• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • You already know Dokkio is an AI-powered assistant to organize & manage your digital files & messages. Very soon, Dokkio will support Outlook as well as One Drive. Check it out today!



Page history last edited by Kyle Karber 9 years, 5 months ago

10/7- Travel Day 1

I made it to Washington DC where I will be overnighting before departing on Ethiopian Airlines to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania via Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Maggie, my friend and wonderful contact in country has arranged for me to stay the night with her sister-in-law before catching a jumper to Arusha the next day. With Maggie's help, I will be working in different communities around Arusha, in areas such as Moshi, Kilimanjaro, Kabuku, Magara, and Nou. I have no idea what these places will be like, but I look forward to finding out!


As I sit here in this dingy hotel room and become accustomed to the stale remnants of cigarette smoke left from a time before the ban, I bathe in the electroluminescence afforded me by the magic grid that puts dancing electrons at my fingertips at a price so cheap I hardly care that every light in the place is on. [Cue the Sarah McLachlan track] However, many people around the globe are not so lucky and this is especially true in Tanzania where only 14% of the population have access to electricity, with less than 3% having access in rural areas. Yet, about 60% of the population have cell phones, and without their own source of electricity many use cell phone charging services which cost about 400 times more than it would to charge a cell phone from your outlet. Not to mention that you only have to shimmy behind your couch to plug it in, instead of walking many miles to leave your phone in a queue of phones that need charging, only to return and find your phone is missing...


I hope to help the situation through the development of a pico-scale (i.e. very small) wind turbine that can be used for cell phone charging and lighting at a price lower than a comparable solar panel, while also providing Tanzanians with employment in the construction and installation of these turbines. But I have to start at the beginning. Do they even want these wind generators? What is the reality of electricity use in rural areas? What are the impediments to rural electrification on the micro/pico scale? On this trip I intend to explore the answers to these questions, while also keeping an eye out for construction materials and calling on local knowledge to improve the wind turbine design for local construction. Should be interesting!


10/8 Travel Day 2

I had a “who’s on first moment” with the stewardess when the dinner cart made its pass.

Her: chicken, beef, or pasta?

Me: chicken

Her: beef or pasta?

Me: what?

Her: chicken, beef, or pasta?

Me: chicken

Her: beef or pasta?

Me: I’m sorry, I don’t understand? (Thinking that maybe I got choice between beef or pasta in addition to the chicken)

Her: We have three different dinners and you choose between chicken, beef, or pasta.

Me: I’ll have the chicken.

Her: Beef?

Me: chicken.

Her: chicken.


It seemed like she was aggressively recommending against the chicken… It wasn’t bad for airplane food (and the carrot cake was delicious). Then it hit me. She was finishing the list of food items as if I had re-started it because I didn’t hear the last two choices. “Chicken?”… “beef, or pasta?” Perhaps I did use an inflection when I said “chicken” because I was subconsciously questioning if it would be fit for human consumption. As for the last “beef,” I can only conclude that she was screwing with me at that point.



There is something fantastical about watching the sunset and sunrise on the same flight. I just took a time machine 9 hours into the future; see you later, suckers!



10/9 -Travel Day 3

We straighten a kink in the road to find 3 officials stopping vehicles. Two are in what look like Navy dress-whites so clean that they reflect every wavelength of the sun. Mirrored aviators complete the look. The third man looks more like one might expect, in a dirt colored uniform that is as worn as the road we drove in on. An AK-47 completes the look. We stop short of the checkpoint. The kind women that picked me up from the airport have a short exchange in Kiswahili. We start to back up as if to turn around and flee, but stop before completing any maneuver. Wouldn’t they think us suspicious? They didn’t seem to notice as they dealt with a transport truck headed in the opposite direction. More talking in Kiswahili. I can’t tell if the tone, speed, and volume of their dialogue is heightened due to the circumstances, or just how a mother and daughter talk to one another. Mother pulls out two violet bills. Daughter takes them and gets out. Okay just a little bribe, no big deal, par for the course. I watch as she walks towards the officials but she doesn’t go to them directly, she goes to a simple stick-built stand hiding behind the officials’ white Land Cruiser. A toll booth? Despite her striking height, she’s out of sight. “What’s going on?,” I ask, “What is happening?”

“Oh, uhhhh, Agnes is buying vege-tables.” Code word or just sheltering me from the truth? I look closer and see a small field of green leafy vegetables abutting the booth which could serve little purpose other than to establish a physical and psychological separation of payer from payee, and to hang a sign that might be out of sight behind the ubiquitous Land Cruiser. Perhaps she is just buying vegetables? The officials finish with the flat front diesel and it belches black smoke as it lumbers forward and rumbles between our generic silver micro-SUV and a stubby tanker truck parked opposite us on the side of the road.

I don’t see where the dress-white officials go because I am focused on the AK toting fellow heading our way. As I avoid eye contact, the periphery of my vision shows that there is little intent in the way he walks. He arrives opposite us, nearer the truck with the funhouse mirror tank. He doesn’t speak for a bit, but then begins an exchange between Pauline and the man. Again, I don’t know if the seemingly loud and fast nature of their voices is normal for the situation. As he speaks, he points ahead as if to say “go up to the checkpoint,” or possibly “move on, you can’t park here.” She counters and points towards her daughter as if to say “Agnes is paying the toll,” or maybe “she is buying vegetables.” There is no fear or hesitation in her voice. Reassuring. Her training in the Tanzanian military likely explains her demeanor and perhaps her black eye as well.

