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November 2011 in Tanzania through the eyes of an Englishman

The Adia's Place kitchen team.

29/11/2011 - Expansion.

Adia's mum has recruited us a new helper from Kagera - Zugura. She arrived on the bus yesterday, coincidentally escorting another shipment of senani. Some quantity of the latter was sold in town today after Adia had done an airport run to deliver the remaining weekend guests. They are quite tasty - the grasshoppers that is, can't speak for the guests.

Actually the expansion title is a bit spurious, as Adia has been employing one of the village women to help with the general cleaning, and occasionally with cooking, so there's a winner, and a loser, and the Kagera Mafia prevail.

I've just been down to the kennels with the new girl and Tuma to do the ritual introduction. It was feeding time, which is the ideal opportunity. Sigi had to bark at her of course, Hansel growled a little, and Gretel watched her carefully, but since Tuma and I were both there, the situation seemed to be generally understood. Zugura took the food to each of them, and there was no trouble.

They get fed once a day, apart from the occasional treat, and they get through a pretty enormous bowl of food - a kind of gruel with protein and starch, and meat bones and meat, the sort that humans decline to eat.

We have more guests tonight, just for one night we think - this time Kenyans. We need to establish connections with Nairobi in the same way as we have been doing for Kampala. As far as I can tell, it probably won't be long before the place is full most of the time. We just have to focus hard on maintaining the pleasant environment, providing an excellent level of service, while at the same time containing costs. Sounds familiar?

Happy Plants.

24/11/2011 - A Follow-Up.

In my last post I was slagging off the local water authority. Subsequently, Adia got a bit of gossip that put a different perspective on that situation. She talked to the man who comes to read our water meter.

He said that there was no pressing shortage of water, but the authority had had a couple of major pumps out of commission for repairs or maintenance. The reason we had been starved of water for such long periods was that the man there who knew how to go about rationing had retired. Nobody there knew how to do it! He has been called back from retirement to train the person or people who took over his role. Sure enough, we've had water at more regular intervals since, so I hope the training sticks.

I don't know whether this should improve my opinion of the water authority or not. At least they have some water even if they are not organized.

The cat Two seems to be getting used to the dogs. She was outdoors for some time last night, and eventually got back into the house through our bathroom window, which involved leaving the safety of the veranda and going round to the back of the house, and a considerable leap. Cali can't do that sort of thing any more. She's getting to be an old lady, but the dogs ignore her anyway, so she is still queen of the night.

It's the Senani (fried or smoked grasshoppers or locusts or something in between) season again, and Adia got the first shipment from her mum in Bukoba yesterday. One of her regular customers bought half of them the same evening, which I would think indicates that she's selling them too cheaply. I don't think he's reselling them - just an addict. It's only the beginning of the season so the price should be at premium level. She's out now selling them in town, and I would not be surprised if they are all gone today. I hope she has kept a few for us! Yes, I'm an addict now too.

Pulling a cable onshore.

Various water receptacles.

18/11/2011 - Expectations.

I noticed the picture in some news article. It's actually from Liberia on the African west coast, but that probably makes no difference. The men are pulling a fibre-optic cable out of the sea, and the article's main focus was on how this would revolutionize Internet connection speeds and costs for that country.

We got our undersea cable completed in July 2010, but there's still no extension of it from Dar-es-Salaam to Arusha. One would think that such overland work between major cities would have been undertaken once the undersea project was a done deal, and the undersea work had got under way. But no. The undersea cables are usually funded by grants from the EEC or USA or China or wherever. But the grants assume that the governments of the connected countries will make their own arrangements for internal distribution.

Maybe the money for such work was earmarked at some point, but if it was, it seems to have got lost. Such connections as are available are provided by the mobile phone companies, who probably use their microwave data backbones for the purpose. TTCL, the national telecommunications provider, says that a fibre optic connection is being installed, but seems unable to say when it might be finished. That's the last 600km problem. After that of course there's the last kilometre problem, which could well take as long again. So Liberia, don't hold your breath.

