Jun 2010 in Tanzania through the eyes of an Englishman

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If you are planning to visit Tanzania, and come to Arusha, please feel free to contact us. We can tell you about hotels, facilities, prices of basics, etc. Arusha is a great base for trips to the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Kilimanjaro, and of course our own pet volcano, Mount Meru. We now also have bed and breakfast rooms available, and a special introductory offer - see Adia's Place.
The BEV Retrospective - 1942/2002.

There was life before britseyeview.com. Find out what it was like in the second half of the 20th century viewed through the Brits Eye. Read the BEV E-book, currently featuring the year 1970. This is really getting rather stale - it's been stuck there for ages now, but being retired is so busy. I am theoretically working on 1971.

A satisfying purchase.
28/6/2010 - England Expunged.

I have by now more or less removed the fact that England were in the World Cup from my memory. They are gone, and should probably not have been here in the first place. I have a theory that the English Premier League clubs work on a statistical basis. They employ the most expensive, and in therefore presumably the most talented players, and in theory that means that if they just go out there and play, then statistically they will probably win enough matches to stay close to the top of the league.

The players are used to this situation, so are ill suited to the environment of the World Cup, where more or less every match is a shit or bust affair.

There have been no surprises in the group of 16 so far. I just watched the Netherlands comfortably beat Slovakia, and I shall watch the Brazil/Chile match with no expectation of being surprised there. But of course, you never know.

I have been working on picture frames for the last few days. Without a cut-off saw with accurate angle control, these are tedious, and difficult to get right. I had made one that turned out reasonably for the last bedroom, and on Saturday we went to look for a picture to put in it.

We went to the craft centre on Fire Road, and spend about an hour wandering around looking at the offerings there. It is generally a case of the same old crap - stylized pictures of jumping Masai and Masai villages, and abstract offerings that all look the same. Once they must have been original and had some creative element, but now they just get copied - more or less mass produced. However, more by luck than judgement, I found a picture that didn't really belong there. Maybe it had come out of the house of someone who had died - it looks to be a few years old. Adia beat the vendor down, and he accepted in a way that indicated he thought it was junk.
But one man's junk is another man's treasure. By some fortunate coincidence it just fits the frame I had made, and the two zebras, in grass, at night, make the picture look almost like a continuation of the grain of the Mringaringa wood of the frame.

I have been back to the room to look at it in different lights many times since I framed and hung it, and it has remained a very satisfying purchase

The final bedroom.
24/6/2010 - Excuses, Excuses.

I have not been keeping up very well recently, and I don't have any particularly good excuse. A primary factor has probably been the World Cup matches, and the beer consumed while watching. However, I am also trying to upgrade my Linux installation to the latest version and to install it on my laptop, and I have been reluctant to interrupt the process at times.

Since TBC is favouring matches that feature African teams, I actually missed the match that got England through to the next round. It appears that all the lads really wanted was a couple of beers. I can sympathize with that.

The final bedroom is close to completion. Apart from final cleaning up and making up the bed, I think the only outstanding item is the picture to hang on the wall. The frame is done, apart from final sanding and oiling, but we still have to find something suitable to mount in it. After that I shall spend a little time putting shelves into the new workshop, and then it will be another sofa for the South House.

I'm pleased to see the GBP now flirting with $1.5 - it was at $1.499 about an hour ago. It seems that the nasty medicine proposed by the coalition government is to the liking of the markets.

The usual suspects.
19/6/2010 - Light News Days.

Normally, the clientèle at the Silver Springs is somewhat limited. At present there are more attendees, since there is a TV there that is showing the World Cup matches. It's not much of an advantage to the pub, since many of the spectators just come and watch the match. Some proportion buy a drink, and then nurse it for the duration of the chosen match. The next pub along the Lemara Road has adopted a more businesslike attitude. There you pay TS300 a match to watch.

While on the subject of the World Cup, I have to say that I found England's performance against Algeria even more underwhelming than their first match. I was not alone. The England fans who'd shelled out good money to come and support them actually booed them toward the end of the match. From what I've seen so far, they will probably lose when they face Slovenia next Wednesday, and that will put them on the plane home.

