Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

A UNESCO World Heritage site: The Grand Béguinage of Leuven

Today, the Grand Béguinage of Leuven is the residence of visiting academicians and students of the University of Leuven. The earliest béguinages were set up in the 12th century to house poor and elderly beguines (a religious movement of women) whose numbers owing to the death of men to violence, war, and the military operations of that era.

A béguinage includes a courtyard and several dwellings and is often surrounded by a wall and gates and is secluded from the town where it is located.

Today this old area of Leuven is sometimes used as a set for films depicting an older history of Europe.

This area was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1998.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

One of the the worst phrases in the airlines industry is...

For a long time I felt that one of the worst constructed phrases in the airlines industry is: "don't fill the air in your life jacket until you get off the aircraft." That is, until I saw a documentary of the hijack and eventual crash of an Ethiopian Airlines aircraft. Here's the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-o3UrCl22g

Air travelers regularly listen to safety instructions which include use of the life vest in cases of emergency. I have always wondered who was this genius who authored the rule on the proper use of a life vest in the event of an airplane crashing in water. That rule assumes that every passenger in an aircraft can swim. I cannot imagine how someone who cannot swim jumping into a body of water and attempting to stay afloat while simultaneously trying to fill the air in his life vest. It is impossible.
Having seen the documentary and seen how the passengers who had filled their life vests before the crash were trapped underwater and could not swim out of the sinking fuselage, I understand the rule but only barely. In the event of a crash, the rule still does not change the fortunes of the unfortunate passenger who cannot swim. In fact, chances for survival could be increased for such a handicapped passenger who fills with ri his life vest before the crash - in the hope that the fuselage busts open an impact and he finds himself floating in the ocean and only having to worry about how to survive the sharks.

And the point is..?!?!?

The point of posting my photograph, posing with a young stewardess of Fastjet after landing in Mwanza recently is twofold.

First, she asked: "Can I take a photograph with you?" I said, "Certainly!" She pulled out her phone and asked a colleague to snap a few images, and I pulled out my camera, having found an excuse to take a photograph. The point is: I like the photograph, and that's a good enough excuse for posting it. It's a long since I have appeared so young in a photograph.
I went away imagining that, finally, after almost 5 years of blogging I have come face to face with one of my readers.

The second point came to me after I disembarked from the aircraft and recalled how I recently had something to complain against Fastjet and wrote about it.* I suspected, tongue-in-cheek, that the Fastjet management might have been trying to soften me up by this attempt to boost up my ego.

*I must give credit to Fastjet for getting in touch with me after I posted my complaint in this blog, which I found extremely rare in Tanzania's service industry and places Fastjet's customer complaints department in a class that is comparable only to a handful.

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Thursday, 25 April 2013

"Coca-Cola Zero" could have a better name

For the Tanzanian market, I would have advised against calling a drink "Coca-Cola Zero." In certain contexts "Zero" for Tanzanians carries a negative connotation.

When studying marketing ages ago, I learnt that the makers of Coca-Cola had done extensive research before choosing the name and when the did they chose a name that can be comfortably pronounced in all the major language groups known to humans. True, but only to a certain point. I have heard people asking for "Coca-Cora" and others asking for "Cock." 

The point is accepted nevertheless that where there could be doubt in what a seller in China might have heard being requested by a Tanzanian visitor, with a few repetitions the Chinese vendor would have understood and the Tanzanian would have a Coca-Cola in hand and contributed to the 1.2 billion 8 ounce servings of Coca-Cola that are consumed in the world every day.
"Zero" reminds most Tanzanians of a cartoon strip character with the same name who is famous for not being the most intelligent person. You might hear in Kiswahili conversation of someone labeled "zero" to connote an absence of basic knowledge, incapacity to think, or endowed with questionable character traits.

The effects of a poor choice in naming a product can be trivial for a company's earnings. But sometimes it can affect sales. In the 1970s American Motors introduced a new car model to the American automobile market, the AMC Matador. "Matador" in Spanish means "killer", a name that most drivers who understood Spanish would not have wanted to associate with a car they drove.

Most likely, drinkers of this new drink would not want to be likened to Zero the cartoon strip character.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Le's travels: Mexico

I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro with Le Huynh in August 2008. He travels the world, and shares images and experiences of the places he visits. The latest post is of his visit to the pyramids of the Teotihuacan civilization of Central Mexico.

