Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Monday, 25 February 2013

Nuances of the Zanaki dialect

When a member of the Zanaki ethnic group returns to Butiama after some absence from Butiama and speaks of having visited many countries during his absence, those who do not understand the Zanaki dialect would be excused for understanding that the individual's passport bears immigration stamps from several countries.

When the word nchi [country] crops up in Zanaki conversation it actually refers to localities or villages that are close to the point of departure that do not involve crossing any international frontiers. Invariably, when an individual crosses a valley or a few valleys and crosses into the territory of another village or locality, this individual has crossed into another "country".

I recall hearing one of my cousins, having imbued a commendable quantity of brew, speaking of having traveled far and wide "to many countries" including Buturu, Mwanza Buriga, Buruma, and Busegwe; all of them villages within the vicinity of Butiama.

Sometimes what marks the boundaries of one locality from another, one nchi from another, is the territory that is identified with a particular ancestral spirit. The ancestral spirit of Butiama is known as Muhunda.

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Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Le's travels: Mayotte

Kilimanjaro Club member Le Huynh, a native of Vietnam, is a globetrotter and has traveled to the farthest corners of Earth. He normally sends reports of his travels, this time from the French island territory of Mayotte.
Dear friends,
For centuries, during the Age of Empire, the ancient Arab traders have long taken advantage of the katabatic wind, also known as the Trade wind, which blows from the Northeast in the Northern Hemisphere to cross the world's oceans in search of new economic opportunities. The Arab merchants have sailed along the East African coast and established many trading outposts for ivory, spices and (regretfully) slaves. The islands of Zanzibar were among the most famous throughout this period of Arab expansion.
Maki (local name): an endemic Lemur of Mayotte island
 A few even more daring Arab captains have continued southward and eventually landed on the Comoro islands,a group of islands in the Mozambique Channel in the Indian Ocean, about 300km North of Madagascar. Eventually,a system of prosperous city-states began to flourish under the rule of powerful Sultans who also brought with them Islam. One of these islands is the island of Mayotte.
The beaches in Mayotte are often lined with Baobab trees
For better or worse, the last Sultan Adriansouli, in order to seek protection from numerous enemies he made during the rise of his power, decided to form an accord ceding the island to France making Mayotte a French colony. Even more interesting, when the rest of the Comoro islands announced their independence, a large majority of Mayotte population voted to stay with France. It became an overseas department of France in March 2011.

So why go to Mayotte in the first place? Well, the most compelling reason is that tourists are almost non existent there :-) Those dashing few that deserted the well-trodden path of Madagascar are rewarded to be left alone on their quest of authentic flavors! This is nature at its unspoiled state with all its rough edges and wild life, especially a coral reef lagoon that can rival the best of any reef system in the world for its quality of pristine ecosystems.

Mayotte deserves to be on the list of UNESCO world heritage sites but then again, but I prefer not because if it ever happens, the tourists would be coming...

Mayotte 2012

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Sunday, 10 February 2013

Letter from Butiama: It wasn't me

This is one of numerous articles I wrote for the Sunday News (Tanzania) column "Letter from Butiama" between 2005 and 2011. Publication date: 27th August 2006. 
I have a friend in Dar who once called me and thanked me, mockingly, for being in Dar without calling her.

I tried to explain unsuccessfully that I was not in Dar that, in fact, I was in Butiama. I had not been to Dar for about a year when she called me. She was not convinced. Someone had seen me at the Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere airport, apparently having disembarked from a Mwanza flight, and struggling under the weight of a bucket full of Tilapia from Lake Victoria.

Whatever I tried to say, she remained unconvinced. I realized it was case of mistaken identity, and I recall years back when another friend told me that there was someone in Dar who looked identical to me. The friend tried to arrange a meeting with my “twin”, but I ran into my “twin” before the pre-arranged meeting. It was true that we shared some likeness. My “twin” even seemed to have a preference for batik shirts, same as I do, and kept a beard like mine.

By some strange coincidence he happens to be a scholar in some aspect of the law at the University of Dar-es-salaam. I also am trying, through the Open University of Tanzania, to become an expert in some aspect of the law.

Cases of mistaken identity range from the laughable to those with potentially serious consequences. A number of people around the world end up in jail for crimes committed by others. Some lucky individuals wrongly sentenced to death have been released before execution.

Just imagine the dire consequences of mistaken identity and yet there is one Turkish parent a few years ago in Germany who wanted to call his son Osama. German authorities refused to register the name, based on some law that prevents giving children names that could be offensive or bring ridicule.

I am often mistaken for one of my brothers who is a politician, and I usually let it pass when it is off-season. But during elections when political tempers and temperatures are unusually high, I become exceptionally proficient in saying that I am someone else.