Staying with the WC, Adia produced a peach recently while we were watching. When some team were preparing for a free kick she encouraged them by saying "Kick it like David", the expression "Bend it like Beckham" having slipped her mind. So now it's a standard encouragement.
At home, we've got the final bedroom painted, and I've re-installed the shelves and such that I fitted before the paint job. There are a few things left to buy, but now we are close to the end of our financial month we should be able to get it finished off next week before our self-imposed deadline of the beginning of July.

My finger is recovering. I can bend it a little now, and have stopped worrying about gangrene. If I accidentally touch something with it, it still makes me jump, but another few days should sort it.

My finger after a direct hammer blow.
15/6/2010 - Painful Error.

Today I did further work on the forced modifications to the Old Cottage power supply, and finally got the fig tree contained in a larger cage.

The process was not free of incident. Early yesterday afternoon, while doing similar work, I hit the index finger of my left hand with a hammer. Since my reactions are still pretty quick, I maybe managed to slow the hammer down some. If it had been a full force blow I thik it would have done more damage. Nonetheless, it was not just a tap, and I can guarantee you that it was extremely painful. I instinctively went to hold it under the cold water tap - in England or the US, this could be relied upon to be reasonably cold, which is good for such an injury. Here of course, it was tepid. By the time I'd tried that I was feeling distinctly dizzy, and had to sit down for five minutes to recover some composure.

Hammer blows to finger ends are a traditional form of medieval and later torture in cases where the results did not need to be invisible. I imagine you got a blow similar to mine on the first finger, and then a warning that the sequence would proceed with increasingly sever blows until the fingers were exhausted, and would then proceed to your toes. I would not have lasted long, though if the dizziness was any indication, I might have mercifully passed out fairly quickly.
I gave up on work for the day and finished off today between football matches. Germany's performance left me feeling even worse about England's, but I was somewhat consoled by the performance of Italy and Portugal. It's Brazil v. North Korea this evening, which might be interesting.

Things moved in to the new workshop.
13/6/2010 - Further Ways to Fill Time.

Och he's football crazy, he's football mad.
The football craze has ta'en away the wee bit o sense he had.
'Twad tak a dozen skivvies his clase to wesh and scrub,
Since wha Jock became a member of that terrable football club.

I was appalled by the England/USA match. My feelings about the game were mirrored only by the look on the England goalkeeper's face when he butterfingered that very modest shot. I suppose, given the group draw that England are still in with a chance of progressing, but ...

Yesterday we got the bedroom cleaned out, and the stuff from there and the room where Zai sleeps moved into the workshop. But it's just lying there - no organization whatever.

Today I decided to take a break from that, and set about making a bigger cage for the fig tree. That was going OK until I put a metal spike through the cable that 'temporarily' takes power to the Old Cottage. Then I had to spend the rest of the day pulling the useful remnants of the cable from underground and from the wall by the vegetable garden so I could lash up an even more temporary supply.

The transmitting and receiving antennae.
10/6/2010 - It Works!

Adia went at 08:00 today to get our decoder. There was a huge line, and the two staff at the small booth were selling the things as fast as they could go. But she got one, and when she got home, I don't think it took me more than five minutes to set it up. I gave the instructions a quick read, but I could have done without. Apart from sticking plugs into obvious holes, Star's decoder software did everything - scanned for channels and set up a list - then it just worked.

The picture quality is excellent - not a glitch to speak of all day, and I think the selection of channels we have is better than we were getting from the previous lot. We are both very happy with the purchase. I wonder if I can persuade the other lot to turn us off forthwith and give us half a month of our money back ;=) I doubt it, since I expect that their overpriced business is about to collapse.

The workshop walls are painted to my satisfaction, and I have put another light in over the area where my bench will be. With the lights on I could now work at night, and the white wall paint has improved the illumination level inside so that I don't think the lights will be necessary even on a dull day. The place as it is, without contents, has more of the look of an artists studio than a workshop. Perhaps I'll change directions. But seriously, tomorrow I'll start moving the workshop things in there so I can finish the bedroom.

The advertised decoder.
9/6/2010 - Story Slightly Wrong.

OK, so I got the TBC situation slightly wrong yesterday during my glee at the demise of DSTV. It isn't a national satellite service, but a national digital service. Apparently the SADC has determined that the cooperating nations will switch to digital TV ASAP. Tanzania has set a deadline for turn-off of analogue services by 2015.

