Saturday, 30 January 2010

Happy days

It's been a busy but fun day. We'd planned to explore some of the tracks on the hill above us this morning, so hopped in the car and drove up and up through more of the two until gradually things began to fade out and we found ourselves in a rather sterile looking plantation. So we drove on a for a little more, parked and explored some lovely remanants of the native forest. If we can ever find our way up there again it will be well worth exploring properly. The ravines were spectacular (and we didn't loose and children over the edge) and the birds pretty good too. Hartlaub's Turacos are great!
Even if Kitty did think it a bit hot towards the end. At least she perked up when one of the Mama's on their way home wanted a cuddle!

And then after lunch we all headed off to the pool nearby to meet from friends for a swim, before returning here for beer followed by (another) great waffle feast! Busy, but a very nice day all the same. Now I've just been putting together things for tomorrow's grand trip to count Flamingos on Lake Manyara. A long day I think, and possibly one that will drive me quite mad if I can't locate my sunhat - if it was hot on the hill this afternoon it will be roasting down in the rift valley tomorrow!

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Waffles and watercolours

In a spirit of true confidence in our joint hospitality skills, one of our readership, who shall remain nameless,  has taken our delay in describing the house warming party to imply that it was a social disaster...

So, although we failed to take any pictures during the party itself due to food and drink replenishing, child minding and chatting (in that order for me), here is one a mere 20 mins or so before it all kicked off.

Yes, here I am creating a mammoth quantity of non-alcoholic fruit punch to go alongside the beer, wine and sodas. 

The party was great. Although several of our friends couldn't make it (a fair number of them run safaris or disappear off to far flung corners of East Africa on a regular basis for other reasons, such as health and education work or training for ministry), there was still a big crowd, with people coming and going for about 5 hours. I've no idea how many people came but we got through almost 2 of the above vats of fruit punch, as well as other drinks. It was lovely to be able to welcome to our home so many people who have given or lent us their homes, time, food, advice, toys, books... And it was nice to see people we know from different aspects of our lives getting to know each other too. The bring and share pot luck lunch was great - a real hotchpotch of different cuisines, and just enough without much left over. (And lots of people brought home made biscuits which is never a problem....)

We've had another social week so far. Monday saw the Mancub and me at the Blue Heron cafe meeting our friends M and 2.5 year old D. That morning we also finally made it to what is probably the best stationary shop in town, buying paints, enormous sheets of paper, scissors and even indoor fireworks ready for Kitty's birthday cake in a month. The paints and paper were promptly pressed into action that afternoon.


Tuesday afternoon we headed on from school to another cafe "This n That" to revisit the kittens in the bathroom. It was the first time the Mancub had seen them and he was enthralled, though somewhat wary. We all had cuddles and strokes with them until they decided it was time for some milk and promptly fell fast asleep in a huge feline pile of fur. Heading home we opted for a swim and then the children shared a plate of fish and chips at the lodge, finishing just in time for our rendezvous with T and A, a nearly retired couple from British Columbia who have worked in Serengeti for over 40 years. T was how Mr B got involved in Tanzanian ecology in the first place. We jumped into their shiny new landcruiser and guided them to our house, where Mr B had been manfully beating back the pizza base I had made earlier and coating it with red onion, courgette, feta and sun-dried tomato topping. (The pizza bases always struggled to rise in Aberdeen - here they take over the whole kitchen if we leave them too long...) We had a very nice evening with them and have an open invitation to visit them in their new house on Lake Victoria, which sounds lovely except for the drive to get there.

Yesterday we had a guest from next door for a few hours after Emma got home. This is R, who has been to visit us once before and is delightful. Her main passion is football but she will consent to stop practice occasionally to drink milkshake, adorn cardboard boxes with felt-tip and sticker and, of course, ride the pikipiki!  She is polite, well behaved, full of fun and a David Beckham in the making.

And today's social afternoon involved taking care of two other children - B (whose 4th birthday party we attended a few weeks ago) and his little sister H who is 18 months. Their Mum, who is Hungarian, was having a job interview over Skype for a post teaching English in Germany. She lent us her waffle maker as well as her children so we had a happy and calorific tea with waffles, banana and chocolate sauce, raspberry jam and orange juice and sugar. And then threw them all in the bath (the children that is). I did take some pictures but will resist putting them on here. When Mama and Papa arrived for them, we fed them waffles as well, while hearing about their holiday in Pangani (on the coast). We will now definitely be trying to book for the same place for when Grandma comes in a few weeks. It sounds idyllic.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Water and papers!

