måndag 25 februari 2013


What better way is there to start off a week with a documentary about Malian desert blues stars - Tinariwen.
Check out their music on Spotify. Their last album Tassili won a grammy for best world music album in 2012. I regret missing their concert in Stockholm last year. I hope they return soon.

For Swedes here is the documentary: http://www.svtplay.se/video/1035336/tinariwen

For others you'll have to watch a music video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BOV5jEa-vwc


tisdag 16 oktober 2012

Music and Movies

Too much time has past since I wrote anything about Africa. Then today I found out that one of my favorite groups this past year just released a new album a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, I missed their concert in Stockholm this spring due to my stay in Tanzania. However here are some videos from their new album called Bouger Le Monde by Staff Benda Bilili


There is a fascinating story about their struggles and tribulations of living with a disability in the capital Kinshasa, The Democratic Republic of the Congo. If you haven't seen it DO SO!: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJX2GdYr054

måndag 4 juni 2012

Kenya vs Tanzania

It's been a few days (or maybe weeks) since I wrote last time, but I'm back!! I've spent close to a week in Mombasa, Kenya and I thought it would be appropriate to write a compare and contrast blog entry: Kenya vs Tanzania.

So what is actually different and similar in these two countries?

The first thing I noticed stepping on Kenya soil was the English. Almost everyone in Kenya speak really good English. That's not often the case in Tanzania. It made it a little easier for me to make myself understood but also to understand the Kenyans. Nevertheless, it was kind of odd since I was used to greeting everyone in Swahili in Morogoro and elsewhere in Tanzania, but now all I got my "how are you my friend". Oh, no what happened to the very handy "mambo - poa" phrase???

Besides this of course Tanzanians almost seem a little bit more crazy in love when it comes to soccer. The Kenyans didn't seem to sport the favorite soccer jerseys as often as their neighbors down south. But I'm pretty sure they are very familiar with Manchester United and the rest of the premiership teams.

I also found it striking that you are able to get almost everything in Mombasa and a lot of it were produced in the country. That's not really the experience I have had in Tanzania where a lot of things are imported from Egypt, Middle East, Turkey, UAE, India and China. Nevertheless I felt very dumbstruck when I asked about the Champions League Final a few weekends back and the response I got from the Father at the local Catholic church in Matombo (a rural village in the mountains 3hrs from Morogoro) - "we are changing from analog to digital tv so at the moment so the channels aren't working". Huh!! Digital TV here in Matombo!! Yikes! Oh, Gustav stop being hysterical and stop having stereotypical pictures of rural Africa. They are closer to modern society than you think.

As far as drinking alcoholic beverages concerns of course you can buy Tusker in both countries. Though this Kenyan beer is produced under license in Dar es Salaam for the Tanzanian consumers. Konyagi (the local Tanzanian gin) is likewise a popular spirit across the border. But I was able to stay away from it and tried some locally produced Kenyan Wine. Did you know that Tanzania is the 2nd largest wine producing country in Africa after South Africa! I did not! Quality wise? Well, the Kenyan white was was so-so, but the red was okay. I probably wouldn't serve it at a wedding, but for a Saturday playing cards and eating tacos it was perfect.

The sad thing about visiting Kenya was that in Mombasa there is a thriving working-girl business (my airport taxi driver even asked me if I wanted to pick up some prostitutes), but also a lot of homeless people and almost everyone seemed to be chewing Khat (or Mirrah). The latter being illegal in Tanzania but legal in Kenya. Sure, I do know people chewing in Tanzania, but my experience has been that people do it mostly at home or with friends. In Kenya, specially the taxi drivers, buss drivers and the tuk-tuk drivers almost all had a bulging right cheek and a plastic bag next to the steering wheel. Some were probably fine, but we did have some sketchy drivers who were clearly under the influence and did not really know what they were doing. I can't really say I have seen any prostitutes in Dar es Salaam or any other parts of Tanzania. I'm pretty sure that they exist here as well, but it was so blatant in Mombasa and neither have I seen many homeless people in Tanzania. Sure both countries have their share of very poor people, but still it seemed like there were even more outcasts (many times disabled people).

