December 2006 in Bangalore through the eyes of an Englishman

  BEV stuff:  Contact  Current Month  Previous  Next  Index  Software

Searching for relatives in Mwanza.

New Year at the Tilapia.

31/12/2006 - New Year's Eve.

Having gone to bed early, I can't claim to have got up particularly early in compensation. It was close to twelve by the time we'd finished with breakfast and all showered etc. Then my first task for the day was to go back to the Tilpia to see what they were doing for New Year. There was to be a dinner dance, and you could pay for both, or just for the dance. We chose the latter, figuring we could eat as well or better at home, and got our four tickets for around $15. Once again, can't be bad, as that included a free drink each as well as the admission. Then there was some Mwanza relative visiting to be done at some distance out along the airport road. For that journey we caught a local mini bus - private enterprise stuff, not something provided by the city. This was OK, not too overcrowded, quick, and very cheap. The family we were visiting was that of Ambassador Kiwanoka's brother. The brother is going to keep an eye on house prices and availability for us. In exchange for our modest expenditure on bus fare we were given lunch, which probably means I won't need to eat again before we go out for the New Year, should I be permitted to go that long without eating, which is unlikely. Now we are back home, and Adia has gone to have her hair tidied up again. All I have to do is clean my boots, which I foolishly wore yesterday in the rain.

The power is out at the moment, so I'm typing by kerosene lamp. Power is a problem here, particularly in the cities. Sometimes it is off for some time as it is now, probably as a policy of load sharing, and other times it's just more on than off, though the off bits and the low voltage bits add up. All in all it's pretty unreliable, and it must be bad trying to run a business where you need it for production. Adia is stuck at the salon with wet hair, though someone has gone to get petrol so they can use the generator for the hair dryer.

The power, and Adia eventually returned. By about 21:30 we got ourselves off to the Tilapia. I thought that by that time we'd be too late to get a seat, but it turned out that they were not letting the non-dinner customers into the party area until 22:30, so we were confined to the beach bar where we were too late to get a seat. By a process of standing outside and nagging we got in at 22:30, even though they didn't let people in generally until 23:00, approximately in the order of foreigners, Indian residents, well off Tanzanians, everybody else. Once the place had filled up, it was quite jolly, so of course I had to ruin it by drinking Jack Daniels and Johnie Walker shots along with Mama Azizi, who confirmed my earlier opinion that she has an infinite drinking capacity. Adia got cross with me because, in the course of socializing, I kissed two girls who she said were whores on the hand, as is my wont when I've had a few. Of course, I left it too late to phone my children. By the time I got to it there were no lines, so I'll have to make amends on 1/1/2007.

The market at Mwanza.

The rocks in question.

The vacant plot at number 208.

30/12/2006 - Looking Around or Potential New City.

Since we were the guests, we got to sleep in Zawadi and Ibri's very large - bigger than king size - bed, while Ibri slept in a smaller bed in the living room cum kitchen. In the morning it was all over the TV that Saddam had been executed, Zawadi was back, and Ibri was off to work at their shop here. This morning I got the postponed cold shower, and it was quite refreshing. The cold water here really is not that cold. After ablutions we walked what seemed like half way across the city to the place Ziwadi had selected for breakfast, mostly I suspect because Ibri had no food in the house. I ordered something called 'bread rolls with egg and cheese' that took forever to come, and then consisted of a large bread roll hollowed out in the middle, with a mixture of melted cheese and hard-boiled egg inside. It was OK, but I probably won't order it again. After I'd got through that we got some pineapple and banana. Pineapples are in season, and are outstandingly good and very large. After breakfast we went on an ATM hunt, and finally found one that accepted the Mastercard. It would let you draw up to TS 300,000 at a time (about $250), and let me have two goes. This was still short of what we needed to pay for the internal flights in cash, so then we had to go and find a Visa ATM that would be OK today since I'd got paid yesterday. Armed with the cash, we went off to a branch of the company that had sold us the tickets, and paid our debt.

Financial transactions completed we went to the market to buy food for our evening meal and for breakfast. I discovered that the people in Mwanza were more fussy about photography than they had been in Bukoba, and consequently pictures of crowd scenes are going to be rare. I'm damned if I'm going to pay people to take their picture. We bought drinking water, the staple food items, some beef, and a pineapple, then dragged the bags off to the shop and left them with Ibri. By then it was time for refreshments, so I dragged everyone off to a restaurant everyone refers to as "The Rock Beach". The rock refers to a rock formation down by the shore that is a Mwanze landmark. The restaurant isn't called the Rock Beach at all, unless its name is a translation of that into Chinese. It's pleasant though, and the food is pretty good. Ibri closed the shop and came too.

