Daladalas go on strike – Jamie takes pikipiki

8 July 2012

When I first got here, I thought that daladalas, the private minibuses used for public transport, were governed by some mysterious informal network of drivers, conductors, and cranky-looking guys with clipboards. How wrong I was! Due to the current daladala strike, I now know better.

On Friday, I needed to go to town for a meeting and for groceries, preceded by lunch with a friend. I went to the road and waited. And waited.  I knew the daladalas were striking because the previous day there was chaos at the central bus station in town – it appeared that no one was leaving, and the buses were all just stuck inside the station – and when I finally was able to get home and ask Mama Dora (whose husband is a driver) about it, she explained that the price of oil, insurance and registration have gone up, but because the government won’t let the drivers raise fares, their profits are falling. In this article, it describes the problem as being the parking fees buses pay, which would explain the issue at the station two days ago.

But on Friday, I thought maybe someone would give me a lift to town; this is a normal thing here. Now, I know my mom reads this, and I seriously debated providing the following information, but in the interest of painting the full picture of the transportation situation I will divulge. Mom, please stay calm. After waiting for an hour (yay, my patience is becoming more Tanzanian!), I finally gave in and took a motorcycle, called a pikipiki here. One of the drivers approached me and gave me a price that was so surprisingly reasonable that I said, ok. I asked him if he had a helmet; he said yes. And I told him to be safe and go slowly, not fast. We crossed the street to his bike, where he put on the aforementioned helmet (yeah – bit of a misunderstanding there…). And we proceeded to town.

The main bus station in town was completely empty aside from, ominously, two large police vehicles. The stall where drivers pay their parking fee was on its side. Unused daladalas lines the streets. Crowds of people waited at all the bus stops, and many more people than usual were just walking.

As I sat down with my friend, cold and wild-haired but alive, the owner of the coffee shop came over to greet us. My friend mentioned the daladala strike, and told the owner that I had come into town on a pikipiki. And the owner gave me a free coffee for putting all that effort and risk into coming to his restaurant!

Daladalas seem to us Westerners to be very informal, what with the fact that most of them are barely running and that the conductors regularly fit up to twenty-six passengers into a minibus with seventeen seats. But I’ve slowly gotten the picture that they are much more organized than you would think. They all have set routes; deviation from the route requires special permission (from whom? I have no idea). Down the road from my village is a guy who sits there all day with a list and a clipboard looking cranky, and sometimes the daladala stops to give him a few thousand shillings. And now, it turns out that the government has the power to prevent them from raising fares! Who knew?

Apparently they’re back up and running today. And so ends the great daladala strike of July 2012. I hope…


Been busy, and some photos

10 June 2012

Well, it’s been a while now, I know. For a while, I just didn’t have anything interesting to report. And then for the last few weeks, bam! I got really really busy. I’ve been bouncing around between Moshi, Arusha, Dar, and Siha District (between Moshi and Arusha), living mostly on pb&j, and have a huge pile of dirty laundry.

I’ve volunteering with an organization called Shukuru. This probably isn’t news to you. And in fact, the people who read this blog all probably know basically what I’ve been up to anyway. So maybe this is just for posterity, or anyone who suddenly think, geez I’m bored, better go read Jamie’s blog. Shukuru is preparing to launch its pilot project at the end of the year, which will provide girls an opportunity to pay for their own secondary schooling (which isn’t free in TZ) through an entrepreneurial project, in this case, raising and selling chickens. At the end of one year in the program, their profits are matched by donors, and they will have enough money to pay for all four years of secondary school. In addition, they will have learned agricultural and basic business skills along  the way. It’s pretty great, and completely innovative – no one has done this before.

So I now know a lot more about poultry than I did before, a lot more about education in TZ than I did before, and a lot more about starting an NGO in TZ than I did before. I’ve met some adorable girls, many of whom are smart and motivated but lack the resources to continue their schooling beyond the age of 12 or so. I’ll save talking about the many problems with Tanzanian education for another post; sadly, it will be a long one.

