August 2009 in Tanzania through the eyes of an Englishman

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If you are planning to visit Tanzania, and come to Arusha, please feel free to contact us. We can tell you about hotels, facilities, prices of basics, etc. Arusha is a great base for trips to the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Kilimanjaro, and of course our own pet volcano, Mount Meru. We now also have bed and breakfast rooms available, and a special introductory offer - see BEV-MH.
The BEV Retrospective - 1942/2002.

There was life before britseyeview.com. Find out what it was like in the second half of the 20th century viewed through the Brits Eye. Read the BEV E-book, currently featuring the year 1970.


Ted Kennedy.
27/8/2009 - A Small Eulogy.

I find myself more moved than I expected by the death of Edward Kennedy.

The assassination of both of his brothers, and his reaction to it, is a part of this. Maybe if it had not been for Chappaquiddick he would have followed their path, and maybe he would have been assassinated too. As it turned out he had to turn in a different direction, and retrospectively I realize that he did this in an admirable fashion.

He became a character I could rely on to express the views that if I had been a US citizen, I would have had, and held even though I wasn't. It was a long time that he spent being steadfast to his direction and his causes - doubtless relentlessly pursued by his own personal devils.

In age, I am just 10 years behind him, and his death reminds me that life is short and often brutal. Eat, drink, make love, and be merry, for tomorrow, or the day after, or the day after that, you will die.

I hope that my personal non-religious views are correct, and that Ted now has the infinite peace of nothingness that surpasses the prospects of either heaven or hell.


African washing machine.
24/8/2009 - Laundry.

In my original drawing of our house/hotel, there was a room called 'the laundry'. This, from my simple Euro/USA point of view meant the room where the washing machine and any associated equipment would go.

Africa's response was "What?". Here, laundry is done by a house girl in some convenient (or inconvenient) part of the yard where water is available. The washing machine consists either of plastic bowls and buckets, or in sophisticated cases, of an outdoor concrete sink where the washer can stand upright to do her work, as opposed to bending to ground level. I should remark than African women are not unaccustomed to the bending to ground level thing. I suspect that their tendency to have a big arse may be some evolutionary response that gives them better balance while doing so.

We are about to switch to the latter. Our current building fundi - Tuma - is in the process of making a tiled sink in which Mwjuma will be able to do the laundry. He's also putting up steel frames that will support washing lines behind the house. Next week when all this is fully commissioned I expect to see Mwjuma standing on a box so she can bend down to do the washing in the new sink.
I like Tuma. He is quiet and competent, and will do what you ask him to do, even if it is not the way things are usually done. Also, importantly, he does not seem to suffer badly from the mzungu price effect.

Our next sub-project is to start on another 'small house' within our existing plot. This will initially (as before) serve as my workshop, and will probably have to house Mwjuma at some point as we complete rooms in the big house. I have now become convinced that Tuma can handle this, and if he does, I expect to see him around on our plots for some time.
23/8/2009 - Mutter, Mutter.

Juma the plumber is now, as far as I am concerned, a thing of the past. We will have to find and break in a new one. There were already connections to the hot water piping, which Juma himself made. They were initially just connected to the cold water supply pipe. I imagined that the job consisted of intercepting this connection and passing it through the water heater.

But no. Juma decided he didn't like the way it had been done, though he did it himself, and put in a new supply pipe for the hot water along the back side of the house. His lads then proceeded to cut a hole through the wall right over the open end of the pipe they wanted to connect to. The result of course was that the hot water supply piping for three rooms got blocked with sand and rubble. A significant length of pipework had then to be chiseled out of the wall to locate and cure they blockage. Like I said ...

It's also now Ramadan, my least favourite month. It does not occur at any particular time of year by the standard of the seasons, since Islam uses a lunar calendar. You can't say that it happens in spring, summer, autumn, or winter. It creeps earlier by about 10 days a year, and so it can occur at any time. During the Ramadan lunar month, my wife turns into something like an Islamic nun, and as you can imagine, an old atheist like me is not impressed with this. Ok, ok, I should not complain, and that's it, I will say no more about it - mutter, mutter.
20/8/2009 - Finally.

Juma sent some lads to start to do the work on the hot water system yesterday, and even put in an appearance himself at about six in the evening. They are supposed to be returning today to finish the job. I live in hope. All this delay occurs because I was too mean to buy the PPR (green plastic pipe for hot and cold water) welding machine last year. If I had, I'm fairly sure it would have paid for itself by now, and what's more, I'd have a plumbing system that was as I wanted it, not as the plumber thought it should be.

We have decorators here today to give the veranda, corridor and some other bits a clean-up, and a coat of silk vinyl emulsion. As always, they started with a ridiculous asking price - a mzungu price. We are now on good terms with a Tanzanian who is quite a substantial businessman. He says that for building work fundis, we should not be paying more than TS 10,000 a day. Adia has beaten them down, but we are still paying the mzungu premium.

