While Greg has been busy in Africa conducting more research for our project, Bryan, Lesley, and I have been working together back on campus at the Design School and Terman Loft.
The three of us are interested in prototyping a light fixture that provides disperse light for long enough each night to provide a household enough light to increase their mobility within the home, study, read, and cook by.
We ordered some LEDs online and put together the circuity work for them.
We also have been playing around with different mirror surfaces to learn study their capacity to provide disperse light.
If you just recently entered the real world – a transition that involved you moving out of college housing where your friends were no more than a 10 minute walk from your door, and into a lonely apartment complex in a new city where the average resident age is approximately 33 – this post might be particularly relevant to you…
Greg and I had the good fortune of hashing in Arusha (and no, I’m not talking about hashing a meal – the routine activity done in every upper row house on Stanford’s campus). I’m speaking of the spectacle that combines running with boisterous drinking in good company with perhaps some debauchery. Some joke that it’s a drinking club with a running problem. In any case, hashing – hosted internationally by the Hash House Harriers – is fantastic.
It started in the early 1900s by British Colonial Officers in Malaysia when they would go on hash runs to rid themselves of the excesses from the previous weekend. Since then, it’s been adopted in every major city and has a unique culture and following of its own. [Greg and I were disappointed that we only just found out about this now – it’s something, that after experiencing, we’re certain we’ll incorporate into our future social activities back in the states.]
Ok, so what is it?
Once a week, a hare is appointed by the hounds (the hash group) and the R.A, which is the religious advisor who ensures that the glass of church is properly ingested. The hare’s job is to lay the running path, and the hounds’ job is to find and follow the path. S/he does this by dropping clumps of flour from a starting check point—an extra large circular clump of flour. The hounds starts from the first check point and disperse to try to find three flour clumps in a row. When you see 1, you yell “ON 1”. When you see 2, you yell “ON 2”. When you see 3 , you know you’re on the right track and yellow “ON 3. ON ON.” REALLY LOUDLY. This cues the rest of the group that you’ve spotted the right trail. Everyone else, presumably on falsi-falsis – or dead-end-false-trails, turns back to find you on the correct one. So the whole group follows the correct trail – yelling ONON after each flour clump – until they reach another checkpoint. At each check point – some of which are beer-points if you’re lucky – you wait for the whole group to catch up before dispersing to try to find the right trail again.
The runs can last anywhere between a 1K and 10K – depending on the group and the hash – ours was about 4K. And, if you hang with a hash long enough, they name you and you get your own sound too. At the end up of a hash you always end up at a bar, where you do celebratory DOWN-DOWNs, which are sort of like waterfalls.
I was hanging out with a woman – about 28 years old – who has done this all over the world. She met her husband and her whole social circle doing hash – right before their wedding they even had a hash because half the guests were hashers. She said that it’s the best way to meet an interesting mix of individuals when you move to a new city – and I can attest to that since I met some really interesting people who I would definitely befriend if I were staying longer than the 10 or so days I had left.
But yeah, the best part of it all is that it attracts a wide array of individuals. You don’t even have to like drinking beer…you just have to like laughing a lot. In our hash of 23 in rural Tanzania, we had about 6 college students, 5 in their late 20s/early 30’s, a few in their mid-40s, and probably 7 or so in their 50s or 60s. The old men – whose nicknames for example were like Sperm and Ducky – were the best and worst at egging each other on for all of the DOWN-DOWNs with their crude and absurd jokes.
So if you’re looking for a new social activity try looking up the hash house harriers in your area.
After spending the last 4 almost 5 weeks together, the team’s adventures are winding down as 2 of the 4 have left for the states.
And yes, after spending every waking minute with the same 4 people, it is a little wierd when two of them aren’t there when you wake up or when you to go bed or when you eat a meal or when you come back from the bathroom. …there may or may not be a term for this – some call it seperation anxiety.
