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Bhreagh and I just finished our second week at the Umoja centre here in Arusha and we already feel like part of the team. We have started teaching our Key Skills classes which will cover a range of topics over the next 8 weeks including; personal hygiene, environmental sanitation & diseases, reproductive health and HIV/AIDS. We have also begun planning our community development project which is split into two parts.
First, we are continuing the work of past volunteers by implementing water taps that release clean water for washing hands after using the washroom. Second, Bhreagh and I established our own community project in which we raise awareness about recycling, specifically composting food waste. As of right now, all garbage in the area is burned and most families throw away their leftover food (banana peels, orange peels, rice, beans, etc). Since most families grow some, if not all of their own crops, we want to show the community how to efficiently use their food waste to improve their crop yield. We plan to implement the composting project at the Umoja Centre and then branch out into the community.
We have also recognized that many of the students here at Umoja are very interested in music and dance. As a result, we have started a dance club twice a week in which we expose the students to different genres of music from here in East Africa as well as genres found in other parts of the world.
In general, Bhreagh and I are having a great time in the city of Arusha. Our homestay family has been great and has really made an effort to make us feel welcome and show us around the city. This weekend, they are taking us to the region of Karatu and we will explore the Ngorogoro crater.
The staff, teachers and other volunteers at Umoja have been great as well; we have all gone out together to the markets and to dinners in town. One of the year round teachers, Philbert, invited myself, Bhreagh, Kamila (a volunteer teaching from Poland) and some of the students to hike part of Mount Meru to a beautiful waterfall. For the first hour, we were able to explore the outskirts of Arusha; walking through small villages and interacting with locals; a very leisurely walk. But once we got to the actual mountain it was a solid hour of steep inclines and being out of breath! At some points the hills were so steep that if you lost momentum for one second you would fall backwards. What a workout! Philbert explained to us that the locals who live in this area do this climb almost every day. They go into town for work, business, or shopping and then hike all the way back up. I truly admire them.
The hour was totally worth it once we arrived at the rain forest. The view was absolutely breathtaking: a cliff where you could see for miles, trees so tall you couldn’t see where they ended, tropical birds, baboons, and a beautiful river. All of a sudden we didn’t even notice the hills. We were in heaven! Our pictures of that hike do not come close to doing it justice. Then we arrived at the waterfall. Once again, breathtaking. Not only did we get to see it, but we were able to climb up and stand behind it! Since we are still in the dry season, the waterfall is not at its full capacity. During the wet season however, it would be too dangerous to even try hiking to the waterfall. We are so lucky to have experienced it.
- Danielle New, Youth Ambassador, Tanzania, 2013
YCI is currently recruiting for a number of projects in Tanzania this Winter- check out our Program Calendar for more information!
“In life, you never know what is going to happen. You cannot always control it. But you must always remember to laugh.”
This is what my trusted sidekick-slash-translator-slash-tour guide-slash-body guard Michael Gombe says to me as we stood on the side of a busy, dusty street just outside of Arusha city. We were searching for an organization that provides a safe home and skills training to young girls who are out of school.
We were lost.
Michael and I had just met; earlier we had gone over our itinerary for the week, and now we were carrying around a list of 10 potential organizations to meet within 4 days. I was lucky to have his kind assistance, and already he was sharing with me his wise, yet funny, musings on life.
My task before me was altogether daunting and exciting, but after my first week in Mwanza, scurrying around to meet with health and youth development organizations, I had some practice already. I also was well-rehearsed for the “hurry up and wait” syndrome that comes with working in the field.
My assignment, as a YCI Innovator-slash-programming assistant, was to identify and consult with major stakeholders who provide services to local youth, including employment, training, financial, and health services. I was searching for local clues about the current situation of youth livelihoods and health in Tanzania, while at the same time identifying possible linkages with organizations, government ministries, and private companies. I was also leading and facilitating participatory youth focus groups wherein local youth themselves could provide a perspective and voice within our research. All of this information is hoped to better inform YCI’s proposal writing and program design under the next funding cycle.
