Tuesday, April 27
Testing African Time to its very limits we schedule meetings with the UNHCR, Simba Football Club, the Tanzanian Football Federation, The ITV television channel and the Guardian and Citizen newspapers.
Our early morning meeting with the UNHCR was straight forward and ran on time, although I reckon I managed to upset a senior member of staff there. You see, I cannot understand why, after 10 months on the road, Bjorn is not receiving better support from the UNHCR. Not only is he working free-of-charge for the organisation, but he has also spent thousands of pounds of his own money and will be away from his family for almost a year. I told the UNHCR representative in Dar es Salaam that I cannot understand why they knew next to nothing about his trip before our arrival and also offered next to no support in the country until we were leaving. The same story has been repeated in respect to the UNHCR in nearly every country Bjorn has visited.
We were told that we need to communicate more with the Head Office in Geneva. I do not agree. Geneva needs to communicate more with us…and with every other regional office in southern and eastern Africa. To date, this project has spread the word to more than 80 million people worldwide. It is time the UNHCR woke up and started helping us more.
My message is: when we get to Malawi we want the UNHCR to organise a press conference with all the national press and the country’s main football clubs. We want transport around the city, a simple bed to be provided and good internet access. I do not think it is too much to ask for.
Monday, April 26, 2010
April 26 marked the 46th anniversary of the Union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar. In other words, the 46th birthday of the state of Tanzania. As you might expect with such a national holiday, the army and the politicians were out in force, and all the offices in Tanzania were closed.
This meant that despite our desire to work and spread the word, Monday also turned into a national holiday for us. I think it is fair to say that the downtrodden Biafra suburb of Dar es Salaam is not the most exciting place to spend your holidays, but there again it is probably memorable at least. Sunset was a beer with the locals on a cliff overlooking Coco Beach, five kilometres away. Thankfully, we didn’t run into any of the 3,101 prisoners that had been pardoned and released from jail on Monday as part of the national holiday celebrations.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
The girls from Star Sports Television might not follow the most orthodox style of journalism but, none the less, they really came up with the goods after the interview they made with Bjorn and I featured on their pan-African sports channel. Viewers in Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo now know about ‘The Shirt 2010’ project and our efforts to spread awareness about the world’s millions of refugees. It goes without saying that when you walk down a Tanzanian street and a random passer by tells you “I saw you on the television,” you feel the project is going in the right direction.
One thing I have quickly learned in Kenya and Tanzania is the concept of ‘Africa time’. If somebody tells you they will meet you at 1pm, chances are they will actually turn up at 7pm…or not at all. The prize, however, for the best Africa Time example to date must go to the African Confederations Cup match we attended on Sunday between Simba (Dar es Salaam) and Haras El Hadoud (Egypt). The high profile match was held at the Tanzanian New National Stadium (capacity 65,000) in front of more than 20,000 spectators. OK, so the Kick Off time was supposed to be 4pm; millions awaited live TV coverage in Egypt and Tanzania. But following the rules of Africa Time none of us should have been surprised that the match kicked off 33 minutes late. The reason? There wasn’t one!
The strangest feature of this entertaining match was the decision by more than two thousand rival Tanzanian football fans to turn up and support the Egyptian team, rather than Tanzanian champions Simba. Apparently, rivalries cut so deep in Tanzania that rival fans actually pay good money to turn up and support foreign opponents. It’s the equivalent of 2,000 Everton fans turning up at Anfield to support Benfica if they were playing against Liverpool!
For the record, Simba won Sunday’s match 2-1.
Saturday, April 24
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
As I was reliably informed, it takes 24 hours to recover from a scorpion bite. Sure enough, the pain has all but gone as I take breakfast 24 hours later.
We take advantage of REDESO's kind offer to use their office for what we call a 'communication day'. It is vital that we keep up to date with all our blogs, emails and media contacts, but when you are on the road it is sometimes days until you can find decent internet and a place to work.
This is no holiday. Bjorn has been to some amazing places but not done any of the tourist sites. A good example was Cairo - minus the pyramids.
And since I joined him there were no game reserves; no lions and elephants in Kenya. Sadly (for me) there will be no trip to the magical island of Zanzibar from Dar es salaam.
After several hours of blogging two ladies turn up at the office to interview us for one of southern Africa's leading sports channels - Star Sports. I am not entirely sure that they are overly impressed with Bjorn's tales of his trip so far because mid-interview the two ladies start reading a newspaper between themselves. I get the feeling it's a wind up, but it's not :)
Cue film of the two crazy mzungus cycling around outside in the township and our African TV careers advance yet further.
REDESO director Mr Kasaizi kindly takes us to the Tanzanian Football Federation and organises tickets for Sunday's African Confederations Cup match, then we spend the evening in the company of Tanzania's top FIFA-approved Football agent (and owner of Africa Lyon FC), Mehdi.
The man is a top host and treats us to dinner at an excellent Italian restaurant and a couple of beers at one of his favourite clubs before driving us home to the door of our hotel.
Loads more news and photos here:
More info about Africa Lyon Football Club:
Friday, April 23
Chogo Refugee Resettlement Camp, Tanzania
When we think of venturing abroad to exotic lands we often spend too much time worrying about the possible perils that might await us there: spiders, snakes, disease, war etc.
It is sensible to be cautious but sometimes we forget the very real threats in our every day lives such as driving to work in the morning or sending ourselves to an early grave by smoking too many cigarettes.
I was stood in the toilet at 7am on friday morning admiring the wonderful sunrise over the Chogo Resettlement Camp when suddenly I felt an acute pain in my inside leg. I would liken it to being given an injection by a nervous nurse. There quickly followed a second surge of pain and I knew something was amiss.
Out in the courtyard I quickly pulled off my trousers and asked Bjorn if he could see anything that might have caused my pain.
I watched Bjorn step back and his face screw up, "It's a scorpion mate"
"You're joking aren't you?"
"No, it really is. I am sorry. You've been bitten by a scorpion."
A million thoughts race around my head ranging from 'am I dreaming this?' to 'Is the scorpion of the deadly variety and might I die from this wound?'
I lie on the bed in a vertical position and a T-shirt is tied around my leg above my knee to limit the spread of the scorpion's venom.
Bjorn goes off in search of the local doctor but tells me there are 'no deadly scorpions in Tanzania'. His words settle me. Slightly. But as I lie there alone in the room I conclude that Bjorn probably doesn't know anything about scorpions and maybe, just maybe, I might die from this.
It is an absurd idea that this might be the cause of my demise but as I feel the venom spread across my leg I realise that it really might be a possibility.
Bjorn phones his Norwegian Army friend, Ingar, who starts searching his resources for the deadly-or-not status of the scorpion. He reckons I am safe. Jimmy, our guide in Chogo, arrives with pain killers and anti-allergy medicine. The scorpions in Chogo are not deadly, he assures me.
He's just told me I have won the lottery. I don't need to explain the relief.
The UNHCR and REDESO agree to provide us with a vehicle for the day to transport us to Dar es Salaam as clearly cycling is something I won't be doing for a couple of days.
The venom spreads until I can hardly feel a thing in most of my right leg. We drive to Dar es Salaam, I guess 300-400 kilometres away. Scorpion poison makes you feel very tired. I am in and out of sleep for most of the journey south-east.
In Dar es Salaam the people at REDESO can't do enough to help us. They help us find a place to sleep, start contacting the local press and football clubs and say some very kind words about what Bjorn and I are trying to achieve.
You shouldn't mix alcohol with medicine, but one cold beer by the roadside watching the citizens of Dar es Salaam go about their business is a perfect way to finish the day and to reflect upon how happy I feel to be alive.