My confusion was caused by a general misunderstanding of the nature of TV broadcasting here in Africa, or at least here in Tanzania. We went into town today bent on buying a decoder and paying our first months fee. The place you go to is a small tented booth on a vacant lot next to the main street through the city. I congratulate TBC on doing their business in a down to earth and cost effective way.
When we got there, the man behind the table handed us a leaflet - the one we'd already seen. At that point I noticed that it was talking about digital TV, not satellite TV. I asked the man which it was, and he said it was satellite. I asked where the satellite was, expecting coordinates, but the man said it was on Themi hill. At that point, the penny more or less dropped. Apparently here there is no great distinction made between the terms satellite, and transmitter, as Adia explained when pressed. This also explained a point of misunderstanding I'd had with the leaflet, which said that no dish was required.

Really, I don't care, as long as there is bandwidth, then from my point of view it's as broad as it's long. I can see Themi hill from my computer room window here - or I could if it wasn't dark - and it's only 3 to 4 kilometers away. When we got home I looked at the masts on the hill, and sure enough, there's a new mast there, larger than any of the previous ones. With a big receiving antenna, you could probably fry eggs from it! The man also said they were planning on having up to 100 channels (with nothing on of course) eventually.

As it turned out, there were no decoders left by the time we got there, but there should be more in the morning. Adia put her name down in their book for one. The digital service actually starts tomorrow, presumably timed to just beat the deadline for the World Cup.

Before, and after we got back, I got the second coat of paint on the workshop walls to the same point as I'd had the first coat yesterday, so I'm still ;=) - y'all have a similar day.

8/6/2010 - The Converse.

In an attempt to find appropriate words, I was looking today at the Wiki definition of the term 'natural justice'. Apparently the Romans were strong on this concept, considering that "certain basic legal principles are required by nature, or so obvious that they should be applied universally without needing to be enacted". The Wiki definition lists some principal issues.

I would wish to add one that has corresponding sayings in most languages, like "Time wounds all heels". More generally stated "All assholes should get their just reward".

Today I am pleased to announce that this appears to apply in the country where I live - at least today. Adia was in town doing the tax and insurance for Potter, and in the insurance office she found a leaflet announcing a national satellite television service. Apparently we can now get service from TBC. You buy a decoder for about $50, and pay $7 a month (and that's Tshillings, not some floating dollar amount), and you get more or less the same programs as you get from our current provider - DSTV/Multichoice - for a $350 setup charge, and $28 a month.

The second price you pay for DSTV is that you have to suffer about 20 minutes per hour of their crass advertising for every hour of TV that you watch - this is you as an existing subscriber, who presumably does not need to hear DSTV advertising at all. The new TBC service should quickly bankrupt them in Tanzania, and I can't tell you how happy that makes me - yeah! So now I can just take them their decoder at the end of the month, and dump it on their counter, and say "bye, it's been crap to know you".

It was, by the way, warmer today. I got the faulty bathroom door planed to a fit, and re-hung it. Hopefully I'll be able to fit a new lock without taking it off again. Then I got some cheap emulsion paint and gave most of the new workshop a first coat. I hope you have a nice day too.

Miserable weather.
7/6/2010 - Depressing Day.

We awoke to a grim gray sky with everything wet and showing little sign of drying. Normally under these circumstances, things have warmed up a bit by lunch time, but today I don't think the temperature got above 16C until late afternoon, and then only briefly. When you've been in India for four years, and then here for another three, this feels cold.

I was wearing a heavy long sleeved shirt all day, one that would normally have had me in a sweat. As I sat at the Silver Springs at six in the evening I was almost shivering.
I had spent the day trying to fix the bathroom door in the bedroom that has served as my workshop, as I'd spent a good chunk of the day before. Eventually I got it so it would close without strain. But it was also too narrow for the frame, so I had to block off the holes previously cut for the lock, and glue a strip of wood down that edge to make the door the required width. The guy who made all our doors and fitted them steadily got worse and worse, and now won't even answer our calls.

Just to finally piss me off, Tanzania were playing a friendly against Brazil this evening. The match was on one of the national channels - TBC1. I switched our satellite TV receiver to it - a channel we normally have - when I got back, and behold, a blank screen! How petty can you get, the TV provider is censoring out the World Cup matches from its relay of TBC1 to force you to pay for a more expensive package if you want to watch.

