Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Monday, 29 December 2014

2013 in review: 8 May

I walked through an alleyway in Mwanza where I saw the "office" of a graphics artist who was
more than likely a fan of professional wrestling.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

2013 in review: 7 May

I gave myself a break and upgraded my office chair from this one:

to this one:

Friday, 12 December 2014

2013 in review: 16 April

It was one of those days when I had to work on my netbook during a power blackout. The solution

was to power my work session with two candles.

Monday, 8 December 2014

2013 in review: 3 April

During what was described as the severest winter Europe had experienced in a long time, I flew
back to Dar es Salaam and saw from above what a severe winter looks like: stunnungly beautiful.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

2013 in review: 26 March

In the evening I was in Leuven, Belgium, at the Afrika Filmfestival, an annual celebration of films and documentaries made on Africa and, mostly, by Africans.
Photo credit: Lilian Nabora.
This year’s festival also featured two films on Tanzania’s founding president, Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere (1922 – 1999). One of those films is The Teacher’s Country, a film by Benjamin Leers and Maurice Houcni, which is a reflection by five Tanzanians on 50 years of Tanzania’s independence.
Host Dr. Pendo Maro, left, and the Tanzanian Ambassador in Belgium, Dr. Deodorus Kamala, at the Afrika Filmfestival. Photo credit: Lilian Nabora
I was one of the five featured in the film, which was also shot during one of my Mt. Kilimanjaro climbs. Both Benjamin and Maurice joined me on that climb.

Among the awardees at the festival was Imruh Bakari, lecturer at the University of Winchester, who received a Lifetime Achievement Award.
I, right, had the honour of presenting Imruh Bakari's Lifetime Achievement Award. Photo credit: Afrika Filmfestival.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Letter from Butiama: The origin of language

This is one of numerous articles I wrote for the Sunday News (Tanzania) column "Letter from Butiama" between 2005 and 2011. Publication date: 11th February 2007.
There is a Biblical passage about the tower of Babel (Genesis11: 1-9) which reports that humans once had a single language, and that we agreed to build a tower to reach heaven. The Almighty God was monitoring the scheme, and stepped in to intervene after deciding we had gone too far.

God created languages, making it impossible for those at the construction site to understand and cooperate with each other. Unable to continue, humans dispersed around the earth to indulge in other mischief.
In the scientific study of languages, experts group those languages with similar characteristics in groups. Genetic or typological characteristics are used for the classifications. Genetic classification, in lines similar to the story of Babel, looks for evidence of linkages to a common language, while typological classifications look for similarities in structure.

The study of language assumes that the groups of languages and the families they belong to are derived from a “parent” or “proto-“ language, the mother of  all languages. Bantu is one such group from which most of the languages spoken in the eastern, central, and southern African region originate, while the Germanic subfamily is known to have spawned several European languages including English, German, Swedish, Dutch, and Norwegian.

Science has not and will not be able to determine whether all languages originated from one particular language because the available written records are not consistent across all languages and, even when they are available, cover only a fraction of the estimated thousands of years in which human speech has existed.
However, it is instructive to note that, in some languages, there seems to be some trace of the Biblical account on the tower of Babel.

I believe that Swahili and Italian speakers can make a strong religious claim to being one of the first two language offshoots from Babel, and a scientific claim for being two of the world’s earlier proto-languages.
Take the example of the Italian word giu’ whose pronunciation closely resembles that of the Swahili word juu. Giu’ means “down”, juu is “up.” Imagine the confusion created each time the Swahili speaking bricklayer asked the Italian stores clerk for additional bricks to be sent up.

Although these two words have opposite meanings, if you look at them as representing one of two extremes they are strongly connected on a scale of height, and would give some credence to the Biblical account of the Divine intervention to curtail the effectiveness of communication, at least between Italian and Swahili speakers.

To the northern Chinese ma can have three meanings depending on the intonation you use when pronouncing those two letters. On a flat tone it means “mother”, on a falling tone “to curse.” In Italian the same word means “but” and several other meanings associated with that word.

There are several examples of words that has one decent meaning in one language and a different and obscene unprintable meaning in another. Again, a few Italian words that can be used in normal conversation share the reputation of having obscene Swahili meanings.

While some religions preach that we shared a common language in the past, and scientific study points to a shared common origin of languages in language groups, there is a great likelihood that the advances in human knowledge existing today would have changed the story in the Bible.

I have had the chance to observe Chinese technicians working on a Tanzanian construction site. They could not speak a word of neither English nor Swahili. In comparison, the only Chinese word that their coordinator knew was the word for “beer”, which was of little help even if they were constructing a brewery.

