I’ve not done one of these for a while so here we go. I originally thought I’d only have 4 or 5 but got a bit carried away, as you can see. These photos cover 4 continents and about 3 years of my life. Some of the hues come from nature, some are man made and others are the result of nature’s affect on man’s creations. I’m always drawn to photographing things with red tones, because red is a favourite colour of mine, but I’d not realised I had so may different oranges until I started going through to select some.
I’ve made a rod for my own back. I meant to sort things out earlier, but I forgot, and forgot how slow things in Tanzania can be. So the last couple of days have been very stressful.
But it would probably help if I go back to explain what I’m on about.
Yesterday was spent by the beach, eating steak, then at a house overlooking the lake eating Christmas dinner. It was the first time I’ve been out of Mwanza that hasn’t involved getting on a plane to head back to England. A 60th birthday, most of which I spent playing with a one year old – she likes playing with my necklaces particularly.
I watched the rain clouds build and eventually burst over the far away Serengeti, drove through villages with elegant looking women working in fields in full length dresses with children in their arms or on their backs, children driving cattle, a piki piki rider with 3 passengers, a sea eagle perching on a stone in the middle of the lake, brightly coloured kingfishers darting into the water, an otter playing in the waves.
Today has been the first time I’ve truly not liked a Monday.
Normally, they are fine, no hassle. I’ve never really been one of those people that looks forward to the weekend, because I’ve worked shifts since I was 15, so my ‘weekends’ have been all over the shop. But… now that I am teaching on week days with a routine, and feel a bit guilty about going out on ‘school nights’ my weekends have become pretty important.
This weekend involved (as I mentioned on Saturday):
Battling with the bank on Friday, swimming in the school pool, a mammoth curry club – 30 naan breads, two bowls of rice and I think 12 curries between 13 of us:
And all that for the bargain price of about £6 each… Can’t complain about that now can you?
I was so full I couldn’t manage to go to Tilapia (a different bar) afterwards so just went home to bed. Which was for the best really, as Saturday morning was dedicated to working as prompt and back up singer for the secondary production of ‘West Side Story’, followed by a brief nap and a trip to Tunza beach for a hog roast for a 1st birthday party. Not wishing to go along empty handed I made a vanilla and ginger cake with a lemon drizzle, which actually tastes a lot better than it sounds.
The sunset was pretty good, as always:
England beat New Zealand pretty spectacularly in the rugby and I found some evidence that the Tanzanians thought of Iron Man long before Marvel did:
Sunday morning began with a leisurely breakfast at Ryan’s Bay (another hotel/bar). I started off well with avocado, banana and pineapple with orange juice – although I made the mistake of brushing my teeth just before I left for breakfast, so got that unfortunate taste that only comes from the unholy combination of orange and mint toothpaste…
But soon succumbed to the egg, bacon, sausage and pancake option. Let’s not forget the coffee, the coffee is important, as I’ve only had about 4 cups since I arrive here in August, and for someone who does very much enjoy a sneaky mocha frappuccino, that’s quite impressive.
And just so that you have an idea of the hotel overlooking the lake, this is the downstairs area:
I succeeded in getting nearly all my Christmas presents from the Craft Fair held at the Yacht Club (oh dear, I’ve just spent three minutes trying to spell ‘Yacht’, I must be tired). Obviously no pictures of the gifts, as that would spoil things…
So I headed over to Tilapia with some of the flats ladies, to have a drink, watch the boys go wake boarding and have a go with my newly bought mancala board.
I went home to make some lunch, with every intention of heading back for the carol singing (I’d even practised the descants) but had to settle with watching The West Wing, Dead Like Me and In the Loop on the sofa, as I had a fair bit of pain. I did, however, wake at half one in the morning to hear a cacophonous calling of Christmas songs drifting up from one of the flats below. It did take a little while to work out who it might be, but I fell back asleep with a small smile on my face.
So to Monday, today, 3rd of December. Teaching – no problems – lunch duty – all good apart from the bell going missing – West Side Story performance for the Junior School – could have been better – trip to the bank, again, – problems with the cash machine and then…
…And then I was RUN OVER BY A PIKI PIKI (which is a motorbike taxi, in case you were wondering). It’s not a bad accident, I was crossing the road through stationary traffic, looked both ways, as I looked back to the right there it was, I stepped out of the way, he swerved, ran over my foot and clipped my elbow with his mirror. It aches, but is fine.