After lunch we decided we'd look at the houses up the hill behind the restaurant. This is supposed to be a posh area, and is indeed quite pleasant. Ibri knew a guy who knew about a couple of houses that were for sale up there, and I thought this might provide another useful top-end benchmark. The first house he showed us was huge - must have been about 10 bedrooms - and it was pretty well located, jut behind the houses that are government compounds. The going price for this was thought to be around TS 100,000,000, which sounds a lot until you've divided by the 1250 that corresponds to the current exchange rate. Then it shrinks to $80,000, which dos not sound too bad at all for a piece of real estate that size in a pleasant quiet neighbourhood close to the city centre. The other house was close by, about half the price, and commensurately smaller. The thing I saw that I liked best but I don't know what you would do about was a plot of land a bit further up the hill, but still with decent access. It had obviously been cleared for building some time ago, and was surrounded by I nice hedge of mature trees, but nothing had been built. I took a picture of it to be sure I'd recognize it again. There would be no harm in asking. All in all, I came away encouraged as it looked like you might be able to get something in a reasonably nice area for a price that would make your average Harrogate or New York property sound like the national debt.

House looking over, we made our way back to the shop and carried our bags home. Adia and Zawadi made rice, potatoes, beef stew, and spinach, and by the time we'd eaten that everyone was ready for an early night.

Parting brunch at Zawadi's.

The view outside Zawadi and Ibri's Mwanza lodgings.

29/12/2006 - Mwanza.

Today we journey back to Mwanza and we have to be back at Bukoba airport by 14:00. We rose quite late, 'showered' and packed, and went to Zawadi for breakfast, which since we were late overlapped with lunch. After brunch we visited Amina2, who had fed us for most of the week, and who has now got a dose of malaria for her trouble, to say goodbye and thank you. Then there was our goodbye to Amina and her household, and so by the time we got to the airport we were quite late. This was no big deal, since the previous flight had not yet left, presumably due to weather delays. Fortunately, Bukoba's terminal is more pub than airport, and there was music - once I'd persuaded them to switch from a particularly dismal Jim Reeves album - you know, little crippled children falling off cliffs, and their syphilitic mothers committing suicide, etc, etc. There was a fleeting hope again that we might get on the earlier flight when it left, but the missing passengers turned up at in the nick of time, so we had to wait until the plane did the round trip. The departure lounge boasted a western-style toilet, so I had the pleasure of taking a contemplative crap without dislocating my knees in the process. Sooner than I expected, the plane was back, and we were away. Zawadi's husband Ibrahim will meet us in Mwanza, and Zawadi will catch up on the ferry overnight.

Of course, I left my new umbrella on the plane, or at least failed to retrieve it form amongst the baggage, and once we got to Mwanza the rain set in on a determined basis. The airport is about an hour out of the city, so recovering it would be more expensive than buying a new one - heigh ho.

My purpose in spending some time in Mwanza is to establish some reference points. When I get here in 18 months time, I want to know roughly what is possible, and what isn't. So on the first evening, I set out to find the best restaurant in the city. The consensus of opinion as that this would be at the Tilapia Hotel, so having got our gear installed at the rooms Zawadi and Ibri rent in Mwanza, we hopped in a taxi and were transported there.

The Tilapia looks like about three to four stars to me, and the restaurant was about on a par with Desmonds in Bangalore. It has a fairly large circular bar, around which were seated the first white faces I'd seen since my arrival in Tanzania. I did a quick survey of their reasons for being there. One English woman was a media consultant, an Italian man was working on some water supply project, and the rest, French, Aussie, and South African, were associated with the gold mining activities that take place to the south of Mwanza.

Bukoba between showers.

Bright orange puddle.

Pineapple - this one was a whopper.

28/12/2006 - Wrapping Up in Bukoba.

On the Thursday it rained in a fairly determined fashion for most of the day. We had more errands to do in Bukoba, and some final relatives to visit. The rain forced frequent retirements to the pub, and made for some interesting taxi rides to visit the relatives. One of the people we visited was a kind of unofficial brother to Adia, who had helped her and Amina out when she was younger. He runs a phone shop, and apparently has interests in fishing. When we'd been offered the statutory refreshment, he took us off in our taxi to see the house he was building. Now in Africa, it seems that the well known real estate adage "Location is everything", is relatively unpopular. To get to the new house, we had to drive along a rutted soil track that crossed a cow pasture behind the local abattoir - no ballast or surfacing of any kind. Vultures and Secretary Birds pecked at various rejections from the slaughterhouse along side the track. Three quarters of the way across the field, our taxi driver, normally a resolute fellow, gave up the attempt. We got out, driver and all, and went to look at the house, which amazingly was not alone there, but one of bunch. It was quite large and splendid: but totally inaccessible. The other relative's house was also quite new, and also unapproachable by car. We could get to within about 50m after traversing some difficult deeply rutted tracks on a steep hillside. I rest my case.

It is pineapple season at the moment, and this year appears to have produced a particularly good crop. The rains came at just the right time. Unfortunately I never got to eat the one in the picture, as we forgot it and left it at Amina's place. I'm sure it did not go to waste.

