Painted Walls


Good day from a very rainy and very dreary Monday in Dar. I thought it was dry season…?

Anyway, one of my favorite things about African cityscapes is not the rain, but the usage of hand-painted signs and advertisements on various buildings and walls around town. From advertisements, to store signs, to government-funded AIDS propaganda, African sign painting is a lucrative profession that exists in large cities and small villages alike. While this practice has since been lost in the Western world, here in East Africa they can still be found in most parts of towns and along roadside villages. I’m treasuring the ones I see on my trips in and out of City Centre, as I sense they will soon be lost to the emergence of blinding electronic billboards (I’m looking at you, you eyesore on Ali Hassan Mwinyi Blvd!).

Anyway, here are a few of my favorites from a (much less rainy) recent visit to City Centre. Also called, Pepsi vs. Coke, who wore it best?




Race for the Cure

Remember, on my first day in town, how I went to the goat races and when writing the post mentioned there were few major events in town? I wasn’t absolutely sure why at the time, but I’ve since realized how monumental a feat a big event like the Goat Races are around here. Limited resources, unreliable vendors, pricy negotiations, and inefficient ways of operating all attribute to the fact that any event involving more than ten people that starts and ends can be considered a success.


The 5k Breast Cancer Race for the Cure was held in town this past Sunday, hosted by the local Susan G. Komen Foundation affiliate, the Tanzania Breast Cancer Foundation. There were definitely more than ten people at the race, which started and ended too, so according to my metrics, a success it was! (To be serious, 2011 was the last year a race was held, so it’s further proof that these events don’t organize themselves.)


The most appealing part about this walk for me – aside for the cause, of course – was definitely not the fact that my alarm woke me up at 6am. Rather, and one of the main reasons I decided to participate, was because it was a great way to see parts of downtown- or as they call it here, ‘city center’. Parts of Dar that I might otherwise may not ever see.



I’ve touched on the levels of petty crime here before, so I’m not going into it today. But I mention it only because it’s for this very reason that I would not typically spend my mornings meandering through city center, certainly not with a camera in hand, and most certainly would not be able to let my curious eyes wander as freely as they did yesterday.

The race began and ended at the Ocean Road Cancer institute (view the race route here), the leading (and only) place to seek post-surgical treatment for cancer patients in the whole of Dar es Salaam. Some patients travel as far as 1300km by bus just to get a few rounds of radiotherapy- and some don’t even have enough money to return home afterwards. The esteemed Ocean Road Cancer Institute is one of the older buildings in city center, built in the late 19th century when Dar was still under colonial rule. Very much reminding me of a California-style mission, the building was originally built as the Ocean Road Hospital, a government-sponsored institution almost exclusively treating Europeans. And, such is exemplary of Dar es Salaam’s often biased and extremely layered colonial history.


My favorite part of the walk was soon after we started, when we passed by the Kigamboni fish market. Crowds of locals, many who were just beginning their day at the fish market/ferry terminal/major bus stop lined the streets to watch us pass, eyeing our groups with great bewilderment and amazement. Some took photos with their phones, and we took photos right back. We swung around the bay and along the southern peninsula of Dar es Salaam, where walking along Kivukoni front where we passed a series of old German colonial buildings along the waterfront- my first time viewing many of these old colonial buildings that I had long heard or read about.



The crowds of Tanzanians grew smaller after we left the crowded waterfront area, but throughout the race route curious locals still gathered to observe this curious event. I’m sure it’s not everyday they are able to see masses of Wazungu, or foreigner, walking through their streets- escorted by a police band, at that!


The band was my favorite addition to the walk, and certainly made the day feel more a Tanzanian affair than anything else. Public events here always seem to be celebrated with great passion, with loud music and constant dancing, and this very American ‘Race for the Cure’ was done in no lesser fashion.

Read more about how breast cancer affects East Africans, in this brilliant New York Times article. More compelling reason to fight an already worthy cause.

Zanzibar Day One >> A Stonetown Tour

Zanzibar Building

Coming to Tanzania was the first time that I had such little knowledge about the language of a country. No grammatical familiarity, no knowledge of the language roots, no single words that I might know (well, aside from phrases and animal names popularized by the Lion King). It’s been slow going, on going, but I’m picking a few things up. I’m in Zanzibar this week on a language and cultural immersion program, and though it’s sometimes hard to concentrate on classroom learning when you sitting on a rooftop overlooking tin roofs and an ocean so blue that it’s almost neon (complain? me? never.), it’s been fun learning alongside a culture so rich in history and an island so beautiful.

Four Corners, zanzibar Town Center

Woman Sweeping

I knew about Zanzibar’s history as a slave trade port, about its significance in being the original “spice island”, but what was left out of my historical knowledge was the fact that Zanzibar is, boiled down, simply a melting pot of an ex-country, a mix various cultures that, over time, created the Zanzibarians. Arabs, Hindi, Spanish, French, Asian, African people trickled in throughout the centuries and made their homes here, as Zanzibarians. This mixing of heritage means, or as they claim here, that there’s no signature nose, no signature hair, no signature build, but there are the signature eyes- the kind, smiling, twinkling eyes, ones that would make Tyra Banks proud. And though I had to see it to believe it, there is tremendous beauty, dignity, and strength in the Muslim religion that reigns supreme here.

And can I mention how extremely photogenic this place is? Seriously, look at these photos. Everywhere I turn my head I’m rendered breathless for a short moment. Beautiful, looming, carved doors. Narrow, stone alleyways. Muslim women, with their head coverings waving like flags in the cool(ish) island breeze. Muslim men, sporting their signature caps, embroidered with such intricate and colorful threads.

Purple scarf

2 Men in Zanzibar

The nights here are my favorite- because of the close alleyways and oddly placed lighting, each street looks like it is a scene in a movie set. Getting lost in the alleyways, street lights dominate and the moon, however bright, is lost.

Street Scene in Zanzibar

Our first day was this Monday, and as it is in most places, I spent much of it attempting to find my bearings. Which in this city, mostly means being able to figure out where in the twisted maze of narrow alleyways our hotel lies. We also took a quick tour of Stonetown – where though a zillion and one facts were recited I’ve promptly forgotten most of them, and visited the market, where a zillion and one more facts were spouted at us but I was so busy snapping pictures that I didn’t listen to a single word. Photos of the market will, dutifully, be posted soon!


Two Girls in Zanzibar

School's Out


In the meantime, these photos are some of my favorites from Day One in Zanzibar, and I feel like give a pretty good idea of how beautiful this place is. Lots of pretty blues, greens, and greys around here, don’t you think? If you’re interested to see more, click on over to flickr where I’ve got a whole set of photos!

A City Unlike Any Other


Any big plans for the weekend? Working at my second HK Art Fair has been fun, but really I just love any excuse to be in this bustling, expensive/expansive, international metropolis they call Hong Kong. Truthfully, I’m even more excited to have the DiploMan join me here so we can watch The Avengers on Sunday! drink beer and order pizza at 2am at a shady bar in Wanchai.

After this weekend, we only have eight more (!!??!) weekends left in Guangzhou, many of which are already booked for side trips or weekend events. We’ll probably be able to squeeze in one more trip to Hong Kong in one of our last weekends in town, but just in case….I’m soaking it all in.

What’s your favorite city??!