January 2009 in Tanzania through the eyes of an Englishman

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Baby ducks in our carpenter's yard.
28/1/2009 - Never a Dull Moment.

When the team who are paving the patio finished yesterday, they were short of blocks around the edge of the area to be covered. They needed another three square meters. Also they needed a machine that the block manufacturer would lend them to cut the part blocks they would need to complete the edges.

The team in question appears to me to be a relatively recent start-up. As far as I can tell, two of them had been working for an established but rather expensive paving firm for a few years. They decided to try and make a business, and somehow got the money together to buy a vibratory compactor. So when they quote for a job, they tell you a price per square meter, and also that they will need to use a vibratory compactor a couple of times that will cost Ts 50,000 a day to hire. They don't tell you it's their compactor.

I don't really have much problem with this. Obviously being able to quote a low per square meter cost is a competitive advantage, and they have to make money on their investment, so I can go along with it.
The inability to quote a correct number of square meters was annoying, but I will live. So this morning our first task was to drive Potter to the the block manufacturers place to pick up the extra blocks and the machine to break blocks along a reasonably straight line. I had no idea what a pile of blocks equivalent to three square meters looked like, and was pleasantly surprised when Potter's body wasn't resting on his axles. Once we'd dragged the blocks, and the machine, and the men home, the work proceeded quite quickly. They do seem to have quite a good handle on what they are doing. Management expertise is another thing. Perhaps Adia should start a business as a start-up business management consultant

Of course, the other important thing of the day, to be dealt with when we got back, was the water supply hiatus. As it turned out, we were lucky. The plumber who turned up to give his opinion thought that the most likely cause was low water pressure. The water was simply not able to reach the storage tank, which is up a hill to start with, and then also quite high.

He was supported in this almost immediately, when by some miracle, the water supply was resumed. Sure enough, to start with, the pressure was pathetic, and there was no water flowing into the storage tank. So we started to fill every available vessel, including a spare 1000L tank at the bottom of the slope, with precious water. Moses started with the big tank first, but having no idea how long the supply would last, I stopped him, and we started to fill the more convenient smaller vessels in the house first. After a couple of stops and goes, Moses noticed that when the hose pipe was turned off, the water meter was still showing a flow rate. So we high tailed it up the slope and listened by the storage tank, and sure enough, there was water flowing into it - a big relief.

The pressure improved as time went by, and it became pretty obvious that after five days, everyone was hungry for water, and taking what they could get ASAP. Consequently our relatively high storage tank did not get its fair share during the first overnight spell. Anyway, technicalities aside, it is now full again, along with all the other available vessels.

Once that situation was sorted, we went back into town to return the block-breaking machine, and to buy what I hope is the last batch of tiles for now, those for the kitchen walls above the work surfaces. On the way back we went to visit the carpenter to see what progress was being made on the two doors. They are looking pretty good to me at this point.

After that, Adia and I spent a little time on our continuing effort to make babies. Then I went to Tondi's for a few beers, came back and did my half of the supper preparation, then ate, and then wrote this. The retirement business can really by quite a handful, but it keeps you going, and focussed. However, I'm ready for bed now.



Interlocking concrete blocks on the patio area.
27/1/2009 - Noticeable Progress.

Yesterday I connected the drainage for the other bathroom in the section of the house that we aim to complete, while the tiler added skirting tiles to that bedroom.

The guys and the concrete blocks also turned up to start work on the patio area outside the veranda. They got off to a quick start, but their level was going off as they went away from the house, and I had to stop them and get them to backtrack. This was one of those cases where really that could not win. They were aiming for some slope for drainage away from the house, but at the same time the retaining wall is not dead level, and rises slightly going away from the house. This made for a difficult mismatch between the level of the patio and that of the top step up to it. After relaying a few blocks we reached a reasonable compromise.

Later as they worked along the length of the patio, they started to veer off to the left, and once again I had to stop them and relay some blocks to get back to the right direction. But today, after they'd got the second half of that stretch done, it was all looking pretty good. Soon I'll have to get the brewery to provide me with a couple of those large umbrellas so it's possible to eat out there without being fried by the sun.
Adia and I went into town today to buy a cheap sink for the second bathroom, and to look at tiles for the splash-back to the kitchen work surfaces. Buying tiles is always an ordeal. You have to find a colour you like that goes with everything else, and a decent price, and in this case a border to spice the kitchen area up a bit. You can spend a fortune on those if you look at the top end of the market. I think we have made a choice.

The other noteworthy event of the day was that when we got back from town, there was no water supply to the small house. The storage tank was empty. This was something of a surprise, since the mains water actually came on last night between midnight and five in the morning (according to Moses). This should easily have refilled the 3000L tank, so we can only surmise that when Juma's lads replaced the mains supply pipe a couple of weeks ago, they either kinked it, or left something in there that has subsequently blocked up the ball valve on the storage tank. There was no mains water at the time, so they could not test it.