In little time a communications system was developed and used. To order more nails, they showed a nail to the coordinator, and wrote down the size and quantity using the number system familiar to any literate Tanzanian. It worked well for most situations. Thanks to easier communication nowadays, when communication completely broke down, they would place a call to an interpreter in China to resolve the matter.

Human knowledge today would have probably changed the story of Babel. Construction would have continued until the tower would have collapsed from its own height, but while construction lasted, religion and science would have found common ground.

Monday, 24 November 2014

This is the best misprint yet

After publishing this post, I found out that the article with the misprint that I reported was edited and the error was rectified. I choose to leave the original post because it was accurate when I posted it.


I have just come across what I consider to be the best misprint yet.

The Daily News (Tanzania) has a news report in which President Jakaya Kikwete has sent a message of condolence to Minister of Information, Youth, Culture, and Sports Fenella Mukangara following the death of two journalists: Innocent Munyuku and Baraka Karashani.

The minister was referred to as “the minter of information….” As far as misprints go, this one is a gem. Considering that the Daily News is a government newspaper and falling under the direct responsibility of the minister, one wonders whether it was a genuine mistake or whether it was a sick joke being perpetrated against Minister Mukangara.
Screen shot of the Google News alert containing the initial error.
In either case, I suspect heads will roll.

Here’s the link to the story: JK mourns Munyuku, Baraka.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

2013 in review: 25 March

In Belgium I visited the Grand B├ęguinage of Leuven a UNESCO World Heritage site that consists of buildings built in the 13th century.
My hosts informed me that the area is sometimes used as a setting for film production.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

New monkey species discovered in Butiama

The only primates I have seen in Butiama are baboons and velvet monkeys. A few years ago, I caught a glimpse of a monkey I had never seen in Butiama which disappeared into the nearby forest as soon as it saw me.

A few days ago I saw the monkey again and managed to photograph it.

It has side burns and has a thick fur and a long tail. I do not recall seeing this species anywhere except perhaps in the forest area on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro where a similar species is found.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Visitors to Butiama: Egumba Dance Group

Members of the Egumba Dance Group visit Butiama regularly to provide entertainment to other visitors from Butiama and to Butiama's residents.
They have a repertoire of traditional dances from around Mara region and from other parts of Tanzania.They have performed in foreign cultural festivals including one in South Korea.

Realated posts:

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Le's travels: Japan

I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro with Le Huynh in August 2008. He travels the world, and shares images and experiences of the places he visits. This post is from his 2012 visit to Japan.

Dear friends, 

A well known consequence of our fast and connected modern world is the equally fast and furious rise of stress levels.  Back in the early 90’s, people began to notice an increasing number of incidents where someone has literally “dropped dead” from overwork!

Shuzenji Temple in autumn.

Suddenly, the last decade has seen a proliferation of 'urban' spas, all promising the ideal relaxation in response to the strong demand of near burnout customers.

Sumptuous meals with local fresh catch
These days, for city folks who are used to effective methodology towards clearly defined goals, ‘result-oriented’ spas have become popular in cities where people are forever pressed for time:  to get the maximum result with minimal effort... and may as well stave off ageing while at it!

Shuzenji Temple in autumn.
The antithesis of the modern-day spa is the traditional centuries old practice of the Japanese Bath also known as “Onsen” (meaning Hot springs).  Being a volcanic island, Japan has an abundant supply of natural hot water from volcanic springs. Since ancient times, these hot springs have been known to have healing power depending on their mineral composition.

During the Nara era (from 710 AD), many rest houses have been constructed by Buddhist monks in order to provide shelter for pilgrims. They have chosen wisely those locations near hot springs for bathing purposes

Onsen in front of the Ocean (and the stars at night)

and also for their healing power to the weary travelers. Overtime, these traditional Onsen inn (or Ryokan) have refined the experience with beautifully manicured surrounding garden, comfortable sleeping quarters, soothing massage, and exquisitely prepared meals using local fresh ingredients. 
The colours of autumn.
Like all finer things in life, going to a Japanese Onsen has become something of an artistic ritual. It is a conscious act of taking time out to breath and to leave behind the daily grind of hectic life. Only after thoroughly cleansing one’s body may one slowly enter the hot bath where the purification of one’s mind begins…  The contemplation of nature at an Onsen’s outdoor bath is the result of a Zen like meditative approach to bathing. It gives us a spiritual dimension to this most intimate act and a connection to the ancient mysticism of the East. It is truly a quintessential experience touching the very core of Japanese culture and tradition.

