May 2009 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.
The BEV Retrospective - 1942/2002.

There was life before 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.

The dogs' breakfast.
31/5/2009 - Already.

Before you know it, it's the end of another month. However, there was some progress. Today, two lots of people came to look at the small house. I'll tell you about the outcome as soon as I know.

Sigi is still scratching himself to death. We took him to the vet again, and he is now on Prednislone tablets for 15 days, because the vet thinks it is an allergy that needs some immediate relief. I take these myself sometimes if my nose gets bad, so I know they can be effective, but they are not something you can take indefinitely. On the continuing subject of the dogs, Adia recently bought the wrong flour for making their morning porridge. You'd have thought this might cause some consternation, but no. It went down the same hole just as quickly as the previous version. So at the moment, they're on sorghum porridge as opposed to millet. Adia actually tried maize flour one day, and that went the same way. They are truly omnivorous.

On the software front, I got my D implementation of ODBC working with SQL Express 2005 and MySQL 5.1, at least to some extent. I don't know that anyone else cares, but there you go. See you in June.
28/5/2009 - A Miscellany.

I have not mentioned it before, since it's one of those sensitive topics, but I have to say that the behaviour of the mullah of our local mosque is a great irritation to me and others.

This is a new mosque, situated not much more than a stone's throw from Tondi's bar. It was not there when we came to the area. And as far as many of the non-muslim population in its vicinity were concerned, it came as a complete surprise. Outwardly in the first place, it looked like someone was building another large house in a residential area. Then, maybe December last year, they turned on their public address system.

Now when I was living in India, there was a mosque not far away, and I didn't have any great problem with it. They would do the call to prayer at five in the morning, or maybe there it was later. If you were awake you could hear it clearly, but it was quite well done - you almost got to know the 'tune' after some time. Once it was finished, that was it - all you had to hear.

But here, no! It's at five in the morning, and it is a completely tuneless dirge. Often it's so bad that it makes the local dogs howl. As if that were not bad enough, when he's finished the call to prayer, he goes on and broadcasts the whole of the succeeding events over the PA system, so that at five in the morning you are subjected to this process for about half an hour.

Now I'll survive, it's a distant irritation, but the local people who have lived there for years just don't get any sleep after five. Some of them have told me quite seriously that they are looking to move, but who is going to buy their house with that 'feature'.

The whole thing reinforces my views about religion. As I understand it Mohammed was quite clear in his Koran that you should not let your religious practices be a nuisance to others. I'm sure he envisaged the call to prayer being a single man climbing up a small tower or to the highest point on the building to briefly remind the people in the immediate vicinity that it was time for their observances - a single man's small voice. If he was truly a prophet, one who was to make the 'final judgement' on the Judeo/Christian heritage, then he would have known that at some time in the future there would be PA systems, and he would have made suitable provision in his instructions. I don't think the current practice is it!

The other depressing thing about it, to me, is that it is the same damn thing every day. I can not accommodate to the idea that one's life should not be evolutionary. Getting up every day at five and repeating the same old thing is a bit like one of the traditional definitions of madness - doing the same thing over and over in the expectation that it might produce some different result.

In the meantime there is some change, and in a pleasant form. For the last couple of weeks the pound has been rising against the dollar in a way that looks like someone drew a straight line and then drew a few dots on either side to make it look more random. From a low of close to $1.30, it has now crept up to $1.6. This is a very useful increment for me. Of course, now I have mentioned it, it will stop!

Today, I more or less got back my software back to the state that it was in before the hard disk crash. I also had another go at removing the last of Gretel's stitches. Most of them have come out now, there are just a couple of holdouts. She's good about it though, so it's not a problem. Today also, it was one of the coldest I can remember while I have been in Africa. When I went to Tondi's this evening I regretted not wearing a sweater. It's just a function of the altitude. If the wind is blowing off Kilimanjaro, and there is a long spell of overcast it can cool down quite dramatically.
25/5/2009 - Forms of Happiness.

When I got back from the pub tonight, Adia told me how Sigi eats his evening meal.

The evening meal contains meat. It may not be wonderful meat. Any part of a cow that's unlikely to be sold for human consumption qualifies. Of course, the dogs don't care. If it is protein, it works for them. What it consists of is a kind of thick protein-rich stew that is based on a couple of local dog foods. Heaven knows what is in it, but the dogs like it. The added incentive is the meat!

