DAR 101: Intro to Dar es Salaam

An entry visa is required to enter Tanzania. Upon arrival at the airport, you hand over your passport, visa application, and 50 USD. Fingerprints and photos are taken and your passport is handed off to a group of employees milling about in a room with half glass walls. You are then instructed to “go stand over there”. There appears to be no concrete system of organization as travelers flutter about in a group, trying to understand what the folks behind the glass are doing (while those behind the glass flutter about, trying to look busy with the passports of the watchers on the other side of the glass). The benefit of flying in at 3 a.m. is that this process goes relatively quickly.

The flip side is that you’re in Dar es Salaam at 3 a.m. It is unadvisable to traipse about Dar at night at the best of times, let alone with your worldly possessions. With a smooth talking security guard (I presume, he was speaking Swahili so for all I know he was talking smack about us) can rouse the security guard at the YMCA to let the three “mzungu’s” with the big bags in. Reception doesn’t open until 6 a.m. however, so we spent our first night camped out on wooden chairs, swatting mosquitoes, eating crackers and cream cheese (compliments of Turkish Air), and being squawked at by an obnoxious cat.

A solid nap later and I was roused by a knock on the door. Not yet awake, I struggled to comprehend why Jacqueline wasn’t in the room with us, where she had acquired a backpack, and why she strongly resembled Jamie. Turns out, it was Jamie! She had come early! We had a quick meeting with her and Melkiory, our In-Country Representative, before heading out to try to exchange some money and get some lunch. A shifty man outside the Bureau de Change attempted slight of hand (after a convincing act of legitimately exchanging money) but Jamie was too quick for him and we avoided a scam.

After a bajaj ride (some sort of three wheeled motorcycle contraption, we sandwiched five people onto – myself going halfsies with the driver in the front), an encounter with chickens, and making friends with a man chowing down on corn we had bus tickets in hand for the town of Lushoto, in the Usambara mountains.

Later, Dar – you’re a silly place.

I’d Have Obeyed the White Witch Too, Edmund

The long flight from YXE to DAR called for a stopover somewhere in Europe. Turkey beckoned and we answered her call. One week, split between Istanbul and Cappadocia.

Istanbul (formerly Constantinople) is a busy and beautiful place—an amalgamation of East and West. Littered with architectural triumphs, which manifest as imperial mosques, palaces, and towers, Istanbul has one of the most recognizable skylines. The locals had an endless supply of hospitality, good-humour, and insightful conversation (this took awhile to get used to but we soon learned that while they may also want us to come into their shop, Turkish people “help from the heart”, as one of our new friends told us).

The city is a history nerds dream: over centuries the city has attracted many marauding armies each that left a unique imprint on the city. Greeks, Persians, Roman, Venetians, and Ottomans took turns ruling Istanbul. The city was also the end of the Silk Route, linking Asia and Europe. This diversity is reflected in a myriad of culture, architecture and cuisine.

We stayed at the Orient Hostel (lovely and helpful employees, clean rooms, and good location) in Sultanahmet. The neighbourhood is a showcase of the city’s glorious past, crammed full of mosques, palaces, churches, and houses dating from the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman periods.

THE Blue Mosque
THE Blue Mosque

A few full days were spent “mosque-paeding” about, visiting the tombs of Aya Sofya (and returning a few days later to see the actual Christian church, turned Mosque, turned museum that explained why people kept telling us it cost 30TL), checking off the Blue, Suleymaniye, Fatih, and Sultan Ahmed Mosques, and Topkapi Palace. The Blue Mosque became the “Spanish Steps” of Istanbul – in true wandering fashion, we weren’t quite sure of our location, in relation to our hostel. So every blue-ish Mosque was potentially the Blue Mosque. We succumbed to asking the volunteers indirect questions, hoping to deduce our location without appearing oblivious. Doing so, we learned that a UNESCO World Heritage Site’s criteria is vaguely defined as “outstanding universal value” – thanks UNESCO, your signs really cleared that up.

