April 29, 2016

out of the indian compound

my time at the indian compound has come to an end.  i am moving to a new location that is just three kilometers from the office.  it's out of town and in a quiet, western populated, upscale area called ironically, Shanty Town.

the compound i am in now is called Tatu because that's the name of the NGO here and everyone knows who they are.  i'm living on the second floor with a spanish guy who is a kili guide and safari organizer.  on the first floor, in the same square footage there are 9 - 11 volunteers working and living in dorm style housing.  they are mostly in their twenties - just looking for some experience but it's great having them on the compound. 

there is rope stretched across one area and at first i thought it was for laundry but it's a volleyball court and it's nice to hear them outside after work or on the weekends hitting a ball around.  there is also a slackline - so i'll be giving that a try soon.  there is a huge terrace that faces kilimanjaro and farm fields so i put out my yoga mat and practice there is in the mornings when it is cool.

it's 100 times better than the last place i was and after the first week, in which there was no hot water, the urge to check on return flights to the US is starting to diminish.

April 22, 2016

a few days in dar

Dar el Salaam is the capital.  any charm it once had wasn't presenting itself on my visit there.  perhaps it is like Bangkok and as i come to know it i will start to love going there.

there are basically two parts of the city.  the peninsula and everything else.  the peninsula is the western habitat and they seem to rarely leave it.  it was also raining nonstop which makes the traffic which is already bad even worse.

I spent something like 15 hours in airports and airplanes and and taxis to and from the airport for 48 hours on the ground.  what a miserable trip.  there are good restaurants so i always wanted to stop somewhere good but i was with my boss who like to stick with the $7UD per diem for meals so enough said there.

April 20, 2016

yellow fever in africa

before i left the US i did a check of the cdc website and because Tanzania is low risk for yellow fever, i decided not to get this vaccination.  unfortunately all the countries surrounding Tanzania are problematic so getting back into the country if i cross a border would require some bullshitting.  

of course, anything that involves a needle in a developing country is a HUGE flag for me.  i cringe 
at the thought of possibly getting HIV from a dirty needle.  i am however supposed to be in Nairobi next week so i decide i should do this.  i called the embassy but they were of no help on this issue.  after a little local investigation, i find out it's available right down the street at the shanty town dispensary.  

what happens is probably one of the best medical related experiences i've ever had in my life.  the clinic is clean and the staff are happy.  60,000TZS [$30US] and five minutes later i am out the door.

the needle and vaccine came out of the box in a bubble package so i relaxed about the dirty needle issues and let her prick me.  as you can see she quite enjoyed it.  the second nurse in the room wanted her picture taken too.

it's bizzare to me that it was so easy to get a shot and so hard to get a driver's license.

April 18, 2016

getting a driver's license

when i arrived, the general manager freaked out because i didn't have an international driver's license.  i wasn't expecting to be driving - and although my agreement included a car for business purposes... i'd assumed wrongly that would come with a driver.

a lot of time was wasted discussing what could be done about this as they insisted i must have a Tanzania license and this was not possible to get without a work permit, which was going to take months to get.

after about a week i tire of the discussion and the staff's ability to get anything done so take myself over to TRA [tanzania revenue authority] who issues driver's licenses.  what follows is the REAL STORY OF BRAVE AMERICAN GIRL IN TANZANIA.

as soon as i arrive TRA i am taken into a small room and sit across the desk from an older gentleman who appears to be in charge.  i chat with him for about 5 minutes, telling him what i want and asking respectfully how i can get it.  he says, ok.  i approve your license.  WOW I THOUGHT - that was really easy after listening for over a week to the staff about why it could not be done.  but wait....

so i fill out this form and take it to the police station.  the police, also very nice, seem to understand from the paper clutched in my hand what i need and they look me up in the computer and stamp their approval.  i go back out to the taxi and back to TRA.  my new friend, Charles, at the TRA takes my picture and fingerprints.  for a minute i hesitate because i really don't want to be in their database but then i remember they fingerprinted me at the airport for my visa and i'm already in the system.

