Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Thursday, 29 December 2016

The roof is up

The roof is up today for one of the grain silos at Mwitongo, Butiama.

Tilting the roof provides access to the finger millet stored in the silo. The finger millet flour is mixed with cassava or maize flour to cook ugali (hard porridge), a favorite meal among members of the Zanaki ethnic group.

Occasionally, as is the case in this occasion, the roof of the silo is tilted to permit visitors to view the grain stored inside.

Mwitongo is the compound of the residence of Tanzania's founding president, Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

I am not a mzungu! (re-posted with the Afro)

I am not a mzungu is something I have to keep on repeating at least once a month to children.

I am baffled why children should call me "mzungu" a Swahili word for Caucasian. And there is no confusing me with a white man; I am unmistakably black. There is at least one other meaning of the word, but in general Tanzanians understand "mzungu" to mean a white person.

But I have had to consider that children have their own interpretation of "mzungu" and it is slowly beginning to make sense to me. The first time I heard being called "mzungu" by a child was in Rombo, on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro. I was hiking and had my headphones. I concluded it was the headphones that made me a mzungu.

The second time I became a mzungu was during my Ukerewe to Butiama bike ride and as I rode through a village three children called out to me: "mzungu!" I responded: "I am not a mzungu!" They insisted I was.

I can attribute the second instance to my colorful mountain bike, sunglasses, and the huge Afro I was sporting. I could have deflected attention if it was only the bike, but I just couldn't go unnoticed for being unusual with that huge Afro and the sunglasses.
My colorful mountain bike.
This morning I was reminded how much I confuse children when a child called out my other name. I still have the Afro, I was holding my sun glasses in my hand, and I had a small backpack. I have concluded that, to these children, "mzungu" has nothing to do with race, but has a lot to do with the activity I indulge in (cycling), the accessories I use (sunglasses, headphones), and that huge Afro that even Don King would have envied. Or Wole Soyinka?

I originally posted this without my photograph, until Benjamin Leers commented: "where's the Afro?" So, here it is, below, although I trimmed it when I took this photo. Let me know if you think Don King or Professor Wole Soyinka would be impressed.
The headphones, the Afro, and the author of this post. 

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Le travels to the Great Barrier Reef

I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro with Le Huynh in August 2008. He travels the world, and shares images and experiences of the places he visits. He shares the following stunning photos and a poem from his recent visit to the Great Barrier Reef off Australia.

He writes of his experience:

Dear friends

We come from the sea
we bleed salty blood
we cry salty tears
we're humble at sea.

Some may say that
there's nothing to see...
only the same sky
above the same sea!

Oh what a canvas
of infinite colors
forever changing light
open your eyes to see!

Great Barrier Reef 2016

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Here are some money laundering techniques that you can try

I had the occasion to launder some US currency this year. As I saw it then I had no choice and I did not think there would be consequences.

The saga began when I traveled to Harare, Zimbabwe for a workshop and after the organizers refunded me some of the meeting expenses, including an old US dollar 100 banknote. I didn’t think much of it until I tried to change the money in Tanzania.

The bureaus de change would not take it because it was an old banknote and they told me they do not accept banknotes that are older than a particular year. I do not remember what the cut-off year was.

I tried many bureaus in both Mwanza and Tanzania and finally gave up before I thought of depositing the note with my bank. I made the assumption, taking a cue on how banks handle old Tanzanian banknotes, that they would accept an old US dollar bill and find the means to send it back to the printers and get a new one. 

I was wrong. Not even my bank would take the banknote. An employee told me that they would not be able to sell the banknote to a Tanzanian clientele composed mostly of individuals who are extremely choosy in what type of banknote they will accept. These are individuals who are experts at trying to pass on an old banknote to someone else but would not accept one themselves.

I almost gave up and then decided to ask someone who frequently travels abroad how he handles the tricky issue of exchanging these old notes into Tanzanian shillings. Easy, he told me: just iron the banknote and remove the creases and it would look as new as they want.

I took the advice and decided to add what I thought would be a foolproof spin to it. I would wash the banknote before I ironed it. So I washed the note and carefully ironed it and was extremely satisfied with the results. But even that was not good enough for Tanzanian money changers, who have imposed higher standards for accepting foreign currency that even the issuers themselves.
Not good enough for Tanzanian money changers.
I have an extra wallet that has a small collection of foreign banknotes left over from travels in Rwanda, Uganda, Ghana, and a few other African countries. And that is where my old US dollar banknote ended up until I traveled to the United States early this year and some supermarket worker accepted it without hesitation.

And this is my story of how I was forced to launder dirty money from Zimbabwe in Tanzania and succeeded in spending the money in the United States. And, as I expected, there weren’t any consequences.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

How they wish they had voted for Hillary Clinton!

I noted some interesting reactions after Donald Trump won the elections. 

There is a group of voters who had preferred that neither Hillary Clinton nor Trump were on the ballot box and these voters spent a lot of time telling anyone who listened how unfortunate for Americans that they were forced to select one of two rather bad choices.