Happily the water was flowing again by mid-afternoon yesterday. Though Mama and the littlies still decided to go for a swim at the nearby pool instead of a bath. Much more fun (and Kitty and the Mancub could enjoy a plate of Fish and Chips between them AGAIN! Since we had visitors coming over later and thought a more civilised adult only meal would be nice). So water was good, and the washing machine was plumbed in too - we'll see what success we mght have there today! And then I also got the final acceptance of a paper that has been on the go for a very long time now, so that's great too. Hurrah! It's a paper with a figure that should never, ever be published, but they're going to - and in a decent journal too (Ecology for those interested).

It might be the work of a demented spider. Or perhaps a master plan for some strange cat's cradle. But who'd of guessed it really describes the pattern of interactions between bird species on the Peak District?! As always, I'm convinced that once this paper comes out it will completely revolutionise the way we do ecology... If only someone could understand it... Still, it is quite interesting I think - not so much the bird interactions, but we provide a method to help untangle the tangled web that is an ecological community - who interacts with who, and in what direction and how strongly? This sort of thing is essential if we're to try and understand what happens to the whole system if you were to change something - say you target one particular species with a pesticide, might this lead to some currently rather obscure competitor suddely exploding out of control and causing an even greater problem? It might be nice to know this in advance... Anyway, back to the next one, on Tanzanian birds this time...

Tuesday, 26 January 2010


In a not entirely planned act of solidarity with many of our neighbours, we seem to have run out of water... The last 24 hrs have seen us high (pretty niffy, that is...) and dry. With occasional buckets of water coming from outside when the town supply is on at a trickle. Much like a lot of the locals I guess. But not all that much fun really. Hopefully the fundi will be able to sort us soon! And then perhaps he'll be able to plum in the new washing machine, that would be nice once we have running water again...

Monday, 25 January 2010

More duck adventures

Continuing the waterbird adventures from earlier in the month I got back safely on Friday from a fun 48hrs counting ducks (and looking for Rufous-tailed Weavers) in and around Tarangire NP. The mission was to count ducks on Lake Burunge, to the west of the park, then enter the park, count some smaller pools, camp and the next day to rush around and count at the large swamp (Silale) and along the river, whilst simultaneously spotting as many weavers as possible... So, after a somewhat African start rushing around town to get the final things sorted, we drove out ona  fantastically beautiful morning into the hot, hot, hot bush and, after an uneventful trip we found Lake Burunge. And we were just about to begin (with the first flocks of terns already sighted) when along came an official on a piki-piki and told us all we needed to sign in at the village office before we could begin. So we bundled back in the landrover, wizzed back to the village, to find the office empty... Still, after a little while things were sorted and we headed out again. Why does everything here, even just looking at ducks, need sooooo much paperwork? Still, we got back and had a happy, hot few hours counting along the lake shore, dodging herds of cattle and happily, seeing quite a few waterbirds, though perhaps not as many as we'd hoped for (there were ducks though!):

Then we headed into the NP, counted a few more little pools, spotted a few giraffe and set up camp where, kindly, TANAPA sent an armed guard down to look after us during the night. A totally unnecessary precaution we all agreed...

So a hearty meal for 20 was prepared for the four of us, and we settled down to tell stories over the camp fire, with the sound of lions in the far distance and owlets (both barred and pearl-spotted) in the trees above us. Very nice. Before bed and the gentle sounds of crickets to lull us to sleep.
Until about 1, when the moon went down and the lions started up again. A bit closer this time. And then a bit closer still. And then really rather close. And then extremely close... Oooo. Noisy! And then "bang, bang" went the guard's gun and, silence was restored... Hmmm. So they had been rather close... Though in the morning we decided the guard had really just been concerned by the fact they were very obviously coming straight in our direction, rather than being actually too close at the time and it was probably rather unnecessary.
And looking at the tracks around the tents there had actually been an elephant much closer among the tends than the lions anyway! They're just rather quieter...