Japan 2012

Related posts:

Friday, 17 October 2014

2013 in review: 23 March

On a visit to Belgium, a friend took me to visit one of Brussels iconic monuments, the Atomium. Its sight jolted my memory - I have been here before!

It wasn't my first visit to Brussels, as I thought earlier. I passed through Brussels in 1980 while traveling to Amsterdam.

Monday, 13 October 2014

What is this blog about?

In the sixth year of this blog I think I finally have the answer.

There’s a maxim from Blogging 101 that says if you blog about anything and everything you will drive visitors away. If you read through some of my posts, you might notice the very opposite; I write on a wide range of topics, but a common – though not consistent – thread is that I conclude my posts with an opinion about some issue. And I would say that some of my favourite posts are those in which I have an opinion about some issue.

Since launching this blog in 2008 I have avoided describing (in the header) what this blog is about for a good reason: I had no idea where it was heading and did not want to limit myself to a description on which direction it should take.

Although I have followed advice, again from Blogging 101, of limiting the number of topics on this blog to a manageable number (I even launched a new blog dedicated to my Mt. Kilimanjaro climbing experiences), the tags I am using still leave latitude to explore the universe and its diversity although I might be stretching the boundaries rather wide if I promise that you will read a post on Europa here.

Perhaps the title of this blog says it all: From Butiama and Beyond. I am blogging from Butiama, but I also blog an whatever topic of interest that I encounter beyond Butiama.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

2013 in review: March 13

In Dar es Salaam, I woke up early to catch the early morning flight on budget airline Fastjet to

Mwanza. We boarded the aircraft just before sunrise.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro with musician and activist Vitali Maembe

Early last month I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, accompanied by musician/activist Vitali Maembe who works and lives in Bagamoyo.

It was interesting climb, as he carried along his guitar, and attracted considerable attention not only from other climbers but also from the hundreds of guides and porters who are on Mt. Kilimanjaro at any one time.
Vitali Maembe takes a rest on the way to Shira Cave camp.
I have begun to post the details of that climb in my Blog Kilimanjaro, which has exclusive posts on my Mt. Kilimanjaro climbs. You can follow the adventure as it unfolds here.

Friday, 26 September 2014

2013 in review: February 26

It was one of those days when I had something urgent to do on my laptop (correction: a netbook)

and the there was a power cut. The solution: a candle-lit office session powered by four new candles kept just for the occassion.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Road construction, Tanzanian style

This road (photo below) links the village of Butiama to the Musoma - Mwanza main road, more than 11 kilometres to the west. It was completed in 2005 just before President Benjamin Mkapa stepped down after his second term in office.
In late July I noticed that workers were drawing the white stripe in the middle of the road and I thought: "It's about time!"Although it had taken nine years for someone to remember to put the final touches on this road I felt they could be forgiven for the lapse. Finally, I thought, those drivers who had difficulty keeping on their side of the road now had a line in the middle to help them navigate past oncoming traffic.

And then someone mentioned that Works Minister Dr. John Pombe Magufuli was about to visit Butiama to inaugurate construction of the road that would provide access for residents of this part of Tanzania to travel on most of the distance between Mara region through the Serengeti National Park and to Arusha region on a tarmac road. Yes, I am referring to the infamous Serengeti "Highway".

Then I understood why that someone who nine years ago should have drawn the white stripe in the middle of the road had suddenly remembered to complete a task that, in normal conditions, would remain unfinished.

The minister was bound to pass on this road and raise more than a few questions. That was the reason why.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

What is the likelihood of this happening?

I would say almost zero.

Here's what happened: I was doing some leisurely work on my computer whose rules - my leisurely work rules - permit me to listen to some background music from my laptop's music player. As I began reading this article on how to generate more reader traffic to a blog, Remmy Ongala's composition Karola (read also "Carola") also began playing on my player.
As I scrolled down to the comments section of the article guess who also commented on that article? Carola! I thought that was an interesting coincidence; I have thousands of songs in my music collection and Remmy Ongala "gets on my stage" with Karola just when I am reading an article in which Carola makes a comment.

I clicked the link to the comment by Carola, hoping that it was the Carola (Carola Kinasha) who inspired Remmy Ongala to compose his Karola. But I guess it was expecting too much coincidences in one day.

Monday, 11 August 2014

2013 in review: 14 January

In search of roofing grass, I walked through a corn field behind a supplier of thatched grass for roofing a
restaurant that is undergoing renovations in Butiama.

Related post:

Saturday, 26 July 2014

2013 in review: 11 January

Someone had suggested a barbecue days earlier.

