Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Strange Only If You Come From Somewhere Else:

The Terrifying: Trip from Dar es Salaam starts off with the bus driver narrowly missing a taxi pulling onto the road, driving up onto the grassy foot tall median strip and pruning a barely-missed tree before continuing on to the wrong side of the road. Without stopping the bus driver steers back onto the median strip and reenters traffic.

The Hilarious: Taking a dug-out canoe back from the historic Swahili ruins on Kilwa Kisiwani to Kilwa Masoko, our navigators begin by unfurling the boats sail. Unfortunately, there is no wind. One man gets out one of the three oars and begins rowing and singing, while the other fishermen and passengers (there are three others besides us) sit and watch. Only rowing on one side, we inevitably start turning around, and are prevented from doing so only by hitting two other boats. In the mean time the wind has picked up so that our sail starts to billow, only in the wrong direction (i.e. towards us). The fishermen do nothing about this, but instead the rudder-man picks up one of the two remaining oars, of course choosing the broken one, and proceeds to row. Eventually, half way across the channel another boat with a barely running motor comes out to tow us the rest of the way across.

The Ridiculous: Traveling from Lindi to Mtwara in southern Tanzania on a refurbished Japanese bus that of course is carrying at least ten more people than it was made to fit, when we pull over to pick up someone else. Only this person has with him a full wooden bed frame. Yes, a full twin bed frame, which he negotiates onto our bus. Luckily, the place for such furniture on the bus is the roof, and so that is where the next full wooden bed frame that we picked up about twenty minutes down the road also went.

Headed to Mozambique next...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

From Zanzibar...

...but actually concerning Uganda, here are two anecdotes, one of which is (verifiably) true:

1) A year ago the Ugandan transportation minister was invited by his German counterpart to visit for an exchange of ideas. The German minister showed his guest his beautiful house, situated on the top of an expansive valley. The German minister took his friend out to his veranda and said,"Do you see that bridge in the distance?"

"Yes, yes I do!" The Ugandan exclaimed as he caught sight of a huge suspension bridge in the distance"

"80% there," The German minister said pointing to the bridge, "and 20% here" he said patting his pocket.

A few months later the Ugandan transportation minister invited the German minister to Uganda. The German was treated to a visit at the Ugandan minister's house, a spectacular mansion atop a hill outside of Kampala. From his patio the Ugandan minister pointed out below, asking the German, "Can you see that paved road there?"

The German, squinting hard, asked, "what road?"

"100% here" said the Ugandan with a smile, patting his pocket.

2) Two American health workers go to a Ugandan primary class to teach them about HIV/AIDS awareness. The two are accompanied by a town council member, one of the most respected men in the village. At the end of an hour-long session on safe and proper uses of a condom, the town council member addresses the class: "And so, boys and girls, we all know what sort of girls use condoms?" He hesitates for a moment as the class responds with silence. "That's right, working girls."

The story that isn't true was told to me today by a PhD student who had worked in Uganda for the past several months. I don't mean to be harsh on Uganda and its people, they really are great.

Having a rainy but good time in Zanzibar!