Friday, February 3, 2012

Zulu Belly!!

Let's Speak Frankly

I happen to have a very sensitive stomach.  Even when I travel from state to state, I get 'issues'.
Zulu Belly, dude?

So I have to be extra careful when I travel abroad.  Here are some tried and true methods that I use for Tanzania:

  • Pack Pepto bismol  or your favorite stomach remedy.  The minute I get the rumbles, I start chugging it like water.
  • Pack a small bottle of hydrogen peroxide.  This is useful when you need to rinse an irresistible piece of tropical fruit you just have to have (this is actually Dr. Oyengo's tip)
  • Stay away from any foods that are not cooked. Unfortunately,  you might have to do without fresh fruits and veggies during this trip.  The food in the hotel restaurants were we stay in Dar Es Salaam and Zanzibar should be ok.  However, when ordering food away from there, try to stay with cooked food
  • Carry hand sanitizer (I pack several travel size bottles) and use it before you put anything in your mouth.  You will find hand sanitizer in spray form, gel, and even wet wipes.
  • Drink only bottled water.  Please do not plan to drink any of the local water or anything washed in the local water.
  • Do not over eat.  Especially foods that you have never eaten matter how delicious.  One never knows how your stomach will react.
  • Do not sample any street food unless you are tired of living.  You seriously do not want to spend the few days that we are in TZ, camped in the bathroom or a typical TZ squatter!!
Squat Toilet (Squatters).  Clean...but...uhm complicated.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Meet Our Host in Dar Es Salaam

This is a very exciting trip! The object of which is three fold. First, to survey a few of Tanzania's many investment possibilities.  Second is to visit the Flood Garden program in Tanzania to see if and how you might want to help and third, is to experience the exotic beauty of Africa and African people.

In regard to poverty, many ask why many African countries remain under developed considering that Africa has some of the most lucrative natural resources world wide.  "Why don't the African people just take matters in their own hands and get out of poverty?"  These are questions that I hope will be answered for you in your visit to Tanzania.

However, there is a new wave of Africans working toward creating better opportunities for their people.  On this trip, we will meet people who are excited about working to help Africans become more prosperous.  I would love for you to meet our Tanzania connection and your new friends:

In Dar Es Salaam and Zanzibar

Dr. David Oyengo M.D
At over 7 feet tall, Dr. Oyengo received is secondary education in Germany and Russia.  He studied pre-med in Manchester and acquired his medical degree in Orthopedic Medicine in Russia.  He practiced there and in Berlin and also did free lance work with Doctors Without Borders.

He then worked as a medical consultant for the government of Niger, practiced medicine in Congo and Kenya and was an embedded medic in Rwanda during the war.

In the business world, Dr. Oyengo represented Compact Computers, a technology company from Singapore in Eastern Europe.  He also co-founded Swan Development LLC with Mr. Myles Pennington JD to do water projects and charity medicine in Equatorial Guinea.

Currently in Tanzania, as well as medical charity, he is the Vice President of Royal Mining, a company specializing in the exploration of gold and copper mining. His position as a business man has earned him high connections in the Tanzanian government officials.  He is gracious enough to give us access to his influential network and knowledge of doing business in Tanzania

He will be meeting us at the airport in Dar es Salaam and act our host, translator and guide until we leave for Arusha.

For more information, contact Dr. David Oyengo at

I will tell you more about David Gido, our host in Arusha and the rest of the team in another post

Friday, January 27, 2012

Swahili Flash Card

Want to learn a few works of Swahili before we travel?  Here is a quick way of learning enough to at least greet and thank people.


I love to use the website  It is simply a flash card website but it is pretty amazing.  I created a short flash card set with elementary Swahili.

You can advance the cards by using the left and right arrows.
You can have quizlet read the cards for you.
Then go to the Study: section where you can use the Speller, Learn and Test tabs to check your knowledge.
The best part is that you can find an entire Chapters of Swahili vocab flash cards by doing a quick search in quizlet.
An even better part is that you can create your own flash cards for whatever you are studying, share your flash card sets with you classmates and interested parties world wide, and discuss your cards with them....Great stuff!!!


Power Adapter (converter)

Yes you need to bring a power adapter!!

The Tanzania plug socket looks like the plug on the picture below:
Tanzania plug socket

Walmart carries an inexpensive Universal Power converter that looks like the one in the picture below.  You may want to bring a small power strip as well so that you can plug several things with one power converter.
Universal Power Adapter

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Books to Read Before You Travel

If you are an avid reader, here are some great reads (from the Lonely Planets coffers) and books that will put you in the know and in the mood for our trips to Tanzania.