Dear friends, 

Long before the arrival of the famed Aztec warriors, there existed once a beacon
of technological might, the first great civilization in Central Mexico, a city with such magnificence in size and splendor of probably the largest pre-Hispanic empire: Teotihuacan. 
A graceful pyramid to the Moon
As early as 1st century A.D., the Teotihuacan Empire had already started to build the famous Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon. These monuments have no equal
throughout the American continent and rival those of Egypt. Even in our times, the
Pyramide del Sol is still the third largest pyramid in the world. Grid plan was laid out
for avenues, palaces and temples around these structures for what will become thegreatest city of Mesoamerica. 
Le enjoys the view from the top of the Sun Pyramid.
For centuries after its fall, Teotihuacan remained an important pilgrimage site for the Aztec rulers. It was an empire which ruled by tribute gathering rather than by
dominating occupation which helped to spread its advanced civilization such as
writing and calendar system. Many Teotihuacan Gods such as the feathered serpent
Quetzalcoatl (life and fertility) or Tlaloc (water and rain) were still being worshiped
by the Aztecs almost a thousand years later. 
The life and fertility god, Quetzalcoat.
It is a privilege for us today to be able to gaze in wonder at these ancient
relics from a distant culture, a window of our past and a rich heritage of humanity. 

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Friday, 19 April 2013

Recently on a flight to Dar es Salaam...

I looked outside the window as we crossed the Italian Alps and saw heavy snow cover, consistent with the record cold weather that Europe experienced at the end of March and in early April.

Less than two hours later our plane entered Libyan airspace and the desert below provided a stark contrast to the landscape I had seen over Italy. The temperatures were also obviously equally remarkably different.

A few days earlier, in Belgium and Germany, I had experienced what was reported as the coldest temperatures for late March in a hundred years.

In less than 16 hours I experienced the sweltering heat of Dar es Salaam and wondered whether I would rather be back in the bitter cold weather of Europe of a few days earlier.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Letter from Butiama: Dual Citizenship is a weak proposition

This is one of numerous articles I wrote for the Sunday News (Tanzania) column "Letter from Butiama" between 2005 and 2011. Publication date: 1st October 2006. 
A few years ago I posted a comment on a web site with a forum on dual citizenship in Tanzania saying I did not see its merits, that it will provide no significant benefits to the country, and that the single group of beneficiaries will be those who have to pay a $US50 dollar visa fee to travel to Tanzania.

A foreigner staying in Tanzania on a tourist visa can pay over $US2,000 annually in visa fees. An investor pays an average of $US800 per year for a residence permit.

I received such a lashing from someone abroad that I refrained from making further comments against dual citizenship.

In its “Final Report on the Introduction of Dual Citizenship” the Law Reform Commission has recommended that Tanzania amend the current laws to permit dual citizenship.

I have not been able to obtain a copy of that report, so some of the doubts I have about dual citizenship may have been answered in that report.

Although I do not believe that dual citizenship poses the national security concerns raised by some, I fail to see its significant advantages.

The basic argument for the introduction of dual citizenship has been economic, specifically, how much the Tanzania economy stands to gain financially from dual citizenship. It is argued that once the system takes off, there should be a rise in investments from former Tanzanian nationals. I do not see how that would happen.

First, the maximum savings enjoyed by an individual holding two passports will be $2,000 dollars each year. An investor with two thousand dollars will be lucky to get an appointment with the Director of Tanzanian Investment Center (TIC) where the minimum amount that qualifies a Tanzanian investor to receive a Certificate of Investment is $US100,000 in a new, rehabilitation, or an expansion project.

One can argue that it is easier to access investment funds abroad, so an individual does not necessarily have to invest from personal savings. If that is the case, it is difficult to understand how a person with $US100,000 to invest would have a problem raising $800 annually for his residence permit.

Anyone with that kind of money would probably see Tanzania as one of many other investment options competing with other investment opportunities worldwide. This talk about affection for one’s country of birth is more theoretical than near to the truth. Patriotism is a concept of the sixties and seventies, although I am not saying that there are no patriotic Tanzanians today, here and abroad.

My point is that individuals who seek a good return on their investment will not invest in Tanzania because they hold dual nationality, but rather because, after considering the risks involved, Tanzania provides a good return on their investment compared to other places. Patriotism is not necessarily compatible with making money.

In fact last year I heard a Tanzania was in Iraq seeking business opportunities. That is more characteristic of individuals looking for a good return on their investments. No amount of citizenships would have forced that man to invest in Tanzania.

Perhaps what should be done is that parallel with the campaign to attract foreign investments to Tanzania there should be a special drive to attract Tanzanians abroad to invest in Tanzania. It is easier to attract this group than individuals who do not even know the difference between Tanzania and Tasmania.

What can be argued in favour of dual citizenship is that many of those abroad cannot invest large sums but, given the possible savings from visa and residence permit fees, these individuals may be able to set aside some money for smaller investments either for themselves or members of their families in Tanzania. Or they could increase the amounts remitted annually to family members in Tanzania. Though these amounts may not produce a significant growth to the economy, they remain important to the individual beneficiaries.

It has also been argued that Tanzania should not be left behind because many countries have adopted the system and many will soon. This is a weak argument. President Kikwete recently revealed in a speech that he declined the offer from his hosts in a European country to join them in a sauna because he felt it was not right. I do not believe he would have changed his mind even if the entire world population went to saunas.

Let us adopt these changes if they are right but not because everyone else is doing it. Whatever is decided, I doubt whether the increase in foreign investments will be significant.

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