The trouble with political campaigns these days is that some supporters and opponents always find reason to use force, and I do not want to be on the wrong side of a “forceful” argument.

Sometimes cases of mistaken identity turn to be embarrassing. I once approached someone I thought I knew, with a greeting and my hand stretched out for a handshake but he kept his hand to himself. After realizing my mistake, I apologized but the man was unruffled and did not see any problem in his reaction, which I found most impolite. Instead, he began to interrogate me to find out who I had assumed he was. It was during the last election campaigns and I resigned to the fact that strange things happen during elections.

You never know what apparently friendly people stretching out their hands to greet you can have hidden in their palms. That is what I assumed prompted that strange behaviour, especially after the man asked me whether I had mistaken him for some famous politician. It dawns on me today that he was probably taking the same precautions that I was taking against being mistaken for my brother.

When Professor Li Baoping of the University of Beijing visited Butiama for a few days in June 2003, I was having lunch with him and one of my nieces when he asked me to take a photo of him “with Mwalimu Nyerere’s granddaughter”. Later I told him I had visited China in the past and when the opportunity arises, I expect to re-visit his country.

As we exchanged addresses, he asked me whether I was related to Mwalimu Nyerere’s family. When I said I was he told me that he had assumed that I was “one of the Secretaries”.  I am still not sure if that is a positive or negative comment, but I have since been extra careful about what I wear when hosting visitors.

That friend who thought she saw me with about 20 kilos of Tilapia concluded the telephone conversation by saying something that resembled like “I hope you choke on your fish.” I had almost missed the point. It was all about the fish, I realized, not the friendship.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

My version of the year 2012 in review: 13 March

I saw a raft of turkeys at Butiama. For a while in 2012 someone in Butiama attempted to raise turkeys after
news circulated that their price had risen considerably. I don't see them anymore.

Other posts in this 2012 review series:

My version of the year 2012 in review: 7 March

Andrea Wobmann, with whom I have climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in the past, was in Berlin at the world's leading travel and trade show.
Andrea, first from left, worked in Tanzania as a volunteer having secured her placement through World Unite. In the photo, Chris Engler of World United is seen second from left. Also in the photo, representing Zara Tanzania Adventures at ITB Berlin is Zainab Ansell, Zara's proprietor at the right.

Other posts in this 2012 review series:

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Wednesday, 6 February 2013

My version of the year 2012 in review: 3 March

I was in a Mwanza hotel and could not find the keys to the padlock of my suitcase. Having seen a good number of James Bond films I had learnt enough from Agent 007 to know how to pick my way through a
padlock using an office clip.
If you are a James Bond fan you might be interested in the James Bond Ultimate Collector's Set (2007) offered by Amazon.
In one of those rare occasions I had no issue against Tanzanian importers who import cheap Chinese-manufactured padlocks.

Other posts in this 2012 review series:

The trouble facing Fastjet

Fastjet's strategy is to wean potential passengers from passenger buses to its aircraft. For this reason, the budget airline, which launched operations in Tanzania on 29th November 2012, does not see itself competing with other airlines for passengers. Which is not entirely true because I used to fly with other airlines and have flown with Fastjet twice and, being a person who does not like discriminatory pricing, I intend to continue to take advantage of Fastjet's simple pricing model.
The strategy seems to work because reports reveal that many passengers on Fastjet's flights are flying for the first time. During the flights I took it appeared to me that some of the passengers were in an aircraft for the first time. 

If Fastjet succeeds to convert traffic from road to air I fear I some of these passengers will carry forward mannerisms that are foreign to air travel. I was recently on a Mwanza bound bus from Musoma that was extremely packed and a passenger got in en route and tossed a chicken on my feet.

When I complained he suggested that I should be glad I was seated. He was standing.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Letter from Butiama: When and how to say "sorry"

This is one of numerous articles I wrote for the Sunday News (Tanzania) column "Letter from Butiama" between 2005 and 2011. Publication date: 2 July 2006. 
There are proportionally far fewer people who will commit a mistake and say, “I am sorry”, or “I made a complete fool of myself.” You are likely to hear a far greater number of people justifying their mistakes.

To err is human, but to make excuses is even more so. Humans make errors, and are experts at making excuses.

We learn from childhood that we are likely to face serious consequences when we admit mistakes. The result is that we grow into adults who instinctively make excuses for our mistakes so that blame is shifted to some other person or factor.

Considering some of the problems we may encounter by admitting mistakes, it is understandable that we do not readily accept blame. If you break the law, the consequences of admitting guilt in a court of law are known: a fine or a jail term - or a one-way ticket to heaven or hell for the serious offences. It seems that the more serious consequences of admitting fault are permanently registered in our memories from childhood and so, in adulthood, we spend a great deal of time disassociating ourselves with our mistakes.

