November 2007 in Tanzania through the eyes of an Englishman

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Kilimanjaro sans cloud.

Cement frenzy.

An impression of size.

Shake it baby.
30/11/2007 - Surveyed

We have made some further little steps. I am now officially volunteered to work with the UCC, and the appropriate papers have been sent to Dar. This has not been a tremendously active service so far, since they have not yet asked me to do anything. Hopefully it will be enough to get me a residence permit.

Hamisi, our friend from the municipality came one evening after work with his crew and surveyed the plot, so it now has the official numbered concrete corner markers. He told me the area calculated by the computerized theodolite, which I promptly forgot, though I'm pretty sure it was around 1450 square meters. I've tried to give an impression of the size in the picture, taken from the top (western) end of the plot. The white tee shirt on the left (north) corner is Adia, and the right corner is just behind where Potter is parked. The hedge and tree are the eastern edge.

There is a shortage of cement in Tanzania at present. There are only two cement works in the country, and one of them is out for serious maintenance, so I'm guessing the other is working flat out. When a truck arrives at Nane Nane, just up the Njiro road from us, its contents vanish at an amazing rate. To get any, you have to pay in advance and then wait up to three weeks. We have bought 30 bags so the builder can get started on a wall around the plot. It should be available next week.

The traditional dance team were one of the participants in a kind of talent competition that was held at Via Via last Sunday. For my money they were easily the most interesting 'turn', with a lot of rather vigorous tit shaking by the girls (I imagine that at some time in the past it would have been executed bare-breasted, but on this occasion I was SOL), and some spectacular leaping about by the guys. The rest were mainly two, three or four man rap/hip-hop groups, who of course I could not understand, though to be fair, Adia couldn't understand them either. I don't know who won.

What I want to build on the plot is something like what I've drawn below. The top of this plan is actually west - just to be awkward - and the idea will be to build the big open plan living/kitchen area and the master bedroom suite first, so we have somewhere to live, and then to add the bedroom wing later. It will be single storey - we have the space. The living area will have a largely glass wall facing on to a veranda/patio, and with a view of Meru. The corridor past the bedrooms will probably also be glass faced, and that is where you will be able to see Kilimanjaro from.

To get the span I want for the living area and kitchen, I'll have to introduce our builder to prefabricated roof trusses, which I'll probably have to build myself. This should not be too taxing though, since the span I'm after is quite modest by truss standards, there is no requirement for snow load, and the roofing material will be simple 25 gauge galvanized corrugated steel sheet which is quite light.

Adia signing on the dotted line.
23/11/2007 - Adia a landowner

The plot deed (pardon the pun) was done today. Three transactions in all. Number one, a small plot that was part of the plot we wanted was sold back to our vendors in consideration of a plot of the same size further up the road. Number two, purchase of about half of the plot we wanted that had previously been sold, and whose owners had decided to get rid. Number three, purchase of the reconstituted other half. Nobody rocked the boat, and everybody appeared to be happy with the transactions.

Everybody and his dog has to sign the contract for sale of original village land. In this case it was the two sons of the family, Petro and Mika, both of whom were parting with parts of the land allotted to them by their father. Then the mother, affectionately known as Koko (grandmother), and finally baba, the father and senior member of the family. The contract was witnessed by yours truly, and by our friend Msafiri who had found the plot for us in the first place. Our attorney, Nelson Merinyo, presided.
Adia wants us to employ Msafiri in some capacity as and when it is clear that we have sufficient income. He is a really agreeable guy who knows everyone and seems to know something about everything. We think he deserves better than his current job as a handyman and gardener. Maybe we'll start something like a British style estate agency - he'd be great for that.

I had forgotten to mention that my application for a retirement residence permit was bounced by the Director of Immigration in Dar. One of the items I had to submit with my application was a resume, and I have a sneaky suspicion that this may have been my undoing. The word now is that I should do some voluntary work for a time, and then when I retire from that, I will get the retirement permit. Or in other words, we're not having somebody with your qualifications swanning about idle in a country that needs technical expertise. Ah well, I guess that's reasonable, and I it will keep me on my toes. I don't know what I'll be doing yet, but the man at immigration put me in touch with the manager of the UCC (University Computing Centre), a company that's a wholly owned subsidiary of the University of Dar es Salaam. He sent my resume to Dar, and they've given the go-ahead. I am supposed to see him again tomorrow, presumably to stitch something up.

The casualty.

Kilimanjaro from the plot.
21/11/2007 - Revision

First let me apologize to the Arusha police. They were there within ten minutes, and it was them that got Tondi to hospital promptly. This, for me, considerably reduces the credibility of the accusations of collusion. Second, the numbers were too high, there were probably around ten bandits. Reports of their armament varied. Some said all had guns, and some that there was only one gunman, and the rest had pangas. Typical of eye witness reports from almost any event.

Tondi got two slugs in the knee, and there was significant bone damage. I hope they have fixed him up so he will walk OK again. A large number of visitors and newspaper reporters turned up yesterday afternoon to visit him, including me and Adia. He seemed quite cheerful, but it's my guess that he had an uncomfortable night last night as the medication was cut back, stuck in a more-or-less fixed position with his leg in traction, and a shattered bone. Fortunately - if you can say that - the bone protected his blood vessels so he did not lose a great deal of blood.

We spent today working ourselves up to the plot transaction, which involved a further visit to the land itself, and a lot of waiting around and talking on Adia's part. I had suspected that you might be able to see Kilimanjaro from the plot on a clear day (Kilimanjaro is very shy about appearances, and is usually hidden by cloud), and today proved me right. You can see part of the summit just to the left of the red and white striped radio mast, and at the right hand end of the cloud bank. The glaciers at the top and the haze between me and it make it a little difficult to distinguish from the cloud, but to the brits eye it was clearly recognizable. Mike, one of the guys we are dealing with said it would be clearer as the sun set, but we did not wait around to see.