We went out for dinner at a local place, and the food and service were dreadful – roasted chicken that ended up coming out as all bones with sauce and a tiny bit of meat that was so chewy and rubbery that I couldn’t even cut it with the knife and fork. Cue a long conversation about why I wouldn’t pay for it after the kitchen refused to send something edible in its place. So yes, I’m currently in a pissy mood, which I’ll hopefully snap out of soon, but at least it’s not a case of the Mondays.
(If only the internet would have allowed me to post this on Monday, rather than Tuesday… Oh well!)
And in Mwanza tonight it’s nearly over after two days of parties, decorations and food. Muppet Christmas Carol has just finished and we are now moving onto an episode of Sex and the City as the rain and thunder starts to roll towards us and the night draws on.
Usually I don’t really approve of Christmas starting before December. Each year it does seem to creep forward, earlier and earlier in the year and I get sick of listening to Christmas tunes every time I enter a shop, or listen to the radio or watch TV. But living somewhere that isn’t going to get colder, where Mariah isn’t blaring from every doorway (I love it, but have recently discovered the Lady Antebellum version) means I really don’t mind having a full Christmas weekend over the 24th and 25th of November. Chloe, the PE teacher, suggested having a Christmas meal at our flats as many of us will be heading back to the UK (I might be going to Kenya, I can’t afford to head back again, but that’s for another time) so why not have an early celebration together? It would also serve to spur us on for the last two weeks at school. So we set about planning.
The flats Christmas committee (Chloe and Kerstin) gave out jobs and responsibility – I would host the Christmas Eve party as I have the roof access and biggest sitting room area, make spiced chocolate orange brownies and the sausages wrapped in bacon for Christmas dinner. We would have dinner at mine (space reasons again) and I would play the Queen for an alternative Christmas speech.
So we planned, we plotted, we arranged a secret santa, we made decorations (blue snowflakes, laminated and hung onto the Wilkos fairy lights. Some of the kids in my class made Christmas posters and cards to stick on the wall.
Christmas eve came quicker than anticipated. I strung fairy lights on the stairs up to roof, paper chains were brought in, a party playlist was created and furniture was re-arranged. Balloons with santas and snowmen were strategically placed and straws with paper fruit on were put out waiting for the fresh fruit punch being made in the ground floor flat. Fresh guacamole and houmous was made to be paired with the carrot and cucumber sticks, crisps and tortillas.
The guests began to trickle in and drinking, laughing and childish pranking began. Highlights included ‘pegging’ unsuspecting victims, singing along with some questionable guitar playing, trying to drink a drink from the floor without using hands or sitting down and the invention of swim drinking. A selection of early 90’s pop, recent classics and Christmas tunes filled the soundtrack for the evening, and as the guests drifted away from midnight, the inevitable drunk dancing in the kitchen began. I finally managed to close the door on the last of the party core at 3am and settled into bed, fighting off mosquitos single-handed.
Christmas day began with the cooking of the brownies and clearing away the washing up from the night before. We doubted that some fo the boys would come up with the good for the meal, as they were heading out to a local club, but 3 chickens were cooked, roasties, mash, veg, christmas cake, mango crumble and a spectacular, if slightly sunken, giant yorkshire pudding. The three o’clock deadline came… and went… so we didn’t start eating until about half three, but the logistics of moving various hot plates of food from different flats to feed 14, allows for a bit of flexibility. And if Christmas dinner can’t drag on a little bit then what’s happened to the world?
We ate well, with the ceiling fan off to try to cool down the room whilst a roaring fire was burning on the TV with my stocking (home-made) hanging next to it. In hindsight, three chickens was a bit much, even with Phil in attendance, so the spare chicken and most of the leftovers were donated to our Askaris, whilst Ed, the dog, got the bones. All were happy, full and contented.
A short break to rest our stomachs and open the presents followed, before cracking on with the puddings and a premier screening of the recording of ‘The Locomotion’ dance that had been performed for the Maths teacher’s 63rd birthday. Everyone drifted away taking with them their plates, bowls, tables and chairs, so that when I came back in from messing with my playlist in the kitchen, my flat was almost back to normal.
By rights, tomorrow should be Boxing Day and so we shouldn’t need to go into school, but we must, so we will. In a few days it will be all but forgotten, the only reminders being the Christmas decorations that I’d brought over from England and we will be on a countdown for the real thing. My Christmas plans are not fully established yet, the only firm one is that I’ll not be with my family, which will no doubt be difficult given recent events. But I’m lucky to have people here to share things with and to be entertained by. And I now can’t complain about Christmas starting in November again.
