December 2009 in Tanzania through the eyes of an Englishman

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Visit Tanzania?

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 Adia's Place.
The BEV Retrospective - 1942/2002.

There was life before 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. This is really getting rather stale - it's been stuck there for ages now, but being retired is so busy. I am working on 1971.

A constant.
31/12/2009 - New Year's Eve.

Well, I tried. I made various suggestions about New Years Eve, but Adia had been convinced by party or parties unknown that driving after midnight in Arusha on that night was not a safe thing to do. I really must be getting old! When have I ever taken any notice of cautions like that in the past? I can't remember when I last spent New Years Eve at home. Grump, grump.

My youngest daughter Leo passed her UK driving test today - considerably late in life by most standards in the UK. But she's lived abroad quite a lot, and I think she's spent most of her adult life in or close to major cities, where the public transport systems mean that you don't really need a car. She actually passed a driving test and got a license in the US in the mid 90s, out in the sticks of New Jersey - life takes strange twists and turns.

Harry brought his petrol lawn mower this evening so I could have a go at our overgrown grass. The lawn looks a lot better now, though the edges still need to be tidied up. It's about as long since I used a motorized lawn mower as it is since Leo passed her first driving test - any sort of lawn mower come to that.

I can't guarantee that I will stay up until midnight - boredom will probably set in. After you've moved continents a few times it dawns on you that the exact timing of the new year is pretty ephemeral anyway. It's getting on for 22:00 here as I write.
In India, it's already there, and in New Zealand it's history. On the other hand, in New York, the ball won't drop for another ten hours. Stop kidding yourself Steve - your primary ego says that at this time on this day you should be out at the pub getting drunk with a crowd of like-minded piss artists: it's just what you do.

Anyway, that's the way it is - I'll get over it. This way I get a chance to wish all my readers a Happy and Prosperous New Year, before the event. Should auld acquaintance be forgot, no thanks - and cheers!

The crate of Eagle.

A passing flower.
30/12/2009 - Cabin Fever.

The cold is waning, but I've still got an annoying cough. I have been abstaining from heavy work - it's not difficult - and as a consequence I've spent a lot of time sitting in front of the computer catching up on some things. It's getting oppressive though sitting here in my little computer room all day. I must break out and go somewhere tomorrow, maybe I'll be fit enough then to start on another bed.

As a result, I haven't much to write about. Though some of my findings might make it to a software page blog item. I'm thinking of returning to my activities with D, since I think I have found a way to get round the thing that was primarily blocking me.

Mohammed, the new boy from Kagera, has already decided he wants to go home - doesn't like the dogs. This is an Islamic thing. Dogs are mentioned unfavourably in the Quran. Apparently you're allowed to keep them, they have their uses, but they are to be kept at arms length or better. Of course, our three don't subscribe to this theory - they want to jump all over you and lick you and so on.

I say he's decided. Actually he seems to have changed his mind since. I suspect though that the first decision will be binding from Adia's point of view. Whoops, there goes another ...

Our friend Harry brought me a crate of Eagle last night, 25 bottles - he is such a generous man. This deprives me of the motivation even to walk round the corner to the pub. I shall have to put a table and a chair out on the patio, and pretend. Also I shall have to resist the temptation to drink them all at once.

Adia is cooking beans, and I have left-over corned beef hash to go with them, not to mention the Eagle - nirvana. Also it seemed to me this afternoon that the cucumbers have finally started to grow in a way that might result in something, and there are now a couple of zucchini that seem to have got set and be growing - so overall, I can't complain.

Poor growth of our cabbages and broccoli.
28/12/2009 - More Groundhog Days.

I thought my cold was a little better this morning, but now in the evening, I'm less sure. Adia is about the same. Since over the weekend, almost everything was shut down, the days have been a bit like those from the Groundhog Day movie.

Today at least we went somewhere. Tanzania is in the throes of introducing a SIMM registration system. This may be in response to demands from the western nations tied to aid, or may just be what the government says - a response to criminal activities. Either way it's a real pain in the arse.

Adia had been through the motions of registering our phones, and as a result you were supposed to get an SMS to tell you that you were registered. This never arrived for her main phone (she has at least three different SIMMs). So she wasted the day trying to find out why. The deadline for registration was supposed to be 31/12, so there were people queuing round the block outside the phone company offices. When she finally got to a desk, she found out that it was registered but she hadn't been notified for some technical reason. After the ordeal she heard on a radio that the deadline has been extended to June 2010.
When she'd gone out on this mission, I was trying to download some software stuff from the Internet. But after a short time the power went off, so I was bored, and followed her into town on Kiki. This was at least more than I'd attempted for the previous days, so perhaps the cold is on its way out.

