18 August 2006

Tanzania fotos

I am back in Cape Town for three more weeks now and I have finally got the Tanzania fotos online. See them from here. If the slideshow gives you trouble as it was giving to me just then just see the frontpage.

11 August 2006

When anywhere, they do what the Romans (and other Europeans) do

If you are sitting next to people from the same country as you are, are you supposed to talk with them just because of that? I was sitting here on a computer last night and a Finnish couple was on the next one. I was thinking that never in a million years would I talk to them if we were in Finland so why should I just because we are half the world away. I think it is things like that, that our national identity is consisted of. But it was nice to see other Finnish people traveling outside of the usual comfort zone. I suppose I could have bigged them up for that.

The place where I am staying now seems to be found by quite a few Scandinavians. Well actually it is just one massive group of Swedish and Danish young people. They look very Scandinavian, which is not much of a surprise, with their beach gear and fashion which is reaching rest of the world probably around next summer. Finnish couple looked nothing like them so I have a reason to assume that there is a difference. I doubt that the difference would be that big somewhere in the Mediterranean though.

Last night having a supper, I was sitting in a next table to this crew and once they were paying the bill, an unfortunate event took place. There was some trouble with the prices and I have not got the foggiest idea who was right and who was wrong but I was quite embarrassed by the Danish girl in her early twenties who started to raise her voice to a local person probably twice her age. I know the culture we are dealing with in the north and I testify that it is lacking respect to the elders or to anyone one for that matter and I am probably as guilty of that as anyone, but here it is a culture, that one must respect people who are older, and evidently last night we were here, not in the northern parts of a different continent.

It is sad because I have seen enough European people traveling in different places and they often go to their destinations as some sort of an elite class of owners whose wishes must be followed or otherwise they will take their money somewhere else. The starting point has always been that we know more, our system is better and there is very little, if anything, that can be learned from locals. I am not talking about everyone, not even a majority, and possibly it is more the tourists than travelers who do this but you cannot expect to buy someone’s dignity with your Euros, Dollars or Pounds. The fact that people are poorer here does not give you a right to make them compete over your money. All of this can be put into just a one word, respect.

What is so ironic about this all is that most of the time it is the same people who then demand respect from the immigrants, travelers and foreign students when they come to our shores and are personally offended if their customs are not adopted. Strange bunch of people, us so called Europeans, aren’t we.

9 August 2006

Tanzania today

Walking around Dar es Salaam is constantly interrupted by people who want to talk with me. That is one of the best things while traveling as it gives me a chance to learn about the reality in the city. For the past few days I have been talking with an artist called Simba (means lion in Swahili) from whom I bought few paintings few days ago. Today we were having a long chat about lot of things including traveling; he was just going to Algeria and coming from Mozambique and the unavoidable topic of global politics. In my case most of the conversations start with people, without exaggerating every second on the street, noticing my tattoo which is in Swahili and then commenting it. I am getting super-props for it and I am taking them with open arms. I actually never realised that it is so visible but it appears that only the people so far have not necessarily understood it.

I also finally bought myself a battery, just an old fashioned one for my walkman radio and I have been listening to the radio for the whole of today. Some really cool stations like for example Radio One, which is playing a lot of Bongo Flavor, a Tanzanian Hip Hip in Swahili. Radio Free Africa did not impress me with anything else except a really cool name. The first and last song I heard from them was Shakira. Can someone please tell me where do I need to go in the world so I do not have to hear her music? I would like to give this station another go, but I feel that the risks are really high.

It is funny to notice also that South African music, mainly the more traditional end of Kwaito, is getting some support here. One day South African media answers to the love that it is receiving from the other countries from the continent. I may not be alive then but I hope it will happen.

I have been a supporter of Tanzanian band X-Plastaz for a while and I was really looking forward buying their record while here but it appears that it is impossible to find from Dar. I was told that I could possibly find it from Arusha, some 700 km away. I still must try to get some local music from this trip. It will be completely matter of luck whether I will find something that I like but then again, as my dad always says, it will be easier and definitely cheaper this week than the next when I will be in a different country.