My assignment was very unique. Not only did I get to travel around Tanzania to almost every program area YCI works in (Mwanza, Arusha, Zanzibar), but I also met with several organizations that were as equally passionate about youth development as we at YCI are. My interviews, in some ways, were more like conversations – spanning from topics like the Tanzanian education system and how ill-equipped it is to produce graduates with practical skills, to corruption and fraud and nepotism in the government structures, to the mindset of youth themselves and how they live in a culture of dependency on parents and other adults. But there were also many stories: Stories of urgency and need, but also stories of hope.
It is well recognized in Canada and all over the world that there is a youth ‘bubble’, and that this bubble has formed during a worldwide economic crisis. Our youth population is booming, while the youth unemployment rate is reaching record numbers. This has resulted, at least in Tanzania, to many youth who are idle, bored, frustrated, and even hopeless. Many have turned to the informal sector, or self-employment because it seems to be one of the few places where they have a chance, where they can fit into the labour market.
“We need a facilitative environment for youth to become self-reliant”, said one representative from the Grassroots Youth Development Organization in Arusha. “Over 60% of the workforce in Tanzania is made up of youth, and we can help them contribute to society if we encourage them and build their skills.”
This theme was echoed throughout many of my interviews and conversations with youth-serving organizations. Youth need to be able to stand on their own, be self-reliant, have confidence, stretch their capacities, experiment with their creativity and imagination, and be leaders. In many cases they just need a safe, supportive environment to do so.
And standing right beside me, on that busy, dusty road, was a case in point. A recent graduate of the Umoja Centre, an education centre for Primary School leavers, and local ‘superstar’ volunteer for YCI, Michael has great dreams ahead of him. He most recently applied to go to Secondary School, so he can “be a good brother and supporter to my family.” While his passions are poetry, literature, and philosophy, he wishes some day to open his own business, improve his English skills, and learn to play the guitar.
I told him he was already well on his way.
- Kristy Tomkinson, Youth Innovator and Program Assistant, Tanzania 2013
Did you ever play Jenga when you were a kid? Have you ever advertised or searched for something on Kijiji? Would you have been able to sit through The Lion King without rolling your eyes if there had been characters named “Lion” and “Friend”instead of cool, exotic-sounding ones like Simba and Rafiki? Did you know that you don’t actually have to come all the way to Africa to go on a safari?
I love languages, and one of the things I love most is that words from one language somehow find their way into the vocabulary of another. No, they don’t run away. They aren’t stolen, either. We call them loanwords, or borrowings. If a word is lucky and the group of people who borrowed it reaches a subconscious consensus, changes start happening to the word and it slowly starts to seem like it really does belong in its adoptive language.
Confused? Let me see what I can do…
Spaghetti, in Italian, is the plural form of spaghetto, but in English, spaghetti is a mass noun – you can’t count it and you don’t pluralize it (like rice, flour, salt, etc.). In Quebec, spaghetti is not a mass noun, it’s been pluralized, Francophone-style, so it’s des spaghettis. In Quebec, sushi is not a mass noun, it’s been pluralized, Francophone-style, so it’s des sushis. Woah, that sentence was such a déjà-vu!
That, my rafiki, is true integration. And what more could a borrowed word ask for? (If only it were as simple for people to integrate!)
Well, let me tell you, Swahili, like English, is no stranger to loanwords – shule looks rather German, don’t you think? Oh, and if you stay in Tanzania long enough to get tired of eating ugali and rice, be sure to ask for supageti when you go to the shop looking to satisfy your Western craving!
Okay, I think you get the picture. Time for the fun stuff! According to the blog-writing tips that I’ve been checking out, people love lists. So check out this list of words in Swahili and do your best to figure out their English counterparts. If you’re really sharp and get the last two, my hat’s off to you, because they’re much more difficult to guess out of context.