Beautiful sunrise from my tent in the morning, and then whilst eating breakfast sitting in my stool I was once again amazed at the diversity of life here: I saw more than 40 species of bird in and around the acacia above my head (including lots of these nice Von der Decken's Hornbills).

Then it was off, down to the swamp (through a rather deep ford too, and clouds of horrible tetses - when I took my t-shirt off at the end of the day I seemed little more than one big bite, as they'd avoided the areas I'd sprayed and just bitten through the cloth. Mmmm. Nice. I'd have taken a picture to show, but thought it might put too many people off. It was really only this central/southern bit of Tarangire they seemed to be in this time. Honest... It's not usually like that!)

And the swamp was pretty well populated, but the tall grass and limited open water made it a bit difficult - we must have missed 1000s of things... Still, very pretty and nice to see some proper ducks too:

Whilst no trip to Tarangire would be complete without a picture of an Elephant.

And we saw other types of wetland bird too! And we proved that once again Mama is right, the best animals all seem to be seen on the way from the lodge to the gate, as we saw a lovely cheetah stalking through the long grass and had a few minutes to stop before our departure deadline. Very nice! Saturday's party was also nice, but I'll leave that description for another time now.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Lovely day

Errands achieved this morning, 'Hello Kitty' 5th birthday party attended at lunchtime (with pizza, 'tattoos', trampolining, 'happy cake' and party bags) and a lovely afternoon at O's house - the one in the forest with the pool. Ahhhhh.

It bucketted down on our way out there, clearing shortly after we arrived but leaving large muddy puddles.


5 naked and semi naked children frolicking happily in the mud and water while we enjoyed a nice british cup of tea. Then 5 children and one Mama enjoying the pool, complete today with two inflatable dolphins, an inflatable caterpiller, two swim noodles, two floats and a generous sprinkling of rotting berries from above. Kitty was in for the best part of 3 hours. The Mancub chose at first to  make the most of having all the toy trains to himself on the edge of the pool, later coming in to be "dolphin boy!", insisting that I let the dolphin tip him off at regular intervals. What a nice way to spend an afternoon.

And now I can hear the return of the landrover and a grubby unshaved husband. Time to go and catch up.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Swimming and other delights

Today we fulfilled one of Kitty's homesick longings at last ...

Fish and Chips!

Mr B is off counting ducks in Tarangire for a few days, so  we decided to join two other mums and assorted children for an afternoon swim and dinner at the Ilboru Safari Lodge. Very pleasant location about 5 mins walk from our house. Since I signed up for a months use of the pool we have been at least twice a week but this was our first meal there. The 'dry' season is finally starting to be sunny and dry, and it's lovely to be able to be outside such a lot, even eating dinner outside.

The Mancub still runs in off the side of the pool whether there is anyone there to catch him or not (fortunately he only does it if I am at least nearby). He doesn't seem to mind getting completely submerged, just commenting on the 'water' in his 'eyes'. Today however he decided he could do the same off  a ledge over a bit of garden, insisting that he do a 'big jump' on his 'oooooown!' Given that it was about 3.5 ft high I was rather reluctant to allow this and ended up just about catching him in time a few times before, thankfully, fish and chips arrived and he could be distracted.

Kitty has never had such enthusiastic suicidal tendencies confidence about the water, but is now happy bobbing about on her own with armbands, and was thrilled today to discover, after a lot of persuasion,  that she could actually 'jump' in on her own without needing catching. On dry land she is much more confident about some things, wanting to jump down 7 ft and be caught, but still very cautious about trying new things. She has a new classmate this week who is Tanzanian and doesn't speak English yet, and she is keen to learn some more Swahili to speak with him and others we meet. She now likes to practice the respectful greeting "shikamoo" whenever we pass someone with wrinkles or white hair and yesterday she learnt to say "would you like this?" to help her classmate. (The Mancub joined in, yelling "kitu hiki!" repeatedly for a while. He uses his own amalgam of swahili and english, such as "bye hairy" instead of "kwaheri" for goodbye)