Our other pressing infrastructure problem at present is water supply. Yesterday it had been two weeks since the mains water supply had been last turned on. Last night we got some - let's not go into how - and our tanks are now full. While they were empty I had done some work to make transfer between the new 5000L tank and the older 3000L tank more convenient. To get the last 1000L out of the big tank to the smaller tank, from where it could be pumped to the header tanks, we had been reduced to a bucket-brigade. None of us

could suck hard and long enough to establish a syphon to prime the pump once the water got below a certain level. But after that I had the opportunity to fit a tank connector and a gate valve close to its bottom. Now next time we get to needing the water from the 5000L tank I can just pump it out through there - no sweat. The tanks accumulate silt, so we also took the opportunity to clean them out.

So we're reasonably OK - we have a good deal of storage capacity. But lots of people here just have a barrel or a few 20L paint buckets to store water. When the mains supply is off for two weeks they are quickly in a situation where they have to collect water from streams that can be quite badly polluted, and quite some distance away. This you should note is in a city that has a large rain-making mountain right next door. I'm sure it is a storage capacity problem on the part of the water authority, rather than an absolute shortage of water in the area. And the water is not free - you have to pay for it by the cubic metre. So it's the usual catch 22. The politicians won't allow the water price to go up because they believe that will cost them votes. So the water authority can't do the work that is required to improve the supply. So the politicians are despised because they can't make basic services work. So the politicians are even more afraid of losing votes, and everyone is locked into a situation of progressive deterioration.

A small disaster.

15/11/2011 - A Comedy of Errors.

I had asked our gardener/gatekeeper/domestic help Tuma to cut back the passion fruit vine that had grown across the overhead cable that takes power from the incoming supply to the South House.

He's been here long enough to know where the cable runs, and has trimmed the vine before, but obviously his mind was elsewhere, since he proceeded to attack the offending part of the vine with a panga (machette). Of course he hit and partially severed the cable. There had been a similar incident maybe a year back when one of his predecessors did the same thing, so I already had one joint in the cable. Two was more that I was prepared to tolerate, so I had to replace a 10m length of it that ran though the roof-space of the main building, and install a junction box on the compound outer wall. Fortunately our pre-paid meter was down close to zero, so I was able to do a repair the same day. But unfortunately, having been up in that part of the roof space many many times without incident, that day I lost my balance, and put a foot through the ceiling. My only excuse is that it was extremely hot up there at the time.

Anyway, yesterday our roofer and ceiling man Spemba came to patch it, and now we are awaiting an appointment with the decorator to make good the patch. I'm useless at that sort of thing. That might not be as quick, he is reasonably priced and quite good, so he's in demand.

Tuma is a good helper, so against Adia's better judgement I am not going to penalize him. I am sure from his reaction after the event that he realizes that his screw-up was not only inconvenient and a good deal of work to fix, but also expensive. We have a good team work-wise at the moment though, and with the growing frequency of guests we need it to stay that way.

I talked to Harry about the royals visit. Apparently the drivers were Tanzanian government people - sad but true.

We had two of our regulars as guests last night. They had come to Arusha to defend their respective MA theses, and sat at ESAMI all day today awaiting their turn. At the end of the day they were told that their papers had not turned up, and that they should come back on Friday. Such arrogance and incompetence from the 'academics' - they must have been in a position to tell them that earlier in the day instead of leaving them there to sweat for eight hours.

Pancake with honey and lemon.

10/11/2011 - Guests and Visitors.

The current batch of guests depart on Saturday, and then the place will be deserted again, though there are some signs of further interest. Adia, Shadi, and Tuma could probably do with a break. They've been working 06:30 - 23:00 for the last couple of weeks.

Adia has spoiled the guests rotten. When I was a lad you used to get pancakes once a year on Shrove Tuesday - AKA 'Pancake Day'. But the guests have had them for breakfast at least three times in two weeks or whatever. They love them. I should try to extract a recipe from Adia, but she tends to be a bit secretive about her cooking - trade secret you know.

The visitors were Charles and Camilla. They zoomed in and out of Arusha to do the local National Park yesterday. Harry was quietly smug - he got to provide the transport. They used his best black Toyota VX from the airport to the park gate, and one of his Land Cruiser safari wagons for the park ride. Then they were whisked straight back to the airport. They had apparently 'done' Zanzibar the day before.

I don't know where they were going after. I haven't spoken to Harry about it since, so I also don't know whether he put on is chauffeurs uniform and did the honors.

I got to a milestone in my effort on D programming today. I'm trying to act as project lead in getting together a set of library modules to access the popular database systems, and I posted a draft version of an interface for MySQL today. I don't know whether it will fly. If it does it will only be after an extended process of discussion, criticism, and review. It is by no means an end-point. There's a massive amount to do. And there are lots of things that I don't know!

