Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Not with a bang but a whimper

Monday December 10th

Well, the adventure is over and this is the final entry in this particular blog.  I’d like to thank Google for making this all possible.  I’d like to thank the MS Word Dictionary for drawing red squiggly lines under all my Swahili words and their Thesaurus for providing alternatives to my otherwise endless repetition.  I’d like to thank my family for allowing me to take this adventure, especially the ever patient Chez.  I’d like to thank my readers for the emails of encouragement I have received and finally I’d like to thank THE HILL which added so much to the feeling that this was an adventure and not just a prolonged holiday. (Pause for Gwyneth Paltrow like tears)
Friday was spent packing and organising what I would take and what would be useful to leave.  The flask, food containers, first aid kit and the little gismo I have that is a cross between an Swiss Army Knife and a pair of pliers, were all presented to the various workers here and certainly I had less problems closing my suitcase than when I set off.  I did manage to fit in a swim as Deo, Suzi and Chita joined me for my last dip in the Indian Ocean, for this year at least.

The day was marred as the previous night Mama Gladness found out that her Mother’s sister had died and she would not be around to see me off as she had to travel to Moshi for the funeral.  The rest of the gang though had arranged to have a meal together with me, which was a treat as the vast majority of my meals had taken place in solitary splendour. As we had a drink and waited for the meal I looked out through the darkness and saw somebody coming up the path from the beach. I was amazed to see that, for the first time whilst I had been here, John had forsaken his Masai outfit and his knife and was dressed in slacks and shirt, and very smart he looked as well.  As I was returning home he told me that after Christmas he would be visiting his family in the Masai heartlands near Arusha, to see his wife, ten year old daughter and two year old son for the first time in nearly a year.


We had a lovely meal of skewered beef and rice and there were more presentations of items made with the local material, but without the presence of Mama it was a little downbeat.

The following morning as well as my VIP Class seat I decided to really treat myself and booked a taxi for my final journey to Tanga, which removed the difficulty of getting two cases down to Pangani to ensure a seat on the bus.  Having ensured that both dogs were tied up, as I didn’t fancy having to return all the way back with Chita, I waved my goodbyes and set off on my most comfortable journey yet to the regional capital.

Even now, Tanzania was to provide me with memories as I arrived at the Bus Stand at Tanga, ready with my luggage, to find that there was a hold up at the Kenyan/Tanzanian border and there would be a delay of about ninety minutes.  The Kindle came out again as I sat on some chairs provided for the customers, and I continued my reading even when it looked as if the Arsenal team coach had pulled into the square. 


Eventually my bus arrived and, with my suitcases stowed below, I climbed the steps, to find my seat occupied by an old lady of Indian ethnicity.  I was asked to sit in another seat whilst the local agent and his two helpers argued at length with the lady, whose ticket said seat 18 further down the bus, even phoning Mombassa to confirm that she hadn’t paid extra to move up the bus, as she claimed.  All this was taking place as the bus pulled away from the square and drove through the streets of the town before pulling up outside a restaurant that obviously doubled as a restroom.  Here the lady got off and I was told that she said she was going back to Mombasa, but I did see her later in the journey sitting further down the bus. T.I.A.

The journey was uneventful and even a very comfortable seat could not reduce the travelling time of six hours so by the time I had met Karim and been transported once more to Mikocheni B, there was not much time left before nightfall.  I settled in my room and decided I might go down to the bar and watch the final of the East African football cup, but when I got down there I found that the locals had decided that Sunderland v Chelsea was much more important, so I had to wait for a triumphant text from Denis to find that Uganda were, for the second year running, East African champions.

Sunday was very much a damp squib and lead to the title of this post.  I had to leave the hotel by ten so Karim picked me up, put my luggage in his boot for the day and dropped me off at Slipway, a tourist shopping area, about thirty minutes later, with the agreement that he would pick me up at eight that evening to take me to the airport.  Eight and a half hours is a long time to spend shopping for presents and the high-spot was a thirty minute tour of the back streets of Dar es Salaam in a Bajaj trying to find an Internet Café that was open on a Sunday.  We eventually found one and looking round the district I promised the Bajaj driver a good bonus if he returned for me after ninety minutes; which thankfully he did.