On the day a second person brought the meat, a fourth one the drinks and the fifth the music. There were no chairs.

When the drinks aroused those familiar reactions, most of those gathered began tapping their feet to the music. Before long a few jumped onto the dance floor and accentuated their presence.

In the photo it was Adam in the foreground, Kevin in the middle, and Thomas on the left walking away.

Related post:

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

You think Tanzania and Malawi have a problem? Think again.

I thought the border dispute between Tanzania and Malawi was extremely complicated until I saw this video.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

China is not a superpower, yet

Recently in Dar es Salaam I was on one of the invited guests when Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao was the chief guest at the ground-breaking ceremony of the Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation Square, a real estate development in Dar es Salaam jointly developed by the Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation, and China Railway Group Limited on a Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) basis, and with further funding from the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

Strong signals that China is an emerging power could be seen and heard. First, the Master-of-Ceremonies was a Chinese official who conducted the ceremony in Chinese. A Tanzanian translator provided the English translation to the invited guests. Kiswahili speakers were left to their own devices and to their ability to understand either Chinese or English.

Second, the plaque that was jointly unveiled by the Chinese vice president and Tanzanian prime minister Mizengo Pinda was inscribed in Chinese, followed by an English translation. Again, Kiswahili was found unnecessary.

If my memory serves me correctly the background music was Chinese, with a sprinkling of some Tanzanian songs.

Yet for all this display of power I could not happen notice that, in contrast to the existing power – the United States of America – China still has a long way to go. We have witnessed how every detail of a visit by an American president to Tanzania is taken over by Americans – civilian and military. Even our president’s security is seconded to the Secret Service, I am told. Mobile phone commuications were unaivalable while President Clinton visited Arusha. Dar es Salaam’s residents were asked to stay off the route President Obama’s motorcade used from the airport. And when Air Force One used the airport it was the only aircraft operating except for US military helicopters. Other aircraft were either grounded or diverted elsewhere. And, as with our president’s bobyguards, Tanzanian airport traffic controllers were replaced by Americans.

On their way to the top superpowers step on more than a few toes and, inevitably, there are millions of people across the Globe with sore toes who would like to squeeze their hands around the neck of a leading representative of a superpower. So, one can understand the motive prompting this Great Wall that shields these representatives. The difficult part is understanding the motive by government’s around the world for accepting the humiliation of hosting such leaders.

I decided during the event in Dar es Salaam that, in this context, China is not yet a superpower. No one was strip-searched or sniffed for explosives when we entered the building site, and we were free to mingle with the Chinese delegation. Perhaps the Chinese have not yet reached the stage of stepping on other people’s toes.

I could not help wondering what would have happened if the American Vice President was the chief guest. One certaintly is I would have been wearing my best underwear.

Friday, 11 July 2014

How do you order toast in Swahili?

That was my dilemma. Although it took me a while to find out that I was in a dilemma.

I take great pride in my ability to speak Swahili, a language spoken by an estimated 140 million people. It's my mother tongue, so I should not claim to hold exceptional qualities. But I take every opportunity to speak Swahili and will use a foreign language only when I have to.

Recently while having breakfast in a hotel in Dar es Salaam I ordered toasted bread. My request was in Swahili except for the word "toast" which the English-Swahili dictionary published by the Institute of Kiswahili Research translates to "tosti." But I only found this out after I consulted the dictionary. Hitherto, I had never heard anyone mention tosti.

In response, the waiter asked me in English: "how many [slices]?" And I, perturbed by a Tanzanian adressing a fellow Tanzania in English, asked in Swahili: "Do you speak Swahili?"

He switched to Swahili and as I sat in my chair waiting for my tosti it suddenly dawned on me that I was the one who created the confusion in the first place by ordering "toast."

Friday, 20 June 2014

Either my mirrors are defective or I have poor eyesight

It just occurred to me that I could appear to others much older than I imagine.

I am at an airport lounge where I observe a couple with an infant in, I presume, the husband's arms. Besides them, a daughter aged around 7.

I was in that situation circa 28 years ago. The interesting part is that I look at the couple and I feel like they could almost pass for my age mates. It would be logical only if their children were much older.

That leads me to conclude that I should consider changing my bathroom mirror. And I should also visit my optician more often. Either mtu mirror or my eyes are defective.

But as I like to say to my detractors, old people don't climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. You are as old as you feel.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

I am back

I have not posted here for a long time. Blogging regularly isn't easy. My main obstacle is I write better posts when I am at home.

When I travel my creative drive stays at home.

I am traveling at the moment and look forward to surprising myself.