As I went, I looked at the vegetable garden. It's clear that the guy who sold us topsoil ripped us off - the soil he bought is absolute crap. The broccoli and cabbages have been planted out for some time now, and it wasn't until I applied two lots of fertilizer, and it got rained in that they started to make much progress at all. The cucumbers might as well have died. They're just existing in some zombie-like state. It won't even grow decent weeds!

I shall have to dig the stuff out again at some point and replace it with some proper soil - grrr!

As a result of the various frustrations, we're going to go to Nicks tonight and eat fish and chips. I'll catch you later.

Christmas brunch at the Arusha Hotel.

The grilled prawns.
26/12/2009 - Merry Christmas.

Both of us were still in the throes of our colds, but we doped ourselves up and got ourselves to the Arusha Hotel by about one fifteen.

The brunch was not as sumptuous as we used to get in the big hotels in Bangalore, but it was sound and well balanced. Having first got a beer, I organized my meal into X courses.

First I had some soup. It was described as chicken and spinach chowder, but in reality it was just pieces of chicken and unmanageably large chunks of some green vegetable floating in a rather salty consomme. Not a particularly good start, but I ate it. Next I moved around the corner to the salad section and from there I took some cold chicken and a little salad with mayonnaise. That was OK. By the time I'd eaten it I had more or less finished the beer and also realized that I would prefer to have wine with the food, so I ordered a bottle of the house red.

I was pleasantly surprised by the wine. It was South African - probably a blend, since it did not mention any specific grape, dry and full bodied. The only minor snag was that it was 14% alcohol, and since Adia doesn't drink that meant that by the end of the meal I was pretty well anaesthetized. I enjoyed it though - will see if I can find where to buy it at a reasonable price.

Next, I had turkey that had been roasted and sliced and was then served in some gravy-like sauce with cranberry sauce, and Cajun fried potato wedges. That was good, particularly with the wine as a lubricant. After that I took a rest for some time and had another glass of wine or two.

The people there were a mixed bunch and not very numerous. There were a couple of mixed-race families with kids who were most probably residents, then there were couples who were probably just hotel guests who happened to be there on the day. In addition there was a bunch of French-speaking African women who we guessed were probably something to do with the ICTR.

The next dish on my menu was the grilled prawns or crevettes. I had two helpings of those with different vegetables - I'm not sure whether that counts as one course or two. Sadly there were no sprouts.

Then it was time for desert. There was a Christmas cake the texture and flavour of which was more like Christmas pudding. That suited me very well. I first had it with ice cream, then had some more of it with brie cheese and a mince tart. That was it - no more space. I sat and sipped the last glass of the firewater wine.
Adia ate a similar selection except that some things had coriander, which makes her ill. She drove the comatose me home afterwards, and I went for a little nap.

I was not in a state to do anything much after the nap. I messed about on the Internet for some time, and went to bed quite early. To be fair to the wine, this morning I don't seem to have a hangover. I wonder where I can get it?

Old and a little chipped.
24/12/2009 - Christmas Eve.

I don't know what sort of job your parents, or society in general, did on implanting the notion of Christmas into you. Mine did a pretty good job. You got special food, there were presents, and there was all the Jesus in a manger stuff, and Christmas carols, and Scrooge, and Tiny Tim, and all that warm cosy glow.

So this is the night before Christmas - Christmas Eve. Its purpose and its appeal have changed for me throughout life. When I was little, it was presents tomorrow, and special food. Then as a teen it was a time when girls were more emotional and susceptible and more inclined to be friendly. Then in my 20s and 30s, it was time for me to deal with my own small children and their expectations of Christmas.

Later it was a social event, once again an opportunity to meet women in an impressionable mood. A good excuse for a piss-up, and a day when I had to fit all my Christmas shopping into one afternoon.

Then later I found broader views. Christmas is not the same everywhere, and to some, it's a non-event or even an offence. Now here I am, old and a little bit chipped, and I have no idea what to make of it. That childhood-bred notion that it is something special is still there, but what to do about it?
And I still have the lousy cold, and even if I can drag myself off my lazy arse, I have no idea where to go on Christmas Eve in Arusha. Adia's not that bothered - Christmas is not a Muslim thing. We went out for another Ethiopian meal last night, and it was a minor disaster. So perhaps tonight we'll just go out again to somewhere reliable and see what others are doing here on Christmas Eve.

A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all BEV readers, whatever that means to you. I have already extended those greetings to my ex-wife Lynn in the USA, and I extend it now especially to my 2nd and 3rd most regular readers. If you are the BEV reader who browses from near New Milford, CT, USA, or the one from Wokingham in the UK, as a Christmas present, I'd love to know who you are - just click here.

23/12/2009 - A Timely Cold.

