Wednesday, December 30, 2009

my 2009 in review

2009: survived the boston winter; had a fabulous, sexy haircut; went a week without showering; brought a guy home to my parents; moved to tanzania; cough cough; became great friends with lier; saw lion king live; had a crazy, bad fight with mother; made up with mother and became closer; unburdened myself from past secrets; became great friends with tamika; broke up, got back together, and broke up again with the same guy; went to vegas; ate fried chicken, mmm; started the year with a kiss; bought blue mac eye shadow; went to nyc!; bought orange shoes; bought purple shoes; went to navajo nation; slept in serengeti; became a gbv expert; fell in love; got into more debt; went to big bend; fell deeper in love with texas; been on tanzanian television; been in tanzanian newspapers; saw hippos; bought a great bcbg dress on sale!; took great photos; in the end became more comfortable with myself; someone made me heart shaped cookies; gained weight (really i did); made a nasty cheesecake; got the flu; had a birthday surprise; saw the sun rise; sold my car; danced with maasai women; ate cheesy enchiladas; saw the sun set; didn't make it to india; ate a ton of free heller pizza; learned to scavenge for free food at heller; left boston; went to houston; went to cape cod; had an in and out burger, delicious; got a job offer; started a solar project in tanzania; started a blog; saw dear bunker; had my heart broken; became even more critical of others and myself (new years resolution CUT DOWN on the nasty virgo trait); fell in love with being a virgo; got a permit without paying a bribe!; drank alot of water (and other substances); went to oklahoma; deepened my friendship with maggie; gave presentations on vaw; continued my great friendships with bhavik and monica; spoke up to my advisor; got a practicum; ate jerk chicken, mmm; lost myself; had fun; laughed; cried; fell more in love with me : )

Happy New Year Friends! I hope 2010 brings a job, money and love, but if nothing else at least it'll be an adventure! : )

look up at the sky'll be a full moon

(i cheat, the fireworks are from 4th of july, hehehe)

I'm no Baby!

No malaria! WOOHOO! This is the second time I've gotten tested at the hospital right next to the labor and delivery room. This time the outpatient room was packed! I'm quite proud of myself for navigating the medical system alone. So no malaria means I have a cold/flu. But after sleeping all day yesterday and all last night, I broke my fever so I'm on my way to recovery! I haven't been able to sleep the past few days, but last night learned the trick....hugging a pillow, hehehe.

Other than a pounding headache, I'm feeling better today and I'm gonna work on my thesis since I've been asked not to come to work and infect everyone. Oh yeah the title refers to my response to my brother. Whenever I get sick he tells me to stop being a baby cause I tend to get a little dramatic and go on and on about how I'm going to die...hehe

Reflection of 2009 to come soon...

Monday, December 28, 2009

Trip of a Lifetime

sunrise over the crater

I've experienced SO MUCH in the last few weeks that I don't know where to begin sharing. My mom was here for just under 2 weeks. I took her around in Dar, she came to the UNIFEM office and met my bosses, then we went to Moshi and did a day hike in Kilimanjaro National Park, followed by a trip to Arusha then off to Manyara National Park (we decided this was the best park out of the 3 we visited), followed by 2 nights in Serengeti, 2 nights in Ngorongoro Conservation Area and lastly ended with 3 days on the island of Zanzibar (will blog about later). We went to all the typical tourist hot spots, but I was surprised because it didn't feel touristy most of the time, except in Ngorongoro crater.

I experienced amazing eco-friendly tents and lodges, saw an amazing array of wildlife, went to a local spice farm in Zanzibar, and met a Masaai family who invited us into their hut. The best moment was watching the sunset with a glass of wine from our tent, overlooking the wildebeest migration with background music provided by hippos. The wildebeest migration was breathtaking. Endless plains filled with wildebeest and zebra. I quickly learned that this annual phenomenon is one of nature's remaining wonders. I didn't see a kill or a birth but this site quickly made up for it. I'm still amazed how they just know when to start moving and where to move towards to get water. The beauty of nature.

