Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Sunday, 24 March 2013

If the Saudis exported ice to Icelanders...

If for any reason the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia started exporting ice to Iceland that act would be similar to the United Kingdom exporting black rhinos to Tanzania.

It's old news which I just came across: last year the British High Commissioner to Tanzania handed three black rhinos to the government of Tanzania for relocation to the Mkomazi National Park. Follow this link for the full news report.
Two black rhinos in the Ngorongoro National Park.
Notwithstanding the bitter truth that, as a result of poaching and ineffective measures to combat poaching, rhino populations in Tanzania have fallen from an estimated 10,000 in the 1960s to a mere 100 in the 1990s, the fact that Tanzania now has to depend on the United Kingdom to replenish its once large rhino population with rhinos which have spent most of their lives in Europe seems like a depiction of a masterpiece of fiction.

Sometimes reality delivers a much stronger punch than works of fiction.

Monday, 18 March 2013


I am at a barber shop in Mwanza, the California Salon, half-shaven, and the power has gone.

I thank TANESCO, the electric utility company, for reminding us about the near total dependence that humans have on energy. When I was young I and my other siblings used to visit a barber shop on Uhuru Street in Dar es Salaam where the barbers used manual clippers and scissors.
At the California Salon, Mwanza.
Modernity has brought the convenience of electric shavers and TANESCO reminds us that the old manual clippers remain indispensable.

The good news is that the power cut lasted only a few minutes.

The bad news is that Charles the barber has installed a television set in his barber shop and when the power was restored he resumed watching a nature documentary while continuing to shave me. In appropriate circumstances I would have called his action hitting two birds with one stone.

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Sunday, 17 March 2013

Here's a reason why you should be worried on your birth anniversary

Research results show an above-average occurrence of deaths for individuals on birthday anniversaries.

The research results reported by Annals of Epidemiology show that there is a 13.8 percent probability that someone will die on his/her birth anniversary.
Happy birthday? Maybe...
[Photo by Michael Jatsremski used under Creative Commons: CC: Attribution-ShareAlike.]
The research was conducted over a 40-year period between 1969 - 2008 from Swiss mortality statistics. The main causes of deaths reported from the research include cardiovascular diseases and accidents.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Antoni Folkers visits Butiama

Dutch architect and urban designer, Antoni Folkers, is visiting Butiama District for a few days at the invitation of Musoma Urban member of parliament, Hon. Nimrod Mkono.
Antoni Folkers. Photo courtesy of African Architecture Matters.
Hon. Mkono has asked Mr. Folkers to provide urban design plans for the newly gazetted district of Butiama. He is a director and the senior designer for the architectural firm FBW Architects that has offices in Manchester, Dar es Salaam, Utrecht, and Kampala.

He is the author of Modern Architecture in Africa and is the holder of a Masters in Architecture from Delft University of Technology. More details on his academic and professional experience can be found here.

During his visit he was accompanied by Swantje Scheunemann, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager of Mkono & Co Advocates.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Excuse me, do I know you?

I will admit at the outset that I am better at remembering faces than names. This morning I embarrassed myself for yet another time after I approached a middle aged man at Mwanza Hotel and told him he looked familiar.

He remained quiet but he looked at me with an intense stare that exuded authority and I said: "Have you visited Butiama before?"

He relaxed slightly and told me Butiama is a famous national location and - I interjected: "Then I probably met you at Butiama."

He said: "I am Brigadier-general Balele." As I said earlier I remember faces better than I remember names. But now I understood very well why he exuded near absolute authority when he stared at me. You cannot command soldiers without possessing an aura of authority.

Brig. Gen. Balele is the former regional commissioner for Shinyanga region and I, as someone who reads news reports quite regularly, should have effortlessly matched his name to the familiar face I thought I had seen at Butiama.

As he sat having breakfast a distance from my table I googled his name. Some of the results, given my experience so far this morning, could be rightly described as miraculous. One social networking website had announced his death on 1st March 2011. Someone was lying.

I concluded that the social newtworking site had concocted one of the more memorable lies of 2011. Confronting that stare again to question his existence was out of the question.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Letter from Butiama: No more letters

This is one of numerous articles I wrote for the Sunday News (Tanzania) column "Letter from Butiama" between 2005 and 2011. Publication date: 17th September 2006. 

I realised some years ago that I hardly received letters anymore. After some reflection it was evident I was getting the output of my own input. I hardly write letters.

Yet for several years since I made those two discoveries, I routinely went to the post office to look for responses to letters I had not written.

Sometime last year, a team from the Tanzania Posts Corporation (TPC) visited Butiama to evaluate the performance of Butiama’s only post office. They wanted to confirm what they knew already, that stamp sales were falling because there were less people writing letters.

