Friday, July 9, 2010

Regulatory Services in Tanzania!

Post and photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman, also known in Tanzania as "Watoto Askofu." Blog post done from the city of Dar Es Salaam.

While I am away from NoMi for a few weeks, I have vowed to do JNS posts when I have time, energy, and an internet connection capable of loading photos and video in anything resembling a reasonable time frame. Tonight I've got all three. I hope to get to other posts about my activities here, but a wonkish, geeky topic like this seems as good a place to start as any.

The large red X's shown above are prevalent throughout the countryside, especially near the city of Arusha. They are on a majority of signs, and even a fair amount of properties. I asked our driver about this and was told...

...this is done to mark signs and structures that are built too close to the road. The government has designated a certain amount of space as their right-of-way along the side of major highways. This appears to have been done for two reasons: first, before the roads were paved, the rainy seasons would wash away portions of dirt roads and people needed to be assured that they could drive around the washed-out areas. And second, because as the country builds up its infrastructure, the main highways will need to be widened to accommodate more lanes.

It wasn't clear (or at least his English and my far more limited Swahili didn't allow us to make it clear) what happens AFTER the signs and structures have been identified as violating this rule. Still, it was nice to see some work being done to identify Tanzanian "problem properties."

And in case any JNS readers have jumped to a conclusion here, "Watoto Askofu" is not Swahili for "Hawthorne Hawkman." As far as I know, that designation has no direct translation. My father is the bishop (askofu) of the Northern Great Lakes Synod of the ELCA, which has a partnership with the Lutheran Church in Tanzania. "Watoto Askofu" or "child of the bishop" is how I've been introduced time and time again.

My time in Africa has been nothing short of astounding and I already hope to return again very soon (even though I'm here for another week and a half). I've learned new facets of family dynamics (which, surprisingly, is a good thing). I went on a safari and sang a somewhat racy song after almost seeing two lions in courtship. (this may have prompted our rather devout driver to then teach us a song about Jesus casting out demons. I'm not sure.) I wound up singing "Happy Birthday to You" on a Tanzanian radio station that reaches up to 500,000 listeners.

I'll be volunteering for a few days at a children's school and teaching them the art of hula hooping (boy, getting hoops through Tanzanian customs was a challenge), and then I'm off to see Zanzibar. No, wait! Wrong Zanzibar. THIS is the Zanzibar I'll be visiting.

At least some of these things will wind up as JNS posts before or once I'm back in the States. For now, consider the red X of Tanzanian regulatory services to be the Hawkman's way of replacing the "dead tree format" of postcards. Wish you were here.


emma. said...

all along the major roads in uganda you can find stores, homes, and other buildings covered with large x's as well - often red, sometimes black. this indicated buildings that will be knocked down to make space for an eventual road expansion. last time i was there a big expansion project was being done in the south and i saw miles of space that used to be filled with homes stores.

i believe the owners were given some amount of compensation for this but it was not nearly enough to rebuild in a different, similarly useful location. most of the stores along these main roads were in perfect view of travelers and benefited financially from this. a move to a new location, farther from the road was not very attractive for most. it caused quite a few problems.

i'm known as kikazi in uganda. it means something about being a big (fat), caring woman. if you know me... you know i'm not big.

The Hawthorne Hawkman said...

Here's a Swahili grammar lesson I learned today:

Watoto Askofu means "children of bishop."

"Mtoto Askofu" is the singular, and to be entirely proper, I should be saying "Mtoto a Askofu."

Anonymous said...

I hope you bring back other African regulatory practices to NoMi. I'm sure NoMieopolitans would be well served by following the practices of the Africans.

The Hawthorne Hawkman said...


That's an interesting and different perspective. The way it was explained to me, it appeared that the property owners or proprietors put up the signs or structures either in direct violation or ignorance of existing laws/statutes. But I could see how it might easily happen in the way you described.

emma. said...

i suppose it's possible that it happens both ways. and it may be described differently depending on who is describing it. i wouldn't think uganda and tanzania would have a similar phenomenon for completely different reasons... but maybe?

hope you stay safe there! i got an early call this morning about the bombings in kampala, uganda - hoping i don't know anyone who was involved.

i'd love to visit tanzania some day.