A really good book with the power to start an intense debate is Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond. It is a Pulitzer and reading it or even watching the documentary on Netflix or youtube, will have you looking at people in underdeveloped countries with a ton more sympathy.  It prompts you to debate questions like  why is the per capita income of Tanzania ($500/year) when people make 100 times more in the US?  or why did some countries develop faster than others?
If you do not have the time to read the book, consider watching the documentary with a friend because it will have you debating for hours.
I personally really liked this book because it totally redefined my preconceptions of poverty and poor nations. I have referenced it many time to my students in my World History and Global Studies classes.

If you are an avid reader, here are some great reads (from the Lonely Planets coffers) and books that will put you in the know and in the mood for our trips to Tanzania.

Serengeti: Natural Order on the African Plain
 by Mitsuaki Iwago, is a photographic documentary of the rhythms of nature on the Serengeti plains.

The Tree Where Men was Born
by Peter Matthiessen
This book offers a timeless portrayal of life on the East African plains.

The Worlds of a Maasai Warrior -- An Autobiography
by Tepilit Ole Saitoti is a fascinating glimpse into Maasai life and culture.

Zanzibari Abdulrazak Gurnah brings WWI-era East Africa to life in his evocative coming-of-age story

The Gunny Sack

Tanzanian-bred MG Vassanji explores Tanzania’s rich ethnic mix through several generations of an immigrant Indian family.

Into Africa -- The Epic Adventure of Stanley and Livingstone
by Martin Dugard is an adventurous and fast-reading account focused around the life and times of the renowned explorer and missionary.

Register your Travel Plans with the State Dept.

Enroll in the SMART TRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM (STEP) to make sure 'big brother' knows where you are.  It only takes a few minutes to register to receive the latest travel updates and information before during and after our trip.
When you sign up, you will automatically receive the most current information they compile about Tanzania.  You will also receive updates, including Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts (where appropriate).  You only need to sign up once, and then you can add and delete trips from your account based on your current travel plans!

Stay Connected.

By connecting with us on the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, they will be able to assist you better in the case of an emergency, such as if you lose your passport or it is stolen while you are abroad.
They also assist U.S. citizens in other emergencies, such as in natural disasters.  
The travel and contact information you enter into the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program will make it easier for consular officers in U.S. embassies and consulates around the world to contact you and your loved ones during an emergency —including situations where your family or friends in the U.S. are having problems trying to contact you with important news.

Follow the link below to enroll

Note: In Tanzania, the government there seems to do the least possible for many of its will see what I mean when you arrive.  So I am so geeked to live in a country where there is a service that helps me know that someone has my back no matter where in the world I go (with in reason...I am sure). 
 Ok, ok, I just became a citizen 3 years ago so I am still jazzed about things like this!!!

Visa to Tanzania

Tanzanian Visa
Yes we need a visa to enter Tanzania
Immediately after entering the Dar, we will need to purchase our visas.
The current fee for a visa is $100 for a 12-month multiple-entry tourist visa.  It is important that you pay in cash to expedite the process and cut down wait time for the group.

At the immigration window will be asked why you are entering Tanzania.  Please inform any who ask that you are there for BUSINESS purposes and not for volunteering.  For some reason, they have issues with volunteers and it is more difficult to enter the country under that premise. 

We will be there on business so the process should be pretty simple.

You can also opt to get your visa here in the USA.  You can simply send it to the Tanzanian Embassy and follow the instructions offered on their website.  There is a 3 day rush ($20) turn over but expect to wait as long as 7 to 10 days to get your passport back.  You will need to pay for the visa as well as the processing free and postage.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Packing Suggestions

When you are away from home 12 days, it is easy to be tempted to pack clothes for each day.  Try to suppress the urge to do that for this trip because you will not need that much.

It will be quite hot in Tanzania this time a year (79-95 degrees and about 86% humidity) so it is important to pack lightweight clothing that breathes well.  I like anything made out of cotton because not only does it let in a bit of breeze but many cotton garments are wrinkle free.  T-shirts and cotton shirts  and lightweight trousers are best.  
It does get cool at night and we will have a couple of early mornings so make sure to pack a fleece, sweatshirt or windbreaker jacket.

