March 20, 2017

orphanages in africa

you've probably noticed something missing from my blog.  if not, let me tell you what you won't see.  me, a white girl, surrounded by a group of over exploited black children.

yes, it seems on the list of everyone visiting africa that they post a photo of themselves, usually in an 'orphanage', 'helping' the children of africa by stopping in for a day to teach english, play games or some other nonsense that makes them feel good about themselves.

in Asia this it is a huge taboo to allow tourists to visit orphanages [because of the pedophile trade] so at first i was shocked but then i began to understand what was going on.  here it is an industry.  

the women in the villages were watching as tourists flocked to the orphanages and left money donations to support the organizations.  being willing [most but not all] to exploit the western tourists for their money they opened 'orphanages' in their villages.  however, in their case it's more like day care, at the end of the day the children go home to a family with money in their pocket collected from the tourists that day.  one orphanage here was painted three times in the last year so volunteer tourists could feel good about 'helping' africa.  

so think about that when your tour guide says, 'would you like to visit an orphanage?' it's probably a red flag that you picked the wrong tour company but you will get your photo surrounded by exploited african children that you can post on facebook. 

i have plenty of photos of me interacting with locals so don't think i only have western friends here.  i just don't want to exploit them the way i see other people doing it.  

where i live in northern Tanzania is a hotbed of NGOs so getting a volunteer position here is easier than getting a job at mcdonalds.  it's hard to differentiate what i do.  creating jobs, empowering the people through sustainable economic development vs. this cycle of dependence on foreign aid.  ugh... enough for this week.  fun stuff next post i promise!

February 15, 2017

an american visit

had a short visit from an American friend and it was surprising to realize how much i miss my friends from home.  sure i skype with a lot of people but it's really not the same because there isn't a way to describe the not knowing if there will be water or electricity of some other disaster when get home.  

but when she mentioned she wasn't checking any luggage i was quick to throw together a bag of stuff that is mostly gifts and souvenirs that will lighten my load when i return.  as i kept wrapping orange duck tape around the bag she kept saying what are you doing?  

clearly, when you think it not just normal but also necessary to wrap your bags in duck tape when checking them from a third world country you've been traveling for too long.  i've long passed the point when dragging this off the baggage carousel would embarrass me.  

December 9, 2016

take away

in the US they say to-go but everywhere else they say take away so i had to search my mind [which yes, is turning to mush from lack of using any real brain power] for the word to-go.

anyways, cooking here is so much nicer at my new house but i still get take away sometimes from some restaurants.  take away here is different than to go elsewhere and it's environmentally better than what we do in the west because of the packaging waste but it creates a process.

here, they don't have containers to put your food if you are not eating at the restaurant.  you have to bring your own.  so if you want food delivered this is what happens:
  1. you call the restaurant and place and order and get the cost
  2. you call your motorcycle guy who runs these kinds of errands for you.  these guys, even though they are also your boda driver are called picki pickis because they are picking something up for you.
  3. your picki picki then comes by your house and collects the cash and the containers and takes them to the restaurant
  4. the restaurant then fills your order and the picki picki brings back to your house.
usually the order will be wrong but it's food and you didn't have to cook right?  

think about that next time you spoiled westerners order a food delivery.

December 6, 2016

thank you god for uber

challenging weekend in Dar el Salaam.  i know its not profitable and will probably collapse after a few years but its been fantastic for me when i am traveling. i know there are people who have philosophical differences with the model but i give in to uber wherever it's available.

i do not need to know where i am.  i only need to know where i want to go.

i do not have to speak a foreign language.

i do not have to have small currencies of foreign money in wallet.

it is usually 25% -50% less than what i'd be able to negotiate with a taxi.

so thank you god for the people who thought this up, continue to fund and push it out to countries i visit.  it's not available where i live but in the capital Dar and in Nairobi i can use.

November 29, 2016

beer truck meets curve

first half of truck

brakes are optional ... or only really maintained for tourist vehicles.  someone will be short a few beers this weekend.
second half of truck

November 23, 2016

no escaping the holiday season

the last five weeks have been brutal. the general manager is gone and in his place is the managing director (he is also one of the cofounders and the one who recruited me). the difference is significant. the new director is bringing some discipline and accountability to the company and i am confident that under his leadership the company will thrive.

in addition to the organizational structure changes i had christmas fairs to arrange and i can now say i will be happy if i never have to run a trade show event again. it's the beginning of the hot season here and in the afternoons the offices are like an oven. i guess most of the nationals are used to it but my house is so much cooler that i try to work from there when i can.

