Manhattan seen across the Hudson river from New Jersey.New York panorama image

September 2012 in Tanzania through the eyes of an Englishman

Almost enclosed: The wall across the back of the plot.

Back wall.

Almost enclosed: Progress on the wall and gate at the front of the plot.

Front wall and gate.

30/9/2012 - Another Month Flown By.

The building pace has been frenzied - too frenzied for me. The trouble is that if you employ a supervising contractor like Innocent, his primary preoccupation is always getting the job done as soon as possible. That means paying his workers for fewer days, and thus pocketing more of the price that he quoted.

This conflicts with our interest in getting the work done properly, and at a pace that matches our flow of funds. So we are thinking that for future jobs, we will employ and supervise the fundis directly, and do the direction ourselves. Clearly there are dangers in this, in that I don't have a lot of experience. But I have reasonably sound engineering judgement, and I think the chances of me screwing up badly are less than those of botched up jobs done in a hurry when your back is turned.

I've been in the wars again. Fell off Kiki when Adia passed me then pulled over and stopped rather suddenly. I skidded on dust and grit. Didn't really hurt myself by falling off, but Kiki fell on my right toes, so I've been limping around for a week or more. Then in the course of the limping I trod on a stone the day before yesterday, and turned my ankle on the same leg. Working yesterday was very uncomfortable, which also seems to translate to very tiring. It's feeling a bit better today, so I shall attempt to get on with making shuttering to cast the gate posts.

Roofed: And also with all the window and door steelwork.


21/9/2012 - Lots of Progress.

It's all been happening since I last wrote. The roof sheets arrived as promised, and Spemba put them on the next day (the 17th), then put the ridge caps on the following day.

On Wednesday, Innocents lads started to excavate a trench for the back wall of the new development. On Thursday they finished that, lined it with suitable large stones, and prepared steelwork for its vertical posts, while Innocent fitted the door and window steelwork to the house. Today, it was all happening: the foundation concrete was poured on top of the stones, and the steelwork for the posts added at intervals, then sufficient courses of heavy blocks were laid on their sides to produce a level wall with minimum two courses.

The back wall construction: This took some careful watching, not least because the trench was wiggly, and not quite where it should have been.

The back wall construction.

The rate of expenditure is of course frightening. Adia will have to dig into the reserves to get the back wall finished, and then we will definitely have to pause to replenish the reserve level and accumulate funds for the next major step. That's going to be frustrating because when you've sniffed the drug of rapid progress, you want it to continue. Give me money - that's what I want!

There my however be happenings to compensate for that. Watch this space!

I have also become a car crash evidence photographer. Harry's drivers seem to crash his cars with distressing frequency, and each time it happens, it falls to me to go to the body shop that the wreck has been towed or otherwise transported to, and take pictures of the damage. It's a two way traffic however. Harry now seems to regard us as part of his extended family, and regularly turns up with meat, fish, Johnny Walker Black Label, and other comestibles, for which I could take quite a lot of photos.

Another basic phone: In some ways it would be nice to have a fancy smart phone, but...

Another basic phone.

15/9/2012 - Low Tech.

A couple of days go I dropped my Samsung flip phone in the bedroom onto the tiled floor - first thing in the morning butterfingers. That was the last straw, the hinge was already damaged from similar events. This time it was broken in two, and the printed-circuit cable from the main board to the screen snapped, so it is dead.

I thought about buying a smart Android phone, but concluded that since I'm spending quite a lot of time on a building site, something cheap and cheerful would be a better choice. I got another Samsung, assuming the software would be pretty much the same, but no, it was start from scratch. The following day I came off Kiki, and fell on the side where the phone was in my pocket. So it has scars already, but it's still working fine, which is encouraging, and kind of vindicates my choice.

Our roof sheets have arrived in Arusha again - I do hope they are the right colour this time. Quite likely Spemba will come and put them on tomorrow.

We have concluded that before we go further, after the roof is on, and the door and grills have been cemented in, we should fence or wall the plot. Adia has typical African views about domestic compound security, which are roughly that a home should be constructed along the lines of a prison or a US embassy (but not the one in Libya.) That will slow us down a bit because a wall or decently strong fence is expensive.