While I’ve been doing all this work, the weather has cooled (though please don’t take this to mean it’s actually cool – it’s more like typical June weather in New England – in other words, winter here is like summer there…), at least at my elevation. The corn is taller than my wall now and I can’t see any of my neighbors. The landscape has completely changed, and I need to take pictures to compare. The mosquitoes have mysteriously all but vanished from my house, and for the first time since moving in, the house is relatively bug-free. I can sleep with a sheet over me and not be drenched in sweat at night. I can take warm showers. I can eat bread and butter even thought fridge isn’t fixed. I think I’m even going to buy some cheese, thank the sweet heavens. If only milk could be stored at room temperature.

And while I believe in living in the moment and all that, I dread the return of the heat. I’m sure this pleasant weather won’t last nearly as long as I would like it to, which really, is forever. I also dread the next three months, when I will be working on my own (the woman with whom I’ve been working is going back to the States). I’ve failed for the last five months to make more than a couple of friends, only one of whom speak English, and she’s trying to leave as soon as possible. The loneliness is crushing, and I’m terrified that despite my efforts,  I still won’t make friends and will just be…alone.

But anyway, below are some photos I’ve taken over the last couple of weeks:

Welcome to the present

3 April 2012

Congratulations, me. This is the first post coming to you in real time! Yes, I have caught up to the present. It is a present with many avocados, tentative rain, half the lights not working, dwindling savings, no social life, lots of sweat, peanut butter, traumatic bug experience (didn’t blog about this – let’s just say now when I shower I keep one eye on the drain, always), no job offers, dirty floors, and oh other things I suppose. Here is a photo of a lizard to celebrate this occasion:


4 March 2012

Ever since the rains started, every day is like a new episode of Bugs! in or near my house. Each evening I wait to see which bugs will accompany the mosquitoes in invading the house, dumbly drawn by the light.  Mostly, the ones that come inside aren’t too scary. However, there have been some interesting ones outside. Refer to pictures below. Also, this morning, I saw one that could have been a snake (and boy, was I praying that is was), but alas it turned out to be a bug. It was probably 6-7 inches long, and perhaps the thickness of two of my fingers, and it had legs. Lots and lots and lots of legs. I’m not sure I’ve quite recovered yet…

Tidbits of daily life Part I

26 January 2012

Having addressed most of the issues of feeding myself (calcium and iron notwithstanding), let’s turn to some tidbits of daily life. Let me start by saying: it’s hot. Very very hot. Here in the lowlands, there are few trees, and especially because this house in new, there are none large enough to shelter the house from the sun beating down. I knew someone who described hot summer days at home as ‘Africa hot’. Well, it’s Africa hot here in Africa.

One small redeeming factor is that the sun comes up here behind a hill, so it isn’t shining here directly until a little later than it would otherwise. In that light but not bright time, it’s time to clean the house, which means, washing the floors with a towel and a bucket of water, local-style. I have to leave the windows open because of the heat – if they were closed it would be even more oppressive – but that means that the breeze, which there thankfully is one of , blows in a lot of dirt. The last couple of nights there has been a very strong wind, and this morning the dirt was fairly piled up in places. So daily washing is necessary during the dry season.

There is a pair of birds that hangs out in the trees outside the living room window. I haven’t identified them yet. They are medium-sized, black, white, and brown, though the smaller one has red on the end of its beak and two yellow cheek-patches. They are always together. They eat lizards and big bugs. They run into the window frequently, I think in an attempt to perch on the window frame. There are also some beautiful turquoise finches that comes around sometimes, and yesterday I saw a bird that was bluejay sized, black with short spiky red around the head and breast, though not the face.

My new home

23 January 2012

Well, today’s the big day. I moved out of my homestay and into Alison’s house. I decided that comfort was important. I don’t mean the comfort of flush toilets or a big house; I mean just being somewhere you can picture being home and where you want to spend time. Loneliness will be an issue; it’s just me in this three-bedroom house. But one thing at a time. Here are some pictures from the area:

The house

The surrounding area – dry season

View of Kili from the front porch