The excuses are sometimes ingenious. The whole World except Argentina believes that footballer Diego Maradona scored with his hand, while playing for Argentina in a FIFA World Cup match against England on 22 June 1986 at Mexico City’s Aztec Stadium. His excuse: “It was the hand of God.”

The football matches we see on television show some of the players praying each time they score, or when they enter the pitch. It creates the impression that many of the players are extremely religious individuals, but Maradona’s excuse had the effect of elevating excuses to an unprecedented level. There are few who would attribute Maradona's goal to God. The more conventional justification would have been to blame it on the devil.

To be fair to Maradona, footballers have no mechanism for admitting fault on or off the pitch. Maybe FIFA, the World’s football federation, might want to add confessions to its “fair play” campaign.

By spending time in excusing ourselves we end up lengthening an extremely short story with only three words, “I am sorry” (only one word in Kiswahili, samahani) to one containing hundreds of words.

Sometimes apologies are not enough and people demand to know the reasons for committing a mistake. There are many reasons for making mistakes, which are often grouped under the heading, “reasons beyond my control”. If you are tempted to utilise this overused phrase, you might consider leaving that judgement for others to make. A reason beyond control is not a good excuse, a Tsunami is.

The simple advice is, unless you are not facing a judge, when you make a mistake just say you are sorry, don’t make excuses. However, there should be a limit to the number of times one can apologise. If you begin to sound like an old phonograph record, stuck on the same three words all the time, then you do not become believable anymore, but may only reveal that you are addicted to those words.

When you find you just have to make an excuse, try and make them believable. I failed that test years ago during a visit to Washington D.C. I phoned for a taxi and waited for an extremely long period outside the house I was staying in. When I called the company again to find out the reason for the delay, the dispatcher pointed out to me that I had provided her an erroneous house number, which did not exist on that street. The taxi driver had been driving around for a long time looking for house number 2065, when he should have been looking for house number 2056.

When after my second call the taxi driver was given the correct house number he arrived at the house furious. I was quick to apologize, but made the error of justifying my excuse. Instead of providing a three-word apology, I transformed the apology into an excuse of about ten words. I told him I was actually a visitor to Washington D.C., suggesting that was the reason why I made the error.

He told me he didn’t care where I came from because “…twenty fifty-six was twenty fifty-six, even in Chinese!” Even in Kiswahili script, 2056 was and remains 2056, and I should have not had a problem translating that into English.

To be fair to myself, I only had a few seconds in which to come up with a believable excuse.

Under normal circumstances I would have immediately laughed at myself for making such an amateurish excuse, but I had no wish to further provoke the taxi driver.

My version of the year 2012 in review: 24 February

I was in Mwanza to seek a placement at a college for a student and noticed a sign on the notice board that five students of the college would certainly have not liked to see. I edited the photograph to conceal the names.

These students allegedly had cheated in their exams, a problem that is widespread not only in Tanzania but, according to a news report I heard recently, affects education institutions worldwide.

Other posts in this 2012 review series:

My version of the year 2012 in review: 22 February

A delegation from HakiElimu brought to Butiama a donation of books for the Mwalimu Julius
I, second from right, was present to receive the books. Others from HakiElimu are: Intern Hoffman Sanga, left; Joyce Mkina, centre; and  Margreth Paul on the right.
Nyerere Memorial Library, the library containing Mwalimu Nyerere's collection of more than 8,000 volumes.

Other posts in this 2012 review series:

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Saturday, 2 February 2013

Ministry of Energy and Minerals is offering scholarships

The Tanzanian minister for Energy and Minerals, Prof. Sospeter Muhongo, has circulated information to inform prospective students of scholarships awards that his ministry is offering.

The scholarships are for postgraduate studies in China in and are eligible for holders of bachelors degrees in Earth Sciences or Engineering.

Full details available at the ministry's website here:


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More on the Dodge Nitro 4X4

I normally drive a car that gives me only 8 kilometres to one litre of petrol.

The Dodge Nitro 4X4 produces impressive mileage. Three days ago, after filling a 70-litre capacity tank at Singida, and having driven to Dodoma (245 kilometres), remaining in Dodoma for a day (several other kilometres), and having driven back all the way to Shinyanga yesterday (another 701 kilometres), I calculated that the Dodge Nitro allows close to 13 kilometres per litre of diesel.
Filling up at Shinyanga.
Those 13 kilometres were driven at a speed of less than 110 kilometres per hour and with considerable use of the car's air conditioning system. Driving at 80 kilometres per hour and without use of the air conditioner could very well allow over 16 kilometres per litre.

It's a fast car topping 240 kms per hour. Which explains why I returned to Butiama with two speeding fines. I wonder who are the brilliant minds who designed roads and cars that allow speeds in excess of 200 kms per hour and a law that states you cannot drive more than 20 kilometres per hour in some sections?

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