When Sigi gets his quite large bowl full, he takes a deep breath, then sticks his snout in down to the bottom of the bowl to find the meat. You never know, somebody else may come and eat it if I don't get it first. When he has eaten he has a snout covered with stew that he can't reach with his tongue. Not a pretty sight, but there you go.

I'm pleased to see that the girl Mwajuma is eating with similar enthusiasm, though possibly less. I think she has eaten everything we have put in front of her so far, familiar or otherwise. That acceptance is not something I achieved until much later in life. She has put on a little weight, so we will have to watch it. Making her overweight is not a favour. Adia called her grandmother tonight so they could chat, and she came back positively beaming - a happy camper I think.

The current team seems to work very well. Mwajuma gets on with the Masai Paulo, and vice versa, and Adia and I are comfortable with both of them. I hope we can keep it all together.

I have more or less got back to where I was before the disk drive crash, so I can start to concentrate on other stuff again - forms of happiness.
22/5/2009 - Fool Me Twice!

After the length of time I have been using computers, I should know better. A week or two ago my laptop made an unpleasant noise a couple of times. To be fair, it has not done it again since. Maybe a bit of debris got stuck in the fan.

However, I dusted off one of the desktop computers that we were given as replacements for the ones I brought from India that got stolen. I put my favourite software tools on there, and copied over the things that are of importance to me. So last night, what happened - it wouldn't start.

I've been working on something on it for over a week, but lulled into a sense of security by having the two computers, I neglected to do the backup in the opposite direction, or to a CD. So I shall have to do it all over again. Fortunately I have a pretty good understanding of how I did it, and can probably reproduce it quite quickly. But I feel such a fool.

Last night also, we felt cheated by the fact that the TV channel that has been showing American Idol failed to show the actual final. It showed the long and tedious results programme, but that was not what we really wanted to see.

I had been backing Adam for some time, but had realized over the last couple of weeks that Chris was a dark horse that was coming from behind. I think they are both great, and I'm sure many of this years bunch will do very well.

Simple pleasures.
20/5/2009 - Head Down.

I have been refurbishing some components of the software I'm working on, and this has taken much more effort than I expected. Alternating with this I have been making the box things to go at the top of the windows in the small house to hold the curtain rod and conceal the rings and such. They're tedious things to make, but the three of them are finished now. I just have to get some half inch galvanised pipe to use for the rods.

We are more or less through to the end of our financial month now, with a bit to spare. When it's pay day we'll be able to get the rest of the things to finish off the partial furnishing, and then hopefully sometime in June we'll find a tenant.

I have made some leaflets describing it, with a picture. I resuscitated my Epson C58 ink jet printer. It had been sitting in a box for over a year since we moved into the compound. Miraculously it worked first time - I didn't even have to clean the heads. I have to congratulate the engineers at Epson for a fine piece of print-head design. I shall print out some copies as soon as I have finished this.

Our diet here is quite limited. You can't get the range of foodstuffs even that we could get in India, and that was pretty limited compared to a western supermarket. But often I get the greatest pleasure from really simple things. My breakfast
yesterday, shown in the picture, was an example. Home made mango and passion fruit juice, and toast with a layer of locally made peanut butter followed by a layer of wild bee honey from another part of Tanzania. Delicious!

Majuma grating a coconut.

Arusha May weather.
14/5/2009 - The New Girl, Gretel's Op, Etc.

The girl, Mwajuma, has been with us for several days. In the picture she is grating a coconut in the traditional way. There's a tool with a flat piece that you sit on with an arm extending from it with a scraper on the end. Like many African utensils, it is used on the floor. Usually she looks less glum, smiles a lot, and sings to herself while she is working. She told Adia that the night before she came, she didn't sleep a wink as she was so excited at the idea of living at a mzungu's house.

She has adapted to the dogs after being terrified of Hansel in the first place. This was not an unreasonable sentiment, since he does tend to be a bit aggressive to strangers, and when he stands up he could easily put his paws on her shoulders. However, she has joined in the feeding process with Paulo, and is now fully accepted.

Adia has given her a set of duties that she seems to perform quite happily. After that there's a substantial part of the day when she has free time. She spends that talking with Paulo, or killing weeds in the yard, or watering things.

Gretel was duly fixed last Friday. We took her in the morning. Hansel jumped in the car too and was resistant to being removed, so we all went, Sigi is by a long chalk the best behaved of the bunch in the car. He's been for a ride several times and has never puked like the other two did when they were puppies.

We picked her up at three thirty with the lamp shade thing round her neck, and still pretty groggy. The vet had said not even bother offering her food that day. Of course she was offered, but the vet was right, and she declined. However she made a quick recovery. The lampshade came off Tuesday evening, and she just took a quick sniff at the wound site, and has since left it alone, so I guess it must be comfortable.

The showery weather has continued, though without any further torrential rain. But there's often a heavy overcast, and then of course at our altitude, it gets quite cool. It suits the plant though. The corn is now up to waist height, and the beans are thriving.

I have finished the built-in wardrobe in the bedroom of the small house, and yesterday afternoon I sanded the parts of the bed that needed it. Adia and Majuma will clean it out today, then I will paint the cupboard, and varnish or French polish the exposed parts of the bed. And then as far as I can see, it is finished. We've got a fridge, so we now have to get the table and chairs, gas stove and mattress. Then we have to start a serious tenant hunt.
7/5/2009 - A New Helper.

Some things in Africa worry me and tend to make me keep my mouth shut. But if I do that, I am in some way being dishonest.

There's a Muslim guy who has been doing decoration work for us, and when he has no decoration work, he will come and do gardening. A couple of days ago he told Adia about a girl who was in a bad position, and suggested that we might take her on as a helper.

The story is that the girl is the illegitimate child of a single woman and a married man. The first bad thing that happened to her was that her father totally disowned her, so she was initially brought up by an impecunious mother. Then her mother died, and she was left with her grandmother, who is in her 80s and has no visible source of income. The grandmother could not cope. So when some other woman offered to take her in and to send her to school, she was sent there. That worked for some time, but then the woman's husband started to pressure the girl for sex when she was 14. The girl had the sense to tell the wife, and the wife felt she had no choice but to pass her on somewhere else. She went to the wife's younger sister. There she became virtually a slave - a domestic servant with no wages, and bad conditions.

The girl ran away back to her grandmother, and that's where our decorator came across her case.

Adia went with the decorator to see the grandmother. The grandmother interrogated Adia, and then concluded that the best thing she could do was to send the girl to us.

At this point I do not have a clear understanding of what we are offering. If it's down to me, I'd be inclined to treat her as a surrogate daughter, and try to give her some sort of boost after a bad start in life. She seems personable, straightforward and honest, but you can rarely tell from first impressions.

But if she's going to come to us and be treated like a family member, then she'll have to work like one - no bullshit. Adia and I don't have jobs, but we work a solid day, even if I'm doing things that Adia can't see will go anywhere. She will get what a kid in the west would consider to be pocket money. She'll have a room to sleep in as opposed to an arbitrary bit of floor. She will get fed as well as we can manage, which will probably be a lot better than she's been getting recently, or possibly ever. She will also learn some new stuff, including possibly some English.

But it's child labour - indentured servitude - theft of a child - verging on slavery. However, it's thoroughly African - par for the course here, so what should my attitude be. On this I want some feedback from the newsgroup.

On a different topic, Gretel has an appointment to go in to the vet tomorrow to get fixed. I have told her, but I don't think she understood. I feel like a traitor, but I think it has to be done. It won't go well with Hansel if we take her away in Potter by herself, or rather with Sigi, as he has to go back too. So I guess everyone will have to go, which will be a really exciting outing!

The corn and beans where the women have finished weeding.

The dogs on the lawn.

And the lawn itself.

6/5/2009 - Some Pictures.

Lots of rain again now - it was at it on and off all day yesterday and all night. Things are growing fast as you can see. So while the soil is good and damp, I have transplanted the broccoli seedlings. Gretel was watching with interest, so I will have to watch her. She saw me paying attention to the plants, and they could suffer for that.
3/5/2009 - An Introduction for New Readers.

Regular readers may skip this. Maybe it's just advertising!

OK, so it's possible that I may have readers from a different world, that of the open software movement. That being so, I'll insert a brief account of why I might possibly have anything to do with them.

Back in the late 60's, or maybe in 1970, I was working in some research lab that for some reason acquired an ASR33 teletype machine that communicated to a small mainframe computer in Manchester (the one in the UK). Although it was nothing to do with my job, I immediately developed an affinity for this machine. I could write programs in FORTRAN, or in Dartmouth Basic. I preferred FORTRAN. You'll notice 'for (int i = 0; i < n; i++)' in my code to this day - 'i' is an integer.

I managed to sustain this obsession as the department developed, and mostly by being devious, I managed to develop some understanding of PDP11 assembler, Z80 assembler, and Pascal. Eventually I became convinced that computer software was the way forward for me. I when I was offered early retirement from the nationalized industry for which I worked in 1982, and decided to try it out.

Some time later - say mid 80's, I read the K&R book, and became instantly addicted to the idea of C. Not long after, by complete accident, I got introduced to a guy in London called John Haggins, who had founded a company called Zortech (to keep it simple). He was selling a product called 'Zortech C', that happened to be written by a guy called Walter Bright, who lived close to Seattle.

Walter then proceeded to write the first C++ compiler for DOS and Windows 3.XX, and I did my best to write libraries that would introduce new users to the language. I did the tech support for Zortech C and C++ in the UK for a couple of years, so I do have some ground-level understanding of what compiler users need. Financially, I did quite well out of Zortech.

Zortech was bought by Symantec, who just wanted the compiler. So after that I made my living in the software industry for many years independent, or as a wage slave, until I retired. In the process, I moved from the UK to the US, and then to India. On the way, I discovered that Walter had written D.

My chaotic lifestyle has now led me to Tanzania, where I have spent a lot of time designing and building a house. Now I'm back to D. Maybe a bit rusty, but programming is like riding a bicycle. Once you've learned you don't forget. You do however, look at the new stuff, and think "why do I need that?" As I've said on the newsgroup, I find D a joy to use. But I think it is time that there was some stabilization. My current obsession is DCat, a web application server that I tried before in C++, and wrote a spec for. I have changed the spec some with hindsight. Redoing it in D really convinced me that D is a highly productive language. I never looked at the original code. I just went at it from scratch, and have been moving forward rapidly since.

The small house at May first.

Sigi at two months.
3/5/2009 - May.

Not that much to say. I've had my head down for a few days all hours god sends working on the DCat software stuff.

I have interrupted my practice of showing a picture of the big house at the beginning of the month. It has barely changed. The small house on the other hand is almost at the point where it can be rented out. It was looking even better until last night, when it rained heavily again, and muddy puppies took refuge under the awning close to the wall, painting it again with mud. Ah well! The paint is supposed to be washable.

I finally got a picture of Sigi when he was almost stationary and posing in a good puppy pose. He looks rather malevolent on this picture, but in fact we was in a very good mood. He is gradually learning not to bite you when you pet him and will now just play for the most part. He is two months old this weekend, and is already twice the size of the cat. And look at those paws - huge! I think he will be a big dog.

Everything is growing like crazy. I went to look at the corn and beans today for the first time in about a week, and they were transformed. One of the neighbour women is hoeing the plot today to try and give the beans an edge over the weeds. Everyone here is always glad to have a bit of extra income. Also, the grass by the big house patio got cut over the last few days, and now looks a little bit like a lawn, albeit very coarse grass. Tomorrow I must plant out the broccoli seedlings and trim back the sweet potato leaves before they overpower them and the lettuce seedlings.

We have several types of edible greens that grow in the compound. There's the Swiss chard that I grew from seed, the sweet potato leaves that don't have actual sweet potatoes, a variety of cassava that has edible leaves, and another plant that looks a bit cabbage like that has grown spontaneously and that Adia says we should keep and eat.

The new software pages have got me a few new readers recently. They must have dropped by in the course of visiting there. In fact one day last week I got my biggest number of hits ever in a day - three times the previous maximum number. I'm not going to say how many, as it's still an embarrassingly small number.

If you didn't see it, I updated my birthday entry to show the younger generations what the male body looks like at age 67 - scary! The leaf, by the way, is an edible cassava leaf, but close enough to the traditional thing.
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What is BEV?

Brits Eye View is an Englishman's six-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.

RFC - How About New alternate stuff in a right column?

Now that many people are likely using higher resolution screens than they did in 2003 when this blog was started, I'm considering adjusting the format to take up a little more real estate.

Please get on the newsgroup and let me know what you think.

For example, odd interesting quotes or things I've seen, or links to interesting sites. For example:

Political Correctness is a doctrine, fostered by a delusional, illogical minority, and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a turd by the clean end.

Or the content at:

Stronger pound - rises above $1.60