Thursday, January 31, 2008

"It's Alive!"

Since it has been over four months since my last entry, I thought I should attempt to revive my blog after it apparently died. Why the neglect? I ended my last entry in September stating I’d contribute more articles after my eyes stopped hurting “from staring at computer screens all day long.” The truth is my eyes never stopped hurting after that entry. I decided that sitting at my desk after work when I’d normally make a post was not healthy. Instead I desired to go home early and relax by watching a movie, or visiting the pub the the ocean to have a beer. So that’s what I started trying to do, but as it turned out, really couldn’t. This post will describe “why” in 682 words by briefly summarizing the past four months.

In November I spent a lot of my free time (and I admit, some work time) researching and applying to grad schools on the net. It was time consuming but got it done, so "go future". I was also summoned to Uganda to help the AKF office in Kampala prepare briefs for the Commonwealth Heads of State Meeting (CHOGM).

How was that, you ask?

I can’t remember much because my eyes were glued to my computer screen all day and night long, on which I pumped out stories describing the good work of the pre-school madrasa programme in Uganda and Kenya, and also made brochures and posters. I mastered MS Publisher and learned the art of graphic design in 12 hours, and became familiar with the business centre at the Serena Hotel when sending documents to Geneva for review (despite the Government having supposedly laid high speed internet cables all over the city for CHOGM, I could only access a high speed connection at the Serena [a fancy 5 star hotel with a great lobby pianist who comes on at 5pm weekday evenings], formally the Nile Hotel, where Idi Amin’s goons tortured many throughout the 70s).

Of course the hard work was balanced with some fun. After working late into the evening, I’d take joy rides on the backs of motorbikes Kampalans call “boda-bodas” just for the hell of it, ate Ethiopian food, danced the night away at an Irish Pub, and enjoyed the season finale of Big Brother Africa 2 (talk about drama) with some wonderful, AKF East African interns in a watering hole that felt like ‘The Metropolitan’ martini bar in Ottawa.

After leaving on the eve of the conference (interns don't get to stay for such events), I returned to Dar es Salaam where I was based for two weeks. I was asked to make posters and other communication materials for an early learning festival the local Ismaili community was hosting for the general public. This required more late nights finicking with colours and font sizes to make the posters look just right. It also involved hours of being stuck in Dar’s infamous traffic jams, melting in 35C heat in a taxi that smelt like fish (I avoided the dalas when I could to keep sane). I survived and returned to Zanzibar two weeks later for rest. My eyes were still very strained.

Christmas soon followed with a welcomed visit from my brother. We stayed in Dar for a bit with a local ex-pat friend and then booted up to Arusha to do a one-day safari. Long story short, the company we hired ripped us off by charging us park entrance fees that did not exist. They also showed up to work on the day of the excursion incredibly hung over, smelling of booze and cigarettes. If the urge to see wild animals in Tanzania ever strikes you, DO NOT contact Ahsante Tours ( You’re trip will be memorable for arguing with the accountant and not for seeing the animals.

January arrived and my eyes started feeling better after a good rest. The Champaign and rum on the beach during New Year’s Eve must have helped. But the sojourn ended as quickly as it had come, as I devoted most of my time to help my friend, Hemed, launch his company, Salama Island Tours. Check out to see what Zanzibar has to offer!

So it’s now January 31st and I have one month left before my internship on the spice island is over. I know it’s cliché but I’ll say it anyways: it feels like time has flown. This can be a blessing if you’re a Western business person who, used to the fast pace of life back home, lives in a place like Zanzibar, where time and space can slow to a near stand still. The "pole pole" ("slowly slowly") attitude of many (but not all) on the island and coastal region can turn decent, well polished foreigners into freak shows. I’ve seen it happen in Dar. Thankfully I’m not in that category (yet) and still have lots of flexibility remaining.

So that’s my excuse for ignoring the blog: strained eyes. But now they are no longer throbbing, so I’ll write again soon. Hopefully see you there.


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