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February 2012 in Tanzania through the eyes of an Englishman

Made-over generator.

29/2/2012 - Leap Year Day.

Well, I shan't be writing anything else on this date until at least 2016, so here goes bye-bye February.

On Monday night we had a mother of a thunderstorm, at least by the standard of anything I've seen in my four and a half years here. There had been rain and distant lightening and rumbles of thunder for some time, and eventually, predictably, the power went out.

There was only about half an hour's worth of petrol left in the generator, so I took myself off in Potter to get more. The road was slippery, and the vehicle in front of me was moving sideways as often as forward, so I made a mental note to be careful on the way back. By the time I had got up to the main road, I noticed that the wind had got up considerably. I got the petrol and turned for home. By then the wind was stronger, and the rain heavier, and the electrical activity considerable. As I made my way down the dirt road toward home, everything got stronger, to the point where even with the windscreen wipers on full speed were barely enough to see out.

The lightening was very frequent, and quite scary - I hoped that Potter constituted something close to a Faraday cage. As I crossed the bridge over the first stream, there was a bright flash, then a loud 50 Hertz hum, and severe arcing on the 32kv power line that passes through and feeds our village. Where the road had been slippery, traction was now good. The heavy rain had washed away any superficial mud on the surface.

I got home in one piece, and the generator got us through the rest of the evening. Next morning, as I expected, there was still no power - until about four in the afternoon, when it returned with not much stability. By nightfall it was out again, and when Tuma went to start the generator, petrol spewed out of the carburettor. I turned off the fuel cock, and abandoned that. Fortunately the power came back intermittently as I was struggling to get the small generator Piglet going.

Today I took the primary generator into town to the generator fundi Kelvin. There was an oil leak to fix that involved a fair amount of dismantling, and he cleaned out the carb. As I'd suspected, there was dirt in the float valve that was stopping it from closing. The whole thing got a clean-up, and the oil got changed. When I got it home I made a new tray for it to stand in to replace the makeshift arrangement of scrap wood that had supported it previously. It's running again now, and sounds very happy, but I do wish that TANESCO would get their act together.

Pastel version of 'The Scream'.

22/2/2012 - Everything is Fine.

Can you imagine a situation in Europe, the USA, or India - I can't speak for elsewhere - where areas of the country were being subject to 10 hour power cuts, but this was not mentioned on the national or regional news?

Well, that's how it is here in Arusha, Tanzania. We had extensive power rationing last year, but we were assured that all would be well by December, as new plant was being commissioned, and there would presumably have been some rain by then to re-enable hydro-power generation.

I have seen nothing to the contrary in the English language newspapers here, and have had no such information from the Swahili speakers around me from the local papers or TV broadcasts. The power company - TANESCO - has a web page that does not mention the cuts. I just don't understand why this is not news!

Today our power went off at 09:00, and it's now 19:35, and it just came back. This is not just some minor hiccup to our locality supply - it has been happening regularly, here and in surrounding areas, including the city centre for maybe three weeks now.

To add insult to injury, we had no water for a week until today, and that has now been turned off again before our empty tanks were anywhere near full.

Eden is not without its problems.

The fruits of Eden.

19/2/2012 - Adia's (Peyton) Place.

The latest tranche of guests having departed, Adia this afternoon conducted a post-mortem with the staff to determine the causes and potential remedies for the things she had mentally listed as going wrong during their stay.

The material that emerged from the ensuing interrogations, with assistance from Harry - also something of an expert in African domestic servant relationships - could form the basis for an African or South American soap opera (franchises are available - contact details above). I remained in my workshop throughout this process, since as a European mzungu, my experience of dealing with domestic servants is absolutely zilch.

The more gory details are as follows:

  • The thirteen year old Shadia has a drinking habit - not one that was acquired here, she brought it with her. Her tipple of choice is the sachets of cheap vodka that can be bought almost anywhere here for 25c without age check. She drinks them neat, right out of the plastic, and says she needs four (approximately doubles) to get a buzz.
  • While the guests were here, Tumaini had the compound keys at night, since the guests - who are not in contention for sainthood themselves - tend to come back at all hours and need to be let in. Tuma was sneaking out after lock-down time to see his girlfriend(s) in the village, with Zuhura as backup to let him back in.
  • Zuhura and Tuma are also at it like stoats (presumably afterwards.) The two girls share a room, and they do it there while Shadia is present.
I can tattle because none of the parties speak much English or are active Internet users. If that changes, then probably by that time I'll be dead.
The missionaries would have a field day here! And Adia is missing her vocation in some ways. She is adept at cross-examination, and could probably get the truth out of the devil if such an entity should exist. Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.