Here is a sample travel list using the "head and shoulders, knees and toes" method:

  • Hat, cap, or bandana -- Tanzania is terribly dusty and polluted so you might want to protect your hair from unnecessary dust gunk
  • Shades or Sunglasses 
  • Glasses/contacts --pack your old glasses as well and extra pairs of contacts if you can
  • Toiletries -- most toiletries items are readily available in TZ but you might not find your favorite brands
  • Nail clipping kit (please pack this in your suitcase and not your carry-on luggage)
  • earplugs (if you have issues with noise)
  • extra lip balm
  • 4-5 T-Shirts, short sleeve shirts, or sleeveless Ts (whatever you style).  Ladies, keep in mind that in Dar Es Salaam, the large portion of the population is Muslim. Many women wear hijab so keep modesty in mind when making your shirt and shorts selection.
  • 2 long sleeve garments (long sleeve Ts, fleece, one jacket, sweat shirt etc).  Long sleeves will be welcome when we go to Ngorongoro.  It will not only keep the chill away but also protect from insects and pesky no-see'ems 
  • one business casual outfit for the Dar Es Salaam leg of the tour
  • swimsuit -- cause we gotta dip at least a toe in the Indian ocean
open sneakers
  • 2-3 pairs Lightweight trousers, tights, gym pants or light jeans
  • shorts (Ladies, avoid short shorts please and gents....uhm..this applies to you too)
  • underwear (optional...hehehe) 
  • 1-2 pairs of socks --my feet always get cold on the plane so I either wear socks during the flight or pack a pair in my carry-on luggage
  • 1-2 pairs or shoes-- we will need a pair of sturdy shoes.  I find sneakers very comfortable but sometimes they do not do well in hot weather.  However, sandals are not good travel footwear even in hot weather because they leave your toes to all kinds of abuse.  Some genius has invented this cross between a sandal and a sneaker (see photo) that work really well.  They are not the prettiest shoe but they work for me.
  • We are going to be at the beach so you may want to sneak a pair of flip flops in your suitcase
  • Camera and film (if needed)
  • Binoculars
  • Games (e.g., cards, dice, hacky sack, yo-yos, Frisbee, juggling balls, dominoes)
  • Books (kindle, etc)
  • A small current converter 
  • English dictionary and/or thesaurus
  • Multi-purpose pocket knife (please pack in suitcase and not in carry-on luggage)
  • LED Flashlight or solar light bulb
  • A small amount of seeds to plant -- these will make great gifts and are available at SGS.  The folks at the Lansing branch are very familiar with our project (please pack seeds in suitcase)
  • favorite gum
  • Mosquito repellent
  • sun block
  • Itchy cream 
  • Your favorite pain meds (the legal kind)
  • Antihistamine
  • small first aid kit 
  • Sewing kit
  • Money belt (critical for traveling on public transport)
  • Duct or packing tape
  • Journal or diary -- you can also blog about your experiences on this blog
Many suggest using mosquito netting but we will be staying at decent hotels and mosquito spray should be enough to keep them at bay.

What to Wear? What to Wear?

Tanzanian women wearing Kanga
Ladies, I cannot emphasize enough that modesty should prevail in your wardrobe.  When we are doing touristy things, it is ok to dress in shorts and a T-shirt but when you may choose wear knee length skirts or loose fitting pants else where.

In Dar Es Salaam, we will be meeting government officials and other business folks so it will be appropriate to consider a business casual option . Although suits are the business uniform for men in Tanzania, it is ok for men to wear a crisp shirt and a tie.

Zanzibar is predominantly Muslim so even if it is a beach resort please consider what you wear.  Kanga, is a traditional multi-purpose/multi-colored cloth that Tanzanian women wear wrapped around their waist.  It can also be used as a shall or head covering and it can be purchased in the local markets.  You don't have to wear Kanga but you might consider a scarf to cover you head when in doubt.  Kanga are very inexpensive and they make excellent gifts for your friends at home.

In Arusha, you will be more free to wear what you want because the country side is not as conservative.  I felt very comfortable wearing what I wanted in Arusha.

Gifts for the Arusha Team

Walmart sales these for as little as $5
Here are some ideas for gifts for the MDFT teachers:

Because of the lack of electricity, any source of alternative lighting would be a great gift for out teachers.  battery or solar LED lanterns, reflective tape, reflective vests and LED flashlights would be amazing.

The teachers sleep in the school now but the school does not have any electricity!

In Arusha, there are very few street lights so people must walk very close to traffic to be able to see.  This makes it extremely dangerous for pedestrians because car drivers can not always see the people who are walking. Inexpensive reflective tape or reflective vests would be a great way to keep our teachers safe at night.  Pieces of reflective tape can also be used for the children's back packs.  They too walk in the dark at night.

Nokero makes a number of solar light devices as well as solar chargers that would be very useful to our Arusha friends.

Nokero solar light bulb retails for about $15-$20 
If you have an unused laptop computer, digital cameras or cellphone that you no longer use, please consider donating it to the MDFT primary school teachers.  We are working on helping them get electricity for the school so that they can improve their 21st century skills.  There are inexpensive internet hot spot that David has purchased that can be used at the school as well.