On Saturday I will be going to a village of Mjimwema. It is on the beach side and I will spend my last days of this trip there. I was told first to go to the north side of Dar to another beachfront place but Simba, the artist I mentioned earlier, told me that it is a place for Mzungu. That means a white man, in this case I believe he was referring to whom I call Safari tourists, but regardless of what he meant I am still going to the cheaper place with apparently amazing views. I will go and check out the place tomorrow. It is no longer than an hour away by foot, ferry and Dala Dala (minibus taxi).

7 August 2006

Books and general mutual respect

Six days, of which few not feeling very good, and five hundred photos into my trip in Tanzania and I can safely conclude it to be one of the more hectic ones in my life. It is strange how after all these years, every time I make the same mistake of arriving somewhere hot and humid and start off by walking around for as many days as it takes for my body at each time to tell me to slow down. Maybe the next time I remember. To be honest it is highly unlikely.

I have been back in full effect again and today I did some book shopping. It was funny to notice that the fiction section in the bookshops was very small when practically almost every book on the shelves was somehow educational. I have never been a particularly big fiction reader, well seven years ago I was not very big reader full stop, but in comparison to the shops back home or in the UK this was quite nice change. Another thing that I was surprised about was that here people on the streets are selling books just like they sell souvenirs or newspapers. That was quite cool but I must also acknowledge that most books would be too expensive considering a local cost of living and the standard income. Maybe the school books are the exception and those seemed to be the ones mainly sold on the street.

I bought myself few books that I am about to start reading tonight. One of them is called “Africa from the nineteenth century to present – a History teachers’ handbook”. The title is rather self-explanatory and I am curious to learn how the history is taught here. All parts of the book are written by African writers and the book is published by Tanzanian Institute of Education so it should have a different angle than some of the more Euro-centric histories. It is left for my own judgment to decide what is real and what is not just like with everything. I would like to remind at this point that I do not believe in the truth as such because everything is just someone's interpretation of various facts. Just like my opinion is consisted of the things that I know and the way I put empahisis on each one of them.

Another one was a book about Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, the father of the nation in Tanzania and his visions for the society and the last one is a study of the mass communication as a part of the development in Tanzania. That I will use for my university purposes as although it is about Tanzania and my study is based in South Africa but it was Nyerere and his government who facilitated the South African liberation movements (ANC and PAC) during the struggle so there may be some connections on that level and even if not, at least it is interesting and some general points about the media in African society probably will be made.

It must also be mentioned that staying in the UK, I can only dream about the people in general knowing anything, or even being bothered to pretend to be interested about, where I come from. Once a university lecturer asked me "where actually is this Finland?" (those were the actual words and I will never forget them) and on my first year I had to convince a highly educated person that Finland is a part of the EU. Here the first question is often something like “Helsinki or Tampere?”. Considering that not even many Swedish people can name two Finnish cities/towns it warms my heart. Finland and Tanzania are truly marafiki – Swahili for friends. Well at least on the government level but I must say that I do not know how many Finns could name even one city or town, or anything for that matter about Tanzania. There is no crime in that. All I am saying is I enjoy the mutual respect that I am experiencing here.

4 August 2006

Learning continues

After few more days and I have not got glue where to start. So many things are taking place here. I was just taking almost one hundred photos from a demonstration against Israel’s actions in Lebanon and Palestine. Surely some of those will be online in few weeks. I have just filled my memory card for the first time so I had to come to the internet cafĂ© to save them so I can start from the beginning.

Yesterday was a nice day. I had a long walk, first to the village nearby entertaining the kids with my camera and generally just by looking different and then later on to the University campus. I have been staying so far outside of Dar es Salaam, as I mentioned in my earlier piece and as I am moving to the town centre tomorrow so I decided to spend yesterday just to get to know the not so urban side of the capital area. It is a beautiful place and everyone has been very friendly. Here it always ends with asking for a donation but most of the time it is reasonable and if for instance I have been taking pictures of the family and their yard, of course I want to show my appreciation. I must say that an exception to this rule took place the other day at the fish market where a homeless person demanded $10 for already taken picture and it was not even about him. I did not give him that, actually much less, but definitely enough to buy food which was his objective. I told him that I eat big lunch in a restaurant back home with that money. But you cannot blame the one who is asking but the one who is giving. I suppose for him it was worth the shot and surely someone will give him that money.

Yesterday walking from the village to the University of Dar es Salaam I realised how laid back the area is. Even the town centre is, although very busy, extremely safe. People are greeting me happily all the time and unlike in Cape Town there is no tenseness to mention of. I do not have to look over my shoulder more than anywhere in the world and it feels quite relaxing for a change. It is not only me either, but I feel that the local people are doing the same thing.