I also saw a just born Thomson Gazelle running around in circles, lions eyeing zebras but never making the kill, beautiful birds, the endangered (and highly protected) black rhinos, giraffes, monkeys, baboons, hyenas, and so much more. I've decided that zebras are the most photogenic animals and lions are lazy and rather boring : )

Though the lodges and tents blended in with the environment, allowed animals to pass by without any harm, and ran primarily on solar, I still couldn't help but feel a little negative about seeing the number of jeeps running around the lands. The animals are used to seeing them, but still ran away when a jeep came, EXCEPT in Ngorongoro where they are so used to seeing jeeps they don't move when one tries to pass. Ngorongoro remains a conservation area not a national park meaning Masaai families can build their huts and graze their cattle within the area and sadly in moments of danger wildlife are often killed by the Masaai. Scientists are trying to ban Masaais from grazing their cattle alongside the wildlife because of the obvious risks of spreading diseases from domesticated animals. We learned from our guide that they would eventually like to turn Ngorongoro into a National Park allowing for more conservation and protection. But like always, politics rears its ugly head and the politicians don't want to loose their votes and thus, continue to allow Masaai pastoralists to occupy the land.

All and all it was a trip of lifetime and highly recommended. Here are my top 5 shots of the wild life.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


I'm back in Dar and would love to have another vacay to recover from my official vacay. Boy I'm beat. I've got over 900 photos, yes I'm crazy. I will slowly recount my travels and share some photos, but it will take some time. I've got to work on that damn thesis too! ahhhhhhhh In the meantime here are some photos that I love from the day hike up Kilimanjaro. My favorite part was my mother claiming the hike was not a vacation but work and she was gonna die going up the mountain...hehehe she did make it after some pushing. : ) I loved the way the light was illuminating nature...had tons of fun taking photos. Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The day is shaping up nicely!


I played clean and won a 3 month battle with immigration and even got them to admit they made a mistake. *phew* now I can breathe.

Am rushing off to the aiport to attend a summit with VAW survivors, will be moving to say the least.


A 2 week vacay with my mom. I'm really fortunate to have her come here. I'll be back near Christmas with photos of hippos, giraffes, lions, zebra, birds of all kinds and so much more (at least I hope).


I got positive feedback on my latest thesis submission. "rich conclusions" hehehe Things are looking brighter, for the moment. Knock on wood.

Peace out everyone!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Youth Say NO!

I'm too lazy to write much about the latest 16 days event I attended on Sunday. It was a concert targeting youth involvment in eradicating violence against women. It was hosted by the United Nations Association, remember those Model UN clubs back in high school, those guys. I never once thought about joining Model UN and now look where I'm sitting. hehe It was right on the public beach, over 1000 signatures were collected, Obama was present on more than 1 shirt, there was singing by popular local artists, and dances from International Youth Fellowship. They even did a number for Jingle Bell Rock, santa hat and all. Oh and a wodnerful play depicting violence in a bf/gf relationship. All and all a great time. Here are some captures...


Thats my field advisor dancing!

Christmas on the Beach...and yes thats Nicole Kidman.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Feeling sleepy...rather would be playing like these guys (or watching is more like it...I failed miserably during the one season I tried to play when I was 10)

Monday, November 30, 2009

6 am at the fish market

So I managed to secure a bodyguard to go with me to the fish market early in the morning. I wanted to take some shots and since its such a sketchy area, I was sure to get harassed and possibly loose my precious baby, my SLR. So I found a friend, local Indian guy who said he would go with me. He then had to enlist bodyguard number 2 to watch the car.

The market was packed early in the morning with men and women waiting for their boats to arrive with their catch. Fishes were being chopped up, heads in one pile, tails in another. So many people. Here are some shots from the photo trip.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sausage dog

Whenever there is a meeting here I'm told to not eat a heavy breakfast or lunch depending on the time of the meeting because.....

of these "sausages". They love it here. Does anyone else just see a hot dog missing its bun??? Definitely not the type of sausage I was expecting. I don't get it and I kind of find it gross.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

16 Days of Activism Launch

November 25th was the launch of the 16 days of Activism against Violence against Women coinciding with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (VAW). Basically, the days are dedicated to advocacy with the aim of creating actions towards eliminating VAW. It's also the fruits of my labor from the last 2 months.

so many plastic water bottles...

