the dive tender up the beach in Paje, geared up and took a long, slow ride out to the outer side of the reef that spans about 15km of the south east coast. The first dive was kind of a mind trip as there is nothing between Zanzibar and India except thousands of kilometres of Indian Ocean. In front of me was the coral reef and all the marine life you could imagine - including a small reef shark - and behind... big, dark and empty farther than you could imagine. Dive two was inside the reef where the water was a little less clear but the bottom time was almost endless. Amongst other things like moray eels, bat fish & parrot fish, we hovered over hundreds - well maybe a hundred - blue spotted stingrays. In all I got about 75 minutes under water over the two dives, a long surface interval and averaged about 19 metres depth. And to top it all off, was warm enough that I only needed a shorty wetsuit, not a full length one.

The rest of the day was spent wandering through town. In Jambiani we met a really cool local guy who calls himself Captain Cook. He walked up to us and asked how long we were in town, who we were and finally got around to hitting us up for some business. His business is his own tiny restaurant. Owned, run and maintained by himself complete with handwritten menu - which he showed us we walked & talked. We agreed to go check it out and decided that we'd come back for supper. Equinoxe - the restaurant - is an exercise in culinary minimalism. It has no floor save for the sand on the ground, no walls taller than about three feet, a thatched roof set on poles, one table and a kitchen who's only cooking appliance is an open fire. Naturally we were all over this. The food was incredible. Coconut crusted tuna, rice, a mixed carrot & onion salad and cold beer. Food should always be this fresh & this good. His guest book has pages of raving customers, all of whom he basically hustled off the beach like us and agreed to go in and take a chance on a guy who's trying to make his way on his own terms. The bill- drinks included - came to under 7,000Tsh each; about $6:50 Canadian. Turns out this young guy - 26 years old - grew up in Jamibiani, scraped enough money together to get to South Africa to apprentice as a chef, came home to his little island town and went his own way. If anybody you know ever gets to Zanzibar, send them to Equinoxe and Captain Cook.

Today we packed, cabbed it into Stone Town, picked up our ferry tickets, convinced the owners of Mercury's to open long enough to let us buy ice cream and took the high-speed ferry back to Dares Salaam. It's back on the road tomorrow to Morogorro - by bus oh joy - for a couple of days. We weren't going to go but the Rotary club there has a meeting that they'd like us to be at and so, we go. Plus it's a new place and when you can either stay somewhere you've already been for your first eight days or go somewhere new, we usually choose new. So, Morogorro tomorrow & Thursday and then back to Dar on Friday.

We're going to be on National TV in Dar on Friday. We're getting interviewed on the country's biggest daytime talk show. Should be entertaining.

Saturday and Sunday will be in Dar and then we start the long journey home on Monday. I'll be in the arms of Shan and the kids by Tuesday night. Seven more sleeps.

Good night all.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

It's Zanzibarific

So, we've given ourselves three days off in Zanzibar. We're beat tired.

Before anybody cries foul let me explain. We've been going seven days a week, 7:00 am to 9:00 pm for five weeks now. Breakfast meetings, school, orphanage & NGO tours, travel, presentations and generally just being "on". It's far more grueling than people looking in from the outside would believe. So, we're taking three days of R'n'R - at our own cost, not Rotary's.

So, how did we get to where we are since the last post. We hit Zanzibar after flying in a very small, single propeller plane out of Tanga and across the Indian ocean. Our hosts met as at the airport and took us on our seperate ways to their homes. Once again I lucked out on the acomodation front. Where the others spent their two days in the suburbs of Stone Town, my host Zaher, has an amazing roof-top apartment right above the narrow streets in the heart of the 300 year-old town.

Stone Town itself was great but hot and the days were pretty long. Our vocational tour day (our only full day there) had stops, meetings etc... at Save the Children, an OT clinic, the West Indian Ocean Marine Science Association, The Zanzibar International Film Festival and a bank.

The evenings in Zanzibar were spent at supper, walking the streets of the old town and at one Rotary Club meeting.

So now, we've bussed across the island to a tiny little town called Jambiani. We've met a retired Canadian couple that run an NGO here that is training local people for meaningful careers in the Tourism Industry; beyond just housekeeping jobs.

These are days off for us. Yesterday we spent 6 hours on a dhow sailing around the local area, snorkeling, eating fish, and drinking local beer. Today is an absolute nothing day. Tomorrow Bill and I are off to a town called Paje for a day of diving on the reefs around Jambiani and Paje.

On Tuesday it's back at it for the few days - jammed packed full of official stuff until we go home. Be back in 9 days folks.


Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Arusha, Moshi and Tanga Oh My

O.K. back on line two locations from when I last posted.

First a small mea-culpa. Charla, I was so busy in Arusha that I didn't have a chance to get any photos of the clock tower or anything. And, the &%#$ Moshi club wasted so much of our single full day that any time I could have had going into town, finding your old house etc... was spent hanging out at the Honey Badger Lodge and Cultural Centre (where I was staying) for an entire morning. However, I did meet a woman who thinks she may know your mom! Remind me when I get home and I'll tell you the story.

For the rest of you... where to pick up.

Arusha is a pretty cool place. The host clubs were amazing to the point where a recent arrival to Arusha from South Africa - Wayne - basically appointed himself as our driver for three days and insisted upon taking as many of us as possible to as many places as possible.

The highlights were the Mezerani Snake Farm & Masai Cultural Centre in Mezerani. And, yes that is one location. The snake farm is basically a cheesey zooish, interpretive centre for some incredibly venomous snakes, crocodiles and incredibly, a raptor rehabilitation centre! There was an amazing grey Goshawk being rehabbed there for a broken wing and they have full intention of releasing it if at all possible. For me, holding baby crocodiles and a Rufous Beaked Snake were pretty cool.

