Saturday, January 28, 2012

First Impressions and Trip to Bagamoyo

 Last Friday we took an all day tour of downtown Dar es Salaam (which also consisted of trespassing every luxury hotel here).  It’s really interesting to see all the different influences in the downtown of Dar like Islam, Christianity, Indian and German just to name a few.  There, we also went to a fish market and Kariakoo which is a huge market with just about everything imaginable.

Street Vendors Downtown


Kariakoo Market

Then there’s the peninsula which is completely different from other parts of the city.  It’s filled with really nice hotels, shopping malls and restaurants and it’s mainly where most of the expats live. Also most of the embassy houses are pretty close by there as well.  Going in there almost feels like I’m back in the US and in general, it’s been really interesting going in between what seems like two different worlds here.  One day we’re walking through a traditional area of Tanzania and lugging buckets of water into our room and the next we go to hang out at the beach on a resort or out to dinner at a nice restaurant.

This past weekend we went to Bagamoyo which is an old historical town.  We saw ruins of an old mosque, visited the first church in Tanzania and learned about the slave trade here.

Learning about the slave trade in East Africa was really interesting. Typically whenever I’ve learned about slavery it has always been about West Africa and the Americas and so slavery here is not something I would have ever thought about.  The most interesting thing was how the effects of slavery still impact life on the coast.  For example, there’s still a stigma against marrying someone that is a descendent of slavery.  Also, even though the soil by the coast is very good, most people refuse to farm here because it’s associated with slave work.  So aid agencies and programs to promote agriculture in the area have mostly failed because of this.   

Ruins from an old mosque

Camel sighting driving around Bagamoyo

This week we were supposed to start our classes.  However, unlike the US, the schedule for classes isn’t as set and stone right from the beginning.  First off, the schedule changed about 4 times this week.  Also, most of the professors didn’t show up probably due to the scheduling confusion.  In general though we’ve  been told that professors might just not show up to class and when this happens we need to call them and ask if they’re coming.  When we meet our professors (which hopefully they’ll show up next week) we can aslo negotiate when we’ll have classes so we can change the schedule around.  So far, we’ve had Swahili, African International Relations and Foreign Policy and most people have started their internships. 

So I’m actually pretty stoked about my internship although it has been quite an effort to get to where I am now.  I’m really starting to get a sense of Africa time now.  Anyways, I’m going to be working for the Water Quality department and my project is going to be about drinking water.  Basically what I’m going to be doing is going to different parts of the city which will mostly be in the outskirts of town, collecting water samples from these kiosks that sell drinking water from the tap, assessing the quality of the water and comparing them to Tanzanian and WHO standards.  I need to write a proposal for the project this weekend probably so I can start working as soon as possible. 

On another positive note, we finally have running water in the dorms! It’s not uncommon for the water to be shut off here but it typically only happens for 1-3 days. However since we got here, the pump for our dorm has been broken so we’ve gotten water maybe twice for a few hours.  But the water has been working for more than a day now which has really been exciting.  

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Beginning

Alright so I’ve been here for almost a week now and a lot has happened.  I arrived to Dar on the 12th and so far we’ve just been in orientation this whole time. Orientation has mostly been 2-3 hours of Swahili everyday along with some other activity afterwards.  The first three days here we were put into a really nice hotel right by the ocean to sort of ease us into life here.  The first day was mostly logistics, expectations and safety here.  The day after we had our first Swahili lesson on the beach on an island so not too bad of a start. The ocean here is absolutely beautiful and the clearest and bluest water I’ve ever seen. It’s been really hot and humid here (this is the hottest time of year in Tanzania). To give an example, when we were on the beach my sandals fell apart/ melted because of the heat.

The next day we had our Swahili lesson in the morning again and spent the rest of the afternoon moving into the dorms.  It was really hot and we helped each other move our luggage up to all the floors.  Then we had lunch and did a walking tour of the campus after which everyone was ridiculously tired.  The campus is pretty big and really green.  It essentially looks like a jungle botanical garden with some buildings scattered around.  Most of the buildings are pretty simple although one of the campus buildings is national landmark. Another awesome thing about campus: MONKEYS! They’re pretty much everywhere. However I’ve learned they are not very friendly when you approach then.

The dorms on campus are pretty basic.  We all got mosquito nets for sleeping and buckets and cups to do laundry and to shower when there’s no water.  The first two nights there was no water so what we do is go outside to the big storage tanks of water, fill our bucket up, bring it up to your floor (I live on the 4th which is actually the 5th) and enjoy your bucket shower, which is actually really refreshing after you’re all sweaty from carrying the bucket up.  Yesterday the water was on so we had the luxury of a real shower.  Today there’s no water again so it’s back to the bucket. 

On Monday we had our first 3 hour Swahili session in the actual classroom on campus and afterwards we went to Mwenge which is one of the markets.  A couple other girls and I got a text saying to come back right afterwards so we can meet with people from our internship. My internship is going to be at the engineering school here in the Construction Department so I guess I won’t be escaping engineering this semester after all. We took a tour of the engineering buildings and labs and I also met with the head of the department.  I don’t exactly know what I’m going to be doing though but I am pretty excited. It will be interesting to be interning at the engineering campus because there’s very few females in engineering here.  Polycarp (one of the Tanzanian CIEE staff) was telling me that in a normal engineering class there’s maybe 1 girl.  Anyways I need to go back to meet with some other professor to set up my schedule. I guess he was sick with malaria when we first went on Monday.
Yesterday I wasn’t feeling so good.  It worked out though because after Swahili, I had the rest of the day off since most of the people were going to meet their internships.  I just ended up sleeping and hanging out in my room for the rest of the day. 

And that brings us to today.  We had Swahili in the morning as usual and afterwards we went to the US Embassy here.  We met with some of the people there and they talked to us more about safety, health and cultural differences here.  Then we heard about USAID programs here and about being a Foreign Service Officer.  It was pretty interesting especially since I’ve definitely thought about being a Foreign Service Officer before. However, it seems like one of those things that once you’re in it there’s not much turning back.

I just had dinner with my roommate now.  She’s from Tanzania and goes to school here.  She’s really nice but super busy now as most people here are.  The semester for the university is ending soon so people are studying like crazy for finals now. 

Anyways this was a super long post but I think that’s it for now.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Let the Adventure Begin

First blog post!

I guess to start off and say I'm Agnes and I'm going to be spending the 2012 spring semester studying abroad in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania through the CIEE program.  I'm going to be living on the University of Dar es Salaam campus and will mostly be taking political science type courses along with some Swahili (we'll see how that one goes).  Other than that, I excited just to be in a completely different culture and setting than what I'm used to and plan on taking advantage of taking in as much as possible while I'm there.  And it also helps that I'll be taking a bit of a break from engineering for a while.

So I'm leaving the country to start my trip to Tanzania in about 14 hours (it's going to be another 2 days until I actually get there though).  Basically, here's a breakdown of how I'm getting there: My flight from Chicago transfers in DC, then goes to Qatar. In Qatar, I have about a 6 hour transfer overnight (just enough time to get a good nights sleep on one of those oh so comfy airport chairs).   From Qatar, I get on a flight to Kenya and make make my final transfer to get to Dar es Salaam.  So quite a long trip and I expect I'll be pretty sick of airports for a while after it. Needless to say though, I'm getting pretty pumped.  It's taking a while for it to sink in that I'm leaving tomorrow (I guess now it's today) to study abroad in Tanzania for 4 months!  Quite honestly, I don't exactly know what to expect but I guess that's all part of the adventure!

As you can see, packing was a bit of a complication.

Til next time in Tanzania!