As a matter of principle I'd like to go to the pub tonight, but I don't know that we will make it. It was a pretty tiring day, and Adia has visitors, so the solidarity visit might have to wait until tomorrow.

My local, Njiro Resort.
20/11/2007 - Wild West in the 'Geneva of Africa'

I am probably going off half cocked before I know all the facts. You must forgive me for that, but I do feel rather strongly about this subject right now.

Last night, at about eight o'clock in the evening my local suburban pub, and the landlord's house across the road, was raided by a gang of about 30 men armed with pangas and guns. The customers were frisked and relieved of their money, mobile phones, and anything else of value, and the bar till was emptied. The landlord Tondi was just emerging from his home and crossing to the bar. He offered some resistance, and was shot in the leg for his trouble. He is now in hospital.

Apparently this is quite common in the area, but the local law enforcement authorities don't seem to be too bothered about it, they are never in evidence on patrol. The local view is that they are all busy guarding government buildings and politicians. Worse still, there's a widely held view among the populace that they are in collusion with the criminals. And if you think about it, a gang that size that was not leaking information about their exploits would be quite something, so you'd expect the police to know something. As it was, the police turned up about two hours after the event last night.

I had been there earlier in the evening with Adia, but having had something of a skinfull the previous day it was jut a social pop-in for a quick one, and in any case I'm usually gone before that hour. I feel certain lack of solidarity in not having been there at the time, though I am glad to still have my wallet, phone, and camera.

It will be a sorry pass if it reaches the point where we have to have a security fence and armed guards around our local pub.

Plot with a view.

African haidressing salon.

Just a normal hill.
15/11/2007 - Possible Progress

At the risk of jinxing the process, I'll cross my fingers and say that we may have found a plot that actually has an owner who is able to sell it. Of course, it's not quite that simple. We have to buy two adjacent plots from two owners, and join them together. The lawyer we've been talking to reckons it should be OK - we will see.

The plot is to the west of the areas where we'd previously been looking. It's in an area that I'd discounted before because I was told, and agreed, that it could have access problems during the rainy season. There is a stream that runs north/south, and the road crosses its valley in quite a pronounced dip. Also, most of the access roads for the houses in the area have no stone in them and will turn to mud at the drop of a hat. However, they have now finished the work on the road that I had previously noted, and the road across the dip appears to be quite robust. Also it's clear that the municipality is committed to maintaining it, so we looked at the area again.

Our amateur estate agent Msafiri found a plot there and took us to see it. As it was it was too small, only about 30m square. But the guy who was selling it had previously sold an adjacent plot of land to someone else, and the someone else was willing to sell. The two together would make a plot about 70m by 30m, which is a pretty decent size, more than half an acre, and the combined asking price was pretty good. It has a gentle slope for drainage, and a power cable lane over the adjoining land, which means nobody can build anything right behind it. It also has the right kind of soil for foundations - some areas have a black volcanic soil that has to be dug out and replaced before you can build on it, but this is plain old brown dirt, which is OK. As you can see, it has a rather pleasant outlook toward Ms Meru, and as a clincher, it is quite close to the maintained road, close enough so it won't cost an arm and a leg to improve the access road. We like it and will go for it unless suitable due diligence, and the legal process, turn up anything against it.

It is village land, so the procedure for buying it is somewhat more complicated than if you bought a numbered plot that had already been surveyed by the municipality. You have to check with the village chairperson that the land has not been earmarked for some development purpose, and that its owners claim to it is valid. Then you have to enter into a contract (in our case it will be contracts) with the vendor. Then you have to get the Ward Executive Officer to issue a title deed, and then you get it surveyed by the municipality. There's plenty that can go wrong, so I'll believe it when I have all the bits of paper in my hand, and I am prepared to be disappointed.

Distance wise, it is only maybe two or three minutes drive further than the area in Njiro B block that we'd been scouring before. So in addition to its other features, it's still quite close to what seems to have become my adopted local pub - Njiro Resort. This is not what you'd instantly recognize as an English country pub, but it has all the same attributes. There are a set of regular customers, a landlord - Tondi - who knows everybody in the area, food if you want it, and an appropriate supply of beer and other beverages. I have been made very welcome there in a lot less time than it would have taken to get my feet under the table in its English equivalent. Congregating time is from about 18:30 to 19:30, and you will meet accountants, administrators from the UN, builders, other businessmen, their wives, and of course, mine host. Adia came with me a couple of times this last week, and seems to get on with the crowd quite well. You can get eggs at the pub too, since Tondi also has about 1000 laying chickens tucked away somewhere.

There's a hairdressing salon behind the pub that's also owned by Tondi, but slightly further along the road there is a hairdressing establishment of the more indigenous African variety where Adia went to get her hair braided the other day. It consists of a chair and a mat under a tree. However, it is very popular and you really need to have an appointment if you want to avoid hanging around waiting for a couple of hours. The woman does a good job.

The hill - visible from the hairdressing site - that looks like a normal (Gaussian) distribution is one of several in the area that have a somewhat similar shape. They may be related to the volcano. Possibly at some distant time it threw up jets of debris that fell at a distance as if you had poured sand through a small hole onto a flat surface. If you did that I fancy you'd get a heap of the same shape. Next time I meet a geologist I must ask about them.

The short rains appear to have just about started. It has rained at some point every day for several days now. When it clouds over at this height, it gets a good deal cooler, but to compensate, when the sun comes out it's also more humid, so the sunny spells feel very hot. It's still quite doable though, not like Dar, where I would melt.
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