Tomorrow is a madly busy and social day. Somehow in the morning I have to drop off Kitty, buy huge quantities of various drinks and pick up huge quantities of crockery and cutlery which we are borrowing, all for the housewarming on saturday. I think we ended up inviting half of Arusha... At least it's a pot luck lunch so I'm going to provide bread, drinks and snacks and hope that between them all we get a reasonable balance of food... Then the Mancub and I have to get back to school for 12.00 to head out for a lunchtime birthday party, followed by a trek out to Usa to visit Kitty's friend O. The Usa trip was planned before the birthday invite and it's so nice out there we have foolishly confidently decided to do both in the same afternoon....My hope is that, like today, I will only end up providing breakfast, so even if it is a mammoth day I get a break from meal preparation! I think by Sunday we'll be ready for a bit of peace and quiet.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010


"Li'le boy basket!" "big cuggle, woof, miaow!"

and not to be outdone..
and we're starting to get more happy moments like this...

The Mancub like to be a baby bundle in a a towel when he comes out of the bath (or pool) and has to be handed round for cuggles. Yesterday we were visited by Mama J at bath time, and both children practically leapt into her arms (complete with towels and no clothes). We liked her too and from the beginning of february she will come and help us in the house. So more cuggles for Mama J!

Tuesday, 19 January 2010


So what happens when the power goes off in the middle of baking fairy cakes? They sink, obviously. But if you're lucky there's just enough residual heat to keep the cooing to the end. And then you can make the holes into ponds with blue icing, inhabited by ducks (or jelly beans, depending on how you look at them - still, as close to ducks as I came the other day...). Hurrah!

Taste good too... Probably time for haircuts for the Mancub and I though...

Monday, 18 January 2010


We've been here three and a bit months now, but surprises are still coming fairly thick and fast. Here are a few that have struck me in the last few weeks...

(1) Sitting outside the furniture workshop waiting for the spare bed to be completely finished before Christmas a Maasai turned up outside - typical getup for your average Moran: a couple of nice red wrap arounds, bit of beaded jewlery here and there, thousand mile sandals (cut from an old car tyre, you can walk a 1000 miles in them before they give up...), large knife / spear. The usual sort of thing. But he started looking at the cabinets lined up outside, which I thought interesting to start with - not many Maasai huts have fancy cabinets inside in my experience. But then his mobile rang and he dug around in the robes, pulled it out and started chatting away - even the Maasai are connected these days! And I thought that was all for surprises there, when he turned around and I saw he had a motorcycle helmet on the other arm!!! I'd love to have seen him zipping through the bush, robes flying everywhere, helmet and spear at the ready...

(2) Getting a lift home the other day in a taxi (landrover once again at fundi). Normally this involves Afripop or some hiphop/rap blasting out on the radio, or at least the British football results being read out. This time he reached for the radio, twiddled around a bit until, bizzarely, he settled for a channel playing a Catholic Mass being read in Latin, with the occasional light chant. Certainly a more peaceful way of travelling, but somewhat surprising all the same!

(3) The sweet potatos bought by Mama the other day, when cut open revealed not a nice orangy inside, but white. Which rapidly oxidised to green. Appetising! (We're already used to all citrus-fruit being green, but this was new!)

(4) The kindness of relative strangers when it comes to helping someone in difficulty. (See last post!)

(5) Finding a (sadly deceased) gecko lurking under the eggs in the fridge door. How on earth did it get there?!

(6) That my little, little brother became a Daddy on Friday - surely not?!!

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Expat attitudes

Once again it's been a busy few days of socialising... People here yesterday for lunch and afternoon fun, us inviting ourselves over to others this morning and the lunch and lazy afternoon watching the view (and passing eagles - 10 lesser spotted eagles plus a few smaller things in about an hour at one point isn't quite Lebanese style migration, but still good to see and a lot better than you'd get in the UK!). Children happily throwing themselves off the top of steps into piles of cushions, parents happily sitting on the veranda, etc. Very nice sort of day really. Next time we'll go earlier and go for a walk around their hill beforehand, but the first time it's probably good to just plan things. And then back home where we discussed again the differences between the attitudes of those long-term expats here and friends back in the UK. Indeed, it was one thing that struck the Wicked Uncle whilst he was here - how many people we knew and could call on for help or to borrow things when we've been here such a short time really.

