On Nyerere, kids, houses, cell phones and more in Tanzania

Visiting Tanzania can be as overwhelming as its size (twice as big as California!), beauty and history. It’s hard to absorb it all in a week so here’s a hodge podge of things from my notebook as we make our way to the airport.

Julius Nyerere was Tanzania’s first postcolonial leader and president for almost 25 years. He was known as the “Mwalimu” or teacher in Swahili and his greatest legacy is that Tanzania’s 120 plus ethnic groups have lived in peace since independence. He united the country by giving the country a common language, Swahili, and had it taught in all schools in addition to the local dialect.

Julius Nyrere, Mwalimu

Julius Nyrere, Mwalimu

He also had all students go to secondary school and live in communities that were of different ethnicity than their own to promote multiculturalism. He was the Baba wa Taifa (you’ll have to look that one up) and I think the country’s Trudeau. Do we ever need these guys today!

Buying a house is different in Tanzania than in Canada. In Canada, with very little money down, you get a mortgage, find your place and you’re in. Here it’s all cash on the barrel. So, homes are built in stages as the money becomes available. As a result you see homes in progress emerging in front of the old thatched huts.

New Boma, Old Boma

New Boma, Old Boma

We visited UMATU, an organization that advocates for and supports people living with HIV in Karatu. See its amazing history at http://www.cpar-tanzania.blogspot.com/. Part of their business plan is to develop a full-fledged bakery (“because the bread in Karatu is terrible”) and to sell unique crafts to the folks passing through to the Ngorogoro crater and Serengeti. They make handbags out of traditional khangas and a big seller this season is guess who?

Obama visits UMATU and Sabina

Obama visits UMATU and Sabina

I don’t think I’m going to surprise or offend anyone if I state that childhood in Canada and the west in general is over-commercialized and structured. Kids here in Karatu still are able to enjoy the simpler in life things mainly because they don’t have all that stuff (cell phones, game boys etc). So, kids make a game out of chasing the rare vehicle that passes through their village and often catch it!

A race to the finish line

A race to the finish line

 

Kids ask to have their picture and expect not more in return than the chance to see their face on the tiny LCD screen. When a few dozen of kids are around, its gives a new meaning to the word swarming!

Swarmed in Laja Endebash

Swarmed in Laja Endebash

Speaking of cell phones, lets have “the talk”. Rural Africa will never see a land line system like the one Ma Bell built. The system here will be wireless and its happening fast. Imagine my surprise when visiting Rebecca (previous entry), a phone dingles and this farmer who has to walk 5 kms just to get water, reached into her pocket and pulled out her phone. And of course it makes perfect sense.

Phones here are cheap; access is both a lifeline to the rest of the community and a gateway to information, and people pay as you go. Westerners have cell phones, these folks need them. So when you start to see more images of poor African farmers with cell phones, remember this isn’t wasteful or decadent, this is a necessity and a sign of progress.

Hey its market day. Thousands of people will show up to trade and buy food, house wares and clothes. And…those black things in a row are sandals made of old tire rubber. The Massai love them so I just had to pick up a pair of size 10’s.

Market day and a good rubber soul

Market day and a good rubber soul

 

Each little town has its “hangout” called a kiosk and appropriately it is also little. A good place to have a soda and avoid the sun or the rain, shoulder to shoulder. The couple on the right, Pascal & Fabiola, are farmers in Maghesho who took part in CPAR’s MBH program and who invested some of their crop proceeds in this new business to create a new income stream for their family.

Where everyone know your name

Where everyone know your name

Pasha. Every culture has its rally cry and here it’s a pasha. It’s a sign of appreciation that’s way better than high fives. The Awet students, our Country Director Jean and the “Sisters Du” (the nurses from Algonquin)  http://algonquincollege-blogs.com/africa2009/  really get into it here. Thanks for joining me in Tanzania. Last stop, Malawi!

Big Pasha!

Big Pasha!

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2 Responses to “On Nyerere, kids, houses, cell phones and more in Tanzania”

  1. Rosemary Jackson Says:

    You may also want to read David Lawrence, “Tanzania and Its People,” just in case you’re interested.

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