Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The market

I love going to the market. Aside from a chance to practice my Swahili (and learn all sorts of useful expressions such as, "are you married?" and "you are beautiful"), when I get home it's kind of like Christmas. I start unpacking my bags and find that I have lots and lots of goodies. This is the aftermath of a recent trip to the market. Just thought I'd give you an idea.....

Bongoyo Island

This past weekend, my dear, dear friend from grad school, Emily was in town. She had come for work but had managed to find a little time to play as well. So we decided to  grab a few friends and head to Bongoyo Island. This is a small island just off of Dar es Salaam, that is actually a national park. A ferry ride lasting around 30 minutes and about $20 USD will get you there. The beaches are beautiful, with just a few bandas for shade, and a simple restaurant where they sell seafood.

We were able to snorkel and see a bunch of coral reefs with brightly colored fish, as well as some pretty dangerous looking sea urchins :)

Here are a few pics from our trip.....

Mary Crassmas

I'll be travelling to Uganda on Christmas Eve to spend the holidays with my friend Yen and her boyfriend Charles, who live in Kampala, and another friend of ours, Christi, who is currently working in Sudan (the girls are friends from my grad school program). Yen told me she was getting a Christmas tree, so I didn't do much decorating at my place. But I did a little bit....TZ style...

My baobob Christmas tree :)

And one of the Christmas ornaments I purchased to put on Yen's tree...

My Apartment in Dar (the "Before" pictures)

Many people have been asking me to post some pictures of my apartment here in Dar. It is ridiculously large and spacious, and really quite nice (with the exception of the ugly couches). It's a small source of guilt for me, as I had wanted to both live alone and live in a neighborhood that would be safe and secure but not in the part of town where the majority of ex-pats live. This made finding a suitably sized apartment quite difficult, and so I ended up with this 3-bedroom, 2-bath place all to myself.

I have done some decorating and light remodeling since I moved in, so the apartment is looking significantly better these days. The "After" pictures will follow in the new year :)

Walking in the front door. My place was oddly (?) equipped with a water cooler.

My living room furniture. Otherwise known as my ugly couches...

Looking down the hallway into the rest of the apartment. Note the pepto bismol colored trim on the walls. This is in every, single room of my apartment. Ugh.

The kitchen.

My apartment building seems to have been built by the Chinese. This is my induction heater. Neither me, nor my neighbors, actually know how to use it...

Maybe it would help if I could read Chinese????

Originally I had no stove or oven. Only the induction heater that no one knows how to use. I insisted on a gas stove with oven as one of the conditions of signing the lease. Isn't it lovely??

My bedroom...

My bathroom....

There's no tub, but a $15 investment in a new shower head has made this an incredible shower!!!

Although if you look a little closer, you'll see that upon moving in I may or may not have done some minor damage..

My washing machine, which broke after its first use. Luckily my landlady was nice enough to replace it with a new, functional machine...

My patio/laundry area...

It takes a while to load pictures, so I've only included the master bed/bath. The other bedrooms are similar.

Lost in Translation

For those of you who have seen my facebook pictures, you've probably already investigated these. However, I feel like they are too good to not post here....

Outside of a movie theater. Note that a power failure is "likely" and that no one should panic.

Major TZ paper.....what a headline!

The horoscopes are simply classic. Read on for guaranteed amusement :)

Monday, December 21, 2009

To shop or to eat...???

On our last day of Kiiswahili class, we decided to go out for lunch after class. We went to a local restaurant for Tanzanian food and a chance to practice our language skills. There isn't much to report about the meal itself, but I thought the shopping that was accomplished while waiting for our meal was quite impressive...

Imee is buying a bug zapper....

and she is very happy with her purchase!!!

Notice the variety of items that can be purchased from this one individual...hangers, pillows, soccer balls, bug zappers....

This was the restaurant's knife-sharpening service. It's a bit hard to see, but the guy is essentially riding a stationary bike that rotates the wheel that he sharpens the knife on.