For alternative recounts (eventually) of our Christmas weekend, or other stories of Tanzania, please have a look over the following blogs from my Mwanza chums:
We’ve had power cuts. Power cuts, as you will imagine, are a pain in the arse. We switch, in the evenings, to a noisy generator so we have to switch off water heaters, ovens and fridges. I’ve had to cook five pieces of chicken and all my bacon to save it from going off and bin a bag of squid that was beyond redemption. But, I’ve had a good reason to cook paella and tonight I’ve made some sort of spicy chicken and tomato stew that should be interesting for tomorrow’s lunch. (Have since eaten it and it was alright, nothing to write home about… oh, hang on…)
Power cuts have also meant that the lights on the neighbouring buildings have been out, so I’ve been out on our roof, watching the stars. With no light pollution getting in the way and balmy, cloud free nights there have been millions of stars on show. The Milky Way has carved its way through the sky above our flats; I’ve spotted Orion and Taurus. The rest of the constellations are alien to me at the moment, I keep looking for the North Star which has always been a constant, but it’s no longer in my line of sight. I’ll learn the new ones, but it does feel odd when gazing at the sky to not see the familiar shapes above you.
There have been shooting stars though. I saw 9 over two nights, with bats swooping past my head. They are strangely reassuring.
I’ve been out a bit; I went to a party at a house overlooking the lake. I’m sure it’s a spectacular view in the daytime, but is a bit lost on me at night time. Saturday, I spent the day pottering about the house and watching TV after buying fabric to have some dresses made. I’ve got three wrap around dresses on the way and I’ve picked up 5 pieces of African material – one, turquoise with a tree design, is hanging over my mosquito net, another is over the back of my sofa and I’m deciding what to do with the other two. They are a complete bargain, all my material, which combined is probably around 50m has cost me 60,000TSh which is roughly £24. Sunday, I re-coloured my hair, I’m back to a dark red/plum colour, although before long it will fade back to a light auburn, but that’s the price you pay for going blonde for 4 months I suppose. The evening was spent at Isamilo Lodge at a 63rd birthday party complete with a 60s quiz and 100 track playlist from the 60s-80s.
Monday, involved a trip to Tunza Beach for an hour’s yoga session as the sunset. I’ve not had a yoga class for about 12 years, so I’m quite out of practise, but it was very relaxing with the sound of the waves, the music and the gradually fading light. The sunsets over the lake are spectacular and as dusk starts to fall, flocks of birds fly across the yellow, pink and orange sky. I came home very aware of the stomach muscles that I have that have fallen into misuse.
The after school hours of Tuesday and Wednesday have involved parents’ evenings, my first as a teacher, and have been relatively pain free. A couple of parent’s haven’t liked what I’ve had to say, but they need to know the things their children need to work on.
We are having a fake Christmas at the weekend: Saturday is our first roof party and I have a marvellous playlist ready on the iPod, Sunday we have a Christmas dinner to cook. I’ve got my stocking and Christmas decorations out ready and will be putting the fairy lights on the steps to the roof. We will make some fresh fruit juice for cocktails, complete with straws with paper fruit and mini umbrellas.
I’m still not fully settled back. On Sunday afternoon they buried my Dad and Gaggy’s ashes and I’ve not really heard from people how it went. I tried texting but couldn’t get through. I didn’t feel right being here. I keep thinking of the part in ‘Little Women’ (yes, back to that again) where Jo says that she loves her home but is so fretful that she can’t stand to be there. I felt like that in England, I’m feeling like that in Tanzania. But not always. The key must be to re-programme myself to stop thinking of how much things cost in pounds, what time it is in England, get back into the swing of work, plan how I’m going to spend my weekends and my Christmas holiday that starts in just over a fortnight… Try and sleep. Try and learn the new stars over my head. Try and let my old life go a bit more because I’m not going back there for a while.
One week back and I’m still not sleeping properly, although over the last couple of days that has really been my own fault. What’s been going on then? Let’s take a quick look…
Wednesday: I had a really shitty day, no better way to describe it really, and I was in a bit of a foul mood. Not sure why, nothing really happened to make me feel that way, probably just lack of sleep and the feeling that I don’t know what I’m doing again. I got an email from one of my friends telling me that he too had had a shitty day, although his language was somewhat stronger. I think moaning to each other probably helped. But I did get to work with my Junior school choir and they have improved since the first time I met with them. And I started writing a book. I’ve done 6 pages and probably will never get any further with it, but I had a first line I liked and thought I’d get on and see how much I could write from that.