In the evening, Zawadi fed us at her house - Tilapia fish stew with some slightly bitter fruit (very good), potatoes, rice, and of course beans. I have had beans with almost every meal since we arrived in Africa, so you can imagine the state of my digestive system. I am now a dangerous source of greenhouse gases, and it is not just isolated outbursts, but more of a continuous production. Very, very bad farts Steve, as Adia would say.

My new woman.

Mama Azizi and Me playing the fool.

Green bananas.

27/12/2006 - Bukoba.

On Wednesday Zawadi made us breakfast, and this time I got my eggs. Then Adia went off to get her hair done, so I started on this. A couple of hours later she reappeared transformed with a kind of Dorothy Dandridge hairstyle that was quite attractive, a bit like having a new woman. Then as promised we went into Bukoba to have a look round, but primarily to get the Christmas presents we'd decided upon for Asizi and Asiza, i.e. bicycles. The bike prices in Bukoba weren't bad, no that much different than you'd have paid in India, though there was not a lot of choice. We picked on two that looked about the right size, then phoned Amina to send the two of them into town in a taxi as the were assembled from the boxed kits. When the kids arrived, the men who were building the bikes adjusted them to size, and then bikes and kids were dispatched back to Amina in another taxi.

I should comment on the taxis and drivers here. The vehicles are mostly of 1990s vintage, conventional rear wheel drive mid-size saloons. Their suspension systems have seen better days, and even if you completely replaced them they'd probably have reverted to the same state within a couple of weeks. In many cases the windows have ceased to work, and the doors and boot lids stay closed by magic rather than any discernable latch, but mostly they're pretty clean, both inside and out. The drivers are younger, and generally a good natured lot. Unlike your average Bangalore auto driver, they will usually take you where you want to go for about the expected sum of money. That sounds straightforward enough, but quite often where you want to go here would be regarded as impossible by drivers from a lot of other countries. These guys are consummate bad road drivers. They'll get you across ruts that are like small valleys, and that seem impossible given the ground clearance of the vehicles, and they can drive uphill in deep mud without spinning the wheels. When they do reach something that is impassable, they will simply tell you so before they get into trouble, and then cheerfully reverse out of the trouble for long distances to find somewhere where they can turn round.

I attempted to get some money using my debit Mastercard, but Bukoba doesn't take Mastercards, only Visa, so we changed some more of our now diminished dollars. Mama-Azizi (Zawadi's more common title as a married woman and mother, and usually pronounced just as Mamazizi) said we'd find Mastercard ATMs when we went back to Mwanza. Having got through all this strenuous activity, and actually before it as well, we retired to the pub for a couple of beers. In one of these establishments, which also doubled as a his and hers hairdressing salon, we attempted the barbecued goat. I could not get anywhere with it at all. There's tough, and tough, and this was tough. Also it would seem that the animals here don't have muscles, just bone, sinew, and gristle, or maybe it's just the animals that get served in the pubs.

Dr Kiwanoka's auntie.

26/12/2006 - Boxing Day.

The next day - boxing day - we made our way back to Bukoba. This journey too involved a lot of pit stops to visit relatives of prospective constituents, and by the time we reached Bukoba I was starting to feel like exhibit A, and getting grumpy. The drive was better though, I think largely because I insisted on sitting in the front, and could at least see where we were going. Also I believe Mussa was in less of a hurry that day. Among others we visited the country house of Dr Kiwanoka (Adia's scholarship sponsor), and there I met his auntie, who took Mussa and I off on a tour of the shamba. I liked her - she had a lot of spirit!

When we got back, we went to visit Amina, who now seemed to be quite a bit better, and had actually gone into another room to eat. Then we went to Amina2's house to get fed - I don't need to enumerate the food any more, you know already. After that we went to Zawadi's house to see her husband, who had been complaining about being abandoned. I was still grumpy - too many house visits - so Adia took me off to bed early. Africa seems to be very conducive to sleep.

The descent to the lake.

Fishing boats on Lake Victoria.

Zawadi manouvering.

25/12/2006 - An African Christmas.

On Christmas day the plan was to visit the land that Mussa had lived on as a child. So after a breakfast of fried potatoes, beans, toast and honey, and fresh pineapple, we set off for another ride with Mussa. This one was much more relaxed. We went maybe 5km further south along the dirt road to the village of Nyakumba on the ridge overlooking the lake. From there we scrambled down a typical fell walking path with a 1:1 drop in some places down perhaps 100m before it leveled out and we arrived at the shore of the lake. There were some great views on the way down, but my knees told me in no uncertain terms that it was a long time since I had done anything like that. Mussa - a budding politician - knew the people who currently owned the land and lived down there. He told us that when he lived there as a child he did the walk up and down the bank plus a further 10km walk each way to go to school every day. That would certainly get you fit.

