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July 2011 in Tanzania through the eyes of an Englishman

Throw it away.

28/7/2011 - Waiting.

Oh dear, it's been a long time since I wrote. Computer programming will steal your soul away if you don't watch it. So then, waiting for what? Well, for things to get better.

I'm not happy with the way things are. My list of current peeves is:

  • It's bloody cold - I think today was the coldest I have experienced in Tanzania.
  • The electricity supply situation continues to worsen.
  • The bureaucracy here is appalling.
  • The two new house-girls are pretty useless.
  • The place is a mess.
You already know about the weather, I've bitched about it before, as is the case with the electricity supply.
The bureaucracy; well as an example Adia went into town today to pay our land taxes, and pick up the outstanding license papers for Potter before she went on to do something she had planned. Neither place, the municipality nor the TRA, could find the paperwork or computer record for the transactions. Adia had to lose her rag at both places to avoid the inevitable "come back tomorrow", and I can tell you, that's not a pretty sight. She got her way, but by the time she had, the day was gone.

Two new house-girls you might ask. Well, I kept quiet before, but now there's no reason to continue. The ex gatekeeper/gardener, Sipily - a married man who we were paying over the odds so he could send money home to his family - was spending the money on beer and having it off with the ex house-girl Kemi, who was under age. She got pregnant, and so between them they organized a botched-up abortion. We had to pick up the pieces, and get her sorted out, as she was in a bad way. The man got his marching orders, but did not go back to Kagera as we insisted, but hung about nearby. Then it became clear that Kemi was attempting to reinstate the relationship, so she got sent back.

There are now two house girls - Shadi and Jacinta - because we thought that they might keep an eye on each other. The new gateman/gardener Tumaini might be less of a threat in this direction, since according to Adia, he has terminal body odour. But you never know! The new girls are very young - I daren't mention their age - and they are as yet more or less useless, so they might be going back too.

And the place is a mess. The picture does not do justice to the place where it was taken. The road there is like a garbage tip. The people here seem completely unconscious of the disadvantages of littering. If they've finished with something, a polycarbonate water bottle, plastic bag, or whatever, they just drop it, wherever they are. I have almost got Adia out of that habit, but I suspect she still does it if I'm not there!

Maybe when the garbage is up to their neck ...

Failed photography.

20/7/2011 - Back to Software.

I've been working on Harry's new web page. My design includes a top banner image that is supposed to show one of his vehicles on a level road against a background of ripening maize.

I had got a picture before using Potter (our car) that worked out quite well, but Potter is not quite in the right class. Unfortunately the one I got of the Vogue was done with too much telephoto, so I could not crop a strip from it that was sufficiently wide at a height that just nicely included the vehicle. I'll have to give it another try.

I've done a fairly complete draft of the pages that I think are needed, at least for a start, but it is proving difficult to get Harry's attention, or that of his operations manager.

They came to visit yesterday, and I made it as clear as I could that the blurb on the pages was just stuff out of my head, and quite probably in no way connected to reality, and that they'd better let me have some real copy before their competitors fell about laughing.

I also discovered yesterday that I have lost the source code for my legacy cards and labels program - Publicity. I was sure I had parked a copy on the web site, but it seems to have gone missing. The original stuff was on a computer that was stolen. I also believed I had a copy on CD, but I'm damned if I can find it. This discovery was provoked by a silly idea I had to re-write it to work under Linux. I guess that idea will now lapse, unless I decide to do it again from scratch - maybe a year's work. I am a stupid bugger about some things!

17/7/2011 - Poet Songwriters.

I was sitting in the Silver Springs tonight, having a beer, and listening to some of my favourite tunes on my phone. It occurred to me to wonder who was the greatest songwriter-poet of the 20th century. The thought was provoked by Bruce Springsteen's 'Born to Run'.

On a casual listen, Springsteen's stuff may sound like undiluted stream of consciousness stuff, and it's a bit of a challenge to punctuate it. But it is undoubtedly powerful, and captures all the angst, and anxiety, and pure brute passion of youth. Oh to be able to go back to those feelings!

Here's my attempt at punctuation of the lyric:

In the day, we sweat it out in the streets of a runaway American dream.
At night we ride through mansions of glory, in suicide machines.
Sprung from cages out on highway nine,
chrome wheeled, fuel injected, and steppin' out over the line.
Baby, this town rips the bones from your back.
It's a death trap, it's a suicide rap.
We gotta get out while we're young!
'Cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run!