Bryan is currently in Detroit visiting his brothers and his parents and leaves Tuesday to come back to the bay. He’s currently sick with the black box bug (that’s not actually anything, but we don’t really know what he has).. Anyways, he’s recovering from a bug of some sort.
Lesley is the first of the four of us who made it back home to the bay – getting in August 14th. Her first priorities (other than saying hi to Aurora and Jamie) were to go to CPK and Coldstone. She’s currently possibly sipping a banana milkshake (breyer’s based ice cream) and lounging outside in her beautiful backyard in the wonderful california sun… maybe she’s not doing this… I wouldn’t know.. Anyways, we have plans to get haircuts, drink banana milk shakes, and go through a million and one receipts when I return.
Greg and I have since returned to Karatu. I got a wonderful stomach bug and have been on heavy antibiotics to quell it – which has been successful. Greg is still the same machine that he is and has not gotten sick.
He and I will be leaving for a homestay in Magesho in a couple days for a final round of needfinding and prototyping – this time with lighting fixtures.
I return to the states on August 24th after a wonderful 27 hour transit. And Greg changed his flight to stay until October 6th.
Well that’s the story up to now… sorry I haven’t posted in a while.
We made it to Dar Es Salaam and Zanzibar… After a 12 hour bus ride through the Tanzanian countryside… that left us begging the question, “hmm, did that actually just happen to us?” It started at 4:30am when we got up to finish packing, hard boil a bunch of eggs (our staple food these days), and walk the rather long (each of us was wearing/carrying multiple packs) ¾ mile stretch to the bus stop in Karatu to make the 6am express to Dar.
First lesson we learned – express is more or less a misnomer. Nothing about the express was speedy – except for maybe turning up the volume on the questionable radio, music videos, and movie.
Second lesson we learned—it’s really never too early to start movies and really never too early to replay the ones you’ve literally just watched. For us – we had the priveledge of watching “The Yellow Banana”, twice on our trip there—once at 6am and another time at noon.
Second and three quarters lesson we learned—In some instances, you really can judge a book by its cover – or in the case of “The Yellow Banana”, a movie by its title. I don’t like sounding too critical of things – but really –this movie was absurdly laughable. Take the worst song you’ve created in garage band (haven’t created one? It’s ok… if you tried today, I’m sure whatever you made would better), the worst movie you tried to create in i-movie, multiply it by a hundred – and tada…bam.. The Yellow Banana. Now imagine being forced to listen to this movie at the same volume you listen to –insert your windows down, stereo up favorite song. Ya, that actually happened.
Third lesson we learned—the Dar Express is used as a school bus for young primary school students, which aids in making it not an express. Sitting on the aisle will result in small children on your lap.
Fourth lesson we learned –Dar Es Salaam is a whole new world…
Meet Naomi. That’s her below. We met her in Ilkadinga a couple of days ago when we were testing our prototypes. She’s a cool kid and we thought you might be interested to hear what an 11-year-old Tanzanian girl has to say about school, friends, play, and her future.
Naomi lives with her grandmother and her two other cousins – Kevin and Toby. She gets up early for school – when it is still dark out – so that she can make sure she arrives on time before 7am. In school she likes to study math – it’s her favorite subject. She also plays netball, which she admits to being very good at. But, she doesn’t like netball as much as working with her grandmother on their farm. They do a lot of that together on the weekends. When she grows up she wants to be a full time student – we interpreted that as her wanting to be a grad student – sort of like us – stuck in school forever (haha).
Her best friend is Kevin. Kevin is her age too – so they get to hang out a lot, inside and outside school. A favorite game they like to play together is called “Ready” (boys play soccer and girls play netball in Tanzania, so they don’t often play these together). Apparently it’s a lot like dodgeball, only a more polite version– you have to tell the other person to get ready when you’re about to throw a ball at them.
