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August 2012 in Tanzania through the eyes of an Englishman

Preparing to cast the top ring-beam: Yesterday I was not happy with the way this was going, but today it came together.

Adjusting the shuttering.

29/8/2012 - Topping Out.

Well not quite, there's the roof to go on yet, but topping out as far as the 'masons' are concerned.

During the morning, and after a late start, Innocent and his helpers transformed what looked like a shambles into something that had all the properties of working shuttering. I should therefore give credit where credit is due.

In the afternoon they hand-mixed concrete, and passed that up by plain old muscle power to Innocent balancing on the shuttering 12 feet or so above the ground, where he poured it into the wooden mould and consolidated it by prodding and hammering.

The ring beam will be cast in two phases. Today the front of the house and the interior walls got topped. Then there will have to be a pause while the concrete hardens so that the shuttering can be removed. The same wood will then be recycled to cast the concrete at the top of the back wall.

I climbed up and had a look when they were about finished. It's looking good. Soon I'll be up there quite regularly building the roof and doing the electrical work.

To bring the day to an even more satisfactory conclusion it looks like we have a new tenant for the South House.

29/8/2012 - Potato, Onion, and Tuna Melange.

I made this last night after a depressing day watching our fundis botch up the shuttering for the ring beam of the new small house. More on that later.

I had got some good looking yellow onions from the garden plot next to my local at JKT that I wanted to sample, so I attempted to come up with something onion-centric. You will need:

  • 3-4 Medium sized potatoes,
  • 2 large yellow or Spanish onions,
  • Can of tuna in vegetable oil,
  • 1 tablespoon black onion seeds,
  • 1 dessert spoon Mchuzi* mix,
  • Half teaspoon pepper, salt to taste,
  • Slices of bread that are getting dry, or just whatever bread you have.
Peel the potatoes, cut in half, then slice across the width to make slices about 6mm thick.

Clean/peel the onions, then slice into rings as thin as you like

Put the potatoes in a pan, just cover with water, and set to boil. At the same time, stir fry the onions gently in a little olive oil with the pepper and onion seeds, aiming to get them soft, but not browned.

Open the can of tuna, pouring the excess oil into the frying onions. Chop the tuna if is not already pulverized flakes.

Toast the bread, then cut into 1 cm cubes as croutons.

When the potatoes are al-dente and the onions are soft, stir the mchuzi mix into the potatoes and their remaining liquid, and stir until assimilated. Then dump in the onions and tuna meat, and salt to taste - careful with the salt if you have used cornflour and a stock cube. Stir to amalgamate then simmer for a few more minutes.

The result should be a quite thick soupy mixture. Serve it in heated bowls with a liberal sprinkling of the croutons, a sprig of parsley or coriander, and a glass of dry white wine or barely sweetened lemon juice. A handful of pitted black olives would have fitted in well, but I didn't have any.

Sorry, there's no picture - as usual, we ate it all - wasn't much to look at anyway.

* Mchuzi mix is an East-African ingredient - if not available, use cornflour (corn starch) and half a beef or fish stock cube.

Prototype roof truss: Although we're still way off needing them, I thought I would verify my design.

Prototype roof truss.

17/8/2012 - Better Late.

Oh dear, that's a big gap in my posts, without any very obvious reason - no hurry in Africa I guess.

Having got the foundation down, I have done some walking and bike riding, fixed some plumbing problems, bought some wood, and made a prototype roof truss for the new small house we are building.

The last time I made some, I used plywood to reinforce the junctions of a 'W' truss, as opposed to the galvanized steel plates in common use. This was legitimately criticized by local roofing fundis on the grounds that the pre-fabricated trusses were potentially subject to water damage if rain soaked into the plywood.

This time - albeit for a smaller span I have used just plain-old pine timber and nails. The prototype is very sturdy, and now I have the prototype to copy, should be pretty straightforward to make, whether I do it myself, or get somebody else to make "seven more just like this". I like the fact that the 'W' design is very economical on wood. Given the relative costs of labour and materials here, savings on materials are the primary factor in a minimal cost design.

Evening 5: In this case, the soil that was removed was just enough for backfill.

Evening 5.

8/8/2012 - Nane Nane.

I don't know what the world record for a basic foundation is, but I think Innocent must have been close. This evening all you could see were the small walls in the picture. Tomorrow, the soil within them will get as much water as possible dumped on it to help to compact it. Then a reinforced concrete edge-beam will get cast on top of the walls. Innocent does not possess a theodolite, or anything fancy like that, but I think he has a good eye. Seems to me, sighting along the current walls, that with another six inches of the beam, the long walls will point to a position that is just above ground level at the other side of the plot, which is exactly what I asked for. I also fairly sure about the thing being level, since Innocent is a plumb-line fanatic.

Today as my title implies, the words 'nane nane' have four simultaneous meanings. One the literal 'eight eight' - as in 8/8/2012; two the name of a place; three the name of a public holiday here in Arusha at least; and four, the name commonly applied to the TASO annual show held at the place and ending on the date.

I went into town today, and coming back mid afternoon, it was bedlam - probably best avoided. Tonight though, I'd like to have chicken and chips at Boogaloo, which is right next door to Nane Nane, but since it is still Ramadan, and she just bought some fresh Nile Perch, I doubt that this idea will fly with Adia. Maybe I'll sneak down for a quick look.

Morning 3: By the time I got there after breakfast the foundation stones were already covered with moram.

Morning 3.