They told me they would recommend closure of the post office, and when they sought my opinion I agreed with them. The post office at Butiama seemed then like a place of worship, its doors were closed more often then were open.

For the more than five years I have been at Butiama I probably have received less than 15 letters from that office. If there were any letter writers remaining at Butiama, they would be using the Musoma post office, 42 kilometres away., but even their number should be falling.

While Butiama’s post office has now closed, the mobile phone company, Celtel, has recently constructed a new cell site at Butiama, joining Vodacom and Tigo who share a tower.

You may not agree with me, but I would say that the proliferation of mobile phones have contributed to the closure of Butiama’s post office.

And it will further contribute to some other changes in society. First, since there are less people writing on paper rather than typing short messages on their phones, the quality of handwritings is falling drastically and will continue to fall until technology helps us to change poor handwriting into good handwriting.

Second, and what could be an advantage for those who were born with a Nokia mobile phone next to their ear, we’ll have a generation of people with lightening typing speeds because they would have learnt how to write from a computer keyboard and a mobile phone keypad.

Third, we soon will have a generation of youngsters who have never seen an old-fashioned letter. They would visit museums to see some of the masterpieces of letters written in the past.

I remember growing up and writing to my brothers and sisters who were in boarding school. When that was not enough I would begin to write to some of their friends who were in the same schools.

I have kept some of the letters I wrote in those days. Some of these letters were quite lengthy, of several pages long. They should rightly be called newsletters instead of plain letters. I imagine that in those years, I must have similarly lengthy replies, although I just cannot imagine where all those words came from. The postal authorities did not care; they were selling a lot of stamps.

Receiving letters was also such a special event. My cousin Jackson, who had moved to Dar from Bumangi, a village close to Butiama, to complete his primary education would not open a letter before eating his supper. The reason? A letter could contain tragic news, such as a death in the family, so precautions against losing one’s appetite had to be taken.

While I long for the past and I place some blame on the mobile phone for the gradual disappearance of the personal letter, I cannot help but marvel about how far letter writing has come. In a 1983 article titled Historia ya Maendeleo ya Kiswahili Zanzibar, (The History of the Development of the Swahili Language in Zanzibar) Mohamed Seif Khatib quotes a letter written by King Kabaka Mutesa of the Kingdom of Buganda to the Governor of Zanzibar:
             “…ahsante sana kunipelekea barua yako, uliyoniandikia katika Agosti 24, 1888. Ilinifikia katika Oktoba 1889” (“..thank you so much for dispatching to me your letter, that you wrote August 24, 1888. It was received by me in October 1889.”)

It took ten months for the letter to reach Uganda from Zanzibar. These two were extremely important people in East Africa in those days. One represented the British Empire, the other the Buganda Kingdom. It is safe to say that their mail service was the fastest in East Africa in those days. It would be the equivalent today of President Amani Karume sending by government jet a special envoy to Entebbe where that envoy will be driven straight to the Kabaka’s Palace (Lubiri) in Mmengo.

I cannot imagine the length of time it took to deliver letters between ordinary Ugandans and Zanzibaris.

Fastjet's cabin crew inexperienced, should learn from bars

Budget airline Fastjet recently issued impressive statistics on its operations. CEO Ed Winter reported:

"Punctuality for the month was again excellent at 99.7 % with no cancellations...."

Fastjet excels in flight operations, but its cabin crew seem to neglect how to provide an acceptable service during flights. I found myself at the receiving end of appalling service on a recent Mwanza - Dar flight.

When the trolley approached, here's what happened:

After I ordered biscuits and coffee costing Shs. 3,500 and having handed a ten thousand shilling banknote to the cabin attendant who was ahead of the trolley, she gave my back a five thousand banknote and said: "I owe you one thousand five-hundred." She also handed me the coffee and sugar except the cup and hot water.

Hardly two minutes later, the second attendant behind the carriage gave me the cup with hot water and demanded payment. I said, "you are the ones who owe me." To my surprise the first one, who minutes earlier publicly confessed to owing me Shs.1,500, could not remember I had paid up. Hardly two minutes later!

It gets better. They kept on pretending to be too busy to return my change until the plane landed an hour later. After we landed and all the passengers had disembarked I reminded her to give me my change and she claimed she had actually served me a second cup of tea and so I had no further claims.
I pointed out to her she was too young to begin suffering from dementia. And lying about having served me a second cup of tea which I had not drunk just about broke my normally composed demeanor.

I have seen better service in Butiama's bars where hardly anyone knows the difference between a boarding pass and Fastjet and where "my change" is known as i chenji yane, but where barmaids are experienced enough to return the change promptly to customers before the passage of time affects the judgement of either the barmaid or customer.

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