I shall go tomorrow and tell them to switch us off and give me the balance of my month's money back. We'll make do with an analogue aerial and the local channels until we can buy an antenna and receiver that will get the free satellite channels. 90% of what we get for $28 a month is crap anyway, so as far as I'm concerned it will be no great loss. I can look at BBC World on the web.
6/6/2010 - Ambitions.

There is so little time, and so much to do. I have, of course, no idea how will I will last in a functional state, but clearly in absolute terms, time is quite limited.

Before I become gaga, I have a number of targets. First I must work with Adia to build an establishment. There must be a base and a business, and a network of friends and associates that will sustain her and any children we may have when I am gone. This must be something viable, that will support continued growth and allow her to continue to provide work and opportunities to those fundis and helpers who have gone along with us, and to their families.

At the same time, I have to build a bridge between my family in the UK and in the US so that they feel that they have a family place in Africa that is like a second home. It should be somewhere they feel they can turn up and know that there is a room, and food, and friends. I look to my son Richard to be the first to make the connection, since he is probably best placed, and I really hope to see him here in Africa sometime this year.

This is something of a compulsion - right or wrong, that's the way I am, and knowing that time is limited really focuses the mind. That's why I'm probably working as hard now as I have at any other time in my life. Of course this is assisted by the fact that I'm working on something that I want to achieve, without someone breathing down my neck and telling me what to do. With apologies to WB:

Bring me my sharp Brazilian saw,
bring me my Indian plane and Chinese chisels too.
I will not pause or rest my mind,
nor shall those tools sleep in my hand,
till I have built a heritage here
in this my last adopted land.

While I'm blathering, Innocent and Gideon have finished the wall rendering and got the floor down on the workshop. I shall now have to be patient for a few days until the floor hardens and I can move my workshop stuff in there. In the meantime, I am doing what I can to prepare the current workshop to be a guest room. Today I rehung the door and the bathroom door so that they feel reasonably well done, cleaned up the door frames, and replaced the mirror in the bathroom that we stole for the South House. As a parting shot for the day I screwed the "Old Cottage" nameboard to the latter - it's made in jacaranda, the wood of the house.

Late afternoon Adia and I went to a fundraiser for someone's son's wedding. Basically we paid about $35 for food and drinks along with most of the other inhabitants of the village paying what they could afford. The profits go to the wedding. It was quite a pleasant event. A bit stiff and organized by western standards, but plenty of food and drink. I enjoyed it. My friend Kasena who took me on the brewery tour was the MC.

Currently I'm listening to the American Idol final results program - catch you later.

The ensemble of furniture in the living room of the Old Cottage.
4/6/2010 - Various Things.

Don't really know where to start, probably with the workshop. I thought Innocent and Gideon would do the floor today, but apparently old habits die hard. The wall rendering is done before the floor. Assuming the former I had continued with the construction of a 'coffee table' to go by the new sofa in the Old Cottage. That is more or less finished now, and I think I have more or less finished with my furniture activities there.

There is one more outstanding small item that you can see standing on top of the bookcase in the ensemble picture. When I was done working on the coffee table I went to find a place that prints out digital photos. I have a picture of the jacaranda trees in blossom late last year, and it is my plan to crop a portion of this, and put it in the jacaranda frame. It turns out that there's a place that does digital printouts quite reasonably in the cinema complex at Njiro, so I should have the picture in the morning. Our friend Mr Burhani will then mount it in the frame - he has the stuff and the gear.

When I got back from that, since there was no work going on with the floor, I set about connecting up the two backbone tube lights that will provide the primary illumination in the workshop. They are working now. In addition there will be two optional lights over the area where the bench will go, and on the opposite wall. I'll get to them in time.
Elsewhere in the world, my focus has been on the oil leakage in the Gulf of Mexico (I don't know why they keep calling it a spill - to spill something you have to have collected it first). I find it Strange that the US put men on the moon 40 years or so ago. It has sophisticated nuclear weapons and delivery systems, and a state of the art military. It leads in innovation in many fields. But it does not have the know-how and equipment to plug an oil leak in its own back yard.

I will add, because I think it is relevant, that it also does not have the capability to say to a small state in western Asia - enough is enough, get your act together or we will pull the plug. This latter fact cripples it in diplomatic terms because it is clear to all that it has a dual standard - yes to anything Israel does, and (to keep the point simple) do as you are told for everyone else.