My last note on Kenya and the Tanzania is that there any waaaaay many more Wazungos in Kenya than Tanzania. Ok, maybe I'm a littler biased here since I was staying in the Mzungo town of Diani Beach, but even in Mombasa there were plenty. Driving around in Dar es Salaam I rarely saw any white people. Maybe Kenya is a prime target form British tourists but also other Europeans and Americans and is just simply more famous than in southern neighbor. Things seem to be a bit more accommodated for the tourists coming to Mombasa and especially the beach resorts. The supermarkets sold all the things you are used to see back home going grocery shopping.

So to give a short summary: Kenya (+) for English and the supermarkets (-) prostitution, drug use and social outcasts. Tanzania (+) few instances of prostitution, drug use and social outcasts but also for being and it is more Tanzania and not Mzungo country (-) I don't speak Swahili so sometimes its tricky to communicate

torsdag 17 maj 2012

Tanzania: a country split in two

If you are well-read you might think this post will discuss the relationship between mainland Tanganyika and the island called Zanzibar. Unfortunately, you are mistaken. It will instead deal with a much more intricate and important relationship here in Tanzania especially for the male populations. Today as I was walking in town I realized that most men are sitting on these home-made wooden benches sipping tea or coffee out of small cups or plastic mugs eating a small biscuit, sometimes reading the news (mostly the sport section) or listening to stories told by someone. The main topic this week, it is my guess at least, divides this country in two - namely


Huh, how is that possible? There is a simple explanation, at least the version given to me, and that is if you are a Tanzanian you have to make two very important decisions. 1) Simba SC or Young African Sports Club 2) Manchester United or any other Premier League team. This is what is creating this split among people. Either you are a Simba fan wearing red/white jersey or Young SC sporting green/yellow. Then the second split it quite obvious when you walk around any Tanzanian town. There are Man United stickers, jerseys sold and placed everywhere. Some busses are more or less covered in Red and Black. The other 50% sides with Chelsea, Liverpool, City or even Italian or Spanish teams.

However, this week must have lead to a big crisis among many Tanzanians. First 50% of the population was devastated when City miraculously won the Premiership title on Sunday. That's probably why it was so quiet around town. All the Man U fans were home in silence, than thee next blow came on Monday. It was time for the national heroes Simba to beat the Sudanese Al-Shandy and continue to the next stage in the African Confederation Cup. They had a 3-0 win from the home game in Dar es Salaam. The troubles started in early second half when the Sudanese scored not only once but twice and finally a third. The game was settled at 9-8 after penalties. I had give up watching the game already at the 45-min mark. Maybe it was the idea of watching a game in Arabic, without sound but with a swahili presenter doing talking including an echo due to poor sound quality. Very disturbing! However, around 11-12pm it was dead quiet. It is usually never this quiet. And it was the second night in a row.

I asked a painter the day after and he just shook his head, because he was one of the unfortunate ones to be not only a Simba fan but also a fan of Man U. Pole Sana!

lördag 12 maj 2012

Mode of Transportation in Tz

Being a tourist usually means you need to find other ways of traveling from place to place than using your own car. Normally in Sweden that means using the bus system or the trains. However, the situation here in Tanzania is a little bit different. During day-time there is practically no problem finding a ride, but at night you are stuck getting a ride from your friends. There are no taxis waiting outside the nightclub for example. It is also a big different traveling in Morogoro compared to Dar. These are just my experiences to keep that in mind.

My first ride was with Cash Money. The Friendly Gecko's taxi service guy. No cash no ride! More or less :D 30.000 Tsh from the Airport to the guesthouse and he knows the where the guesthouse is situated.

Then of course in Dar we have the Tuk Tuks or more commonly known as Bajajis because of the Indian manufacturer Bajaj. They are extremely popular in Dar but here in Morogoro there are only just a few. the reason being that Dar is a flat coastal area and Morogoro more mountainous and the roads here are in many cases really rough.

While the Bajajis haven't really made it here due to the fierce competitions from the Dala Dalas and especially the Boda-bodas. Huh? What do you mean?