Having electricity and internet in the school will also allow me (and my team of teachers) to conduct needed professional development online.  Having a couple extra computers with internet at the school could allow the teachers to open a small computer lab for the parents.  By charging a very, very little fee or even working out a sweat equity agreement, the teachers can earn a little cash for paper, printer ink, and basic school supplies.

Here is the team. I believe T-shirts and New World Flood stuff would be a great gift for them:
There are currently 5 teachers in the school (4 at Flood Garden 1 and one teacher at Flood Garden 4).  David is their director but there are also about 4 parents working the FG1 garden prototype.  Also, Cecilia, who is the owner of the Flood Garden 2 location and Mohamed, the owner of the Flood Garden 3 location.

Cecilia has an agriculture degree and has been instrumental in teaching horticulture to our teachers.  She is also the Maasai host for our Maasai dinner planned on this trip. She is hoping that our partnership can help her use her amazing garden paradise as an educational center for schools in the area.
My 9 year old son Rio at the Tilapia ponds in Flood Garden 2

Mohamed has allowed us to begin farming 1 acre of his land (he eventually would like to sell it to us at an incredible $4000 per acre. He usually sells for $20,000 an acre).  This acreage will help us farm the surplus that MDFT will need to become self sufficient.
There is also Officer Sotery of the Arusha Police Dept.  He has shown much interest in protecting our little project from meddling officials looking for kickbacks from a perceived western project.
So in recap:
5 Teachers
4 Parents (community members)
3 community benefactors

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Your Money in Tanzania

Currency Converter Cheat Sheet.

The best way to handle financial transactions in Tanzania is by using cash.  However, carrying loads of cash around in your back pocket is not the smartest way to travel in a third world country.   Here are some quick tips that will help you handle your money like a pro in TZ:

travel belt
The Travel Belt:  Consider wearing an Travel Belt similar to the one in the picture.  A travel belt is a great way to carry your money, credit cards and travel documents on your person at all times.

The upside of using these belts is that they leave your hands free and since they are usually worn under your clothes, they are virtually invisible.  They are very light weight and actually have a lot of space to carry your stuff.

The only downside to these belts is that when in warm weather...(and it will be Africa hot where we are going)  they tend to stick to your skin when you sweat.  My solution is to wear a 'wife beater' undershirt or a spaghetti strap T under your clothing so that the travel belt does not come in contact with your skin.

Currency Converter Cheat Sheet  -- Traveling with a currency converter cheat sheet makes shopping a ton easier and also keeps you from spending money by accident.  I personally cannot do "air math" to convert money in my head so when the going gets tough, I whip out my currency converter cheat sheet and then am ready to barter like a pro.  I usually use for my travel currency needs.  Before departure, consider printing out your own currency converter cheat sheet by clicking HERE .  Simply find the correct currency (Tanzanian Shillings to USD) then clicking on the Traveler's Cheat Sheet link.  Print and cut out your cheat sheet! The cheat sheet folds to the size of a credit card so it will fit beautifully in your wallet.  The best part is that it has TZShillings to USD on one side and USD to TZShilling on the other.

1996 US Dollars -- This one is really confusing to me.  In Tanzania, all US currency printed in 1996 is not accepted in many establishments. Even vendors in the streets won't take them. Banks will only exchange them for 50% of their value...WHAT?  Their explanation is that the US Dollars printed in that year are suspect and are probably fake.  My suspicion is that it is a low grade urban legend scam that allows bank officials to acquire an unnoticeable amount of US Dollars at half price so that they can turn around and use them for full price....yeah, that's the ticket!!
It is advisable to carry some US dollars when traveling in Tanzania (and anywhere) but if you do so, make sure that those bills were not printed in 1996.

Using Credit and Debit Cards -- Credit and Debit cards are not very useful in most places in Tanzania.  The only places that we can use them is at western hotels, high end stores and banks.  However, you will have access to reliable ATMs and Banks in Dar, Zanzibar and Arusha.  Using the ATM every time you need money and withdrawing what you will need for a day or two is the best way to go.
However, and this is important, you must inform your bank that you will be using your card in Tanzania (as well as Kenya and Holland).  If you don't tell them in advance, the bank will automatically block your card when foreign transactions show up unexpectedly.  It is nice that the bank has your back in case some crazy Nigerian prince get a hold of your account but a bank block can throw a huge monkey wrench in your travels.  Especially since you might have to wait 7 to 10 business days for them to remove the block.

Travelers Checks -- Nope!! They went out with disco pants.

Anyway, I always feel pretty safe traveling with money in Africa.  Feel free to leave comments on this post with travel tips and questions for the group.