Tag Archives: tanzania

Life in Three Acts, by Carole Howard

Setting: Tanzania.  Photographic safari.

Act I

We were in our jeep, along with a whole lot of other jeeps, watching a cheetah stalk….. something. We didn’t know what it was, but were mesmerized, waiting to see what would happen, hoping for some action.

After some slow-motion ballet-ish moving across the field, the cheetah drifted off. All the other jeeps hung around, presumably hoping the cheetah – or some other predator – would come back. But our guide, who knew a thing or two, said he thought he knew where the cheetah was going. We left the assemblage of vans, hoping we wouldn’t miss the good stuff.

We got to the selected site and only had to wait a little while before the cheetah showed up. We were the only jeep there, with our front row seat. We patiently watched, holding our respective breaths. Maybe we’d see something exciting!

We did.

Act II

The cheetah rocketed out of the tall grass and started chasing two jackals. Just before they reached the safety of their hole, however, the cheetah pounced and started to carry one of them off, wiggling and struggling, by the neck. Within a few steps, the wiggling and struggling stopped. It was over. Poor thing.

Meanwhile, the jackal’s mate emerged from their hole-home, wailing and keening nonstop. Our guide explained that jackals are one of the few species that mate for life. The crying was very anthropomorphic and very sad. And did we hear crying baby jackals too? Immediately, the idea of the cheetah killing the jackal wasn’t exciting anymore. It was tragic. We’d previously been rooting for the cheetah, but our loyalties had been 100% switched. We were now solidly behind the jackal, no longer on the cheetah’s side.

With the sound of the wailing in the background, the cheetah meandered over to a tree where, our guide explained, he would carry his trophy up a ways and make a meal of him.

Oh no.

[Another cheetah, sans jackal.]



The cheetah put the inert jackal down at the foot of the tree. We’ll never know why. And, like a crazy cartoon, off the jackal scampered (that’s really the perfect word). Back to his mate and their hole, into which they both disappeared. Hooray! (We explained to our guide the meaning of the expression “playing possum.”)

We’d seen exactly what we wanted: Action. Tension. Nature being nature. And the good guy winning!

Have you ever witnessed — or been part of —  a 3-act episode of “real life”?   Do tell!

*     *     *

Carole Howard is the author of Deadly Adagio, which tells another sort of traveler’s tale.


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Reunion: My First Trip to Dar Es Salaam (Part 3) by Nicole Eva Fraser

Bashir, wanume wawili (2 men) of kanga shop, and mzungu(me!)

Bashir, wanume wawili (2 men) of kanga shop, and mzungu (me!)

Previously ~
Part 1: Beginnings
Part 2: Preparing


Today ~ 

Part 3: Arriving and exploring



I flew to Tanzania on Emirates Airlines—7,000 miles from New York to Abu Dhabi (about 14 hours), then 2,400 miles to Dar Es Salaam (5 hours), and landed at Mwalimu Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar.

Dar Es Salaam Airport

Dar Es Salaam Airport

Here in Tanzania, Kiswahili is the national language and English is not widely known outside academic settings or businesses catering to or established by English-speakers (usually expats from Europe).

It was my first time being immersed in a city and country where I didn’t speak, read, or write the language. As a literacy activist, this was an experience I sought out and very much wanted to have. I wanted to be forced to rely on my wits and the help of others to navigate daily life because I lacked basic literacy skills.

After passing through Immigration, I got my bags and went outside, where Mr. Iddi (the taxi driver assigned to me by Palm Beach Hotel manager) was waiting for me with a sign bearing my name. Accompanying Mr. Iddi was a young man named Bashir, who worked in the hotel.

Mr. Iddi spoke as much English as I spoke Kiswahili: very little! That was precisely why he’d gotten permission for Bashir to accompany him. I was quite in awe of Bashir’s fluency in four languages—English, Arabic, Kiswahili, and Chewa (national language of Malawi)—and many regional dialects.