Kevin, Naomi, Toby, and Bebe eat together as a family around 6pm. For dinner they often have rice and beans, or ugali and vegetable or beef stew. After dinner, Naomi, Toby, and Kevin like to read or solve math problems. They sit around the table in their living room and share the light of a single kerosene lantern. Naomi is proud of the fact that she knows how to operate the lantern. Her grandmother taught her last year (when she was 10), and now she’s the one who sets it up each night for her cousins. However, Naomi also told us that she thought it wasn’t bright enough and that she would like more light.
Bebe her grandmother also told us that buying kerosene for her family was really expensive. We asked Bebe what was more important to her – lighting her home so her grandchildren could read better at night, or getting a cleaner stove, which wouldn’t produce as much smoke nor hurt her lungs and chest so much. Bebe told us without hesitation that a better lighting solution for her home was most important.
So here’s the situation… Naomi likes school a lot. She intends on being a full time student when she grows up. But for her to achieve this, she needs to study a lot – which she does. Right now she studies by a dimly lit lantern. It’s not bright enough. And, it’s really expensive. One alternative is candle light – but it’s light is far dimmer. Her village is hooked up to the grid, but it’s far too expensive for them to connect. Flashlights provide better light – but batteries are also expensive and require frequent replacement and the light isn’t ideally situated for reading. Other products exist on the market for upwards of 70K Tsh ($55 U.S) – a price point that anyone in Bebe’s income bracket would consider an investment that requires some form of financing.
So what do they need? A better light for less.
Can it be done? We think so.
What are we doing about it? It’s a work in progress… but lighting is an area where we’ve identified a real need.. and that’s part of the reason we’re here… identifying needs like these and assessing their solutions.
After spending 4 days and 3 nights in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater, we are back…and happy… and exhausted.
But, we wanted to share with you some bits of advice as well as lessons learned.
- Pride rock does exist – and it is home to 20 lions and their yearlings and their cubs – we saw all of them from less than 15 feet away.
- The crater is home to the black rhino – which we would have seen, had we not almost run out of gas.
- Termite mounds, rocks, and anything with a gray tint can easily be confused with a rhino – be wary of making this mistake, but know that everyone does it.
- We are still not sure if we saw rocks or rhinos.
- Wildebeasts probably should be called “what-the-f-beasts” due to their odd appearances and quite peppy demeanors.
- Gazelles are like overly excited deer – they like to run in front of vehicles all the time, and wag their tales as they do so.
- If you want to see a sunrise and a sunset to remember forever and always, visit the Serengeti.
- Don’t set up your tent 6 inches away from the front door of a New Zealand camper’s tent. They are very territorial and will get cranky.
- Don’t make jokes about moving the tent back in front of their door after they move it 20 yards away.
10. Do be extremely sarcastic when they come over to confront you about it. Do continue eating your dinner.
11. Drink a Serengeti atop pride rock #455 at the gate between the Serengeti and Ngorongoro crater reserves (without lions), over looking the endless savannah. Earn bonus points by doing it with incredible friends as the sun begins to set.
12. Lions are attention hogs … not to be confused with the warthog, which is possibly one of the cutest animals on the savannah, despite other popular opinion.
14. It is possible to cook hardboiled eggs in a Land Rover using a kerosene stove. Hmm. This wasn’t our idea.
15. Zebras, hyenas, wild boars, and water buffalo are not shy – they will come within 10 feet of your tent. No problem.
17. Find out after the safari that your roof is broken and could have decapitated all 5 people in one swoop.
18. You can in fact get out of your vehicle to repair a flat tire in the crater – even when 50 meters from a lion.
19. It is possible for 5 people to take over 6,000 photos in 4 days.
20. Do remember to look up constellations of the southern hemisphere because you will see every star in the sky… the kite in the sky is in fact the Southern Cross.
21. It is worth getting up at 5:30am for a game drive.
24. The Hyrax looks like an enormous rodent that would give NYC-subway-dwelling rats a huge run for their money… but don’t be mistaken, the hyrax is actually a descendent of the elephant.
25. Last Card is the African version of Uno. It is much much better… meet a Tanzanian at a bar and have him teach you how to play.
