July 25, 2016

candlelight dinner

the power goes out from time to time - mostly when it rains but some times it's just a scheduled outage.  so from time to time i get a reminder of the limited infrastructure here and get a candlelight dinner.

that's wine, cheese and some dijon mustard that i found on a trip to Dar.  it's wierd to bring groceries from another city or country but the little things seem so luxurious.  i mean i'm talking about mustard!

July 21, 2016


i love coffee and have loved it since i discovered it in high school.  now, i find myself living in the midst of where some of the best coffee in the world is grown.  how coffee is grown and harvested is very interesting.  like most of the raw materials in Tanzania, the highest quality coffee beans are sold on the global market for processing elsewhere.  

in Moshi there is a coffee cooperative that has been very successful and they have daily auctions during the harvest season when the buyers come to purchase the beans.  the roasting and any further processing is done in the west.  the coffee plantations here get by but are by no means a way to accumulate wealth.  it's almost like an inheritance burden.  

the coffee plants will produce for 100 years if properly cared for so each generation carries on.

one weekend i go with friends on a hike through a plantation and it's beautiful but also easy to see how much work goes into producing a crop.  the plantation manager gives a an overview of the crops which is really complicated and more than i can explain.  like growing vanilla - very labor intensive and volatile in the global marketplace.  

we get to wander the plantation and find a waterfall which is refreshing but too cold for a swim.

July 18, 2016


my dear friends the Olivers have a cat that got pregnant before they could get her spayed after the last litter.  the momma cat disappeared for a few days and so they were expecting that she would soon show up with the kittens.  sure enough, one day when a friend was visiting the momma came into the house and dropped a kitten that was just a few days old onto the sofa.  she then proceeded to do that three more times.  the momma really isn't a house cat so they set up a box outside for her.  it is super cool to see how she cares for her kitties in this raw environment and how she is teaching them to survive.

July 16, 2016

sunset in Dar el Salaam

all work and no play, etc... on the last day in Dar i escape for a few hours with a friend to have a glass of wine and watch the sunset.  it's a good way to end the Dar trip and get some down time away from the chaos of the city.

July 15, 2016

creating shared value

each year, Nestle awards companies around the world who are 'creating shared value' and this year NEI was selected as one of two finalist among the 400+ entries.  the general manager and our production manager were representing NEi at the official awards ceremony which is in Ivory Coast.  so i was planning on some press releases, articles, etc. from our global HQ in Moshi.  however, about two weeks before the event i get a call from Nestle saying do we have space to accommodate press and the CEO of Nestle Africa at our offices with a video link to Ivory Coast.  there is no part of this that is viable and i tell them i might have an internet connection if it's not a cloudy day AND i have electricity and no i don't have a room that will seat 40+ people.  they said 'work on it' so i go into freak out mode to find a reasonable caterer and everything necessary to host an event like that.  fortunately, Nestle agreed it was unreasonable and they got back to me with a back up plan.

introducing our farmers at the CSV event
instead, they decide to fly the company into Dar where they can get a reliable data link to the award ceremony in Ivory Coast.  oh, and could we bring some of our vanilla farmers along with us?  as the most senior staff member around it falls onto me to get the team along with the farmers organized and onto a plane [many of them for the first time] and all the transfers involved for three days in the capital which is Dar el Salaam.  

in Dar with some of the staff
then it was a full day with Nestle and we were awarded the second prize which was about $200,000USD.  So a good bump for the company... all of which is earmarked for developing the farmer support group to get as many vines in the ground as possible.  it was nice to put on a business suit and heels and act like an executive.  there's not much of that vibe around the office.

the real value is the connections and training that Nestle can supply the company.  they will take employees as interns to help with skills development and send a team to make some on the ground assessments about the direction we are headed.

at the end of the three days i send the staff back to Moshi and stayed in Dar for some sales meetings.  the staff arrived back around noon so i had them fill some orders that needed to go out and there were huge complaints.  they had been traveling for three days and were exhausted.  so it came as a huge surprise to them that business travel is not all fun.  they did however get to spend a day at the Hyatt in Dar which is one of the fanciest place in the country.

there has been so much bad press about Nestle that some people suggested that we not advertise being associated with such a toxic brand and sadly i agree so it's with mixed feelings that i share this award.  it is however, a huge acknowledgment that the work we are doing with the farmers is of real value.  

so when people send me email sending why haven't you updated your blog, now you know.  i'm catching up slowly.

July 13, 2016

dirty little secrets

manufacturing isn't done in East Africa.  the best i can see is that Africa is used for it's cheap labor and fertile land but any type of industry doesn't exist.  so as i may have said before Africa is the dumping ground of the world.  everything is second or third hand.  the clothes, the cars [one of my staff members had a Japanese car with the time stuck on the Japan time zone - she couldn't change it because the directions were in Japanese], the planes [yikes!] and that's not all.  

so why should the gas be any different?  the oil companies dump gas that doesn't pass the western standard here in Africa.  all the global environmental policies and agreements won't make a difference if the multinationals continue behavior like this.