Of course, being a plumber, his phone is not reachable today. The water supply people will sell us water from a tanker, but not until tomorrow. Fortunately, Adia had the foresight and experience to buy a 50L plastic dustbin and that has been sitting in the kitchen for some time for just such an eventuality. So until tomorrow, or whenever we get a water delivery, we'll be showering and flushing with a bucket. Even when we get Juma's attention, it will probably be another five days before we get mains water again to test whatever he is able to do.



An elderly Landrover in an inexplicable position.


Goza?
25/1/2009 - A Day Off.

Well, that's more or less. I had a few beers last night, so I was not initially all that keen to do an honest days work.

The Landrover in the ditch was a mystery to me. I saw it as I was walking to Tondi's to consume the aforementioned beer. There was quite a crowd spectating, many of who greeted me enthusiastically in the hope that I might have some insight into the cause and the possible resolution - they were to be disappointed.

The driver has something of a reputation for being reckless, but how he got it where it was without damaging the steel fence that is on either side of the bridge over the stream where he landed, I just can't explain. Anyway, in the morning it was gone. I can't explain that either. If I had succeeded in wedging Potter into a similar position, I'm sure that extracting him would have been a very long and very expensive process, since I'm a mzungu.

Eventually today, after some ineffectual pottering about, I noticed that I had installed the sink in the bathroom without making any provision for the drain. So this afternoon I had to deinstall it, cut a hole through the wall, fit the drain pipe, and then put it back. How daft can you get? However, it did give me the feeling that I had accomplished something.

Adia has finally persuaded me that the doors in the house should be hardwood. The potential door maker came today to measure up the job. We agreed a price for the two doors that we need most immediately - our bedroom door, and the door on the other bedroom that hopefully will be completed. I showed him the lavatory door at Tina Bar, which I had previously concluded was a good old fashioned design if we were going to have hardwood doors. You will see it in due course, disaster or otherwise, in four or five days if he keeps to his schedule.

The other picture is just a stupidity that came to me out of nowhere. Think back to the film "Ghostbusters". If you haven't seen it, then stop reading now, and get it out on video - it's funny. At the climax of the film, the destructor Goza appears in the form accidentally chosen by one of the Ghostbuster team, specifically the "Stay Puffed" marshmallow man. As a result of the heroic efforts of the team, the marshmallow man explodes, and is no more. But I can now reveal that Goza is actually residing in a shadow of the chosen form in the hat that I use for working around the house when it is sunny. If you have a suitably quirky memory, you will see what I mean.



Sanitary ware installed in the master bathroom.


Technicolor garden.
24/1/2009 - Last Ditch.

Our current target is to make the large house minimally habitable, then to tidy up the little house to some extent so it can be rented out.

Achieving this objective is getting through the little money we have at an alarming rate, so currently things will only get done if they are absolutely needed. Items that I put in this category are:
  • Tiles on the floor over the area in question,
  • A pleasant bathroom,
  • A reasonable area of tiled work top in the kitchen area,
  • Functional plumbing,
  • A door on the master bedroom and the small bedroom next to it,
  • Paving outside the veranda so dirt isn't constantly being dragged into the house,
  • Leveling of the garden beyond the paving so the paving foundation is protected on that side.
The tiles are more or less done, and I've partially installed the bathroom sanitary ware. We may have found a reasonably priced fundi to make the doors - he'll come tomorrow to look and listen to my strange ideas about design. The paving fundis came during the week and leveled the subsoil and rubble that will support the paving with a vibratory compactor, then put clean moram on top. Adia paid for the interlocking concrete blocks today, so the paving is almost accounted for.

The two Masai are now moving loads of topsoil onto the garden area beyond the paving. I think this has to be done to provide support to the edge of the paving foundation. I'll scatter it with grass seed when it is at a suitable level to try and give it some stability before the long rains start in May. Each load of topsoil seems to come from a different place, and has a distinctive colour, so we're going to have a striped yard until the grass grows.

There's a bit of a question mark over the functional plumbing. Ideally the water tower should be extended so it is 2m higher, but that will be an expensive item so it may have to wait. In that case the shower in the new bathroom is likely to be somewhat pathetic, but no doubt we will survive.

23/1/2009 - Commander in Chief?

There was a snippet on BBC World this morning about Obama's email access. Apparently until Tuesday he had a regular Blackberry, with normal email access, presumably spam and all. But when he became President, they wanted to take it away. The article reported - more or less - that Obama's reaction was that if they did so they would actually have to physically pull it from the hand of their Commander in Chief. So a compromise was reached, whereby Obama can have restricted email access. Oh my, what a perk!