Karim was as reliable as ever and dropped me at the airport with three hours to go through the interminable queuing, form-filling and two sets of luggage scanners and belt removals that are needed to even leave the country.

Long plane journeys are a bore to endure and worse to report so suffice to say I arrived back at a very cold Leeds/Bradford to be met by Paul, who thoughtfully had brought my coat and scarf to the airport, only to leave it in the car as he met me inside the terminal.  Good to be home and know that nothing has changed.

There isn’t really an epilogue because you should know well by now how I feel about my adventure and my feelings about Tanzania.  Nimependa Tanzania, nimependa Pangani, nimependa Chapattis na nimependa sana watoto wangu.

If you are interested there is a list, from memory, of the Swahili I learned whilst out here, although I keep thinking of words that I can add.  You’ll find it here


Friday, 7 December 2012

A night at the pub

Thursday December 7th

A really slobby day today, as I sat at my laptop on the main veranda for most of it.  I’m not a ‘Shangri La’ type and need to be busy, so even in as beautiful a setting as this I soon get bored. Because of this when Denis turned up and said he wouldn’t be round tonight as he was going to Boza to watch the semi-finals of the East African Football Cup, I asked if I could go with him.

The nations in the East of Africa do not do very well in the African cup and certainly don’t produce the international stars that Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, Senagal, Cameroon etc. do, but the population are football mad and support for the top  teams in the Premiership and La Liga is universal.  Tonight’s semis were doubly important as they involved two local teams.  Zanzibar were playing Kenya in the first match, followed by Tanzania against Uganda in the second, with both matches being played in the same stadium in Kampala.

Denis rolled up on his bike about 3:45 and I mounted behind him for a much more comfortable journey up THE HILL.  We turned at the top into Boza village and having wound through a few alleys we arrived at the pub.  Basically this was an open wood structure with a thatched roof behind one of the traditionally built houses built using hand-made bricks from the local clay.  The floor was the usual red earth and the ever present hens used it as a shortcut whilst the beams and roof spars were all un-planed timber and held together by bindings of the local sisal. Luckily we were there in time to commandeer a couple of the plastic chairs and join Mr Mmari at a table; late comers had to use 20cm stools that seemed to keep appearing as more fans arrived.  Finally with about thirty people gathered looking at the 23in TV on the end of the ‘bar’, the first semi featuring Zanzibar and Kenya kicked off.  I won’t dwell on the game, only to say that Zanzibar scored two good goals only to be pegged back when their keeper twice came for high balls and failed to clear them.  The match went to penalties and the first of our teams was out.  The second match split the viewing public; twenty nine supporting Tanzania with one very voluble Ugandan in the middle of it all, who obviously had to be sitting next to me.  I had just bought a couple of beers for Denis and myself and a Sprite for Mr Mmari when Uganda scored their first goal.  To be fair, it was a cracker, and Denis’ reaction was to leap into the air with a woop of delight.  What he didn’t notice was that in jumping up, the plastic chair had shot over backwards, so that when he then came to sit down, he ended on the floor.  Thankfully he was ok but his feet had shot up under the table and it was a battle as to whether we should save him or rescue the bottles that were rapidly draining into the earth.

Five minutes later and the inevitable happened; the power failed.  As the same had happened the previous evening, but thankfully for a short time, everybody just sat in the dark with a few mobile phones casting light around.  As hoped the power was only off for about five minutes and then we resumed our ‘enjoyment’ of the game.  As it happened Tanzania were never really in the game and my companion had leapt to his feet, punching the air, two more times before, once again, there was a power cut.  The difference was that this wasn’t at Boza but at Kampala, and thankfully again was short, so the referee and players waited on the pitch as the floodlights slowly came back on. As time came for the final few minutes the bar slowly emptied as the home fans realised that the miracle was not going to happen and we went back to the YM so that Denis could have a drink closer to home and relive the success of the evening.