Dar Driving School FAQs

  1. What do you do if you are caught in a traffic jam?
    • Be resourceful! Are you next to a "sidewalk" that is wide enough to accomodate a car and relatively free of trees, large rocks, or other obstacles that might make driving difficult? [Note, pedestrians should not be included in this list]
      • If no - Pole sana (very sorry). You'll probably be sitting in traffic for a while. Hopefully you....
    • have a good stereo (that actually functions) and there is good music on the radio, and/or
    • are on a major street and can do some "window shopping" (by which I literally mean buying things out of your car window); items you can likely buy include...
        • Car essentials: floor mats, emergency reflective triangles, steering wheel covers, etc
        • Seasonal fruits (mangos, bananas, pineapples, watermelons, etc.) and other snacks such as peanuts and ice cream
        • Home essentials and seasonal decorations: wall clocks, pillows, coat racks, hangers, large maps of Tanzania, fake Christmas trees, etc.
        • Phone credit for any of Tanzania's major cell phone providers
        • Toys: kites, soccer balls, pool floaties, wooden cars, etc.
        • Fresh fish (sorry, no meat options available)
        • Pets (I haven't actually seen this myself but am told you can buy puppies & tropical fish)
        • Furniture and landscaping materials: sofas, papasan chairs, large potted plants, etc. (and although you might have to pull over to buy these items, you wouldn't actually have to get out of the car)
        • If yes - Is there a policeman nearby who might see if you were to, say, drive somewhere you are not supposed to?
          • If yes - Pole sana. See above.
          • If no - Check for both oncoming and passing traffic, and slowly pull out into your new lane. If you run into obstacles, simply force your way back into the line of traffic until you have passed it. Note, this "lane" does not necessarily have to be on your side of the road.
      • If a road appears to be a 2-lane road, does that mean that it is a 2-lane road?
        • Looks can be deceiving. A 2-lane road can actually become up to 5 lanes. Refer to the answer to question #1 for some tips on expanding your use of the road.
      • Do I always have to drive on the left-hand side of the road?
        • Of course not. Typically, you are free to use the entire road, although it is best to avoid collisions with other vehicles or large objects. Some instances in which it might be imperative that you drive on the wrong side of the road are:
          • There are obstacles on your side of the road (this might include a vehicle parked where it shouldn't be, a public transport vehicle letting passengers on or off, a bicyclist, a person pulling a large cart, etc)
          • The vehicle in front of you is driving too slow for your liking (remember, you can pass on any street - you do not need any kind of designated "passing lane")
          • There are large potholes on your side of the road and you would rather not slow down for them
      • If there is a pedestrian crossing the street, do I have to slow down?
        • You might be tempted to, but this is actually completely unnecessary. Simply use your horn repeatedly and continue speeding towards the individual. They will get out of the way.
      • If I come upon a 4-way intersection that has no traffic lights or signs or any kind, what should I do?
        • Generally, those driving on the more "major" of the two roads are considered to have the right of way. However, it is often unclear which road is more major. If you are in a hurry, it is not necessary to stop or even slow down.
      • When is it appropriate to use my horn?
        • At any time. For any reason.
      • If a policeman steps into the road and signals for me to pull over, what do I do?
        • Consider why s/he might be stopping you. If you know you have not done anything wrong, and that there is nothing wrong with your vehicle...the policeman is likely after money. Simply continue driving. S/he does not have a vehicle in which to give chase, so you will be fine.
      • How does the middle lane on the road to Mwenge work?
        • Although the two outside lanes on this 3-lane road are designated as moving in opposite directions, the middle lane is not designated as going in one direction or the other. During rush hour periods it functions as a second lane going the direction of heavy traffic. During non-rush hour times, it functions as a giant game of chicken, or sometimes known as "my vehicle is bigger than your vehicle". Feel free to use this lane to go either direction, even if faced with oncoming traffic. Just be sure your vehicle is bigger than the oncoming vehicle, or that there is space to cut back into your designated lane at the last minute to avoid collision.

      The Salty Grandmother

      Recently, there was a European Film Festival held here in Dar es Salaam, with a variety of films being screened over a two week period. I had found a flier about the festival beforehand, and decided that some of the films look interesting and worth checking it out. The first film that I selected - The Heir - was from the Netherlands. I should have had a little more of an inkling about what the quality of the film would be like from its description (below)..... but alas, I had high hopes. And although I should have known that any movie about a black market in cheese was unlikely to be a winner, I still dragged Julie and Imee with me to the theater (hey, the movies were being shown for free).

      The Heir
      Vico, a young African, inherits an Alpine pasteur in Gruyere. He comes to Switzerland with the firm intention of selling the land. Amused to discover the local black market in cheese, he manages to defeat the plans of a local bigwig who is too sure of his white man's superiority, does his best to become an "armailli" (Gruyere-style dairy farmer) and saves the village from disaster. With a tiny grain of African sand, the well-oiled mechanism is thrown out of kilter... A humorous and offbeat look at a clash between two cultures that reveals Switzerland in a new and unexpected light.

      We arrived just in time to get in line for tickets. For whatever reason, although the films were being shown for free, you still had to get a ticket with a seat number on it. Actually, each ticket had 2 seat numbers on it - apparently you are only allowed to go to the movies in pairs or even numbered groups of people. And of course, we were three. So....the woman in the ticket booth told me, after handing a ticket to Imee and Julie, that I would just pair up with one of the people behind me. And so, I made a new friend (embarassingly, I cannot remember his name). He was a young college student studying IT, and we became movie partners. I assumed that once we got into the theater, we would be able to sit wherever we liked (especially once it became clear that the theater would not be completely full); however, my movie partner insisted that it was very necessary to sit in our assigned seats. And so we sat together....and it was actually quite pleasant (thankfully his English was pretty good so we could actually communicate!).

      I decided to get popcorn and, in an effort to practice both my Swahili and my Tanzanian manners, offered some to my movie partner. Or, at least, I thought I did. I couldn't quite remember the word for "popcorn", so I used as close of an approximation as I could come up with...."Karibu bibi". Which roughly translates to...."You are welcome to grandmother". And so I accidentally offered my movie partner some grandmother. Luckily, he was kind enough to correct me, and, as an added bonus, had a great sense of humor about the situation. About 15 minutes into the movie, he leaned over to me and said, "Your grandmother is really salty!".

      An additional fun fact about our movie.....
      * It was in French with English subtitles. Except, they forgot to turn on the English subtitles. So everyone in the audience missed what was said during the first 15 minutes of the film.