Baby mangoes.

6/11/2011 - Life Speeds By.

When you're young, It seems you spend forever waiting for something to happen. But when you get old, life flies by. That being when you could do with it to go more slowly because you don't have too much of it left.

Remember that while you are young, and fill your time with something constructive rather than just waiting. Life is precious, and you should use every moment of it! I've been busy, but it is pretty obscure work, and you probably won't be interested. I'll get to a more detailed account when I'm closer to finished.

We had a slightly interesting event yesterday. As I've told you, we have three tortoises living in the compound. I now have reason to believe that they comprise two boys and a girl. Sexing tortoises is one of those specialist jobs - our vet had no idea. But now I have some evidence. The smallest of the bunch - Mini - was having it off on the lawn with the largest - Maxi - who I guess will now have to be called Maxie.

OK, you're wondering. Well, it's pretty much like for other creatures, the male climbs on the back of the female, and you can be quite sure of what's going on from the facial expressions. Mini kept opening his mouth wide like "give it to me girl, I'm coming". Maxie, for her part, seemed relatively unmoved. Plus ├ža change, plus le meme chose.

I think two boys and a girl because Mo and Mini both have quite characteristically patterned shells, while Maxie has quite a drab appearance - not an unusual male/female distinction in the animal domain. Of course, she could be a different species.

We still have a full house of guests - the current bunch are here until next Saturday. Adia is now fully familiar with the concept of having a job, and is working very hard running round after all of them, cooking, and generally ensuring that everything gets done. In income terms certainly, and also I think in terms of job satisfaction, it beats the hell out of sitting behind a desk in the regional attorney general's office eight hours a day with nothing to do. That is assuming of course that you can get a job there. You have to know someone even to get to that point. version 3.x
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currently covering 1942 - 1975.

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What is BEV?

Brits Eye View is the personal blog of a 69 year old Englishman - Steve Teale, started in January 2003. It's currently about life in Arusha (Tanzania), and previously in Bangalore, Manhattan, and the Bronx. It deals with life in general, building a house, food and drink, computer programming, opinion on current affairs, 20th century history, and so on. It may give you some insight into what life is like in 'the third world', or encourage you to visit Tanzania.

I started playing with it in January 2003, when I was living in Manhattan. At the time I felt I was going nowhere, and exposing the details of my life could be no worse than not. Almost immediately I changed partners, and quickly recognized that while I might be prepared to live in a goldfish bowl, other's weren't.

The same year I lost my job - recession, exhausted my NY State unemployment benefits, and got a job in India. Consequently a large proportion of BEV was written in Bangalore. India was OK, but I could not see what I was going to do there when I retired.

This uncertainty was resolved when I met my current partner Adia in 2006. She was a Tanzanian, studying law in India, so I came Tanzania in 2007. Here we have built a house, and made new friends. The rest, you can read on BEV.

At about the same time I had the ridiculous idea of extending BEV backwards to cover the years 1942 to 2002. So far I have got to 1975. For the years 2003 - 2011, choose a year/month from the tool bar. For 1942 - 1975, choose a year.

Visiting Tanzania?

Adia's Place now has On-Line Booking. Please feel free to check it out. It may not be 100% yet, but if you get a confirmation email then it's a safe bet that we got your booking.

In the short term we will re-confirm.

If you have done all the usual tourist destinations, then make a leap and discover Africa! Come and visit Arusha, Tanzania.

You might be able to stay at - a great centre for safaris to the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Kilimanjaro, and of course our own pet volcano, Mount Meru.

Please feel free to contact us. We can tell you about hotels, facilities, prices of basics, etc.

We now have very pleasant bed and breakfast rooms available at $20 per night. The Old Cottage and the South House are also available for longer term visitors.

Studying in Arusha?

Some of the major study centres in Arusha are at Njiro. There, you'll find the Arusha Institute of Accountancy, ESAMI, and TRAPCA.

If you are not happy with the accommodation there, you are only a 5 minute drive from - a secure haven of tranquillity with African food like your mother cooked for you. Price is competitive with the on-campus accommodation.

Just call Adia - 0762 442888 - and she'll come and get you and show you her place. You won't regret it!

This Month's Posts

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Exchange Rates.

BEV Software Blog.

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

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

Moods of Meru.

Mt Meru


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