This strikes me as frankly weird. Here you are, the most powerful man in the world, and 'the authorities' won't let you have a regular email account. I thought that when you were President, you were 'the authorities'! If it's something to do with the National Archive requirements, then set up a Presidential mail server (preferably on Linux), and save all the crap for 50 years, spam and all. if you had to save all that spam it might encourage 'the authorities' to do something about that whole problem.

This is the sort of thing that encourages presidents to bribe one of the cleaning staff to go out and buy them a wig and a pair of unlikely dark glasses, then sneak out at night through the rose garden and buy a pre-paid SIM with appropriate facilities.

I wonder if the President is allowed to surf the web? Does he indeed have a computer that is connected to the web? If so, he could just get himself a free Hotmail account - bhuss@hotmail.com - that can't be a popular handle (it would be bad if the President had to be bhuss153@hotmail.com). If he has, and he navigates to www.youporn.com, does a little message box pop up saying "sorry Barack, you are not allowed to visit this page - the National Archive is not allowed to store pornographic material"?

The mind boggles. Yo, 'authorities', this is the 21st century. If the President wants to be a man of the people, then who should be allowed to stop him?

I'm probably the 50,000,000th person to offer, but Barack, when you get your illegal PC, please feel free to be bo@britseyeview.com - I can more or less guarantee you obscurity there! I will set up the account tomorrow. Your temporary password is "authorities2009".



The man.
21/1/2009 - The Inauguration.

Well, there you go. The pomp and circumstance game is over for now, and later today - if he got any sleep at all - President Obama will have to wake up to the grim realities of office in a a cold Washington DC, in a house that is unfamiliar, and constantly full of people with problems and questions.

So what did you think of the speech? I thought it was a good workmanlike Obama speech, made under difficult circumstances, describing the difficulties clearly, and making appropriate references in all the important directions. But it failed to contain that pearl of wisdom or rhetoric that many had hoped for, as offered by FDR and JFK. Perhaps that was wise. At that point in time it was no longer a contest, and Obama may well have spent his time better on thinking about what he will do rather than what he would say.

Later at one of the inauguration balls, I heard him speak to his faithful, and in that context he said more that I thought might have permeated the formal address.
During his campaign, Obama built an extensive volunteer organization, and I rather hope that he will find a way to keep that structure alive, enthusiastic, and growing during his Presidency. I think that in times like these, the President needs weight to balance the other institutions of government. The Obama movement, if continued, could be used to mobilize opinion in the USA to ensure that Congress keeps focus and does not wander off on to politically motivated bickering and spending.

I realize that this may sound a little like Mao Zedong's cultural revolution idea, which was a profound failure in China. setting the country back many years. But given the history of the civil rights movement in the USA, I wonder if it could be carried off successfully there. Listen to what Obama has said in his recent speeches and it seems clear that he is talking at least about cultural reformation. There was a lot of Martin Luther King talk yesterday. We should remember where the Martin Luther name came from - another civil disobedience man who was also bent on reformation back in 1517. Single men can spark radical change.

We will see, and it would be very interesting to be a fly on the Oval Office wall for the next few weeks.

As I watched last night, the news captions at the bottom of the BBC World screen charted yet another magnificent decline in the British Pound. Some financial commentators say it is now finished as a distinctive world currency. The talk is that it will go down to $1.2, or even to parity with the dollar, and sterling holders are being advised by the pundits to get out. I don't have that luxury. I can only sit here and watch my little income melting away. Somewhat depressing, but I know that there are many who will be worse off than me as a result of the worldwide depression. BHO - your time has come, we are all watching you with hope.



Not a pretty sight.
20/1/2009 - In the Wars Again.

So, it's Obama day today. I'm glad it wasn't yesterday. For a start the power was on and off all weekend, conveniently it decided to go off last night just as Adia was cooking our evening meal, and didn't come back until midnight. Also yesterday I was in some pain - and it's not like me to complain about that.

Sometime on Saturday, I had been moving my tools and stuff from the store room next to the kitchen in the big house to the room that will be either the family room or the office, so that a fundi could do the floor in the former. In the process, I got something up my nose, and subsequently felt a slight irritation that proceeded to grow until yesterday the whole area around my left eye was very painful, and Adia took me off to see a doctor. He was a bit vague about the whole thing, and I don't think I'll be using him again. He was just going to prescribe some eye drops and a pain killer, but I was clear to me that it was something more internal in my left
sinus passage so I twisted his arm to give me some oral antibiotic as well. I also wanted some prednislone to calm down the inflammation and let whatever was in there get out, but he wasn't wearing that.

