Posts Tagged 'Tourism'

Stranded in Africa – Opportunity to Explore

Travel Blog by Danielle Skinner and Hadley White

Hadley and Danielle at the Maasai Women's Fair Trade Center in Arusha, Tanzania, April 20.

Hadley and Danielle at the Maasai Women's Fair Trade Center in Arusha, Tanzania, April 20.


As we sit here in our hotel in Arusha, Tanzania, we are watching the news for updates on the openings of European airports.  Yes, we are one of the thousands of people stranded following the eruption of the volcano in Iceland. We were in Arusha last week for the 2010 International Military HIV/AIDS Conference which ran from April 12-15, (See related article: http://www.africom.mil/getArticle.asp?art=4270&lang=0) and expected to return to Stuttgart that week. No such luck.
We have been repeatedly struck by how warm, friendly, and sympathetic the Tanzanians are about our situation. We walked into the hotel tired and disappointed by the news that our flight was cancelled, but the hotel staff couldn’t have been any nicer, offering us juice, expressing how sorry they were for our situation, and promising to keep us updated with flight information.

Being stranded is never fun, but we decided we should make the most of the situation, and see as much as we could in Arusha and learn about local culture.

So today, we set out on a mission to learn more about the Maasai culture and hired a local guide named Hassan to show us around.  The Maasai are an indigenous African ethnic group located in Kenya and northern Tanzania. We gave Hassan a general idea of what we were interested in, and he created a full itinerary to introduce us to the local culture.

He first took us to the Maasai Women’s Fair Trade Center, which is a development organization that supports Maasai women in the areas of education, health, and economic empowerment.  We talked to a Massai woman who was helping to run the center, and she was very helpful in talking about the programs that the center runs, how it benefits the women and their families, and shared with us stories of President Bush’s visit there in 2008.  We also had the chance to buy the beautiful handiworks and crafts made by local women and to support the organization.

Next stop was a Maasai market we happened to pass along the road. Hassan told us this was a great opportunity to talk with the local people and ask them questions. We found that the market happens only once a week on Tuesdays so we were really lucky to have stumbled across it.  Hundreds of people from all over the Arusha area were there, buying and selling fruits, vegetable, clothes, tools, and even shoes made from tires. Both of us were particularly interested in the tire shoes, which we noticed everyone seemed to be wearing. Before we knew it, we were being fitted for our own custom-made pairs.  As the shoemaker was carving the rubber and driving in nails into our new shoes, a small crowd gathered to watch and talk with us. Many of them found it amusing that we wanted to wear shoes like theirs.  The shoes are literally made from tires with the tread on the bottom, and they are shaped like rectangles.  Evidently they can last for years.

One of the men we met while we were being fitted for shoes offered to show us around the Maasai cattle market, which was hidden behind the main market.  The adjoining market had dozens of cattle that were there for trading between communities and selling to vendors for meat. We learned that the average price of a cow is one million Tanzanian shillings, or 800 U.S. dollars. While we were there, a lot of people stopped to talk to us, especially about our new tire shoes, which we were then wearing and attempting to break in.

On the way back to town, Hassan asked us if we would like to try some game meat at a restaurant owned by a friend of his. We weren’t sure what he was referring to but we said we’d give it a try.  It turns out this out-of-the-way restaurant is extremely popular with local families especially on the weekends, when many of them spend all day there sitting under the trees, enjoying the peaceful setting. While we waiting for our food to come out, we talked about what we had experienced in the market, and Hassan told us that most people in Arusha are either farmers or cattle herders, and tourism is a significant industry. We told him how we had found Tanzanians to be so friendly and welcoming. He said that he was happy to hear that, as people take pride in their country here and being a good host is very important to them.

Well, before we knew it, the waitress brought out a plate of eland, in the antelope family, and a bowl of ugali, a Tanzanian staple food made of corn flower, which is traditionally eaten with your hands. Hassan said that a Tanzanian can’t go more than 2 days without a serving of ugali. It was interesting to try the local food and we found ourselves enjoying it more than we thought we would.

After great food and conversation, we made it back to the hotel, a little sunburned but extremely happy. What a great day! We still don’t know when we are going to leave Tanzania (we’re hoping our Friday flight works out), but are excited to have this opportunity to spend more time here and explore the Arusha area. We look forward to what new adventure tomorrow brings!

Danielle Skinner works for U.S. Africa Command Public Affairs, and Hadley White works for U.S. AFRICOM’s Outreach Directorate.

Maasai woman at a market near Arusha, April 20

Maasai woman at a market near Arusha, April 20

Vendor sells shoes made from tires at a market near Arusha, April 20

Vendor sells shoes made from tires at a market near Arusha, April 20.

Hadley is fitted for shoes made of tire rubber at a market near Arusha, April 20

Hadley is fitted for shoes made of tire rubber at a market near Arusha, April 20

Hassan and Hadley enjoy a traditional Tanzanian meal of eland (type of antelope) and ugali.

Hassan and Hadley enjoy a traditional Tanzanian meal of eland (type of antelope) and ugali.

