My 3rd post on Kagera region

I’ve had the time of my life for the last two weeks: I’ve been visiting the Kiva borrowers who got loans for Barefoot Power solar products, and their resellers, and the ultimate purchasers of the solar lights.  The first two borrowers I visited were in Kagera region, way over on the western side of Tanzania, bordering Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi.  Oh how I loved it!  Although there’s a danger this will reinforce your impression that I’m on an endless vacation here, you should read this post I put on Kiva!


Farewell Tujijenge!

I’ve got some catching up to do on blog posts!  I’ve been out in the bundu for the last 2 weeks with very little access to internet, and certainly not the internet speed required to open this blog, so that’s why things have been so quiet…  And I didn’t have time to post this before I packed my bags and left Dar, so here goes now:

Friday 22 Nov was my last day at Tujijenge, where I’d worked since arriving in Dar Es Salaam in late September.  The day started out quite normally, up at 5 (you read that right…) because I:

  • was too hot to sleep,
  • had had enough of lying in bed listening to the scamperings of the mouse that had recently taken up residence in my bedroom,
  • thought I should try again to load the Aeroplan website (while the internet cable to North America was less busy) to book my air ticket to South Africa for Christmas,
  • wanted to ensure my Thanksgiving blog post on Kiva actually posted according to the automated schedule,
  • had to email the Barefoot Power locations in western Tanzania to finalize plans for my Kiva visit.

I walked to work at 8, and discovered that it was indeed Friday and not Thursday (per the web stuff I’d been doing for a timezone that is 11 hours behind) so I was supposed to be wearing my Tujijenge shirt which is the Friday tradition.   I dashed back home and changed into team stripe:


We still had some work to finish off before I left, so Rita (the Kiva Co-ordinator), Yessaya (the first-year university student who is an intern here, and Rita’s assistant) and I got to it.   Then Rita and I walked to a nearby restaurant for farewell lunch.  How can it be that after 9 weeks I finally discovered a type of ugali (stiff maize-meal porridge that is the staple food here) that has some taste to it: brown ugali (i.e. unrefined, as in brown rice vs white rice)?


Mid-afternoon, the day took an unexpected turn when everyone assembled for my farewell celebration!  Tujijenge had gone to town!  There was a marvelous cake (baked by my landlord John, who runs a cake business from home on the side), an enormous card signed by everyone, a mystery gift in wrapping, and “sodas” all round.


Shafi (Tujijenge Managing Director, who I admire for his vision for the organization, and his commitment to microfinance clients) thanked me for my work, and presented the gift which turned out to be a length of lovely kitenge fabric.


I’ve greatly admired Rita’s kitenges (traditional Tanzanian-style skirt and top made from this printed cotton fabric) while I’ve been here.  There was much hilarity as Rita wrapped it around me to give the general impression of the finished outfit!


Then the moment everyone had been waiting for – cake!  And my favorite carrot cake too, because landlord John knew my preference from earlier discussions at home.  We all agreed it was delicious.  As Rita put it: That man can bake!



Great fun for all of us!   And Rita was beside herself with excitement at how surprised and delighted I’d been, and how well the celebration turned out!

It’s been a real pleasure working for Tujijenge.  They’ve all made me so welcome, and have been so helpful and open with information, and so willing to learn new ways of doing things, that we’ve achieved an enormous amount.  They’ve made my time here feel very worthwhile.  But they and I still think there’s more we could do together…  So as much as I dislike being in Dar es Salaam itself (the intense heat, the appalling traffic, the fact of being in a city…), I’d love to continue working with Tujijenge and I’ve asked Kiva to let me return to Tanzania to continue next year.  I guess at the end of the next round, the cake will have to be on me!

Remembrance Day

This morning, as my gesture of Remembrance, I headed to downtown Dar to the Askari Monument.  I only know it exists because the center of town is commonly referred to as the section of road “between the Askari Monument and the Clock tower”.

It hadn’t occurred to me until I read  “The Book of Secrets” by M.G. Vassanji (Canadian author, born in East Africa), whilst traveling here last year, that WW1 had played out on East African soil too.  But Tanganyika was a German colony in 1914, and Kenya was British, so people here were caught up in the conflict spawned in Europe… in another man’s war, it seems to me.

There was no ceremony here, no haunting strains of the Last Post.   Only me there at 11:00 to take a couple of photos…

“This is to the native African troops who fought: to the carriers who were the feet and hands of the army: and to all other men who served and died for their king and country in Eastern Africa in the Great War 1914 – 1918.  If you fight for your country, even if you die, your sons will remember your name.”

… and remember those who have died per (Canadian) Remembrance Day; and contemplate the fact that those on the losing side of a conflict are not commemorated, but they were people too.

My first official post on

Today’s the day – my first post has published on so do me a favor and go read it please!  My post is called Group Loans: Filling a Particular Niche.

So how does it feel to be a published author?   Mostly I’m just relieved that it arrived in the public domain with pictures intact after a protracted (one-eyed) battle with formatting…  I think I’m going to get a cup of coffee, put my feet up, and gaze at it on the screen for a while!