Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Butiama Bed & Breakfast

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.

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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."