January 2008 in Tanzania through the eyes of an Englishman

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The service block creeping toward habitability.



Foundations of the house.
31/1/2008 - January Gone Already!

The building work ploughs on like a juggernaut, though not necessarily in the direction I'd prefer. As I noted before, it's difficult to divert Adam from his drive to get a roof on the house. However I am making some progress in getting the service block toward habitability for the end of February when we plan to move in. The main challenge is the plumbing. I have to persuade Adam to finish the water tower so that this can be used to supply domestic water and water for the building work. Then the waste pipes can be connected to the septic, and the septic can be connected to the soak pit. It's also been difficult to get him to find some workers who can construct the 'inspection chambers' - manholes in my personal terminology - that we should include at frequent points in the waste drainage system according to local practice.

The electricity supply situation is pretty much under control. We have got a decent size diesel generator, and apart from hanging some lights on the end of the wiring, the electrics in the building are pretty much complete.

Our Masai now seems to be quite enthusiastic about his new and single job. He appears at late afternoon, scours the site for anything of value and carts it off to the workshop room of the service block, which can be locked. He's there all night, and does not stand down until either I or Adia arrive.

Apart from the plumbing, I really need to get my finger out on the roof trusses for the main house, otherwise we'll get to the point where there are completed walls and nothing to put on them. I have pretty much worked out how to build them, based on designs out there on the web. I shall use steel plates where the web designs for home-made trusses use plywood. Believe it or not, you don't appear to be able to get plywood in Tanzania, only block board. Since there is virtually zero chance of snow load on your roof here, the generic US/Canada designs should be totally adequate. In fact I will probably be building something that is way over the top for the job. Time will tell. I have made jigs that should enable me to cut the correct major angles with a hand-held circular saw, driven by the aforesaid generator. Once I have used them to cut the main timbers I should be in a position to size the steel connecting plates. Then I have to measure the required angles for the internal 'W' members of the truss, and then make cutting jigs for them. I have plenty to keep me busy.



The swimming pool.



The service block now has a roof.



Hanging the gate.



Building the soak pit.
20/1/2008 - The New Year

This month's narrative and the corresponding pictorial record are going to be thin. There was no work on New Years Day, but since then it has been seven days a week. We get up at about eight, go to the site, travel into town or to the builders merchants and suppliers as necessary. Watch the work carefully, and join in with the work as appropriate. By the time the site is clear of workers, and Masai is in charge it is often pushing eight o'clock, and we are exhausted. Then either Adia and Lydia will cook, or we will go to the Pirates Cove bar at Njiro Mall to eat. If Adia is cooking I get to go to the bar just along the road for a couple of Kilimanjaros. When we have eaten we may watch the TV for half an hour, and then it is bed time.

The Pentax has given up the ghost. Clearly it has been to the building site one time too many, and has a piece of grit in its works. I am now reduced to my mobile phone, and I have given up carrying that in my pocket, since it is the pocket that collects the grit.

It has been unusually hot this January, and this is not just my opinion, but also the opinion of the people of Arusha. Mercifully most days there are a few clouds, but on those days when there aren't I have to seek shelter between about noon and three in the afternoon. The sun is very high overhead, and I can feel myself frying. Since we are at about 1000m above sea level I guess we also receive a good quota of UV. I have to apply a white coat of factor 60 sun block to my nose, but even with a broad-brimmed hat, it still burns and peels regularly.

Our plan is to move into the service block as soon as it is habitable, and thus save ourselves the rent money so that can then be spent on something exciting and tangible like cement. The steps required to achieve this are:
  • Build the tower to hold the water storage tank so we can use the water from that for the building work.
  • Complete the septic system (currently used for water storage) and connect the bits together.
  • Secure the site so I can buy the standby generator and keep it there.
  • Install the service block plumbing and the associated underground pipe work.
  • Install an electricity supply in the building.
  • Get the rooms plastered, and the floors screeded, and the ceilings installed.
As is often the case, It is difficult to persuade our builder Adam to to things in what seems to me to be the logical order. He seems to be driven to get the main house built ASAP. However the soak pit for the septic system is now in place, and a start has been made on the water tower. The soak pit is an interesting bit of traditional Tanzanian construction. It is a 5m deep inverted beehive shaped hole. Inside that, round the wall of the hole is built what is essentially a dry-stone wall made of large hard stones, and reinforced with occasional bands of concrete. Then they throw a few small tree trunks across the top, cover those with all of the shuttering wood that has accumulated on the site over the last couple of months, and then cover that with reinforced concrete.

Hanging of the gate was also attempted, but the result was something of a disaster. One of the hinge brackets did not get properly secured by the cast concrete, and consequently the gate sagged and would not close properly. The bracket will have to be chipped out and the gate re-hung.
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