26. Don’t bother bringing firewood if its size and shape closely resemble that of tree trunks – it won’t light.
27. You can scramble your eggs just by leaving them on top of a vehicle – so long as you cover 70 km of incredibly bumpy roads.
29. Expect unexpected bumps.
30. Practice using a squatter before going on safari so you don’t have to take a pant leg off to avoid peeing on yourself.
31. Always use the moon roof on a safari vehicle – and remain standing. Even if you get wind burned or sun burned – it is worth it.
32. We are lucky.
Good night for now!
Mogesho is a village far outside the already very remote town of Karatu. It is a particularly special village for us because it is this specific village that brought us to Tanzania to work with CPAR in the first place. And as such, we’re doing a large majority of our work here – getting to know the community and designing a device that truly fits their needs.
We’d like to take you there. Come with us… (you can click on each of the pictures below for a larger/closer view).
Ok, come along… there’s still a ways to go. It takes the villagers of Mogesho 2.5 hours by foot, each way, to get to Karatu. And if they’re lucky, they might own a bike, in which case it only takes 1.5 hours. .. oh and notice the mud thatch hut in the distance. That’s a typical house here.
Here’s the watering hole. The District of Karatu recently ran a tap out here so that everyone can get water, but don’t be fooled, that water should really be boiled before drinking – it comes out a little brown. See the yellow container? Every family owns a few of these – they carry their drinking water and water for livestock in these to and from their homes each day.
Oh, and hey check out all the livestock… cows (with humps – watch out for our to-be-produced Black Eyed Peas “humps” music video), donkeys, goats, sheeps, and the oh-so-adorable baby goats and lambs. We found out that people invest their savings in livestock, rather than by putting their money into a bank account and accruing 12.75% APR. Our translator explained to us that people were skeptical of the banks, and that livestock was perceived as a much wiser investment that they could cash out at anytime by selling.
And here’s one of the stores. They’re selling tomatoes. If you ask a storekeeper in a rural village if they have another job outside of the shop as an extra source of income, they’ll tell you “no”. However, this is actually a mistruth. The entire village relies heavily upon their livestock and their annual harvest for income – but for them it’s not perceived as a job, rather it is a way of life. Also, notice the kids standing around? They’re on their lunch break. These students are all in primary school – you can tell by the uniform. The blue skirts and burgundy tops are the give-away.
This is the local hang out. Simon – the store owner – bought a diesel generator last year after a really good harvest. He uses it to power a television during the evenings and to charge phones. About 10 people bring their phones each evening to charge – and while they’re waiting, they sit together inside and watch Gospel on the tele.
This little boy is wearing a gaze of curiosity that seems to mimic our own. It’s funny though, because we are not really all that different from the villagers of Mogesho – despite growing up in entirely different environments and living completely different lifestyles. We want the same things – a happy family, good health, close friends, a way to become independent, an opportunity to go to a good school…
Ah, and here we are too.. with our prototypes. Today was the first day that we brought them out to the village, and it was a spectacular day.. but you’ll have to wait to hear about our great findings and fun times. (It’s late here and we have another early day tomorrow.) STAY TUNED!
Cell Phones are devices we use every day. We call our parents to tell them that we’re alive and well. We text our friends to make plans for Friday night. We block calls when we feel grumpy, and we happily answer them when someone special to us is on the other line. We carry it around in our pockets or sometimes in our hands. We fidget with them, drop them, and get frustrated with them when they won’t hold a charge. The things we do with our cell phones, and the dependence we have upon them is without question, universal across our cultures.
Cell phone use in Tanzania appears to be as much, if not more, widespread than in North America. For instance, we interviewed a father of 4 who has been living in a mud thatch hut his entire life, making less than $1/day, completely dependent on the mercy of the gods of weather to deliver a harvestable crop for his annual income; this man has owned a cell phone for 12 years – about as long as my parents have owned cell phones. Another individual living in a remote village explained to us that owning a cell phone was a significant investment, but that it was not a luxury, it was a necessity.