Wendy let me, in I wanna be your friend,
I want to guard your dreams and visions.
Just wrap your legs 'round these velvet rims,
and strap your hands 'cross my engines.
Together we could break this trap.
We'll run till we drop - babe we'll never go back.
Will you walk with me out on the wire?
`Cause baby I'm just a scared and lonely rider,
but I gotta find out how it feels.
I want to know if love is wild girl, I want to know if love is real.

Beyond the palace, hemi-powered drones scream down the boulevard.
The girls comb their hair in rear-view mirrors,
and the boys try to look so hard.
The amusement park rises bold and stark;
kids are huddled on the beach, in a mist.
I wanna die with you Wendy on the streets tonight,
In an everlasting kiss.

The highways jammed with broken heroes, on a last chance power drive.
Everybody's out on the run tonight, but there's no place left to hide.
Together Wendy, we'll live with the sadness.
I'll love you with all the madness in my soul.
Someday girl, I don't know when, we're gonna get to that place
where we really want to go, and we'll walk in the sun.
But, 'till then, tramps like us baby, we were born to run.
It makes a change from videos posted on Facebook. Either you take the trouble to read it, or you don't. If you do, then let me know if it gets through to you as poetry after all those years - Wendy, where are you now?

If you need the music to stir your memory, here's a link - hope your streaming rate is better than mine! That remindss me - I haven't done the July hits yet - whoops!

The madman at work.

15/7/2011 - Passing the Time.

There's nothing happening here. I think people are going into hibernation until something gets better. What the something is, I'm not sure. Warmer weather would probably help. That should start soon, Nane Nane (8/8 the date of Arusha's agricultural show) is presumably timed to coincide with what might be called 'spring'. In previous years that change has been reasonably accurate.

But I don't think that is all. The power supply situation is another contributor. There is no reasonable indicator of when this might improve. In a nutshell, TANESCO does not have sufficient capacity to supply the nation's needs, even though only about 14% of people actually have an electricity supply. It does not have the financing or expertise to build and operate new generating plant and transmission systems for itself. Independent generation companies could in principle step in to fill the gap, but if they do, they will out of commercial necessity have to charge for the electricity at a price that covers their costs (fuel, labour, and capital repayment charges - it's called business.)

The resulting kW-Hour charge is invariably more than TANESCO currently charges for their product.

They can't increase their tariff appropriately, since they are government owned, and such price increases are politically unacceptable. So it appears that the only possibility is that the government must subsidize their imposed electricity pricing. But the government is already running up a budget deficit because industry is slowly grinding to a halt because of power cuts, so they're not getting the taxes they expected. Nobody is going to lend them money just to give away, so there's a rock and hard place situation.

That's close to the kernel of the third hibernation reason. The next election is not until 2015, and for an increasing number of people, sleeping until after that feels like a good idea.

I'm working on a new web page for Harry's car hire company. There was one before, but it was accidentally allowed to lapse, so now there's no trace of it. I'm waiting for him to turn up and have a look at what I've been doing. In the meantime, the power is out again so I have to and get petrol for the generator.

11/7/2011 - Catching Up.

Today there were lots of bills to pay. The road tax and insurance for Potter, our Internet provider, tickets for Zawadi and Kemi back to Bukoba, the water supply, dog food, a new wireless mouse since I left the dongle for the existing one somewhere in England, petrol for the generator, diesel for Potter, food, and so on. Our remaining budget for the rest of our financial month is now severely depleted. To cap this off, shortly after we got home, the cooking gas cylinder ran out.

I don't think we'll be reduced to eating grass, but it will be a close run thing ;=) Actually Tuma harvested our beans while we were in England, and we have corn, so it definitely won't be grass - corn and bean curry perhaps. Our corn is getting raided though, so we'll have to keep a close eye on it. This will happen if people are hungry.

The latest thing from the rumour mill here is that the Parliament is attempting to do it's business as secretively as possible. The murmur has been amplified by the fact that the primary national TV channel has mysteriously stopped broadcasting. It normally covers parliamentary proceedings.

We did actually have electricity during the day today, making the record since we got back as follows:

  • Saturday - none while we were here,
  • Sunday - 00:00 to 06:00, 18:00 to 18:10, and 18:30 to about 20:30,
  • Monday - 06:00 to 18:00 - luxury.
From what I've read there's little possibility of the supply situation improving significantly until after or during the short rains - maybe in December. On the other hand, it could get a lot worse.

The power cuts are causing massive losses in production, and since firms are not making money, and people are getting laid off the TRA are not collecting the taxation they forecast, and consequently the government budget is likely to be severely broken. Maybe that's what the're talking about in Parliament. The situation sounds pretty dire, with some predicting economic collapse.