The pain killer was useless. I took one of the pills as I left his office, and two hours later nothing had happened. So in the evening I maxed out on some Ibuprofen/paracetamol tablets that Adia had got for something, postponed the antibiotic until the morning and had a beer before I went to bed early in the hope of getting some sleep.

At midnight it was still bad, so I took another of the tablets, and then after some time got to sleep.

This morning I blew my nose, and something came out, though nothing spectacular. The eye still looks pretty bad, but the pain and the constantly running nose have gone, and I can wear my glasses without feeling someone has my nose in a vice. I shall continue with the eye drops, but postpone the decision about the antibiotic until lunchtime, since at the moment it does not seem to me like I need to take it, and if not there is no point in encouraging resistance to it.

I shall make a lead with plugs on both ends today so we can use the generator Piglet tonight if there are any power problems.



The veranda tiling almost complete.


Pretty plants growing outside our wall.
18/1/2009 - Gifts for Obama?

Well, the Israelis have declared a unilateral cease fire, and the Russians and Ukraine appear to have done some sort of deal that actually mentions the Ukraine's gas price for the coming year - all sweetness and light. Could it also be that Putin is a slightly soft touch for a pretty girl. The Ukranian PM is certainly quite a striking looking woman

Of course, Hamas felt obliged to fire some rockets this morning, and I don't think that Israeli patience will be very extended in that direction, but we'll see. Maybe the Egyptian negotiations will come up with something workable.

No fundis turned up today. Our plumber Juma, who was replacing the water supply pipes in the compound says he will come in later. At the moment he's doing some emergency job. I guess plumbers are the same the world over. The need for this work is my fault. When I got the piping in the first place I got class 'A' pipe, assuming the 'A' signified first grade as it usually does. But this isn't the case. 'A' signifies pipe that develops a leak if you look at it, and consequently the water supply system under our plot has more repairs than pipe. Class 'B' pipe is the stuff that you install if you want it to last a while, and that's what the plumber is putting in now. Talk about burning money - I kick myself when that sort of thing happens. Anyway, our new pipes can be Obama's inauguration memorial.

The inauguration starts at ten in the morning EST, six in the evening for us. The Vice President gets sworn in first, then Obama takes the oath of office at noon - eight for us. He then makes his inaugural address, which is the interesting bit as far as I'm concerned. After that I believe he gets to have some lunch with the congressional inauguration committee.

I assume Alan will cover it with his big new projector TV down at Tina Pub - maybe we'll watch it there, or at Pirates. I'd like to be somewhere where I could see reaction, but it's more likely to be at home.

Adia got Kiki's insurance renewed yesterday, so she's now legal again. I shall take her for a ride to get some petrol and some phone vouchers now before she grows too many cobwebs and refuses to start.



The drains from the master bathroom.




Three loads of the 'same' material.
15/1/2009 - Whoops, a Continuity Glitch.

I've been lazy in keeping up with BEV, for which I duly apologize to my readers.

On Monday night I almost came to blows with another mzungu who occasionally pops in to Tondis bar. Adia had come in there on her way back from the hairdresser, and I had gone to the toilet. When I got back she told me he had called her a thieving nigger bitch. I was physically restrained by my African friends who did not want to see me in jail, or getting my arse whipped, or both. Needless to say, I had had too many Eagles, and the incident has prompted me into reverting to the weaker Kilimanjaro beer, even though it is more expensive and uses imported barley. But what do you make of a man who is married to an African woman, has two African kids, and hates Africans?

The piece of plumbing pipework and crap PVC components were however the main culprits in keeping me away from the computer. That corner of the building it the highest point in the drainage system, and also the most affected part of the floor when it came to sorting out Adam's inability to get anything square or level. The under-floor drainage components were placed before the level correction was made, and this placed the ones in this bathroom at too low a level, and I had to replace them. In doing that I was constrained by the position of steel reinforcing bars in the foundation lintel, and since the high point requires that the toilet uses a P trap, I had three constraints - the level of the toilet outlet pipe, and the position of the outlets from the two floor drains. This meant it had to be quite a precisely built manifold, and in fact to complete all the joints, I had to use one screw connector so I could connect the section from the floor drains to the rest. This enabled me to make the final PVC cement joint, then swing it round and tighten it up before the cement set.

In the course of making it, two of the components broke, one because of bad fabrication, and the other - as far as I could tell - because of bad material. In each case I got replacement pieces from a different shop, which were of different makes, and of slightly different sizes. So each breakage put me back to square one. In addition, of course, each breakage necessitated a separate trip back into town to get the new pieces.