For Mama I think it is the attitude to children and what they can do that strikes her the most - people love children here and will happily accept weeing on the lawn (or in the Mancub's latest game, weeing by a swimming pool, then stamping in the puddle shouting "wee" in a loud voice. Charming! He managed 5 in about 30mins the other day though, which even I had to admit is pretty impressive...) or climbing all over things in a way that would shock many Aberdeen parents. But for me, I love the "of course, let's do it" attitude. This is what lets people (that would be us, then) phone up first thing in the morning and invite themselves for coffee, then arrive late and have lunch instead. Or call someone one evening asking to borrow all their camping equipment the next morning and find several people willing to lend things, when you've only known any of them a few weeks. And that's before we start talking about how many people have been involved in helping us sort ourselves out with the house, home and things, or even help get stuck in to police offices, immigration and all the rest when someone gets in trouble. Indeed, we keep discovering people who know all about my adventures and were helping one way or another bhind he scenes whilst I was enjoying the hospitality of the constabulary, and that was before we even met them! I guess is helps that there's a huge pre-filtering of people who end up moving to Tanzania (as one friend commented the other evening, we're all missfits together really...), and that does mean that lots who make it have similar general outlooks on life. But it's a great community to be part of, and I really hope we can contribute to others in a similar way. The first challenge is to work out where everyone we've invited to our house-warming, jail-freeing pot-luck lunch thing next Saturday is going to park - didn't think of that when we went through the phone lists... We probably have parking for 6 or 7 at a push and live on the end of a single track road (check out 3 20'53.47"S, 36 41'01.88"E on Google Earth to see more...), so roadside parking isn't on. And leaving cars far away might be a bit of a risk... Still, of course we'll find something - if nothing else there's a field up the road and I'm sure we could pay someone to watch cars there for the afternoon... Though we are also hoping to build some good relationships with some genuine Tanzanians too - and I'm sure we will.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Counting ducks...

Every January, all around the world hundreds (thousands?) of mostly volunteers set about an annual count of the wetland birds. January, because the people who started the counts were mostly in Europe and North America and January is the time when most of the ducks and geese in these areas are not spread out breeding across huge expanses of empty tundra, but collected together on handy lkes and reservious not so far away. Worldwide, because the aim to to try and count all the wetland birds and estimate the total populations, assess trends and identify areas where concentrations of national or international importance ocur (defined as different percentages of the global or flyway populations). I've done these January counts many times before, in many different places. In my experience they usually involve freezing arctic conditions, a bitter wind blowing in your face as you try and count and identify distant blobs bobbing up and down unstably on the choppy waters. I suspect there are plenty of people in UK right now experiencing this particular pleasure. I've also done them in Lebanon, where it was equally cold but one time I had the joy of taking Mama off to try and find a lake that existed on a map. After a morning of driving around asking questions (and having tea and coffee from strangers) we concluded that it really had been drained (yes, the whole lake!), and there was nothing to see. This was before we knew of Google Earth, of course...

So it was very nice indeed to set off to meet the crack Tz North team of duck counters for the first session of 2010 at Lake Duluti. The four of us met, only somewhat later than planned and piled into the landrover to drive the last bit together. We then negotiated our free pass and off we went. No cold breezes and instead of barren reservoirs a beautiful forest surround, full of lovely bird noises. And being free of the  children and there rather earlier than normally, I even got to see these - and it was great to have one of the other guys with me who really knows his stuff. And count we did. Lots of cormorants, lots of different herons (and a fair few crakes too) but ducks? No. Not one...  One Red-knobbed Coot, and one little Grebe, but no ducks at all. This, it seems, is really the fault of those Northern centric people who decide January is the time to count things - here, January is often the time when all those additional seasonal wetlands are full and bursting with life, so all the birds are disperssed everywhere. Still, it was good fun - fish eagles were fishing, I learnt a few new calls of the forest birds, and I confirmed that I can hold my own among the Tanzanian bird guides (which was rather reassuring, since whenever I tell people what I do they automatically assume I'm a complete expert, whereas I still need the fieldguide sometimes...). And also identified a couple of the mystery calls I've heard from the garden before now too - Tambourine Dove and Emerald Cuckoo.

The most surreal part of the experience was the background noise from the sacred caves above the lake where some decidedly animist worship was taking place with lots of chanting, singing, wailing and even sacrificing of cows. The bellows of dying cows carry far across the still morning waters... All very interesting...