Thursday: Better – I had music with all of year 3 and then two lessons with year 7, a bit of possibly bad news from home that is being investigated further, but some more emails from people and entertaining photos.
Friday: Getting through the day, working on the class assembly (it’s next Friday and should be interesting) and off to a birthday party on the roof top bar of a local hotel. After a few drinks and playing games – If you had £2000 in your hand right now would you snog Pat Butcher? Etc. – we were off to Rock Bottom, Mwanza’s current premier night club – a better one will apparently re-open after Christmas. Loud bass, neon lights, a large screen playing music videos, smoke machines and local men and women grinding up against you it was a lot of fun. I got home at 3amish, made a phone call to England and got to sleep in the middle of a storm with rain splashing in through my half closed windows*…
*Yes I did try to close them but they are on slats and have a rusty metal mechanism that didn’t want to work, and when you’ve drunk a bit of whisky you don’t want to be messing with that sort of thing too much.
Saturday: Alarm went off at quarter to 6, slept through, woke at 7.07 and jumped out of bed, had time to get dressed, clean my teeth and pick up a banana before heading off to school to help with the swimming gala. Since I was meant to leave at 7.15, I didn’t have enough time to put on my sunblock. This may have proven to be a mistake. All the same, I got to school with Chloe, ate a slightly expensive breakfast of omelette and banana, and waiting for instructions of what to do to help. The rain started shortly after we were in position to be helpful (my job was keeping track of swimming hats) but thankfully didn’t last long. My main input into the day was to help sort out the sound desk so that the commentator’s microphone would work. I managed to re-wire a cable, get all the inputs into the right channels and sort out the bass problem. It seems that my module of music tech 9 years ago wasn’t entirely unsuccessful, but I’m sure that they could have managed it without me eventually.
I watched some really good swimming and started to feel a bit warm as the sun had emerged and there was a bit of a glare from the pool. I put on my factor 50 and felt quite smug that I had covered up in time before the burn set in. I was, in fact wrong and obviously didn’t apply the sunscreen well enough as today I have a nice red streak down my nose, a clear line of colour on my feet and most prominent and, for everyone else it seems, entertaining are the two red wings that are now across my boobs a bit. I wasn’t wearing anything particularly revealing, but my top must have slipped once or twice in the sun and I now have a chest like a zoom lolly. And no, I’m not putting a picture of the burn on here, or anywhere.
Here, however, are some of the pictures I took at the Gala:
I left in the afternoon and headed to the hotel by the lake for a drink and a look around the craft fair. There was Tanzanite on show, I would really like some, but I just don’t have the money for it right now, so I’ll just have to gaze upon it longingly… I did, however, buy a lovely chunky silver ring which may be a present for someone but for now is all mine. Lunch at the Yacht Club, watching flocks of with birds flying against the cloudy grey sky and a monitor lizard lazily crawling towards the shore.
The day wore on with rugby matches, more drinks back at the hotel and an invitation to go out in a boat on a lake at 1 o’clock this morning.
And so now it’s Sunday, I woke up with cramp in one leg, which is normally a sign of drinking too much, I’ve been writing in hieroglyphs, laminating days, dates and months and starting to plan next week’s work. I’ve still got that nagging feeling that I don’t know what I’m doing and that sometime soon they’ll decide that they need to send me back, but I suppose that’s just because I’ve been away and haven’t got into the swing of things yet.
And after all, tomorrow is another day…
Somewhere in my flat, a bat is hiding. It was crouching (presumably) behind our toilet when it was disturbed by my flatmate. She screamed and it flew somewhere in our flat. I wasn’t, unfortunately, an eye witness to this event, I was downstairs eating chips with the other ladies of our flats. But I can picture it quite vividly. And now, we’re not entirely sure where it might be.
I’ve sewn my mosquito net to the frame a little bit more so that the middle isn’t hanging down so low that it’s claustrophobic and I’ve strung up the fairy lights I brought back from Wilkinsons. Add into the mix my new bedding (Primark obviously) and it’s really quite cosy now.
I’ve stuck up some new pictures on my wall – I saw a fair few people when I was in England – and I’ve baked bread and chocolate orange brownies. I’ve managed to decode my DVD player so that I can play my region 1 DVDs including Sports Night, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and Much Ado About Nothing (which I have watched again, it was needed.)
