Monday, September 9, 2013

It's My Birthday Today ... NOT

video

So many things I could/should be doing right now, but my fingers had a mind of their own, ended up going through my dropbox folder and found this video. I miss everyone. I miss Saigon. Thanks for the video Fi, this is now my favorite birthday song. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Music Festival, anyone?

To anyone planning to visit me next year, or, ok fine, Tanzania --- try planning your visit sometime around Valentine's Day. I'm not angling for chocolates or oh my dear Dar-ling (see what I did there? If you didn't, you don't know me at all so stop reading) flowers. I just want you to come to a music festival. Wait, what? Did I just say A music festival? Sorry, I meant Sauti za Busara, four nights of non-stop 100% live music featuring over 20 (not sure how many they'll have for 2014) artists and bands from different parts of East Africa.
I enjoyed myself immensely when I went early this year. I had no expectations whatsoever, I was missing my Vietnam friends' music and nightly gigs that I went to my first ever music festival. Anybody who knows me well, knows my almost irrational dislike of crowds and the press of strangers around me. I braved that and even set out to meet people or at least, be more sociable that I usually am. I was a bit disappointed I couldn't be there for all four nights but the ferry trip early Saturday morning and Monday morning then straight to work was well worth it.

Next year's festival will be 13-16 February. As usual, it will be in beautiful Zanzibar, an hour and a half away from the city center by ferry or a 15-minute flight from Dar. If you're not the type to spend your days nursing hangovers and just rousing yourself for the music nights, you'll have an awesome time around Stonetown and beaches around it. There's definitely lots to see and do.

Two weeks ago, our Creative Industries project manager, Jane, was practically jumping up and down when she told us that she managed to get British Council Tanzania involved by sending trainees from her project to provide service and support at the festival. I know it's months away but I'm already excited and thinking of how amazing it's going to be because I'll be with colleagues AND friends.

So to everyone reading this, karibu! --- Swahili for welcome

**Photos are taken from www.songlines.co.uk

Catch Up Time

Once again I've neglected my blog. Pfft. I give blog workshops for cripe's sake and I can't take my own advice of making sure it's updated. Haha. Typical. Anyway, if you haven't been in regular contact with me, it's a good idea to read this. Otherwise... wait for my next posts.

My comfy bed with moski net
So, 8 months. Alive and kicking. Africa dished out some of its finest in May. First was, my first bout of malaria. I was away for the weekend and on the way back, I started feeling sick. At first thought it was just because the sea was rough, I was seasick so I skipped work that day. Instead of feeling better that afternoon, I had a fever and bones started getting all achy. I was in and out of my favorite clinic in Dar - Doctors @ Masaki - for a week. Thank the gods for medical insurance. The thing is, I realize now that malaria is scary if you've never had it and you're in a country where it's strange. Here in Tanzania though, it's pretty common and as long as you're diagnosed early then there's nothing to worry about. Of course there's that annoying bit where it turns out I'm allergic to Coartem, the best malaria medicine they have here. The best according to my doctor anyway. I got crazy rashes from the meds so they had to inject me with a different one. I think it was Malarone, I can't quite remember because at that point I was just out of it with pain and discomfort. Second rainy season is starting soon so I want to be extra careful. Late May (or was it early June) when I had a motorcyle accident with my colleague and friend Ian. Some idjit sideswiped us and I ended up flying in the air, landed on the side of the road and rolled on the dirt. When Ian regained his balance and managed to stop, he looked around for me and I think he almost had a heart attack when he saw me lying in a heap. Some guys standing around in front of a shop, came up to us and told me to move to the side of the road. They looked like they were scared of touching me but was concerned that I might get hit while I was on the side of the road. Ian rushed over and didn't know what to do because I couldn't stand up. A guy named Goodluck (I kid you not) saw what had happened, turned his car around, and offered to bring us to the hospital/police station. A big African mama, helped me into the car and I got hugged over and over again by poor worried-shocked Ian. Idjit doctor at a hospital cleaned me up and sent me home seeing as he couldn't do anything useful for me aside from asking me how I felt. SERIOUSLY. I was just in an accident. Doh. Anyway, didn't break anything, just bruised and dirty. Darling Ayla, one of my flatmates then, helped me wash my hair that night and David, my neighbor, let me borrow his crutch.  Got babied by people and even hugged (!!!) by my non-hugger flatmate, Lena. Less than a month after, I got on a bike again.

