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Archive for the ‘13 – Tanzania’ Category

Jambo! Welcome to Africa

At Boston Public Gardens

I planned several stops on my long journey to Tanzania. First, I took the overnight bus to Boston to spend 5 days with Adriana before my long exodus in Africa. It was the perfect getaway we both needed in one of North-America most beautiful city… 2nd to Montreal of-course ;).  And since Adriana is a Harvard graduate, she knows Boston inside out and I was treated to a deluxe tour of the city. To top it off, both of us also have many good friends there and we shared some great time together.  In particular, I spent 2 extra days with Alex and his family for some quality and fun times with close friends.

Prakriti, Katy, Stuart,... of FutureSense

Next stop was London: There, I wanted to visit my NGO’s headquarter and meet FutureSense and INSPIRE staff and directors.  And what a breath of fresh air was it to meet face to face with the team, especially Simon and Prakriti. Many NGOs exists but few if any have the visionary skills Simon brings in directing FutureSense organization. Any hesitation I had prior to my trip vanished in a wisp while listening to Simon and sharing opinions & ideas about volunteering and its role.  I then headed to London to meet with my very good friend Laura where I spent the next couple of days. Unfortunately, Laura had some business emergency and we couldn’t hang out much but on the other hand, I managed to re-unite with Adele after my 2 year hiatus and we had so much to catch up with.
I “escaped” London prior to the riots (and no, I had nothing to do with them ;). Ironically, we were just discussing about London and what a beautiful, socially active and overall safe city it is and that I might want to live there after my endeavors.  I guess if it can happen in Vancouver it can happen anywhere, eh?  AnywayZ, I personally blame it on Apple: it’s all this iPhone/iPad craze. Everyone wants to get his/her hand on one.

Jambo! “Welcome to Africa”!

Mount Meru... a gorgeous sight

Here I am, setting foot for the first time ever on the African continent! It was a glorious feeling landing in Tanzania, as if I just discovered a new land to explore. Quickly, where can I buy a motorcycle?? ;).  As I walked out of the airport and took a ride to my hostel, my senses where absorbing everything around me.  Although I am over any culture shock when visiting a new country, Tanzania still caught me by surprise on a couple of fronts: for one, it is way poorer than I had ever imagined and two, the locals are extremely nice.

Vendors outside our local school

Allow me to explain: Tanzania is a top tourist destination catering especially to Europeans. My Swiss Air plane of 300 was full of white tourists while African origin travelers could be counted on 1 hand. And if the people coming in and out of Dar Es-Salam airport are a sample of the tourists visiting Tanzania than I can safely gender them as: white, middle aged and rich, many wearing spanking new shoes, cloth and backpacking equipment. Yet as we were driving to our hotel I could see the poverty engulfing this country: un-asphalted and extremely rough roads, litter lining the streets, electricity shortages, run-down houses, hundreds of street vendors selling everything from food, fruits & vegetables to Chinese flashlights and 2nd hand cloth. The Dar Express bus station is a simple dusty parking lot with many tin shops around. Internet shops are few and I would have sworn they were using 56k modem for connections. I thought Tanzania, at least in its major touristic centers, would be on par with Ecuador or Peru in term of living standards… but it was far from it: even Bolivia seems years ahead compared to Tanzania. Disclaimer: My opinions are uniquely driven by my stay in Arusha; however locals and tourists alike keeps reminding me if I am surprised at what I am seeing here, just wait until I visit the non-touristy city & towns. In Arusha, only the major thru fairs are asphalted as well as a few side roads. Otherwise, the city streets are worthy of an off-road moto-cross track: gaping holes litter the rough & rocky streets with the only “reprieve” (sarcasm intended) being the sections of deep sand. Only Land-Cruisers can safely tackle these streets while cars shake & rattle violently, scraping their bottom on every bump in a loud screeching sound, an agonizing scream of something on the verge of disintegrating into pieces.