The final is on Saturday preceded by the 3rd and 4th play-off so, as I will be at the hotel in Dar, I might slip downstairs to watch the local derby.


Thursday, 6 December 2012

Choba Kids

Wednesday December 5th

With no reason to go to Boza today I decided to do what I had hoped to do for some weeks now and visit the school down the road at Choba, the one with the Norwich City Fans.  I must have said somewhere that this is funded by a British Registered Charity organised by a lady called Valerie McGivern, who has a home in Choba village.  I rang Valerie yesterday saying my time was now free and she invited me round to the school this morning.

As far as I can work out, the school started about four years ago with Standard 1 pupils and has then grown as this first intake has grown up and at the end of this year has Standards 1,2,3 & 4 and classrooms are nearly complete for 5 & 6, which will give them a year’s grace before they need a new classroom for what will be top class at Standard 7.   Sometime during this period a nursery school has been started as well in another part of the village.

I cycled round and arrived at the school just as the pupils were completing their chores of cleaning, sweeping and general tidying and whilst this was going on, the headteacher, Tim, who I had already met at the YMCA, and one of his colleagues showed me around the school.

We arrived back at the front of school in time for the pupils to line up for their morning assembly.  It looks very regimented and one thing I haven’t really mentioned is that Boza is the same.  At Boza whichever prefect is responsible that day, calls the school to order and there follows a few drills of, “Attention, At ease, attention etc.” interspersed with “Right turn!”, “Left turn!”.  Choba was exactly the same with one of the older girls calling the orders.  A flag party then assembled from various parts of the arena, with little 8 and 9 year olds marching with Sandhurst precision and stamped turns, after which the whole school sang both the National Anthem and also Tanzania, Tanzania.  I roughly know the words to the latter now so I clasped my hand over my heart and sang along with them. Tim then spoke to the school and introduced me to say a few words as well, which I did, resisting the temptation to show off my Swahili because of the visible signs to discourage this.  Many of the children recognised me from the YMCA and also from the early morning bus, so there were a few smiles around.

At the end of the proceedings the drums struck up again and the various forms marched away to their classrooms until finally the ‘Mace Holder’ dismissed the drummers.

 I asked Tim a few questions about the school, especially the instruction to speak English.  It appears he too shares my concern about the sudden switch from Swahili to English at the end of Primary and start of Secondary education, and sees as one of his responsibilities that pupils are able to do this at as early an age as possible, so lessons at Choba are in English.  I was also interested to note that corporal punishment is not allowed in the school and that the threat of their place being removed is enough to handle even the worst excesses.   I’ve said before that Choba is a very popular school in the district and has an excellent reputation.  This is enhanced by the fact that it takes no parental contribution at all, unlike even the state schools, but I am positive that this is by no means the main reason for its popularity.  It will be very interesting to see how well the children do as they progress through the system after such a positive start.

The school was preparing for their presentation day on Friday so once the children had returned to their classes I didn’t hang around and returned to the YMCA, only to find that I couldn’t get away from kids.  We had an invasion of children from one of the primary schools in Tanga, obviously, from the appearance of the staff, run by the Indian community, although the children were very multi-ethnic. They had come over for a picnic in a bus and a couple of Daladalas and quickly donned their swimming gear before disappearing down to the beach to play in the water.  They then eat their packed food before running their energy off in the grounds and playing group games, one of which looked very much like a Tanzanian version of ‘The farmer needs a wife’.  An ideal setting but one where, once again, I thought the camera would be an intrusion.

As I staying out of the sun as much as possible this week, the rest of the day passed under shade, reading and working on my laptop.  Nothing more to report.


Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Presentation Day

Tuesday December 5th

As the title says, today was presentation day.  The desks were set out in the hall with a special table and chairs set out for the main speakers, Mr Masui, the headmaster, Mr Leopod (sic), the Chair of Governors and of course Babu.  I was assured by Mr Masui that the whole ceremony would last about one hour but I don’t think he heard when I suggested it would last half that if they cut the speeches.