It's also been very hot, and the timing of the breakages forced me into working at the time of the day when the sun was shining on that part of the house. Moan, moan, winge, winge! Anyway, I think it is OK now, so I can turn my attention to finishing off the associated inspection pit and putting a lid on it.
We also had a typical performance from Maganga. I have described the first load he brought. The second load was different - still pretty good for the job, but this time consisting of a mixture of moram and subsoil. The third lot was just plain old demolition rubble, which was pretty useless for anything. We've spread it out at the bottom of the area where it is deepest and will cover it up later. This morning Maganga sent a replacement for the rubble in a truck with insufficient fuel to complete the trip, so the driver has had to go off with a can to the nearest filling station to get diesel.

The tilers have continued at high speed with a further addition to their number. Most of the veranda and bedroom corridor are now covered, as is the master bedroom, and the master bathroom walls. The plumber is coming today to replace the incoming water pipe which was also crap material and has had innumerable leaks every time anyone has gone anywhere near it. Then we have to get the extension for the water tower made. It's never ending, and chewing through the money very rapidly.



The new drainpipe.


The tiling in the large room almost completed.


Infill materials.
11/1/2009 - A Giddying Pace.

The tiler brought a mate on Friday, and they've made quite rapid progress. In fact there is now only the bit outside the bedroom door of the large hall to do. Yesterday was full of the sound of a diamond-blade saw ripping through porcelain tiles as they added all the part pieces around the edges. Despite Adam's inability to lay out a rectangle, they've managed to make it look quite decent

Also Friday, the other Steve had the broken pipe out of the ground before I'd finished my breakfast. I went into town to get new pipe and fittings. These I got from a shop I haven't used before, but will use again. When I asked for 4" PVC pipe the man there immediately asked me if I wanted the regular stuff, or heavy duty pipe. Nobody has ever asked me this before, so consequently I have struggled with the lightweight stuff which is always badly made, rarely accurate in size, and breaks easily. Although it is about twice the price, I went for the heavy duty stuff, and I will use that for any subsequent underground work I do. It's a joy to use compared to the other stuff. You can cut it accurately, as the saw seems less prone to move off course, and it is a constant size that fits sweetly into the fittings.

Steve and I had the new pipe in place by early afternoon, by which time Maganga's truck had turned up with a load of infill, and Adia had one on the way from another supplier. The stuff from Maganga was a mixture of coarse moram and a yellow kind of earth that I think is called Loess. It's a sedimentary rock or rather just hard earth that was formed by deposition of windblown dust. The mixture must have been made by the guys shovelling the two different materials into the truck, as it was not particularly homogenous, and had many big lumps of loess. The other stuff when it turned up was just plain old subsoil - clayey earth mixed with weatherworn stone. Maganga's stuff was twice the price, but when the men came to give an estimate for the paving they said it was an ideal substrate for that, and the other stuff was equally ideal for raising the level of the garden area. So I'm guessing we'll need another two loads of Maganga's stuff, and maybe four of the subsoil. It will depend on whether I can find some strong and willing hands to move the existing topsoil, or whether I just cover it, then buy more topsoil to put on top. Steve and another guy who Adia got to help, moved some of the subsoil to cover most of the new pipe

Yesterday, Adia and I wasted a good chunk of the day looking for reasonably priced tiles for the bathroom walls, without success. We had already found some that would be fine, but they seemed excessively expensive. There's another place we will have to go to on Monday where we might do better.

While we were in town, the Maganga infill got moved to its target position on top of the layer of building rubble that will form the bottom of the patio base. Later in the afternoon I did some leveling of the building rubble base, and then moved more subsoil to fully cover the drain pipe, which should now be safe. As I write, Moses is moving the remainder of the subsoil into the garden area to make space for another delivery of the moram/loess mixture.

I definitely wasn't up for cooking in the evening, so Adia and I went to check out a new restaurant at Nane Nane called "Liquid Blue". The place is quite nicely done up, and from its advertising posters is attempting a very ambitious menu - Indian, Mexican, and Continental.

Which continent, it didn't say, and it wasn't possible to determine by examination of the Continental menu, which contained a strange mixture of items, including pork, but excluding beef - an unusual combination. The Indian menu gave the clue, the place is run by a Hindu, though them I'm puzzled by the pork, which is usually a Christian indicator. Anyway, we thought we'd try the Mexican menu, and ordered corn chips and salsa, and chicken fajitas.
The corn chips were OK. I don't know where they got them - I have been unable to find plain corn chips here, maybe they make them. However the salsa was a disaster. It was nothing more or less than a smooth hot chili sauce. We ate the chips with the supplied guacamole, which was OK. Then the fajitas came, but they failed the test because they had coriander in them, and Adia hates coriander. So we baled out at that point, took them away in a doggie bag, and went for a steak at Pirates.



The solitary tiler.


The sun damaged pipe.
8/1/2009 - Progress Resumed.