November 9, 2016

i blame it on the arab spring

last night i could barely get to sleep i was so excited and i set my alarm for 5am to get up and watch the election results come in.  for me it would be like christmas - opening a present with the first american woman president.  but that was not to be, instead, i woke up, checked the results and was so disgusted i went back to sleep.

i wanted to just keep sleeping but i had a new staff member joining today so i couldn't crawl under the blankets and cry like i wanted to.  instead i dragged myself into the office, walking slowly in the heat and crying a little bit.  i picked some flowers along the way and kilimanjaro was showing through the clouds but even that couldn't cheer me. when i got to the office no one would even look at me.  fortunately there is so much chaos at the office that it was a good distraction all day.  only one person was brave enough to ask about it.

for people who have empathy or believe using positive energy will change the world this is a sad day.  the american people have spoken and as in every presidential election only half of the people get their way.

i blame this election on the arab spring.  we watched as 'everyman' rose up to take back the power that belonged to them.  then we watched the consequence of lack of leadership and the vacuum created by the transition which hasn't helped 'everyman'.

i can't bring myself to watch the talking heads dissect this election.  i'll just wait to see what the next four years bring.

October 21, 2016

my new commute to the office

my new accommodations are just a ten minute walk to the office on some dirt roads.  this is what my commute looks like .....   usually there is a goat or two snacking along the way.  someone taking their herd out for the day.

there's a new litter of puppies that stick their head out the hedge when i walk by and that's another five minute delay while i count and make sure they are all still alive.  must be show and tell day because this one is getting a trip to school in someone's backpack.

there are so many colors of flowers with each month bringing a new tree or bush to flower.  i don't carry technology because it wouldn't be safe, except my phone which i rarely pull out.  i use my walk to the office to make as many friends as possible and let them know i 'stay' with mamma mary.  in the west we might say, 'where are you living?' but that's not the case here.  living arrangements can change very quickly and so the appropriate question is 'where do you stay?'.  

momma mary is well respected within the community because of her status at the local hospital.  people often come to her when they are sick or hurt and she sends them either on to the hospital or back home depending on the case.  so, no one is really going to screw with momma mary because there's going to come a day when they need her help.  

slowing i'm coming to know the neighborhood and they are coming to know me.  one of the guys i hired for the shipping department [yeah, somehow shipping became a sales task] lives quite close to me and walks me home a lot of days.  my office, like everything here in tanzania, is behind a locked gate.

October 17, 2016

day of protest - cancelled

when i was being recruited for this position the subject of security was discussed in detail - after all the only thing separating Tanzania from Somalia is a country called Kenya.  

there was a bit of laughter from one of the directors who said Tanzania was a really stable country because the people were too lazy to protest or start some conflict.

President Magafuli
fast forward, to October, i've been in country six months and there's a huge countrywide protest planned.  something Magafuli [president] has done has set people awry. the us embassy sends out a caution to avoid streets where there could be parades or protests organized.  avoid traveling.  be extra vigilant. everyone in the city is planning to stay home.  we anticipate we will just close the offices for the day even though no one knows what the protest is about.

then... you guessed it.  they 'postponed' the day of protest and said it would be rescheduled.  who does that?  you can't cancel or postpone a protest.  it just isn't effective.

don't just take my word for it.  here's the story reported by Voice of America.

afterwards, i was like, yes, everything here is passive aggressive and no one is going to show their face at a protest.  they might stab you in the back as you walk away from them but they won't say a bad word to your face.

October 13, 2016


this is my gardener.  i love him.  when he trims the bougainvillea fence surrounding the property he always leaves me a bouquet of flowers.

he's only paid about $50 a month for part time work here but he's a happy guy and shows up and does a good job.  

every day i battle staff members who can't do the basic things that they have been taught over and over [things like putting labels onto a bottle].  guess that's why it makes me so glad to see him.

one of my staff happened to be at my house at the same time as the cleaning girl came.  she didn't do a very good job of cleaning and had no english so i asked my staff girl to translate some basic instructions for her.  afterwards, i commented to my staff girl that the cleaning girl always seemed so unhappy.  she was also terrified of the cats so freaked out everytime they came into the house.  i found a much better cleaning girl who has english.

it seems like a luxury and a bit colonialist to have all these house servants but there are real reasons i didn't understand before.  like if you dry your clothes on the clothes line [which i do] they need to be ironed because otherwise bugs will get into them.  since it's so hot here, the windows are always open, but since it's always dusty everything is covered in a layer of red dust if there isn't a regular cleaning. 

i am tired of people in my house and going through my things so i do as much of the cleaning and ironing as i can but i'm working 60 hour weeks and would prefer to spend my evenings relaxing with a glass of wine in the garden or meeting friends for dinner.