Once again, as at the YMCA opening, the various groups were introduced and I had to stand and state that I was Mr Stuart.  Mr Masui then gave the first of his speeches followed by the awards to the top pupils for the year.  With A=1, B=2 etc points are awarded for each subject and when these are totalled the students with the top four scores are awarded prizes.  The prizes are text books chosen from the boxes that the school receives from the USA and, whilst hopefully relevant, many of them still have the graffiti and names of previous owners written on the fly sheets.

Hillaly, best student in Year I

Peter, best student in Form III
 After the presentation Mr Masui gave his second speech followed by Mr Leopod.  Both these speeches made far too many references to Mr Stuart and Babu for my liking, so it was fairly obvious what was being said.  Hillaly was called upon to express a vote of thanks from the students and then I was presented with a laminated certificate, a Kanga for Chez and another sheet of material that, I was told, has to be cut in half and made into two shirts, one for me and one for Chez.  This is a traditional Tanzanian gift and presumably the wife gets the ‘better half’.

It was now my turn to speak and I had prepared a short statement in Swahili expressing my pride that possibly in years to come one or two of them might look back and think that I had had a little effect on their lives.  I started though with my usual “Mimi, ninaongaya Kiswahili ndogo, ndogo sana.” (I speak Swahili a little, a very little) and followed this with the barked order, “Simama” whereupon like a troop of soldiers all the students leapt to their feet.  I didn’t check the staff behind me but it wouldn’t have surprised me if one or two had twitched upwards as well.  I then softly said “kaachini” and everyone resumed their seats laughing at their response, and after I had read my short statement, the speech was nearly over, which must be a record in Tanzania.  I just put my paper down and added a few sentences I know myself and even got a few laughs.

It was only left for the head table to leave and the students to queue to get their end of year reports, all stapled together so that they couldn’t peek (ye, and that works!!).  I left the staff and went round and shook everyone’s hand and then the students left as the majority would be waiting for daldalas very shortly.  To see the students in their normal clothes having been so used to school uniform was surprising. 

Fatuma and Subira ready for home.

After proceedings had died down a little I asked Mr Mmari if we could cross the road into Boza village again as I wanted to take some pictures and Mr Masui, hearing me, said he would like to show me his new house, so after chapattis again at Mr Masui’s present home we crossed the road to enter the village and see his future home.

Boza main street

One of the older Boza homes..........

.....and Mr Masui's, that he hopes to have completed by May 2013

Even in what looks like a green and verdant land, life depends upon the rainy season, which for some years now has come close to failing completely and certainly has been well below normal levels.  On the way back to school Mr Masui pointed out a field, belonging to the school, that until recent years had been packed full of coconut trees, but these had withered and died and only half a dozen hardy specimens remained.

I’m not the one for long goodbyes so having thanked everybody and shaken hands all-round I turned the bicycle towards home and for the last time, certainly in this trip, faced the white knuckle ride down THE HILL.


Tuesday, 4 December 2012

A dogless walk

Monday December 4th

Well, I woke this morning and stretched in all directions to see if there was any sign of that tightness indicative of sun burn and am delighted to report that all seems well.  As I have no mirror, I can’t testify that I don’t look like a lobster but at least as I pulled my shirt on after my shower, I did so without an accompanying scream.

Not a lot happening at school today.  The students are just waiting for their reports to be ‘topped and tailed’ and then tomorrow morning will be the end of year awards ceremony, so, as I needed to go to Pangani, I left mid-morning to cycle back to Mkoma Bay.  When I got there I ensured I was well covered, had factor 50 on any bits that weren’t; ensured also that Chita was well and truly tethered and set off down the beach to Pangani.

The walk was beautiful but uneventful and certainly quicker without the need to constantly back-track to try to shake of an unwanted follower.  As I approached Pangani I looked back over the empty acres of sand behind me, washed by the ocean and under a baking sun, and thought about the opportunities that exist for tourist income in this part of the country, if they could develop the required transport links.

Pangani beach. One o'clock in the afternoon.

I had gone to Pangani to obtain a laminated print-out of a picture I had taken of Mr Mmari.  I think he is planning to frame it and put it on the wall of his new house as the start of a genealogical line.  It certainly has the imperious look.

As I entered the market place on my way home the leaky bus from an earlier post, pulled in and disembarked its passengers.  Having spent 45 minutes on Saturday in Tanga waiting for the same bus to fill up before setting off, I wasn’t in the mood to do the same at this end of the road, so I looked round for a pikipiki.  By the way, I now find that although a pikipiki is a motorbike, the term used for one that carries passengers for hire is a bodaboda.  Whether this comes from the engine noise or what, I don’t know, but anyway I found a bodaboda willing to take me for Tsh 2000 and with my usual request, “Mimi Babu; pole pole” I had a steady journey home.

A quiet evening watching DVDs of Tanzanian gospel songs so time to look at another question from Cliff,

“What advice would I give to anyone wanting to volunteer.”

Number one. If I hadn’t had Denis I would have really struggled.  If you are going to try and do this by yourself, without the aid of an agency I don’t know how you would manage if you didn’t have someone on the ground to contact.  I’ve made no secret of the incredible helper and friend that Denis has been whilst I have been in Pangani but his involvement started well before that.  He was my main, not to say only, contact with the schools over here as a combination of poor phone lines, poor hearing and poor English/Swahili led to many frustrating calls and at one stage I came close to calling the whole thing off.

It’s not a cheap experience.  Life over here is certainly inexpensive and I can easily get by on £100 a week for board, food and ‘spends’ and, as you have seen, I have an excellent life style, but the cost of setting the trip up was expensive.   The cost starts with the air flight but continues with health insurance which is expensive, especially if you have a history like I have.  Some of the injections were free but I still ended up paying over £200 for rabies and ‘Hep B’ and on top of this my anti-malarial tablets cost over £300.  I must admit that at one time I did wonder whether it would be better for the school for me to stay at home and simply send a cheque.  Finally there is the cost of the visa to actually enter the country and I have been very lucky that the local immigration officer has not seen fit to levy the further cost of a volunteer visa onto my load as this in itself is several hundred pounds.  He did say he was coming to school during my first week and then didn’t turn up, so since then I have tried to stay as invisible around Pangani as any 6ft 2in mzungu can.

What do you bring?  As far as the school is concerned, anything is helpful.  Basic pens, pencils and rulers are freely and cheaply available locally but even so are given as rewards for excellent work, especially in the tests.  But outside this, mathematical instruments, staplers, and the like are difficult to get hold of; even graph paper is a luxury and I bought a pad in Dar es Salaam to give a sheet each to my students for their exam. As far as personal things, the most useful things I have brought with me are bin liners and food containers.  The food containers are indispensable for keeping the little treats you allow yourself  dry in the atmosphere here, and both they and the bin liners can keep food free from the myriad of ‘creepy crawlies’ that want to share my food every day.  Bin liners are also very useful for collecting washing both clean and dirty.  Either bring or buy a small flask.  I’m an early rising shaver so to have a flask of hot water, half for a shave and half for an early coffee has been a real treat.  The flask is then filled again for me for when I return from school and can sit outside my room and enjoy another cup.

A good first aid kit goes without saying.  Thankfully, apart from my bike spill on the first day, I haven't used much of it apart from the antiseptic wipes which I have used every time I've even scratched myself, and with the thorn bushes I cycle past, the limestone I clamber over and the insects bites I occasionally scratch away, I'm reaching the end of my supply.

I have taken Cliff’s advice about what I carry around with me.  If I don’t need it that day, I leave it at home.  This goes for bank cards, spare money, documents etc.  They are locked in my suitcase in my room.  At home, like many people, I walk round with a wallet containing club cards that I haven’t used for years, but over here I carry the minimum.  Obviously Pangani is different to Dar es Salaam.  Once again, taking Cliff’s advice, I split any money I have into different pockets when in Dar and my camera and phone are well out of sight.  In Pangani I don’t take such precautions and certainly have never felt threatened in any way.