They went further. In airing this disappointment they decided it was better not to vote and stay as far away as possible from the voting stations. 
Hillary Clinton
We are told it is the poor, illiterate whites who sealed Trumps' victory while the enlightened middle class educated voters stayed at home and discussed what was wrong with the American electoral process.

It was from the latter's reaction after Trump won that one must conclude that the disenchanted must have all along wished for an outcome they did not want to influence through the ballot box.

Shocked by Trump's victory, it seemed that a Trump win was their worst nightmare, and that if Clinton had won instead it would have been just a bad dream.

It is not far-fetched to assume they wished they had voted for Hillary Clinton.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Tanzanian politics: stooping too low?

When Tanzania's ruling party, Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) gradually abandoned its socialist policies and moved towards capitalism those members who defended the shift said: "we have to change with the times."

Consequently, successive CCM-led administrations presided over an unbridled form of capitalism that opened up the country to economic rape and plunder.

The business community monitors and takes advantage of the changing economic and business environment quickly and with time someone within the community thinks up a new way of earning income.

As the presidential elections were winding up last October I was in Dar es Salaam and got wind of a shop in Kariakoo selling women's underwear with CCM's distinctive colors, green and yellow. I was told the product was particularly popular with CCM's female supporters. I can imagine male politicians also bought the underwear and handed them out to their female supporters.

The competition between the leading candidates, CCM's John Magufuli and CHADEMA's Edward Lowassa was quite intense and it appeared to me then that, with this product, CCM was pulling all the stops to ensure that the outcome of the elections was swayed in its favour.

I have no proof that it was CCM's campaign machinery that ordered the underwear from China (Yes, they were manufactured in China), or whether it was the idea of some enterprising CCM supporter. The biggest insult to CHADEMA would be if the underwear were imported by a CHADEMA supporter who was more interested in making money than the outcome of the elections.

Either way, to older Tanzanians, political campaigning in Tanzania has stooped quite low. Literally.

I wonder what Tanzania's founding president Mwalimu Julius Nyerere would have to say of these new campaign tactics.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Nyerere's Butiama straggles with district status

How we remember the good old times when Butiama retained the character of a village! The new reality struck home recently after I strained my ankle, having fallen off my bicycle.

Remember the good old days when, if hurt, you could receive medical attention in hospital by obtaining the Police Form 3 (PF3) and then proceeding to hospital for treatment? The law has apparently received a minor, critical, change.

I was told that the current procedure for issuing the form would require police to file a case against me before I get the treatment. The police officer explained his predicament (and mine) and asked aloud: "Now what can we charge with you?"

I almost offered the following suggestion: "Riding a bicycle in a reckless manner, with total disregard for my own safety and consequently injuring myself." But I thought it wise not to tempt him.

But he was helpful. He told me to go to the hospital and explain to the doctor that I hurt myself while cycling and ask the doctor to provide treatment. I did, and the doctor accepted my explanation.

Mwalimu Nyerere said, a long time ago, that residents of Butiama should remain residents of a village. The government had other ideas and decided that Butiama should become a district. This new procedure for processing the PF3 form probably has nothing to do with Butima having being designated a district, but it is likely that we are at the beginning of the end of village life as we know it.
Mwalimu Nyerere rides a bicycle
Mwalimu Nyerere rides a bicycle.
The era of falling of a bicycle and ending up in court for reckless cycling has arrived.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Here's the ultimate in old school syncing

I have had enough hard disk crashes, and lost enough mobile phones to know that traditional methods of storing information are more reliable than the latest computer based backup systems,

Nothing beats pen and paper when it comes to preserving your data. And nothing beats backing up your information written on paper than a backup system that is based on pen and paper.

So, for a while, I have been experimenting with just that; backing up my information on my personal diary with a desk-based larger diary.
My information backup system.
It is extremely reliable, no doubt, but it consumes much more time than a few clicks on the laptop. Maybe I'll just postpone this old new way of recording information and post it at the end of my todo items for next year. That is, on my desk diary.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Letter from Butiama: the temptations of leadership

I recently opened my Christmas present (Yes, because I have been traveling rather frequently and only had the chance to get to the post office in late March), and it contained contents of a coveted brand of biscuits. The biscuits reminded me of the following article I wrote.

The article, from my column "Letter from Butiama", was published in the Sundays News of 1 November 2009.

I have developed a strong friendship with a group of children, some are my nieces and nephews but most are my neighbours’ children. The reason for the bond is evident: I frequently share with them sweets, bananas, but mostly, biscuits, having in recent years developed a keen taste for biscuits after having almost entirely weaned myself from a variety of Tanzanian lagers.

Think of a highly popular leader, such as Nelson Mandela, as the principal candidate of a “dream ticket” comprising political figures from each continent, all working together on one campaign ticket and with me on the opposing side with hands tied, mouth gagged and under house arrest throughout the campaign period and I still would win the elections if these children were the only voters in that election.

