Back in Dar

The excitement is starting early.

I’ve been invited to a party tonight. A friend’s mother is a Tanzanian politician who was recently appointed Deputy Minister for one of the Ministries. The family is celebrating her new status with the government and also her birthday. This party will be a taste of Tanzanian high society. I need to get home early though because:

Tomorrow at 9am the Check Presentation Ceremony with the Ambassador begins at the U.S. Embassy. I got a call on Friday from a Tanzanian journalist who wants to interview me 🙂 He told me, “This ceremony is a BIG deal.”

The Karatu District Education Officer called. We are meeting next Friday to work out details for future projects. He is very eager to continue supporting our work. He assured me that the computer teacher for Banjika will begin work in January at the start of the new school year. He is honored that the U.S. Embassy is giving money for a project at a school in his district and he is covering the costs for the headmaster to attend the ceremony.

I also spoke with Mr. Kalinga from the Ministry of Education and had a long meeting with Albin, Powering Potential’s representative in Tanzania.

Stay tuned….

New York State of Mind

I’m back

home

in Manhattan….

paved roads
flush toilets
reliable electricity
hot showers with heavy water pressure
English as a native language
people who “go with time” rushing around….

I miss Tanzania  🙂

Back from the Bush

In Swahili there is: mji (town), kijiji (village), and porini (bush).

The Monduli school was definitely in the porini. I’m now in Dar es Salaam – mji mkubwa (big town). I arrived yesterday – back from the bush – and am leaving for the airport in 1/2 hour to return to New York.

I had two meetings in Dar today, one with our new-found solar expert and one at the US Embassy again.

It’s been a most fruitful time here in Tanzania and I’m returning home eager to raise money and add 15 computers at Banjika. In my meeting with the Karatu District Education Officer he agreed to assign a computer teacher to the school, which is a huge step forward, and if they get more computers they can apply to the Ministry of Education to offer Computer Studies as part of their curriculum. We would like to give the headmaster his own computer, put one computer in the teachers’ staff room, and have 20 computers for the students.

I spoke to Sirili today, a Banjika Form Four student, and he was SO excited because he had been using the Internet at school yesterday. We also found some fantastic educational material which includes the Khan Academy learning videos – Bill Gates uses them to teach his children – the material is stored locally on the server at the school so it will be easy for them to access.

Time to leave for the airport…..I’ll be home the afternoon of Oct. 6. Thank you all for your interest in the story of Powering Potential  🙂

Maasai Magic in Monduli

Working at the Noonkodin School 

Two and a half hours!

That’s all the time it took to install four computers at the Noonkodin School for Maasai students in the Monduli district on Saturday, Oct. 2.

I had a great team of Tanzanian professionals working with me and as per my request they all arrived at the E’Manyatta Lodge in Monduli town at 9am sharp.

Do you know how rare that is in Tanzania?…where people don’t “go with time.” I was so happily surprised. So at 9am we started the trek up the mountain,across the plains, into the valley, along winding roads, well not roads really, more like trails and 45 minutes later arrived at a school in the middle of nowhere. Hilary, our hardware expert, remarked “You like to work in rural areas!”

Troubleshooting the computers

After we arrived, the headmaster asked me to address the boarding students who were assembled to greet us and then we went to work. The solar fundi (skilled person) wired up the computers.

Albin and the computer fundis unpacked the equipment, assembled the computers, installed the software, connected the wireless router and printer, made a few changes to the settings and we were done. We also tested a solution to give them affordable Internet access and it worked. So when they are ready they can get up online.

The headmaster, teachers and students are SO excited to have computers, especially shiny new modern ones!Tomorrow, Monday, Albin begins a one-week training course for the teachers. This has been made possible by the contributions of the generous Patrons of Powering Potential!

Stay tuned…

Satellite Fundi

Fundi is a Swahili word for “skilled person.” I’ve worked with the bike fundi, the solar fundi, and Surya likes to joke that he is the computer fundi.

This is Ramadhandi in action,
the satellite fundi.

I wish you all could see the excitement that the Intaneti is generating at the school and in the community!

Satellite, Solar, National Flag

A rare sight at a secondary school in Tanzania.

Justine Joseph
Headmaster (right)

Meshack Myinga
Assistant Headmaster (left)

Making their first Skype call.

They are talking to Anand Sethupathy in New York city, the Powering Potential advisor and donor whose idea it was to bring Internet access to the students at Banjika and whose money paid for the equipment and monthly service.

Surya (right) and Mr. Minja,
our Go To Guy in Karatu for all hardware needs.

Mr. Minja met Surya and his wife in Oct. 2008 while they were spending their honeymoon teaching at Banjika.

They had a very happy reunion in front of Mr. Minja’s store.

Moving Right Along

Thursday Sept. 16

8:30-9:30
Drive to airport

11:15-12:30
Flight from Dar to Arusha

1:00-1:30
Meeting with volunteer coordinator of Noonkodin school

1:30-2:30
Meeting with two Tanzanian network engineers who are available to help with the computer installation at the Noonkodin Secondary School in Monduli. One of them teaches Linux administration at a college here and the other was his student. Powering Potential’s computers are Linux-based.

2:30-3:30
Lunch with Susan Rickert, the woman who was the driving force behind the building of the Banjika school

3:30-5:30
Hot, dusty, bumpy drive to Karatu with Susan (and her guide)

5:30-6:30
Shower and dress for dinner

7:00-9:00
Dinner with Susan at Ngorongoro Farmhouse

9:00-9:15
Asked to speak about Powering Potential to a table of 20 people

9:30-10:30
Phone calls and text messages regarding customs clearance of the computers and to arrange the installation for Oct. 2

11:00
Collapse into bed

Friday, Sept. 17

Banjika Graduation Ceremony – all day

The Administrative Officer from the District Commissioner’s office and the District Education Officer were there – important local government people and both invited me to their offices to discuss the work of Powering Potential and how they might support us.

I have videos of the event (including my speech) … am eager to share them with you online..might have to wait until I get home though…the Internet is slower here.

The solar technicians were working at the school all day expanding the solar energy system to accommodate the satellite Internet dish which takes an additional 80 watts.

Surya Ganguly arrives into Arusha tonight, he is one of Powering Potential’s technical gurus. He’s coming to help with the installation of the satellite Internet dish which is happening tomorrow and Sunday, and to set up the computers for safe, efficient access to the Internet.

If you’ve been wondering about the computers intended for the Noonkodin school in Monduli… they were finally cleared from customs on Thursday Sept. 16 (we were expecting them to be cleared on Aug. 27). Albin, our person here in Tanzania (I need to find a title for him 🙂 any suggestions? will bring the computers by bus from Dar to Arusha on Oct. 1 and we will begin the installation the next day. Albin is in college in Dar until Sept. 30 and I had to leave Dar on Thursday to be at Banjika by Friday and the computers weren’t cleared yet… thus the wait.

Local Tranportation

Without a car of one’s own, there are three vehicular options for getting around Dar es Salaam – Taxi, Bajaj, and Dalla Dalla.

I want to give you a flavor of each.

Taxi

Bajaj (my favorite)

Dalla Dalla

Dalla Dalla Posta station in the city center

The ride by taxi from my hotel into the city center takes about 15 minutes with no traffic. The cost? Taxi: $6.60, Bajaj: $3.30, Dalla Dalla: 16 cents

Frugality is a hallmark of Powering Potential so now that I’ve learned the system, I take the Dalla Dalla unless I’m dressed up for a business meeting, under time constraints, or running out of patience 🙂

Merry Modems

I am feeling SO happy about modems at the moment! Particularly the one in this photo.

Many Tanzanians have spent long hours helping me find a modem that would work with the Linux-based Powering Potential computers.

Today we crossed the finish line 🙂 and I am a happy camper!

Mtituh, Chief Manager Hardware & Data Communications at Tanzania Postal Bank, has been generously offering his advice. I met him months ago on ethinktanktz.org, an online forum for Tanzanian technology professionals (I was invited to join). Last week he asked me to come to his office so he could demonstrate a solution. I have a laptop similar to the Powering Potential computers so we could test the solution. He plugged a Zain modem (Internet router actually) into my laptop and bingo it WORKED! no configuration, no frustration, it just worked….truly plug and play….I was off and running around the Internet.

As soon as I left his office I went to the Zain shop to buy one; I tested it again in their shop and bingo it WORKED again. My spirits are starting to soar…two tests, two successes. However I didn’t have enough money to pay for it – having my ATM cards stolen has put a crimp in my financial flexibility so I couldn’t go to an ATM to get the money. My sister sent me money through Western Union and today I bought the modem. I had tested it twice so I didn’t bring my computer with me (always a risk of it being stolen) to test the modem a third time; I just bought it, came home, plugged it in and bingo, it DIDN’T work!

OK…I thought…I KNOW this thing works. So I went to the Zain headquarters to visit my new best friend Jean Paul, Zain’s technical guru, and he figured it out (he’s been helping me with many of my Tanzanian communication problems 🙂 The problem was that the SIM card wasn’t configured to accept Internet data….just voice and SMS. He reconfigured the card and I’m experiencing the Joys of Technology again!

This modem/router works with Ethernet and USB cables and wirelessly. My original reason for wanting a modem was to get online with my own computer and not be dependent on undependable hotel and Internet cafe services. With my own modem I can compute to my heart’s content while in Tanzania. And now that I have a working modem we can try it at the schools to determine it’s viability for use there.

Happy Days are here again!

Q Bar and Guest House

When I was searching for a place to stay in Dar es Salaam I depended on the Lonely Planet guidebook. The Q Bar and Guest House: “Huge, spotless mid-range rooms. Food is served downstairs and there’s also a popular bar with live music on Friday evening.” It’s going to be noisy I said to myself…I checked out their website and emailed back and forth…was reassured that they had quiet rooms on the top floors in the back…$55/night. OK….I knew it was in a safe, pleasant neighborhood so I booked it.

When I got there at midnight on Tuesday night…it looked nothing like their website…oh well….the room was big and spotless. The next night…the bar was full of people….and the women were dressed like no other women I’ve ever seen before in Tanzania…..my first thought: “I guess this is the way Tanzanian women dress in the big city” then I quickly realized…. noooo….they were dressed that way to improve their economic prospects 🙂

I was focused on meetings at the Embassy, the Ministry of Education, with Accenture, NGOs, company CEOs, technicians, etc. too busy to even think about trying to find another place to stay. Ohhh and by the way…the music was not just Fridays, also Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. And to top it off…the rooms in the back which were supposed to be quiet were facing the newly opened Maisha Club….a nightclub with blaring music until 5am except Mondays and Tuesdays.

I met some interesting people there….an American who owns mines in the Congo, China and other places around the world…an Australian who explores for oil in Mogadishu, has a home in Tanzania and lives in Thailand…two medical students from Holland. There were upsides to the situation I found myself in and the laundry was free 🙂 Some of these people had stayed at the Q Bar many times over the years. I asked around, “Have you ever had anything stolen?” No was the answer….the noise was getting to me though and the Ladies of the Night were making friends with me.

I started asking around for other places in the area to stay. Then on Sunday, Hilda, another Q Bar guest had money stolen from her room. I stepped up my efforts to find another place. And yesterday evening as Lance (the Australian) and I were walking to the Italian restaurant three blocks away, a car drove up beside us and suddenly the shoulder strap on my purse was cut and it was being pulled away…a tug of war ensued and I lost. Gone…my cellphone, three credit cards, two ATM cards, my favorite purse, but only $35. My passport and the rest of my cash were safely hidden away.

So….I’ve moved. I’m paying more than twice what I was at the Q Bar and I feel infinitely more safe and comfortable.

Ministry of Education and Vocational Training

The other day I met with an economist from the Department of Policy and Planning at the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training. I was referred to him by the First Secretary of the Tanzanian Permanent Mission to the UN in New York. After a short talk with this economist he introduced me to the head of Monitoring and Evaluation…had a long, very interesting conversation with him. He gave me a booklet of Tanzania’s Technology Education Policy and asked me to return to meet with the Director of Policy and Planning and possibly the Permanent Secretary of the Education Ministry. He recommended that Powering Potential concentrate our work for now in one District, which would be Karatu. He also recommended meeting the local education government officials and suggested I look into working at a particular school of interest to him. Albin, Powering Potential’s person in Tanzania, explained the local education government structure to me and his father works in education in the Karatu district so he is going to get me the names of these local officials.

Tanzania is very eager to get technology into their schools and they seem very grateful for all that we are doing. I want Powering Potential to work in harmony with the Ministry of Education. Stay tuned….