Having shelled out our money for a Christmas brunch at the Arusha Hotel, Adia and I both have now got colds. Nothing serious at the moment, but I feel a bit feverish and weak, and I have a cough, and was a slow start this morning. Adia is about the same.

So I'm going to take it easy today in the hope that it might be a transient thing. Then we'll probably have to dope ourselves up on Friday to avoid coughing and spluttering over the other guests at brunch.

Another helper is arriving today. This time it's a mature guy who Harry came up with, who I think comes from Harry's home village in Kilimanjaro region. I'll have to do some work to fix up sleeping arrangements for the two of them. I'm thinking some sort of bunk bed arrangement. We already have a suitable mattress.

I shall go and look at the plants now - more later.

21/12/2009 - Yet Another Helper from Kagera.

Another helper was shipped in from Kagera today. He's from a village that is just a short distance to the north of Kashai, where Adia's mum lives, and he is seventeen.

Adia showed him around the compound this afternoon, and said he should go and get a shower. A shower in the African village context is going somewhere as private as possible, and pouring a bucket of water over yourself using a plastic jug, interspersed with soap. Oh, and by the way, given half a chance, Africans shower much more often than your average European.

She was surprised, and a little moved I think, when she realized that the lad had never seen a squatter toilet before. His experience of places where you go to take a crap was limited to a small mud hut or less, over a pit in the ground with a board across to squat on. The small outside bathroom with its flushing squatter toilet, a tap with running water, and a door that locks, was completely outside his experience, and a thing of wonder.

As Adia noted, he's probably never had a bed to sleep on before, let alone one with an insecticide treated bed net. She found also that he had never cooked using charcoal, just wood scavenged from the bush around his village.

21/12/2009 - Christmas Trees.

No, not that kind, but a group I decided to photograph now for various reasons. The first is an Avocado tree that Adia grew from a seed. It is some kind of quadruplet, since it has four distinct trunks. It was growing in a plastic bucket before, but was in danger of getting root bound in there. It has dog netting because it is still too small to be exposed to the puppies. The second is a grafted Avocado we bought recently at the nurseries. It has replaced the Orange tree in the middle of the lawn, since the latter was showing no sign of progress. It's not dead, but it will become a pot plant for a while, and we'll keep it under observation. The third is a Mango that Adia also grew from a seed. It does not have multiple trunks, but it branches just above ground level, so it should form a bushy tree. It is planted in the small lawn in front of the Old Cottage, and is growing like crazy at the moment. The brown leaves are new growth.

19/12/2009 - Rain on the Roof.

It's raining on my steel roof, making a din,
the sound alternately soothing and alarming.
Soothing because it's a pinkish noise,
with a warm and comfortable tone.

But in a crescendo it can make you feel
as if your house might wash away.
All this rain pouring off the roof,
stripping soil, laying its foundations bare.

But now it's slacked off, and I feel my plants
turning their faces toward the sky - thank you!
Now we can grow - suck from the soil the stuff of life,
making our little contribution to eternity.

The sound's now almost gone, and so the day.
Tomorrow the greedy sun will take back what was given.
The plants once more feel roots run dry.
My roof's now silent - half blessing, half curse.

The new septic tank.
19/12/2009 - Infrastructure.

The fundi Innocent - maybe his mother had visions of him as a Pope - has built a small septic tank to serve small house 2. Last night as it was getting dark, after a days frantic work by him, two helpers, and me, the outlet from it was connected to the existing soak pit.

I must come up with a name for the house - let's say provisionally, the South House. Then the one we lived in to start with can be the Old Cottage. So anyway, now the South House has electricity and drainage. I guess the next thing I should be considering there is a water supply. For that, I'm very tempted to run a pipe round the outer wall of the compound, since all the underground water pipes have been a problem with people putting spades and picks through them. The snag with that idea is that the water would be boiling hot most of the time with a black pipe exposed to the sunlight, so I guess I have to pay someone to dig a trench along the west and south walls. Yet more expense.

Then we have to save up for tiles, getting of for $1000 I should think - it's only a small house, but tiles are expensive. Then there's the little matter of gypsum board for the ceiling, and finish plastering, and sanitary appliances, and a kitchen sink, and so on. It's scary - we really do need to get all the rooms in the main house let as soon as possible, otherwise it will never get finished.
18/12/2009 - Mr Doom and Gloom.

Think about it. Let's just take India as an example. There are maybe 900,000,000 rural poor people there, living on $2 or less a day. So to meet the needs of their democratically elected government, and lift them out of poverty, the developed nations would have to subsidise each poor Indian family to the tune of at something like $1000 a year - that's an annual subsidy of $900,000,000,000 per year - 900 billion, almost ten times the amount that's being talked about at Copenhagen. Otherwise any elected Indian government must continue to expand its industrial economy to provide jobs that will pay enough to accomplish the same thing - expanding its carbon footprint as it goes.

