Moving In

So I’ve gotten my own place in Tanzania. I will be sharing the house with Joseph, who I’ve been couchsurfing with for the last couple months.

The house itself is big and quite nice by Tanzanian standards, but has some funny things here and there that I will probably work on improving.

Posted in Uncategorized

What I Ate Today

For the folks who have been curious about what I’ve been up to, and being an admitted foodie, I have painstakingly documented what I eat in a average day in Nairobi.


The morning usually starts with something like this. Hi-fiber cookies. Without a working refrigerator, and with cockroaches having general run of the kitchen, very little food is stored in the house, so I try to have some at least somewhat nutritious snacks around.

Peanut Butter and Popo

After running to the store to grab some bread, I have a more proper breakfast. This day it is peanut butter on toast, which has become a staple for me. Without a toaster the toast is prepared on the stove, in a skillet. Papaya and tea round out the breakfast.

Boiled Egg

One of my favorite parts of Nairobi are these hard-boiled eggs with fresh tomato salsa (they call it salad) that are served all over the place (at least in the poorer areas). Tasty, nutritious, and they cost about 25 cents US. When I am walking to the bus stop I find myself buying one at every cart I pass!

Bakers Inn

In Nairobi they have a slightly different meaning for the word “Inn”. Here it basically means: A chain that specializes in a single type of food. Along with Bakers Inn they also have Pizza Inn, Chicken Inn, and Creamy Inn which has ice cream.

Chelsea Roll

At the Bakers Inn I quickly grabbed a couple pastries to eat on the bus out of the city center. I would have gotten more of a meal, but it was already after four, and if you try to catch a bus during rush hour you can spend hours waiting in line, and then longer waiting in traffic. Unfortunately on this day there was huge traffic jam getting into the city, so I ended up waiting over an hour for my bus to show up.

Butcher Shop

This butcher shop has the best french fries around. It is the only place with an actual fryer which means the fries actually get crispy. They also assured me that they only fry in vegetable oil, so as long as you don’t mind a side of beef and plate of raw liver staring back at you while you wait for your chips, it is vegetarian friendly.


Back home I would very rarely eat Heinz ketchup, but here it’s the best thing going. What they put on fries they call “tomato sauce” but it tastes like sweet and sour sauce and has not ever a hint of tomato flavor.

Mboga and Ugali

Finally my hosts got home and cooked some dinner. This is the standard local vegetarian food that they call “mboga”, which literally translates to “vegetables”, but generally means kale sliced into super thin strips and cooked. Telling someone I’m a vegetarian tends to result in them serving me this, so I have gotten tired of it pretty quickly. In the background you can see more nsima, which in Swahili is called ugali, the staple food throughout most of Africa.

Finally, I have to mention ramen noodles, as I eat them about every other day. Not the greatest thing to eat, but they keep the hunger away.


Posted in About The Trip, Updates

The Big City

Last night I arrived in Nairobi, Kenya. This is by far the biggest and busiest city I’ve been to and it has appropriately been called the capitol of East Africa. It is definitely the most dangerous city I’ve been to (sorry mom), but also the best place to find the kind of hardware startups I am interested in. I can’t wait to explore!

Posted in Updates

The Pickpocket

This last Sunday I got my wallet stolen. I had finished some shopping in Kariakoo and was walking down a street thick with people.

This was taken just a few minutes before it happened.

This is the street where my wallet was stolen.