The place was quite the traditional tropical paradise. Masses of water in the lake, though unfortunately they say it's infected with bilharzia, rich soil, and lush vegetation. It's just getting in and out of there that's the problem. The houses down there were surrounded by banana, mango, papaya, and avocado trees and coffee bushes, sweet corn, yams, and beans, and by a variety of domestic animals including chickens, ducks, dogs, goats, and cows. How the latter got there I don't know. There did not seem to be at other way to get down.

One of the African men who had come with us climbed a mango tree and shook down a quantity of ripe fruit. I peeled and ate one with my teeth and thought it was the best mango I had ever tasted.

The climb back up was not as bad as I had expected. Adia, Zawadi and I set off before the others, and Adia and I did it in short bursts with frequent rests in between. Zawadi went up the hill like a rat up a drainpipe because there was a shop in the village above that sold beer, and she had a taste for it. The speed with which he made the ascent, taken into consideration with her size and weight, made me realize that she was no a person one would want to get into a brawl with. When I reached the top she stuck a bottle of beer in my hand. She, Adia, and I sat on a bench in the shade of an avocado tree enjoying the odd ripples of cool breeze that ran along the crest of the bank.

On the way back, Mussa paid whistle stop visits to several family houses in true politician style, kissing babies and being generally affable. I took pictures of him with his potential constituents, and family pictures for their albums that I'll get printed out and send back to him for distribution. When we got back there was food waiting. It was similar to the night before, but this time with mashed bananas and rice. The beef was less tough this time but it still took some time with a toothpick to recover afterwards. To avoid going to sleep immediately after the meal I organized another trip to Ilemera. This time Asha had already disappeared, so initially it was just me Adia and Zawadi. When we got there it was quite busy, with lots of kids, including the Muslim ones, out in their best clothes for Christmas day, accompanied by associated mothers and fathers and various drunken bachelor misfits.

We had beers or soda (Adia), and I took some pictures of the kids. When I showed them the result on the screen at the back of the camera, I was virtually mobbed - everybody wanted to see. The Olympus, by the way, is in the process of falling to pieces again. The sliding front lens switch has been a perennial problem: it will have to go. Anyway, when we left, a large group of children followed us up the road. Adia and I joked about a new political party - the GPT (GrandPa Teve, which is what Eleanor calls me). Eventually an older child, or younger mother told me that they all wanted their photo taken together, so I obliged, and this time made sure that everybody got a reasonable look at the screen.

Adia by Lake Victoria.

Jackfruit on the tree.

Coy children at Nyakumba.

Dung beetle doing its thing.

Goats at a house by the lake.

Mussa the politician.

Boys with horns.

Ilemera children on Christmas day.

The GPT.

The whiteknuckle ride.

Bukoba to Dar-es-Salaam freeway.

Mussa's ancestors.


On the way to the 'pub'.

In the 'pub' at Ilemera.

24/12/2006 - Into the Countryside.

We wake in the morning, and make love. Adia is excited by the idea of doing it in the house where she spent some of her earlier years. Outside it is quiet except for the crowing of cockerels, and the occasional murmuring of pedestrians padding up the sandy path on the other side of the garden hedge. The sun peeps lazily between clouds as if to say "catch you later". I am to take a cold shower shortly when the women (Adia and Zawadi) have satisfied themselves that the sanitary facilities are in a satisfactory condition. I say satisfactory, but this house is not up to the standards of those of Mussa's other wives since he and Amina fell out. The plumbing is limited, and the water supply is unreliable, but he does not like to be told so.

Aziza has recovered from her shyness, and greets me with a hug and a smile in the morning, unphased by my beat-up half naked white body, clothed only in a pair of boxer shorts. Hello Steve, jambo Aziza - she's really cute. The cold shower idea has to be abandoned, since the water supply has gone off, so I settle for a bucket and ladle cold water job. The soap is pretty basic, and it's easy to get wet and get the soap on, but more difficult to rinse it off again given the limited capacity of your bucket of water. Exhausting the water, and wrapping the towel round myself, I brush my teeth over the drain in the back yard using bottled water. The chickens in their coop watch briefly as I start, but soon decided it is boring, and go back to pecking at their food.

Adia and Zawadi watch me like hawks to make sure I'm OK, and not missing anything that can be provided - I could take to living with African women. Then once again we walk round to Amina2's house for our breakfast, making the courtesy call at Amina's place on the way. Breakfast consists of orange juice; sliced avocado and grapefruit or some similar citrus; chapatis (actually closer to pancakes/crepes than to their Indian namesake); and bread made in a square mold and of a yellowish colour that looked like it could have had some maize flour in it. Toward the end of the meal, some fried potatoes appeared, since Adia had foolishly mentioned that I like potatoes. I was already just about full, but had to eat some, and they were good: great flavour. I have not been presented with food since that did not include potatoes. I personally could have used an egg, but since I have no idea of the extent to which I am straining peoples resources by merely being here, I was certainly not going to ask.