The launch was held in the public grounds where it was HOT! The Prime Minister was the guest of honor and speeches from development agencies and NGOs were given. The best, from what I hear since I couldn't understand a word or hear from the table I was manning in the back, came from a survivor of violence who is staying in Dar's only women's shelter. The best for me was the march into the grounds where students, activists, men and women marched into the ground after trekking through the city carrying signs to end VAW and corruption that prevents justice from being served.

I got some great photos and got 230 people to sign up to UNIFEM's Say NO-UNiTE campaign. It was hectic and a success if numbers are all one looks at. One student summed up my feelings the best "So what happens after I sign this campaign? What's the point?" What's the point indeed? I mean yes awareness is raised, people start talking (at least for the moment), the word is spread, etc...but what is the point of all this advocacy, where thousands of dollars are spent, if it doesn't result in concrete actions? I was saddened to see the grounds after the event, littered with all the information the NGOs and we were handing out and everyone was eager to get. I've noticed that so many people are attracted to the colored books, but only a handful actually read it and out of that a random few take it to heart. Often all these efforts seem pointless...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

good effort, good effort *clap clap* ha!

It's now 7:30pm and I cant say YAY! about the lit review progress. I went out for lunch and had a walk around the city with a friend instead, then I took a nap and further procrastinated with evil facebook : ) I'm still at my five pages that I had this morning and haven't cracked the other things advisor person wants. humph...OH WELL!

Mvuli and Thesis= my Sunday

The short rains, mvuli, started in Dar es Salaam in October, but disappeared after a few blissful days of rain and cooler weather and this week they came back! The lady in the drawing, her dreams are slowly coming true (if climate change doesn't interfere again).

Its a good day to work on my thesis especially after receiving an email from my academic advisor, advising me to consider postponing graduation to August. I asked for one bloody extension and I'm still ahead of the official deadlines...WTF! Grrr....her freaking out is freaking me out. She hopes I'm working on it every evening and every weekend. Yeah right...though her email is an exaggeration of the actual situation, it is a wake-up call. I need to get my act together. Though its a bit hard when now she's asking me to give her my table of contents, draft abstract, and draft conclusions on top of the literature review that she wanted a week ago. *sigh* Thing is I know what I want to write, but it's all disorganized in my head. I'll post at the end of the day, hopefully with a big YAY! because I finished the lit review or at least the list of other crazy things needed. Fingers crossed!

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Daily News and Me

Check it out. I was quoted in the papers. Though the journalist didn't use my fake title and didn't mention who I work for...bad journalism, but my boss is THRILLED! At least I did something right : )

I <3 TX

Yes that's right, I'm missing Texas. You know that state with the funny Governor that wants Texans to secede the Union, the state that claims 'Everything is bigger in Texas' and of course the home of those two whacky Bush fellows. Oh and how can I forget, the state where apparently everyone is a cowboy or cowgirl. Yes its true, we ride horses instead of drive cars. Silly folks.

AND I also miss my pup who has a loose tooth and is going to the dentist today :*(

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A funeral

I went to my first funeral today and it was an African one. I don't know the man who passed away. He was my colleague's brother. In traditional Tanzanian fashion, money was collected from all of us yesterday to help the family with the expenses of a funeral. The burial is tomorrow in their hometown of Moshi. Today was an opportunity for people to pay their respects. We arrived in the afternoon in a UNDP mini bus. All of us at UNIFEM went to show our support to Salome. It felt like we were together, part of this work family, it was a nice feeling. Women had dress codes, to wrap a kanga around your waist, and the men had none, quite different from the all white attire in Hinduism. There were at least a 100 people if not more. I couldn't understand anything being said, but I didn't need a translator to understand the raw emotions being expressed. Women wailed at the site of the open casket and men shook from crying so hard. I could tell this man was loved tremendously. I too stood in line and paid my respects and saw, for the first time, a dead body. I gave Salome a big hug and said nothing, I had no words, I myself was on the brink of shedding tears from hearing all those women breaking down. One woman fainted and was lucky that a WHO doctor was there to attend to her. After 2 hours of praying and hearing a beautiful choir, the ceremony was over and people stood in line for food. Since we all had had lunch we said our good byes to Salome at which point she insisted on giving last minute work instructions while shes away. : ) Oh and she really wanted me to meet her nephew cause he's doing an internship in India. He had just flown in last night from Pune where a dear friend of mine is right now. It's a small world.
I can't really compare a Tanzanian funeral to say an American or Indian one because I've never been, but all in all it was a sad event even for someone like me who didn't know him. He was taken after 8 years of battling HIV. The family knew it was coming, but that doesn't make it any easier.
May he rest in peace.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