I was feeling apprehensive about my messenger bag which held my two high value items, my camera and laptop, so I had swung it around to the front so I could have my arms around it. I get to an intersection that is clogged with people, and there is a car coming towards me, though it’s coming very slowly due to all of the people in its way. As I am trying to shimmy out of its way a guy smoking a cigarette and standing next to me grabs my arm. Now this alone is not really that unusual, people here will use varying degrees of physical contact to get my attention and I just assume he is trying to pull me out of the path of the incoming car. But it doesn’t stop with the arm. So next he puts his foot on the side of my right knee. What goes through my head is this: “What is he doing? Some sort of convoluted gang handshake(not that out of the norm)? Oh shoot if he pushed down with his foot he could break me leg! Does he want to fight me? Oh crap lets get away!” At that point he let go of my arm and I walked away about as fast as I could, crowd permitting. Throughout this whole exchange my arms have been wrapped around my bag in front of me and exactly zero attention has been paid to my front left pocket. Once I am out of the intersection it only takes me a few seconds to realize that my wallet is gone. I do a quick check of all of my pockets and bag but it’s not there. Again my mind races: “ok what now? I have to go find that guy! And beat him up! I am in no condition to fight with this heavy bag containing all of my valuables. Hell I would probably loose more stuff if I went back. And he’s already gone.” At this point I am a little freaked out over the loss of my debit card, which is my only way to get cash. Nowhere takes credit (and all of those cards were in the wallet too) so I am now left with the little bit of emergency cash that is stored with my passport. As I am contemplating the ramifications of all of this I decide there is nothing to be gained by hanging around, so I turn to leave, taking one last look back towards the intersection. What I see is a young man with a bundled up package on his head walking towards me and hurriedly patting his pockets as if he has lost his wallet. I instantly get the message and nod that “yes, I have lost my wallet”. He hands me the wallet, sans cash, but with everything else intact! I thank him profusely and count my lucky stars. It’s time to head back to the hotel.
So what did I loose? In all about $10. On the shit-sucks-o-meter this doesn’t even register. It really could have been much worse. For instance that morning I had a lot more cash in there but I had used it to prepay for two more nights at the hotel. My passport and yellow fever card which were (stupidly) in my other pocket could have been a massive headache to replace, especially being in a yellow fever endemic country. And the photos on my camera would have taken an emotional toll.
So what have I learned from this episode? Maybe don’t have all of your valuables in the same place at the same time? Though if they’re not on your person how do you know they’re safe? I am going to be less lax about always stashing my passport under my clothes. The biggest lesson I take away is to always return to the scene of the crime. You won’t catch the guys, but you might get some of your stuff back. I was a second away from just leaving when I got the wallet back. The young man who returned it said it was just left on the ground, so it makes sense to take a good look around when something gets stolen.

Posted in Stories

My Week in Dar

So I’ve had an interesting week in Tanzania’s biggest city, Dar es Salaam.

The trip to Dar itself was not uneventful, with the bus breaking down for a couple of hours and a fist fight at the station when we arrived.

We waited for our bus to be fixed.

We waited for our bus to be fixed.

The bus was lit up like a christmas tree.

This is where the fight broke out, moments before it happened.

This is where the fight broke out, moments before it happened.

A friend of one of my travel companions had arranged for someone to pick us up at the station. I was dropped at a budget hotel in the Kariakoo neighborhood, an area of town known to be a little dangerous. In the morning I took a look around the neighborhood.

Lots of car and motorcycle parts in Kariakoo.

Lots of car and motorcycle parts in Kariakoo.

Kariakoo yard

People selling stuff along the major road through Kariakoo. This was taken in the morning so it is normally much busier.

People selling stuff along the major road through Kariakoo. This was taken in the morning so it is normally much busier.


This is a huge two story enclosed market that mainly deals in farming supplies, such as pesticides and hoes.

This is a huge two story enclosed market that mainly deals in farming supplies, such as pesticides and hoes.

A busy market area in Kariakoo, In the streets people mostly sold produce, but all of the storefronts were selling clothing or luggage.

A busy market area in Kariakoo, In the streets people mostly sold produce, but all of the storefronts were selling clothing or luggage.

After a few days in Kariakoo I decided to check out the city center. City center is a more upscale area and the home of many government buildings and hotels.

Looking towards city center.

Looking towards city center.

There are a ton of new buildings going up in Dar. Mostly hotels and large apartment buildings. What is strange is that they are being designed and built by Chinese workers.

There are a ton of new buildings going up in Dar. Mostly hotels and large apartment buildings. What is strange is that they are being designed and built by Chinese workers.

This bank  advertises how easy it is to save and become a millionaire. For the record it is a lot easier when a million is only worth $625.

This bank advertises how easy it is to save and become a millionaire. For the record it is a lot easier when a million is only worth $625. Also, Ohio street?

So a lot happened after seeing the city center. First I met a local guy named Eddie. I was walking back towards my hotel and he stopped me on the street and invited me to come to his house for Eid lunch with his family. He is a super nice person and I am actually in his house right now using his wifi.