The plan was that on this day - Christmas Eve - we should drive out to the village where the family lived before they moved into Bukoba, and where Adia spent her early years. Now most things in Africa seem to happen fairly slowly, but Mussa's driving is an exception. The village was apparently about an hours drive out of Bukoba, and we were to do the trip in his pickup truck. I have to tell you that this vehicle is not in pristine condition. The shockers are gone - fucked would be the technical expression, and it has one bald front tyre. He, Amina2, and a daughter were in the front, and his sister Asha, Zawadi, Adia and me in the back, along with supplies, luggage, bed clothes etc.

At first it was OK, but as Mussa got the bit between his teeth the pace became faster and faster. I had my back to the cab, so I could not see the road ahead, but I could tell he was pushing it by the G forces as we went round the bends, and the truck was showing occasional signs of fishtailing as he braked going downhill. My knuckles were getting whiter and whiter. The country and the road were vaguely reminiscent of north-central Pennsylvania, where you get those long uphills and downhills over rolling ranges of hills, often with a bend at the bottom of each undulation. In this case, the valleys were running generally west to east into the lake, and we were proceeding in a general southerly direction on what is the main road between Kagera the region of Lake Victoria, and Dar es Salaam.

After about 60km of this, the paved highway mercifully expired. The rest of the road being the characteristic red dirt potholed strip. The potholes illustrated the inadequacy of the shock absorbers, and even Mussa stopped to bounce the truck and kick the odd wheel at one point. Shortly after the road change, the breeze turned cold, and it became clear that we were in for a squally shower. Mussa put his foot down regardless of the potholes. We reached shelter in the repair bay of a filling station just before it turned into a downpour, with everyone in the back only modestly wet. Zawadi came off worst, since she was at the back, and did not have the benefit of any shelter behind the cab of the truck.

The rain disappeared as quickly as it had arrived, and soon the sun was out again and we all quickly dried out. The dirt road continued up hill and down dale for another 10km or so, and then we arrived at the ancestral home in the village of Ilemera. It was the customary single storey structure with a couple more bedrooms, and with all the cooking facilities out back.

Mussa dragged me off almost immediately to visit the graves of his ancestors and survey his land. His grandfather and father and their wives were buried at the side of the house along with one of his father's sisters and somebody's child. They were surrounded in their rest by banana trees, as are many things in Tanzania. Then we stomped off through the banana trees (do remember that reminder about the wellies) to the south, where they gave way to coffee bushes and timber trees that gave the coffee some shade. The coffee beans were still green, and would not be ripe and ready until the following April. Mussa bemoaned the fact that it wasn't a very good crop. All around the coffee area, and between the banana trees, there were beans of the white sort like haricot growing. I'd say that there were about 5 or 6 acres (sorry, I don't do hectares by eye) used like this to the west of the road, on land that rises toward a ridge overlooking the lake. On the other side of the road, the land sloped down into a valley that presumably carried a stream or small river into the lake further south. Here, Mussa had recently bought about the same area again and was setting it up as a softwood timber plantation with scots pines or some similar variety. The 'trees' were just seedlings 20cm high, so it will be a long time before he sees a return on his investment. In the meantime, to defray his expenses he's renting out parts of the land to local farmers who grow cassava and sweet potatoes. These grow in coexistence with the fledgling pine trees along ridges of soil like you'd use for growing potatoes, but larger.

The whole length of the dirt road is being widened to the same standard as the paved highway that we had traversed. In the meantime it gets hammered by the rains, and by 18 wheeler tractor trailers - much larger than anything you see in India. How they get over it baffles me, and we did see one petrol tanker overturned in a ditch along the way, so some of them don't. When we got back from the grand tour, food was almost ready, and there was beer. I didn't know where it had come from at that point, and it was a new variety to me - Balimi, at 5.8% alcohol about the same strength as Stella in Europe, and not a beer to be treated lightly. It was pretty good, and one 500ml bottle was definitely enough to produce a distinct buzz.

The food was the Tanzanian staples: cooked green bananas straight off a tree outside, not mashed in this case, but quite mushy; the white beans also from outside; and beef stew, which included potatoes for my benefit. The beef was tough as old boots, but I presumed this was not a regular thing, since everyone apologized profusely. The bananas and beans were excellent. You'd have to add an unhealthy amount of butter to potatoes to simulate the same flavour and consistency, and the bananas were more or less fat-free. I could get addicted to that stuff.

Some time after we'd eaten, a consensus arose between me, Zawadi, and Asha that we needed to walk up the road for some exercise after the meal. This was of course an excuse for us to find a bar where we could discretely drink more beer. Adia came too, and we walked the kilometre or so into downtown Ilemera - if they'll pardon the expression. We settled ourselves down on a bench at the local general store, where they sell milk, kerosene, bicycle parts, umbrellas, you name it, and of course beer. This is Africa. Everybody in our party except me seemed to know almost everyone who came in, or to be related to them, so the place was quite homely.