View of Mount Meru in Tanzania. It is the 10th highest mountain in Africa

View of Mount Meru in Tanzania. It is the 10th highest mountain in Africa

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Meets Botswana Officials and the Botswana Defence Force

On 4/9/2010 4:12:57 PM Lieutenant Colonel Chris Wyatt, Office of Security Cooperation Botswana wrote:

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Ambassador Vicki Huddleston, presents a gift to Major Israel Mbangwe, task force commander for the Chobe Sub Sector of northeastern Botswana in front of a Botswana Defence Force

GABORONE, Botswana - Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Ambassador Vicki Huddleston, presents a gift to Major Israel Mbangwe, task force commander for the Chobe Sub Sector of northeastern Botswana, in front of a Botswana Defence Force Air Arm C-130 on April 8, 2010. (Photo by Lieutenant Colonel Chris Wyatt, Office of Security Cooperation, Botswana)

In early April Deputy Assistance Secretary of Defense for Africa Ambassador Vicki Huddleston, visited senior members of government and the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) as part of her first visit to Botswana. Ambassador Huddleston, the senior most Department of Defense official to visit Botswana in the past few years, used this opportunity to pay a courtesy call to the Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Ambassador Seretse at his office in Gaborone.

The meeting, also attended by Ambassador Stephen Nolan, the U.S. ambassador to Botswana, was very productive as both Minister Seretse and Ambassador Huddleston discussed common areas of interest and potential areas of future cooperation. After her meeting at the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security, Ambassador Huddleston visited Lt Gen Masire, Chief of the Botswana Defence Force at Sir Seretse Khama Barracks in Gaborone. General Masire, who will retire in July, thanked Ambassador Huddleston for the U.S. military’s long friendship and assistance in the development of the Botswana Defence Force since its founding in 1977.

Ambassador Huddleston’s next stop was the new Defence Command and Staff College (DCSC) in Gaborone. She met the Commandant, Brigadier General Goitseleene Morake, and his staff. At Brigadier Morake’s invitation Ambassador Huddleston served as a guest lecturer for the current class of 34 students. Her topic was “U.S. Defense Policy in Africa.” The lecture was originally scheduled for 30 minutes but drew so much interest and so many questions from the BDF students that it lasted nearly an hour. In her lecture Ambassador Huddleston highlighted U.S. defense interests in Africa, including transnational threats like terrorism, illicit trafficking and climate change, regional and ethnic issues and diseases like HIV/AIDS, malaria and diarrheal infections that undermine security and stability of states and entire regions. The staff college, now in its third academic year, has quickly become a premier military institution and one of the finest staff colleges in Africa. Temporarily housed at a leased former primary school, the DCSC will move to a purpose built facility at Glen Valley (15 kilometers north of Gaborone) in 2012. At Glen Valley the DCSC will train not only Botswana officers but will also begin taking foreign student officers from throughout Africa.

The BDF Air Arm then flew Ambassador Huddleston and her party from Gaborone to Kasane in the far northeast by C-130 transport aircraft.
Heavy rainfall over Gaborone had resulted in a gray, overcast day throughout the first day of her visit. As the crew flew north they left the clouds behind, offering Ambassador Huddleston and her party an aerial view of Botswana’s second diamond mine at Orapa and, further north, the now water filled Makadikadi Pans which are normally dry basins. The flight arrived in Kasane shortly before sunset with clear skies.

On the final day of her visit Ambassador Huddleston and party drove to the Chobe Sub Sector headquarters near Kasane, where the Major Israel Mbangwe, 15 Infantry Battalion, Botswana Defence Force gave the visitors an operations brief detailing BDF anti-poaching operations and support to civil authorities in the region. The briefing was followed by a site visit at a BDF base camp in the bush. BDF soldiers use the base to patrol for poachers and protect Botswana’s diverse wildlife from predation. Tourism is the second largest contributor to Botswana’s economy. Conservation is also a significant area of interest for the government. The BDF does its part to protect Botswana’s natural endowments. In Botswana, the protection of wildlife and the environment are considered to be in the interest of national security. The final event hosted by the BDF was a boat trip up the Chobe River with a BDF Engineer Detachment based at Kasane. Members of the Kasane based Engineer Detachment transported Ambassador Huddleston and her party along the Chobe River where she was able to she first hand the variety and abundance of BDF protected wildlife along the banks of the Chobe. This included sightings of elephants, hippos, impalas and the rare puku antelope.

On her return to Gaborone with the BDF Air Arm, Ambassador Huddleston remarked at “as a military, how professional and experienced the BDF is.” She returned to Washington having been very impressed with not only the BDF, but the people and the country of Botswana as well. In her current position as a Department of Defense senior official and her past experience within the State Department, Ambassador Huddleston is a unique person in Washington. For their part, the BDF hopes the trip will prove useful to the long established relationship between the BDF and the U.S. Department of Defense.

http://www.africom.mil/africomDialogue.asp?entry=1174


What we’re saying on Twitter

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Archives


%d bloggers like this: