June 2011 in Tanzania through the eyes of an Englishman
My very active granddaughter.
28/6/2011 - Harrogate.
Our journey continued. We got a taxi from Leo's flat to Ealing Common tube station where you can get on the Piccadilly line. Leo came with us on her way to work. Luckily the door where we got in had an available luggage space beside it, and I stacked our stuff up there then leaned against them. The Piccadilly line takes you all the way to Kings Cross station. There the transfer to the main line railway station was reasonably straightforward. The 10:03 to Leeds was on time, and by about one o'clock we were in Harrogate.
Richard and Zoe picked us up, and we went for a very light lunch to allow for ritual Fish and Chips at Gravely's this evening. Then it was back to their house, which they've just moved into quite recently, so was an unknown to me. It's beautiful. Lots of rooms, spacious, big well kept garden - you name it. Adia and I have a splendid room to stay in.
Adia and I walked down to Cold Bath Road to take my suit to the cleaners. Then we looked at the Valley Gardens until it was time for Richard and Zoe to pick up Tallulah - AKA Lulu. Lulu was a little shy to start with, and worked off that sensation by being hyperactive for the next three quarters of an hour.
Things have quietened down a bit now. Her cousin Eleanor - my first granddaughter - has just arrived with my Daughter Rachel, so it's off for the fish and chips.
The Old Companions.
26/6/2011 - Tourists.
When we arrived at Heath Row yesterday morning at about 07:30, we'd only had a couple of hours sleep since we got up at about 05:30 the previous day. We decided we should tough it out until a normal bedtime, so we went out for lunch later with my daughter Leo and her man Oscar, who we are staying with. Then later we went into the city and looked at Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square to give Adia a sampler.
I say we're staying with Leo and Oscar, but in fact they had a weekend break in Yorkshire booked for this weekend before we got our flight. So in fact when we got back from the city, they were gone. We snacked on what was in their fridge, then went to bed while it was still light, to Adia's great bewilderment, and to prod my memory. In Tanzania it's dark by 19:00 every night, and in Bangalore it wasn't that different.
Today - after a late start - we did:
Today the weather in London was as different from yesterday as chalk and cheese. Yesterday we descended through four layers of cloud, and it was rather cold and dismal. Today we had an almost clear sky and it was hot. Now we're exhausted again. I don't know if we'll even have supper - we'll see. But having done this, I'm going to have a cold beer and a shower.
- Westminster Abbey (unfortunately closed to the public since it was Sunday),
- Houses of Parliament (just the outside view),
- Whitehall, including a Normandy veterans parade,
- Horse Guards, with horse and trooper picture,
- St James's Park, with horse and policewoman picture,
- Buckingham Palace,
- Buckingham Palace mews (stables and royal horses and carriages),
- Steak and Kidney pie, mashed potatoes, mushy peas and gravy at a pub on Whitehall,
- Walked down to the London Eye, but decided to do it 8/7 if we had money left,
- Visited Kings Road to see if it suited Adia for shopping tomorrow,
- Back to Leo's.
Adis Ababa International Airport.
24/6/2011 - On Our Way.
Well, we have reached Adis Ababa - about two hours ago actually, but there are still two and a half hours to go before we'll be boarding the flight to London, which leaves at 00:55.
It's quite a pleasant airport, but the service in the bars sucks, and of course they charge a typical airport price for the beer - about £4 a pint.
There is supposed to be wireless Internet throughout the terminal, and I can see it, and Ubuntu connects to it from my laptop, but when it comes to accessing anything, the DNS lookup just hangs and eventually times out. It's a bit like my Internet provider in Arusha on one of their bad days.
We got up at about 05:30 this morning, but I think Adia only got about two hours sleep. After that her head was spinning all night and eventually she woke me up to get some company. Now it is 21:35, and we are suffering from the lack of sleep. Still nearly four hours before our flight departs.
Trying to keep the luggage light.
23/6/2011 - Ten, Nine, Eight ....
We spent some time today in town looking for some small presents that we could take with us for my Children and Grandchildren, and indeed for the wedding! The result must remain a surprise, though not a very devastating one.
There's a limited number of things that you can consider taking from Tanzania under these circumstances. Most of everything that people here would want to have is already imported, and taxed heavily on the way. So there seems little point in taking it back. We've tried to find some things that are not in that category.
The packing is more or less complete. But there are some things we still have to get, and the time is slipping by.
I'm hoping that we have sufficiently indoctrinated Zawadi and Tumaini in the rituals of turning on and off the mains power and the generator. Apparently the supply situation is now dire, and for the forseeable future, we will have alternate 12 hour power cuts during the day, and a six hour cut at night. Tonight we are on the first shift, with our cut presumably from 18:00 to 24:00 - but there's no guarantee.
This situation was clearly bound to arise if one took into account vagaries in the weather (climate change), rise in demand, and deterioration of old plant that did not get sufficient maintenance. An example is dredging of the dam reservoirs that supply the hydroelectric plants. Currently there is surprise that the levels have gone down so quickly. But if the water reservoir actually consists of a big heap of mud and grit covered by a thin layer of water, that's going to happen. The price that the government dictates for electricity does not allow for such unnecessary expenditure, or provide the funds that would allow TANESCO to grow smoothly. Building of new generating plant is a political decision that will inevitably be taken far too late.
As I finish this piece it seems that everything is packed in three bags. However we had thought Harry would be taking us to the bus in the morning, but he can't. Potter's solenoid switch has been playing up lately, so I am not prepared to bank on him starting - sod's (Murphy's) law and all that. So we still need to book a taxi or scrounge a lift from a neighbour.
I just want to be able to relax before we go to bed.
Much to say.
20/6/2011 - Counting Down.
Adia's sister Zawadi arrived on Friday to act as site manager during our trip to England. She brought a new helper with her to replace Sipili, who is now departed for reasons that I might go into later. Basically he got too big for his boots.
I like the new guy - Tumaini (means hope) - but then I like all of them to start with.
Adia and Zawadi have yapped continuously since the latter arrived. The picture shows them first thing in the morning today continuing from wherever they left off on Sunday night, presumably then exhausted. The need to continue where they left off was so pressing that neither of them had time to dress, or to remove the hairnets or hairbags that they wear in bed (African hair!). Coronation Street or what?
We've had no electricity system power for three days now, like 08:00 until 18:00. Our generator must have noticed, since when I started it on Sunday morning, the engine was fine, but there was no electricity. We took it into town today, where it was determined that one of its alternator brushes was badly worn. It was replaced, and after a bit of fiddling, it was good as new, with an oil change to boot.
The other small generator - 'Piglet' - had to stand in. He is on his last legs and will have to be the next visitor to the generator fundi to get new piston rings and some attention to his voltage regulation. As it is you have to adjust a screw on the carburettor to set the voltage when you turn some electrical item on or off.
Hillary Clinton was in Tanzania recently promising economic assistance for the electricity supply system here. Whatever is given, I'm not sure that it will be effective as long as Tanesco remains an organ of the government. Basically the combination, as it is at present, gives the impression that it could not organize a piss-up in a brewery. So throwing money at it will not be effective. The system needs to be privatized and to work on a for-profit basis. Then if the government wanted to interfere they could do so by providing funding to connect isolated/remote communities to the grid.
Today, apart from the generator trip, I started to make a heap of the clothes I would take with me to England. This led me to the certain knowledge that I need to lose some weight, or buy new clothes! The broken rib immobilized me for long enough that getting back to my weight before that event is going to be taxing.
In the course of the getting-ready session I also determined that we have no idea where my UK drivers license is. I have a copy we made at some point, but if I decide to hire a car for a few days while we are in the UK, it is going to be down to my Tanzanian drivers license.
I have not yet got the picture I want to make the promised change to the BEV main page. It has been bloody cold (by Tanzanian standards) for the last few days - like early November in England. I don't want the picture taken during dismal weather. Rather it should reflect what it's like for the majority of the time. It's the solstice tomorrow, and after that the sun will be creeping back from the south. But it will be the beginning of August before it is too hot again.
Three days to lift off, and counting. Are we nearly there yet?
As through a glass, darkly.
17/6/2011 - The Times They Have A'Changed.
Recently, I've developed an aversion to the old NY City panorama banner image at the top of several BEV pages, including this one.
It was cool for some time, some time ago. But now I have gone off it (long term BEV readers might sort this out somehow). I find it dark and sinister, and I want something that reflects my present, rather than my past.
So unless I get a popular vote against, I'm going to change it. The replacement will be a faded image similar to the one you can see on the software page. I don't have the right picture yet, but I have some ideas. The page header might become variable for a while until I'm happy with the result. In fact more generally I have been working hard on change to the whole BEV web site. I've been struggling to get readers for it over nearly nine years. Then a few days ago I put up a trivial article about a popular piece of web software, and tripled the hits on the BEV site overnight, but not the pages I care about. But I won't give up. I must increase the quality of the material and the presentation and live in hope.
I am really looking forward to our adventure in the UK. I have not been there since 2006 when I went for my mother's funeral. So it will be an experience for me once more, and most certainly for Adia. If our little business prospers I hope it will be something we can do every couple of years.
Before we go I need to get my laptop stitched up so that it can take advantage of any Internet connection that's available, and has the sources of the current primary pages on it. So much to do - so little time ;=)
You'll notice I have also gone off the Libya topic. I'm monitoring it, and not accepting that it's a stalemate, but things are currently moving at a very slow pace. However, I still don't see how Gadaffi can win.
I am quoting above, so here's the source, The old Bob Dylan song.
16/6/2011 - On-Line Shopping Hell.
Well, Adia got her UK visitor's Visa - loud cheers please. So then it was time for flight bookings and other such things. The flight booking went well. We got a flight out of Nairobi with Ethiopian Airways - Africa's premier airline, review to follow later. For that we paid cash at the Ethiopian office here in Arusha. We also got tickets for the 'shuttle bus' from Arusha to Nairobi.
Then we got to the train from London to Harrogate. You can only get a decent price on the UK railway system by booking in advance. So we tried to do that on-line.
I'm hoping it's not just me that's a gormless dummy, but when it comes to on-line transactions I can never get anywhere. We tried three cards, and the only result was to get one of them locked so I can't use it until I've gone through some tedious process with the bank.
I'll vent my rage on the train booking site - thetrainline.com - since it displays most of the bad features that stand in the way of one's success.
I don't think it is the fault of the programmers. Most of these sites behave pretty well in technical terms. The problem is that the systems are specified by people who are wearing blinkers.
OK, so you fill in your required origin and destination, and the dates, outbound and return, and then you have to select the number of passengers. OK, we've selected two. At that point there's something missing - a little checkbox that says 'Travelling together?'. Otherwise you could just be booking seats for everybody in the office to go to a conference!
To use the system, you have to join, and provide, among other things, an address. You are offered a country list, which did contain my country of residence, but in its full diplomatic form - 'Tanzania, United Republic of'. Then it wanted a postcode. We don't have those here, so I left it blank, but it would not have that, so given no option, I entered my PO box number there, and went on.
So then you get to the Russian-roulette bit - payment! We were offered the customary cards, including VISA, VISA debit, MasterCard, and MasterCard debit. So we tried Adia's bank card, which is VISA, and debit. With that, we could not get beyond 'The card number provided is not in the required format for the card type selected'. We tried it with and without the spaces - same result. The format for a VISA number is pretty strightforward - 16 digits starting with '4' - which was what we entered. Maybe a message closer to the truth would read 'We don't know anything about your bank'.
So we tried my VISA debit. More progress this time. It also wanted a 'billing address', presenting my account address as the default. I could not do any better than what I'd entered there, so went on.
There was some action, and then I got the dreaded 'Verified by VISA' page. Well, I've never registered the card, and found later that my bank does not subscribe to this VISA/MasterCard advertising scam. So that was that. Dead in the water again. Designers of these systems should remember that schemes of this sort are designed to protect the cardholder. The card number, expiration date and address are sufficient for the financial transaction. There's another missing checkbox that the user should be able to select saying use 'Use Verified by VISA to protect my card from unauthorized use'. Give the user the option to protect herself in that way, otherwise, just get on with it.
So then it was on to my US MasterCard debit card. A few years back I had persuaded my bank there to accept the fact that we don't have zip codes in Tanzania, neither do we have street addresses or delivered mail. You have one choice - a PO Box. Eventually they set up my address to reflect this, with the plot and block number of our land, the PO box number, and no zip code. Fine, so I copied the address from my US bank on-line details, and filled it in to the billing address fields on the train booking payment page. Then we went on to the MasterCard SecureCode page. I entered what I thought was my code, and this was not explicitly denied, but I got the 'Your transaction was declined' mesage, and ten minutes later an email from the bank telling me the card had been locked and I should phone them to fix it!
Given the contents of the country drop-list on the train booking form, and the 'postcode' that I had to fill in, the transaction was probably doomed to failure. Unless these two fields were completely ignored, they were probably included in the address, which would then not match the address on record at the bank, where the country is 'TANZANIA' and there's no zip code.
So such forms should note that an overseas address is being used, and in that case display a simple line 1, line 2, line 3 ... address entry with a note that the customer should enter the information 'as per his/her bank account details'. Either that or tell overseas users to get lost, or, rather better, remember the customers booking, give them a reference number, and allow them to pay at the railway station at the time of the journey. How simple!
The promised grovel.
14/6/2011 - Mea Culpa.
I have to apologize to BEV readers, with suitable grovelling, for some long-standing malfunctions in the BEV comment system. I have to admit that I have not done sufficient testing in the past on Internet Explorer, and I promise to do better in the future.
Second, in an attempt to be careful and specific, I had used absolute URLs in the code to request information from the BEV server. You are only allowed to make that sort of request for information from the same Internet domain that the page was loaded from. I had coded the URLs as 'http://www.britseyeview.com/...'. But now of course www is unfashionable, and people just use 'http://britseyeview.com/...' to get to the page. As far as IE is concerned, these are different domains. Firefox seems to figure it out.
My attempt at thoroughness was completely incorrect. For that job you should definitely use page-relative URLs - e.g. '/php/listcomments.php'. The browser fills in the bit before the first '/' and gets it right. Anyway, the result was a dead comment widget.
I also found that in some cases, the Adia's Place page was displaying red underlines for nearly all the text when you waved your mouse over it - very yuk. This didn't happen on Adia's Windows laptop, otherwise I might have been given the boot by now as Adia's Place CTO.
11/6/2011 - Roadworks, the Visa, and Software.
The road that connects our village to the main Njiro road had got into a bad state again. I'm sure I've mentioned before that there is a stretch of it where it crosses a stream close to our village. On one of the slopes down to the stream where it is quite steep, the underlying rock is very close to the road surface. Consequentially the road surfacing material tends to wash off it when it is rainy, or to blow away when it is dusty.
The car-owning inhabitants of our village have clubbed together again to do something about it. This time we have put a much thicker layer of material over the rock, and the intention is to compact it thoroughly when the road roller appears. How long it will last, only time will tell.
The other happening of note was that a man from the UK High Commission in Dar phoned Adia to tell her that her passport, which they had with her visa application, was ready to be picked up. So we sent DHL to get it, and they were told at the HC that it was not ready yet. Most distressing. We've emailed the HC to ask what's happening, but of course now it is the weekend so we won't be any wiser until Monday at least.
It's scary, because most of our important personal documents are in the package to be returned with the passport. Also at this point we've still no idea whether the visa has been granted or denied.
I have been doing computer programming because that's a good way of passing the time, and has useful side effects. For any nerds out there interested in jQuery.Datatables, there are a couple of articles I've done linked from the BEV software page.
8/6/2011 - Comparisons.
I've often tried to explain to Adia what an expensive place the UK is. But this morning it occurred to me that I am completely out of touch with prices there anyway, so I decided to make a little table to try and illustrate this for some basic commodities and services.
For Adia's benefit, my numbers are initially in Tanzanian Shillings, but pick whichever you want - USD, GBP, TSH.
All these prices are pretty vague, but I think they are close enough to give the picture. Some of them require qualification.
|Beer 500ml (approx pint)||6300
|Bread - typical cut white loaf||2760
|Beef kilo - average cut||23000
|Internet - 1 Mb/s per month||1800
|Doctor's Office Visit||Free - privately maybe 72000
||Copay 30000 - private 90000-360000
|Residential land - 1m²||840000
(Harrogate, N Yorks)
The beef price is based on a joint like topside or chuck. For Tanzania it is just Adia's view of what she pays for ordinary lean beef. The latter is very likely to be as tough as old boots.
Internet pricing is a jungle, so I should be more specific about my numbers. The UK price seems unbelievably low, but I have done the calculation several times and got the same answer. It's based on the BT rate of £7.50, which offers speeds 'up to' 20Mb/s. I took that to mean 10Mb/s, so 1Mb/s per month would cost 75 pence - TSH 1800.
For the US I have used Verizon's entry level package at $35/month. This offers 500kbs - 1Mbs, and I have adopted the smaller number, so that's $70 for 1Mb/s per month - TSH 105000.
Here in Arusha I get about 128kbs for $32/month, so 1Mb/s would cost me eight times that - if I could get it - i.e. $256/month - TSH 384000.
Land is also difficult. I worked on the basis of Arusha being quite yuppie by Tanzanian standards, and I thought Harrogate was quite a good match in the UK. In the US it's much more difficult to choose, so I fairly arbitrarily chose Morristown in NJ - a pleasant residential town close to the countryside. However, it is probably close enough to NY City to jack its prices up significantly - Harrogate is 200m from London. So I halved the Morristown number to move Morristown out to 200m along route 80. Other than that, the UK and US prices are based on current real estate listings. The price for Arusha is based on what we paid 3 years ago. But prices are rising steeply here, so I have tripled that.
Health care is another minefield. In the UK you generally don't have to pay for a surgery visit, it's covered by the NHS. Because they're unusual, private visit rates are probably effectively subsidised by the NHS, and might cost £20 - £30. Here in Tanzania, health care is mostly provided by NGOs. A visit to a doctor at ALMC costs me TSH 5000, and it's quite a decent newly built hospital. However capabilities and equipment are limited in scope, though they may not be far off UK NHS standards.
Adia's Place - a new page (click image to see).
4/6/2011 - Time Flies.
While you're enjoying yourself, that is. I had become obsessed with the idea that we should have some more organized way of recording reservations for Adia's Place. I felt sure that otherwise we would eventually succeed in double booking something, or have someone arrive late at night that we had completely forgotten about.
I don't yet have full confidence that it is working as intended, but it certainly passes a sanity test. If you want to take a look, it's here. You can go through the whole process then cancel at the end. If you press 'OK', we'll be expecting you ;=)
All the web stuff of this sort that I do is with a 'LAMP' server - that's a combination of Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP. It's very widely used and provides a stack of existing facilities. On the web page side I use a mixture of plain old HTML, and scripting intermingled with jQuery and Yahoo API - YUI components.
This evening Adia's Place has been something of a madhouse. Today - just for one day - we are full. Then on top of that we had two extra guests for dinner, some guys who have stayed with us before a couple of times. The cooking for the bunch of them was a bit of a juggling performance for Adia.
What else? Well Adia and I both seem to have picked up some bug either from the trip to Dar, or before. It seems to be just a mild common cold thing, but you never know. It's Sunday tomorrow, and a lie-in would normally be on the cards, but one of us has to get up to take guests to catch a bus at 05:00. Given the work Adia's done today, I think it should be me.
1/6/2011 - Geological Fascination.
The ride to Dar always starts me thinking about the geology of Tanzania. It's a country with a wealth of geological features. Some really old rocks - the Tanzanian Craton that underlies the Serengetti and the Lake Victoria region; the Rift Valley - where continental plates are separating; active and extinct volcanoes; evidence of the ancient collision of continental plates - the Pare and Usambara mountains in the north east. Also there's much more to the south that I know nothing about yet.
You drive along the feet of the Pare and Usambara mountains on to way to Dar (There's a May 31 post I did earlier today describing a visit we just made there.) They were formed when two ancient continents collided about 2 billion years ago, with the one now at the east riding up over the other. They might have been like the Alps or the Himalayas at one time, but by now they are considerably worn down. Though there are still some quite impressive cliffs and bluffs over 2000m high.
I was out walking this morning and picked up a few stones from among the road-stone of the road through our village. The first piece is typical local volcanic stuff. It looks like it was molten or semi-molten when it was ejected by Mt Meru, and it cooled slowly enough so that there is some evidence of crystallization inside it.
The second picture shows fragments from two pieces of stone. At the bottom are two pieces of metamorphic rock that could be a remnant of the rocks that were there before the volcano broke through. It is composed mostly of crystals of what I believe is Tsavorite - a green form of Garnet. The bottom right piece is I think a single crystal, about 9mm long from the same stone, but too flawed to be of any use.
The piece at the top looks to have everything but the kitchen sink in it. This could be the result of metamorphic rock dissolving in lava and then recrystallizing - just a guess.
Music links are now updated for June.
britseyeview.com version 3.x|
Squash This List
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.
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
, 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
- 28/6/2011 - Harrogate.
- 26/6/2011 - Tourists.
- 24/6/2011 - On Our Way.
- 23/6/2011 - Ten, Nine, Eight ....
- 20/6/2011 - Counting Down.
- 17/6/2011 - The Times They Have A'Changed.
- 16/6/2011 - On-Line Shopping Hell.
- 14/6/2011 - Mea Culpa.
- 11/6/2011 - Roadworks, the Visa, and Software.
- 8/6/2011 - Comparisons.
- 4/6/2011 - Time Flies.
- 1/6/2011 - Geological Fascination.
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.
60 Years Ago - Hits of the Month.
50 Years Ago - Hits of the Month.
40 Years Ago - Hits of the Month.
30 Years Ago - Hits of the Month.
20 Years Ago - Hits of the Month.
10 Years Ago - Hits of the Month.