Monthly Archives: July 2012

Vanilla or passionfruit?

Discussing the pros and cons of female condoms in a meeting today with a 50-something colleague I’d just met was slightly surreal. This is our new  HIV & AIDS expert, and she is nothing like the person I’d imagined based on the rather stern, direct, e-mails she’d sent. “I like to be a little provocative”, she said, with a cheeky glint in her eye. At headquarters back in Europe she’s been giving out flavoured condoms and asking her (old and married) co-workers what they think of the passionfruit ones.

Anyway, my colleague is trying to launch our organisation’s HIV & AIDS workplace policy; apparently, we’re one of the last of the development aid agencies to even have one. Tanzania will be one of our first countries to start work. And according to the policy, where HIV prevalence is greater than one % , a ready supply of free condoms is to be provided (just over 5% of adults are HIV positive here). Continue reading

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How to spend it

I knew Morogoro, a small city 200 km from Dar, was a popular conference venue. But I’d no idea of the business this has spawned till this week. During the first hour and a half on day one of our workshop, word had apparently spread that customers, flush with per diems and with time to kill during breaks, were in town. So as we spilled out of the conference room for our first tea break, we were met by a newspaper vendor, a professional photographer, a stall selling jewellery and clothes, another offering cracked heel balm and aloe vera toothpaste, and a fairly unconvincing guy offering “health checks” along with appropriate herbal remedies to treat your multiple deficiencies.

Dress shopping while nipping out to the loo













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Fruit market to red carpet

My photo albums are sufficiently stocked with the postcard images of Africa (smiling schoolchildren, colourful markets, battered old buses, banana trees, misspelt signboards, etc…). And they do tell part of a truth about this country; the kids do smile and the buses are old. But, of course, they leave out the aesthetically uninteresting and the (to our eyes) unexotic/normal. That selectiveness is how photography (and any art) works, I guess, and it’s what makes your images yours and not someone else’s.

But a more real account of Tanzania would describe the rest of it too, which is partly what led me to (or at least led me to bring my camera to) a flashy event in Dar last night. Continue reading

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X marks the spot

MapI don’t remember when I first learned how to use a map – which means it was probably way back in primary school. That’s not how it works in Tanzania.

People don’t use maps. Taxi or bajaji drivers (especially the latter) often don’t know streets by their names, even the major ones. If you’re lost, pointing to where you want to go on a map usually results with a blank stare. Today I was working with a graphic designer (his name, Amour, is oh-so-fitting, but this guy deserves a whole blog post to himself) to create a basic country map, showing where our projects are working. He whizzes his way round Illustrator and Indesign and whatever else on his Mac, but he’d never heard of Google Maps till I showed him, and he knew less about what cities were located where in this country than I did. Continue reading


Fashion on the farm

Spice farm style

Trying not to write another blog post about crime in this city, because I’m sick of hearing about it, talking about it, even dreaming about it. So maybe: something about the absurdity of days here? A morning struggling through the thick knots of desparate, angry young men in the city centre – taxi drivers that nearly start a fight to get your custom, snarling market hawkers resentful of your rich white faces, opportunist thieves and their violent fists – and the same evening, finding yourself admiring the modern art and marble worktops of a four-bathroomed apartment with sea view and private gym.

I hate lazy travel writing that sums up a destination as a place of contrasts – you can always find them if you look – but I can’t get away from the disjointed reality of Tanzania sometimes. Continue reading

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