Mr. Iddi and Bashir

Mr. Iddi and Bashir

I felt immediate kinship with them—but had no other inkling of how I would come to depend on Mr. Iddi as a wise protector, and how I would feel a deep mother-son bond with Bashir, keeping us connected ever after.

We drove in convivial fashion to the Palm Beach Hotel, listening to bongo flava music on the taxi radio, as Bashir engaged me in a political discussion far more informed and intelligent than most such conversations I had at home in the U.S.!  He also had the natural gifts of an interpreter, easily translating our exchanges into Kiswahili for Mr. Iddi, and Iddi’s responses back to me, so the conversation was truly three-way inclusive. He also spoke with a great energy and enthusiasm for life that kindled my own.

Because the literacy conference would not begin until the following week, I had time for exploring the city, and had planned some destinations to visit. And so, the next day, Mr. Iddi and Bashir took me to Kariakoo Market, described as “the largest and most chaotic market in Tanzania.”

The local people shop at Kariakoo and I wanted to have that genuine experience. It wouldn’t have been possible for me without Mr. Iddi’s mastery of the city and Bashir’s multilingual gifts. Throughout our day at Kariakoo, I accompanied Mr. Iddi through the mazes of the market, feeling confident as he watched over me with his regal bearing.

And both of us relied on Bashir, who effortlessly spoke to everyone no matter what the language. At one unforgettable juncture, we were standing in a circle with merchants who spoke only Arabic, Mr. Iddi who spoke only Kiswahili and I who spoke only English—and thanks to the skill and heart of our interpreter Bashir, we all shared a wonderful conversation!

Please take the time to watch this 4-minute video; it’s a priceless window into Kariakoo Market. It includes subtitled interviews with longtime merchants and gives you a vivid, albeit quick, sense of the people and the place.

Here are a few photos from my day at Kariakoo:

Fruits and vegetables for sale at Kariakoo

Fruits and vegetables for sale at Kariakoo

Mr. Iddi and Bashir - unique Kariakoo Market structure in background

Mr. Iddi and Bashir – unique Kariakoo Market structure in background

Sign on Kariakoo building

Sign on Kariakoo building

Street scene outside Kariakoo - store sign says Home of Spices

Street scene outside Kariakoo – store sign says Home of Spices


One of my hopes in visiting Kariakoo Market was finding kangas, which are colorful, sarong-like pieces of cloth with Swahili sayings along the bottom. We found a great shop where I purchased many kangas to bring home.

Shop where I bought kangas

Shop where I bought kangas

The shop owner took kangas down from the line with a hook. We unfolded them and Bashir would translate the sayings for me—which is how I decided which ones to buy! A few highlights:

Amri ya mungu huyatia macho nuru (God’s rule attracts light into the eye)

Mungu ibariki familia yangu (God bless my family)

Chongeni fenicha msichonge maneno (Just point at the appearance, not the words—or, actions speak louder than words)

Here’s an example of how kangas are sewn to make outfits—this is Shani, a colleague I later met at the literacy conference:

Shani of Tanzania in kanga of African leaders

Shani of Tanzania in kanga of African leaders

Shani with shoulder wrap part of kanga - Day 1

Back to my adventures with Bashir and Mr. Iddi. We also visited beaches—Slipway and Coco Beach—so I could dip my toes into the waters of the Indian Ocean for the first time! Dar Es Salaam is blessed with a refreshing wind, but the city is located at 6 degrees South latitude and I was shocked by the heat of the equatorial sun whenever I was out of the wind (for instance, on the tarmac in the Coco Beach parking lot).

Bashir and me at Slipway

Bashir and me at Slipway

Mr. Iddi and Bashir at Slipway

At Coco Beach, looking toward the city

Coco Beach looking toward the city








On other days and evenings, the three of us (Mr. Iddi, Bashir, and I) enjoyed good times at Soma Book Cafe.