Even if such a subsidy were possible, then the poor who were lifted marginally above the poverty level would expect to be able to spend the money on goods and services. Such goods and services could be provided by industries in India or elsewhere, but of course, they would in turn have a cost in carbon dioxide emissions somewhere in the world. To afford such subsidies, the developed nations would have to expand their economies, thus expanding their carbon footprints.

That brief argument is only about India. If you take into account the rural poor of China, South America, central Asia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and of course, last but not least, Africa, then the subsidy due from the developed nations to compensate for their profligate use of fossil fuel energy in the past probably becomes something greater than the GDP of the Earth.

There's the rub! Some bright team of economists and Earth resource specialists should work out what the sustainable GDP of planet Earth is, given the constraints imposed by global warming. Then you could divide that by the number of families on Earth. Only then would it be possible to judge what should be the fair income for a family on planet Earth.

Of course, that comes close to describing Utopia. In real life the people at either end of the spectrum would choose to fight for what was already theirs, or for what should be.

To put it bluntly, if we are to avoid the predicted effects of global warming, then everyone on Earth must accept the fact that we must live at levels of affluence close to unemployment benefits in the developed nations. A big gain for most, but an intolerable loss for the rest.

If people can stick to that for 100 - 200 years, and save some money in the form of alternative energy development bonds, then gradually, the standard of living of people on Earth can start increasing again in a sustainable fashion. This is of course, in my dreams.

If they can't, then we can expect the 21st and 22nd centuries to have wars and mass destruction that make WW1 and WW2 look like some minor historical events in just the same way as they made the previous wars in the world look. Look it directly in the face. Either the developed nations must eliminate all those poor people who aspire to share their limited resources, or the poor of the world must eliminate the developed nations that consume their share.

As a sting in the tail, remember that all the high-tech things that you can do to reduce carbon dioxide emissions have a cost in terms of carbon dioxide emissions - almost inevitably, high-tech costs energy. You have to be very careful that developments to reduce carbon dioxide emissions don't emit more carbon dioxide than they will save!

Passion fruit flower.

Drain pipes placed for small house 2.
17/12/2009 - Hard Work.

Another hard work day, but at four in the afternoon my part is played, so hopefully I can do a somewhat better job on BEV today.

First task this morning was to check the toilet in the in-progress bathroom to se if I had got the connection between it and the pipe through the wall properly sealed. Sigh of relief - it appears to be sound. So now the bathroom is essentially functional - I just have to add the frills like soap dishes toilet roll holder, shower curtain, and towel rails.

Then I had to put in place the PVC drain pipes that will serve small house 2. This involved a trip to Nane Nane to get pipes, cutting and jointing pipes to make sections of the required lengths, modifying the trenches that the fundi's helper had dug so that they were of a suitable depth and even slope, putting the pipes in the trenches, and consolidating them with earth to fix their position.

It's getting the trench right that's the killer in drainage jobs. There are constraints at each end, in this case the inlet level of the new septic tank at the bottom end, and at the top end a level governed by a reasonable protective depth for the pipe, and then the space required to fit the bend that goes through the wall to the toilet. These constraints mean that the ends of the pipes must be within an inch or so of some specific position, and then the rest of the pipe - 11m of it has to lie as close as possible to the bottom of a trench with an even slope.

Of course the slope of the trench is never perfect, so when you finally put the pipe down, you have to pad it with little heaps of soil to make sure using a level that it has an even slope. Then once you've got that right, you have to fill in some soil round it, and at some points under it, and tamp it down to fix the pipe's position and hopefully prevent settlement after the trench is filled in.

When you've done all that, it just looks as if someone has thrown some pipes in a trench and shoveled a bit of soil on top, and not at all like a fairly hefty piece of work

Now the fundi is casting concrete bottoms for the inspection chambers, which he will presumably build tomorrow around the pipes.

On a different subject, the passion fruit flower picture came out rather well, and might make a decent picture to frame of use as a screen background. If you're interested, please get in touch, and I'll put a high-res version of it on the web site. Same for any of the BEV pictures that I've taken with the digital camera for that matter.
16/12/2009 - Time Accounting.

I really intended to try and do something interesting today. But alas, no pictures, and nothing more inspiring than a list of things accomplished, and things that went wrong.
  • Went to Nane Nane to get 5 bags of cement to cast the top of the new septic tank,
  • Watered the plants in the new vegetable garden,
  • Specified the positions of the inspection chambers and pipes for small house 2,
  • Hopefully installed the toilet in the new bathroom,
  • Went into town to get locks for the doors in the new bedroom/bathroom,
  • Installed the wash basin in the new bathroom,
  • Helped the carpenter sort out problems with the door locks,
  • Did the outside connection of the wash basin to the drain,
  • Worked out the pipe layouts for the drainage of small house 2.
I won't know if the toilet installation was successful until tomorrow, when the silicone sealant has had chance to set. The wash basin appears to be OK - no such delay there I hope. One of the lock problems got sorted, though not without damaging the new bathroom door frame. That has now been repaired. The other one requires a pair of circlip pliers in order the make the lock right handed. I'll either have to find someone who has one, or buy one.