6/8/2012 - Olympic Record Attempt?

I think Innocent is attempting to break the world small house foundation building record. On Sunday he and three helpers lined the trenches they had dug down to solid ground on Saturday with large stones carefully arranged so they were firmly placed and stable.

That day they had also hoped to 'blind' the stones with volcanic moram (fill in the gaps). That did not happen because the moram did not arrive until this morning. Nonetheless, by the time I got there after breakfast, it was spread, and by evening that had been covered with a layer of concrete, and the first course of foundation blocks was in place.

Evening 3: By evening the stones and moram had been covered with a layer of concrete and the first course of foundation blocks were in place.

Evening 3.

I had to go into town again today because on Saturday Kiki's back tyre was flat again. The fundi determined that after a little use, the tube was leaking at the same point as the two previous ones. So I spent an hour or so tramping around from spares shop to spares shop looking for a tube of some other make. Eventually I was persuaded to take a 10x400 tube instead of the original 10x350.

That was fitted without problem, and so far the back tyre has held its pressure. Tomorrow morning will tell.

Another happening, possibly of some significance, was that last night the diesel generators at the Tanesco compound fell silent, and they have not been heard all day. Our friend Harry suggests that they may just have been practising for the last week or so to determine that they could actually function when operational circumstances required them. We may never know - there's little in the way of transparency here.

Breaking Ground: The beginnings of Adia's next step toward being a property tycoon.

Breaking Ground.

4/8/2012 - August Already.

The weather has now mostly got back to something more like Africa. It's still a little dismal first thing in the morning, but by lunchtime it is about as good as it gets - like somewhere near the Med, or a good English spring day. The Nane Nane agricultural show is under way, and on day four seems to me to be at least as busy as last year.

Adia and I have been vacillating over what to do next in terms of her business development. We have now agreed, and Innocent, our current builder of choice, broke ground today to start what will be a set of six to ten small residential units aimed at young professionals starting out on their careers in Arusha. These are being built on 'village land' that she purchased from the same farming family as our compound. This means we can get started without any bureaucratic hassle - draw some lines and dig!

I bought a book of squared paper, and Innocent is currently working from page 1 - a simple ground plan that will be fine for the foundations. They won't be exactly as I would have designed them. I wanted to use European/USA style wood and plasterboard interior walls, but Adia could not get her head around walls that were so 'flimsy' - walls in Africa are supposed to be eight inches of concrete blocks and rendering. That's three unnecessary foundation sections, six wall surfaces that need to be cement rendered, and almost twelve inches off the length of the living room.

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Check out the BEV retrospective
currently covering 1942 - 1975.

1976 is yet to be started.

What is BEV?

Brits Eye View is the personal blog of a 70 year old Englishman - Steve Teale, started in January 2003. It's currently 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.

I started playing with it in January 2003, when I was living in Manhattan. At the time I felt I was going nowhere, and exposing the details of my life could be no worse than not. Almost immediately I changed partners, and quickly recognized that while I might be prepared to live in a goldfish bowl, other's weren't.

The same year I lost my job - recession, exhausted my NY State unemployment benefits, and got a job in India. Consequently a large proportion of BEV was written in Bangalore. India was OK, but I could not see what I was going to do there when I retired.

This uncertainty was resolved when I met my current partner Adia in 2006. She was a Tanzanian, studying law in India, so I came Tanzania in 2007. Here we have built a house, and made new friends. The rest, you can read on BEV.

At about the same time I had the ridiculous idea of extending BEV backwards to cover the years 1942 to 2002. So far I have got to 1975. For the years 2003 - 2011, choose a year/month from the tool bar. For 1942 - 1975, choose a year.

Visiting Tanzania?

Adia's Place now has On-Line Booking. Please feel free to check it out. It may not be 100% yet, but if you get a confirmation email then it's a safe bet that we got your booking.

In the short term we will re-confirm.

If you have done all the usual tourist destinations, then make a leap and discover Africa! Come and visit Arusha, Tanzania.

You might be able to stay at - a great centre for safaris to the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Kilimanjaro, and of course our own pet volcano, Mount Meru.

Please feel free to contact us. We can tell you about hotels, facilities, prices of basics, etc.

We now have very pleasant bed and breakfast rooms available at $20 per night. The Old Cottage and the South House are also available for longer term visitors.

Studying in Arusha?

Some of the major study centres in Arusha are at Njiro. There, you'll find the Arusha Institute of Accountancy, ESAMI, and TRAPCA.

If you are not happy with the accommodation there, you are only a 5 minute drive from - a secure haven of tranquillity with African food like your mother cooked for you. Price is competitive with the on-campus accommodation.

Just call Adia - 0762 442888 - and she'll come and get you and show you her place. You won't regret it!

This Month's Posts

If there's something particular you'd like to go back to, just click it here

Top 20 BEV Pages.

Exchange Rates.

BEV Software Blog.

There are a several new articles on the Software page:

Moods of Meru.

Mt Meru

Lofty and remote.

Random BEV Poem.

COMPO.

If you are a Linux user, you might want to try this piece of graphical design software I worked on last year. You can use it to design business cards, labels, logos for your web site, and things of that sort.

You can download it from the BEV COMPO page, where you'll also find the documentation.

About You.

A bit of nonsense. If you've ever wondered what a web site can discover about you when you visit one of their pages with little or no effort, then now you know.

BEV Partners.

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Contact BEV.

If you want to get in touch outside the built-in comment system, email Steve Teale.