Not long ago, two of the children showed up and asked me for some of the usual treats. I said I had none, but recalled having an unopened packet of biscuits and went to my bedroom to fetch it. It was a brand that the supermarket attendant had recommended after I found they had run out of my favourite biscuits. I decided beforehand I would taste one of the biscuits before handing over the entire contents to the children. It was a decision that has altered our hitherto good relations.

They were labeled “shortbread” but the exceptional taste I experienced had nothing “short” about it and undoubtedly contradicted that label. Contrary to my earlier decision to hand over the entire box, I ended up reversing my earlier decision: I gave them two biscuits each and retained the rest.
My Christmas present.
I keep telling myself that it was only biscuits, that I was the only one with the compromising information, and no one was adversely affected, but I wondered whether relations, particularly of leadership, might produce similar choices to particular individuals where the stakes are much higher than a two thousand shilling box of biscuits, less four.

However, leadership is not only limited to politics and the range extends to virtually every aspect of society, including parenting where the subjects end up licking the crumbs while the leader gets the cake.

The Irish wit, poet, and dramatist Oscar Wilde wrote: “The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it.” Those who yield to various temptations will most likely support such comments, but such support accepts a weakness rather than confronting it. It would be ideal if those who cannot replicate acceptable leadership will yield, not to temptation, but to those who are likely to provide some semblance of exemplary leadership that does not succumb to temptation, although even such advice is easier said than implemented.

In the recently ended local government elections in one village of Mara region voters were presented with two of what can only be termed as difficult choices for the position of village chairperson. One of the candidates, a former leader, had been accused in the past of involvement in selling off the village’s machinery and equipment in a questionable arrangement with a businessman, while the opposing candidate is accused of cooperating with armed robbers. Not surprisingly, what leaders of apparent dubious character cannot accomplish themselves, a little campaigning and the backing of political parties can make a difference. The campaign strategy of the winning team boiled down to the following: would you rather have a leader who hatches and perhaps profits from dubious deals or one who is a possible gangster? The voters chose the former.

We do not always possess the possibility of choosing our leaders, because some choices do not involve a political process, but where it does and the choices are between an awful and a dreadful leader it is perhaps time voters are given the opportunity to reject both. An overwhelming choice against two unacceptable candidates should not only bar the rejected candidates from contesting, but should only allow re-election of fresh candidates and could encourage some introspection by political parties who then might present better choices to the voters.

The temptation I faced when confronted with maintaining my good standing with my "friends" and retaining a packet must be trivial compared to those faced by some of our politicians, so powerful and overwhelming that if left to the individual candidate alone it is highly likely that it is the winning candidates who will feast on the bread while  the populace will be left with the crumbs.

Thursday, 31 March 2016

36 hours in Butiama: what to do

If you have 36 hours in Butiama here's what I suggest you should do. Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere, Tanzania's founding president was born in Butiama in April 1922 and was buried here in October 1999.

The village of Butiama is located south east of Lake Victoria in north-eastern Tanzania. There are two principal ways of traveling to Butiama. By road, Butiama is 40 kilometres (35 minutes) away from Musoma, the regional centre. Mwanza, is 190 kilometres (3 hours) away by road. Precision Air operated commercial flights to Musoma twice a week but it appears the service has been canceled, while Fastjet, Precision, and Air Tanzania have daily flights to Mwanza. The Kenyan border post of Isebania is only 120 kilometres (2 hours) from Butiama. Visitors to Butiama arriving through Mwanza have the option of using public transportation (passenger buses) plying between Mwanza and Musoma to travel to Butiama. Alternatively, arrangements can be made to hire vehicles to pick up and drop passengers in Mwanza.

As most of the activity is outdoors, it is best to visit Butiama in the drier months, between January and February and between June and October. However, even during the rainy season it is still possible to find non-rainy days where visits can be carried out, as is the case now.

My work as co-ordinator of the Butiama Cultural Tourism Enterprise (BCTE) has given me valuable experience in providing travel guidance to Butiama's visitors. In fact, I will be your guide leading you through the various attractions, if you choose to visit.

Why would anyone want to visit Butiama? Its mix of attractions is unique: history, culture, archeology, and - for visitors who have more than 36 hours - Butiama is only a short hop from the world-famous Serengeti National Park.
A Giraffe in the Serengeti National Park.

Here's the proposed itinerary for day 1 (full day):
  • arrival in the morning
  • visit mausoleum of Mwalimu Nyerere and the compound of Chief Nyerere Burito (his father) 
  • visit the Mwalimu J.K. Nyerere Museum
  • lunch and rest
  • afternoon traditional dance performance
  • visit Muhunda ancestral forest
  • evening barbecue with Zanaki elders recounting Zanaki traditions and folklore
Here's the proposed itinerary for day 2 (half a day):
  • breakfast
  • visit residences of Mwalimu Nyerere, including his library of 8,000+ books, and a view of old rock art, dated to be more than 20,000 years old
  • lunch
  • departure for Musoma or Mwanza
Visitors in Mwalimu Nyerere's library.
For those who have more than 36 hours, the world-famous Serengeti National Park is less than an hour from Butiama and is one of several attractions that are worth visiting from Butiama.

Email me for more details on planning your trip to Butiama.

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