On one visit I met Edna, a librarian about my age, who worked at Soma. Our backgrounds were very different (she had been born and raised in the mountains of Tanzania) but as Edna and I talked, we were delighted and amazed to discover how much we had in common—as women, as mothers of young adult children, as literacy activists, as avid readers. Edna had even lived in Cleveland for a year during her college exchange program, when I also lived there.

What were the astronomical chances of our meeting? To paraphrase Casablanca, “Of all the bookstores, in all the towns, in all the world, I walked into hers.” 🙂 I had no clue that our simple bond of friendship would unite Edna and me like sisters across 10,000 miles in the years to come.

Here are a few pictures taken at Soma Book Cafe (I don’t have a photo of Edna and me).

Soma courtyard with students

Soma courtyard with students

Soma Book Cafe entrance with music

Soma Book Cafe entrance with music


Poetry circle inside Soma

Poetry circle inside Soma









Soma bookstore where Edna and I met

Soma bookstore where Edna and I met

Bashir and Mr. Iddi called each other brothers, so one afternoon in the taxi together, I asked about their family. As it turns out, they are brothers of the heart rather than the blood; but to them it is the same.

Bashir was born in rural Malawi, one of the poorest countries in the entire world. His mother died when he was very young, and he helped his father and relatives farming the maize which was their primary, and often only, food. Because Bashir was so intelligent, he was seen as a hope for the extended family, and they pooled their meager resources to send him to school in the nearest city.

Bashir excelled in his studies and became multilingual as part of his education. However, after graduating from the equivalent of high school, he still could not find work in the city as he’d hoped, due to Malawi’s extreme economic problems which were exacerbated by government instability.

Bashir came up with a different plan to help his family, and went home to tell his father. He had decided to take a bus over a thousand miles to the huge city of Dar Es Salaam, in the more prosperous country of Tanzania, to find work. As soon as he could, he would start sending money home to his family. With great reluctance, his father let him go.

And so this brave young man set out on the grueling thousand-mile bus trip and arrived at the Dar Es Salaam bus terminal at night, with no friends, no money, and no idea where to start looking for a job or even a place to sleep.

Thanks to Almighty God, Mr. Iddi was waiting at the bus terminal that night, looking for taxi passengers.

And out of that crowd of people, Bashir and Mr. Iddi found each other—perhaps sensing a kindred spirit in each other—and began talking in Kiswahili. Bashir told Iddi his story.

Iddi said, “I have a wife and two young children. We all want to learn English. You can stay in our house in return for teaching us English.”

And thus two brothers were born.

Next: Attending the Pan African Reading For All Conference

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Reunion: My First Trip to Dar Es Salaam (Part 2) by Nicole Eva Fraser


Part 1: Beginnings (5 August 2014)


Part 2: Preparing

As soon as I felt that magnetic force pulling me toward Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, I prepared and submitted my paper to the Organizing Committee for the 6th Pan African Reading For All Conference.

When I received word that my paper had been accepted for the conference, I was deliriously happy! I felt as if Dar Es Salaam itself was calling me home, whispering, “Yes, yes, you belong here.”

Here is the abstract of my conference paper:

21555-AT-C-1Peace Through Fiction: The Field Guide: Exploring a Novel Way to Change the World.”

My paper examines the worldview that readers can achieve peace through fiction, and presents the first dialogue method that can be used with any novel, in any setting, as a way to increase personal and interpersonal peace.

For my presentation at the 6th Pan African Reading For All Conference, I illustrate the Peace Through Fiction method using the great African novel The River Between by Ngugi wa Thiong’o.

Three ideas support the Peace Through Fiction worldview:

(1) we hunger for stories—to hear other people’s and share our own—but need new ways to experience them;

(2) we want to share true dialogue, but need to know how; and

(3) we feel ambivalent about peace, or disagree on its meaning, and need new starting points.