In other news, we keep waiting. My days are occasionally interrupted with rather cryptic texts from my lawyer reporting progress or setbacks of one kind or another. But mostly I just wait. At the moment it seems as though there is still a need for my friend in the immigration department to find some way to save some face. But there's also other things going on that I don't think the lawyer knows about yet - his last text was to say he was going to ask for a full disclosure of whatever is happening, or a final end to things today. But we've had approximately nine final ends so far, and nothing concrete yet... So we just keep waiting.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Swimming and dinner guests

No blog last night as we were busy getting to know our dinner guests. Very civilized. The kids were fed, bathed, toothbrushed and pajamad when K and R arrived, so they  were able to be clean and sweet for half an hour and then be put to bed so we could move on to a nice meal with just four adults and a bottle of wine. Conclusion: we should do this more often, with or without company!

Today the Mancub and I went round to the house of a new aquaintance with two small boys. Result - chaos, noise and sopping wet clothes but 3 fairly happy children. The Mancub particularly liked the slide, water tray, Cosy Coupe car and, joy of joy, an inflatable racing car ball pool. The chocolate cake was good too. I think we'll be back. They are also close enough for us to walk to their house, which is a rare treat here.

Meanwhile Mr B took the landrover for some minor repairs/adjustments but discovered that one of the tyres was badly damaged... looks like another expensive month.

This afternoon I got down to some serious swahili study (while the Mancub napped) having lapsed for a good 6 weeks or so, revising some of the things I have already forgotton... and then when Kitty was out of school we walked over to the Il Boro Safari Lodge and signed up for a month's use of the (outdoor) pool - a whopping £12  for me and free for the kids. A little chilly perhaps, but I shouldn't complain really....

Monday, 11 January 2010

Rain rain go away?

Surely not the right thing to ask here in Tanzania, but right now we could do with a bit less I think! We've no power at home (so I'm a refugee once more down to the friendly office at CRC and have taken the opportunity to scan some receipts and see if Aberdeen can be slightly more efficient at paying them this time...) thanks to the rain washing down a major pylon, friends have had to postpone their beach holiday because the main road to Dar es Salaam washed away yesterday, and we enjoyed a fantastic drive back up the river road to our house from Church yesterday trying to dodge the dala-dala being washed down the centre of the road (happily, both our cars are 4x4...). The volume of water involved in a delge here is absolutely fantastic - and as the Wicked Uncle commented, this is supposed to be the dry season! Amazing how we can go from the grips of a devestating drought to the country gradually (and at times, rapidly) drowning under excessive flooding.  At least it remains relatively warm, and the rain tends to come in bursts so there's still plenty of time to enjoy being outside - much more civilised than some countries at the moment... In fact we spent most of yesterday being lazy on the veranda now we've got a nice sofa and table out there as well as the chairs. We couldn't help comparing Kitty's failure to be able to watch long enough to see the lightening she was desperate to spot to an episode of Peppa Pig where George is unable to concentrate long enough to see the cuckoo pop out of the cuckoo clock...

In other news, we've still no letter from the police, but the lawyer is confident... He spent a while sitting outside the police chief's office with the immigration officer who told me complete lies the other day and was told that the final resolution will come today. So, one more final resolution to wait for. He did also assure me that there will be an end by default eventually, as if no case is brought within 60 days of arrest the issue is formally closed. So only another month to go now!

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Social whirl

There may be two entries today as Mr B and I led separate lives for the day. He went off with a friend to look at some nice land and birds and do some sort of carbon sequestration sums... the kids and I went partying instead! Well we started with a relaxed morning at home doing jigsaws, crafty things (birthday card soon wending it's way to Auntie T), "big cuggle"s with the Mancub, Mama plus the woof and miaow, various sorting and tidying things (toys into newly aquired toy cupboard) and some instructing and helping J our house-help. (It seems that  Tanzanians and Brits do household things COMPLETELY differently. I hadn't expected to have to instruct in the pegging out of laundry, cleaning of windows, washing up.... just about everything. And poor Kitty has had her Christmas jigsaw tidied away twice now while she took a breather from it, into a basket full of other stuff too. It's amazing we still have all the pieces. Instruction will continue next week...)

