Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Mon. June 4th: Visit to a Twende, a Tanzanian Innovation Center

Twende (Link)

Tembe is a Swahili word meaning Let's go!, and Twende is a social innovation center and non-profit organization in Arusha, Tanzania. Their motto is We empower people to design and make their own technologies to solve community challenges. We Make, We Teach, We Support

I found Twende by googling maker space Tanzania. There are not many Do It Yourself (DIY) places in Africa, but I found Twende in Arusha. Since Kim and I were going to be in Arusha three days before the students, I contacted them for a visit. There were some difficulties meeting up, but Frank picked us up for the visit around 3 PM. 

The Leadership

We met Deborah Tien, the Executive Director, when we got to Twende. She is an American with a degree in astrophysics from Wellesley College, and has worked in Nicaragua and Tanzania developing design strategies and appropriate technology for less developed countries. She was an exciting to talk. She described the overall goal of Twende, and the challenges Twende has overcome during its existence an her serving as Director.

The other leadership positions are held by Tanzanians. Deborah is leaving soon for a new job, and they have found a good fit in Tanzanian women. So everyone at Twende was very optimistic about the future. 

Frank showed us around the space. It is actually a small amount of space they have, especially for the amount of projects and education they are doing. They have a milling machine, a lathe, a welding station, and an electronic station, plus other space for storage, etc. There were posters they used to present their work both in Tanzania and internationally. 

Projects on Display

A Solar Mobile Phone Charger

This is a solar mobile phone charger. On the left is a pile of discarded solar panels from a company that was replacing them. Their original purpose was not a charger, but the solar panel works. On the left is what the students take home. The white box is a repurposed junction box with a USB port available through a hole, and inside is a simple circuit to safely proved 5 volts to charge a device. Students learn valuable skills and realize that they can build useful things. Many of the students have never used a drill or soldering iron. 

A Spirit (Alcohol) Stove

The core of the stove is made out of the top and bottom of an aluminum soda can. The ring around it is made of a piece of discarded fencing. You pour a small amount of alcohol in it and light it. A small splash of alcohol can heat the water for two or three cups of tea or coffee.

A Flashlight (They call it a torch)

Here Frank is excitedly showing us a flashlight made from a plastic soda bottle, a piece of pipe, and four LED's. It involves a small amount of soldering. He was always talking rapidly, so his hand is blurred.

An Insect Trap

This is made out of an old jar. The circle is a small tube insects will fly or crawl through. once inside they have a hard time finding the way out. You bait it with a small piece of fruit and it ends up with many insect trapped inside.

New Technology & Independent Spin-Off Business

Using simple materials, one student made a press for squeezing oil out of an avocado seed. Avocado seed oil is very marketable. One big success story for Twende is that the former student transitioned from Twende technology incubator to a commercial enterprise.
One of Twende's services is to teach the skills necessary to start, and maintain a business.

So, Keep it up, Twende!

Monday, June 4, 2018

Safari in Arusha National Park

We had Sunday free in Arusha, so we scheduled a safari to Arusha National Park which is centered on Mount Meru. Arusha National Park is not as well known as the safaris we will go on later this week, but it was certainly worth the visit.

Our driver was here to pick up us up at 6:00 AM so we drove most of the way out to the park in the dark. We got into the park around 7:00. The first place we visited was a meadow with plenty of grazing zebras.
The first animals we saw are Kim's favorites - zebras!
As you can see from the picture, the sky was overcast as it was all day. Not great for viewing scenery, but the animals don't care.
Our driver, Benjamin, said all of the roads in the National Parks are dirt - no tarmac at all. Benjamin popped the top up in the back of the Toyota Range Rover and we drove like that all day. I spent a lot of time with my head out watching for animals. (I ended up with chapped cheeks the next day.
 The view from standing and looking forward down a typical dirt road.
Here is the Range Rover. All of the safari vehicles are required to carry two spare tires and extra fuel. If you look closely you can see that the roof is popped up.

We saw many giraffes and waterbucks. The giraffes are very alert and will stop grazing and watch you. 
 This is a waterbuck. Kim remembered from our membership at the San Deigo Wild Animal Park, they have a bullseye on their rear.
 One of the first giraffes we saw.
This is a very typical view. Giraffes are very alert animals. In contrast the waterbucks would just ignore us.
Giraffes usually stay in family groups. Here are two, but they were a part of herd of a dozen. It felt like Jurassic Park because just when we were watching some giraffes, several more would surprise from a different direction.
What is more adorable than a baby animal?


There are several lakes in the Park that have flamingos. We stopped and watched for while. The flamingos noisily congregated. The ones in the foreground were wading with their heads upside down and swinging their heads from side to side while they walked. The guide said they are filter feeders, so they swish a lot of water through their beaks while they feed.

Here are more zebras. 
This view has a bonus giraffe in the background!
We also saw suni and dik-dik's, both very small antelope. The suni are a distinctive red colored with large hindquarters, and the dik-dik is the smallest member of the antelope family.
A suni antelope.
A dik-dik antelope.
There are a lot of birds too. Here is a crowned crane.
A crowned crane.
We also saw baboons and monkeys. 
This is a blue monkey. They do not have a striking blue color, but their hairless faces can have a blue tint.

Our Mammal and Bird List for Arusha National Park

  • Masai Giraffe
  • Zebra
  • Cape Buffalo
  • Waterbuck
  • Bushbuck
  • Suni
  • Dik-Dik
  • Warthog (In Swahili poomba)
  • Baboon
  • Colobus Monkey
  • Blue Monkey
  • Bee-Eater (bird)
  • Crowned Crane
  • Blacksmith (bird)
  • Flamingos (I am not sure if they were the Greater or Lesser Flamingos)

Thursday, May 31, 2018

My Last Days in Bagamoyo

Kim and I are leaving Bagamoyo three days before the students. On Saturday I have a visit planned to the Arusha Observatory which is under construction.  For Sunday Kim and I booked a safari to Arusha National Park, so we are excited to get out and see some beautiful scenery, Mount Meru, the fifth tallest mountain in Africa, and some wildlife. The rest of the party will arrive on Monday afternoon. But here is a run down of the last few days in Bagamoyo.

The Reef

As a part of the Environmental Justice course, Dr. Plaxedes Chitoyo planned a walk on the local reef followed by a beach cleanup. The timing worked out to meet briefly at 9:00 in the pavilion, then walk out to the reef. The reef was very interesting with many different creatures waiting for us. Only at low tide is the reef exposed. It is several hundred yards from the shore out to the reef. At low tide the reef sticks up and forms tide pools with lots of life in them.
Two students walking through a tide pool on the reef.
Two of the Duquesne advisors who visited with an alumni tour.
There were lots of crabs scuttling around, sea weed, small fish, sea cucumbers, starfish, live coral, small shrimp, and some unidentified creatures. I wish I knew more marine biology.

Beach Clean-Up

Associated with the Firefly is the Bagamoyo Beach Lovers (BBL), an NGO that promotes the clean up and care of the beaches in the area. We all walked the beach down to the Firefly and the head of BBL talked to us about their effort. Then we spent a couple of hot hours picking up plastic and other trash from the beach near the fish market. The Firefly hosts a recycling point from which plastics, glass and other recyclables are transported to Dar es Salaam for proper treatment.
The crew armed with gloves and bags ready to head out.

It took significant pick up to even make our way down to the beach.
Finally, digging old nets and plastic out of the sand.
We filled quite a number of bags.
This is a typical scene in the town of Bagamoyo. There are a few paved roads, and a network of neighborhood houses on dirt roads or paths. There are open wells every 200 yards or so.

Just another day making a very small impact in the overall environmental problems in Tanzania. But it had an impact on the students and opened their eyes to magnitude of the issue of trash. This triggered a lot of discussion the next day in class and the rest of the Maymester.

Today, Thursday May 31st, was my last session with the students before the final wrap up at the very end of the trip. The next to last chapter in the book we are reading for class, The Story of Earth, tells of how there have been many changes in the Earth's climate, oceans, land, life over the last 560 million years. The author, Robert Hazen, also highlights how each change drove the extinction of many species and opened opportunities for the diversification of surviving species, but it is a story that should give all of a warning to think about how the rapid changes we see now will affect the future of the Earth. Life survives, but it will be very different in the future.

Enough for now. I will post again from Arusha.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Papa's Got a Brand New Bag(amoyo Shirt)

One striking thing you see in Tanzania is the bright clothing people wear. The traditional cloth is called Kanga and it comes in many colors and patterns. The dresses the women wear are very colorful. On the weekends you also will also see pairs or small groups of women with matching dresses. Often the cloth matches, but the dresses have individual styles.

Where do the people get this clothing? There are NO large stores or shops in Bagamoyo, not even grocery stores.

A lot of the dresses and nice shirts are made by tailors. Some of the small shops (10 feet by 10 feet) sell kanga cloth, and some are tailor shops. I could not let this opportunity pass, so I got a shirt made.
My new Bagamoyo shirt


Last week Kim and I bought our souvenirs at the Artist's Market, a coop in the Old Slave Market in Bagamoyo. It is much smaller than the shops in Dar es Salaam or Arusha, but you can see the craftsmen carving and painting. We crossed the street to a shop that displayed cloth, handbags and shirts. It is a small NGO (Non-Government Organization) run by Pili Mtomga. It supports women working in the clothing business.
Pili Mtonga - She runs a co-op helping women by providing jobs.
A friend Mauricio ran out and found already made shirts. I found one of the right size and Pili measured it. For material I chose a custom batik that the co-op made, so it is a unique pattern and set of colors. Two days later - my shirt was ready. I wore it to mass on Sunday.

So yesterday, Tuesday, May 29th, Matt Knauss, Manuel Frontera and I took a tuk-tuk, a three wheeled motorcycle cab, across town to a shopping district. We bumbled around and bought some kanga as we headed in the general direction of Pila's shop. By the way, most of the sewing machines here are pedal operated. Pili said they are cheaper Chinese machines, but they can sew when the electricity is out. She also has an electric machine they use for embroidery and other fine work.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Sunday 2018-May-27, Mass, Swimming, and Dinner Out

It has been a relaxing day. I worked out some schedule details for classes this week, then everyone went to the 11:00 mass at the Catholic Church in Bagamoyo. The 11:00 mass is the Children's Mass. It was delightful. There is a primary boarding school here run by the Spiritan Father and some nuns. The children processed into the church very orderly, and filled the front rows. The priest was really good with the children, clearly addressing them. All of the attendant were schoolchildren. The reading were done by the children.

The Children's Mass

Most amazing was the choir led by very serious and enthusiastic 10 year old boy. The singing was not as polished as last week's Bishop's mass, but they were talented. Two boys played drums in a very local style, girls occasionally whooped out, and ululations punctuated the singing from time to time. It was very moving. Jesus said, "The kingdom of God belongs to such as these," and they transported us there during the Mass.


The swimming really is determined by the tides. The slope here is very shallow, so if it is not near high tide, you can't really swim. High tide today was at 3:00 PM, perfect for swimming after lunch. By the time Kim and I changed and got down to the beach, most of the students had swum and were sunbathing. We swam and bobbed in the warm Indian Ocean for at least an hour. Three of the students played pirates by taking over an unoccupied boat. 

Kim and I started listing the places we have swum: Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, now the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of California, The Gulf of Mexico, the Red Sea, the Dead Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, the Adriatic Sea, the South China Sea. We also went paddling in Glacier Bay and the Juneau Fiord.

After swimming, we relaxed in one of the huts for a while, before going back to the Hotel to get ready for dinner.

Dinner at The Firefly

The Firefly is a very cool, "chill" place to hangout. "Our main mission is to maintain an eco-friendly hotel, by avoiding use of unnecessary waste." They have rooms, a campground, restaurant, bar, and shop. Many of the students went down early to hang out before dinner.

The Duquesne advisors joined us for dinner. Dinner was served around a very crowded table and the food was the best since we've been in Tanzania. They made a fresh avocado & tomato salad, tender beef on skewers, grilled chicken, and creamy potato salad. 

They brought in a special band for us that played traditional Tanzanian music. A two minute video is posted at this link:

After dinner we stayed for a while, then went back to the Stella Maris to set up the telescope to look at the Moon. Many of the students and the visiting advisors came up. The Moon is getting close to full, so not many stars or the Milky Way were visible. We did get good views of the Moon, Jupiter, and Saturn, though. I love being up on the roof here. It is beautiful here.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Four Straight Days of Class (and More Pictures)

Today is Saturday, May 26, 2018. Dr. Plaxedes Chitoyo is teaching her first class this morning. I will be moderating when Mponda Malozo talks to our students about astronomy in Tanzania.

Wednesday - Friday, May 23 - 25

I taught astronomy each of these days at MARUCO, but also did some outside-the-classroom activities. On Thursday we woke up the students at 4:15 AM to come to the roof for observing. With the telescope, we had nice views of Saturn and Mars. Jupiter was briefly visible before it set. Some stayed until dawn. We saw Mercury with our eyes just before dawn, so those of us who persevered have seen all five naked eye planets: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn! In addition we saw Uranus and Neptune through the telescope, so we saw all eight planets!

I had mercy and class met at 11:00, instead of the usual 9:00 AM. But we weren't done. After dinner starting at 8:30 PM, we had Movie Night and watched The Martian. It is a very good movie and has a lot of good science in it.

The next week has six straight days of classes before we leave for Arusha. So the students will have to work hard for the next week.


 We went for a nice long walk on the beach. Here was a washed up brilliant blue crab
 This beach "resort" is clearly past its prime. This kind of decay is not unusual here.
 This boat looked abandoned, but was still tied up. ?? Things we can't figure out.
 There is a mangrove grove not far up the beach from us.
Kim took a nice picture of a beautiful sunset.
 On Friday afternoon Gidion organized a question and answer session between our students and some MARUCO students.
 Gidion was alway the best dressed person in the room.
Here is a posted  dress code for men.
 And for women. The Disciplinary Notice included the names of students who were going to be disciplined for violations. 
There is a cool establishment, The Firefly in town that is very active in taking care of the environment in Bagamoyo. Plaxedes Chitoyo is planning on our students doing a beach clean up and learning about environmental issues in Bagamoyo.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

More Pictures from Zanzibar

The Spice Farm Tour

 Pineapples only yield one fruit per plant.
 This is ... nutmeg, The spice is from grinding and drying the red nut.
 Here is nutmeg on the tree.
 Green. From a bush. Fresh pepper. It was very spicy!
 Ahhh. Coffee. Arabica beans.
Zanzibar rambutan or "Lip stick" fruit.
Also great for facepainting.
 Cloves. Even the green buds are lip-burning spicy.
What is a jungle without a few snails?
 Tumeric is from a root.
One of the guides wove rings, bracelets, etc from banana leaves as we walked.
 At the end Mr. Butterfly climbed way up a coconut tree and sang the original Hakuna Matata song This Link! This is Matt, the physics major on the trip trying. None of the people who tried made it very far up!
 Banana leaf accessorized.
We got caught in pouring rain for about 30 minutes. We ducked inside a schoolhouse with just one family inside. Here is Killian (with his face painted) teach a boy to be a photographer.
 At the end of the three hour tour, we were all ready for the beach.
Hmm. Must be what Tanzanians think we make from our American Gardens. BTW, several of our group liked the chili flavor ketchup. 

 The beautiful view from our afternoon and evening at the beach resort. We were the only guests.
Good bye, Tembo!