Anyone may use the Peace Through Fiction dialogue method to discuss any novel for real-life benefits.  Readers share dialogue about positives, negatives, and world views, using any novel’s characters as starting points. Characters help readers recall stories of their own experiences; then readers reflect and develop new, more peaceful ways of being in the world.

Peace Through Fiction’s key qualities enhance its usefulness and relevance:

(1) the Peace Through Fiction method is universal: it taps into human desires for self-understanding, learning, and interpersonal connections;

(2) it is international: it works in any country or culture; and

(3) it meets readers where they are: it works for all ages, life stages, education levels, beliefs, and values.

Street scene near Kariakoo Market

Street scene near Kariakoo Market

Next I plunged into getting to know Dar Es Salaam and making arrangements for my travel.

Every day I went online to read the city’s newspapers, the Daily News and The Citizen. I studied elementary Kiswahili, the mother tongue and national language of Tanzania.

As I researched the city’s history and current culture, I was struck by its citizens’ diversity and tolerance, and its politically secular, peaceful society. The people of Dar Es Salaam practice Christianity, Islam, and traditional beliefs in equal measure; Hinduism is also practiced.

The longstanding peace of Dar Es Salaam beautifully reflected the goals of my passion project, Peace Through Fiction—another reason I felt naturally connected to the city.

Next I familiarized myself with the venue for the conference, the University of Dar Es Salaam.

University of Dar Es Salaam, Nkrumah Hall

University of Dar Es Salaam, Nkrumah Hall

From the list of acceptable hotels provided by the Organizing Committee, I chose to stay at the Palm Beach (“the name may be deceiving, as the hotel is not on the beach”). The Palm Beach Hotel provided modest lodgings in the city center. I wanted to avoid the more rarefied hotels near the University, committed to participating in normal daily life with citizens of the city.

For example, tap water in Dar Es Salaam is unusable, not only for drinking but also tooth-brushing, hand-washing, and fruit rinsing; it must be boiled to be safe. Bottled water is available for purchase, but is expensive. When showering, one must avoid getting water in nose, mouth, or eyes. I wanted that inconvenience to be part of my daily life. (The higher-priced hotels had their own purified water systems for guests.)


Palm Beach Hotel, Dar Es Salaam

As I corresponded with the Palm Beach Hotel’s manager Eric about my plans, we had this exchange, which led to a meeting with destiny.

Dear Eric,

In addition to airport pick-up, I will be going to the university for five days, Monday 10 Aug through Friday 14 Aug, and will need to get a taxi ride both ways each day. The times will be a little different from day to day.

For me, it would be great to have one driver to depend on for the whole week. Could you see if it’s possible for the gentleman you know to do so?

Dear Nicole,

I will arrange the driver for you — his name is Iddi.


Soma Book Cafe

Continuing my research, I also happened upon the mention of a small bookstore called Soma Book Café, which I felt definitively drawn to visit on my trip; I wrote the address in my notebook.

Then I began contacting Tanzanian journalists in and around Dar Es Salaam in hopes of meeting them in person when I arrived in the city, and to encourage them to cover the conference as press. Two journalists in particular became mentors and conference supporters in ways that transformed the outcomes for me and others who attended.



Young Kimaro

Young Kimaro was a columnist for the Dar Es Salaam newspaper Daily News, which is how I found her. Young is a political scientist and economist by training and a literacy activist by avocation. Our first email exchange was the beginning of a friendship that continues to this day.

Hello, Ms. Kimaro,

I’m writing to you from the U.S. to thank you for the excellent article in the 27 June 2009 edition of the Daily News in Dar Es Salaam.

Your article, including your proposal for “science stimulus packages” for Tanzania’s secondary schools, was of tremendous interest to me.