We ventured to the Grand Bazaar and Spice Market, where no pockets were picked and no gaudy jewelry was purchased from shops emitting gold and silver auras from their windows.

New Art, Old City
New Art, Old City

I admit, the Grand Bazaar was much more modern than had been expected. I half expected stalls constructed with wood and fabric, run by men with monkeys dawning a fez and a vest. I blame Disney’s Aladdin and accept it as a totally unwarranted assumption.

What struck me the most about Istanbul were the people. From helping with directions (even if they were “Go 300m that way and ask again) and using a transport card (that was donated by a hostel staff for the day) to exchanging money when euros were accidentally paid instead of lira, everyone seemed incredibly willing to help, even if it wasn’t needed (and no, they didn’t ask for money, either). Folks in the street, buses, parks, and restaurants would come over to chat and give us their opinions on what we should see in the city.

To escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a few days, we ventured out to Göreme in Cappadocia. Our pension (Anatolia Cave) was, as the name hints, built into a cave!! Cappadocia has an incredible landscape shaped by volcanic eruptions, erosion, and man. From 1800 B.C., rival empires drove Göreme inhabitants underground. For the Hittites to the Christians, the honeycombed underground cities were sites of religious refuge. Carvings and frescoes span the caves, eight stories deep.


Our host was able to get some excellent deals on tours, while one “Rule of Thumb” I follow is to be wary of tours, taking advantage of his services paid off. One evening, we saw traditional Turkish dancing: the Whirling Dervishes, folk dances, and a belly dancer that could move body parts I’m not convinced I have. They fed us a plethora of food and tried to teach us to shake and shimmy, yet the old mates showed us up big time. We took part of the spectacle that is watching the sunrise from a hot air balloon. Viewing the rocky landscapes, shaped with cones, pillars, pinnacles, mushrooms, and chimneys from overhead, especially paired with 150 other balloons sky bound. The Aussie gals were spot on: if you have the chance, seize it.

Not Quite, Tatooine
Not Quite, Tatooine

Later in the day, we traipsed about on the Green Tour – taking us through Derinkuyu Underground City, Ihlara Valley, Selime Monastery, and a town considered as location for Tatooine (sorry Star Wars fans, it lost out to Tunsia).

I went in knowing very little, associating the country with Fez hats and Turkish Delight (which in turn, I associated with the dork Edmund from The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe). I left with a plan to go back and a few important lessons learned: Turkish Delight is actually fantastic (provided it’s the fresh, not pre-packaged stuff) and that my future as a belly dancer is quite grim.

Back by Popular Demand?

After a solid three-year break (evidently, I wasn’t doing anything cool during that time), this blog has been revived by request. While most of the inquiries I received were curiosities about the potentially wacky malaria dreams, some also expressed interest in other happenings.

A quick summary of the summer:
I am living and working in the town of Mlandizi, located in east Tanzania. As a team of seven, we will be partnering with local community-based organizations and health districts on a variety of health promotion projects. Topics include maternal health, HIV education, food security and nutrition, water sanitation, ambulatory care, and malaria prevention.

I would like to send out oodles of thanks to those lovely people who donated and came out to support our fundraising efforts this past year. Your contributions have made these projects possible and I hope that I will be able to shed some light on our work as the summer progresses!

How Quaint…

2 months, how neglectful.
I’ll tell you, the peonies have bloomed, and it’s rose season. I am going foraging for Elderflowers to make cordial tomorrow. My sister came; we drank Roman Bath water. I chased a cat out my bathroom window. We went to Brighton; it was windy, we camped and froze; but we saw Buck 65, a shoeless Finish folk singer who hated Bruges, and a seagull stole our cheese dip.

Never mind all that. This one, this is for Chels.

Remember when I decided to move to England and we procrastinated looking up quaint English cottages? Roses, stonework, thatched roofs, sheep, homemade jam and the like – I found them!