As promised, the tiler arrived this morning, and is now laying the 600x600mm porcelain tiles in the big room. Looking at his progress so far I'm reckoning it will take him 3 - 4 days to finish that area, and then there's plenty more to do. He seems to be doing a reasonable job, but I can see us running into difficulties with alignment by the time he gets to the kitchen end as a result of Adam's inability to lay out a building at right angles - we'll see.

I set out to remove the broken drain pipe at about lunchtime but did not make much progress as it was too hot for an old mzungu to be digging at that time of day. Another Steve from the village is going to come later today to dig it out. You can see in the picture (even though that is somewhat washed out) that it's not the dark gray of new PVC pipe, but has been bleached by the sun. Just think what it does to your skin! Once its out, I shall replace it with new pipe.

Also, sometime today, a load of infill is supposed to arrive from our supplier Maganga. Earlier this morning, I moved a heap of logs to make room for it. With hindsight, I should have dug out the pipe first while it was cooler, then moved the logs at a leisurely pace when it got hot. Hopefully the other Steve will be available tomorrow to barrow the material into the patio area and cover up the pipe once I have replaced it. I shan't know how many loads I'll need until we have spread the first one out.

The British Pound seems to have perked up a bit over the last few days. It was better than $1.50 for the first time for a quite a while while this morning, and the Bank of Tanzania was showing it at over 1900 TShillings. I expect the Bank of England will nip that trend in the bud this afternoon though. The pundits seem to think they'll drop the interest rate again, and then presumably the pound will start to sink again. I shall keep my fingers crossed that the currency traders have already factored the interest rate change into their valuation.

Adia is in town buying food at the market, and renewing our PO Box number. I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but there's no delivery of mail to your house here. Addresses would be difficult anyway, as only quite major roads outside of the town appear to have names, and the houses aren't numbered.

7/1/2009 - Corporate Bullshit.

As I said, I've been trying to download the McAfee anti-virus software for a couple of days now. The download would always fail after between two minutes and two hours, apparently because of connection problems. If it had been anything else, presumably it would have failed immediately, possibly with an explanatory message.

Eventually I got to the point of having a chat session with one of their support people. He asked if he could do a scan of my machine, and told me the download was failing because I had the freebie Norton anti-virus program installed on my machine.

Now this may well be the case, but since I was running a Windows executable to do the download, then it would have been able to determine that before it even started attempting to do the download, and could have politely declined to start, rather than have me watch the download fail five times after some long or short period of successful downloading.

I'd say if it smells like shit, then it probably is shit. Don't put your trust for the security of your machine in a company that can't even write a reliable installation program.



Creepie crawlies.
7/1/2009 - Regression.

Yesterday someone stepped on a section of the drainage pipe that I had foolishly installed before I had the soil to cover it. So now a big chunk of it down to the inspection pit where it joins the other drain from the rear of the house will have to come out and be done again from scratch.

The problem is that the lie of the land is such that the required gradient for the drain from the kitchen/laundry room to the inspection pit currently places it above ground level behind the retaining wall that will be the limit of the patio and the raised garden area in front of the house. I had put the pipe in position before funds dried up, and so it was there supported by the patio base or concrete blocks waiting for the infill to cover it.

As such, it was fully exposed to the sunlight, which degrades and weakens it. Then of course, the puppies run up the steps and jump on it, and at the end of the retaining wall where it is only just underground, people step on it. I shan't replace it until I have the infill material.

In a forward direction, yesterday I did some cleaning out in the big room and veranda where the cracks in the floor had been stitched. It's probably now in a state when the tiler can realistically start work.
The other big time waster of the day was trying to download some McAfee anti-virus software that HSBC has made available for their customers. With the connection here it's going to be about a three hour download. I tried about four times yesterday, but mini power glitches destroyed the Internet connection each time. I've dug out the UPS I brought from India again now. It didn't work on the diesel generator as the voltage was too low, but it's OK on the mains. But I'm still getting problems with the connection being dropped even with continuous power.

For some light relief we bathed the puppies. This is a total immersion process, as you have to hold the little buggers and use a hose pipe at the same time, and of course they shake themselves all over you. But I can't just do it in shorts because I could get seriously sunburned in the time, so you have to get wet fully dressed. Really though it's quite fun.

The creepie crawlies live in the rotting cow manure and straw that our neighbours spread on their garden. Adia went to get a bucket of it today to plant two banana trees she'd brought from Kagera - you can't be a Kageran without having some banana trees in your yard. I don't know what these larvae grow up into, but it must be something pretty large. Some of them are about 75mm long and thicker than my thumb. Your challenge for the day is to be immersed in a vat of them up to your neck - yuk! I wonder if you can eat them?



A Jackfruit about 40cm long.
5/1/2009 - Boredom and Excitement.