You need strong footwear.  I came here with two pairs of trainers and am going home with one pair that will be thrown away as soon as I have replaced them.  The rough limestone roads really take a toll on footwear.  How the locals manage with their flip flops I don’t know.  It is good  to get out of my trainers at the end of the school day into shorts and flip flops but I must admit that once the sun goes down I am back into a full covering and my roll on ‘No Bite’ comes into its own.

The first weeks I seemed to still be getting bitten but as with most things I seem to have got on top of this.  As I have just said, in the evening there are no inviting stretches of ankle or leg for the mosquitos to attack and then when I go back to my room, I hold my breath, blitz the place with fly spray, especially the dark corners under the bed, table and chairs, before dashing outside and sitting to read for ten minutes.  My mosquito net is tucked under the mattress on three sides and after switching off all the lights I use the torch on my phone to get to bed and tuck the remaining side under.  Touch wood, it is now several weeks since I have been obviously bitten.

The YMCA is very particular about hygiene at meals and before I sit down for my dinner I am presented with a boiling hot flannel, which takes some juggling to start with, but at other times of the day I still take it seriously, even if, on occasions, this means simply pouring some bottled water over my hands. Certainly at Mr Masui’s, one of his nieces has come with a jug and bowl both before and after the meal to pour water over my hands so that I can wash.  Whether it is down to this regime or simply by good luck, but I have survived my stay without any ‘tummy trouble’ apart from the bloated feeling sometimes after one of Vicky’s ‘small’ helpings. 

Learning some of the language is essential as, if nothing else, it shows good manners, but it is equally important to realise that for some people the chance to practise, and show off, their skills in English, is also important.  Sometimes I found myself answering a very polite, “Good morning, sir.  How are you?” from a young Norwich City fan, with a similar greeting in Swahili when, I quickly realised, that what they wanted was a reply of, “I’m very well thank you and how are you?”

You must also accept the fact that you will mentally wrestle, or certainly I did, as to whether you are there for the benefit of the students or to satisfy some need within yourself.  I finally realised that the answer was, both, but if the end product was that the students and school received help that they needed then this was acceptable.  For the experience to be a successful one, you don’t need to sleep on the floor wearing sack cloth and ashes and eating only ugali and beans.  Having said that I would really recommend taking every opportunity offered to at least sample the local lifestyle.  My memories would be incomplete if I had missed leaking basis, daladalas, chai and chapattis with Mr Masui, and the ‘bagia’ ( a deep fried dough of dengu flour) that Matron gave me to eat.  As you have seen the YMCA is hardly a tough life but I have tried very hard not to live within a western bubble.

Finally, as I prepared for the journey out here, Paul handed me the birthday present that he and Chez had purchased, for me. ‘A Kindle’.  Over the last couple of years I’d seen people sat at the side of swimming pools with these strange flat objects and thought of them as posers.  How wrong I was.  My Kindle has been my life saver.  Tanzania is a country where nothing is rushed, and the ability to pull a new novel out of your pocket and pass the time reading, knowing that if you finish that one another book can be downloaded for sometimes as little as a few pennies, is priceless.  And as a postscript, the word download reminds me of another useful thing. In my computer case I packed two USB extension cables and they have been indispensable.  The best signal for the internet ‘dongle’ is just outside my room and at night this means being surrounded by the flying brigade attracted by the screen.  So much more comfortable to slide my cables under the door and attach the modem propped on the chair outside, whilst using the computer inside my room.

P.P.P.S.  Always raise the toilet seat before you take a shower.


Monday, 3 December 2012

A day I might yet regret

Sunday December 2nd

An excellent day that will stay with me for a long time, but as the title says, one, over the next couple of days at least, I might yet regret.

Up at the usual time and after breakfast I packed my rucksack with water, spare towel, sarong, camera, etc. and prepared myself for my day.    Have you tried applying factor 50 to your own back; not easy!  I then retraced my steps of the previous night.  I don’t mean that literally as my steps from last night had been washed away by the tide but I’m quite enjoying this literary thing these days and it sounds better than – I walked round the corner.