May, June and July was also spent saying fare thee well to my friends; unique Ida, sweet Ayla and funny Julia. Strange how often I've said goodbye to people here considering I haven't been here long and avoid meeting new people.


“We never can just stop time. Or take moments back. Life doesn't work that way, does it?” 
― Christine FeehanOceans of Fire


South Beach beach house
During Obama's visit, Lena, Julia, Tiffany and I decided to escape from the hustle and bustle --- we live behind the US Embassy after all --- and rented a beautiful beach house in South Beach, just over an hour away from the city center.

South Beach

The past two months have been busy, filled with a whirlwind of activities. My social life isn't just my flatmates anymore. Not just Saturday nights at New Maisha Club with sleepy Ian. Wednesdays are pub quizzes, happy hour, dining in Dar, even karaoke at Coco Beach. Random nights where we have dinner and/or shisha, and adventures in Chinese restaurants that run out of rice AND noodles (wth???) Then there's weekends at the beach and sitting by the pool. You may ask, where's the local color and non-expat stuff in this? I'm not gonna stress about it. I have Tanzanian friends and I don't think about whether an activity is local or expat-ish. I just want to spend time with my friends and enjoy whatever we're doing wherever we are.

Last day with Martha (L) and Anna (R)

For four weeks in July, I was a private tutor to two adorable Spanish girls. I enjoyed myself immensely - playing games that I used to play regularly with my young learners classes, teaching vocabulary and grammar without it becoming academic. Chasing after them in the garden and playing with their tiny dog, Nala; it was exhausting but so much fun and I realize how much I've missed teaching children. Maybe I'll look for a center with young learners next time or stay till we start teaching kids in BC Tanzania.


Work has been keeping me occupied, too. My other role as Marcomms has slowly been eating at my prep time and keeping me at crazy hours. Most days, I work 10 hours a day. I also can't bring myself to ignore notifications on my Facebook Pages app so I answer posts/messages almost round the clock. Right now a big chunk of my time, is spent on our country website and Facebook page. In addition to that, I run around doing the 'comms' part for our various projects. It's such an interesting job and I'm glad that I managed to get this in addition to being full time teacher. I'm learning a lot about British Council and Tanzania plus reviving what I learned in university. Time will tell where all these will lead to, but for now, I'm just happy with this opportunity I've been handed.

just another sunset in Zanzibar

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Sometimes you set out to reminisce about the past. Sometimes it just hits you all at once and you can't do anything but ride it out. My last Mui Ne trip / Vietnam beach trip with the people who helped put me back together again.

Friday, March 1, 2013

7 1/4 leap years old!

I'm awake at an obscene hour again. I knew I shouldn't have had that double shot of whiskey --- it wasn't enough.

Thoughts about my birthday. I find that people with yearly birthdays worry about my birthday (or lack of one) more than I do. Like everyone else, I get older every year and I always claim each additional year, sometimes, months in advance, I start saying the age I'll be by the end of February. Yet unlike most people, my actual birthday doesn't show up on the calendar yearly. Honestly, it's no big deal. Like I was telling someone, it sounds like a riddle when I tell people on the 28th that my birthday is not today, but neither is it on the next day. I cried about this once in my life and got over it. I started school pretty early and kids, being insensitive little ?!#*!! they are (haha, kidding) told me I didn't have a birthday when we were looking at the list of birthdays and the calendar, which we've just learned to decipher. I came home crying to my mom and she sat me down and talked to me. I don't remember her exact words, yet the message stuck. I have a special birthday, and just because it wasn't on the calendar, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. My mom made me a special February calendar that year which I showed off at school the next day. But just for good measure, we had a birthday bash for my 3rd birthday and invited all my classmates. It was never a big deal after that. Every year, I end up reassuring people that it's ok I don't have my own special day. I have it every four years, which in my book, is an extra-special day. Most years, people with February and March birthdays share theirs with me so I think sometimes I end up with more birthday greetings than the average person who people greet for one day, and that's it.

Also, maybe I over-think stuff, but from my birthday I learned something very important. Just because it's not there, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. I'm a great believer, or at least, I acknowledge that a lot of things are possible.

