Saturday, November 13, 2010

Peruvian Cow

One day as I was exploring the alleys of Cusco, Peru I passed a house with its doors slightly open. The only reason the space between the doors caught my eyes was because of this cow staring straight out with this look of evil. Of course I had to whip out the camera and capture the moment. It's been six years so I'm doubting this cow is alive. RIP Peruvian Cow!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Been a long time

So I lapsed on the blog writing. I stopped writing because I accumulated so many topics to write about that it became a bit overwhelming and then I just ended up not writing anything. Since my last real post I left Tanzania, finished my thesis, graduated, had a little heart break, went to India for a month, moved back to Texas (hopefully temporarily), and am now filling my days playing housekeeper and front desk clerk at my parent's hotel. I've also been planning my brother's wedding...I can check off wedding planning on my list of possible careers, NEVER will I do it! A good thing about being home is that I have found time to discover the ever wonderful, happy inducing Glee!

Right now I'm searching for a job, which is proving to be a frustrating process. I find myself thinking more about starting my own project than looking for a job, which is obviously not going to get me anywhere because without a job I have no capital!

Otherwise my life is at a bit of a standstill. I want to move to D.C. or NY but haven't built up the courage to move without even a job lead. So for the moment I feel very unsettled, in between what I've experienced and what is to come. Perhaps I'm supposed to use this time to process and understand, which is what I will try to use this space for. I'm also hoping this little unread blog of mine will help me push myself out of this rut before I become a fat couch potato blob.

So Linus (above) and Charlie (below) are keeping me sane while I'm home.

Monday, February 22, 2010

1 month from today...
In exactly one month I shall be boarding a plane and making the long journey back to good ole' Texas. Though I shall be sad to leave certain things and people that I've come to love, I can't help but be excited, primarily at the thought of all the food I shall eat when I arrive. My list, in no particular order...
2. sushi
3. mother's home cooking
4. more of mother's home cooking
7. this new fusion place my brother goes on about.
10. and more MEXICAN
holy shits I can taste it now! (when I say mexican I really mean tex-mex, mmmmm)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Another one of my favorites from Sauti Za Busara...Thandiswa.

Thandiswa is a South African artist with what I think is a beautiful voice. Get background information here and read a review of her music here.
Check out her music here
(yes I'm linking multiple sites, but its the quickest way to share info. right now without trying to think up something to in handover mode!)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mzungu Kichaa

One of the groups at Sauti that I liked and found a bit unusual was Mzungu Kichaa literally translating as "the crazy white man". Mzungu is the term given to foreigners in Tanzania, you often hear it being shouted out in a negative way. Luckily, since I look like I belong here, I don't get it. My friend's Swahili teacher said that it literally means someone who is walking around aimlessly.

Mzungu Kichaa is a Danish man that sings in perfect Swahili. His music is a blend of reggae and hip/hop and is liked by nationals and foreigners. Check out his music here His cd is on sell on i-tunes as well. Enjoy!

Here's a bit of his bio as written on his myspace page...
"Although Mzungu Kichaa originally hails from Denmark, he is one of the pioneers of East African bongo flava. His mission is to open the European market to East African music, with a foot in both Africa and the west Mzungu Kichaa is able to transcend barriers, build a bridge between cultures and reinforce the concept of music as a universal language.

In 2001, Mzungu Kichaa topped the East African charts with 'Mambo ya pwani', one of the first songs to take traditional Tanzanian music and fuse it with hip-hop...."

Monday, February 15, 2010

Sauti cover up

Back from the friendliest music festival, Sauti Za Busara. It was a great experience. The music was fantastic with beautiful, sultry voices, crazy drum beats, and guitar stringing. It was packed with foreigners, expats, the local Zanzibari community, folks from the mainland, and of course my office. There was some dancing, not as much as I expected, a lot of illegal drug usage, more than what I expected, and some down right dirtiness. I was impressed and saddened by the amount of fuel this festival consumed. Zanzibar has been without power since December with no hope of it returning before March. The island has been consumed by the noise of the generators, the smell of petrol, and just down right uncomfortableness for months on end.

What shocked me most is the way many people, especially women, were dressed. When folks think of Zanzibar as a fun island getaway with lazy days on the beach. This is true, but only on the private beaches. It is not an island where you can walk around in your bikini with a skimpy cover up, not an island where you your cleavage is everywhere, your shoulders are bare, and your legs exposed. Zanzibar is 95% and therefore, to respect the community one must cover up. Nobody is telling anyone to wear a hijab, just don't expose skin that doesn't need to be exposed. The website for the music festival had warnings on what not to wear, all the guide books mention it, and its pretty much common sense to respect the community you're in. Unfortunately, that was not the case here.

I didn't take my slr because I didn't want to lug it around so, I didn't get many good shots. Here's a few to give an idea of the fest.