The definite downside of this country is the poverty. People really do not have all that much in general, which is the reason why they often ask for help and it is quite heart breaking at times. The first noticeable difference with Dar es Salaam and South Africa is that the wealthy side is not visible. In Cape Town when you are sitting in a minibus taxi packed with seventeen passengers in the traffic lights next to you is a big brand new expensive air-conditioned car with one person driving it. Here you do not see the rich people that often and there are no townships as such as shacks are more or less everywhere. This is not the most in-depth analysis of the country and its conditions, I know, but it is a view after the first few experiences.

Tanzania is a Swahili speaking country and this actually is my first time in one after taking a tattoo in the language. It only occurred to me the other day actually which is why I mention it. But here the language thing is very different to even Kenya. Here it is not only the main one but it is the most dominant language of communication. English is spoken commonly but the level of it is closer to Mozambique (which is a Portuguese speaking) than for instance Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana or many others. The country has 120 local languages and Swahili is actually a kind of umbrella language, kind of like the Tsotsi – or Township Taal in Soweto, which is understood by practically everyone regardless of their first language. I have been talking a lot with hands and felt like an idiot at times for not being able to communicate in Swahili and i have used all of my vocabulary so many times over and over again. Unfortunately it only covers the small talk. I must say though that somehow people can communicate if they so want even with very few common words.

I have been talking about the accommodation already but I do not think I mentioned that I am staying in a same guesthouse where the leading Tanzanian football team Dar es Salaam Simba sports club is having its training camp. I may be going to see their match tomorrow if everything goes smoothly.

Another short note is that I have officially had the best instant coffee ever over here. Locally produced and without any chemicals, the Afrocafe is something to take a sample home.

Last thing for now is that I was watching the TV the other night at the guesthouse and was sickened by the fact that VOA (Voice of America), the United States government propaganda broadcaster to poorer countries, was on. In USA their programming would be against constitution as far as I have understood as it is only representing the agenda of the government but unfortunately other countries that do not have the resources to produce their own programming, especially when I heard that in Tanzania less than one per cent of the households have TV, are often showing their freebies. After watching it a bit I felt that I was being hit in my head with a bible and hard. Not exactly a free media but the one to keep people down in certain areas and to promote the values of the free market Babylon as they were the only and the absolute truth.

That is the rant. Until next time.

2 August 2006

The first hours in Tanzania

After being in Tanzania for less than twenty-four hours I feel that I have learned few important things. Learning new things is what it is all about for me, so it looks like I am going to have good time here. The arrival already was great, as the first thing I saw was welcome to the Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere International Airport. I noticed that not only did the South African travel agency have old apartheid names for the South African airports but they also failed to recognise the new name of Dar es Salaam airport, which is now named after one of my heroes Mr. Nyerere.

Tanzania is hot and humid at the moment. It looks so different to South Africa and even compared to its neighboring countries of Mozambique or Kenya, which I have visited on my earlier travels. As I said I have only been here for a short moment and I cannot say much more about it yet but the city looks fascinating.

One thing that I had the time to notice is that the taxis, here known as Dala Dala, are even older than they are in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia or in any country where I have been taking them. By taxi I do not mean a cab but a minubus taxi filled with people. Here they have less seats so more people "can" stand so there is more space. Not the most comfortable yet not the least comfortable ride that I have ever had. It did rank closer to the latter though, but I do not want to complain too much about anything now.

I also learned that getting online may just be one of the best things for anyone who has a business to do. It depends a bit on what kind of business but for instance the guesthouse where I am staying for now is far enough from the town. Its location is not very good although the surroundings are very beautiful but in the country kind of way. The reason why I am there and why few other people seem to be there is because it could be found online and also booked from there. Many places on much better locations, possible even cheaper ones may be lacking business because they are not online and therefore cannot be found that easily. What I always do is to book online just for few nights to get started and then find a better place and that is what I am about to do now as well. But I must still say that it is just the location, other than that the place is really nice.

I also learned that the music I must look into here is called Bongo Flavor. I hope to find out as much about that as possible. Nothing much more for now, but surely I will be updating this space as the days go by. The photos may have to wait until I get back to Cape Town but they are on their way as well.