Yes, these little minivans usually Toyota, are extremely weather-beaten and extremely cheap but there are countless of them here in Morogoro. You rarely have to wait for one to come and they will take you pretty much everywhere for the fashionable price of 300 Tsh (or 1,5 SEK or 0.2 US). The downside is that since there's no limit of passengers they usually cram 30 or so people in these minivans. Being a pretty big guy this poses a problem. Though I do usually get a seat (because I'm white, man and sometimes older) I still have to find room for my legs and arms and even my head. Just yesterday the latter was my biggest problem because there was a broken air intake right by my head. So I had to bend to my left not to get pierced by this sharp pointy plastic dala dala weaponry. The trip still ended up being a treat since we were twelve of us (9 children from Amani Centre plus 2 staff members and me). Finding room for that many wasn't as easy as you might think :D

Another problem with the dala dalas is that they are usually very slow. They will take you were you want to go, but make sure you are not in a rush. Sometimes they'll not leave until they are crammed. So my next option is to use the boda-bodas or motorcycle taxis. Let me give you a brief history lessons:

The boda boda is a term used for bicycle taxis originating in the no man's land between Kenya and Uganda as means of transporting people from the two borders. Hence, the name bodaboda. These are very common here in Morogoro, and to make everyone back home a little less worried. There are apparently bodaboda organizations in most East African towns and villages to combat badly maintained bikes and dangerous driving. Many drivers are licensed and "sometimes" wear a helmet, though none is provided for the passenger. They are however also the quickest means of transportation and they are still quite cheap 1000 Tsh (standard price in Morogoro) for a normal day-time trip. Sometimes they ask for more but they rarely give you a hassle. The biggest problem is probably making sure they know where you want to go and getting change.

My first week in Morogoro as I was also asked if I had used the pikipikis or the bodabodas. Not knowing the difference I had to ask to the amusement of the guys I was with. The simple explanation is that pikipiki is the word for a motorcycle and the bodaboda is a motorcycle taxi.

There has been a enormous rise of bodabodas in East Africa and according to my travel guide but also information on the internet it is due to the influx of cheap Chinese motorcycle the past decade or two. It is also estimated that there are about 200.000 profession bodaboda drivers in Uganda and I'm just assuming that they number is much higher here in Tanzania. At least that's the feeling you get walking around in Morogoro.

The last option here in Morogoro is the normal Taxi. My friends Louise and Cia were nice enough to give me some numbers for their favorite drivers (usually meant that driver's English was good enough so that the girls were able to go where they wanted). However, it is a pricy mode of transportation. Our trip yesterday cost 12.000 Tsh and for that same price I can actually almost go back and forth to Dar using the express bus service (6500 Tsh one way). Nevertheless as it was raining and we were heading up the hills there are no other options. I have tried the bodaboda but last time it started raining and though I didn't get soaked being cheap wasn't my best choice.

The least favorable mode of transportation is probably the train. Though there are train tracks here in Morogoro I have seen the train once and heard it once more. I have no idea how often they go, and people rarely use them. Some people say that the train ride between Dar and Morogoro has been cancelled for several months. I don't know, but it is still not an option when the train travels at 50km/h and the busses connect all towns in Tanzania. Our options are almost endless as loss as you are not too picky about your comfort and the length of your journey. My last trip to Arusha took 9hr one day, including one short bathroom stop (bush bathroom) and a 15-minute grab-and-go lunch stop. Furthermore, the seats provide enough space but I guess I'm a cousin of the Princess on the Pea, because my butt was so sore after that trip. And this was still one of the better bus companies connecting Dar with Morogoro and Morogoro with Arusha. At 6500 (Dar-Morogoro, 25 Sek or 3.5 US) or 25.000 (107 Sek or 15 US) Morogoro-Arusha.  The prince is incompatible to any trips in know in Sweden.

I think this is the end of today's journey, but in the future check out stories on: Tanzanian soccer, drug use and diseases in Tanzania.

onsdag 9 maj 2012

Childrearing in Tanzania

I have thought about writing something on this topic for a while, but something has come between every time.

One thing I have noticed is that there are kids everywhere in this country. According to statistics each woman will give birth to 5.7 children. That's a lot and probably explain why there are kids pretty much everywhere. But also because we in Sweden or probably in other countries in the world we lock them in different institutions....oh I mean the school system. Here they seem to have much more freedom. I don't mean that they don't go to school because they do. However, in Sweden we leave our children in school and after school programs for up to 10-12 hrs. They don't here. The children just simply walk home when school is over. And the children are playing everywhere and they sort of seem to handle traffic well and other things that we in Sweden would consider dangerous, such as riding the motorcycle or cycle just by holding on to the luggage carrier. Accidents probably happens, and most people seem to have some scars but whether they got them from riding a bike or because of some other reason I'm not able to tell. Maybe I should ask sometime.

Neither have I really seen any child labour. It probably exists, especially when it is time for farming. In some cases such as goat tending, I guess, could be seen as child labour but it is also a very important part of being a teenager, or even a rite of passage for example among the Maasai.

Another interesting thing I have noticed is that when a mama is getting on a dala dala and if their is no room to sit she will just hand over her child to some stranger. The child will just sit in the strangers lap like nothing special is going on. I'd like to see that in Sweden. Our children will make the biggest fuss or scream and don't even mention the parents. We just wouldn't do it! Here instead it is sometimes actually the stranger taking the child from its mother and if the stranger gets off she will automatically simply hand over the child to another stranger. Still no sign of distress in the child. If this happened in Sweden we would call the Police. Of course I'm exaggerating a bit (as far as Sweden is concerned, but not Tanzania).

It is nice to see that we aren't afraid of our fellow bus travelers and don't see every situation as a potential threat or pedophile.

It would also be very interesting to see Swedish children running around asking strangers to take photos of the children. Oh no! Do I hear people scream pedophile?
But here its one of their (the children's) favorite activity. At first it was a bit awkward because you just don't do it in Sweden. That or I was expecting them to ask for money. So far no one has, though some friends have experienced that, they just simply seem to enjoy posing in front of the camera and look at the photos afterwards. My iPhone is become very handy and the children can actually slide from one pic to another and enjoy it a lot. Its actually quite surprising when adults also enjoy it. I had a man stopping us as he was carrying a large sack of apples on his head just to have us take a photo of him. Its amazing!

My final thought is that if we mixed some Swedish structure and educational standards with some Tanzanian courage and freedom I think childhood could be awesome experience.

tisdag 8 maj 2012

African Toys

I was debating my next topic for this post and I was thinking about writing about childrearing in Tanzania, typhoid or khat but then I saw some of the kids next door with their toy cars. This is what I want to write about. I have actually saved my last four or five plastic bottles so I can try it myself :D

Watch this video and see for yourself http://vimeo.com/34563622

One thing I'll bring back to Sweden is the brilliant ideas people have even though they have nothing. Furniture can be made out of scrap metal and wood, toys about of pretty much anything. Yesterday as I was running local boys were playing soccer with soccer ball made out of densely packed plastic bags. We were also approached by a man trying to show us a toy he had made. It was a colorful thing that looked like a little man attached to a  long stick and when you push it in front of you it looked like that man was running/cycling. Awesome! Brilliant! Other children use of old bicycle rims and push them forward with a stick. small pieces of old tire can also be used for making sling shots or arrow and bow. I think I have posted a picture from an orphanage I visited and this toy car was made of a small paper box where plastic caps are used as wheels. Add a little string and you are able to pull it. However even the simplest things can be valuable. At the same orphanage rubber bands where as precious as gold. You should have seen it. The kids went nuts when one of the volunteers where handing out rubber bands.

It kind of reminds me of my childhood when we made animals out of pine cones or small towns for our toy cars using anything left by my dad in the garage. Stones, sticks, a board and small pieces of wood would be made into houses and bridges. Cleaning out the attic at my parents' house I actually found those again. What a great time we had making those.

Let me show you some more pictures of African toys:

lördag 5 maj 2012

National Parks in Tanzania

Any trip to Tanzania should (or must) include a trip to any of the numerous national parks scattered around the country. That's exactly what I did just this past week. Tagging a long four friends we embarked on a journey covering the popular Lake Manyara National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Lake Natron (not a park per se) and if you thought this was enough I also ended up visiting Arusha National Park with some other friends as well.

Of course they all offer different things. For example Ngorongoro is probably one of the most well-known parks and the views are spectacular. Any trip there is worth wild because the animals are very easy to spot and there are plenty of them just under your nose. If not then you should ask for a refund. This time around, during the rainy season, we saw four out of the five Big 5 animals. The only one to escape my supervision was the illustrious leopard hiding somewhere in a tree or bushes in the park.

Lake Manyara provides, just like the previous park excellent viewing of African animals. The elephants just appeared from no where just a few meters to our right. That is an amazing animals! The rest of the park also displays a large number of birds, zebras and giraffes for example. If you really want to see animals and only have a few days to spare these places are your best bet.

Our trip also included a long journey on a dirt track (100km) straight north from Lake Manyara to Lake Natron. The scenery was incredible, especially now when everything is lush and green. The mountains are very beautiful and zebras and occasional wildebeest roam the area freely. This is something you didn't really experience in the other two parks. There you almost had the experience of being at a zoo, because the animals didn't really seem to be bothered by all the 4x4 Landcruisers and the tourists cameras frenetically capturing their every move.

Lake Natron is something totally different from the other parks. This place feels like the end of the world and you really wonder why there are people living out here. Nothing really grows for much of the years, just some occasional scrubs in this lava filled soil. However, the lake with its minerals do provide the animals with a lot of important nourishment. Hence, there is a reason for them to come there. The other reasons are to see the lesser flamingos covering the lake eating the algae living in the salty water but also to climb the still active volcano called Ol Doinyo Lengai (2800m). It means the "Mountain of God" and serves as very important place for worship in the Maasai culture. Nevertheless our trip there was haltered a bit because of the heavy rain the night we were set on climbing. Instead we ended up make a short trip down to the lake and also to a beautiful waterfall in a fresh water river in the area.

Arusha National Park was my last stop on this short trip in northern Tanzania. It is one of the few arks where you are allowed to walk. It is supposedly also one of the prettiest parks because of its varied terrain and also because it is the home of the fourth highest mountain in Africa, Mount Meru (4565m). Unfortunately it is rainy season so the mountain was covered in clouds and the animals were conspicuous by their absence. There were a few buffaloes, zebras, giraffes and warthogs when we walked on the plains of this park. However, it seemed like the trail was set so afterwards it felt a bit lame. I had bigger hopes actually and seeing animals very close in the other parks this didn't make me get goose bumps. The walk could be extended to the peak which might have been better or just come another time when there are more animals.

By now you might think I'm done doing safaris but No. My next plan is to visit Mikumi National Park just an hour south of Morogoro. It will pretty much have the same animals as the other parks, but I'm just right next to it so I sort of have to go there. Some friends went there just a few weeks ago and saw Lions climbing trees. That sounds pretty cool I think. Another idea would be to visit the Udzungwa National park just a few kilometers west on the other side of the highway. This isn't a park where you'll see african carnivores or elephants and such. However, it is one of the few places in Africa with endemic species of monkeys, birds and plants, which means this is the only place where they live and hence the park is also knows as the "Galapagos Islands of Africa". There are 11 different primates and five of them are endemic, one of them is the red colobus monkey. Instead of doing a 4x4 trip you actually hike and camp in the park and hopefully spot some of the 2500 plats (160 are medicinal) and 250 bird species (2nd highest concentration in Africa).



tisdag 24 april 2012

Swahili Cuisine!