I have nearly finished the installation work in the second room bathroom, and will probably switch today to the shelves in the wardrobe area. Also I must connect the electric water heater to the supply today, then we can see how it functions.



The bicycle as a mode of transport.
18/8/2009 - Still No Plumber.

Juma promised to come Sunday, then promised to come yesterday, and is now promised to come today. I'll believe it when I see it.

We still have a couple of little things to do to the first guest room. I have to put up a piece of steel pipe in the storage area to carry coat hangers, and the net curtains have to be put up. We got them, but whoever sewed them didn't get what we were trying to do, and they have to go back to be redone.

The man with the loaded bike is a common sight at this time of year. Maize is being harvested, and then the dried stalks and leaves get taken away to feed cows. The bicycle is a popular means of transport. However when you get two or three of these together, wobbling about the road trying to negotiate some obstacle such as a parked car, they can be quite a driving hazard.

I chickened out, and bought an HP inkjet printer, even though I've always preferred Canon and Epson. My preferences were vindicated. The new printer doesn't pick up sheets of card properly - it only has front feed.
As a result the pattern of cards gets printed too far up the sheet, and they don't register with the perforations. I can fudge it by using the software to force an increase of the top margin, but that won't be reliable, and in any case it causes cut off at the bottom of the sheet so I only get 8 cards of the 10. It seems I can't win.


A stranger who knew me.
14/8/2009 - Some You Win, Some You Lose.

As I was trying to print out some drafts of a brochure the other night, my printer ran out of ink. It's an Epson C58 that I bought in India, and I seem to remember that I congratulated the Epson engineers for an excellent product since it survived the trip from India, and the subsequent long wait before it got used.

Unfortunately, today I spent a couple of hours touring every likely shop in Arusha looking for replacement ink cartridges. No success - as I mentioned Epson, the shopkeepers eyes would glaze over, and the answer was obvious. Some of them even took the trouble to mention to me that nobody uses Epson here. This is HP territory.

So I can not congratulate the Epson sales staff as I did their engineers. It appears that I now own a white elephant, and since I don't collect those the machine will end up on the local rubbish tip sooner rather than later.

This leaves me with a problem. What do I give Adia to go and sell our services to the tourism companies. I could of course buy an HP ink jet, but now I wonder if this is even a sensible direction. Maybe I just cut 100 CDs, and make a PowerPoint presentation so she can go with her laptop and show them the stuff, and leave a CD if they are remotely interested.

I never was a proper salesman, so I am at a loss as to the proper direction. I'll sleep on it.
Yesterday I had the first meeting with someone that was entirely a result of the BritsEyeView web page. He's an English man who has lived for many years in Germany, and worked in Switzerland. He's been considering working with some kind of NGO in Africa, and actually came here to Tanzania in this capacity. we - he I and Adia, went for lunch earlier this week. Apart from a couple of e-mails, Tom was a complete stranger, but it was like he knew me because he'd been reading the blog - a strange sensation.

Contact with NGOs is, from the point of view of Adia's potential business, a good thing. NGOs usually have foreign visitors, and visitors need accommodation.


Another camera for Africa to kill.
11/8/2009 - The Same the Whole World Over.

The first guest room could be functional today except that we're still waiting for the plumber (fundi bomba) Juma to appear - New York, Arusha, same difference.

I got the brackets for the curtain pole from the metalwork fundi yesterday, and put them up. Unfortunately the curtain rings we got aren't large enough. They fit on the pole OK, but they don't have enough clearance to slide freely. The curtain material bunches up and rubs on the pole and that stops the rings. I think the shop will take them back in exchange for the next larger size, and if not they are just plastic ones, and weren't very expensive.

I'm back to being able to take somewhat more sophisticated pictures again, having acquired another digital camera - this time by Canon. I have resolved to get a leather draw-string pouch sewn for this one to try and keep the dust and grit out, and I wont carry it around in my pocket while doing building work. For that sort of thing, the camera on the phone will have to continue to suffice.

Dust is unavoidable here though, and in time it will get in to the shutter mechanism whatever you do. It would be nice though to get a couple of years out of it.

Anyway, by the end of the day I'd like to be able to use the new camera to take some publicity shots of the room.


Developing a Wotan complex.
7/8/2009 - More Woodwork.

I'm most of the way through another bed, and that would be structurally complete if I hadn't made a mistake when I bought the wood. One of the end pieces was too short. I'd bought it thinking five foot bed (regular double), but forgot that the end piece needed to overlap the side pieces, and consequently it was about 6mm too short - most annoying.