Helpful hint: Read them out loud as you try to guess – Swahili words are pronounced exactly as they’re spelled.
1. computer 2. picture 3. bicycle 4. lift 5. doctor 6. calendar 7. number 8. code 9. week 10. carrot 11. office 12. account 13. coat 14. gate 15. cigarette 16. choir 17. puncture (flat tire) 18. battery 19. beer 20. rail (railway) 21. pen (from Bic pens) 22. cell phone (your phone has a sim card, doesn’t it?)
Check your score:
- If you got 20 or more correct, you either cheated or you’ve been to Tanzania before. But good job!
- If you got between 16 and 19 correct, congratulations, you’re very clever and you’ll probably be able to write Swahili soon!
- If you got between 11 and 15 correct, you’ve done a good job, but you probably let yourself get distracted by the spelling of some of the words.If you got fewer than 10 correct, you should be ashamed of yourself for thinking you were too cool to follow my instructions. Try again, reading aloud!
Translations for the words in the intro paragraph:
jenga = building, kijiji = village, simba = lion, rafiki = friend, safari = journey/trip
-Elena Togias, Education Officer, CIDA International Youth Internship Program, Tanzania 2012
For those of you who don’t know Swahili, saying “pole” is the equivalent of saying “sorry” in Canadian. Did I say Canadian? Uh…I mean…English. Now, many people know that English-speaking Canadians are notorious for saying “eh” all the time, but not as many know that we also have a reputation for saying “sorry” way too much, and for ridiculous reasons. Example: if you bump into a Canadian, chances are they’ll apologize to you because you bumped into them. Ridiculous, eh? I know. I’ve done it, so you can admit to having done it, too. Canadians are so ridiculous that you’ll even find them apologizing for saying “sorry” when they shouldn’t have said it (ahem…like when they’ve been bumped into by someone). Yup, I’ve done the double “sorry”, too. For shame!
But fear not, fellow Canadians – have I got news for you! Based on six months of intense field research here in Arusha, I have come to the groundbreaking conclusion that Tanzanians say “pole” far more than Canadians say “sorry”. What’s more, they say it for crazier reasons than Canadians do. How do I know the reason that someone has said “pole”? Simple, I ask for an explanation every time I hear it! Picture this:
A Tanzanian passing me on the road says “pole” to me, expecting me to say “asante” (“thank you”) and continue on my merry way, but the linguist in me can’t resist the temptation and I ask “kwa nini?” (“why?”) instead. That’s right, I choose to break a serious politeness rule in order to collect data…
(N.B. Feel free to replicate this simple informal interview technique for your own research purposes.)
Okay, I’ll admit, I haven’t heard anyone apologize for being bumped into by someone else, but still, I thought I’d share the hilarity of The Pole Phenomenon with all of you who have not been lucky enough to experience it live. Now, I’ve compiled a list of the ten most noteworthy instances of The Pole Phenomenon that I’ve come across, but they are not all equally ridiculous/hilarious/perplexing, so I have done my best to rank them in order from least impactful to most impactful. Here it is:
Top 10 Reasons People Say “Pole” to You in Tanzania
10. You’re working
9. You’re carrying something on your head
8. You’re carrying a baby
7. You tripped on a stone which for some reason you hadn’t noticed was sticking about 10cm out of the bumpy road
6. You tripped over your own two feet
5. You’re walking happily, talking/smiling to yourself
4. There’s dust in the air
3. You sneezed
2. You’re left-handed
1. The sun is shining
Sorry if you don’t agree with my rankings…
-Elena Togias, Education Officer, CIDA International Youth Internship Program, Tanzania 2012
The only place I have had to pleasure of riding in a bijaji in Tanzania is in Dar Es Salaam. In Arusha they are mainly used by businesses and trades-people, not as transportation for hire. Though these golf-cart type vehicles are a bit scary to ride in as the zip down the center line or shoulder of a busy street, they are a lot of fun. They get especially interesting when it comes to the rugged terrain of the dirt roads, the ups and down soon had us referring to them as “Tanzanian Rollercoasters”.