Tomorrow morning I have to go and get the drain pipes for small house 2 and put hem in their trenches and get the slope right. Then the fundi can build inspection chambers around them.

I tell you, this retirement thing can be exhausting, and from your point of view boring, boring - sorry!

Four horsemen.
14/12/2009 - Global Warming - Full Steam Ahead?

The Copenhagen conference is not even finished yet, but it seems to me that the writing is on the wall. There's no way that the politicians in the developed countries can tell their people that they have to reduce their standard of living and expectations to those of the developing nations. Similarly there's no way that the politicians in the developing nations can tell their people that they can never have the standard of living of people in the developed nations, particularly after the flood of pro-capitalism, pro-democracy propaganda and advertising that has come out of the developed nations over the last 30 or 40 years.

So we had better just concentrate on what will happen, and how we will deal with it, and this needs to be spelled out, stage by stage, in simple and brutal terms. It will be good for the populations of the world to know with some certainty when things will get really bad, and the four horsemen will ride across the Earth unfettered.

Bathroom building chaos.

Can I take it home?
13/12/2009 - A Mixed Day.

Nothing bad - just mixed activity-wise.

Having determined that the first job was to fix the fence around the vegetable garden, I got my tools ready, and then of course the power went off. I'm not moaning - I realize they do have to do maintenance and development work on the system, and Sunday morning after breakfast time is as good a time as any.

So I forked jobs, and put a missing switch and power outlet into the bedroom/bathroom I'm working on, and cleaned out the shower drain, which the tiler had filled with rubble. Then the power came back, so I had a go at the fence in an attempt to make it more dog-proof. Whether I have been successful, only time will tell. I got no information from the puppies as to who might have been the culprit. Then, after some time messing with it to get the fitting right, and be sure I had a way of sealing the connection to the drain, I drilled the holes that will take the bolts that fix the toilet to the floor. That was one of those jobs with a lot of swearing and cursing, and the plugs that came with the toilet were perished, so I could not get any further, and I was ready for a change.

Adia didn't need much persuading to go and look at plants again, so despite an approaching thunderstorm, we went off to the nurseries. There's one guy there who has latched onto us at the moment. He's a good salesman, and not unwelcome, since he seems to know wht he is talking about, and to be able to get good prices from other vendors. As a result of his enticements, I spent more than usual today, on items including but not neccessarily limited to:
  • A grafted avocado sapling - see below,
  • A replacement papaya tree plant - the one we have turned out to be a male,
  • A baby bay tree,
  • Two passion fruit plants to replace the one we butchered,
  • Two other strange creeping vine plants - see below,
  • Two different kinds of mint,
  • A plant I just liked that might make a good pot plant.
Grafted fruit trees are created starting with a healthy baby tree that was grown from seed or from a cutting. This has to be from the species of the target, or a closely related species, but it does not have to have any particular track record in terms of fruiting.
You then take a budding stem from a tree that has an established history of fruit production. You cut off the top of the baby tree to form a 'V' shaped notch, then you cut the bottom of the budding stem to fit the notch, and fasten the two together with tape or string. If you are successful, the two will fuse, and you will have a sapling that has the genetic capabilities of the budding stem combined with the root system of the host baby tree. Often, such saplings will produce fruit within a year or eighteen months.

The strange creeping vine plant was described by the salesman as a kind of super passion fruit. He showed us a grown-up example that had a fruit on it. There was really no resemblance to the passion fruit except that both plants have leaves of about the same size, and climb up things using tendrils. The strange fruit was green, and about the size and shape of an American football. Apparently when it is ripe, the inside is bright red, and tastes rather like passion fruit, and so is excellent for making juice, which is what passion fruit is mostly used for. It is sour, so you can combine it with the often rather bland and sweet juices from mango, pineapple, and banana to make a fruit juice with some bite.

The plant I just liked has leaves that are dark green on the light-facing side, and almost black on the other. Apparently when it feels like it, it produces some attractive yellow flowers. The 'can I take it home' plant was about 3m height, with a trunk reminiscent of a very large leek, and leaves not unlike a banana tree. I thought it was really cool, and would have it in my yard any day, but I got no offer. It would have been a major transplant!

Puppy vandalism.
13/12/2009 - Mysteries of Puppy Psychology.