The sun came out today, which made the afternoon somewhat more cheerful. It doesn't help though. What we need is a couple of months of heavy rain!

Catching up.

10/7/2011 - The Light of Day.

There was power during the night when we were asleep - very useful - but by the time we dragged ourselves out of bed, it was gone again. We took the generator into town this morning, and it is now happy again. I'm guessing that Tuma must have run it for some time with the choke out, and in consequence, the plug was all sooted up. We got the oil changed, and a new plug and then it sounded just fine and has a good constant voltage. Hopefully we'll get a hot shower after six tonight.

All in all, the travel arrangements for the England visit worked out very well. I had been a little apprehensive about catching the bus to Nairobi to catch a flight, and the corresponding return trip, but there was no problem either way. When we emerged from arrivals at Nairobi yesterday there was a man waiting a sign with Adia's name on it. The bus arrived five minutes early on the time he said it would be there, and we were back in Arusha in under four hours. Ethiopian seems to be a pretty good airline - not 100% on everything, but tell me one that is. I'll use them again. The rail trips between London and Harrogate were excellent, and getting round by bus/tube in London and Harrogate was easy.

But England is expensive! All that convenience, the road and rail systems, the buses, the clean streets, the facilities, and so on and so on come at a price. There's no way I could afford to live there.

Financially we have survived the trip quite well, and particularly if Adia gets a few guests in fairly quickly, we should be back on track to recommence development of our site and facilities fairly soon. The item at the top of my wish list is to get a wall built around our extension plot. Once that is done I can start to nibble away at the internal infrastructure, and move toward further buildings. But I may have to divert from this aim to provide further electricity generation capacity, and some alternative way of heating water for the showers. I also need to lose about 5kg that has magically appeared on my belly in the course of the broken rib incident and the trip. Nothing is simple.

The last part of the drive from Nairobi takes you round from the north over the western reaching skirts of Mt Meru. It's only when you go round it that you realize how big the mountain is. To get over its skirts you go up fairly gentle slopes for ages surrounded by parasitic volcanic cones, and hills of detritis. By that time it was almost dark. The sky was a sullen red, and there was a lot of dust from the roadworks that are going on to improve the Arusha/Nairobi road. It seemed like Tolkien's description of a journey into Mordor.

Today though, Arusha looks more friendly and tranquil. The sun keeps peeping out, the TV and my Internet connection are working OK, and the shops are open and have plenty of stuff to sell. Everything that does not have to do with the government works perfectly well within reasonable bounds.

The faithful Piglet.

9/7/2011 - Back In Africa.

Well, after another marathon, but relatively smooth journey, we arrived back in Arusha tonight somewhat exhausted, and in the darkness about half an hour after sunset. It's quite a contrast to North Yorkshire where at this time - 21:30 - it will still be quite light.

Arusha was largely in darkness. The power supply situation has apparently deteriorated further. Harry picked us up from the bus from Nairobi, and when we got home, the house was in darknness. Our main generator has refused to start for the last couple of days despite Tumaini's best efforts.

So Piglet is bearing the brunt yet again. He needs new piston rings and attention to his voltage regulation, and won't last much longer. So I know what I will be doing tomorrow.

Fortunately Adia's sister Zawadi cooked some food before it got dark, so we have eaten. Right now I'm going to have a beer, and then I'm going to bed. I could use a shower, but there's no hot water. I'll catch you later

Adia and Leo.

4/7/2011 - Health Care.

On Sunday I was not fit for much at all. Adia and Leo were going shopping, so they dropped me off in Montpellier, and I retired to the pub of the same name to watch the Wimbledon mens final. It was being shown on a large outdoor screen on the stray close by, but I wanted somewhere I could sit comfortably and get a beer. The landlord at the pup was disconsolate about his Sunday trade, which he thought was being ruined by the outdoor screen, and more generally by the fact that it was a beautiful day for barbecues, picnics, and such.

The match was quite exciting. In case you didn't see it, the Serbian, Djokovic, won the first two sets rather convincingly (6/4, 6/1) over the apparently unbeatable Spaniard Nadal. Quite an exciting happening in itself. Then in the third set, Djokovic seemed to loose it. I and probably many others, thought that Nadal would then proceed to walk all over him, which for one set, he did (6/1). But then Djokovic arose from the dead, and trounced Nadal three sets to one - wow!

Monday was the day to seek out a doctor. We walked down to Kings Road to the doctor's surgery where I was registered, only to discover that it is now a block of apartments.