so with the approval from the police and my information into the TRA system i get a payment voucher that has to be paid at the bank.  off to the bank i go to pay my 3000TZS [US$1.50].  it's the end of the day and the payment needs to post so i wait a day to go back to TRA.

i go back to the TRA the next day and instead of getting a license i get another payment voucher.  this one for 10000 TZS [yeah, i know a lot of zeros but still less than $5US].  so back to the bank.  

police that enter your information in computer
oh, i forgot to mention, the first time i went to the bank, i was given a number that was like 50 away from what the cashiers were actually serving.  being a muzinga [that's what a white person is called here] the bank doorman invited me to skip the line and go directly to the cashier.  i was okay with that but the cashier was not and as she chastized me first in swahili and then english and then chastized me for not understanding swahili, i just shrugged my shoulders as if i couldn't understand either.  her tone was clear enough so i knew my second time around i would not be moved to the front of the line.  instead, i took a number, left and went shopping for an hour, dropped some files at the printer next door and when i went back to the bank still had to wait 20 minutes before my number was called.

it was a few days before i went back to TRA and they just sent me along to the police station again for a second time.  i think the first was approval that i had no criminal background.  this the second time was for some different reason.  no one ever spoke english to me - i just showed them the paper work and they pointed where i needed to go...

then back to TRA to prove i'd been to the police station, one more payment voucher for the bank for 40,000 [$20US]. this time i can't be bothered to wait at the bank and i'm leaving for Dar so i send the finance girl to do it.

a week later with the final proof of payment in hand i go back to the TRA and my now friend Charles hands over my license.  i can't tell if he's happy i've jumped through all the hoops or if he's just happy to know i won't be coming back.

charles delivers my license to me

my best guess is that the process in the past has been so broken by corruption that the independent bank payment is required to insure the money goes to the government and not into the pockets of the TRA officials.  during my third trip to the TRA i was tired of the running to the bank and suggested that i just pay there for all the fees and quickly get my license but my attempt to bribe this low level official was rebuffed and i was sent to the 'purgatory' they call the bank.

ultimately, it doesn't matter what you hand the police when they pull you over.  before i had a tanzania license and was pulled over, i couldn't find my colorado drivers license.  instead i handed them my dive card - yeah - the card that says i'm a licensed scuba diver.  they didn't know the difference.

but now i'm legal.... 5 trips to the TRA, 3 trips to the bank and 2 trips to the police station.  i spent at least 15 hours taking care of this and that's the real crime as it takes away time from what i can contribute to the company.

April 11, 2016

most awesome job ever!

no, i have not gotten bipolar.  i know the last few posts have showcased some of the negative aspects of a move to Africa but i really don't want anyone to think this is all about exotic animals and glamours international travel.  [haha, although i hope that is coming]  

i needed a couple of weeks to dive into the work and see if the company was delivering on the social impact they are promoting.  

the organization is fantastic from the view of a social enterprise.  they are really delivering on sustainable social, economic and environmental solutions and i'm so proud to be working on their brand.  it's so exciting to be part of a company doing amazing work and although i am struggling to settle here i do love the work i am doing.

more on the company soon.  www. epicurioushedgehog.com

April 8, 2016

how safe is Tanzania?

safety is a relative thing.  of course, i know this, every country is different and you adjust along the way.  it's always best to talk to other expats so yes, i asked about safety and security before i accepted a position here.  

here's what i was told:

'yes, it's safe if you follow basic precautions'

here's what i heard:

'it's okay, just stay alert'

here's what it really means:

it's not safe for a western woman to walk alone anywhere in Tanzania at any time of day or night.  plan to buy a car, get a license [this is a joy] and insurance.  you should expect to be inside your locked compound before dark or travel with an entourage.  never use a taxi or driver that you don't know.

forget about any security for valuable items, just assume they will be stolen and hope your insurance will cover it.  definitely don't carry something that looks like a laptop bag.  

for me it's an adjustment, in Myanmar [Burma] 95% of phones/laptops left in a taxi are returned to the owner.  it's safe for women to move freely around the city at any time and safety was never an issue.

here, the young girls call out to me and engage me and i delight in being able to stutter a few awkward swahili words, but the boys and men look at me with cutting eyes and resentment and i am wary of every step on the streets.

