“After two months of rest from my blog, I have returned to update you all on what has been happening on this side of the planet from a hotel room in Kampala, Uganda. The power has just been cut due to a rolling black out, and I’ve just returned from dinner at a local bar that consisted of goat and chips, washed down with a beer. Great time to sit and bring you up to speed.
“After spending lots of hours slaving away at creating project briefs for AKF Tanzania, which included merry-go-rounds of comments from people as far away as Geneva, I was asked to go to Uganda to help AKF put together briefs advertising the Madrasa Pre-School Programme (see my June entry for an explanation of what this is) that will be used to inform visiting dignitaries and other delegates of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting of the work AKF is doing in early childhood development. The meeting is happening later in November, but the whole city is behind schedule in preparing to host the conference. My driver from the airport pointed out one large hotel that was designed and built solely for the purpose of this three day meeting, and was suppose to have been finished last month. The roof was still missing and the interior was still one giant concrete mass, at least from what I could see as our car sped by. Local papers have also reported other delays. Fiber-optic wires for high speed internet are still being laid, and pot-hole filled roads are still being refurbished, and telecommunications lines are still being installed. The arrival terminal at Entebbe was still under construction when I arrived, still in need of signs to help visitors navigate the terminal. The whole city is cramming to get everything done before 52 heads of state arrive to promote trade and co-operation between Commonwealth countries. The Queen is also supposed to attend, but the local papers speculate she will not be amused at the current rate of progress. I can’t help but think I’ll be joining this rush effort by assisting AKF create these materials.
“Prior to this trip I have just been leading a bland, 9-5 lifestyle in Zanzibar, with my actual working hours being more like 8-7. Originally sent to me by my room mate as a joke, it reflected my internship experience perfectly, which is incredibly sad and scary to think I can now relate to Dilbert:
When not waiting for comments from Geneva (all AKF communications documents must be signed off by the AKF world head quarters before publication), who by the way weren’t wild about the font and colour of a few briefs I sent in for review, I have also spent time settling into my new digs in Bububu. It's a satellite community of Stone Town and is named after the sounds a train running through the area used to make.
Myself and the other interns decided to move because of the cheap rent and location in a local neighbourhood. We were getting tired of the wazungu wafting around Stone Town with their cameras and questions, which was annoying made things feel claustrophobic. So we moved into a gorgeous home in the suburbs, hiring two guards to keep the peace during the day and evening times. We’ve been happy ever since. Being the only visible foreigners in the neighbourhood, we stand out as obvious targets for malicious beings looking for a house to break into, but given the tranquility of the area, and that one of our guards does a kung-fu-style work out routine every morning in the back yard (I think he’s ex-Zanzibar KGB), I doubt we’ll be hit.
The 20 to 30 minute commute into work by dala dala is also interesting. Last night I talked with a Masaai merchant who was decked out in full tribal garb, about why he moved from Arusha to Zanzibar (money), and what it takes to become a Masaai warrior, to which he responded ‘kill a lion and snip snip’. The latter referred to male circumcision, which is done at the age of 15, when Masaai men become Moran worriers and assume larger household responsibilities, like looking after cattle, the main tribal currency. He was shocked that I didn’t own any cattle. To him I was poor. He had 100 grazing the grass lands somewhere in Arusha tended to by his distant family.
The other night I chatted with a man who claimed to be a free lance journalist. He was in the middle of writing his first novel, “Kiss on the eyes” that was about an adulterous wife who broke her husband’s heart by “prostituting” herself. It was apparently based on a true story, his, and he became quite angered at the thought of the whole experience when I asked for further details. He told me he was currently in the market for “a nice wife” and had sent somebody to Pemba on his behalf to find him something appropriate, “Mungu akipenda” (“if God wishes”). I bit my tongue and wished him luck in finding a wife that could put up with him, to which he laughed in great amusement.
Then there was the man who invited me to his mosque after I tried to describe what being “agnostic” means in broken Kiswahili when he asked about my religious beliefs. He looked rather disappointed after listing to my explanation. To him I was probably a lifeless, lost soul in need of redemption and guidance. If I see him again I’ll follow him up on his offer out of my own curiosity…until then, I’ll be at the bar sinning by enjoying fine, imported brews!