Ulric met me and kitted me out with the requisites for the day in a tidy net bag, flippers, mask and snorkel and surprisingly on time at 9:00 we carried our gear, plus a large cool box and a couple of chairs, down onto the beach to find the boat just arriving.  The Dutch girls were also ready with their net bags of equipment and we were ready for the off.  The girls, Jessica and Flo have just finished University in Holland and both now have Masters degrees in Biology, so with my well documented skills it was a very erudite boat-full!

The journey to the island took about 45 minutes until we dropped anchor next to a coral reef just off the shore.  The island, as you can see, was simply a sand bank that happened to be above sea level and apart from a few crabs and a couple of terns was devoid of life, either animal or vegetable.

The next part of the day is something I can’t really begin to draw for you with words but as I didn't have the luxury of an underwater camera I will try.

I have snorkelled before but not with gear as good as this and the last time was on our visit to Kenya when the area round the reef was like a marina as it filled up with tourist boats.  Here there was one boat, ours, plus the very occasional passing Dhow, and in the water only the three of us. The coral was beautiful with a vast array of plant and animal life attached to it.  By gliding along on the surface with my mask just under the water I could see the variety of iridescent fish that swam below me and in many places practically on me as the coral came within two or three  feet of the surface. 

Once I had got used to the breathing routine with the snorkel I did a few dives but without any weights my buoyancy took some overcoming. (fat floats very well)  My other problem was that, at the swimming pool, I am used to slowly releasing the air from my lungs as I am underwater, whereas here I needed to save the air to blow the snorkel clear as I surfaced, but after a bit of coughing and spluttering I mastered it.

And so to my ‘regret’.  You’ve guessed.  I realise now I should have taken a T shirt to Tanzania for just such a day as this, but I didn't have one and had decided my polo shirts were a bit too thick so was reliant on the self-applied factor 50.  I hope you have finished breakfast because I want you to imagine me floating face downwards in the water.  Apart from a languid flick of the flippers to propel me through the water, I am motionless and a few millimetres below the surface of the water is my exposed back.  When swimming at Mkoma Bay I have been very vigilant and set a limit of twenty minutes before leaving the water but here with so much to absorb my attention and with the water constantly cooling by back, I overstayed my welcome.  I realised when I re-joined the boat that possibly I had taken a little longer than was sensible so donned a shirt and sarong and for our lunch on the island never really appeared from under the sun shade that was erected for us. 

More factor 50 and a shorter, more sensible, dive in the afternoon on the other side of the island where, if possible, there was an even greater variety of fish.  When we got back on board they had a set of laminated cards with pictures and names of the various species and we were back to ‘I Spy’ as we compared notes on what we had seen.

About 1:30 we turned for home and it was interesting to see the landscape that I was getting to know so well, from a totally different angle.  I could see the radio masts at Boza clearly and realised the height they were above the sea level that I usually frequented.

Eventually we disembarked and after offering up my camera so that relevant pictures could be copied onto Jessica’s laptop, I headed home to the luxury of a cold shower and to once again face the problem of rubbing things onto your own back, this time after-sun.


I now must await the morning to find whether my excesses have had a lasting effect or not.  I will let you know, but whatever the outcome, I certainly enjoyed the second touristy experience of my stay.


Sunday, 2 December 2012


Saturday December 1st

December already, it will soon be midsummer’s day but I won’t be here to see it. 