I have bought another piece but it's waiting at the machine shop until we get Potter back from having a developing oil leak fixed. It was too heavy to carry on Kiki. I suppose I could be sanding the parts of the bed I've finished, but somehow I'm not in a sanding mood. Maybe tomorrow.

The spear is actually one of the curtain rods. We found a couple of old guys at Nane Nane who were demonstrating traditional blacksmith's techniques, using a small charcoal fire and very simple bellows consisting of goatskins. They said they could make spear heads, and sure enough, the next day they came up with a pair of them. One of these is now mounted on the pole for the nearly complete room. I was going to get the steelwork fundi to make the brackets to hold the pole today, but he was closed. I'm just going to get him to make simple strip steel brackets that screw to the wall and curve away upwards and then down again on a curve that tightens to the size of the pole. These will go with the curly brackets he made for the shelves. If I go early in the morning I may get them tomorrow.

We already have the curtains, so when the bed is finished we are down to waiting for Juma the plumber to come and connect the water supplies to the geyser that I have already mounted on the outside wall.

Although it's 'just a curtain pole', you could do someone a mischief with it. I could not resist sharpening it properly, and when I'd finished I could sharpen my pencil with it, and the point is like a needle. I must remember to screw it securely to the brackets so it is not available for any heat-of-the moment incident.


Vegetables on steroids.
2/8/2009 - A Show is a Show.

One of the main groups showing off their products at Nane Nane is the seed vendors. They have this off to a fine art, with vegetables that would break your arm if your tried to pick them.

I've been struggling to grow broccoli in our compound, trying to get people to apply fertilizer regularly, and to water it in. But my message seems to go unheeded. At the show ground though, I'm sure they remember. There were broccoli heads the size of cauliflower, and tomato plants that needed major stakes to support the weight of fruit. But most impressive of all, aubergines (eggplants, brinjals, or what have you) that were the size of footballs. It was amazing to me that the relatively small plants could support them.

What these monsters would taste like, of course, I have no idea. Maybe my broccoli is small, but it tastes good. Other than this, I have nothing much to report.


So what damaged the dala-dala.
1/8/2009 - August.

So, another month has flown by. The house looks pretty much the same from the outside, but the first guest bedroom is now pretty close to being complete. I shall certaily be a able to take some pictures of it early this week.

I came across the dala-dala/bike scene on the road between the clock tower and the Impala roundabout. The circumstances were something of a mystery. For a start, there didn't seem to be anyone around who could have been the cyclist. Since it was just outside the AICC Hospital, it's possible that he or she had been carted off into there. However, that doesn't really explain the large dent in the dala-dala front bumper, or the fact that when the police were finished with the scene, the bicycle was taken away in the dala-dala.

Even more enigmatic was the presence on the road, about 15m away, of a an apparently freshly severed cows horn. The Sherlock Holmes's among you will doubtless have an explanation for the whole incident - elementary my dear BEV!

Today is the start of the annual TASO show, at Nane Nane. The village is named for the show, which is always referred to as nane nane, meaning eight eight. It starts on
the first of August and continues through the 8th, this year actually until the 10th.

I went in the afternoon to give it a quick first inspection. This led me to believe it will be pretty much as it was last year. The cheddar cheese I found then is there again, and this time I have its phone number so I should be able to get supplies of it through the year. It was good cheese, and it's about half the price I pay for New Zealand cheddar at the supermarket. Maybe I'll open a cheese shop - shades of Monty Python.
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What is BEV?

Brits Eye View is an Englishman's six-year personal blog about life in Arusha, Tanzania, and previously in Bangalore, Manhattan, and the Bronx. It deals with life in general, building a house, food and drink, computer programming, opinion on current affairs, 20th century history, and so on. It may give you some insight into what life is like in 'the third world', or encourage you to visit Tanzania.

***
We do now have the first room of Adia's Place (the Brits Eye View Micro Hotel) available for occupancy. So if you plan to visit Arusha, and don't mind being a guinea pig, give us a shout. You can stay in a rather nice room close to both the city, and to rural Africa, at a ridiculous introductory price!

If you think I was being hard on MJ, try:
http://kunstler.com/blog/2009/06/the-man-in-the-mirror.html

Twinkle twinkle, little star.
How I wonder what you are,
up above the world so high,
like a diamond in the sky!

"What's a diamond mummy?"

RFC - How About New alternate stuff in a right column?



Now that many people are likely using higher resolution screens than they did in 2003 when this blog was started, I'm considering adjusting the format to take up a little more real estate.

Please get on the newsgroup and let me know what you think.

For example, odd interesting quotes or things I've seen, or links to interesting sites. For example:

Political Correctness is a doctrine, fostered by a delusional, illogical minority, and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a turd by the clean end.

Or the content at:

http://www.halfbakery.com/

Stronger pound - rises above $1.60