Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Monday, March 20, 2017

This is my greatest fear of traveling

This is my greatest fear of traveling. To sit next to someone who talks endlessly.

I am not anti-social; I just lack the ability to constantly come up with topics of conversation.

And when I have exhausted what I have to say, which rarely takes long, I find the quite moments, referred to in the Swahili language by the expression: shetani kapita (the devil has just passed by), rather awkward and unsettling, especially when I am also expected to contribute to the conversation.

It is easier when I am sitting next to someone I know, but a huge challenge when sitting next to a stranger.
You can stay away from a conversation on a ship, but not in the confined space of an aircraft.
When I travel it's the only time that I find convenient to have a period of quiet and reflection away from the office, from the daily routine which constantly keeps me in touch with people I work with, with constant contact with clients who ask questions and demand answers to the work I do.

It would be misleading to say that I do not enjoy my work and the interaction it provides me with other people. But I also cherish the opportunity to get away from all that once in a while. And I get that when I travel.

What is your greatest fear of travel? Apart from flying in planes?

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The roof is up

The roof is up today for one of the grain silos at Mwitongo, Butiama.

Tilting the roof provides access to the finger millet stored in the silo. The finger millet flour is mixed with cassava or maize flour to cook ugali (hard porridge), a favorite meal among members of the Zanaki ethnic group.

Occasionally, as is the case in this occasion, the roof of the silo is tilted to permit visitors to view the grain stored inside.

Mwitongo is the compound of the residence of Tanzania's founding president, Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Why I don't like anonymity

Why I don't like anonymity should not be construed to have anything to do with hating free speech. It is about the other reasons why some individuals choose to remain anonymous when commenting online.

The ability to comment anonymously should be tied with some level of responsibility: responsibility to adhere to truth and honesty. Unfortunately, many of those commenting anonymously do not share this sense of responsibility.

Many lies, rumors, and fabrications are released online only because those who release this information cannot be held accountable to verify its authenticity.

I do recognize the value of anonymity as a means to give voice to those who want to release information they consider necessary to be released to the public, without endangering their freedom from persecution particularly in countries where freedom of expression is not permitted.

I have received on my blog harsh comments from anonymous individuals who stretched the scope of my topics to squeeze in a comment that suited their objectives and warped reasoning.

And I would have gladly posted their comments if they revealed their identities because, sometimes, when an identity is known a peculiar context may arise with each comment.

For instance, if you support country-wide prohibition of cigarette smoking it makes a huge difference to how that comment can be interpreted if you have a lost a family member to lung cancer.
An anonymous quote that should not offend anyone, but that might be attributed to President Robert Mugabe. President Mugabe has a fair share of quotations falsely attributed to him by an anonymous group of people who do not have the courage to defend their own convictions.
For non-serious issues, and particularly on matters where the reputation of individuals is not at stake, anonymity should not be an issue. I enjoy reading a few anonymous comments occasionally, and some are quite amusing.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

How do you handle a queue jumper?

How do you handle a queue jumper? I am referring to those inconsiderate humans who believe they are in a hurry more than everyone else.

I can withstand all kinds of outrageous behavior. I have stood by and ignored the pestering behavior of drunks. I have persevered under the rudeness of those who have not had the opportunity of learning good manners. I have relented under the antics of road rogues. I have even managed to keep my cool and remain relatively dignified when a racist verbally abused me.

But somehow, when it comes to witnessing someone cutting ahead of me in a queue, all my inhibitions disappear.

Just recently I stood behind a rather unusual queue at an airline counter at the Julius Nyerere International Airport. I noticed early on that instead of a proper line we had a cluster of people crowded at the front and a semblance of a line behind.

It is only when someone behind me asked why we do not have a proper line that I also suggested that we all fall into a single line. It worked for a while.
The queue at the airport was not as long as this one, but I was in line for more than one hour.
But every now and then someone would walk up from behind and go straight to the front, ignoring those who were in line. Worse, and this is a phenomenon that I encounter only in Tanzania, hardly anyone complained. Surprisingly, most of the time those providing the service will gladly serve someone who has jumped the line.

But I spent so much time arguing with people who do not care about who was there first and arguing for people who do not care whether someone cuts into the line that, in the end, I appeared to be the person with a problem that very few thought was serious.

It is strange, but in a crowd of fifty it does feel embarrassing to be the only person arguing with strangers.

It is not the first time I have had arguments with people who cut across queues, and certainly not the last.

So how do you handle a queue jumper? Share your thoughts.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

I am not a mzungu! (re-posted with the Afro)

I am not a mzungu is something I have to keep on repeating at least once a month to children.

I am baffled why children should call me "mzungu" a Swahili word for Caucasian. And there is no confusing me with a white man; I am unmistakably black. There is at least one other meaning of the word, but in general Tanzanians understand "mzungu" to mean a white person.

But I have had to consider that children have their own interpretation of "mzungu" and it is slowly beginning to make sense to me. The first time I heard being called "mzungu" by a child was in Rombo, on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro. I was hiking and had my headphones. I concluded it was the headphones that made me a mzungu.

The second time I became a mzungu was during my Ukerewe to Butiama bike ride and as I rode through a village three children called out to me: "mzungu!" I responded: "I am not a mzungu!" They insisted I was.


I can attribute the second instance to my colorful mountain bike, sunglasses, and the huge Afro I was sporting. I could have deflected attention if it was only the bike, but I just couldn't go unnoticed for being unusual with that huge Afro and the sunglasses.
My colorful mountain bike.
This morning I was reminded how much I confuse children when a child called out my other name. I still have the Afro, I was holding my sun glasses in my hand, and I had a small backpack. I have concluded that, to these children, "mzungu" has nothing to do with race, but has a lot to do with the activity I indulge in (cycling), the accessories I use (sunglasses, headphones), and that huge Afro that even Don King would have envied. Or Wole Soyinka?

I originally posted this without my photograph, until Benjamin Leers commented: "where's the Afro?" So, here it is, below, although I trimmed it when I took this photo. Let me know if you think Don King or Professor Wole Soyinka would be impressed.
The headphones, the Afro, and the author of this post.