In this situation, I find the stream of hatred against BP particularly perplexing. The US needs oil from the gulf to help relieve its dependence on oil from the middle east, where it's attitude toward Israel creates an insecure position. BP is one of the few large oil companies that has the clout and know-how to do the difficult things that are called for. It does not have the worlds best safety record, but I presume that was taken into account when the US acquiesced in its drilling of the offending deep water well. Everyone needs to remember that the problem is happening 1500m - about a mile - down in the ocean. This is rocket science, and we all know from say the history of NASA missions, that the best laid plans of mice and men gang oft astray. If any organization has the know-how and balls to deal with the situation better than BP is doing, it should step up - but there don't seem to be any offers.

Still one of my favourites.
2/6/2010 - OK, June.

Having ranted last night, I guess I should do a more normal start to the month. Well, the house is much the same, except I now almost have a workshop round the back, but you've seen a picture of that.

So my pictorial presentation is food - one of my favourite dishes. I call it corned beef hash, though this term may have other meanings elsewhere. You boil some potatoes (optional garlic), half mash them, stir in a can of corned beef chopped up into small chunks, then quickly mash it a bit more. Then you fry it until it is brown on the outside. On this occasion it was served with leftover makande (known elsewhere I think as succotash) - a mixture of cooked maize kernels and beans, and salad. I can seriously stuff myself with this combination.

Yesterday I chopped channels in the workshop walls for the electrical supply, and made a start on installing the lighting. Both of these are physically hard work tasks - running up and down a ladder and beating the hell out of walls with a two pound hammer. Consequently I was a bit stiff today, and after I had applied linseed oil to the latest bedside tables, and made a curtain pole, which involves a lot of planing and sanding, I was quite tired. I took myself off to search for a couple of bits of jacaranda to make the final trim for the sofa.
Meanwhile, Innocent and his brother Gideon applied a coat of cement rendering to two of the workshop walls. They should finish the walls tomorrow, and may get the floor screed down the next day. The door is due to appear tomorrow.

1/6/2010 - Madness.

There seems to be a great deal of pussyfooting going on about the attack by Israeli troops on the blockade-breaking flotilla in the eastern Mediterranean. Ships were attacked and taken in international waters, and such an attack has to be either piracy, or an act of war - I don't know of any other alternatives.

A blockade is a legal entity in maritime law, but it has to be conducted in waters over which you have territorial jurisdiction. Sailing toward such an area is not an infraction of maritime law. Getting on the radio and saying to some ship that is sailing in such a direction that you will stop it if it continues, has no legal effect. You may well say it will be stopped if it enters the territorial waters, and when it does, the territorial nation can probably take whatever action it deems appropriate.

So the passengers and crew of the threatened ship - whatever their motives - were perfectly justified in assuming that when armed troops abseiled onto their deck, that they were being attacked, and presumably had a right to defend themselves by whatever means they had available. It was an assault. OK, maybe the ship would have gone on in the same direction and actually entered the territorial waters, and then the country imposing the blockade would have had to attack it. Try killing someone who is terminally ill against their will, and then explaining to the judge that they were going to die anyway, and see how far you get in any reasonable legal system.

The troops who killed passengers/crew on the ship must be guilty of either murder if it was piracy, or a war crime if it was an act of war. The Hague international court should issue a warrant for the arrest of whoever is deemed to have been responsible for the action as soon as they have got the technicalities sorted out.

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What is BEV?

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

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The most popular BEV archive page (Jan 2003 - Apr 2010) is now hovering between June 2003 and Jan 2005. (And I still wish someone would explain to me why!)

We have rooms available at Adia's Place (the Brits Eye View micro hotel). So if you plan to visit Arusha, and don't mind being a guinea pig, give us a shout. You can stay in a rather nice room close to both the city, and to rural Africa, at a very competitive price.

A GDC-newbie web page

I have made a new page for beginner users of the GDC (Gnu Compiler Collection D Compiler) here. Since I am a newbie to it myself, I thought I should share my experiences of getting the thing up and running and beyond.

Currently on the Software page:

GDC, MinGW, and Code::Blocks
- Taking a different tack on the D programming language.

Javascript Exceptions
- A design flaw?

Minimally Intrusive Javascript
- Writing scripts for use by others.

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

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

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

Javascript Little Known Facts #3
- Labels.