Anyway, this afternoon we headed to B's 4th birthday party where the kids stuffed themselves full of popcorn, biscuits, crisps and cake and a half-hearted stab at a samosa while I met some new neighbours, exchange phone numbers and  organised a get together. I returned home and realised that I now have social engagements  on monday, tuesday, wednesday and friday. This may not sound very exciting to some of you but it's progress for me! It's nice to meet some other mums who either don't work outside the home or only work part time. And we could even walk to the houses of both the people I got to know today, weather permitting.

Talking of weather, which I guess all you in Britain are probably doing a lot of at the moment, we have definitely arrived here in an El Nino year. We should be comfortably in the dry season now, with the short rains having ended about a month ago. Instead it thunders most days and rains at least once, often several times a day, often torrentially. Contrary to popular opinion amongst our domestically minded readership, getting washing dry is far harder here at the moment than it was in Aberdeen!! Last time it was an El Nino year the country skipped this dry season and the rain carried on until the long rains.... hmmm, And you all thought we spent all day in the garden covered in sun cream....I'm still glad we have postive temperatures though, and seldom need a jumper, although Kitty is very jealous of the snow in the UK. She's now determined that we all have to climb Kili so that she can throw snowballs at us at the top.

Now that we have furniture, Mr B is no longer incarcerated and we're reasonably optimistic about being allowed to stay in the country, we have bitten the bullet and sent out invites for a house-warming party on saturday 23rd January. Any friends or family who happen to be passing through that weekend are more than welcome....

Friday, 8 January 2010

Burnt biscuits

I love making biscuits. I volunteered to make some for the birthday party we are attending tomorrow afternoon. 10 eager children expecting problem...

Until I realised that Mr B was going to be out tomorrow morning,counting birds.

Scratch plan of a mostly enjoyable and slightly patience-taxing baking session with Kitty in the morning. My patience definitely can't cope with a Mancub climbing up my trouser leg and crying for cuddles and "see Mama doin!" while I have sticky fingers and am trying to supervise 4 year old biscuit making enthusiasm.

So I opted for baking tonight. Pick a biscuit recipe... ah, that would be the one I actually have ingredients for. Fine. Normally a good, tasty, simple and reliable standby.

Except that I haven't made this one in Tanzania yet, with my second hand weighing scales that are accurate to about 3 ounces...

The first batch spread and baked so eagerly that I ended up with one big and slightly scorched biscuit that chipped into shapes that were definitely not regulation as I tried to extract it from the baking tray.

The second batch were more generously spaced and ended up a series of beautiful circles... but were burnt to a crisp as I fielded a call from our landlord about the non-functioning cold water tap in the kitchen. As it turns out, said tap will continue to non-function as it was connected poorly originally and re-doing it would cost lots of money and involve ripping up the kitchen floor and bashing through the kitchen wall... I don't mind, but apparently he does. The front garden tap, with a similar problem, will also remain non-functioning, which may put paid to my idea of a paddling pool for the kids, unless I can face traipsing bucket loads of water out of the house each time.

The third and final batch yielded beautifully shaped and perfectly baked biscuits which even remained intact as they were carefully prised off their baking sheet.

Shame there were only 5 of them.

Baking tomorrow anyone?

Thursday, 7 January 2010


We collected our first mail in 3 months today - very exciting! Two homemade Christmas cards, complete with newsletter, assorted photos and stickers and a parcel with presents in! Mr B's Auntie F, a veteran of the Tanzanian postal system, cunningly found three very flattish presents and disguised them in a boring brown paper envelope. Thank you all! Anyone else wanting our postal address is very welcome!

Other news today - Kitty started back at school (3 days late but the safari took precedence) and Mr B made a fruitless trip down to Immigration to get our passports stamped. Our 3 months tourist visas expired today so we needed to get a stamp to prove that we are now resident. However, Mr B's recent exciting exploits mean that a)  immigration are still in possession of his passport and b) they ( or perhaps a certain official) have decided that they can't possibly do this while he is still under investigation, and, despite assurances last week that he would have his official exoneration letter yesterday, things continue... The official in question assured Mr B that the children and I really had no choice but to leave the country today... a phone call to our lawyer confirmed that this is absolute rubbish and he is now going down to immigration tommorrow to try to help things along a little.....again....