It's cooking time

Here, everyone and everything is covered by a brownish dust layer; never take white or light colored cloth with you to Africa!  We have 10-12 hrs of electricity shortage per day and the water pressure varies constantly. My homestay is a lot better than the average Tanzanian home, yet it’s as basic as the homes in remote & small villages I stayed at in South America. We use a bucket and a cup to shower but at least we have a “western” toilet vs. the “hole in the ground” type. Hey, it could be worse; we could be like many of our neighbors who have to go fetch all their water from the public taps spread sporadically around the neighborhood.  I do my laundry by hand in the garden using regular soap and couple of buckets of water (for wash and rinse cycles ;)).  Mama cooks over charcoal while water for tea is boiled using a kerosene burner.

Public tap

In sharp contrast, anything touristy is extremely expensive: A 4 day Safari to the Serengeti starts at a minimum of U$D800 in basic camps rising quickly if you choose to stay in lodges. Kilimanjaro climb is a U$D1,200 expedition – during the low season if you please –  while Zanzibar luxury hotels show no vacancy during the summer month. And there’s so much more (and expensive) things to do here in Tanzania. Yet, tourists spend, spend and more spend; every morning dozens upon dozens of Land Cruisers packed with Westerners (“wazungu”) head toward Tanzania’s many national parks and nature’s wonders. However, the money itself doesn’t seem to go on a Safari: A Kilimanjaro porter makes ~U$D 7 a day, a far cry from the stinking rich tour companies make or the National Parks Ministry.  The unofficial minimum monthly wage hover around 80,000Tsh == U$D 50. A local restaurant meal is U$D 1-2, a soft drink @ 35cents, taxi charges $2-3 for in city trip,… Tanzanian people rarely see any of the tourist money.

Yes, you will be hassled in the street to buy goods and souvenirs, to take a taxi ride or buy a Safari trip, but isn’t it the same in any other touristy destination? Here at least, most of the times a simple no suffice; Tanzanians are extremely nice and respectful people. I won’t lie to you; I did have some apprehension prior to landing her. You know, being lighter colored skin I will stand out in the streets and thought: “I am going to be constantly targeted”. Well I was right!! All these little kids running after me screaming “HowRyou?”  :).  Other than that, especially while walking in Arusha’s suburbs, I will answer a lot of respectful hellos. I feel safer here than in many South American cities I visited.

Baba leading the prayer

My host family is the Kimambo’s and I am their 8th member now… well, not mentioning the many family relatives whom drop by to stay with us for a week or 2. Baba is an assistant preacher, Mama works within a community group as well as farms maize in a small parcel of land she rents.  She’s a fun lady, always making the kids laugh and is a great cook.

Mama and Sarah

Gadyel (25) is the elder son but still my little brother ;). He’s an accredited guide although currently un-employed.  I am trying to help him start his own Safari company by working as a freelancer and partnering with established tour companies.  You’ll hear more about it soon but if you or anyone you know are coming to visit Tanzania, drop me an e-mail and your vacation will be in good hands; my sister Sarah (20) is studying with IATA to become an airline travel specialist or stewardess.  Godzef (“Godi” -17) is in secondary school and the do-it-all guy at home. A few cousins stay with us most of the time: Dominique (17), a very bright and hard working high-school kid who I accompanied once to visit his school and chat with his teacher. His brother, Wilbrod (26), is a fun guy and a freelance guide who has no problem being called upon to work. See, Wilbrod speaks 3 foreign languages (English, French and Spanish) and he’s pretty good at them too. So tour companies can send him alone on Safari with a melting pot of clients. I think he can do a lot more with his talent and personality, so let’s see how he exploits it.