Children in the kitchen.

Adia heating water.

Pine seedling amongst Cassava.

Part of our stranded group.

Fish and Chips at the Airport Bar at Mwanze.

Adia and Zawadi at the Bukoba baggage claim area.

The airfield at Bukoba.


23/12/2006 - The Journey Continued.

It seemed like immediately that the phone rang, and bleary eyed, we struggled to get ourselves organized to leave. The hotel gave us some breakfast, and sent us on our way. Of course when we got there at 04:30, they weren't even letting people in for check-in, so we sat around for a while, then when others arrived, we formed a line so we'd have first dibs. As it happened this wasn't necessary, since they pulled the stragglers from the previous night out of line and dealt with us separately. My initially bad impression of Tanzanian Airlines improved somewhat at this point, and got better when the pilot taxied off at a brisk speed, and put us down first at Arusha, and then at Mwanza bang on time.

Adia's sister Zawadi, and a bunch of people who'd made the trip over on the ferry specifically to welcome her, were there to greet us: most impressive. I liked Zawadi instantly. She's solid as a rock, and gives the impression she'd take a bullet for you if you were her friend; and she was to join us on the flight to Bukoba. Because we'd arrived at the airport earlier than expected compared to staying in a hotel overnight and getting up at nine or ten, there was a possibility of an earlier flight. So we hung around at the check-in counter until they'd processed all the paid-up passengers, and then there was no space. We retreated to the Airport Bar - not actually in the airport, but just across the road. Here Zawadi and I attacked the Tanzanian reserves of Kilimanjaro again, and we had something to eat before our scheduled flight at 13:30. Since it was on the menu, Adia and I ordered fish and chips. This was not what you'd think of as fish and chips in England, but instead, a small whole roasted or grilled Nile Perch with chips. It was a little fiddly to get the meat off, but quite good. Zawadi had stewed beef. She's at least as fast, if not faster over the first 500ml of beer as I am, and I'm pretty quick over that first one. She eats hard, and drinks beer pretty hard - I suspect she could put me under the table. In consequence she's quite large in a fairly typical African way - OK, I'm sure she'll forgive me for saying so, she's big, with a concentration on tits and arse: not a bad concentration IMHO.

Soon enough it was time for the final-leg flight - a turbo-prop high-wing 12 seater, and the smallest plane I've flown in for some time. It took about 35 minutes to cover the 95km over Lake Victoria to Bukoba and land on the bright red packed dirt runway there. We were met by Adia's dad Mussa. Like his daughter, Mussa's a Muslim, though not in dress. He just looks like your average businessman, grey haired, but about ten years younger than me. I got a big hug, as did Adia. Mussa had brought a pickup truck, and a couple of young men to manhandle luggage. They and Zawadi rode in the back, and Adia and I in the front. We skirted clockwise round the 'airport', passed the other end of the runway, and thus into Kashai village, which is just about joined to Bukoba. Our first stop was at the restaurant her mother runs, to see her mother Amina, who lives there these days. Amina had not been well for a week or so, as we'd previously been warned, she'd been confined to a mattress on the floor of her living room, and she didn't look good: Adia cried. I made a greeting as best I could in my kidogo Kiswahili, but could get nothing from her face. Amina it seems is a seasoned player of the poker game of life, which in her case has been quite hard, and as such is not prone to wearing her emotions on her face. We stayed a while for the inevitable family gossip, and explanation of the happenings of the previous night, and then went on to the house where Amina and her children used to live maybe 100m further along the road. The road, incidentally, was similar to the airport runway: packed red dirt, but with more potholes, these now filled with the bright orange results of recent rain. Speaking of which, remind me next time I come to Africa to bring a pair of wellies and a lightweight waterproof of the dales walking variety.

The house, as I would soon come to know, was typical of many Tanzanian working to middle-class homes. It had a front porch, separated from the world by a top-to-bottom ornamental but moderately heavy duty steel grille, with windows similarly equipped, and a walled back yard protected by a steel gate: locks and bolts everywhere. Entering from the porch - shoes removed there - you come into the living room, off that there is the main bedroom, and behind a (now unused - cooking is done at the restaurant) kitchen, and another bedroom. Sanitary facilities, and a chicken coop, are across the back yard, as originally would have been the heavy duty cooking facilities. Any spare rooms adjoining the back yard have now been converted to lodgings for respectable Muslim bachelors. These, and the two-room, five table restaurant, comprise Amina's income, since she's lived independently of Mussa for some time. This income, along with the scholarship she got through the good offices of her father's friend the then Ambassador Kiwanuka, paid for Adia to go to college in India.