Everywhere you go people are riding their bikes, it’s quicker than walking and cheaper than a daladala. However it would seem there’s a lot of maintenance needed because the roads are so rough on the bikes. Flat tires are extremely common.
Coach buses are rarely seen in the city, and are generally only for long distance travel. School buses are common in the city, but are closer in size to a daladala than a school bus in Canada. The bus I took from Dar to Arusha was more or less like a coach bus in Canada, except for the onboard entertainment. They play a variety of movies or shows, on my trip they played some kind of gospel musical and a cheesy Asian kung-fu type flick; there were other films too but I can’t say I paid much attention. Overall, more pleasant than expected and much cheaper than flying, $20 vs $200.
Daladalas are the main form of public transportation. For 300 TSH you get a ‘usually interesting’ ride from one stop to another. During peak commute times it’s not unusual to realize you’re sharing your ride with 20-30 other people, keeping in mind they are basically a large cube van. It is not uncommon for there to be 2-4 people hanging out of the open door of the van as you drive along. The rule seems to be that you can always fit one more person in daladala. This is one of my favourite forms of transportation, nothing will make you feel like a local more than standing on a daladala with your face in the person in front’s armpit. They are nearly always heavily ornamented, either with religious or pop culture imagery. I find myself wishing daily that we had daladalas at home in Ontario.
Pikipikis are small motorcycles. Many people make use of the tiny second seats that are for hire on the back of them. It is not uncommon to see one with a child in front, then the driver, then another person on the back. It is very uncommon to see helmets, and I’ve yet to see a passenger sporting one. They say there are whole wings of hospitals devoted to victims of pikipiki accidents. I don’t think I will be testing this mode of transportation out anytime soon, I refuse to even ride as passenger on my dad’s motorcycle, never mind weaving through traffic clinging to a stranger.
Hiring a taxi is necessary if you will be going out in the evenings, and while not as thrilling as a daladala or bajaji, they are interesting in their own right if only for the road conditions. The way cars manage to handle the crazy roads of Arusha, especially the dirt roads always amazes me. You’re basically ensured a bumpy ride as you travel, but it does allow a good view of nightlife around town, that you don’t get to see if you don’t go out.
The main form of transportation in Tanzania, I have probably gained some pretty toned legs on this trip. As a volunteer you need to walk a lot to work off all the rice and ugali you eat, which is a lot because every meal at home feels like Christmas dinner at my grandma’s where you’re pressured to eat almost to the bursting point!
-Heather Harvie. Youth Ambassador, Tanzania 2012
We are currently recruiting for a fall volunteer team in Tanzania. Click HERE to find out more on this exciting project. To find out about all our Fall Programs, please take a look at our Program Calendar.
I have spent close to two months in Arusha as a volunteer for Youth Challenge International. I have been volunteering as a teacher with a local partner organization called Umoja Center. When I am not working on projects or teaching, I have been getting to know the city as much as possible. Thus, I have created the following list of places I have visited and recommend to other volunteers.
- Natural History Museum in Arusha – I went to this museum on my first weekend in Arusha and it was a nice place to visit and a good place to start while trying to learn how to navigate yourself through the city. It also has a nice garden and a small market to look through.
- Via Via café – This place is very popular with tourist and expats. It is a good place to dine in. On Thursday nights they have a club night where there is a local band playing, and after this there is a DJ playing music to dance too, as well as karaoke.
- Afriacafe – If you need a break from ugali and are having a craving for a hamburger then this restaurant is a good place to visit and is very popular with many tourist and local expats.
- Njrio Complex – In this complex they have a movie theater, shops, and restaurants. Although it is a little more expensive compared to local restaurants and shops.
- French Alliance – Is a nice venue to watch foreign movies on Wednesday nights. One can even enroll in French classes here.
- Arusha Hotel – is a good place to check out because they have a nice pool and hot tube which is open to the public. They also have a decent menu to choose some western food.
- Masaii Market on Fire Road – This market is the perfect place to gets gifts for your family and friends. It might be overwhelming at first with all the sellers yelling at you to come into their shops. However, there is a variety of items to choose from and you can bargain with the sellers.
- Fabric Market in Downtown Arusha – I highly recommend going to this market. I have bought many beautiful fabrics from here which you cannot find outside Africa. For example Kanga and Kitenge and the expensive fabric are made out of wax.
- Big bite – This is a good Indian restaurant, I only went there once with friends but I have been craving it ever since. If you go with a big group of people that way you can order a lot from the menu and share it with everyone.
- Michelle’s – A French restaurant and on Tuesday nights it is a good place to go for cheese and a great place to meet and socialize with people.
Arusha is a great city and it is very easy to meet many wonderful locals and other volunteers from around the world. I wish I had more time in Arusha because there is a lot you can do and see which was not featured in my top ten list.
-Nisha Minhas, Youth Ambassador, Tanzania 2012
YCI is currently recruiting volunteer teams to work in Tanzania. Check out our Program Calendar for more details
It’s been about 6 months since I finished my 6 week volunteer placement in Arusha, Tanzania and every day I think about my experience. My time in Arusha was fantastic and definitely changed my life. I challenged myself to try something completely new, I made friends in a foreign country and I changed as a person. I experienced so many things that I am still processing the events of my placement.
Throughout the six weeks I experienced culture shock and homesickness and by the end of the placement I was excited to return home. I missed my friends and my family and all the modern conveniences that come with living in Canada. I packed up my souvenirs and all the gear I was returning home with, I said many goodbyes, and throughout all of that I was still more excited to go home.
It wasn’t until I was in the airport in Dar es Salaam that it really hit me. I was leaving Tanzania, and I was going to really miss it.
Getting home was great, I was surrounded by family and friends, could have hot showers whenever I wanted and had reliable electricity ALL day. It was difficult at first to adapt. I had so many stories to tell and wanted to spend all of my time talking about Arusha, but my friends and family also had summers of their own with many stories that they also wanted to share. For a couple of weeks I went through a small disconnect (reverse culture shock), and felt like I didn’t fit in any more at home.
Over the last 6 months, I told all of the important stories with all of the important people in my life, I sorted my photo albums and I reflected on what that experience meant to me and how I will use it in my life. It was a long and slow process, and even now I still find myself randomly remembering the minute details of the trip.
This past weekend, I met up with the three other volunteers who I spent my summer with in Arusha. We spent 6 weeks with each other, and after returning home our lives caught up with us and while we kept in touch we spoke a lot less frequently. That mini reunion was fantastic. Almost immediately we fell right back into step and refreshed each other’s memories about Arusha.
I know that I will continue to reflect on Arusha, share my experience and plan my return trip. Spending a summer in Arusha was a fantastic experience that allowed for a lot of personal growth and will continue to impact my life for a long time to come.
-Matt Leslie, Youth Ambassador, Tanzania 2011
To see more of what our Alumni have been up to, check out the Alumni Update section of blog.
On Saturday November 19th, Youth Challenge International (YCI), in partnership with local and international organizations celebrated International Men’s Day for the first time in Arusha and Morogoro, Tanzania. International Men’s Day is an event held in 60 countries worldwide that focuses on men’s and boy’s health, improving gender relations, promoting gender equality, and highlighting positive male role models.
In Arusha, YCI, The Umoja Centre, Support for International Change, UMATI, Initiative for Youth Organization and Global Service Corps hosted the event at the Mbauda Open Market Ground from 11 am to 3 pm. This free event was aimed to promote men and boys as positive role models and to educate the community on the role of males and females in health, education, family life, violence and life choices. All members of the public were welcome to attend the performances, games, and educational activities of the exciting day.