Tanzania is a beautiful country and to be restricted like this hurts my soul.  at the Indian compound, i am unsure if it is a cultural or safety issue but the women of the compound never seem to leave, just pace back and forth over the same paths.

April 6, 2016

the indian compound

let it be known that i love Indian food and culture.  there is a joy and energy that surrounds Indians that i am drawn to and love.  so i don't write this with any type of stereotypical judgement.  

salema is my cleaning girl
part of the relocation package i was offered included the first month's accommodations.  i assumed [wrongly] that it would be a soft place to land.  good housing so i could jump into the monumental task of building a strategic plan that could be executed against for the next year while i looked for more permanent housing.  that is not what i got.

hey, it's Africa right?  it's humiliating for me to even describe the housing i've been put into so i'm not going to share photos at this time but it's such a distraction and takes time away from the real work as i spend hours every week hunting down leads on decent housing.

so i'll go into the security thing next.  then some positive stuff, i promise.

April 4, 2016

after the airport

ok. ok.  i am obsessed with airports and travels.  there is more coming on this subject... although my friend in London commented on this obsession that because i travel so much i must be a good traveler.  not true. 

more importantly, i want to share some pictures from my garden.  i've been living in what is commonly known as the 'indian compound' because, you guessed it, it's owned by and mostly occupied by indians.  let's start with the fun stuff... there are two beautiful tortoises in the compound.  i look for and talk to them every day.  they don't talk back.  when the owner of the compound asked me 'are you comfortable' i didn't want to be rude so i said 'i love your tortoises - they are so beautiful' and he said, 'yes, thank you, we used to have more, but then the Chinese came and even the big one we had to rescue back from them'.  i said, 'yes, it is like this everywhere - the Burmese say the same about the snakes - there are none here because the Chinese eat them'.  

there are also some beautiful gekkos [big lizards] that i love seeing.  so no lions, elephants or exotics yet but a tour of the safari circuit is coming up at the end of May so soon you will be bored and envious of all my up close and personal exotic animal photos i will be posting.

in my first week here in Moshi i wake up every day at 5AM because that's when the mosque thinks everyone should start praying.  it's hard with the jet lag to get back to sleep but they don't seem to care.  they carry on every day with their constant call to morning prayers. but, i said i would start with the good stuff and so i will stop here.

April 1, 2016

back to the airport

as i was leaving the jaro airport i thought to myself 'this is probably one of the many trips i'll be making to and from this airport over the next year'.  well, i didn't think that i'd be back two days later.  i left my office number with the baggage claim group since i didn't have a local number yet.  after a 3 or 4 different stories from baggage claim in the next two days, including:

'we have your luggage'
'we are sending to your luggage to Moshi'
'it will be delivered to the Moshi office today'

then the office takes a call and they say i must pick up the luggage because customs wants to go through it and i must be present.

so, off i go with the driver back to the airport to pick up my luggage which is sitting in the customs office.  i'm really annoyed and it doesn't get much better.  i stand quietly by as they pull most of my bag apart asking 'what is this?' and i reply as appropriate, 'those are tampons', 'that is asprin', 'that is an electronic power supply'.  for me, as people in third world countries touch me or my things... it's always in the back of my mind that they don't use toilet paper ... so i cringe a bit when they are touching my personal items.  

eventually they get bored with me and the game of 'what is' because i make them repeat everything twice even though i understand them and i do my best to ignore them by writing email on my phone.

i'm 99.9% sure that Ethiopian Airlines didn't want to pay for or be responsible for the transition of my luggage to Moshi so they just handed it over to customs.  i F*&K$ng hate customs. 

afterwards, talking to a hardcore NGO employee, even they said, 'yeah, we don't fly Ethiopian - don't they suck?'