Tomorrow evening the Wicked Uncle leaves, that is, assuming that Heathrow are receiving flights and assuming that he is well enough to crawl out of bed and get to the airport. We'l be sad to see him go but have had a lovely two weeks with him.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

New Year Safari!

Mud and amazing beasts probably sums up the last few days well. It's definitely been a learing experience - and probably planning more than a few hours ahead would improve the experience next time (slightly less stressful if nothing else). Main lessons being: (a) follow the advice of those who told you how to drive off road and check the depth of any suspicious puddle; (b) get a bit more hole extraction kit for the landrover (probably also carry a screwdriver so you can change the fuse for the wipers too) and (c) make sure the diff lock on said landrover is working before heading out again. Plus of course, lots of useful experience on where to visit and where to stay next time - some to miss, some to do more of. The final safari ended up being a combination of tented lodge for one night, camping for two nights and full lodge experience for the last two. We spent 24 hrs in Tarangire (now much greener and wetter than this trip, one of which was spent fruitlessly trying to extracate ourselves from a very deep hole until a friendly tourist vehicle turned up and helped pull us out - we then drove another 10 mins and heard lions not far off... But sadly at this point still thought we'd left the camera back in Arusha so no photos of this fun.), drove over to just near Lake Manyara and camped there with a full day in the NP the next day, then headed up to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, and decided that this time we'd give the crater a miss - it being high season and all - and drove straight on to Ndutu, on the boarder with Serengeti but still in the NCA for two nights in a very nice lodge there before trundling home today. We also got stuck in the mud near Ndutu for a bit, but only because I was following another vehicle (who had confidently said we'd get across the marsh if I followed him - having spotted a large tourist vehicle already stuck in the middle) who got stuck first and once he'd got stuck in front of me I had to stop with the inevitable consequences... [Lesson 4 in off road driving - if following a vehicle through soft mud, try and keep close enough to see where they've gone, but far enough away that if they get stuck you can find a solid place to pull up in and laugh from] This time at least we were pulled out very quickly and still have plenty of time to see the pride of lions nearby and spot a cheetah on the plains before lunch. Fantastic! And here are some pics...

Buffalo with the rift behind in Lake Manyara:

'Unts as the Mancub would tell you, in the same place:

  The view of Ngorongoro Crater from the road to Ndutu:

Some of the migration on the Ndutu plains - animals as far as you can see (and rain!)
Rufous-tailed Weavers were common around the lodge...

Genet Miaow (another official Mancubism) seeking shelter (and sustenance) in the lodge during the evening

If we weren't actually stuck it would be a good illustration of the fun that can be had with a landrover! The car in front was, indeed, a Toyota. And we wouldn't have beens tuck if it hadn't done it first!

On the other side of the marsh were the beasts we all wanted to find...

Endless Serengeti plains...

And between times they almost solved the Times Christmas Jumbo...

... whilst the Mancub made close aquantance with more wee beasties.

And whilst these had kept me awake last night, it was stil good to see dozens of them as we drove back across the plains this morning (and we still found another four new mammal species for our trip list on the way through too. Definitely a fantastic area to keep exploring!).

Friday, 1 January 2010

Clean sheet for a New Year?

So much fun in the last few days we've been too exhausted to blog... But yesterday afternoon, just as I was giving up hope, I got 'the call'... And the news is good - it has been agreed that all possible charges will be dropped. My binoculars, notebook and GPS may be crushed (not confirmed yet...), but the end is nigh. We're not quite celebrating yet though, as we definitely need to get it in writing, which I've been told to expect on Wednesday. So in the mean time we'll be on safari - hurrah! We're planning on leaving after lunch, after collectingcamping equipment. The route looks like Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro and southern Serengeti, but we're willing to be flexible! Unlikely there'll be any blogs, but don't worry, we're having fun!

Meanwhile we've had fun the last few days too, gradualling working up from gecko to giraffe on the wildlife spectacles for the Wicked Uncle, and enjoying a good New Years Eve with some neighbours - much pizza eating and South African wine. If only Kitty had decided on a lie-in this morning too... Wildlife we've seen because we did a 24hr in our local Arusha National Park again, this time entering after lunch and having an afternoon and evening doing the drier regions and lakes, then returning for the morning yesterday doing Ngurdutu Crater and the highland forest. Very nice. And here are some pics...