The cellphone infrastructure in Tanzania – and I imagine in East Africa at large – is far superior to that of North America’s. You can be in the boonies of the boonies, and your likelihood of having cell coverage is remarkably high. I wouldn’t be surprised if you still had cell service at the top of Kili – hopefully this is something I’ll get the chance to investigate. The point is, this well designed infrastructure has made it such that anyone in Africa could benefit from using a cell – if they can afford it AND figure out how to charge it, since roughly 90% of Africa is disconnected from grid-power without plans to extend it.
So how do they afford it? And how do they charge it? Good questions, I’m glad you asked.
They afford it because they must (since they see it as a necessity), and with all the airtime competition amongst cell phone companies around here, it’s surprisingly affordable. Sending a text costs about 10 Tz shillings, or less than $0.01.
Charging is more difficult – especially when you’re part of that 90% that doesn’t have access to grid power. Sometimes it involves walking 1 to 3 kilometers to a store once or more each week that is either equipped with solar power or has grid power, where you leave it over night or for the afternoon to charge (one charge costs anywhere between 150 Tz shillings to 300 Tz shillings). Or if you don’t have access to either, you send your phone into town when you or your neighbor goes, to charge the phone at the local hardware store where they have electricity or a battery charging station. In any case, people are spending close to 1000 Tz shillings a month on charging – which is both inconvenient and expensive.
Does it have to be this way? We don’t think so; and we’re going to test our hypothesis. Stay tuned.
Today I went for a run – and if I were to actually own a top 5 list for runs – it would indubitably be on it.
Running in Karatu might as well be like running through an enormous national park, with endless paths on which to run – they’re certainly more utilitarian than just for running, so I refuse to let my mzungu self call them running paths – nestled amongst green and golden hills with the ngorogoro territory as its backdrop. If you’re unfamiliar with Tanzania – the ngorogoro crater is probably the number one feature people flock to see when they come to Tanzania – for its beauty and wildlife. I have the privilege and fortune of living 15km from it, which means that I can see it from almost any hillside.
Anyways, it was the kind of run where I was so busy admiring the sublime beauty that surrounded me, that I wasn’t even aware of my fatigue – I basically just wanted to keep going. It was like experiencing, first-hand, one of those Nike running commercials on TV. But like all good things, it came to an end when my tired lungs got the best of me and I decided to turn around, realizing that if I didn’t stop running in the opposite direction of home, I might actually never make it back there - at least before sunset or before hyenas got me.
On my way back I ran by a secondary school I had visited the week before, and decided to see what was at the top of the hill next to the school. After getting there and pulling out my iPod to adjust its settings, an old lady came over to me with a very stern look on her face, which not oddly enough mimicked her tone of voice. She proceeded to yell?, hmm, speak loudly, at me in Swahili and she kept getting closer and closer and closer – my “Habiri! (friendly hello)” and “sheekamoo (VERY respectful hello)” were failing epically to change her disposition – until I realized that I was better off skidaddling.
So there I was – in front of a school, in front of a bunch of school kids, running away from a 60-year-old woman. Haha. ya – this mzungu – white foreigner, or as I prefer, white bumbling elephant – was a spectacle. Some of the kids chased after me and some others were laughing – I had entirely no idea what the hell was going on. It was more or less a run-forest-run-moment, except that I’m 22 -not 8, and I wasn’t running from bullies, I was running from a grandma. For the record, it was a light jog a way from her - not a full sprint.
After I was far enough away, I decided that I was done with my very short-lived I-pod-days – that was my first run in Karatu with one. I was almost home when I came across a sizeable group of elementary school kids – primarily girls. They were giggling about something and waved and yelled ”mambo! – what’s going on?” to which I yelled, “poa – cool – the traditional response”. Then they became a sort of road block, so I stopped running, and tried to remember all the Swahili I knew so that I could talk to them for a bit. To my surprise, they knew English remarkably well. These little squirts were smart too! I kid you not – I was hanging out with about 15 8-year-old girls who were asking me questions about Barack Obama, Michael Jackson, and California (I told them where I was from). It was really wonderful – an awesome way to end my run!