However, one of the coolest things so far was when we got a chance to see history in the making (or in the wrapping up depending on how you look at it). We spent an entire morning at the ICTR, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. This is the UN backed tribunal that has been investigating, indicting and trying the architechts and participants of 800,000 Tutsi at the hands of the Hutuu in 1994. We got about 2 hours with one of the lead prosecutors - a Canadian from Ottawa - and then got to sit in the gallery of the trial for the former Rwandan Minister of Health. Pretty sobering place. Everywhere you walk in the building, which is huge, there are reminders ofwhy the ICTR exists and what they are hoping to achieve.

As many of you know I'm a pretty laid-back person. Not much bothers me. My Swahili at this point has progressed to the "greeting, order cold beer, where's the bathroom" stage. However, we went to this little market. I've named it "The Gauntlet Market". They sell mass-produced handi-crafts of all shape and size. However once you go through three or four stalls you realize that everybody is selling the same thing. In the rain & mud, this activity - for me anyways - got old really fast. So I'm walking along down the rows of mud & trinkets with a couple of people in each stall calling out "Brother brother come see my shop". And I'm not really interested but I'm a pretty polite person so I'm saying "Pole" (sorry), "Hapana" (no), Pole, Hapana... for about 45 minutes. I should mention that this was a group activity and I'm not a shopper at the best of times and at this point I'm now just basically waiting for the others to finish. In the rain. And the mud. And the noise. And at point point a guy reaches out of a stall grabs my arm and pulls me towards the entrance. My response was a very loud "back off", which he didn't understand and kept pulling me toward the entrance of the shop. My next response was "Toka!". At which point he dropped my arm and retreated to the dryness of the stall. Toka means essentially piss-off.

So, yeah, nobody gets anything from Arusha. Sorry.

Where to next? Oh yeah Moshi. Moshi could have been cool if someone there, who shall remain nameless, had pulled his head out of the orifice it was stuck in and actually done his job instead of stranding Bill and I at our hosts house for 1/2 a day.

Our hosts in Moshi were lovely. Dr. Peter is a retired translator. He's a Phd in Psychology and a Phd in Theology. His wife is Mama Lucy. Together they run the Honey Badger Lodge and Campground. Now, the really great part is that they use the profits from Honey Badger to run their own school called the Second Chance Academy. It's a school that gives children who've failed their Standard 7 exams another chance to move on. In Tanzania if you fail your standard 7's, the government is officially done with you. Imagine having your education cut out from under you at 12 years old!. Anyways, they treated us like royalty, insisted we eat in their home and toured us through the school. I gave Mama 200 pencils for the kids, for which I was blessed, hugged, kissed on the both cheeks by all 300lbs of her.

The afternoon we did get to spend out was up at the trailhead of the Marangu route for Kilimanjar. This was kinda bittersweet for me. I loved being on the base of the mountain but really really wanted to be amongst the people heading up. Something to plan for in the future. We did walk down to the Marangu waterfall which was very cool. Of course, if there's a fast flowing river with the potential for a semi-dry crossing I'm going to take that chance. So, I deftly hopped across the first 2/3 of the stones, doing quite well, when of course I missed one and ended up somewhere between my ankles and knees in the Marangu river. That combined with the wind and spray coming off the falls meant that my ride back to Moshi was wet and cold. Great photos though!

Good bye Moshi. Good bye un-named jackass. Hello Tanga. Acutally, hello over-crowded, hot, smelly 4 hour bus ride to Segera. In Segera I was the first of the five of us off the bus, jumped down into a screaming crowd of people all of whom either wanted to sell me a bag of oranges or steal my backpack. Let me tell ya, when you're in that situation and a perfect stranger calls your full name, you follow them! The name shouter was the President of the Tanga Rotary Club who had done his homework and memorized our names and faces. Getting the bags from the bus to their trucks was an exercise is hand to hand combat. In the space of 8 feet we had to push, shove & shoulder block just to hang on to our bags. And that was with the Rotarians helping.

Tanga was very cool! Our hosts had actually read our profiles and so split us up for vocational visits. We got to spend time with people we were interested in and had things in common with. For me that meant about three hours with at group called SEMMA (Sustainable Environmental Management through Mariculture Activities). They word with women and men to set them up in business that are environmentally sound, profitable and easily managed. Their two big projects are kelp cultivation for the pharmaceutical industry and Mud Crab fattening. Very impressed with them.

The rest of our stay in Tanga was spent touring old German ruins and buildings. They have an active historical preservation society called Urithi that is attempting to stave off building demolition and redevelopment in favour of reclaiming old buildings and making them suitable for modern use.

Kaden and Ainsley also got pen pals out of Tanga. My hosts have three little girls that were thrilled with the idea of trading letters with a couple of Canadian kids.

And finally, today we flew to Zanzibar. Also known as the best place in the world. I may just tell Shan to sell the house, cars, furniture etc... bring the kids and move here. Flying into Zanzibar from Tanga was um interesting. We flew a 12 seat, single propeller, Cesna 280 which seemed to jump around with every tiny breath of a crosswind. Dana called her pre-departure photos her "Tell my mom I love her" shots.

But here we are. The girls are staying in the burbs of Stone Town while Bill and I are right in the heart of Stone Town. We're in a two-floor, three story walkup that's been around since the early 1800's. My "room" is actually the covered, open terrace above the courtyard. Stone Town is so immensley tight that you can barely get one car down the inside streets. We walked around the old town tonight, had a drink on the beach at the edge of the Indian ocean and then back up through the winding alleys and coral sand walls.

Th th that's all folks. At least for now. We're in Stone Town for two nights and then across Zanzibar to Jambiani for four days of sun and ver few official responsibilities. Can't imagine what we might get up to.