There's an adjoining house being built on the other side, where there's already a half grown thorn hedge between us and them. We're going to assume for the moment that they will fortify their other sides, in which case the thorn hedge and some chain-link fencing should suffice there. Our compound wall is at the other end, so there are two sides to be dealt with. Just how is TBD.

If there's enough money, I can also make a start on the electrical wiring. First though I need to make a site layout drawing, which currently exist only inside my head.

Completed drafting: This checker board pattern of woodwork will support the ceilings. The movable crawl board is for my electrical work.

Completed drafting.

11/9/2012 - Life's Rich Patterns.

Nine Eleven - mmm, I remember that: stranded in New Jersey with the bridges locked down and Manhattan across the river looking like a badly damaged aircraft carrier. Some things stick in your memory!

Yesterday we were supposed to get the steel sheets for the roof of the new house. Instead we got a phone call to the effect that there had been a 'little mistake', the supply company in Dar had sent green sheets instead of red ones. Lies as it turned out, the Arusha end had ordered the wrong colour. Adia was not pleased - me too - and several arses got fried in the course of the day. Now maybe the correct sheets will reach Arusha in a couple of days. Spemba the roofer will have to sit on his hands until then - he has finished all the wood work.

We have both guests and visitors. The guests are two women from Zambia, and a daughter. The women here for a seminar on HIV at ESAMI. The visitors are Adia's friend and her six month old baby. The baby and I have bonded, so I am now probably uncle Steve. I love the way that babies, particularly female ones, look you in the eye like they can see into the depths of your soul. Perhaps they can, but fortunately they forget what they saw before they grow much older. I like her, we may well be friends. No baby picture - mama did not like the idea.

The roof structure.

The roof structure.

6/9/2012 - Good Progress.

Work on the prototype small house for unfurnished rental has progressed well. The intention eventually is to build six similar houses on the plot adjoining ours. The grand scheme is to surround Arusha with similar properties situated in suitable suburbs - probably not in my lifetime, but hey, you never know.

As of today, we have the foundation, the primary masonry of the structure, and by the end of today, the roof frame. Inside I have cut the channels for the electrical wiring, and installed the plastic conduits and galvanized wall boxes to hold switches and sockets. I had also installed the drain for the shower tray, but some enterprising fundi dropped a piece of shuttering on it and broke off the pipe flush with the wall. They will have to hack it out of the foundation concrete so I can replace it. But even so, that's quite a lot done.

Next Monday, the steel roof sheets should arrive, and they'll probably get put on the frame the same day. In the meantime Spemba, the roofer will work on the 'drafting' - the frame that supports the gypsum board ceilings.

Replicating trusses: The one I made is below and the new ones are made as direct copies.

Replicating trusses.

4/9/2012 - September.

There are still some wintry mornings here, it seems determined to hang on at all costs this year.

We are in full-flow building mode - so much so that my postings have been infrequent because in the evenings I have been quite exhausted. This is not a fitness issue. One day when I had some free time I did a 20km bike ride, cross country and tarmac roads, and felt tired but by so means overstretched. But the building work can definitely exhaust you. What I have been doing is mostly ladder work, and it's the hauling your weight up and down that is telling.

But we have accomplished quite a lot. Innocent and his lads have finished the basic masonry, and I have cut the channels in the walls and installed the conduits and the galvanized boxes to hold the electrical switches and sockets. Spemba and his helper have spent the day replicating the roof truss that I made last month, and I expect to see the eight of them up there tomorrow.

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currently covering 1942 - 1975.

1976 is yet to be started.

What is BEV?

Brits Eye View is the personal blog of a 70 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

If there's something particular you'd like to go back to, just click it here

Top 20 BEV Pages.

Exchange Rates.

BEV Software Blog.

There are a several new articles on the Software page:

Moods of Meru.

Mt Meru

Lofty and remote.

Random BEV Poem.


If you are a Linux user, you might want to try this piece of graphical design software I worked on last year. You can use it to design business cards, labels, logos for your web site, and things of that sort.

You can download it from the BEV COMPO page, where you'll also find the documentation.

About You.

A bit of nonsense. If you've ever wondered what a web site can discover about you when you visit one of their pages with little or no effort, then now you know.

BEV Partners.

Please check out our partners page.

BEV extends thanks to:

If you would like to advertise on BEV, or to contribute toward its running costs, please check out the sponsorship page.

Contact BEV.

If you want to get in touch outside the built-in comment system, email Steve Teale.