Thursday, September 13, 2007

Quakes, Kenyans, and Power Outages

A couple of enormous earthquakes hit Sumatra again. Indonesia is in the Indian Ocean, and I'm waiting to hear word about tsunamis. Here is a picture taken of me on the Indian Ocean a few days ago on the west coast of Zanzibar.

Ramadan starts this week, and it would have been really interesting to be in 99.9% Muslim Zanzibar during that time. Speaking of Zanzibar, one of our volunteers got a nice surprise today when she went to spend the money she had exchanged inside Zanzibar International Airport and was told it was all counterfeit. Luckily she wasn't thrown into a prison in Kilimanjaro, but she's none too happy. The lady at the counter took out a big stack of counterfeit bills, put a real one on top, and handed it to her. Looking at them now, I can tell they are very fake. The bills feel waxy, there is no watermark, and the holograms don't work. I wouldn't have noticed either though had they been handed to me in a big stack. I'm thinking about trying to keep one for my bank-note collection, although I've been told that you really don't want to be caught with counterfeit money here, and our program director suggested we "burn it all."

Everyone here is blaming "the Kenyans" for it. People in Tanzania and bordering Kenya don't get along with each other, and the people in this country blame everything bad that happens here on "the Kenyans." I have to admit, they may have a case on much of it. Nairobi has a lot of problems and has what is among the highest crime rates in the entire world. Kenya currently also has a travel warning from the U.S. State Department, and they do seem to be exporting their crime elsewhere.

Last week, 14 Kenyans were shot and killed by a police officer right here in Moshi near where I am working (remember Moshi is the city, Kilimanjaro is the region). Moshi police claim they were bank robbers and were shot during a robbery. Witness accounts say they were all subdued and then mowed down with a gun afterwards. Kenya doesn't really care either way because they were all wanted men (and one woman) so I guess nothing will come of it. Apparently they also had documents on them showing plans to break some Kenyan prisoners out of the Kilimanjaro prison here where we have one of our volunteers working (which is also next to our compound).

The morgue was a popular place this week. I guess when people don't have television they all want go to the morgue to see the bodies. That's how I first learned what had happened -- I asked why there were 1,000 people suddenly gathered around a building we were driving past.

The power just went out again as I was writing this. All the computers here in the school just buzzed and flipped off and now I need to run Checkdisk on all of them. Tanzania gets more than 60% of its power from hydroelectric dams -- a great source of power until there are heavy droughts, which is what we've had here for the past three years. As a result, power outages are quite common. I'm surprised that we have only had three since I've been here (a rate of one per week).

Today I'm headed to a micro-lending institution in the afternoon. Tomorrow will be my last day of volunteer work. I'll come to Safari College in the morning to give a review session and administer a test, and then I'm headed to a second micro-lending institution in the afternoon. Saturday, Sarah and I head to the town of Marangu to stay the night in a hotel before departing the next day on our Kilimanjaro expedition.

What else is going on? There seems to be a lot of news lately. Today, an angry parent came in with her daughter and demanded to be refunded the money the computer teacher here stole from her. I didn't catch most of it because she was speaking really fast and my Swahili is still limited, but I think the gist of it was "I'm really mad."

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