Saturday, August 14, 2010


I wrote an email to my friends and my brother about Ramadan, and I feel that the content from the email is better than a the usual blogologue.

Life has been rather cyclical lately.  I've been getting the feeling that today is like yesterday, and tomorrow will be like today, and likewise in the unit of weeks.  I connected this rhythmic conception of my life as a sign that I am now completely used to my new environment.  New things do appear, but they mostly have become something as insignificant as a new shop on Grand Avenue.  It moves my blog (yeah this one) closer to retirement, but this steady undramatic tempo is what I am experiencing at the moment.

Except for one thing: Ramadan.  Thursday was the beginning of Ramadan, and to many of my neighbors and students I said "pole," which roughly means "poor you," or "sorry" as the Americans overuse it.  But my neighbor Mr. Ninje said that I should be congratulating him, because it is a significant religious moment.  So from then on, I said "congratulations" to my Muslim friends.

And today, I went to Dubai for dinner.  Dubai during Ramadan does not open until 6. When I arrived at 6:10, I was the only customer, so I ordered my usual fish and rice.  Ten minutes later, the restaurant suddenly woke up from its fasting/slumber.  People started to come in non-stop, ordering food and taking them out as well.  They ordered food that I've never seen before, such as potato, white bean, and noodle dishes.  And to make the atmosphere more festive, it handed out free uji, a sweet Tanzanian breakfast porridge.  Customer service, of course, was compromised.  When a customer requested an additional spoon to stir his uji, Jabili quickly grabbed one from the kitchen and just stabbed it in the his plate of beans.  With Tanzanian food, architecture, and arts being dry and drab, this was a refreshing experience of culture.

Congrats to all those who are fasting.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Democracy in Africa

July edition of the Economist

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Thus is Life

My previous Headmistress, Mama Machinga, moved to Chuno Secondary School, which is a twenty minute bike ride away.  With her invitation, I paid a visit.

Chuno is a new school, and so it feels like the skeletal version of Saba Saba.  Its facilities are bare, classrooms and offices are still under construction, teachers are few, and finances are dire.  Chuno also does not have any faculty housing.

Mama told me that she was looking for houses in the area, but the rent of 150,000 TSH ($100), was a bit too high for her.  I asked whether she would get any stipend from the government, as she had free housing prior to her move.  She said no.  I chuckled, and so did she.  Through the small laughter, I think we telepathically said the following:

"Wow, your new job sucks."

"Tell me about it."

And then I learned a bit more about the students.  The students come from all over town, as designated by the government.  There are Saba Saba students who live near Chuno, and vice versa.  This random allocation may be life changing.  There are no science and math teachers in Chuno, so it's easier for its students to fail their national exam, while it's not so bad for Saba Saba students.

The level of arbitrariness is abundant in all aspects of Tanzanian life, and to my surprise, there is little resistance.  These sub-standard elements, often stemming from the government, are treated as normal courses of life.  Toward things that I may say "that's not fair," people here react "oh thus is life."

What a strange life.