Will you be attending the Reading For All Conference? It will take place at the University of Dar Es Salaam 10-14 August. If you’re not currently registered for the conference but are interested, please click on “Conference Details” under “Recommended Links” on the conference blog: http://6thpanafricanrfa.blogspot.com

I’ll be presenting a paper and workshop at the conference and will be in Dar from 8-15 August. It would be a great pleasure to meet you in person.

I hope to hear from you! Many thanks for your clear vision for science education in Tanzania.


Hello Ms. Fraser,

Thank you very much for your kind words about my article and for giving it a broad exposure that it would not otherwise have had.

I am very concerned, as are many fellow citizens of TZ, about the spending habits the country has gotten into. With so much easy money flowing through foreign aid, we have lost sense of perspective in our spending habits. The Ministry of Education’s proposal for science labs is one such alarming example.

No, I have not registered for the Reading for All Conference and thank you for sending me the website link to register. I would have loved to attend and to have met you. Unfortunately, I am crossing the Atlantic in the opposite direction next week to spend an extended time with my children and a grandchild, to be what I love to be most — a grandmother — for a change.

Being an opinionated columnist that I am, I do have some strong views about reading, if I can dig it up from my archives. If you would be interested, please let me know.

I would love to hear more about yourself, what you do and what your connection is to Tanzania. Please do write when you have time.

Young Kimaro


Ndesanjo Macha

Another mentor who made a transformative difference in my trip was Ndesanjo Macha, a blogger, journalist, lawyer, digital activist, and new media consultant, and Editor for Sub-Saharan Africa at Global Voices. Our first email exchange was the beginning of a wonderful friendship.

Dear Mr. Macha,

Today I discovered your writing at Global Voices Online, where I was reading news of Dar Es Salaam and Tanzania. Your work impresses me tremendously. I share your interest “in finding ways to amplify voices from non-English speaking parts of the world. Global voices, I believe, ought to be multicultural and multilingual.”

In August, I’ll travel from the U.S. to Dar for the 6th Pan African Reading For All Conference, which will be held at the University. The conference will be conducted in English, Kiswahili (which I’m studying), and French.

If you’re interested in attending the conference as press, I’d be very happy to give you the contact info for Ms. Pilli Dumea in Dar, who is leading the conference.

Also, if you’re going to be in Dar between August 9 – 15, it would be really great to meet you in person.

Hope to hear from you!

With gratitude for your good work in the world ~ Nicole

Habari Nicole?

Nafurahi kupokea ujumbe wako!

Great to hear from you and about the conference, which I did not know about. Is there anything online about it? Ok, I will google it -)

I am in Southern Africa (now in Zambia, going to Malawi and probably Zimbabwe). This conference sounds very interesting. I don’t have anything on my calendar on those dates. I will see. I might get to Dar for this. I haven’t been in Dar for many years…I think 8 years! When I go to Tanzania I don’t usually go to Dar. I go to Moshi and Arusha. Dar is too big, too hot, too fast for me!

Which other parts of Africa are you going to visit or you will only be in Tanzania?

Since you are learning Swahili, are you aware of our Swahili Wikipedia (which is the largest wikipedia in an african language?)

You may also watch the documentary that I took part in called Truth According to Wikipedia (google it, it will come up).

By the way, are you on twitter?

Looking forward to hearing from you again.

judith 2

Judith Baker

The third mentor who changed the course and ultimate outcome of my trip was Judith Baker, the educational activist who helped steer the conference’s Organizing Committee from the U.S.

Judith is the Literacy Consultant to the African Storybook Project, which she helped found, and a lifelong teacher—first as a secondary teacher and basketball coach in the Boston Public Schools for 34 years, and as a volunteer working in Africa to support local teachers in a variety of ways.

I took a special trip to Boston to meet with Judith before the conference. She offered guidance to help me make the most of my upcoming time in Africa, and asked me to start and maintain a blog for the conference. (Blogging was a new endeavor for me in 2009, and one in which Ndesanjo provided priceless support.)

Ultimately, one thing Judith said made all the difference.