There are approximately 4 different ways to get around Tanzania – plane, land rover, teksi (taxi) or public transit, which I more broadly and lovingly like to call the Dalla Dalla system. I say lovingly, because we’ve only every had fun/interesting/arguably good experiences on it thus far, and well, saying Dalla Dalla is just fun.. try it. Anyways, I’d guess that about 97% of the population uses largely the 4th – Dalla Dalla.
Our first experience using the Dalla Dalla was our 128 Kilometer ride – that’s about 80 miles if I did the math correctly – which cost us each about 6,000 Tz shillings or at the nice exchange rate, a wholesome $3.50. Anyways, the dalla dalla we took was a station wagon – make and model, OLD (probably from late 70’s) – that typically seats 6 comfortably. Well, we fit 9 adults – 8 grown men plus myself. Needless to say, it was cramped, which brings me to my first point. One thing I learned about Tanzania is that space is more a state of mind than actually physicality. In other words, you can be sitting on your neighbor’s lap – and by neighbor I mean person you literally just met who was supposed to be sitting next to you until you found yourself just about transplanted onto their lap – for 2 hours, without an err of concern. Its experiences like these that make you realize how neurotic Americans are about their own personal space – yes, I’m guilty of it too – Tanzanians must think we’re crazy. Anyways, the space thing didn’t bug me too much because I essentially got my own private Swahili tutorial out of it. A guy named Patriz – a 41 year-old grandfather who knew as much English as we knew Swahili – also found that reading the English/Swahili translator book with us would be a fun way to entertain ourselves for the 2 hour ride.
I think Greg has more to say about our to/from karatu experience – so I leave him to fill in the other funny details.
… Another thing about transportation in Arusha is that in U.S standards – it would seem highly unregulated. In our entire three-day visit to Arusha – we stumbled across one traffic signal. Also, we discovered that horns and flashing your brights mean entirely different things here. So instead of, “HONK – Get the hell out of my way you asshole!”, it kindly translates to, “Honk – hello everyone!”, “honk – right back at you!” or “honk – you want a ride?”… but mainly I think it can be interpreted as “honk, honk, honk, see isn’t honking fun, honk, let me do it some more, honk honk honk yay I love to honk ”.
Also, playing chicken on the roads – their form of passing – is about as common as needing to parallel park on a hill in San Francisco. Another funny thing to observe – especially while in them – were the old mini-vans (the true dalla dalla of public transit) trying to pass one another by redefining the road by taking over the spaces that one would traditionally consider pedestrian friendly. Nothing to worry about though – the pedestrians are never phased by the fact that they narrowly miss near collision from an oncoming minivan or land rover on a very consistent basis. See my friends – space really is a state of mind.
Ok.. one last story about public transit, because I can’t refuse. You’re lucky if you made it this far on my blog post – because this was arguably the best/most fun. So we needed to get to this village – which was about an hour outside the city… and the only way to get there – literally, unless you wanted to hire a driver to take you by land rover – was to hitch a ride on the back of an empty 12 wheeler sand-truck. So we did like the locals do, and hitched. For over an hour, we stood on the back of the sand truck trying to balance ourselves as we pummeled through what we like to call the pot-hole swallow or African Massage – translation: very very bumpy road. It’s sort of like skiing down a freshly powdered mogul field – without the snow, skiis, or downhill. Nonetheless, it was incredibly fun and also quite the work out. On the wayback, we hitched the same ride – but this time, it was full of sand. We sat atop the sand – with fresh air, a beautiful sunset, and good company – it’s pretty much the best form of public transit we could have asked for – I recommend it.
Anyways, sorry for the long post and multiple digressions… I hope this gives you some flavor of what traveling in these parts of Tanzania is like.