To celebrate International Men’s day in Morogoro, volunteers, along with our partner organization Faraja Trust Fund, held a soccer tournament on with 8 local teams. To participate in the tournament each team had to come to two information sessions on male sexual and reproductive health, HIV/AIDS, gender roles and good governance. At these sessions we challenged their knowledge of HIV/AIDS and gender roles. Furthermore, we encouraged them to be more active in their communities and challenged them to make a better Tanzania for not only themselves but their children and future generations. After a tense shoot, team “MORO KIDs” won – congratulations to the team!
In addition to the soccer tournament, there were a variety of other activities on the field this morning. YCI and Faraja provided an on-site HIV testing centre, a DJ with music and dancing throughout the day, and drama group performances on the key objectives of International Men’s Day.
It was a great event with over 500 youth and other community members coming together to acknowledge the roles and responsibilities of men and boys in creating a brighter future for all Tanzanians.
Thank you to all the international and local volunteers, YCI staff, partner staff and community members who helped to make International Men’s Day a success in Arusha and Morogoro!
-The YCI Tanzania Teams in Morogoro and Arusha
For more volunteer blogs, check out our Travel Diary category.
Whether you’re out buying a khanga, some beaded jewelry or a carved mask, there are seven rules of thumb that every foreigner should keep in mind when navigating the local markets frequented by tourists. The vendors are tough, but sometimes you’ve got to be tougher.
1. Bring a Tanzanian friend
Sometimes these markets, especially those selling handicrafts and various textiles are crowded with tourists looking for keepsakes of their African adventure. Since their wares look similar to foreigners, vendors are aggressive in competing for sales. The trick is to have a local friend who knows the real value to accompany you to the market.
2. Think in shillings, not dollars
It’s often easy to fall into the habit of mental currency conversion while abroad. Sure, in reality the price of what you’re buying is likely less than what you might pay at home for similar goods but the currency conversion does not account for the often huge mark-up.
3. Cut the asking price in half
It might sound a little extreme but it’s not uncommon to get what you bargain for at a fraction – sometimes even half – of the original price. The vendors in tourist hot-spots know to jack up their prices for foreigners on expensive safaris. Although this rule is not to be taken too seriously, sometimes the halfway mark is a good starting point to bargain from.
4. A “rafiki” price isn’t what it sounds like
When vendors start to give you “rafiki” prices, they’re not referring to the cheeky baboon, although they probably know that most tourists will love the Lion King reference. Swahili for “friend”, vendors sometimes try a little bit of flattery with a familiar term to keep you interested and convince you that you’re getting a special price. In reality, they’re probably thinking that since you’re a foreigner you have lots of money to spend.
5. Stand your ground
It can sometimes be intimidating when multiple people are arguing prices with each other. Be polite but don’t be shy. If you think you’re being grossly overcharged, bargain with confidence but be fair.
6. Walk away
If you’re not having any luck lowering the price, sometimes one of the best bargaining tactics is to politely say “no thank you” and then start walking away. Vendors will often catch you and drop a couple thousand shilling just to make the sale.
7. Be fair
At the end of the day it’s important to remember that many of these vendors are earning their living selling their goods to tourists. While you don’t want to get totally ripped off, always settle on a reasonable price that is fair for you and still making them a profit. An “asante sana” (thank you very much) is a nice way to seal the deal.
- Marilyn Verghis, Youth Ambassador, Tanzania 2011. Marilyn is part of YCI’s pilot project working with the UMOJA Centre in Arusha. Marilyn is only 2-weeks into her project and already can haggle in the markets like a pro!
Welcome aboard to T11-6A, the latest team who arrived in Tanzania on July 11th! The four-person team headed to Arusha last week to start volunteering with our partner the UMOJA Centre. T11-6A is piloting our first project in Arusha and we are excited to follow the team and see how their project progresses!
Photos from orientation week in Dar-es-Salaam & Arusha: