VP Tanzanian Basketball Federation makes a visit

Thursday, June 23 2011

Second last day of camp. Was a regular day, and the camp went well. The Vice President of Tanzanian basketball dropped by, Mgessa Phares, and took some time to speak to the group. Bahati had been trying to get them involved and to drop by the camp…so it was very good that they did.
After camp had finished for the day, ended up playing some 3 on 3 with Bahati, Gidibo, Kaballah, a buddy of Bhahati’s, and one of the young kids Charles. We won 8 games to 1. I don’t think t hey were too happy. Funny how there is always lots of arguing, and I just laugh to myself and don’t say a word.

Got home about 6 and Daryl and I decided to go out for a bite to eat. Went to the African Spur, a steak place and had a pretty good meal. Curious thing was that they do Country Line dancing whenever someone has a birthday. Worth the laugh to watch all these Tanzanians line dancing!!

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Random Thoughts and Musings

  • Airconditioning is a Godsend. Would be extremely hard to sleep at night without it. And we are in the middle of Winter here! Over 30 degrees everyday.
  • Little tiny ants everywhere. Barely noticeable. Crawl over everything. I hope they are good eating…hard not to.
  • Hard to get clean. Washing in dirty water all the time. recommended not to brush your teeth with the tap water.
  • Garbage: recycling doesn’t exist here
  • Walking at night, not recommended
  • Food is surprisingly good…but certainly not huge portions of meat! We have lunch provided, lots of rice and beans, and pretty tasty.
  • Beer is not that bad. Mostly Lagers, Safari, Castle, Ndovu, Redd’s, Tusker, Serengheti, Kilimanjaro
  • Security guards everywhere. Higher end buildings employ the Masaai, a warrior tribe that people apparently won’t mess with.
  • Charging Kids $10 for the full week of camp, which includes lunches, and water.
  • Most houses have containers of water, that you have to get filled up from a water delivery truck. I’m lucky, I’m staying in the same area the embassy’s are on…and they are hooked up to a main line.
  • Gecko’s. Apparently quite common, and not uncommon to have 100 of them in your living room crawling around on the walls and ceiling. Thats what I was told…i’ve only seen one, but apparently this house has been sprayed thoroughly. People usually don’t mind them as they become a natural mosquito control.
  • Tanzania apparently is the only country in the world with two presidents. Tanzania was formed in 1964, joing the mainland Tanganyika with the island Zanzibar. Under the consitituion, Zanzibar maintains its own president.
  • Experienced my first power outage today. Was at the gym and lights went out during a tunderstorm. Outages quite common here…as the infratructure is not in place to handle the demands.
  • Not many playgrounds here. Kids don’t get much opportunity for free play…unless its soccer.  Most kids would not own their own basketball.
  • Kids listen extremely well…and pretty much no complaining.
  • Hasn’t been too bad of a challenge dealing with the language issues. Most people understand english, even if they don’t speak it.
  • Have to catch myself sometimes when I say: “take care of your bodies, get a good meal, wear good socks, get a good nights sleep” etc. Many can’t get a good meal at home, some for sure sleep outside at night. So I have to catch myself talking about things I normally would, things we take for granted in North America. Some kids couldn’t even afford the $10 for the week of camp.
  • Camp Cheer: “Mambo – Skills for Life – SeaHawks!”
  • Been able to do my Crossfit workouts. having a weightroom in the school works out extremely well. Was concerned I’ld be a full month without doing anything.
  • Lots of bats here. Seem to do a migration overhead everynight. Good to have around as well as they eat mosquitos.


Outdoor gym at IST

Cleaning the Indoor Court


Kibaha Park

Making a new court

French Fry Omlette!


Aga Khan Mzizima Secondary School

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Mid Week Update

Wednesday, June 22 2011

Three days of camp down. Things are going well and getting lots of positive feedback from the camp so far. I’m very impressed with how hard the kids are working, and how well they are listening, despite the language barrier. But most can understand English pretty well, and I find that Basketball is a universal language, so most times you can figure out what someone wants you to do.
Focused a lot on defense today, and then put them through a body weight workout at the end of the day. They will be pretty sore tomorrow for sure.
I had some guys up in the weightroom at lunchtime as well. Weightlifting is not a common thing to do here. I don’t believe there are many weightrooms in Tanzania. And then access to them would be limited as most kids probably wouldn’t be able to afford it.

Yesterday we gave them a TOEFL exam, to see where guys were with respect to English on a written level. If we are going to look at possible recruits to Memorial, they will have to pass an English Proficiency exam in order to get accepted. Thankfully Daryl was able to arrange it, since that is exactly what TANSao does for kids to help them get prepared for University.
Unfortunately, the results for most were not that great. Going to be one of the challenges I think, that and financial resources. But there were a few that did really well, and I’m optimistic.
Not a great deal else going on. Not a whole lot to do in Dar, plus pretty tired by the evenings. Since it’s the winter months here, it gets dark pretty early at night…around 6pm…and its recommend not to go walking around a whole lot at night here. Looking forward to going to Zanzibar on the weekend. There’s a coach of a club team there coming to the camp tomorrow, and I’m going to go to Zanzibar with him on the weekend. Going to check out his club on Saturday, and perhaps give a 2 hour session there.

Will also give me a chance to explore Zanzibar…so I’m looking forward to that.

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First day of Boys Camp

Start of Camp

Monday, June 20 2011

We had the first day of camp today.  Was up and ready at the gym at 8am.  Bahati had organized a press conference for the morning  to start off the camp and add some publicity to the endeavour.  He was expecting the media, members of the Tanzanian National Basketball Association, as well as Daryl from Tansao, himself from Mambo Basketball, and I from Memorial.

Interestingly enough, what I’m hearing and discovering about Tanzanian culture is that things do not always happen as they are planned.  As it turned out the media did not turn up till 3:30 pm and the members of the National Basketball Association did not show up at all.  Atypical of Tanzanians, Bahati was quite upset at this, particularly since he has worked the National team as an assistant coach, and part of their player development personnel. 

But things got rolling and kids started coming in.  We had planned on starting camp 9:30…and by 9:20, I was a little worried that we wouldn’t have enough kids.  We only had 28 at that point, and we were expecting over 50 to turn up.  I was told to wait…and that we are in Tanzania, and Tanzanian’s are always late!  And sure enough…by mid afternoon…we were up to 58!  Yes….I said mid-afternoon, cause that’s when some people showed up!

I did put in a rule that for everyone that came late…they had to do a line drill before they could enter the drills.  But I got some strange looks from the other coaches and it seemed they were concerned I would scare some kids away!

Mosheid, a 25 year old 6’6 guy that looks 42, came up to me to explain why he was late.  Said that he has to come from the other side of Dar and takes about 2 hours, 3 hours if there is a traffic jam and said today there was a traffic jam.  He was the guy that didn’t show up till afternoon!  He was somewhat upset when I told him he would have to run anyways…especially when I told him he could beat the traffic if he got up at 6am!

Besides the lateness, and the expected unexpectedness, I was pretty pleased with the first day of camp, and how things ran over all.  We had 30 kids 14-17 and 28 kids 18+, with the oldest being 33!  There is not a tonne of size, but there is a number of 6’3, 6’4 kids that can play, and that have already been pursuing colleges in the US.  So there seems to be some potential here, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the week.

Start of Camp

We are lucky with the facilities at the IST (International  School of Tanganyika – Tanzania is the name of the country that came from the combining of Tanganyika with the Zanzibar in 1964 into one state).  They have the indoor gym and the outdoor gym.  So we were able to break the group into <18 and 18 and above and have them in separate gyms.   I have 3 coaches helping me, Kaballah, who coaches one of the club teams in Tanzania, Moody, who is Bahati’s assistant with the Mambo basketball club, and Bahati.  We are expecting another coach from Zanzibar to join us on Wednesday.

Start of Camp

Out goal of the day was to get the group down to 30 kids, as that is what we originally agreed upon.  Given the two gyms, I was content to keep everybody, but Bahati was insistent that it was important to make the cuts.  Plus, I think there is huge issues with the amount of water we would need, and the cost of providing lunches to that many kids.  Water is not cheap in Tanzania, as you cannot drink the tap water.  We went through six 5 Gallon jugs today.  It was in 32 degrees weather, and it was better to playing in the outdoor court!  Pretty hot and humid inside.  The outdoor court has a roof and is a pretty sweat set up for an outdoor court.

By the end of the day, we had a pretty good read on who the top kids were in each age group.  We ended up keeping 19 from the older age group, and 15 from the younger age group.  Was over our quota, but I figured it was better to keep more if we were unsure of guys.    Plus, I’m assuming some guys won’t be showing up for the full week, if my current experiences are any indication.

So looks like we are off to a good start and everyone seems pleased with how things are working out.  Hopefully things will continue to go smoothly.

That’s it for now!

Start of Camp

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Aga Khan Mzizima Secondary School – Tournament

June 18, 2011

As soon as I hit the bed last night I was asleep…and didn’t wake up till 9:30am this morning when Daryl knocked on the door to wake me.  Didn’t think I would sleep that long…but was glad I did.  Hopefully staying awake the day before will help me adjust to the time difference quicker.    However, we were supposed to meet Bahati at the school at 10am!!  I told him I would walk down as he had to get going for work.  The school is only 10 min walk from the house, so not a problem.    

I got ready, and by the time I got down to the school, it was 10:05am.  However, I forgot that I would need security clearance to get inside, and my Swahili was not really up to par yet!  The security guard wouldn’t let me enter.  He said he hadn’t seen Bahati yet…but I wasn’t sure if we were talking about the same guy or not.  I didn’t have Bahati’s number with me, so couldn’t call him.  We finally managed to find the list that Daryl had put my name on , but the Security Guard still wasn’t convinced he should let me in.

I went back home to get Bahati’s number, but realized I only had Daryl’s.  I sent Daryl a text but didn’t hear back from him.  So I went back to the school, by this time it was 10:30, and still no sign of Bahati.  The security guard then asked one of the workers if he had Bahati’s number…at least I think that’s what he asked.  He just told me to follow that guy!  He introduced himself as Pimba…and as it turned out he was the lifeguard at the pool.  Not sure why he was there…as the pool was closed…but it worked out as he had Bahati’s number.  When I called Bahati, he told me he had just called Daryl to come get me, as he wouldn’t be able to, and to get a Taxi to the school we were going to – Aga Khan Mzizima Secondary School.  As it turns out, Tanzanian’s are on their own time and usually 10am means 11am.  Anyways, I then told Pimba I needed a taxi and he said he can get one for me.  So I followed him out of the complex and he took me to a guy in a car.  It didn’t really look like a taxi but I figured Pimba had helped me out so far, I didn’t think they were planning on robbing me, so I took the chance and hired his buddy as a taxi.  I’m pretty sure they overcharged me, he said it was 10,000 Tsh to get there, then another 10000 Tsh to get back.  I told him I only needed one way, so he said it only cost 5000 Tsh to get back then.  I thought that was strange, but he said Pimba was going with us, and he had to drive him back!  I decided not to argue, just laughed to myself.  I’ve been told that Taxi’s will double the fare for foreigners.  I guess just a part of business. 

Wasn’t that bad…1 dollar = 1500 Schilling. I’ve been calculating about 6 dollars per 10000 Tsh.  So the trip cost me $9. 

With the Tschilling, you get 500, 1000, 2000, 5000 and 10000 Tschilling notes.  That mean the highest note is worth about $6!  That means you are carrying a lot of notes around!!

It was a short ride to Aga Khan and basketball games were already taking place there.  As I walked in, I was immediately greeted by the principle, as she was expecting me.  I had emailed her earlier in the week asking for the schedule for the tournament.  It was an open tournament and clubs would enter their team.  Games started at 9am and went  on till 4pm.  Again, the gymnasium was outside, and it was another hot day.

This school has 3 kids coming to a Memorial already, as a result of the recruiting trip Memorial did a few  months ago.  Donald is a basketall player, seems ok, but unlikely to be good enough.  There is another kid that has been accepted to Memorial as well, Wynnjones Bernard, but he is also accepted to Washington State I believe.   He wants to come to Memorial to play, and seems to be a really good kid…but perhaps not good enough basketball wise.  He’ll be at the camp this week and I’ll get to see him more so that should be good.

 The level wasn’t that great at the tournament, a few kids  that were decent and a couple of tall kids that could develop into something.   But again, when I ask their ages, they are all older then I expect them to be.

Bahati showed up about an hour later and we stayed and watched a few games.  The school provided us with lunch, so that was great.  I must say that so far I’ve been greeted and treated extremely well.  Seem like incredibly nice people here, and are excited that I’m here to help out and to possibly give some kids the opportunity to pursue an education. 

After watching most of the teams play, we decided to call it a day as both of us were still pretty tired.  And being out in the sun in draining, especially when you are not used to it!  So we decided to head back.  We stopped in a supermarket first though, so I could pick up some things. I always enjoy the supermarkets in foreign countries, as a feels a little bit like being a local.  

Got back home and took things easy for the rest of the evening.  Hoping another good nights sleep and I’ll be on track time wise.

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Getting Settled in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania

Friday June 17, 2011

I arrived in Dar Es Salaam at 5:35 am in the morning.  6 hour flight from Cairo.  Managed to get a fair bit of sleep on the plane, or at least I think I did!   It was still dark when we got off the plane, but it was pretty warm, and I knew right away it would be a nice change from the June weather in Newfoundland that we have been having!  The airport is quite small and a bit of chaos at first as everyone was  filling out the forms for the VISA application.  I was going to get this done beforehand, but you would have had to send your Passport to Ottawa, and they would have charged $125 to get it done.  This way it was only $50…you just had to wait in line.  Didn’t take too long, about 30 minutes from the time I started filling out the forms.  Once you fill out the forms, you hand them with your passport and $50 to the Security guard.   When your name is called, they then get your fingerprints, and then you get your Passport with the VISA inside.  The Travel VISA is good for 3 months, if you need a new one, its recommend to leave the country, then come back in.

Once I got the VISA, I was able to go through security, and my bags were already unloaded.  I thought I would get some questions, as I had an extra large bag with me to carry the 80 T-Shirts we were using for the camp.  But didn’t have any issues, and just walked right on through. 

As I came out, the driver that Daryl had sent for me was waiting, with my name on a piece of paper.  Daryl Rustad works with the International School of Tanganyika (IST) and was my main contact for organizing the trip.  I’ll be staying with him for the next couple of weeks.  So Elias was waiting for me, he was Tanzanian and spoke some broken English.  He led me to the car and we hopped aboard a Toyota Corrolla, that had the steering wheel on the opposite side.  As in Britain, in Tanzania they drive on the opposite side of the road. 

Luckily it was still pretty early, about 6:15am at this point, and we were beating the morning traffic.  However, we did have to pass through downtown to get to Daryl’s, who lives in the Masaki Area.  Was a fair bit of traffic even for that hour, and a lot of people out walking or setting up shop on the sides of roads. 

I’m learning that that is a major means of income for a lot of people in Tanzania, running Duka’s or little roadside shops that basically sell anything and everything.   Some streets are literally lined with these shops.  Apparently they are a major problem for the government, as they are not taxed and 80% of small business is done through purchases at these Duka’s.

The very first thing you notice though, is the uncleanliness of the city.  There is garbage everywhere.  Even stacks of it on the sidewalks, or pushed up into a wall.  As I discovered, these stacks of garbage are then burned at night, and that’s how they get rid of the garbage.  There is also holes dug on the side of the road that they throw garbage into, and presumably, it gets burned at night as well.  Seems to be a major problem, and I guess a major reason why you are warned against drinking the water.  Only bottle water, even brushing your teeth.

Daryl lives in the Masaki area, which seems to be a more upscale part of town. A number of the embassy’s are here, however, it is near the Coco Beach area which I’m told is not the best place to be hanging around by yourself.   The homes in this area are similar to gated communities, with a security guard to let people in and out.  Daryl actually just moved their recently, as it is very close to the IST and to the TANSao (Tansania Student Achievement Organization – www.tansao.info) office where he works as well.  At  TANSAO they work at placing local students into Univeristy’s around the world, particularly North America.  That’s how Memorial got into the picture, as members from Student Recruitment had come to Tanzania and had been put in touch with the TanSAO office.

After I arrived and unloaded my bags, I was ready for some sleep, but thought some breakfast may be a good Idea as well.   Daryl suggested a nice little breakfast place where I was able to get a good cappachino and some bacon and eggs!  The breakfast hit the spot, and livened me up a little.  We then decided to drop down to the IST (the international school) to meet Bahati, who is the coach that is helping organize all the kids coming to the camp.

Bahati  Mgunda seems to be very well respected here.  He is only 40 years old, but I would only say he is 30.  It seems to be a Tanzanian trait that they look incredibly young.  Even talking to the kids, I think they are 16, 17, turns out they are 21, 22.   Bahati has connections with the Tanzanian National Team, having been an assistant coach with them in the past, and has spent some time in Germany and Hungary pursuing coaching licences.  He seems very dedicated to basketball and I feel incredibly lucky to be working with him.

After catching up with Bahati, it was decided that we would have a look at a basketball tournament that was taking place in Kibaha, a community about 45 min outside of Dar Es Salaam.    On the way, we picked up a friend of Bahati, Alex who is in Tanzanai doing some research.  He is from Connecticut and goes to Yale university.  He is writing a report on the affect Hasheen Thabeet’s success has had on basketball and kids in Tanzania.  The University is funding his project, and he has been in Tanzania for a couple of weeks now.

It was an interesting drive out as I was able to experience the Traffic here…and the hustle and bustle that goes on at the sides of the streets.  The traffic is crazy, and doesn’t seem like people obey the rules of the road much.  A lot of motorcycles here as well, which oddly enough all seem to be brand new and in good shape.  They weave in and out of traffic a fair bit.  That combined with people walking back and forth on the streets all the time, makes for interesting drives!  Oh, and there are tons of DalaDala’s, mini buses that are used for public transportation.  Apparently a very cultural way of getting around the city.

At this point though, I was pretty tired, and was in and out of sleep during the drive to Kibaha.  When I came to full senses, we had stopped at a little convenience store in Kibaha to pick up some water.  We then drove another couple of minutes to where the games were taken place.

As we approached, I realized the games were being played in an outdoor park.  And it looked like it was all sports being played.  There was a soccer game going one, a handball game, a basketball game, a netball game and a volleyball game as well.  The park was huge and each section was devoted to a particular sport, and tournaments were underway in each.  It was a big sports bonanza for the community of Kibaha.

We made our way over the courts, and it struck me that these people were playing outside in the 35 degrees of heat!   And it didn’t seem to me there was much water around.  When we got to the courts, a guys game had just finished, and there was a girls team warming up.  The curious thing was that each team only had one basketball to warm up with.  I asked Bahati why they didn’t have more, and he said that basketballs were expensive and most kids couldn’t afford to buy them.

It may explain why the skill of the kids wasn’t that great, even though they were 17, 18 years old.  Bahati said that there isn’t a huge amount of Youth development in Tanzania, and that kids usually pick up the game late.  You could tell that there was some athletes there, just lacking in skill development. 

We spent an hour or so there, Bahati introducing me to a lot of players and coaches, and explaining why I was in Tanzania and encouraging the kids to come to the camps.  Everyone seemed very gratefull that I had come and very much welcoming me to Tanzania (Karibu means welcome in Swahili).  You could tell that they appreciated that someone had made the effort to do something like this here.

While waiting for the boys game to start, we decided to get a bite to eat, and I had my first real taste of Tanzanian cuisine.  We ordered a dish that had French fries in the centre of an omelette.  I was somewhat sceptical at first, but when I tasted it, it tasted really good.  I guess when you think of it, not much different than eggs and hashbrowns, just mixed all together.  Anyways…it’s a new recipe I’ll keep for the future!

After we ate we stayed and watched the boys games.  There were a few athletes there that I asked Bahati to make sure they came to the camp next week.  Again, you can see some lack of skill development, but they had some athleticism and with a bit of teaching, could probably be pretty good basketball players.

At about 4:30 we decided to head back to Dar, it had been a long day by then, and I still really hadn’t slept.  I took the back seat in the car, and although I really wanted to see things as we drove, I couldn’t help but fall asleep on the way back.  I had of course been travelling for two days, with sporadic naps at best.

But then of course we got stuck in a traffic jam just as we entered Dar (Short for Dar Es Salaam). Apparently this is not just a daily occurrence, but an hourly occurrence, and given the number of cars and people on the road, I don’t doubt it.

When we got back in the city, Bahati wanted to take me to a couple of basketball clubs, particularly the one he trained his his teams out of – Vijana.  When we got there, there where kids playing, and of course, it was an outdoor court as well, with concrete playing surface.  Bahati introduced me to all the kids there, and again they seemed grateful I was there, and a number indicated they would be coming to the camp.  One of the national team prospects was there, a Tanzanian named Tony.  He was pretty legit and would instantly help our team back home.  But Bahati doesn’t think he has the marks and doubtful he will be able to do anything about it.  Too bad, as Tony is about 6’4, athletic and built strong.  He’s coming to the camp so I look forward to seeing him more.

All the kids know Bahati.  He is well respected and has put in a tremendous amount of time coaching kids in the area.  He is also a former national team player, and had once hit 15 threes in a game.  He says he hasn’t played now for a couple of years, has 2 kids and not enough time.  I’m going to try to get him out this week when we scrimmage in the evenings with the younger guys.

After that, we dropped off Alex, as he lived close by, then we went to visit another club, Don Bosco.  This is another well respected club and Bahati has helped some players there as well.  However, when we got there it looked like the gym was rented out for a wedding, so there was not much on the go basketball wise.  By now it was about 7:30…and we head back to meet up with Daryl at the IST.  We decided to go grab something quick to eat, and ended up going to Subway of all places!!  Didn’t matter to me as I was pretty hungry at this point, and more than that, wanted to get to bed.

After a quick meal, Daryl and I drove back to his house…and by 9 pm I was in bed.  I was hoping for a long nights sleep.

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First African Experience

Thursday June 16, 2011

Well…my first time in Africa!  At Cairo airport, just arrived 4:10pm local time (that’s 10:40am NL time).  I have a 5 hour stopover and take a second red eye at 10pm to Dar Es Salaam and arrive there at 5:30am tomorrow morning.   I left St. John’s last night on the red eye to Heathrow.   Was supposed to fly out at 10pm…but flight was delayed 1.5 hours.  There were not too many issues regarding the Air Canada strike, but the managers working the front line jobs don’t have a lot of experience.  I was lucky I double checked my baggage tags as the guy didn’t check my bags all the way through to Dar Es Salaam.  I would have arrived there and my bags would have still been in Cairo!  Lucky catch.

Flight was smooth, just not much sleep.  Had 3 hour stop over in London, but that goes quick by the time you get through Heathrow Airport to your connection gate.

 Glad to be finally on the way though.  A fair bit of planning and organizing to get things set  for the trip, and to make sure things are taken care of while I’m gone, as I’ll be away for a full month.  Two weeks of camps in Dar Es Salaam, then some vacation time to climb Kilimanjaro, and an extended stopover to see the Pyramids on the way back. 

It should be a fun trip, not to mention a great opportunity to make some connections, and hopefully open an avenue to get some recruits to Memorial.

= = = = =

As an indication of the preparation, here is a list of the vaccinations and medication I’ve had to get prior to leaving:

  • Yellow Fever Vaccination (Mandatory for anyone entering Tanzania)
  • Hepatitis A & B (Twinrix #3 of 3)
  • MMII (Rubella) Vaccination
  • Typhoid Injectable – Typhim VI
  • Dukoral – Travelers Diarrhea and Cholera Prevention
  • Malaria Medication (Have to take 2 days prior to travel, then everyday during travel and 7 days upon return)
  • Cipro – General Antibiotic
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