July 11, 2016

leaving zanzibar

after almost a week on the island i am heading back to moshi.  there's a lack of prosperity and strange feeling of despair that i feel on the island.  perhaps it's the spirits of thousands of slaves that died here and are forever tied to this place.  there are many beautiful high end resorts in which you can stay, never stepping outside the bubble to experience the extreme poverty that is the norm on zanzibar.  

that wasn't a luxury i had - it was a business trip and i was constantly exposed to the less luxurious side of the island.  

the sunsets here are as beautiful as sunsets around the world and i enjoyed each one.  there were moments of relaxation and i am grateful for the chance to have seen an island that i have heard so much about.  to get in a day of swimming with the fish and turtles and other sea creatures.  

 i did take the time to get a henna tattoo and this picture probably captures the best moments of the trip.  i don't expect to get in another trip to zanzibar but i think one visit was enough for me.

the trip back to moshi was faster as there weren't any stops along the way and we get a breathtaking view of Kilimanjaro and Mawenzi [that's the smaller knob peak to the right] above the clouds that has even the pilot pulling out his camera for photos.  
it's a work day for me so as soon as i land i head into the office to catch up with the team.

July 6, 2016

north coast of zanzibar Mnemba atoll

it's just an hour or so to get to the north side of the island from Stone Town and i'm trying to stay on budget but the company's reimbursable expense is very low.  about $20USD per night for accommodations and $6.88USD per day for food.  hahaha.  i don't think i've ever come close to those numbers.  i did stay at a cheap place the first night but it was horrible so i moved the next day and ended up spending $75USD per night.  

i had a few meetings [with chefs at some high end resorts - so i do get fed a lot of good food].  in this job i've discovered that chefs love to feed you and you can't say no when they are telling servers to bring food and drinks to your table.  maybe that's why i've been putting on pounds.  

one day i get out on a dive trip and it's phenomenal except it's a cloudy day.  still the marine life around the atoll is spectacular and i see a ton of great sea life.  the beaches i visited on Zanzibar are not so spectacular but the water around the island is the turquoise blue you see around the pacific islands.  the water is really cold and i hate diving in a wet suit but it's a fantastic day in the water and i love every minute of it.

July 4, 2016


having arrived safely in Zanzibar and found our hotel in Stone Town we set out for a roof top dinner and sunset.  Zanzibar has a sketchy past, being most well known for it's slave trade.  they try to pass it off as a 'spice island' but that's just bad marketing.
happy hour at the ritz carlton

anyways, in between meetings in Stone Town i manage to see quite a bit of it and am happy to have some friends around as well.  one night we do a sunset boat tour and just being on the water makes me happy.

sunset cruise on a dhow
 there was a mixture of storms while i was on the island so not the best weather and more than once i got caught out in a storm.

Stone Town for me wasn't such a special place and after the weekend I moved across the island for meetings and to see what potential the island might hold for us.  

July 1, 2016

getting to zanzibar

i don't have a resident visa but remember that Tanzania driver's license i got?  well, i can sometimes use that to bluff my way into getting a resident rate on things that they otherwise charge obscene amounts of money for.

moshi airport

there is a small airline that flies around the country and it's called coastal.  they have really small planes, like the kind where everyone gets a window seat.  i stopped in to ask about some cargo rates and requested to get on their flight to Zanzibar which is direct from Moshi without going the 45 minutes to Jaro Airport.  i had already put down my business card and they could see my dl so when they said you have to wait until tomorrow for the resident rate i said ok.

so round trip to Zanzibar was $120 while the tourists were paying $350 [i know this because someone in our group could not get the resident rate].  i went on business but timed it so i could spend the weekend on the island with some friends.

the plane
like other places i've been they just have  a few airplanes and they make a circuit each day around the country like a bus would on a circular route.  

moshi from the air
so they start in the morning in the Serengetti, then stop Arusha, Moshi, Tanga, a Plantation, Zanzibar, Dar and then back to the Serengetti.  each leg is less than an hour flight but i was still three landings for me to get to Zanzibar.

it was really pretty cool to see the sprawling metropolis that is Moshi from the air.   there are about 100,000 residents and i don't think anyone has counted the muzingas but there are probably almost a thousand in the region.

first was Tanga, a coastal town and then a stop at a sisal plantation which is a hoot as the runway isn't even dirt it's more like a grass strip.  Then finally onto Zanzibar which has been in the news because of some very undemocratic like practices in the last election.  they like to think they are a separate country and the politicians run it like it is but the people don't care.  they'd rather have the protection of Tanzania and it just causes problems like you have to have a passport to enter Zanzibar.