My brothers: Gadiel, Godi & Dominique... oh, the white guy is Ishan, a fellow volunteers


And last but not least, Naomi, my 5 year old little sister. Naomi is a pretty fun little girl who just lost her 2 front teeth.  She loves to draw, so I will be getting a few souvenirs prior to my return.  She’s also trying to teach me Kiswahili but somehow I don’t think that’s going very well. One day sitting & relaxing in the garden, Noami was teaching me the animal names: chicken = “kuku”; Dog = “umbwa”; cat = “nyaw”.  That same night while having dinner with my family, our cat Pele jumped in my lap and I proudly said: “nyaw”. Everyone bursted laughing and I just smiled politely thinking “What’s so funny?”. Pointing to Pele, I said “nyaw” again… only to be interrupted: “Yeah, Pele, a cat or “paka” in Kiswahili. Are you trying to talk to him?” :).



Sponsor Sami and INSPIRE

Sponsor Sami and INSPIRE!

Thank you for your generous support, your friendship and your belief in this cause. I will work hard so as your donations will make a difference in these people’s life:

  • Louay & Rana Cherri;
  • Ramzi & Ines Khanfour;
  • Yves & Zena Khoury;
  • Kim Douglas & Annie Despres;
  • Mark & Kathy Wrogmann;
  • Eric, Nada & Yasmina Dion;
  • Adriana Gutierrez;
  • Barry Morocho & Alisson Larrea;
  • Ziad & Mireille Nader;
  • Vlado and Roza Zrinscak;
  • Francoise Dion;
  • Fadi & Sharon Haouili;
  • Rabih & Nayla Abuchakra;
  • Arun Raman;
  • Alex & Sheryl Chan;
  • Muafaq & Roula Tannus;
  • Toni & Lina Rinaldi;
  • Jason & Becky Benoit and Grace;


This is a call for support to all my friends. Please take the time to read it and I will be looking forward to your response.


Throughout my travel in South America I got to meet & know people from many different cultures and from all genres of life. But what touched me most occurred when I was riding through rural and remote communities; There, I met and lived with humble and down to earth people working hard to meet their daily needs; I was always welcomed with a smile and they shared their home and food with me. They were living happy, content with what they have earned yet dreaming for a less harsh life.

It struck me more than ever how lucky we are… how lucky I am: my family and I are in good health, we live in a great country enabling me to just go “out-there” and discover the world, knowing that when I come back home I can (relatively) easily start anew again. This is when I realized that my trip can only be complete, worthy and true if I can contribute back to others what I have received in life. Throughout my adventure I knew volunteering, helping others improve their livelihood, will be my next endeavor. I want to make a long lasting sustainable difference within families and communities in need of just another chance, of a helping hand, to get started in making a reality their dreams of a better life. “INSPER” has just the right challenge for me.


I joined INSPIRE (formerly MondoChallenge) and volunteered for one of their unique & rewarding program: Women Empowerment: Business Development Grants for HIV sufferers in Tanzania. I will be helping mothers in Tanzania’s rural regions to setup small businesses (of their choice) and accompany them through the challenging startup issues they will face during their endeavor. Within a 3 months time frame, our aim is to allow these new business women to be self sufficient and establish a sustainable business which will support their family’s needs for years to come. The future will be our judge but today we will do our utmost to guide them on the road to success.

You can read the program’s details on either of these websites:


The impact of our work can be felt in a relatively short period of time and its effect is widespread: the mother, her children, the community,.. will all benefit from this new stable income.

Donate on-line

I will be volunteering between 4 to 6 month depending on our work’s requirements and how it’s flourishing. I will rely on your donations to allow me to tackle this next endeavor. First & foremost I need to raise ~U$D100 per family I would be helping (on average 10 families per 3 month period)… and second, your donation can also sponsor my volunteer costs. Please spread the word to family and friends but I also encourage you to approach your companies and ask them to contribute.

To make a contribution you can either visit my donation webpage through JustGiving, a secure, reliable and honest online fundraising business where you contribute directly to FutureSense Foundation (http://www.justgiving.com/Sami-Haouili) which is a partner of INSPIRE. Or you can simply contribute directly to me and I will forward your donation to INSPIRE.

With your financial support we will make a positive impact in these people lives. Please dig deep and donate.

… The Llama Show lives on…

Thank you,

Sami Haouili