Mmmmm, ok, maybe I do need more sleep. Or another drink.

Toodles! 😺

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What do you mean I'm in Africa?

Sick all day and power out most of the day --- good time as any for this blog post that has been brewing in my mind since my trip last weekend.

Saturday morning, I went on the ferry to Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania composed of small islands and two large ones. I was at the port quite early, decided to stay on the sun deck to ward off nausea and amused myself watching people hurrying to board the boat with their various packages. Twenty minutes after we started moving, I looked around, surrounded by alien waters and it finally sank in. It's not the Philippine Sea, the South China Sea, or even the Celebes. It wasn't even the Andaman. I was in Africa!!! Crazy stupid how things like these, these realizations, come about. All the travel plans and immunizations I got, I'm surrounded by Africans everyday, have 50-90% Tanzanian students, I'm struggling to read and understand Swahili, and dealing with things I'm not used to --- yet it never really clicked until that minute how far I am from all I know. From my nearest and dearest.

I miss Vietnam. I really do. I keep being told (by my Vietnam friends, of course) that I should get my a** back there. And maybe I should. Could. It might make things easier and simpler. But you know what? I'm going on a wildlife safari next month, go back to Zanzibar and see more of it. I'm starting Swahili classes next month and I'm playing capoeira. At work, I've temporarily taken on the job of organizing and possibly ordering more resources, interested in other projects that BC does and looking into a post different from teaching. It's going to take time, but Tanzania will be my home for at least the next two years.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Things to Take to Africa

Before coming here, I did some research about things I needed to bring to Africa. Most of the lists I found were for the safari or climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. They were helpful but thing is, I'm here to live and work for at least a year, not just to travel. So if you, dear reader, intend to visit or move to Tanzania, here's my list of things to bring OR consider bringing. Most of the things I've listed are available here but if you have space for them, just bring them with you because for a developing country, shopping for certain things in Tanzania can be pretty expensive.
  1. toiletries - You're like, "What? Don't they have toiletries there" Yes, of course, they do. People brush their teeth, shampoo their hair and use soap in Africa. I'm just saying, if you're particular about the brands of things you use, some of them might not be available here. Also, a lot of the things here are imported and the biggest tube of toothpaste that cost $1 in Vietnam and $2 in the Philippines, costs $4-5. While that doesn't sound like it'll break the bank, sunscreen, moisturizer and other similar products cost a pretty penny. A bottle of Coppertone can cost around $30. Tampons can also be hard to come by, so bring plenty if you haven't switched to menstrual cups yet.
  2. insect repellant - Again, yes, they're available here, but you might have more choices wherever you are, especially if you want one with natural ingredients.
  3. extra pairs of contact lens and contact lens solution - To date, contact lens are still very hard to find here or they're very expensive if you do find them, so if you intend to stay here for a while, bring enough to last you the rest of your stay. Of course, you can always ask other people to bring you some when they visit, but it would still be good to have extra pairs in case you lose one.  
  4. plug adapter + extension cord with outlet strip - Check if your current plugs match the ones here. Tanzania uses Type D and G, but most places just have the latter. If you're staying in a nice hotel, you might not have to worry because their power sockets accept most plugs. In any case, bring at least one plug adapter and a power strip with at least 3 sockets. I bought a power surge protector here, plugged in my adapter and outlet strip and I can charge my electronics which mostly have Type A plugs, only my netbook has a Type C plug. Oh yeah, it's 230V here so you may want to bring a power adaptor if you have electronics that run on 110V. 
  5. power surge protector - There are frequent power cuts throughout the year, sometimes three times in a day. You would want to protect your electronics with a quality surge protector. Paired with a power strip, you'll be all set. Yes, I said I bought one here, but I don't really trust its quality. I might have to get my friend (Yoohoo Richie) to bring me a better one from the UK.
  6. blanket/pillow case - I got this from someone, and I have to say it's quite nice to have a bit of home when you're settling in a new place. I probably could've brought more clothes or something else but while those are easy enough to buy, my blanket and pillow case from home helped my room have an instant homey feel.
  7. SIM ready phone - Do I really need to explain this?
  8. solar charger - With the power cuts, you might want one. What better way to make use of the year round sunny weather (if you're going to the south)?
  9. pocket/purse-sized flashlight and head lamp - Good for power cuts and also for walking around at night. Most of the time, the roads aren't paved and streets aren't well-lighted either. I have a mini rechargeable flashlight that I love to bits. While all of my reuseit.com purchases are great, this the one I've used the most often since I moved here.
  10. Steri-pen - This is something I've been itching to purchase. This can come very handy when travelling to rural areas where drinkable water is scarce. Of course, one can buy bottled water in cities, but I feel guilty with all the plastic bottles.
  11. a penknife or better yet, a Swiss Army knife
  12. e-reader - If you're a bookworm like me, you better have one because a couple of paperbacks won't last you very long. Books are available in the cities but again, they can be quite expensive and you won't be able to bring them with you when you leave. Here's the part where I thank my awesome sister and her fantabulous other half for getting me a Kindle as an early birthday present. Thanks!!!
  13. duct tape / sellotape / sticky tack --- You'll find a use for them. I "mended" the vanity table chair that's in my room with sticky tack.  
  14. at least one pair of sturdy and comfortable walking shoes/outdoor sandals and dress/work shoes --- Again, you can buy them here but bring what you can for the sake of choice, price and quality. Unless, of course, if you have tons of money (to buy shoes that break apart quickly or to pay for cabs to take you everywhere) or don't intend to walk around. Remember what I said about unpaved roads? People at work have been moaning and groaning about the need for shoes because the ones they have are falling apart and they can't find what they want/need here.
Of course, there are a lot of other things you should take with you if you're moving or travelling, but that would depend on your needs and personal preferences. Nevertheless, I hope this list will be of some help if you're coming my way any time soon.

