Tuesday, December 29, 2009


In such age of “inter-digitation,” I wonder how appropriate it is for this entry. But mostly because of the Tomzanian’s low-key status, it shall exist as it is.

Brian is a young cook who works in a small restaurant in front of our hostel building. He was, in fact, one of the first stranger to greet us, and we’ve exchanged a number of small talk. Easy going and talkative, he looks like he’s in the early 20s, but acts a lot like a teenager.

Yet, three moments of suspicion:

In the first two encounters, he repeated said “I like you.” Nice, indeed, but too nice too early?

Last Saturday we ate at the restaurant he works in. He gave our group Tsh 2000 less in change. Definitely easy math. Simple mistake, or rightful suspicion?

Yesterday, he said he was going home because he was diagnosed with malaria. He also said that he was going home to his family, and won’t be back until next week. Would our sympathy turn into material gains for him? Oh, he was around Msimbazi today.

It is indeed an interesting encounter. My suspicion remains. I’ve had my personal skepticism damage friendships before, so I know it could be problematic, and be entirely my fault. Guilt definitely tags along with suspicion. I do have an innate desire to believe in people, but another to be doubtful. This is a story to be continued.

December 24, 2009

Current Location: Msimbazi Center

Msimbazi Center is my home for the next eight weeks, minus the middle two that I will be spending in Mtwara. Lonely Planet Tanzania, under the “Sleeping – Budget,” says the following about Msimbazi:

Msimbazi Centre Hostel (022-28 3508, 022-286 3204; Kawawa Rd; s/d/tw Tsh 10,000/20,000/50,000)
Tiny, stuffy rooms with fan and mosquito net, breezier twins with two rooms sharing bathroom facilities, and an inexpensive canteen. It’s noisy, especially on weekends, but otherwise reasonable value. Take the Buguruni dalla-dalla from the Old Posta transport stand (Tsh 4000 by taxi) and ask to be dropped off here.

Lonely Planet is indeed correct in noting that it’s stuffy and noisy. The noise comes from both the late night parties and passionate church services that somehow coexist in the same compound. It’s extremely stuffy, making me wonder how much a dehumidifier would cost, rather than an A/C.

In Msimbazi, we undergo Kiswahili lesson as well as miscellaneous sessions on TZ culture, KOICA rules, etc. It’s mostly uneventful, much like this entry. Lets just call this a status update.

Monday, December 21, 2009


Anxiety is the word of the day.
It started (perhaps it started in my mind weeks ago) with the slight shortness of breadth in the ride out of Julius Nyerere Airport.  The fatigue from two flights and the dusty road made concerned over an appointment at the ENT I had a couple of days ago.  Was this going to be a problem for the next two years?  I had a sudden urge to grab my medicine that was inside my bag.  But the medicine isnt an instant cure, nor provides the temporary relief like a painkiller.  So I put some thought to this whole issue, and tried to relax myself from the anxiety.

Another moment of anxiety.  I was taking a crap, and the new roll of toilet paper is of course a problem.  I began to peel off the first layer of a new roll, which is a moderate challenge in the developed world.  But here, I ended up ripping four layers.  Crap, what kind of toilet paper is this?  Slight anxiety.  Then I flush the toilet.  It wont flush.  My brown crap is still at the bottom of the toilet.  What do I do?  I try to fix it.  It wont work.  I call for help from a friend.  Doesnt work.  I try a different method of flushing.  It wont work.  I was too tired to be persistent with the matter, so Im in my bed right now, 11.22 pm, with my crap still in my toilet.  Ill probably feel a bit embarrassed getting help from one of the staff tomorrow morning.  A first impression would be fixing the toilet, with the crap still in it.  A bit of anxiety, but like any other ones, manageable.

My Microsoft Word spell check using the right click on the red underlines wont work. What the crap have I done to my computer? Anxiety, again. Pressing F7 runs the spell check just fine, but the added inconvenience is a source of anxie. I'll stop here.

 written on Dec. 18, first day of arrival.

In front of Msimbazi Center, our home for the next 2 months.

My more exciting half of the room.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Interesting Facts about Using a Colonial Era Dictionary No. 1

I use a colonial era Swahili-English dictionary that was published in 1903. That's when none of my living relatives were alive. And perhaps more interestingly, my dictionary is older than all 72 things younger than John Mccain, which include FM radio, minimum wage, polyester, and the ZIP code.

It's age has given it so much value that it's actually available in seven different covers, but with the same 1903 print.

Cover version #4

Last month, a dear friend from the good ol' MN visited Korea, and I asked her to buy a Swahili-English dictionary for me, as such object does not exist in Korea. I trusted her sound judgment to buy me a decent dictionary that would work just fine. Buying a dictionary didn't seem to require too much professional expertise.

And now I have a 107 year old dictionary, probably made by an author who thought colored people were stupid and Queen Victoria was pretty damn hot for her work with the British Empire.

At first sight of the dictionary, I was quite shocked by its age, and briefly browsed the book until on page 2, I read the entry for the verb acha.

Whoa! "Let alone Europeans for strong government" appears in page 3! I wonder how many more politically incorrect examples would be used in the next 400+ pages!

It definately feels a bit odd to use a colonial era dictionary, potentially filled with examples as above, and I wish I had an English-Swahili dictionary too. But to be honest, this one already cost me $35, and it'll suit me well for the first couple of months (I have a Swahili-English dictionary software in my laptop to help as well). I promise I won't get brainwashed by the colonial writing.

For those of you eager to share my experience, the dictionary is available online.