Adia has shipped Antidius back to Kagera after he announced that he only intended to stay until March or April. So today she got up early to do the things he would have done.

Outside she noticed that two of the squash plants in the new vegetable garden had been damaged - presumably by one of the dogs. We have fundis working in the compound at the moment, so her first thought was that they had left the gate open. But the gate was bolted. Looking more closely she found that the bottom edge of the chain-link fencing had been pushed up. Whichever dog it was must have had quite a struggle to push it up enough to get through, and then back out again.

The primary suspect is Sigi. There was dog hair stuck to the wire that had been ripped out by the fence, and it was the coarse stuff that the males have around their shoulders. Of the two males, Sigi is the one with the worst track record of getting into things, and his hair is, if anything, coarser than Hansel's. It felt like Sigi hair.
His primary motivation in life is finding things to eat, and it's possible that the squashes smelled good. The cucumbers were a target in the old vegetable patch. The first plant is not badly damaged - it's lost a couple of big leaves, but will probably recover quite quickly. The second one though is pretty trashed, and may be lost.

So my first job today is to check for points on the fence where the screws that hold the wire down onto the retaining wall may be too far apart, and bore some more holes for plugs and screws.

Adia's stock in trade.
11/12/2009 - Home Alone.

I'm busy working on yet another room, but at the same time we are virtually alone in our compound. Harry has been absent most of the time recently, and Helen has gone home.

I can come up with ideas for promoting the place, but I basically don't see that as my job. The division of labour that I want to see is that I do the design, and some of the execution of the development work, like electrical installations, plumbing, and making furniture, and oversee the technical aspects of what contractors do on site. Adia should develop the business side, negotiating with contractors, getting techniques for attracting customers up and running, and dealing with the operation of the place has a guest house.

However it seems that Adia is a bit shy about the finding customers bit. It isn't something she knows how to do, so she is hesitant. Give her something like the grasshoppers that she knows are popular with a section of the community, and are just a straight sale, and she's happy scouring the town for customers.
Unfortunately grasshoppers are seasonal. Now it's the beginning of the season, and they fetch a premium price, but later there'll probably be a glut, and the price will drop, and then after that there won't be any more until next year.

Anyway, I will press on with the room. I got the shower in yesterday, so today I need to get the toilet then I can bring the drain pipe in from outside at the correct level. Then the wash basin, then the light fittings, and another bed, and a wardrobe or shelves, and so on.

Shiny new plants in shiny new pots.

A huge plant.

Our Canadian guest departing.
9/12/2009 - A Farewell.

We decided against a drive, since our guest Helen was leaving today, and we wanted to be there when her taxi came. Instead, we paid yet another visit to the plant nurseries - yes, we are addicts.

This time we bought a mix of plants - some to go in pots, some in our existing borders, and some for the vegetable garden. The latter were a couple of strawberry plants. I just wanted to see how they would do in the climate here. If they are a success, we'll get more. They would be a great addition to our fruit salads.

We got back about a quarter of an hour before Helen was due to leave. As we were waiting for the taxi, it decided to rain again, and looking at the sky I thought it was unlikely we'd get anything done with the new plants today. But it slacked off just as the taxi arrived, so after we'd said our goodbyes, we moved some of the plants into four large pots.

Helen has been the ideal tenant. Adia and I have speculated constantly about the possibility of being able to clone a copy of her for each room. I hope and believe that she is now a friend, and that one day we'll see her here again. We were sad to see her go.

We were both pleased with the potted plants, but by the time we'd finished it was too dark to take pictures - plants don't do well with flash. I'll make a little gallery tomorrow. As well as those we potted, I added a new plant to the border between the lawn and its retaining wall, and put the strawberries in the sunniest corner of the vegetable garden.

I made a start this morning on fitting the shower in the last bedroom's bathroom, but as it turned out I needed bits I did not have, so that was a dead end for today. It didn't look like there was any problem though, so I should be able to get that done tomorrow. As for now, I believe my supper is ready, so I'll catch you later.

Ethiopian food.
9/12/2009 - Independence Day.

Today is Tanzania's Independence Day (9th December, 1961). So it's a holiday, and most things, except of course, the pubs, will be closed. There's a military celebration event on the TV as I type.

Our farewell meal with our Canadian guest was at an Ethiopian restaurant. I'd never had Ethiopian food before, and I was quite impressed. No doubt some elements of it will be borrowed in my future cooking.

A meal consists of blobs of wat served on a bed of injera. If you are a special guest you may also get tibs. What is Wat, well it is a generic term for any number of thick spicy stews made with meat and vegetables. Injera is a kind of sour-dough pancake theoretically made from Teff flour. In practice it's more likely to be made from a mixture of rice, wheat, and corn flours, since teff flour is quite expensive. It is cooked on a hot plate with a diameter of about 500mm. In appearance it somewhat resembles an Indian dosa or a thin piece of white tripe. It's texture is soft, but not fragile, and it tastes slightly sour. I liked it. You tear pieces off and dip up the wat with them. Tibs is stir fried meat served in a hot clay vessel - we had beef tibs.
Apparently Farida's mother knows how to make injera, so I shall be going for lessons, then we can serve it with Adia's beans and corned beef casserole.

It's raining again today, so I don't know what we will be doing. I have a shower unit that I can fit in the last bedroom as an indoor job. For some reason though, I quite fancy going for a drive - perhaps to Moshi. We'll see.

Evening silhouette.
8/12/2009 - A Quiet Day.

I just got the bed finished. There was some dust involved, so I'm hoping my eye will remain OK - it feels good so far.

Our Canadian guest just got back from Rwanda - she got a free trip on the UN, saw the gorilla's and all that. Actually she was supposed to get back yesterday, and we were getting worried, as she's leaving to go home for Christmas tomorrow. We may go for a goodbye meal tonight.

Adia went off into town on Kiki at about 10:30 to do a couple of little jobs that should have taken about 40 minutes. It's 15:40 now and she's still out there somewhere - yes, I know what you're thinking.

The pound is falling in a depressing fashion. I hope it's not a run that's going to halve my income.

The slaughtered vine.
7/12/2009 - A Minor Tragedy.

For some time now, there's been a passion fruit vine growing on the compound wall opposite the veranda. It was pretty well established, but had never shown any inclination to flower and produce fruit. Adia and I had decided it must go, and be replaced by a seedling or a cutting that would hopefully do the business.

So today, Adia set about it with a panga. First she cut it off from its roots, then she proceeded to remove the vine from the wall. As she did so, she found that it was flowering profusely, and some fruit was already set. It was about to produce a bumper crop. Passion fruit vines tend to hide their flowers and fruit in among the leaves. She was mortified, as was I - the vine had taken a year or more to reach the size it was.

I think that maybe what happened was that when I cleared some wall area for the smaller vine next to it along the wall - which was producing fruit - I had already cut a couple of its main stems. Quite often when plants suffer some trauma, their reaction is to produce fruit - preservation of the species and all that - and quite possibly that's what happened. We will provide the root with plenty of water, and with a bit of luck, it could grow back quite rapidly, since it obviously has a healthy root system. But that does not stop us from feeling foolish and guilty.

Somewhere, over the rainbow.
6/12/2009 - A New Man.

At some point about half way through yesterday afternoon, I suddenly felt better. I had taken a little nap, and when I woke, I realized that I felt OK, both eye and elbow. It's strange how one has these feelings about one's body - before the nap I had felt like crap.

It seems I was right. Yesterday evening we went for a Chinese, and I ate like a horse. This morning I woke up feeling good to go and horny. The eye is still swollen like I had been in a fight, but I've had that symptom before. By tomorrow it will probably be back to normal.

We didn't do much however. Feeling better or not, I thought I would lay off dusty woodwork for another day. In the afternoon we went into town so Adia could sell grasshoppers and visit her friends Farida and her mother. When we'd finished there we went on a trip to the north east corner of the town, where there was some sort of Kagera Mafia meeting, to sell more grasshoppers. Now I'm home. Adia dropped off on the way back to natter with her hairdresser friend Maryam.
I should perhaps expand on the grasshoppers, though I'm sure I have done so before. They are a Kageran delicacy. Actually I don't think they are grasshoppers - more likely something like a locust. But anyway, at this time of year, they are around, and the Kagerans catch them and either deep fry them or smoke them. I was a bit wary about them to start with, but now I'm a convert. Adia likes the fried ones best, I think I prefer the smoked ones. There are quite a lot of Kagerans who live in Arusha, so Adia's mum sends her boxes of the things, and Adia sells them to the faithful.

My alternate pub.
4/12/2009 - Still Miserable.

The elbow is slowly improving, and at the present rate I think it will be back to normal in a couple of weeks. However, now I have another of the left eye infection/allergy things that I'm sure i have mentioned before. Some ENT surgeon back in the 70's made a hole in my nose bone that either was then, or has developed since, into a hole between the cavity around my left eye, and my nose. So periodically, something gets up my nose, and then gets where it should not be able to.

There are some eye drops called Comtrex that usually deal with this effectively - a steroid/antibiotic combination. But they are not reliably available here. I have bought something that is a similar combination, but it is not working well, so my eye is inflamed and watering, and my nose is running on one side, and I am not a happy camper.

On a different topic, my ex wife Lynn's cat had to be put down a couple of days ago because she was a) old, and b) suffering from something that looked terminal.

Now the problem is how to introduce a new cat into the house in the presence of large dogs. My thoughts were of limited value, I quote - "I don't know what the answer to that one is. Really, size is no obstacle to the dogs, so either way you're
going to have to be around when they can get at each other until some sort of truce is reached.

What the dogs need to know is what it feels like to get a cats claw across their nose. That's vastly easier when you bring up puppies with an existing cat, and I suppose it might be easier for a grown cat to do the necessary thing. On the other hand, if you can do the trick with a kitten, then the subsequent cat will be at ease with the dogs - and vice versa - in a way that the grown cat will never be."

If any reader has faced and overcome this problem, we'd be most happy to hear your suggestions.

I have more or less given up on the 'Silver Springs' pub. The guy they employ as barman is worse than useless. He never has any change - or so he claims - so each day I have to carry a slate in my head. And surprise, surprise, his recollection of the slate is never the same as mine. Also, I think I am probably his most regular customer, but somehow he can never manage to have a cold bottle of Eagle in the chiller when I arrive in the evening. So I have to revert to Charlie's shop. At least he usually has stock, and often chilled, and he charges me the correct price, and usually has change. The only snag is that it is a walk down a back lane, which is not good security-wise.
2/12/2009 - The Alternate Strategy?

So Obama has shown his hand on Afghanistan. I have argued in the past that announcing a withdrawal date is counter-productive, as per John McCaine's statement today. But I have to admit that it works both ways. He is also telling the Afghan government that they have a pretty limited time to get their act together. Get the support of a decent majority of their people, and get their security forces sufficiently cleaned up and trained. They are politicians, and won't want to lose power, so both carrot and stick are there.

With the public attitude as it is, Obama is treading a political tightrope, so any strategy is bound to be a compromise.

What is more fascinating to me is the part that was not said. So we have a strategy for Afghanistan, but presumably there is an alternate strategy to be put in place in the not-unlikely event that the current strategy fails. I would love to have been a fly on the wall during that discussion!

African fast food - Chips Figo.
2/12/2009 - Overdone It.

The day before yesterday I was working on yet another bed, and stupidly knocked my elbow on a clamp on the back stroke while I was planing a board.

That elbow is damaged anyway - I fell off my bike when I was 13 or 14, and chipped it, and it's never straightened out properly since. So it may be sensitive. Anyway the result has been very painful. I took some Indomethacin to try and get the inflammation down, and that did work to some extent. Of course, stupidly, I then went back to the job, and last night I was very uncomfortable again.

One of the things that was bad to do was to use a keyboard. I'm a slow study, but today I took it easy, and the elbow is now more like normal size.

The illustrated food is not my recipe - it is a popular dish at the Norberto Bar here in Arusha - but you could reproduce it fairly easily. Chop up a tomato, some garlic, onion, and any other vegetable bits you have available, and a couple of small kidneys - goat would be ideal. Fry those in a little oil until the kidney is almost tender. Then add some hot sauce - you can judge how much better than I - and a splurge of vinegar.
By that time you should have cooked some chips (french fries) - the Africans keep a supply of them, more or less fully cooked - for use in Chips xxx dishes. Dump in some chips, mix the whole thing up, and cook it for another two or three minutes. I can't vouch for how yours will turn out, but the ones at Norberto are excellent. Adia and I share a plate for a light lunch quite often.

The old vegetable garden reduced in size.
1/12/2009 - December.

OK, this isn't much more than a placeholder associated with the administrative task of changing the BEV month. The electricity on the meter will run out any time now, and then I have some further electrical work to do.

Other than that, what? Well, Ali the tiler is here working on the last bedroom, and after I've done the electrical job I have to plant out the remainder of the seedlings. So I'll be back later.
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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.

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The most popular BEV archive page (Jan 2003 - Nov 2009) is currently June 2003. (I wish someone would explain to me why!)

Currently on the Software page:

Javascript Exceptions
- A design flaw?

Minimally Intrusive Javascript
- Writing scripts for use by others.

BEV Tiny Feedback Component
- Simplified installation (I hope).

Javascript Little Known Facts #1
- Array Slicing and Function Call.

Javascript Little Known Facts #2
- Nested Functions and Closures.

Javascript Little Known Facts #3
- Labels.

Hanlon's/Napoleon's Razor:
Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by incompetence.

"I divide my officers into four classes; the clever, the lazy, the industrious, and the stupid. Each officer possesses at least two of these qualities. Those who are clever and industrious are fitted for the highest staff appointments. Use can be made of those who are stupid and lazy (cannon fodder?). The man who is clever and lazy however is for the very highest command; he has the temperament and nerves to deal with all situations. But whoever is stupid and industrious is a menace and must be removed immediately!"

For more see this.

We do now have the second 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!