"VAW Specialist"

So I gave another presentation at a workshop for Tanzania Media Houses on the importance of involving men in eradicating violence against women (VAW). The presentation went well and discussions were had on the role of the media, yeah yeah yeah... That was important, but what had me leaving freaked out was the fact that so many of these journalists were asking me my title. The first someone asked I just blurted out "VAW Specialist" cause I couldn't very well say intern. That was fine until I was formally interviewed by the Daily News paper and now my fake title will be in print. I came back to the office and turns out freaked out for nothing. My field advisor said I am a VAW specialist : ) Made me feel a bit more confident and qualified. hehehe
Tomorrow I'm going to my first funeral ever and its an African one. My colleague, who I went to the judges training with, lost her brother to HIV. I'll keep you posted on what its like.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I saw an Indian woman on the dala dala today...I take back my statement that Indians don't ride dala dalas. She proved me wrong!

Monday, November 16, 2009

I wish I only had to do the work I've been assigned at UNIFEM or I only had to do my thesis. I can't seem to do both. I missed my lit review deadline and I don't see any chance of getting it done until after Christmas. I'm overwhelmed : (

Saturday, November 14, 2009


The judges and my collegue : )

Judges and Magistrates

Committing to UNIFEM's and the Secretary General's Say NO- UNiTE to End Violence Against Women Campaign

I don't think one can ever find their papers once they get filed in this mess.

A room where cases are heard.

The start of the 16 days of activism against violence against women is coming upon us from Novemeber 25 to December 10th. Since I arrived in Dar all my work has been towards planning these 16 days. We are supporting 8 organizations and the Ministry of Community Development, Gender, and Children. Two events have happened outside of the 16 days time frame, but are still contributing to the international days of activism. The first I posted about here and the second was this past week in Kigoma, a small city on the shores of Lake Tangayika. In the distance I could see the hills of the Congo or was it Burundi. : ) After travling with high court judges and getting VIP treatment at the airports, we arrived on Monday to a nice hotel right on the shores of the lake.
The view from my room.

Judges and magistrates from Dar es Salaam, Kigoma, Tabora, and Mwanza arrived to participate in a training on the international and regional laws that Tanzania is a party to. Focus was on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and on the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). There are so many treaties and laws that Tanzania has signed on to, but very few are actually upheld in the courts. So the training was specifically on violence against women and inheritance laws and how to look at cases from a gender lens. It was an interesting experience to see how judges operate. Every minute was accounted for and the only color in the room came from myself and my collegue, everyone else was wearing grey and black suits. House rules were set before anything else and all decisions were made based on consensus. Though there were some light moments here and there about desperately wanting to go to Gombe National Park. I mean there isn't much to say about the week. Everyday from 8 to 5 the judges went through case studies and did role plays, at times I felt like I was in a real court room. There was a lot of talk and committments made, but let us see what actions actually result. Oh but there is a case that one of the magistrates is trying. She told me that she's working on a case of an 11 year old girl who was forced to have sex with a dog and the perpetrator is a Dutch man who was making a porno. Sick!

Despite hearing horrendous stories like that, all and all it was a great week and I feel rejuventated. A trip out of Dar was exactly what I needed. Can't wait for the next one.

A typical house
Kids outside the David Livingstone museum.

Every morning snails were everywhere!