March 30, 2017

one year in africa

my year in Africa is up.  next month i will say goodbye to Tanzania.  so as i wind up my time here there are many going away dinners, drinks and fetes.  
every time i am asked if i am sad to be going i mumble something about it being bittersweet and returning.  it's all a lie.  it's not bittersweet.  i am glad to be leaving.  mentally i left a long time ago.  i don't plan to return.  there is just nothing here for me.  i smile every day i can mark another day off the calendar before i leave.

i am humbled by the experience, the challenges and the people.  the friends that i have met and cherish will always be with me and we will connect in the future - just not here.

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!

March 14, 2017

banned from the office

as i mentioned before, the general manager here chose not to apply for a work visa for me which requires me to do the in/out every three months.  providing a work visa was part of my employment contract so not providing one is a bit of a problem contractually.

Tanzanian law is pretty clear about what is required to have anyone who is not a national on staff.  but, in all fairness, there were some changes to resident/working permits about the time Magafuli took office so there has been confusion among the immigration staff about how they are going to continue to get their bribes and make money under the new policies requiring them to slow down the process until they again have a corruption scheme in place.

still, my bosses know the situation and they know back to back multiple business visas are not considered legal.  on my last reentry i did get pulled into an office for some questions but i was just polite and smiled and got through.

about a month ago a notice went out that anyone with a work permit or a resident visa must go to immigration to validate their paperwork.  what they didn't say is that when you do this you will be given an id card which you have to carry at all times.

fine, i thought i'd be out of the country before they actually got around to checking.  well apparently not, with just a few weeks to go before i leave i get a note saying don't come into the office because the immigration raids have begun.  

i know people in the expat community who have paid up to $1,000 in bribes although that's high - usually it's just around $300.  otherwise it's a 72 hour notice to leave the country - either way i'm not taking any chances and just hold meetings at my house which everyone likes because it's cooler and i have coffee and water.

this doesn't last long as things grind to a halt at the office without supervision and i give in and go back to office hours.

March 4, 2017

whale sharks - mafia island

i just got off the boat from a trip out to swim with the whale sharks and it was like nothing i had ever done before.  it is a not to be missed peak life experience.
not my photo

it was exciting and scary at the same time.  they are massive animals [up to 40ft] and swimming along side of them can be intimidating.  when you look down and see one of the massive fish surfacing under you its just unnerving.  there's no way to get out of its path.

fortunately they are harmless to humans so getting into the water with them is safe. unfortunately, they are harmless to humans and some people treat them more like a domesticated pet than a wild animal.

my first trip out was with a conservation group so i was well briefed on both etiquette and research being done on the species. it's really amazing what they've learned about these fish and how much they don't know.  check out  wwf profile and nat geo profile

i swam with sharks before but it was more like a petting zoo where the sharks are fed and domesticated or seen sharks while diving [ok.... the sharks on the GBR Australia were a little bit intimidating].  still, the largest shark i've seen while i was in the water was only about 9ft [3 meters].  later, in a social setting, when someone mentioned her experience of diving and touching one of the whale sharks it was awkward.  i was thinking, ummmm i don't think you are supposed to touch them.

for those of you who thought me crazy to mingle with the mountain gorrillas and think swiming these guys was just as crazy, let me tell you that i have another crazy wish... one day to dive with whales.

March 2, 2017

kua ruins, juani island, mafia archipelego, tanzania

it's a short and very worthwhile trip out juani island to see the kua ruins. it's another world heritage site that i'm glad to take the time to see.  i'm absolutely fascinated by the history and the how well developed their structures and society were that the remnants are still standing thousands of years later.  

other than a few fishermen we find at the access point to the island ruins we don't see any humans.  monkeys and birds and assorted reptiles, yes.  maybe that's why i like it more than the touristy and exploited dark slave history of Zanzibar.  we timed the return from the island for sunset over mafia and it was the perfect end to a relaxing day on the island.