He was trying to teach her how to shake her shoulders.

stoned Israelis

One of the skimpiest dressed girls who also enjoyed dancing in front of everyone near the stage.

Friday, February 12, 2010

morning or motion sickness?

Yesterday after work I went to the friendly neighborhood pharmacy to get motion sickness meds. There are 2 near my house. The one I've gone to in the past was full of people and the other was empty. So I regrettably went to the empty one. I told the lady I needed motion sickness medicine. She looked a bit confused so I said I'm going to be on a boat and I swayed back and forth to imitate some sort of rocking boat. She spouted out some long mumbo jumbo name and I said sure that one. I paid the equivalent of a buck and walked out. I took it this morning 7hrs before though, not 12 hrs before like she said .
This morning I had a meeting. Hour one I was fine, hour two started feeling iffy, hour three I damn near just put my head down on the table for a nap.
I came back to my office and googled the name of the med. Its for pregnant women to combat morning sickness! Grant it the symptoms are the same, but this shit is high dose. Maybe she thought I said morning not motion sickness. Or maybe my weight gain makes me look pregnant! After some more research I've learned this same medicine was being prescribed in the 80s and resulted in babies being born with short arms and legs. Ahhhh my poor non-existent baby! hahaha They say the meds have improved and its still being prescribed though many mothers-to-be would rather just live with their heads in the toilet, SHOCKER! hahaha
I'm sure the drowsiness will pass. But now what about the numbing of my hands...humph!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sauti Za Busara

I'm going to this festival this weekend!!!!!!!

For the last 7 years Zanzibar has hosted the Sauti Za Busara (Sounds of Wisdom) Music Festival within the walls of the old fort in Stonetown. Its been coined the "friendliest festival on planet earth". There will be taarab drums, hiphop, poetry and so much more from Zanzibar, Mainland Tanzania, Ethiopia, Kenya, Senegal, The Gambia, Uganda, DRC, South Africa, and some Euro-African groups. And to my delight selling of jewelry, clothes, shoes, and other handmade, beautiful wearable art!

I'm so excited! Leaving Friday by ferry to Zanzibar. All I need is that sea sickness medicine... Last time I was on a ferry I spent the entire ride with my head in the toilet. : )

Monday, February 8, 2010


Last week I went on my first UN mission as the gender expert for a joint program on wealth creation and economic empowerment. I was basically the annoying one who always asks, "What about the women?" "Can we hear a woman talk?" "Where are the women!?!?!" and then some. It was a very rural, very beautiful region on the border of Mozambique. We had our convoy of white Land Cruisers speeding past curious communities at 130km on unpaved roads with our high frequency radio antennas flying in the air. I learned a lot and I'm questioning the existence of development even more. My two biggest observations...

1- The UN has its role in the world and implementing projects is not one of them. A development practitioner cannot implement agriculture programs while sitting in his or her air conditioned office in the mega city of Dar es Salaam. If I had a project fail stamp, it would have been plastered all over everything. Cassava processing plants in an area where cassava doesn't grow, cashew processing plants that exploit women's labor and permanently damages their hands, importing chickens from Europe because they are supposed to be superior to local breeds (ummm sounds like colonialism chicken style), giving power tillers to farmers who don't have a license to drive them nor can they afford the petrol, building a sesame processing plant only to have it put to a stop because the location is not good, youth platforms that are pointless, tons of workshops and capacity building for the government only to have them transferred immediately after, etc. etc. etc. The UN is good at policy and working with national governments. They should stick to that instead of wasting millions of dollars on projects that don't work. The good thing is everyone on our mission agrees and told me that the UN is slowly moving in this direction. My only request is let's stop strolling over there and start running.

2- Tanzania is aid dependent. Not everyone, but at least the parts of Mtwara region I saw. I couldn't help but compare my experiences of visiting communities in India and visiting communities here. I will say in India I was with an NGO and here with the UN which definitely influences the community's reaction, BUT I've never encountered communities that stare blankly at you when you arrive and always always say "We need more money." There is little intiative to take ownership and to contribute to projects. The women I met usually walked around with haughty attitudes and the children looked absolutely miserable. They didn't find imaginative things to play with, they weren't running up to us, there was very little curiosity displayed. My theory is they are jaded by seeing development workers and would rather get straight to the point and ask for more money. There should be a time limit to giving development assistance, but who sets that limit and how is it enforced? Development workers should work harder to development community driven, managed, and owned projects. I think that's the best way to prevent dependence, but that would put development workers out of work (which I still hold is the goal, but obviously we all watch our back first, but in this case at the expense of others). I have so many more thoughts about this...will try to continue to process and share.