I wanted to discuss some of the delicious things I eat here in Tanzania, but last time I uploaded photos here they were so large so I won't do it this time. Anyway...today I had pasta with chipsi (or fried potatoes/fries) with cabbage, dinner included rise (wali) with cabbage and meat (ngombe/nyama) and this is pretty much what I get more or less Monday to Friday. Rice, pasta, potatoes, plantains, beans (maharagwe), and cabbage. I was actually more than surprised when there was meat for dinner (chakula cha jioni) tonight. I usually get this no more than once a week. So I am basically a future vegetarian. My first breakfast (chakula cha asubuhi) though was interesting. It was beaf soup (supu ya ngombe) and it was a wee bit too spicy since accidentally forgot that the chills here are quite strong.

However, I have asked people what their favorite food is here and well it is rice, chips, ugali (maize pudding) and chicken (kuku). Surprise surprise! On the other hand they had no idea what MacDonald's was and neither had they tried pizza. We explained the latter as Chapati (kind of like pancakes) with sauce, cheese and meat on it. They were still very confused.

Basically it seems like Tanzanian cuisine is based on a staple of carbs, where ugali, rice and potatoes are cheap and almost everyone here seem to have a plot where they cultivate maize/corn. Some also use cassava or plantains (cooking banana) to add some more carbs. These all go together in different variations. Except rice and ugali which seem to be served together with some sauce.

Of course there are variations to the diet. I like mishikaki which are grilled kebabsticks and there is never a problem finding grilled corn (which I yet haven't tried). There's rarely any problem finding small dough-shaped triangles called samosas which are filled with beef or vegetables for example.

Some people would probably ask what I drink over here and well except for beer (Kilimanjaro, Safari, Serengeti and Ndovu) there is juice (juisi), chai, miwa (sugarcane juice), instant coffee and water (maji) and of course probably the most common drink here - SODA. Even in the remotest areas you'll find a Pepsi, Coke, Fanta, Mountain Dew or Miranda bottles. And they are incredibly cheap mostly.

So if you feel like you'd like to dine some fine Swahili cuisine back in Sweden then don't despair b/c we have a place in central Stockholm called Chakula.

lördag 21 april 2012

African words in English

Now and then I read articles in different magazines or newspapers discussing the decline of Swedish because of the influx of words from English (usually American words) but words stemming from immigrant languages. I usually disagree to this because language is an ever evolving mechanism and saying that Swedish is declining means you haven't really understood how language works. People have a strong desire to communicate and we will make every effort to understand each other. Just look at how many pidgin and creole languages have formed over the years in African, South-American and the West-Indies. We could look even closer and find that Swedish and English are just a mix of words from all over the world. People travel and trade with each other and language have to change because has to stay functional. Of course you could argue that there might be a higher rate of change today. I don't know, maybe maybe not. However, yesterday we had a discussion on the word 'mumbo jumbo' which could be used in English and Swedish. Interestingly, in Swahili it means something like chaotic problems according to Father Beatus here at the Amani Centre. Of course I had to look it up on Wikipedia, but they rather explained he word as of West-African origin. According to Wikipedia it refers to a masked dancer whose main job is to solve disputes, especially the meaningless ones. Hence, we have a expression called mumbo jumbo referring to something confusing or meaningless in English and Swedish.

This made me wonder if there are other African influences in English and Swedish. So here is a list of words that some of thought were 'real' English/Swedish words.

  • banana - West African, possibly Wolof banana
  • bogus - Hausa boko-boko meaning fake or fraudulent
  • bozo - stupid, West African
  • boogie - Wolof or Sierra Leone, to dance
  • chimpanzee - The name is derived from a Tshiluba language term "kivili-chimpenze", which is the local name for the animal and translates loosely as "mockman" or possibly just "ape".[2]
  • cola - from West African languages (Temne kolaMandinka kolo)
  • dig, in sense of understand or appreciate - from Wolof dega
  • hip - from Wolof hipi and hepicat, one with eyes open
  • jazz - from West African languages (Mandinka jasi, Temne yas)
  • jive - possibly from Wolof jev
  • jukejukebox - possibly from Wolof and Bambara dzug through Gullah
  • merengue (dance) possibly from Fulani mererek i meaning to shake or quiver
  • mumbo jumbo- from mandigo name Maamajombo, a masked dancer
  • okay - disputed origins, likely influenced by Wolof waw-kay (I like this one)