After various enquiries, including one at Richard's doctor's office, we determined that my surgery had moved to Wetherby Road, so we caught a bus to the place. They said yes, they were the group who had been at the Kings Road surgery, but a search on their computer failed to find me, despite the fact that they claimed to have retained all their old records after a NHS computer system revamp a few years back. They said they could take me as a temporary visitor, but then when I had filled in the registration form, they told me I'd have to pay £40. I did not think this was right. I have a UK passport, and I pay UK taxes, and this doctors visit would be about all I would have got for my taxes over the last four years, so I told them they could stuff it.

We walked back across the South Stray and the town to the other place, and asked if they could take me as a temporary. Yes they said. How much, said I? It was free as I had expected, and they were critical of the other place for their proposed charge. I got put in the 17:00 appointment slot, which is not really an appointment, but when the doctor works extra time to see the people who didn't fit in, but need to see him that day. He listened to my chest, came as close as doctors do to saying "yuk!", then prescribed 1500mg of Amoxycillin a day for the next ten days, and 50mg a day of Prednislone for five days. These are not the most modern of drugs (cheap and cheerful NHS), but they should certainly clobber the chest infection. Prednislone makes me horny too, so at that dose I might do a goat conversion.

The reception tent.

The delighted couple.

3/7/2011 - The Main Event.

I have not been very well since we got to England - some sort of chest infection has made me feel weak and short of breath most of the time.

Despite this, I mucked in on Friday, and moved the tables and chairs for the reception from the front of the garage out into the garden at the back, where Richard and Zoe had erected a tent. Then I set up the tables in the tent and placed the chairs around them. That was a fair amount of work, and I was pleased to find that I was not wheezing and coughing when I had finished. But it was probably not a good idea, since I was then knackered for the rest of the day.

It gave the other people who were helping set up a good early start though, and by early afternoon the tent was in good order.

Yesterday, on the day, the sky was almost cloudless, in contrast to several days before that had been largely overcast, and quite cool (this judgment is of course relative, since Adia and I are acclimatized to somewhat higher temperatures.) The civil wedding was at Ripley Castle, where my daughter Rachel was married in 2000. Everything went very smoothly, and Zoe and Richard seemed absolutely delighted with it all, along with everyone else. There was champagne at the castle, and then we all took ourselves back to Harrogate.

There, at Richard and Zoe's house, there was more preparation to do, in particular the preparation of sandwiches. I did not feel well qualified for that, since I would have been coughing all over the food, so I took myself back to bed for a couple of hours until it was time for afternoon tea.

The rest of my day followed a similar pattern. I got up briefly for the various stages of the event. Afternoon tea, chili con carne in the evening, and then karaoke into the night. Adia was left largely to her own devices, and has made lots of new friends. Her Facebook profile will probably increase exponentially.

This morning I'm not sure whether I feel better or worse. I shall see a doctor tomorrow anyway. With a bit of luck he might give me shots of antibiotic, and steroid, which could potentially improve my condition quite quickly.

Today, once the cleaning up is finished, I think we will have a quiet day pottering around Harrogate. Leo is here, so she and Adia can look at the shops, and I'll park myself in the Blues Bar or somewhere. All the pubs are no-smoking now, which makes them much more agreeable places than they were in the past.

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Check out the BEV retrospective
currently covering 1942 - 1975.

1976 is yet to be started.

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?

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.

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

If there's something particular you'd like to go back to, just click it here

Top 20 BEV Pages.

Exchange Rates.

BEV Software Blog.

I've just posted some short articles on Getting Started With jQuery Datatables.

I started to use this recently, and while the result is pleasing once you've got it working, I found the getting-started documentation disappointing.

Moods of Meru.

Mt Meru

Pristine.

Random BEV Poem.

60 Years Ago - Hits of the Month.

50 Years Ago - Hits of the Month.

30 Years Ago - Hits of the Month.

US Billboard #1

 Kim Carnes: Bette Davis Eyes
Stars on 45: Medley - no link found, sadly

UK Chart number 1

 Specials: Ghost Town

20 Years Ago - Hits of the Month.

US Billboard #1

 Mariah Carey: I Don't Wanna Cry
 Extreme: More Than Words
 Paula Abdul: Rush, Rush

UK Chart number 1

Jason Donovan: Any Dream Will Do
- no link found
 Bryan Adams: I Do It For You

10 Years Ago - Hits of the Month.

Contact BEV.

If you want to get in touch outside the built-in comment system, email Steve Teale.