I’ve almost caught up with my class and I’ve begun planning an assembly. I’ve taught two year 7 music classes and tomorrow I have year 8. In the evening is a birthday party and at the weekend an international swimming gala.
I’ve been welcomed back, bought food and tea. I’ve been given a replacement fridge for the one that broke whilst I was away and I’ve sworn mercilessly at my printer for not recognising the ink I bought for it. I’ve been bitten by mosquitos and something mysterious that has either bitten or stung my hand, but they aren’t as painful as last time.
I’ve almost got used to the noise, the early mornings, the inability to sleep, the temperamental internet and the children shouting at me in the street. Many seem to be fascinated by the fact that my hair is red – I dyed it back from blonde just before Gaggy’s funeral and re-pierced my lip, another source of intrigue for the children.
It’s good to be back. It’s warm, it’s sticky, it’s noisy, there’s always something happening, but I’m not fully back into it yet. I feel like I’ve hit the ground running without a chance to pause and take a breath. I also miss people back home and being able to talk to them whenever I want to. Two hour time difference is just about manageable, but three seems much further away. It’s hard to reach people on Skype and to wait for a text message to be replied to. But I can book in at weekends and I’m probably going to be heading back in the summer. Lots of things to look forward to both here and there, I just need to get into the right headspace first…
I’ll get there. In the meantime, I’m watching Homeland and going to bed. Hopefully the bat won’t disturb me as I’m trying to get to sleep.
Two weeks ago I arrived in Mwanza.
I had spent two weeks visiting family and friends, didn’t get to see all of them unfortunately, but still managed a fair few.
My flight from Heathrow was leaving at 19.20, Mum wanted to be there in plenty of time so after bacon sandwiches with my sister, niece and nephew, we set of at 11am. That should have given us a fair bit of time, but there was a large accident on the M40. At this point we realised we had no map so called my step-dad for an alternative route, which actually took us an hour and looped us back to where we began again. Mum found a garage that sold a map of the whole country, not just Milton Keynes or Oxford and we made our way down arriving at 2pm.
Unfortuntely we couldn’t check in my bags until 4.30ish so we stopped for a cheapish 3 course lunch and waited for check in to open. The night before I had packed and repacked my bags hoping to get them all within the allowed 23kg weight and when we finally got them through to the conveyor belt with built in scales it seemed I had managed to get them about right. I had left behind most of my teaching books, and I realised later most of my clothes, but who needs them anyway? I gave Mum a hug and we both managed not to cry as I went through security.
Because I had tried not to put too many valuables in my hold luggage, my hand luggage was packed with a computer, two hard drives, a jewellery box, torch (not sure why) and spare clothes. It didn’t make it through the scanner and had to be searched by a Portuguese security man who said it was just because it was so full that it looked dodgy on the scan. He asked if I minded him searching it then kept apologising when he pulled out pairs of spare pants (clean of course). With that over I set off through the terminal to meet another new teacher, Suzie. She said she would wait by Accessorize and I said I was wearing a spotty top. We managed to find each other within 2 minutes, which was rather handy.
Over the course of the next few hours waiting to board the plane we found a few more new teachers and watched as the storm I had spotted when I arrived moved closer and closer, eventually enveloping the airport. It was only after we had boarded the plane that the pilot announced that we would be delayed for take off by one and a half to two hours. Not too much of a problem – I played peepo with the small child in the seat in front.
I didn’t sleep much on the plane. It got too hot, but I watched ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ which has confirmed my belief that I should be Judi Dench when I grow up. Or Bill Nighy. Either would be fine.
When we arrived at Dar es Salaam I managed to take a couple of pictures of the Indian Ocean from the window of the plane…
and then waited in a gaggle of people for my entry visa. I was sat at the back of the plane whereas all the others were up the front together and so I met the others we collected on the way. We now consisted of Suzie, Emma, Emma, Vicki, Phil and Joe. As we gathered our mountainous luggage, went through the next section of security and queued for an age to check in for our connecting flight we met Sandy and Vlad – Sandy is teaching art and Vlad is a pilot – and Stephan the new French teacher. We had some minor hassles with weight limits and language barriers, but soon we were sitting waiting for our flight to Mwanza that was delayed by two hours. Not a problem. Time to get chatting, have a drink and eat chips with hot sauce.
Eventually our plane came and we were flying again, this time with complementary cake and a brochure outlining Mwanza’s night life options. When we arrived we were greeted by a selection of the school staff and driven to our new homes.