Except for the shower head, I really didn't succeed in getting much done at all on Saturday. We discovered that the dogs were ridden with ticks, even though they were still supposed to be covered by their last Frontline administration. So we spent a couple of hours removing as many as we could find. There were some in their ears though that we could not reach.

It was also clear that Gretel was dangerously close to being in heat. Hansel was paying her a lot of intimate attention, and attempting to mount her, so clearly a trip to the vet was in order, but that would not be until Monday.

Consequently when I got into town, everything had closed down for Saturday afternoon, and all I got done was to find an ATM that had some cash, and got my hair cut.

On Sunday I hoed and weeded the vegetable patch. It appears that one of my tomato plants may have survived, and we have another that grew spontaneously. But it was very hot, and I soon retired indoors where I wasted several hours Googling for a geological map of northern Tanzania that I had found once and kept on one of the machines that were stolen: no success.
This morning we had the excitement of the trip to the vet. This is quite a performance, First potters trunk has to be lined with plastic sheet to catch any collateral puppy puke. Then you have to actually get the puppies in there. I managed to catch Hansel and bundle him in bodily, but Gretel ran into her kennel and had to be carried back to the car by Moses. No pictures I'm afraid - no free hands.

Once there in, I have to kneel in the back seat and lean over to reassure them that all will be well and try to make sure that if they puke, they do it on the plastic sheet so that I can then wipe it up with an old sheet. This trip we were lucky. Gretel almost puked, but managed to hang on until we stopped at the vet's place where there were other distractions and the puking idea was forgotten.

The vet, not that I can blame her, put a muzzle on Hansel, who was rather excited, which may have been a mistake. He became even more agitated trying to get it off, and I had to get him in some kind of wrestling lock on the floor so the vet could poke some cotton wool soaked in insecticide of some sort into his ears. Once it was done he was fine again. Gretel was less aggressive, and allowed the cotton wool in the ears without too much fuss. She got a booster shot of puppy contraceptive which will hopefully hold the situation.

I walked them part of the way back so they could calm down some, and then we put them back in the car and got home with zero vomit in the back - a new world record. Now they've had a big drink of water and their breakfast bread and milk, and they'll probably sleep.

We have to go into town to pay monthly bills and choose some tiles for the master bathroom and harass the company that did the aluminium/glass partition. The Jackfruit came with us from Bukoba - Adia acquired it on one of her relative visiting trips.



The kitten Rooney.


Potter emerging from the hold.


An Mbuyu tree.


Our picnic tree.
3/1/2009 - The Trip Back.

Before I get on to the trip, I must mention a little friend we made and had to leave behind in Bukoba. Zawadi had looked after our cat Cali for some time after we moved to Arusha, and she has now acquired a kitten that she has christened Rooney, after the football player, though on inspection he appears to be a female to me. He does not get much in the way of company, as both Zawadi and Ibra are at work all day, and the kids are usually at boarding school, and don't pay much attention to him anyway. But he quite took to Adia and me, as we were around often and petted him and fed him. I think Adia would have stolen him and brought him home except for the fact that the dogs might have considered him to be a bite-size morsel.

We actually got into Mwanza at about six in the morning, but there was no way we were going to get away quickly. The hatch through which Potter had been loaded into the MV Victoria was now covered with a huge heap of green bananas. All of these would have to be unloaded before the cars could be winched out. So knowing at least that the bathrooms next to the coffee shop at the New Mwanza hotel were quite pleasant, we decided we'd carry our hand baggage, go there, and get breakfast and morning ablutions.

The breakfasts there seem to get more limited each time you go, but there were omelettes to order and there was some liver, and toast and butter and honey and coffee, so really I can't complain.

After we'd freshened up, we went for a walk to find an ATM that was working, then made our way back to the boat. Most of the bananas were now gone, and after a while - no hurry in Africa - the first car came out. Potter was fourth to appear. We presented our documents and drove him out; he's very amiable and good natured now he's got the new engine. All the filling stations in Mwanza seem to charge the same price - it's obviously a cartel - so we just filled the tank at the first one we came to, then headed off on the road to Shinyanga.

Since it was New Year's Day, the road was pretty quiet, and we made good time. The kilometres clicked away, and by about 12:30, we'd reached the town following Shinyanga, Nzega. We stopped, looking to have a drink and something to eat, but the town seemed to be swarming with flies, so we got cans of Fanta and decided we'd press on until we were out of the town and then eat the remains of our chicken and potatoes from Bukoba as a picnic. In that part of the country, there's a very characteristic tree with a very thick trunk, a relatively small and often rounded top, that bears an edible fruit, called the Mbuyu tree. These can be very old, some have been carbon dated as existing for 2000 years. We stopped where there was a large one close to the road where we could pull off, and had our picnic.

