Karibu – Welcome

•September 4, 2010 • Leave a Comment

TIA – This Is Africa

That’s an expression that’s come in handy loads of times! So, I’ve settled in quite well during this first week here. Let me give you just a short review of what I’ve been up to:

Mount Kilimanjaro, photographed from the plane

Day 1, Monday August 30th

I arrived in the afternoon, and my big suitcase was lost (of course) – so there was nothing else to do but to manage on the clothes I had had the sense to pack in my smaller suitcase. On the flight from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, I had started talking to this girl that looked Scandinavian – and turns out she was a Swedish-speaking Finn from Vaasa and that she was headed for the exact same place as I was – the ICTR. Now we’re actually sitting in the exact same office, which is such a coincidence since there are several different departments and offices where you could be assigned as an intern at the tribunal.

Well, there was an ICTR-shuttle from the airport to Arusha, so we took that one and it drove me to my hostel. I was staying at Arusha Backpackers’ Hostel, which is, just as the name suggests, a gathering place for “Westerners”. It was nice for the first day though, since I got to use the internet, it was close to a supermarket and even though I shouldn’t have walked there alone after dark, I did, the first night. I figured that if you don’t look lost, don’t carry all your valuables etc. there’s nothing to worry about. It was only a few minute walk anyway. Well, during this first evening I found a facebook group for ICTR interns, and I replied to a few people looking for roommates, since I didn’t want to be staying at a guest house all fall. At the hostel I also met one other intern, an Italian guy. (The most common thing for interns to do is to share a house with some other interns – there aren’t really any apartment buildings, like the ones in Finland for example, here)

Day 2, Tuesday August 31st

We went to the tribunal in the morning, to check in, get our key cards, look around etc. And – to use the incredibly slow internet at the tribunal’s library! After that I went to meet Jana, an American girl who was living in a house with Charlotte, a German girl, and they were looking for a roommate. The pictures I saw showed a nice looking house, so I decided to move in that same evening. During the day me and Sofia, the other Finnish girl, went to lunch with Charlotte and after that we went into town to get Tanzanian sim cards for our phones and to walk around for a while.

Me, Sofia and Charlotte at lunch at the Arusha Masai Café – an expensive place for foreigners…

In the evening I moved in with Jana and Charlotte. We’re staying in a nice house in a part of Arusha called Njiro. It’s about 10-15 minutes by car from the city center, which actually makes it even nicer, in my opinion. Some other interns are living in houses closer to the city center, and it’s like a cluster of interns there. This way we get to see some more of the surroundings! Our house is situated in a walled complex of several houses, so there’s a closed gate and guards, which gives a sense of security, for sure. We have a maid who’s supposed to come every Monday to wash our clothes and the floors. The rent is cheap as well – only about 220 USD per person and month. We have a big kitchen, a living room, a nice backyard and three bedrooms and three bathrooms. One of the bathrooms is in the “basement” though, so we don’t use it at all. My room is on the second floor, and it has a nice big bed, so I’m really happy with it! We made pita bread with vegetables and roasted nuts for dinner – it tasted heavenly.

Our backyard

The Hall

Our kitchen

The dining room

The living room

My room

My view – there’s usually a lot of kids playing and running around here.

Day 3, Wednesday September 1st

This was the day when work was supposed to start, but it hardly did. Nothing was ready, and we didn’t have anything to do, so we were basically waiting around all day. TIA appeared to be the expression of the day. After work I went to get my luggage – but the office had already closed! I had also bought an internet stick from my roommate (she sold her old roommate’s stick)  (it cost 25 € btw) and I wanted to get internet – but the Vodacom office was closed, surprise surprise. So, it would all have to wait.

Well at home we said goodbye to Jana, who was leaving for the US for three weeks, and we had dinner. Basically you don’t wanna go out walking, jogging or anything after dark – you could get robbed – so there’s not much to do during evenings. That’s also why I’m so happy I have roommates, then there’s always someone to talk to!

Speaking of getting robbed – there was another intern who got robbed of her laptop the other day. At first she had refused to give them her bag, but then they tried to strangle her, so she just gave it to them – smart girl! You wouldn’t want to get hurt because of material stuff! This is also why it’s so nice to have a house of your own (and not live in a hostel) – I can just leave my valuables at home and not have to worry about it all getting lost if I would happen to get robbed. Let’s hope that won’t happen, though.

Day 4, Thursday September 2nd

In the morning we took the shuttle to work. There is an ICTR-shuttle that picks up employees in the morning, and drops them off in the evenings. From our part of town we’re the only foreigners, all the other ones are Tanzanians working at the tribunal. The shuttle ride is interesting – it’s very bumpy (and I mean VERY bumpy!), and it pretty much takes a different route every day, but still everyone manages to get on it every day! There’s this one lady who has gotten on the shuttle on different locations every day I’ve taken the shuttle – and I have no idea how she manages to find it – nor how the shuttle manages to find her!

This day we were actually showed to our office – I’ll be working at the Office of the Prosecutor, in the Appeal’s section. It seems very interesting! I’ll be sharing the interns’ office with Sofia, Charlotte, two Tanzanians – Deo and Ferdinand, and a guy from Kamerun, Paul. There are a few desks left though, and there are rumors of new interns arriving next week – so we’ll see! We got our computers up and running – which means I won’t have to carry my laptop to work, which drastically decreases the risk of it getting stolen – yay!

During lunch I picked up my suitcase – I was so happy all of luggage had finally arrived. After going through both bags I concluded that one necklace and my perfume had been stolen – but it could be worse, some other interns had lost more valuable stuff during their flights over. It’s a known fact that airport personnel go through some bags, looking for things to steal…

In the evening me, Charlotte and Sofia went to ViaVia – a night club/restaurant close to the tribunal. They had some terrible African karaoke there, and a live band. The feeling is best described by comparing the evening to a night on one of the ferries trafficking between Finland and Sweden – bizarre! Well, we left before the other interns even had time to arrive, and went to bed.

Day 5, Friday September 3rd

At work we got our first assignments. Mine will be to go through witness statements and to work with disclosures. It’s important that every document is disclosed by the prosecution before there is a judgment on the trial level – and so, the appeal’s section chips in and helps them out. I don’t really understand exactly how it works, but it’ll become more clear after a few days, no doubt. We had lunch at a local canteen, we were basically the only white people there, but the food was good and cheap! For 1 euro you got rice, vegetables (basically spinach and cabbage), beef, sauce, cooked bananas in sauce (they use the still green bananas to cook with, and it tasted exactly like potatoes), ugali (which tastes like polenta, it maid out of corn flour) and a bunch of other things – they have the same food every day though, although you obviously don’t have to eat all of the dishes, you can just choose a few of them each day.

On Fridays we finish early – at 2 pm. This is nice considering we’re working from 8.30 am – 5.30 pm from Monday-Thursday, so the Friday afternoons compensate for that. So in the afternoon we went to the central market to buy fruits and vegetables, and we went to Shoprite (locals call it Shopwhite) to buy some groceries and some wine for the evening.

In the evening there was a party for all interns at one of the houses interns live in – called The White House. It was a beautiful house though, one of the most luxurious I’ve seen so far! The party was really nice, but my stomach hasn’t really like all the food it’s been getting all week, and combined with some alcohol and the bumpy taxi ride home the end result wasn’t good – once at home I threw up. But today I’m feeling fine – so I guess a crash course in Tanzanian bacteria for my stomach has paid off, I might just be feeling fine after this! (usually it takes about a week or so to get used to the bacteria…)

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The major thing to get used to here I would say is the dust. There’s brown/orange dust everywhere! Your feet are never clean, the seats in the DalaDalas (crammed minibuses that cost 0,15 € that we take home instead of taxis, when we don’t use the shuttle to and from work, in the evenings we use taxis) are definitely not clean, your clothes are filled with the dust… Yeah, you get the picture. But this is Africa, and I really want to embrace life here as much as possible. To a certain degree I’m always gonna be a Mzungu (foreigner/white person) but there’s nothing to do about that! I’m sure I will love this experience and living here!

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Preparation time

•August 25, 2010 • Leave a Comment

So, today is Wednesday, and I’m leaving in less than four days… My departure is nearing! Not nervous yet, though, don’t know why. I’m just trying to get everything done and I think I’m almost there. Tomorrow I will know whether or not I’ve been granted the CIMO allowance for internships within the EU and the UN. The grant would mean an extra 500€ per month, so I’d be delighted if I got it…

What else, I finally got all the certificates and decisions I needed – so now all I have to do is get on the plane, basically… Still trying to fit all my things into one bag à 20 kg, but I think it’s mission impossible. Well, I think I can manage with one bag, but I need about 2-3 kg more than allowed, but usually they let that slip. The thing is – I’m flying SAS from Helsinki to Stockholm, and they only allow 20 kg (and only one check-in bag), but from there onwards I’m allowed to bring 2 x 23 kg!! Insane. And, whatever extra I bring with SAS will cost me 6€ / kg (=not worth it). Well, on my way back I’m allowed to bring 2 x 23 kg, however (since I then will be checking in my bags with Ethiopian Airlines, and they allow 2 x 23 kg)… Well, the system’s confusing, but I don’t really mind. I just wanna get my bags there in one go, which, since I’m taking three different flights to get there, is unlikely, so I’ll be prepared with some spare clothes etc. in my hand luggage.

My mosquito net came today in the mail! It’s supposed to become a “roof with four walls” big enough to fit over a double bed, but it’s packed in this tiny bag, so I’m really happy about that! I can definitely recommend the site http://www.varuste.net/ to everyone looking for different types of hiking gear, sleeping bags etc. And judging from the few pictures of the 3,50€/night guest house I’m planning to stay at the net will come in handy!

Moving to Africa is a whole different thing than moving to Canada (I lived in Québec 07/2008-05/2009). There’s usually no info on the web, for one thing. E.g. info about the guest houses I’m gonna look into I got from the guide books my friend Elias was so kind to lend me! And I’m almost certain I will not get internet to my home/room etc. while there. Internet cafés and internet at the tribunal will be the ways to go. And – I will have to prepare myself to not have a kitchen of my own for several months. Or, well, that depends. When I was there last time it became rather clear that the best thing to do would be to rent a house together with some other people… So, we’ll see what the situation is once I get down there.

But basically I’m prepared to just manage life down there for four months. I’m not particularly excited, which is something I’m not too happy about – I’d really like to be excited about going there! Thing is, my lovely fiancé has recently moved to Turku – so I’d actually be very happy with just staying there, taking the job I was offered and just finishing up my studies! But, now all that will have to be canceled or at least postponed for four months! Thank god I’m not staying a whole year!

The things I am excited about though are:
– the work at the tribunal, I know I’ll learn a LOT!
– the possibility of doing some outdoor activities, like hiking near Mt Meru!
– the possibility of going on a safari or on a visit to a Maasai village
– possible visits to schools or orphanages while there (I’ve been looking into it, but again, it’s difficult when there’s close to no information available online…)
– a possible trip to Zanzibar!! I don’t have a lot of time, however, so a trip there’s unlikely to take place…

So, I’ll just keep my chin up for the last few days at work here in Finland, and then try not to cry so much at the airport when I’m leaving my fiancé behind, and then try to get excited about the trip on the plane.