She told me, “When you go to Africa, you will be overwhelmed by the suffering and the need of the millions of people. You may try to help too many people and in doing so, you will help no one. Instead, go to Dar Es Salaam with the goal of making a strong connection with one person—one person you can mentor, one person you will stay in touch with after the conference and help in the years to come. If you make one strong connection with one person in Africa—that is how you change the lives of many.”

Judith’s advice made instant sense to me, and I promised to follow it. Little did I know that focusing on “making a strong connection with one person” would lead me home to a long-lost son of my heart.

Next month: Arriving

Nicole Eva Fraser is the author of The Hardest Thing in This World, released by Second Wind Publishing in October 2013, and I Don’t Think It’s That Simple, forthcoming in February 2015. Her current project is Quotable Women.  


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Reunion: My First Trip to Dar Es Salaam (Part 1) by Nicole Eva Fraser

00 Salvation busDid you ever travel to a foreign or faraway place and find yourself feeling, improbably, at home?

I’m not talking about déjà vu, but reunion—with streets you somehow recognize, light that lifts your energy, a language that’s music to your ears, and people your heart seems to remember: a dear cousin, a wise friend, a long-lost beloved son. 

To my astonishment, reunion is what happened to me in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. And this is the story.


As an adult-literacy activist, I’m always looking to discover new strategies that benefit the unique needs of adults learning to read and write.

That’s why I joined the International Reading Association. The IRA is the world’s leading organization of literacy professionals, with the mission “to improve reading instruction, facilitate dialogue about research on reading, and encourage the habit of reading.”

The IRA’s great resources enriched my ability to help others at Project Learn, Cleveland, Ohio’s largest organization for adult literacy (and the only one that teaches basic skills for adults who cannot read or write at all).

My adult-literacy activism also got me interested in bibliotherapy—and inspired me to develop Peace Through Fiction, the creative reading method that uses stories for personal healing and community building.

The IRA even has a special interest group called Bibliotherapy and Reading, an open forum for members like me to share “the various strategies and techniques for using this approach.”

All that explains why, one December evening in 2008, I was deeply engrossed in reading every word of the newest issue of the IRA newsletter.

And this paragraph caught my eye:

02 Intro paragraph for Chapter 1














I had no idea why the city name “Dar Es Salaam” magnetized me as if I were reading the name of my long-lost home.

I continued reading, and learned that…

03 IRA in Africa - history






…which was interesting, certainly, but nothing to do with my adult-literacy work in urban Cleveland here in the Rust Belt.

Then I read this sentence:

04 Tanzanian organizers welcome internationals





I reread that sentence. Stared at it.

I was always looking to learn new methods and strategies—and I had a lot of good resources I could share. What if I went to Dar Es Salaam?

Then I told myself, “There’s no need to go traipsing across the planet to Africa. I should stay home and help fix what’s wrong right here in Cleveland. Just finish reading this article and go load the dishwasher.”

So I read on.

05 Hoped-for conference outcomes










…and most simply and importantly…
06 most important outcome



My heart throbbed in agreement: yes, real-time benefits to our students—the universal hoped-for outcome, the goal that unites all literacy workers no matter where we are in the world.

I knew how easily my literacy resources could be applied in African settings—they were designed for that kind of ease. And it occurred to me that I had access to materials and methods my African counterparts did not.

Then I wondered what my African counterparts knew that I did not. What information and inspiration did they have access to, ideas I could bring home to Cleveland?

And as I reread the article from start to finish, these three thoughts unfolded in my head:

I could do that.

I should do that. 

I will do that.

And that was the beginning of my reunion with Dar Es Salaam, and with the African people I now call family.

Coming in August: Part 2 – Preparing

Nicole Eva Fraser is the author of The Hardest Thing in This World, released by Second Wind Publishing in October 2013, and I Don’t Think It’s That Simple, forthcoming in Fall 2014. She is developing two new nonfiction projects.


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