Eddie convinced me to move to a new hotel, closer to his house and in a safer neighborhood. We spend a lot of time hanging out, including trips to the German cultural center for movie night, lunches with his family at his place, and other trips around town.

So life had been pleasant and largely uneventful up until yesterday, when I had my wallet stolen. But this post is long enough already so I’ll save that story for later.

Posted in Updates


Well after two solid, and I mean solid (read 20  hours on a bus), days of travel, I find myself in Dar es Salaam. Can’t wait to get some of the good food that this place is famous for!

Posted in Updates

Seeing Malawi

So here I am on the first public computer fast enough to resize photos and make skype calls! What a great opportunity to post an update on what I’ve been up to.

So I left Lilongwe on a big bus that was supposed to take 4 hours but ended up taking ten. That bus got me to Zomba, the former capitol city that is smaller and situated up in the mountains.


There I stayed with a VSO volunteer named Florent. Every night he would cook veggies

Flo cooking

and his guard would cook nsima (a maize flower paste, pronounced see-ma)

Cooking nsima

and we would eat it together on the porch.

Nsima dinner

After spending a few days in the mountains I wanted to see Lake Malawi (the third largest lake in Africa!). I took what ended up being three minibuses and a taxi and ended up in Cape Maclear, a little beach town at the south end of the lake.

Cape Maclear

I get rather frustrated just laying around on the beach, so I kept my one day in Cape Maclear busy by going on a little boat tour where I got to snorkel with tropical fish

Cape Maclear boat tour

and watch these eagles eat fish thrown from the boat.

Eagle fishing

The next day me and some folks who were staying at the same lodge hopped on the back of a pickup and were taken to the ferry at Monkey Bay.

The Ilala

The boat was called the Ilala and it’s route went from the southern end of Lake Malawi almost all the way to the north, with multiple stops along the way. Here I am ready to go!

Getting on the Ilala

Accommodations were a bit rough, with first class passengers (me) sleeping on the uncovered deck. Here you can see what my bed looked like the morning after my first night on the boat. All of my clothing was spread out for padding, with my legs covered by a garbage bag my torso covered by my rain jacket to block the wind. I definitely feel like my search and rescue training helped me out with this one!

Bed on the boat

While I was originally planning to ride the Ilala all the way north and cross into Tanzania, I had run out of cash (no ATMs on board) and was not looking forward to spending another night on the deck, so I got off early at a popular backpacker’s town called Nkhata Bay, which is where I am now.

Nkhata Bay

Until next time!

Posted in Updates

My First Week

Apparently I’ve been sucked into the slow pace of life here and have skipped out on my blogging responsibilities until now. In my defense, this is the first time that I have been on a computer that both has an SD card reader and an internet connection actually fast enough to upload photos.

I have spent my time here staying with VSO volunteers that I met through couchsurfing. The VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) is the UK’s version of the Peace Corps but with some key differences, namely that the volunteers are required to have substantial work experience, and that they will take volunteers from anywhere. Through my hosts I have been introduced to the local aid worker community, including volunteers from about every large international aid organization that I’ve ever heard of. It is great to talk to so many people working on different problems affecting Malawi. On the flip side these people know better than anyone just how hard it is to change the status quo. It is pretty depressing to think about how much money and effort has been spent on the continent with such lackluster results.

Looking forward I want to get out of Lilongwe and see more of the country. I am currently looking for interesting projects to check out, and I would love to get a closer look at farming in Malawi.

I also wanted to mention one of the highlights of the trip: Last night I got to play The Resistance with five people who had never played it before! I lost, multiple times, but it was a really good time.

Posted in About International Development, About The Trip, Updates

Alive In Malawi

I made it. I didn’t have my camera out on the trip, so no photos yet, but I’ll be sure to take it out after I have a nap.

Posted in Updates

Here We Go

So tonight I leave for Malawi. And while this trip has been in the works for a very long time, it still feels like this day has snuck up on me. It has finally started to sink in. I will be gone for a long time. In a place I know very little about. But that’s exactly what I wanted. And I am ready. So here we go.

2013-09-19 18.06.24

Posted in About Me