As I said yesterday, today was the time for another Tanga run, which still seems to offer up new pleasures and experiences. Today, as I sat waiting for Shillingi VIP to pull out of Pangani, I looked down from my perch on the bus and saw another example of the ‘black economy’ of Tanzania.  Once again a photo did not seem appropriate so you will have to rely upon my descriptive skills. Outside the barbers was the type of table and benches that you might find in a picnic area in the UK.  At the end sat a lady on a single chair and at her side was a bucket of water.  By bucket I mean an empty maize flour container, as these seem to be reused for all manner of purposes, but certainly as water carriers.  On the table were six or eight small handle-less teacups and a very large thermos flask.  As her customers sat themselves down at her table, she reached down beside her and washed one of the cups, took the top off the flask and poured the newcomer a cup of coffee.  The payment , as far as I could see, was a Tsh 200 coin (about 8p).  This picture was repeated at most of the major pick-up points along the route and there is also a similar set up on the Boza road.  I mention it not only because it was an interesting scene in its own right but also because it set me thinking about the economy in Tanzania.  I know there is VAT as it is itemised on my receipt every week for my board at the YM, I also know that there is Income tax for anyone in a ‘proper’ job, but, as I have said before, there seem to be so many people who earn a living in what could roughly be described as the service industry, I wondered how they contribute to the National ‘pot’.  My flip flop was mended by a man sitting in the street outside a house, my tyre was mended by a boy in the Boza village, my water for a bus journey is provided by a seller who appears next to the bus window, the list is endless.  I asked Mama Gladness and she informs me that these people pay ‘Ushuru’ which appears to be an ‘on the spot’ contribution whose size is determined by the collector, who is hopefully a trustworthy and honest government employee.  The cost for my lady this morning could be as little as Tsh 50 but it is her contribution to the National Economy.

Thankfully there is only one week to go, because I have misplaced my swimming goggles.  I think I must have left them on the beach on Wednesday.  Anyway, as I had already searched and found a shop in Tanga that sold me a pair for Deo, I decided it was worth my while to replace them, only to find that they had none available.  I know swimming is not everybody’s sport but you would think that a major city (250 000 population), on the sea, regional capital for over one and a half million people might just have one more shop that would sell goggles.  Tanga doesn’t, so my searching along the sea bed for shells will have to cease.  The shop that had run out of goggles is also the shop where I bought my flask and is one of these places that seems to sell a little of everything.  I decided to treat the YMCA kitchen to a hand mincer as I happened to notice that when she was making ‘spag bol’ for me last time, Vicky used a pestle and mortar to break the beef up.  The mincer has the dreaded words ‘Made in China’ on the side of the box, so I don’t know how long it will last but certainly until I have benefited for one of my remaining meals.

China seems to manufacture a lot of goods aimed at the East African market and, from my experience, produced to a much lower standard than would be acceptable in the west.  I bought a corkscrew in Kenya six years ago and as I pulled down on the arms, the cheap cast alloy just snapped in half.  Cliff had some nails last year that needed ultimate precision or they simply bent in half, and a disposable razor I bought in Pangani last year fell apart during my first attempt at a shave. ( I know I have a tough stubble but Desperate Dan I ain’t!) But they are cheap and fill a need, I suppose.  It is also interesting how many of the multinationals seem to be able to sell their products at Tanzanian prices and still turn a profit.  It makes you wonder how much money they actually make in thedeveloped countries.  Vodacom (Vodafone) charge Tsh 33 for a text (just over 1p), and Coca cola in the original shaped bottles is on sale at the YM for 28p.  There are many other examples and it certainly makes you think.

Upon my return from the vibrant city, I received a call from Lisa, the American who owns the ‘Tented Lodge’ next door.  A boat was taking two Dutch girls that were staying there, on a snorkelling trip to an off shore island and as I had expressed interest earlier she wondered if I wanted to go.  In the end I went over for a meal there so that we could make arrangements and I could have one last break from the YM before my departure.

The only guests were the Dutch girls so we all sat together and had a pleasant evening.  I was talking about my reliance on Karim when I went to Dar and Ulric, Lisa’s Danish husband, told me of an incident that happened to him a couple of years previously.  He arrived at Ubungo and got off the bus and into a waiting taxi.  He was immediately joined on the back seat by a person on either side of him, driven away, beaten up and then taken to an ATM to draw up to the limit for the cards he had.  A salutary lesson and one that makes my reliance on Karim even more understandable.  At the end of the evening I left for the short walk along the beach back to the YM and who should escort me to the gate but Malele and yes, when I looked at his mobile phone it said 9:55 pm.  I tell you, it is all a con to confuse mzungus.

I leave you with a picture.  You will have to imagine me having a siesta break in the chair in the middle as I have quietly got up to take the photo.  These are my ever present companions.  At least someone will miss me when I go.