The Cotswolds are the epitome of our searches. Located west-central, they are sometimes called the “Heart of England”. My parents rented a cottage in Chipping Campden, a town where the buildings are required to maintain heritage architecture. As soon as we arrived, the supermarket burned down, so everyone was that much more reliant on the local Butcher, Baker, and Grocer (Mrs. Peterson made a rabbit stew on Thursday, by the way). You could order a pint from a window. The cottage itself was covered in massive roses, tasteful modern-traditional styling (brickwork and a snazzy induction stove top included), it was only missing a clawfoot tub for a perfect little home.

We took numerous walks through the English countryside, stopping whenever a pint or a scone and clotted cream beckoned. Every town was bursting with locals who would point you in the right direction for the best ice cream or cider and with instructions on how to properly lock me up in shackles.

There are even an Olympicks. The Cotswolds Olympicks (“k” is in the official title) were on, complete with mushy peas on chicken and chips, Morris dancers, a marching band, bonfire, torch procession into the city centre, and the main event: Shin Kicking. Where two large men with straw down their pants, grasp shoulders, and kick til one goes down. Best of 3.

Cotswolds Olympicks

So I reckon, we gather up our stylish Wellies, buy a few sheep (and a sheep dog), get ourselves a cottage with some room for an orchard, teach part-time at the village schools, and set up shop: jams, quilts, jewelery, etc. via Etsy and local markets.

Punting on the Thames

We stopped by a few cities around the way. We journeyed into Oxford so I could see the lovely architecture and pointy buildings of Christ Church; and we punted! I always wanted to go punting on the Thames, so away we went. It was easy to steer, hard to push. And the Thames kept dripping on me, so surely I need some sort of disinfecting shot.

We also made a stop by Gloucester to see the historic dockyards and the above. If anyone can guess what movie these halls are featured in, you will receive a baked good of your choice (upon my return, of course)!

Another page in the book: My very first riot

I certainly had an eventful evening, last night. I witnessed my first British riot (technically my first riot, Saskatoon isn’t big on that sort of thing) and my first sighting of an inner city badger!

The reports are pretty mixed on the riot, but here is what I’ve picked up:
The area is similar to Broadway with lots of local shops, artisans, etc. and the locals do their best to preserve this. Mixed in are a few supermarkets, certainly enough to fill the communities needs for items not available in the smaller shops. Tesco (similar to something like Walmart, but with smaller “express” outlets) has been trying to move into the area for the past 2 years and the locals have done their best to halt Tescos’ efforts – “Say NO to Tesco” street art is everywhere; they rallied, protested, went to the council; the building of the Tesco was not advertised, hidden behind a large screen and a security guard sat on the building 24/7.  Unfortunately, the Tesco was built. The community protested the opening from the very beginning, but peacefully. They had signs, set up tables with bread, rhubarb, baking, etc. and offered it to people instead of going into Tesco.

Across the street from said Tesco, is a council-0wned decrepit building being lived in by approximately 18 squatters. They put in carpets, fixed the plumbing, and the only disturbance I have seen while walking past is they don’t have great taste in music.

There was a court order for the squatters to be evicted last night; through the day people in the community reported that people were going in and out of the house with petrol-bombs, causing more police to arrive on the scene. People began to gather, barricading the streets with furniture, garbage bins, tipped trailers, bikes, etc. and anger was taken out on the Tesco. Bottles were thrown, fires started, windows smashed, and the Tesco was looted.

We had heard about the riot and didn’t like where the helicopter light was pointing, but figured we could get home no problem. Around 1:00am, we got to a point where we had to lift the bike over broken glass, and found about 25 police vans blocking the streets, chanting, and people wearing masks. It was impenetrable, so we took a detour home… where we saw a badger! If you’re not already on edge from seeing a riot, you are when there is a fricken badger running beside you. They are scary and they do not wear waistcoats.

On a better note, my sister should be in London by now and is coming to see me on Sunday! Happy Easter everyone!!

(If you would like to see photos of the Bristol riot, click here – he has some good photos!)


Remember in Bambi when he is just a young buck, hanging out with Thumper and Flower (who came across as gender-confused to me, even as a 5 year old) and the owl warns them that twidderpation will all happen to them?

