Tag Archives: zanzibar

Learning, not burning [churches]

“All these men just hanging around doing nothing…!”, my Mum kept commenting when she visited Tanzania. It’s true. Partly because social life happens outside, and partly because Time here is a different kind of commodity – something to be shared, not jealously guarded as it is by us in the West, running around shouting about how busy we are.

By now, though, I had stopped noticing the lazing and lurking and staring; I (sometimes) enjoy the gentler approach to time. And many of these men – they are usually men – do work somewhere, during irregular hours perhaps: selling produce in the market, working in a relative’s shop, repairing things.

But even if they’re lucky enough to have that informal employment, a desperate lack of skills prevents them ever getting more than unstable, unreliable work for a minimal wage.
That skills deficit starts at the most basic level. Tanzania has made progress: the share of national income spent on education more than tripled in the last decade; in the same period, enrolment in primary schools doubled. But just being in school, it seems, is not enough. Continue reading

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Bad news

“I have some bad news”, said my colleague, when I answered her call on Sunday. So she wasn’t calling to check I’d got back from Zanzibar in one piece – since there was yet another ferry sinking recently, Tanzanians are a bit nervous about boat trips. No, she had bad news, and oddest of all I didn’t get that sudden heart-sinking feeling you usually get when you hear those words, because I knew it was coming, knew all along there’d be a story from among my colleagues at some point, even dreamt a few days ago that one of them was killed in a car crash.

Not a traffic accident this time but cerebral malaria. JD, our gardener/groundsman – the one who told me just a few days ago with an earnest face that I looked good, I was getting fat – had got sick fast, had been brought to hospital and then sent home, got worse, and then died, leaving a wife and five kids behind. Continue reading

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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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Chicken Licken goes to Zanzibar

Zanzibar is a bit gloomy in the drizzle, in low season. Especially when you leave the faded beauty of Stone Town. But I quite liked the cool, grey weather, the empty streets, and the quiet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rainy season, and far-off fears

Stuck in traffic, but it could be worse

E-mail from the Irish embassy a few hours ago: “Please note that there is a Tsunami warning in place on the Indian Ocean following earthquake this a.m. in Indonesia. Please monitor local radio and tv stations for up to date reports.”

By now the warning seems to have been lifted. For a brief afternoon though, we wondered if and when the tsunami would reach the East African coast. I started worrying about friends on Zanzibar. The rains that came down relentlessly for most of today – rainy season has finally got underway – seemed to warn of more frightening floods to come. We were sent home early from class because everyone realised how hard it would be to get home; meetings and gym classes this evening were cancelled; remembering the December floods in Dar es Salaam that killed over 50 people and destroyed numerous homes and offices, people began packing up valuables. Continue reading

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Festival-weary

I sneaked past immigration and made it onto Zanzibar on Friday. Seemingly a lot of sneaking was being done into the festival grounds, too – there’s a big difference in the resident price and the tourist price, but it seems a bit sad that the festival organisers lose out on those extra funds. It wasn’t the most polished event – the bars ran out of most alcohol pretty early on – or is that again simply a reflection on us terrible expats and our expat habits? After all, the mzungus probably outnumbered Tanzanians, to the dismay of one of my festival-friends, who’d expected a more African affair. In other senses though, it really did live up to the tagline – the music was truly African and the skies, lit up by the moon rising above the walls of the Old Omani-built Fort, wonderful.

True to form, our hotel had given our room away by the time we arrived; both Stone Town and the ferry there were full of the same faces I see around Dar all the time; and being pummeled around the sweaty dancefloor of the post-festival party by drunken mzungus /slightly aggressive local men was wearying. Continue reading

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