Last piece of advice which would be good for travelling anywhere -- Expect everything to be different, and when they're not, the familiar will be a pleasant surprise that will make you feel at home.


Lunar New Year in Dar

A week ago, we went out for dinner at a Chinese restaurant where we started talking about the lunar new year. My flatmate, Tiffany, says that dumplings are usually made together as a family. We ended up deciding to hold a dumpling party at our place.


Went for supplies late afternoon so I now know where the Chinese grocery store is. They had lots of food stuff but it was interesting to see the other items they sell. Amidst various personal care products, there was a box of basketballs, a ping pong set was sitting on a shelf with the calculators, my favorite and happy find of the day were the mantou or unfilled steamed buns. Tiffany said we can make some ourselves but in the meantime, I got myself a few buns to munch on.


fillings
dough
Anyway, after the mini shopping trip, we went back to the house and started the dumpling preps. Sam (Tiffany's friend) commandeered the dough preparation while the rest of us took care of the fillings. An hour later, guests started arriving and Sam proceeded to showing us how to make dumplings. You can actually make dumplings look any way you like as long as you pinch the sides shut and make sure that there isn't any air left inside --- otherwise, when you cook it, it will explode and kill someone, and you'll have no one to blame but yourself --- geez! The ones I made were quite ugly but I definitely made sure to pinch the sides and close them firmly. My friend from work, Esté, came with her boyfriend and right away they urged me to start drinking. What is it with wine and cooking? Made me miss the weekend gatherings at the Reggae Mansion. Anyway, I digress, back to dumplings. We made a lot of dumplings, but we barely made a dent on the fillings. As I write, there are a few containers filled with vegetarian and meat fillings in our fridge, waiting for dough or they may be used for other dishes.


How to make dumplings by Tiffany and Sam
In the end, there was no way of telling which were the meat dumplings from the vegetarian ones so I ended up not eating them at all. With the amount of alcohol I was consuming (considering I haven't been really drinking since I left Vietnam in December) eating something meaty would've probably made me throw up the nachos and guacamole that I was munching on. I still think it was a success though. We quite enjoyed making the dumplings and I think 25-30 people showed up. Those who rarely eat Chinese food learned what dumplings were. There was a fair amount of alcohol and Marie from downstairs brought her hookah. As for me, I helped prepare food and managed to function socially in a party for about 5 hours before my antisocial tendencies kicked in and made me retire to my room and Skype the rest of the night away.

Happy Lunar New Year everyone. What will the Year of the Snake bring?


Saturday, February 9, 2013

Here's to my first month in Africa. Yo!