Well it has happened – I have fallen in love with spring, when spring is supposed to happen.

I spent most of February and March working, so little to report in the extra-curricular activity side of things. But everything else in Bristol has sprung to life. Remember when I said that we were getting flowers in February? Those have all come and gone, flower beds look like Easter threw up (tulips as big as my hand), the lambs have been lambed, the piglets are pigging, the monstrous bumblebees are spreading their love, the clocks turned back – it is light out until 8:30?, and I got a sun burn today.

It is almost British asparagus season, too.


All this springing happening, the travel itch was a must and I went back to London. It was marvelous to get out of Bristol (had I had my passport on my body, I may have flee-d for mainland Europe) and I was able to get done some of the “touristy” bits of London.
We went to the Tower, saw the ravens (huge, but comparable to the beastly seagulls of Bristol) and the crown jewels (incredibly British queuing system in place, complete with conveyor belt past the crowns).

Afterward, we met up with Mike and Lauren, two fellow Saskatoonians and went over to the Tate Modern – both excellent and bizarre exhibits (one involving an artist doing the unspeakable under a floor panel as people walked overhead), followed by a BBQ at an Aussies, where we were joined by a fellow from Moose Jaw. Quite the Saskatchewan ambush!

The next day, we headed over to Camden market for some browsing, people watching, and so Mike could have a pork sandwich, followed by the Hummingbird bakery so I could get a brownie, with cheesecake AND raspberry whipped cream.
James and I spent the rest of the day wandering, entering into places as we saw fit. It was a nice day and the crazies were out in Trafalgar Square protesting, we hung around trying to figure out what it was they were protesting, unsure we gave up and went into the National Gallery.  We also finally found the Princess Di Memorial Fountain and Kensington Palace – two large structures we could not find last time.

In other news, my sister comes in near 2 weeks time! And we’ve purchased our tickets to Portugal and Spain for the summer. From Edinburgh (who buys a ticket departing from a city they’ve never been to?). So it is looking like I will be heading up to live in the land of the Lochs for a few months come fall! Visitors welcome.

April Showers bring May Flowers: Another Year, Another Lie

I just don’t know what to think anymore. Flowers. February. I’ve only just talked myself out of wearing longjohns, but I still leave my house every morning with mitts, a scarf, and a toque and end up BOILING within 5 minutes. And now flowers and leaf buds?

In full bloom

In Bristol, it started a little over two weeks ago, first just those hearty shrubs that never lost their leaves had fresh berries and some flowers. Then there were crocuses and spring flower shoots popping up. We took a trip out to the English Riviera (resembling a tacky French Riviera – with tracksuits, arcades, light-up staircases, and trailer parks

Crocus Flowers

and New Brunswick, and FULL of old people) where the Floral Coup was in full effect: tulips, daffodils, iris, crocuses, something that looked like a mix of a hibiscus and rose were all blooming; cherry blossoms were budding and even hydrangea bushes were budding.

They claim spring comes in March, but we never believed them. Ya, ya, we may have some warm days, but you knew a fresh dump of snow was going to fall freezing and covering up the slush to form slippery, jagged pits on the road. But spring in February? The month that damn groundhog comes out and tells the world if we are getting 6 more weeks of winter; but in

From a distance: Could be Southern France

Saskatchewan, we know it is inevitable. I can’t say I’m complaining with the early arrival; I haven’t shoveled, the hill I live on only turned into an icy mountain of death three times (and I never experienced that fall with the sickening crunch at the end), and my fingers only turned white and lost all feeling once (in Amsterdam). But my concept of time is all screwy; there are days where I wonder really how long I slept for. We’ve skipped from early November to late April, and I never once stepped on what looks like a frozen puddle, only to end up ankle deep in slush.

Up close, not so picturesque

My brain is having troubles coping; I am not ready for weeds and the cherry blossoms blooming in my garden. I will keep carrying mittens and scarves with me until at least mid-March, just in case.

(And for those of you, spiteful in Saskatchewan, fear not, I’ve lost count how many times a rogue shoot from shrub has got me in the eye so far.)