After a little time when we did some unpacking, brushed our teeth, and changed our socks, we went off first back to Amina's place, and then off to the house where Mussa keeps his third wife Amina2. Amina being ill, Amina2 has been nominated to cook for us during our stay. At Amina's, I was now introduced to the staff, primarily Yolande, a young woman who is Amina's right hand, and who has looked after her while she was ill. Yolande is a quiet, good-natured girl, with breasts even bigger than Zawadi - and that's saying something. I think after we have gone she will be given a couple of rooms in one of the houses, so she can take a husband when she's ready, and probably take over the restaurant in the fullness of time so that she can be a woman of some substance too. I was also introduced to Zawadi's daughter Aziza, who initially was very shy. Zawadi said she'd soon recover. Last, but not lest in a Muslim household, I was provided with some more beer. Later after we'd walked up the village to Amina2's house, we were fed with mashed green banana, beef stew, casseroled eggplant and rice. Adia showed me off mercilessly at both houses and through the village. By the time we'd finished, she and I were suitable exhausted. We got undressed at Amina's house, arranged our mosquito net, pissed in a plastic paint container placed there for that purpose - such togetherness - and then immediately fell into a sound sleep.

Me and Adia at the Flamingo Cafeteria.

Mabel with smile and bar background.

22/12/2006 - The Journey Commenced.

We left Bangalore about half an hour late at 02:00 on Friday morning, and the trip to Mumbai was uneventful. Originally we were two rows apart, but some kind man moved and let Adia sit next to me. We got there by three thirty or so, and then attempted to sleep on some recliner seats that were available. I was not tremendously successful in this. Finally the gate opened at about 08:00, and we filtered through to a departure lounge, and thence onto an A320, which left Mumbai on time at 09:00.

I had failed to bring anything to read, and the video entertainment was less than gripping, so the five and a half hours to Nairobi dragged by. Toward the end of the flight we got a half decent airline lunch, and some pleasant enough white French wine to wash it down with. After an hour on the ground getting the plane cleaned out and refuel led, we were off again to Dar-es-Salaam - another hour's flight.

We had a nominal wait of four hours for the next leg of our journey to Mwanza. This passed more quickly because there was more to do than there had been at Mumbai. Adia's friend Mabel, who lives in Dar, and is rather cute, came to the airport to see us, and there was a pleasant bar-restaurant called the Flamingo Cafeteria outside. We sat there, and Adia and Mabel drank Pepsis, while I drank 500ml bottles of Killimanjaro - the most popular of the local normal-strength beers. We also got Vodacom SIMMs for our phones, and put some T-shillings on them via phone cards, and I changed most of the rupees I had in my wallet into T-shillings. The T-shilling is a bit like the Italian lira - it's a pretty small denomination, so the bank notes have rather large numbers on them, the smallest one is the 500, worth about US 40 cents, or UK 20p.

When they started dealing with our flight we got almost to the front of the queue before they suddenly announced that they could not take any more passengers. Under some swap arrangement with South African Airways, they'd taken on passengers from a stranded SAA flight, and now there was no room for us - we were bumped. At first it seemed they would do nothing about it at all, saying "just come back in the morning". But when it became clear after some time of pleading, reasoning, and downright abuse from a fair number of us, that we weren't going anywhere, and the flight had actually left, I organized a concerted further session of pleading, reasoning, and downright abuse to get us booked into and transported to a hotel for the night. Some of the strandees gave up and left, but a bunch of us - about 10 I guess - persisted, and were eventually taken to a decent hotel and fed. I also had two or three more Killimanjaros. We had to be up at three in the morning to get back to the airport in time so that we'd be the first served in the morning, so we got a quick shower, fixed up the alarm call and crashed.
19/12/2006 - Mostly Ready

Well, it's only another two days before we'll be off to Tanzania. I'd got my UK Christmas shopping done, so last weekend we concentrated on some presents for Adia's family

Her mum wanted a new phone, so that was easy enough, and we found a nice looking Titan watch for her dad. Actually I rather covet the watch, and might make a return visit to the same shop in January. Her sister is getting a handbag and some pearl earrings that we got made at the Cauvery shop at the top of Brigade Road - just simple pendant strands of six pearls each. Her children are going to get bicycles, but that will have to wait until we arrive. I'm assuming that bikes will be the same sort of price in Tanzania as they are here, which seems to be supported by what information I can find on the web.

I got myself a 512M card for the Olympus, and I've already got two 128M cards, so I should be able to take photos until they come out of my ears. My only failure was to get a decent new garment bag. My suitcase died on the passage to India. But I guess garment bags must be a thing of the 90's. I only found one model in all of the luggage shops I visited in Bangalore, and that didn't have wheels. I bought it anyway. I think they're a very convenient way of carrying suits and such things, so I'll man haul it. I don't think I'll have any enormous distances to do on foot during the journey.