Wednesdays have always been pretty significant in my life. I was born on a Wednesday, you see, and I think that's what started it. Or maybe that's why I always take note of events that happen on that day. This week, Wednesday February 6th marked my one month in Dar. It's strange to think I've been here a month. I keep getting asked how it's been and I always feel like I'm scrambling to put it into words, short enough that my listener doesn't get bored and long enough for me to communicate my thoughts. Thinking about it and trying to put it into words is hard, because to be honest (and I usually try to be), I don't really know what to say about my first month here. I feel that people expect too much --- that I'll either be raving about it or be going crazy and trying to leave as soon as I can. Best that I can say is that I'm settling in, getting my bearings and trying to find my rhythm. I don't hate it but I don't love it yet.

view from my balcony
I like my apartment. It's behind the US Embassy so it's easy to find, a good location because it's only about 15 minutes away from work but also near the peninsula where most events in the evening or weekends happen. The area is relatively safe and people who have lived here for a while have no complaints. Plus, the askari or security guards in my building are sweet. I'm  even learning bits of Swahili from them. The last and best reason of all is that I think I lucked out in finding my flatmates. I know it won't be perfect and there'll be bumps down the road, but they're a nice bunch and I'm positive that my Dar experience will be better because of them.

first BC Away Day name tag
Five weeks at work has passed by so quickly, we're almost halfway through the term. Next week I'm going to start with assessments and it's going to suck telling some of them that they're falling behind. My students are really awesome and even the weakest ones try so hard that I don't mind spending more time assisting them. Best of all, I love how they act towards each other, no more slapping each other around, and they hardly ever raise their voices --- it's actually hard to monitor speaking activities. :)
British Council Tanzania, relatively speaking, is a small company, so it was pretty nice to spend Away Day (company outing) with people from all departments. We spent the whole day at Kunduchi Beach. We had a lot of activities where they made sure we worked with people outside our departments. I really enjoyed having the time to get to know them a little and finding out interesting bits about what they do. I wouldn't mind getting involved in other projects and I'm going to make that my goal this month --- to see what I else I can do for BC, aside from teaching. I'm also looking at some professional development courses so my mind doesn't rot. Gotta give myself a good kick on the butt.

I think I've rambled on enough for today. I've got more exciting things to report next week and some odds and ends that I want to share about living in Africa. Time to shower and get ready for the dumpling party we're having in our apartment to celebrate Chinese New Year / Tet. Yum.

Later dudes and dudettes.
Kunduchi Beach





Thursday, January 17, 2013

I wanna play Capoeira!!!



Martial arts, dance, acrobatics, rituals, fighting --- depending in who you ask, Capoeira will be described in different ways because it depends on your personality and how you perceive it.

"Its subtle blending of gymnastics and dance moves make the capoeira game unique in the world of martial arts. The challenge for the player is to harmoniously meld together in a powerful flow the balance and flexibility of acrobatics , the grace and strength of dance, the speed and the cunning of the fight, and the rhythms of the music. If these components are isolated, the essence of capoeira is lost." McGuire - East/west Journal

This is my favorite definition. I love the music, dance-fight aspect of it. For years I've wanted to start doing Capoeira but schedules never quite fit back in Manila, then it just wasn't possible in Vietnam. Last week I was looking for activities to do in Dar and there it was. Unfortunately, I work till 8 Mondays Thursdays when they have beginner classes so I asked the instructor if I could still come on their regular practice which was last night. I'm so glad I came. One guy worked with me and another beginner while the rest worked on more advanced moves. I really need to work on arm strength and endurance. Bothersome asthma. Warm up just about killed me. I'm not discouraged though, with time and practice, I'll get a little better.


Monday, January 14, 2013

TO DO LIST

I love making lists. Sometimes they get done, sometimes not, but there's something about seeing it all laid out that helps ease things. New Year's resolutions, I don't really make them anymore but talking to a friend this morning, I realized there's a list I'd like to share.

ACTIVITIES TO DO THIS YEAR:
1. Capoeira - I'm going to try this on Wednesday. Beginners' classes are Monday Thursday but I work till 8pm. Wish me lots of luck and energy.
2. Continue doing yoga - at least once a week. Stop being lazy and doing only the poses you're good at.
3. Learn Swahili - learning bits and pieces here and there
4. Learn how to cook - this will save me money and also let me be as picky as I want to be in the privacy of my home. Fi and Tanya are going to help me via Skype. Maikha, too.

Now that I've started with a list, there'll be more, for sure.:D

Saturday, January 12, 2013

First Week in Dar es Salaam

I've officially been in Dar es Salaam for a week and how do I feel??? Positive. Hopeful. Excited. I've been putting off writing on this blog because I don't want it to become a diary. Haha. I wanted time to absorb things I've done and seen before I write about them. Maybe it changes them somewhat but I've had a blog where I wrote every little thing, every little thought and I don't want a repeat of that.

It seems a bit strange that just a little more than a week ago I was home in the Philippines. When I was in Vietnam for a lay over, friends kept asking me how I felt about moving to Tanzania --- to Africa. Honestly couldn't think of what to say. And after a week, I still don't know. Story of my life. 

For those who don't know the story of how I ended up here, read this part, otherwise skip it.
I was looking at jobs all over the world, anything I could do. It was easiest to look for teaching jobs because that's what I've been doing for the past 5 years and there was a job that I really wanted in Malaysia. Unfortunately, the government turned me down because I wasn't educated in an English-speaking country. With that, I ended up on the British Council website and put in my application for a couple of posts. I was still in Vietnam when I had my phone interview and got a job offer the day I was going back to the Philippines. Out of all the posts I applied for, though, I wanted the post in Sri Lanka the most and I figured I was going to hold out for that at first. When I saw the job offer though, I started thinking, how often will I get a chance like this? Should I wait when I'm older and maybe unable to climb Kilimajaro? I suppose there are other ways and there'll be other times, but I think the same wind that took me to Vietnam whispered to me that day plus Steve's words "F**k Sri Lanka, man, go to Africa." And so it was decided. When I arrived in the Philippines though, it still didn't feel quite real so I didn't get started with the documents, vaccines and other things until mid December. By then, of course, Christmas season was well on its way so things were pretty hectic and before I knew it, it was 2013 and it was time for me to leave for Tanzania.

My week here has been good. Strange in some ways, but there's something familiar in every turn. Arriving at the Julius Nyerere International Airport, warm, humid air was my welcome hug. There were smiles and laughter at the airport and I heard a musical language that I can now recognize as Swahili. Honeymoon phase is still here and I hope it stays. I promised myself that this time, the only thing I'm expecting is adventure and because of that, there'll be adventure in every turn, whatever form it may take.


Dar es Salaam city center
BC (British Council) is taking care of my first two weeks. I'm staying at a hotel which is a 20-minute walk to work. I find that people are pretty helpful here, if they can't tell you exactly where to go, they either point you to someone else who can or walk with you where you want to go. Me, being the loser I am when it comes to directions, have been lost several times just going to or back from work. Anyway, Hotel Sapphire, my temporary home is pretty nice. No complaints about the staff and food is so good. Still, I'm pretty excited to move to my own place. Finding housing here is not the easiest thing, but people at work are quite supportive and thanks to Team Tanzania on Facebook, I found people who were in the same boat and this morning I found a place which will be home for a while. 

There's been a delay with my work permit, so I haven't officially started working. I met some of my Elementary level students and I'm excited to start teaching. Turns out BC Tanzania is using a course book that I'm familiar with and admin stuff is no sweat because I'm used to doing them with ACET. Level testing is the part where I can apply what I've learned with Cambridge ESOL exams. Students here, for the most part, are the opposite of Vietnamese learners. They're strong listeners and speakers but weak in writing and reading (grammar, too).

Healthwise --- haven't been sick yet (knock on wood) and I've tried local food and survived. My sister can rest easy. I've tried a bit of street food but apart from samosa-like things, I haven't seen a lot.

That's it for now. Next time I'll post places I've been to. :D

Love from Dar. xxx

Friday, January 4, 2013

Takeoff

After living for almost five years in Vietnam, I decided to leave my comfortable Saigon life and set out on a new adventure. Still going to be teaching English but with a different company. This time I won't know a single soul in the whole continent except for friends that I'll make when I get there. It's going to be strange but that's what I like about this life that I've chosen for myself. I'm ready for 2013. Bring it on Africa.