Agnes reappears from behind the Toyota toting three small black plastic bags sprouting green leafs of relief. She was just buying vegetables and though I can’t know for sure, I believe that the official was just telling us to move the car. Later, as I scoop the stewed greens up with Ugali –playdough made of cornmeal- I can taste the reprieve that those greens had provided many hours before.



After seeing a Windows XP era HP computer on their table, I asked Agnes and Pauline "do you have internet?


Though they weren’t familiar with the term, I figured they knew what it was, so I searched for another term. “Uhhhhh, websites?”
Now they knew what I was talking about. “Ahhh, internet, yes”
They explained that the computer didn’t work and I said that I could use mine.

“Do you have a modem?”
Dialup, eh? I replied that I didn’t, though I wasn’t sure if my 5 year old laptop hid one of those relics. Maybe that was my last laptop that had one?
Agnes said that I could use hers. “You just plug it into your computer”
“And plug the other end into the, uh, phone line?” I asked.
“No, just the computer” She pulled out a USB stick sporting the red Vodacom logo. Of course! It was a 3G cellphone based USB 'dongle'. They learned the word 'internet,' and I learned a new meaning for the word 'modem'.

After getting to Arusha, Omega was kind enough to loan me his modem for my time here and we went and bought a SIM card that provides 3GB of data over the next month for 43,000 Tsh or $25.50. Cool example of leapfrogging technology, plus you don’t have to deal with Comcast.


The beauty of Ethiopia was evident as the plane circled around before landing at Addis Ababa. Fifty shades of green adorn the gently sloped mountains in such a warm and inviting way despite the cool grey weather.


10/10 - Travel Day 4


I arrived at the Arusha airport, where you wait outside for the luggage and take in the big sky and big mountain (Meru)



10/11- First Full Day

Maggie does not get back from "the bush" until late tonight so I have today to recover from the trip and organize for the upcoming days. Omega, who picked me up from the airport and is keeping me out of trouble, and I head into the heart of Arusha. We visit a few solar retailers who have a very nice selection and get prices on a variety of items.


Mt. Meru is prominent in the backdrop of Arusha. At 14,977 ft. in elevation, it is the second highest peak in Tanzania after Mt. Kilimanjaro (43 miles to the east).


We then take a dala dala (more on this mode of transport later) to Lake Duluti, a lake in a volcanic crater surrounded by a dense forest.

Can you spot the cell tower?


"Mama Maggie" arrives and I am extremely happy to see her. Her big warm smile is infectious, as is her enthusiasm for helping people, especially women and children in rural communities. And she's helping me too, of course.



About 7,000 of the 10,000 foot vertical rise of Mt Meru obscured by clouds



Headed to the bush today, Kabuku Village. It is 350km from Arusha, 20km from the main road, and they have never seen a Mzungu (white person) there. Should be interesting!


As we left the main cities of Arusha and Moshi, we slowly traveled back in time. The modern, albeit decidedly non-western, urban centers gave way to dispersed housing that was occasionally of sufficient density to warrant a roadside strip mall, which would be bathed in the bright pigment of the companies who painted them as advertisements for their marque. Coca-cola! Pepsi! Airtel! Vodacom! Zuku, amazing digital TV! The boda bodas (think suicidal motorcycle taxi) that schooled together on corners became fewer and fewer in number and likely catered to a proportionally scarcer sum of customers. The shops not only became more diffuse but also faded from sunny colors to a variety of dirt browns since the accountants determined an insufficient number of eyes did not warrant the cost of paint.



The few hints of civilization punctuated long rambling stories told by the vast swaths of emptiness. We passed through the colonial times- sisal farms large enough to make rope for all of Brittan. We traveled through a time where wind fueled agriculture by pumping water. We even traveled through the desolate landscapes of my childhood in the desert southwest.




As we neared our turnoff, the light left us with a beautiful goodbye. Only the shorter ruby, crimson, and ginger wavelengths can dodge their way through the air thick with particulate matter born of wood and trash burned with abandon. This pollution makes for the most spectacular sunsets.


Darkness. We cover the last stretch of paved road and make the turn to the two-track that would take us to our destination. As we traveled further back in time, one of the two paths surfaced by car tires became less distinct and more overgrown with grass, while the other was maintained by the local’s main mode of transport- their feet. The flora that closed in on either side of the Land Cruiser was almost implausibly overgrown, like a shooting location for King Kong or Jurassic Park. Yet, people continued to materialize in our headlights like spirits and, just as fast as they appeared, they dissolved into the tall grass to yield the right of way. We continued farther and farther, the road got rougher and rutted, and the people disappeared completely. As we got close, Maggie pointed out the local “hotel,” no bigger than a two car garage with a roof made of the man sized grass that grew all around. The walls were made of a horizontal and vertical grid of sticks that were any shape except straight, and this arrangement created a countless number of rectangular portals, some of which were filled with mud. The local construction style. “Five stars,” Sariko jokes, a welcome departure from the driver’s otherwise stony disposition.


Then we arrived at our terminus back in time…


Posts from 10/16 to 10/18

Comments (0)

You don't have permission to comment on this page.