We have had a change of thoughts about our final destination in Tanzania. Arusha sounds like a nice place, but it's smaller than Harrogate, and I have a feeling that for a lawyer to get established there, you might have to wait until another one died. Also it does not have a lot in the way of industry or business, and there's no Bettys.

Dar-es-Salaam - the biggest city - is out as far as I am concerned. It's down on the coastal plain, close to the equator, and I would melt. Mwanza - the second city - on the shore of Lake Victoria, is 1000m above sea level, a similar altitude to Bangalore, and that sounds doable. It is quite a sizeable city, with some industry and commerce, and with the gold mining area just to the south. Sounds to me likely to be a more fruitful hunting ground for a young lawyer.

My insured Speedpost receipt.

Draining the duck pond.

13/12/2006 - The Way It Is

Ok, ok, I'm way behind! But I'm not being lazy really. The truth of the matter is that I've spent a lot of my spare time working on the prequel to Brits-Eye-View. Maybe I'll say more later.

Also, I've got more stuff sent off to Terry in the USA, which is a tedious and expensive business, and we're reasonably up to date with all those things you have to do just to keep life in order. Amongst these has been the fact that I now have two grandchildren, and really need to pull my socks up with regard to Christmas.

We got Eleanor a little necklace - osmium on 18ct gold. Don't know why, we just thought she might like it - not to mention her mum. For Lulu, we'd no idea, but eventually settled on a set of three papier-mache painted elephants that looked pretty cute, and would be difficult to break. She can have her necklace later.

Of course, getting these things to the UK before Christmas proved to be something of a challenge. The elephants were not too bad. I found a cardboard box and packed them in scrunched-up newspaper, taped it all up, and attached a hand printed address label under a layer of transparent tape. For the necklace, I improvised a small box from a larger one. Then on Monday, I took myself off to the Bangalore head post office, which is just about five minutes walk from work, having determined that the Speedpost service was probably the best way to go. I'd gone into work early, so I was able to make it to the post office before they lost interest in doing business for the day.

Well, the elephants flew OK, but the necklace was problematic. Being a stupid bugger, I told them what was in the parcel, and that put the mockers on it. Because it had some gold content, I was not allowed to send it unless it went by insured Speedpost. This meant that I would have to take it away, pack it in a larger box so there was room for all the stuff that would have to be written on it or attached to it, and come back later.

While I was there, I posted a couple of Christmas cards. There was nothing complicated about this, but it was messy. Indian stamps don't come with any pre-applied adhesive. Instead, there's a counter in the post office with a put of brown paste/glue in the middle, equipped with a wooden stick as an applicator. The whole counter is coated with glue. I did a moderately successful juggling act with my two envelopes (they don't have adhesive either), my rejected parcel, and the glue stick. I got the stamps stuck on without contaminating the envelopes too severely, but coated myself in a layer of glue in the process. I had to retire to the Watchman to wash my hands and have a couple of beers afterwards - hey ho.

Today, having gone in early again, I made another attempt at the necklace. I found a box of a size I thought might do, and repacked it. Then by about 17:45 I took it to the post office. The parcel first had to be sown into a tightly fitting canvas shroud. There's a shop inside the post office that sells pens and envelopes and packing materials and such, but strangely nothing particularly useful. The woman there does the job of sewing the shroud with a plain old needle and thread, and very deftly too. I thought to myself "when I die I should come back here, and she can sew me in a package with a cannonball, then they can drop me in Ulsoor Lake": not a very constructive thought.

When my little package was sewed, since it was to be an insured package, it had to be sealed at regular intervals all around the seams with sealing wax. Each blob of wax was stamped with an official Post-Office stamp. When it was finished it looked quite impressive, not to mention Dickensian. I should have taken a photo of it then before I re-entered the inner sanctum where they deal with insured Speedpost parcels. But I missed out, when I got the camera out in there I was told that photography was forbidden. I'll ask Rachel to do it when it arrives in England. In the inner sanctum it was examined carefully to ensure that I'd written all the required information on the outside with a felt pen. Then it was weighed, and a ticket was printed out and stuck to it along with a barcode label - very sophisticated. I got half of the ticket as my receipt. The whole thing only took about an hour.

Tee other picture happened today. The swimming pool at our apartments has been looking rather like a duck pond lately. Some men came today and drained it, so maybe it will get restored to its former clean state.

Poncey gates in the gardens at the Lila.
10/12/2006 - A Different Brunch

Having had a disappointing brunch at the Taj the previous month, we decided to try somewhere else. It was a toss-up between the Oberoi (if they do a brunch - we never found out), and the Lila. Since we were hungry, and knew that the Lila did, we went there.

I found it rather disappointing, particularly given that it was a good deal more expensive. The barbecue was wanting in quality, there was an irritating band who sang out of tune, and worst of all, the mashed potatoes were slimy - urrk!

So (if they do a brunch), we'll probably try the Oberoi in January, and failing that we'll revert to the Taj and hope that they just had a bad day.

Top of Page