Two small boys who were shepherding cattle nearby came to say hello, and since there was more chicken than we wanted, they got a piece each.

Then Adia drove the rest of the way to Shingida. We toyed with the idea of going further, and drove through the town to a filling station on the Arusha road where we thought they might know about places to stop, and distances. But there was no practical possibility of reaching anywhere safe before nightfall. As it turned out though, just before the filling station we had passed a place called the "View Lodge", which I thought looked well kept and tidy, so we went back to it and looked at the rooms, which seemed OK. There was an attached pub that served food, and that suited me, so we decided we'd stay there. There was music in the pub, and this was audible in the room we liked best, so we chose another room that was about as far away from it as possible.

Even so I could see there was going to be some problem, as there was to be a band on that night from the big city, and I could see that we'd probably have to wait until they were through before we got our sleep. So we got freshened up, then went to the pub and ordered some food. This also was a bit of a problem, as they had run out of chips. The waiter said they had run out of potatoes, but I went to question the chef, and as I was there, a man arrived with another sack. Then the problem was that there were no peeled potatoes, and they were very busy with the crowd gathering for the band. This went on for a while, but we both eventually got what we'd ordered, though not at the same time. At that point a fairly violent thunderstorm interrupted the proceedings.

By the time it was possible to move, food eaten, we were tired, and we decided we'd forgo the band and get to bed early. The 'music' woke both of us at about 23:00. I say 'music' because it was one of those bands that Adia and I refer to as 'Motherfucker bands': rap groups whose lyrics seem to consist mostly of "Gnome saying", and "Motherfucker". I thought, "they're a paid band, they'll only do a couple of hours, we'll wait it out".
Tedious though it was, this turned out to be the case, but then unfortunately they were succeeded by a DJ who did more of the same over the same very loud equipment until 04:50 in the morning. Then there was shouting and slamming of car doors, etc, for another half hour or so before we were finally permitted to sleep. Adia somehow managed to catnap through the din, but I only got about two and a half hours sleep in the early morning.

The morning staff were amiable and apologetic, and they gave us some breakfast before we set off. The drive was generally not a problem. We had plenty of time, so our drive over the rough road section was less phrenetic than the journey out. We did however have, and witness some close encounters with the buses that run that route. We'd seen how they drove - like maniacs - on the way out, so I would routinely just get as far off the road as possible when one of them appeared from the opposite direction. One of them then proceeded to take advantage of this, coming over to our side of the road where the surface was better at high speed, and then losing control of his vehicle while executing the maneuver. I'm sure he'd have hit us if a contour of the road had not shifted him away from us at the last moment - rather scary.

Maybe 10 minutes later, I'd pulled right off the rod as another one approached. In front of it there was a car that had pulled over to the wrong side of the road to avoid bad bumps, then swung back again to avoid a bad ditch in the road. The bus just ignored him, passing on the wrong side, and clipping the car as it swung back, pulling off it's entire front bumper and trim, then proceeded on its way. We stopped, and asked the driver if he'd be OK, he said yes, the car was still driveable, and there was plenty of daylight left. His colleague was trying to wedge the removed piece back on, but I could see that they'd have to disconnect the lights and rip it off and stick it in the back of the car. There were other buses, but no more driving as dangerously as those two.

We stopped at a place in the bottom of the rift valley, about 200km south west of Arusha, where they grow rice and Adia bought a few kilos, and we had a drink. Then we were soon off the rough road, and coasted home.



The house at third January 2009.


Spinach.
3/1/2009 - BEV Year Six.

So what's new and different now it's the New Year. Well, the house is still much the same externally, though the vegetable patch has come on. The spinach plants are now almost at a stage where we could pick and eat some leaves, and the zucchini are thriving with the first flowers appearing. The avocado tree that I moved in there is still looking somewhat limp, but it is still alive. It will soon have a companion, since Adia brought another one from Bukoba. Amazingly, the tomato plants that I forgot to plant out before we went on holiday are still alive, though only just. I'll try to get them planted this evening when the heat has subsided.

We got back yesterday at about 17:30. I'll describe the interesting aspects of the trip later in the weekend. This morning, having been pricked into action by the shower at Zawadi's house, I went and got a replacement for our clapped-out shower head.


Zucchini.

The old shower head was scaled up, with the water going every way except down. Descaling it was not an option, since it had an earth leakage that was tripping the earth leakage breaker on the incoming electricity supply. Now we have a spiffy shower where the water sprays downwards and is pleasantly warm even on the low setting.

This is the beginning of BEV's sixth year, so I'll make my periodical appeal to my few faithful readers to try and get a couple of other people each to come and visit the page. I'll do my best to keep it interesting.
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What is BEV?

Brits Eye View is an Englishman's five-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.