The proposal now is to withhold a proportion of their wages that will be disbursed by Adia presumably if she is satisfied by the explanation of the requirement for the money. I guess condoms would be approved, but I'm not sure about liquor. Perhaps there will be a company store!

I believe that laws about that sort of restriction on wages were introduced in Europe and even the US were introduced early in the 20th century. They may exist in Africa, but if so. they are not in common use.


12/2/2012 - Extended Break.

When I started work again after the first break, my foot immediately swelled up again, and became quite painful. The origin was the fact that the shoes I had been wearing had a nail coming through, and that had probably pricked me enough during the course of the day to 'disturb' my foot.

On Friday I finally went to the doctor, and got a Tetanus shot, a large intravenous shot of antibiotic, and some different pain killers. The combo seems to have done the trick, and this morning my foot feels close to normal.

We had the butterflies during the week. I'm told they are a seasonal phenomenon. Thousands, if not millions of them flutter by on the Trade Wind from the east, pausing briefly to take on nectar fuel, and presumably to mate and lay their eggs before they die. It's not clear to me how this works. You'd think that each year the centre of the area where they lay their eggs would gradually drift westward, and that if the species has existed for some geological length of time, it would gradually have crept across Africa, until they were finally blown out over the Atlantic to become extinct.

Perhaps the caterpillars crawl resolutely eastward each year, and form a chrysalis when they get to some geographical feature like the mountains or the sea. But there's precious little for them to eat in that direction. So if the phenomenon is regular, it's an enigma.

I heard a classic little African story yesterday - don't know whether it's true or not. The TRA - Tanzania's taxation body - is holding an annual staff conference here in Arusha this coming week. Rather than source their transport requirements from one of the regular car-hire companies, they are renting vehicles from a shell company that does not actually have any. The vehicles will be provided by private individuals. The shell company isn't registered, and does not have a TIN. You have to wonder!

Mystery picture.

4/2/2012 - Enforced Break.

I've been incapacitated for a couple of days by some mysterious transient bug. I went to bed very tired on Wednesday night, and developed an earache. That kept me awake most of the night, and when I woke I felt lousy, very weak, and had no appetite for anything.

Adia went to a pharmacy and got be some steroid/antibiotic ear drops, which seemed to fix the ear, but I still felt very weak, and didn't eat, and retired to bed very early. The next day I felt similarly limp, and started to have joint pain in my left hand and right foot. Once again I went to bed early, but that time dosed up with Diclofenac.

This morning I feel much better, ate breakfast, but will take another rest day. So I was noodling over the web, and looked again at a photo posted by Laura Butterly on Jan 30. I had not done so carefully before, but this time I'm pretty sure I got the message.

It's basically a 'find the mystery object' picture, and I thought that just for fun I would try to make my own version, which is today's picture. How's about a LBMP contest.

Demonstrate your photographic skills by making your own version, and stick it on facebook with a tag 'LBMP', or send it to BEV. It's not the easiest of things to get right. And, first of all of course, you have to find the mystery object ;=)

Shadia and Two.

1/2/2012 - February

Nothing much to say today, but it makes for maintenance inconsistencies if I don't start a new month when it actually happens.

I have made the frame for the next wardrobe door - only seven more to go, exciting isn't it? The team are busy in the kitchen next to me cooking dinner for the guests, fish I think tonight, with potatoes, rice, and vegetables. Adia made beans at lunchtime, so I'll be having some of those, possibly with a little extra chilli - just had a taste the first time round.

I let Hansel out of the gate by accident today while attempting to let our friend Harry in - my head was obviously elsewhere. He was actually quite good (Hansel that is), and came back in obediently after a quick run around the village, without eating any children.

The bad boys club were brainstorming around a table in the conservatory all day today except for lunch, in preparation for their examinations later in the week. My days of that sort of stuff are long, long gone, and I can't say I'm sorry.

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What is BEV?

Brits Eye View is the personal blog of a 69 year old Englishman - Steve Teale, started in January 2003. It's currently about life in Arusha (Tanzania), and previously in Bangalore, Manhattan, and the Bronx. It deals with life in general, building a house, food and drink, computer programming, opinion on current affairs, 20th century history, and so on. It may give you some insight into what life is like in 'the third world', or encourage you to visit Tanzania.

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

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

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

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

Visiting Tanzania?

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

In the short term we will re-confirm.

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

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

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

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

Studying in Arusha?

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

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

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

This Month's Posts

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Top 20 BEV Pages.

Exchange Rates.

BEV Software Blog.

I've been working recently on D programming language interfaces to SQL database systems. This is very much work-in-progress, but you can read more about it on the software page. Source code is available at github.

This work is currently on hold, since I am making furniture for our bedroom and there's only one of me.

Moods of Meru.

Mt Meru


Random BEV Poem.


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

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

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