Still Zany After All These Years

Yesterday marked three years in Tanzany.

Worried that I’m beginning to lose my eye for the craziness around me. Routinely make pedestrians jump out of the way when I drive on the side of the road on the way to school in the morning. Dinner table conversation doesn’t even stop when the power goes out and the house is pitch black. Handling large quantities of cash no longer disturbs me. In fact, just by eyeballing it I can usually pull exactly TZS 100,000 (about $60) out of stack of bills.

In the past week, I actually had a serious debate with a friend about whether a three-day sailing trip up the coast, over to Zanzibar and back really constituted a sufficiently exotic experience to justify using holiday time for it.

I no longer find the Indian Ocean freakishly warm. Rather, the Pacific Ocean seems intolerably cold. How do people surf in that? I mean even with a wet suit…

As we pass three years, we’re not sure how much longer we will be here. The COPOTUS is about to leave the party in June. We would like to stay for another year, but will need to find some different work arrangements to make that possible because this place is expensive!

So, not sure how much longer this blog will go on, either because we leave or because the zaniness begins to seem normal. But as long as I keep noticing stuff like this, I’ll keep posting it.

Christmas Tree, The Fairway Hotel, Kampla Uganda

Christmas Tree, The Fairway Hotel, Kampla Uganda

“Nice shopping bag – How’d they do?”

One nice thing about emerging markets is they tend to recycle everything.

Take, for example, this shopping bag used fora recent purchase of a printer cartridge.



And inside:


For what it’s worth, University of Dar es Salaam students Nancy Mbia and Ester Felician got a 4.5 score on their 14 September 2006 Physical Chemistry Practicals titled: “Conductimetric Deterioration of the Dissociation Constant for a Weak Electrolyte.” Good for you, Nancy & Ester!

Some Secreted Island


Want to give a shout out to a new blog Some Secreted Island by a guy who is posted WAY out in the middle of nowhere, a small island in Lake Victoria. Makes Dar-es-Salaam seem like New York City. Money quote:

Having a witch as a neighbour is not all bad. If other witches want to get at you (and our part of the island has for centuries been a cauldron of the occult), they must first seek permission from the sorcerer on whose patch you reside. If your witch likes you, he or she will protect you from their curses. If not, you are thrown to the wolves…

Worth a read if you have the time.

Yep, it’s expensive here


It really is expensive to live here. From “Dar Rents Highest in East Africa,” The Citizen:

Renting an 85m² (900 sqft) room in an expensive area in the city costs up to $2,711 (Sh4.3 million) a month, the highest compared with Nairobi, Kigali and Kampala.


An online survey-based cost of living calculator,, shows that a similar house in expensive areas will cost $1,247 in Nairobi, $1,182 in Kampala and $933 in Kigali.


“Dar es Salaam has a few planned areas which provide access to water, good roads and are less congested. Customers normally compete for a few areas and automatically raise charges in those areas,” says Sultani Mndeme, a real estate consultant with GimcoAfrica.

I knew it seemed expensive, but still two times the cost of Nairobi? Ouch.

Somebody needs to get a move on

An alert reader writes to mention a point I left out in my previous post about the member of parliament (MP) payola shenanigans.

Before all you American and European taxpayers get too smug about all this, remember that you are funding around 40% of the extra money these MPs are helping themselves to. As noted previously. Tanzany gets about that much money as budgetary support from donor governments.

According to, “With USD 1.6 Billion-USD 1.9 Billion (official aid information data from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs) in recent years, ODA to Tanzania has been playing and will continue to play a significant role in supporting national efforts on poverty reduction and development as well as government development expenditure. Aid fund has accounted for around 40% of the national and 80% of the development budget.” Looking at this, of the taxes Tanzanians actually pay, an increasingly higher amount goes to to MPs and government officials rather than to developing the country and providing basic services. Not exactly a great incentive for paying your taxes.

I have also heard an interesting rumor as to why this is happening now: expected losses by the majority CCM party in the up-coming elections. No idea if that’s true, but it would make a lot of sense.

It’s going to happen anyway, though. No one is really protesting enough to stop it. Even opinion columnists who chose to write it end with statements like this:

Someone should raise and put a break in this MP’s treck of making themselves a class of their own in the country.

Yes MPs deserve handsome perks, but not this much,” The Daily Citizen, Feb. 5, 2014

It is still remarkable to me how typical this sentiment is here. Not, “we” should do something about this; “someone” should. I can think of two possible “someones” who should do something about this: either the people of Tanzania who elected the MPs in the first place or the donor nations who are, at least to some extent, sending their taxpayer dollars to fund payola for underperforming MPs.

What they lack in capability they make up for in Chutzpah


“MP’s poised to pocket [$100,000] in send off pay.” Sounds like a made up headline for a snarky blog, but The Citizen reported last week the members of parliament recently approved a golden handshake of $98,000 on completion of their terms. And that is after an annual salary of $90,000 plus $35,000 a year in allowances.

As one person on Twitter put it:

Where do I apply for this job

The average person’s in Tanzany? Glad you asked — $1,600 per year according to the CIA World Factbook.

Now, of course, the government is now trying to claim ignorance of how this happened. No one is buying it.

I can’t really say I’m surprised. But the shamelessness still takes your breath away.

Almost forgot the “Flying Forks”

In my previous post about Tanzany’s L and R confusion, I almost forgot to mention one of my favorite names I’ve heard here: the “Flying Forks” of Pemba island.

Pemba Island Flying Fork, Photo by E.Bowen Jones-FFI

We spent a great long weekend in Pemba last October, and the staff at the resort suggested a trip to see the flying forks several times. Apparently some of them can get quite large — 5 and 1/2 foot wing span. And, there is a real feel-good story from the late 80’s about how the Pemba residents decided to stop eating them and bring them back from the brink of extinction.

In the end we didn’t go, so unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of a flying forks sign. So please, if an alert reader out there makes it to Pemba and sees a sign, please take photo and send it along so I can post it to the blog.