Though many mistakes have been made, I'm sure everyone will find a way to make the few positives seem like amazing feats, while the mistakes are a work in progress. After all nobody wants to lose their job. Why do we do this thing called development? It's full of greedy pigs. Just finished reading Lords of Poverty...also contributing to such depressing development thoughts. Perhaps I should just go and take photos and forget all this. Speaking of photos...captures from the trip

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I haven't blogged in a while...too much going on and not enough time to process and put into words...hope to return soon!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

my ugly American side rears its head

Since I've come to Tanzania my boss has periodically thrown the phrases 'Don't be so American' or 'You're too American' at me. After the latest 'Don't be so American' that I got today, I decided to make the following list of instances when my boss has pointed out my ugly American side.

1. When I first approached her about selling my photos to HQ: "Don't be such a American, capitalist pig!" She then realized I was selling personal photos not photos taken under my contract. Though she didn't retract her statement. hehehe

2. The most common instance of "Don't be so American" is when I complain how slow things are moving.

3. "Efficiency is American. This is Africa. If you want American efficiency in African, go work at the American fort (the embassy and USAID, yes it really does look like a fort)" When I go off on my 'this bloody country and everyone working in this organization is so inefficient' tantrum.

4. "You work too much. Remember you're not in America" Cause we are work-alcoholics.

5. When I'm always on time to meetings or when I start to fret when I'm late "Relax, this is not America. Things do not start on time."

I remembered another one this morning (Tuesday)

6. Whenever my colleague, who has decided to move into my office, goes on and on about all the work she has to do, I one, either ignore her cries of pain or two, I tell her maybe she should start working on one of those many things. So when my boss came up to our office for a chat, my 'woe is me' colleague complained to her that I don't say anything when she goes on and on. I looked at her and said "what do you want me to say." Then my boss tells me "Don't be so mean like those Americans. We don't want to hear the truth, what we already know. We want to hear you say 'oh pole' (roughly translated as poor you)" Nope not me, I don't sugar coat lady and that's not necessarily American, that's just me. : )

Got another one yesterday
7. My boss trying to pass between two chairs during a meeting: "I can't fit. I'm too fat." Me (laughing) Boss: "I knew you would laugh. You're a cruel American." hahaha

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Will the real UN please stand up?

An anonymous UN employee

"We are not missionaries! This is political, personal and driven by greed."

I further learned during this 3 hr meeting the European backstabbing efforts to drive out American aid in Tanzania. Boxing match, Americans in one corner, Europeans in the other...ready, set, FIGHT! Whose cheering them on? Certainly not the poorest of the poor who suffer the greatest from these geo-political battles because in the end the poor watch the money that is supposed to improve their livliehoods line the pockets of the fighters and this is not chump change is pushed by the thousands, millions . *sigh* this is the business of development at its highest and most corrupt level...absolutely disappointing, but sadly not surprising.

Lastly, got into a nasty argument with a colleague over why I'm pushing for community participation and approval of the solar project. I want focus group discussions and I want them to own the project. Then I busted out with "This is why so many UN projects fail!" Then she didn't say anything and I probably will get my head chopped off now. At least Prof. Howard would be proud...

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Barefoot Solar Engineers in Tanzania

I met Bunker, director of Barefoot, my mentor, and sort of acts like a caring grandpa, 2 weeks ago in Dar. He was here meeting with a local University, which is now a UNIFEM partner (thanks to me, toot tooting my horn) and they have selected 4 more women to be trained in solar electrification in India. If you know me then you know how much I love Barefoot and believe in the Barefoot approach. So of course I jumped at the opporutnity to get UNIFEM involved with the already trained Barefoot solar engineers who returned in March 2009. These women are featured on the front page (!!!) of todays The Guardian newpaper. Bunker also wrote an editorial, which I can't find the link to online, but as a summary money wasted in multi-lateral and bi-lateral institutions could be better spent, such as bringing light to Africa's rural poor thus, increasing household income, combating climate change, improving women's health, elevating women's status in society, and an overall improvement in the quality of life of those who suffer because of the mistakes of the rich. I could go on and on, but the article sums up the idea of the project. We are now working to get the Meatu women connected with an extremely impovershed area to train more women.
I knew Bunker was writing this article because he told me to keep an eye out for it. Then this morning we had a chat, which really made me laugh. I've left out what he's referring to because thats too personal for the blog world, but...
me: got the paper...its on the front page. will save you a copy

B: There is something inside as well on the Opinion the Editor said I have found a (blank) for you. (more blank)

me: what (blank) is this?

B: Patience.

me: i have no patience

B: Then go for a meditation course

me: funny

Monday, January 4, 2010

"I don't want to play frogger with my life!"
I find myself saying this everyday to and from work when trying to cross the busy streets. I see some people cross in and out of traffic like that little frog in the old school arcade game and then I say the above to myself and wait for the walk sign. Often people stare at me and I feel they are laughing at me on the inside...oh well at least I'm still in one piece!

Friday, January 1, 2010

ooo me likey

Will someone buy me this dress, please with a cherry on top : ) the mix of patterns.