Monday, 16 August 2010

Things I hate about living here

Okay, the perceptive among you may already have guaged the tone of this blog. Feel free to tune out now because today I'm giving in to the urge to moan, carp, forget my blessings and have a rant about all the things that get me down. I've been struggling on and off with depression for the last few weeks and there's nothing like a good self-pitying moan to make you feel better....

So, these are a few of my (least) favourite things about living here:
  • raindrops on roses
  • Every single day, at some point, or many, someone yells "Mzungu" (white person) at me
  • At least once a week, often several, I am asked for money, mostly by strangers.
  • We are in the 'rich' minority here, something I'm still getting used to, so I struggle with guilt if I don't give but often end up feeling scammed sometimes if I do. 
  • I don't want to live in a social ghetto of white, well-educated, relatively prosperous people, but I find it hard to get below the surface in conversations with local people. Life is so very very different that it's hard to find common interests, even topics of conversation 
  • Public libraries, or the lack of them. 
  • Public parks, ditto
  • It's impossible to be anonymous or alone. I yearn for a solitary walk in the countryside, or even a stroll through town with everyone ignoring me. There are people EVERYWHERE. And everyone wants to say hello, practice their English, sell you onions or have a giggle at having dared to say "good morning" to the white person. Sometimes I don't want to be sociable but it is rude here not to engage in a series of greetings. 
  • Not having any privacy even in my own garden. Neighbours peer through the gaps in the hedge, yell greetings, ask if they can come over, start telling me their medical problems.  I'm reading a book to my 2 year old in my own garden. B***** Off!
  • 'Justice' and 'Law' giving you pretty much no protection from anyone with a modicum of power who feels like giving you a hard time.
  • Having to hassle tradesmen repeatedly, for days or weeks, before they return and finish the job they started. And then them managing to damage something else in the process of finally fixing the first problem (Okay Tia, maybe this isn't exclusively a Tanzanian thing!)
  • Having to wait sooooo long for everything, or return several times because no one can be bothered enough to text/call to say, actually it's not ready yet even though we said it would be.
  • Bribery and Corruption everywhere. Policemen in uniform openly offering to reduce my speeding fine (driving along the highway at 110 k/hour I came round a corner, saw a 30 sign and was unable to reduce my speed to 30 by the time I reached it) if I didn't want a receipt, i.e. if the money went straight into his pocket. Having to insist repeatedly that I pay the full fine and he use the receipt book.
  • General levels of brutality. Knowing that many of my neighbours are beaten by their husbands, and the kids that come and play are beaten by their parents (I was lectured in a shop by the shop manager about the fact that we whites have discipline problems with our kids because we don't follow God' express command to beat them regularly. I was only trying to buy some hooks and a screwdriver... Hearing the child next door, under 2, being screamed at repeatedly and crying frequently and not knowing what is happening and whether/how to intervene. Knowing that I will never shout "thief" if someone steals my wallet or phone since I learnt that, if I do, there's a very real likelihood that the thief will be promptly apprehended by a mob of passers-by who will pin his arms down with an old tire and set him alight. 
Right now I would happily return to life in the UK, but I know there are aspects of life here that I would really miss. Friends we've made here. Safaris, Beach trips. Someone else doing the cleaning and washing up, regular sunshine, bananas that really taste of bananas, a big house, an international circle of aquaintances. Some days I worry that I will now be disatisfied wherever I live. Perhaps it't better never to move and to accept life where you are as the norm? I vote for heads in the sand myself.


  1. Hang on in there -its people like you being steadfast, compassionate and faithful in very difficult circumstances that makes a huge difference in the world. I'm sure that I speak for all your friends worldwide in saying that we admire you immensely in what you are doing, and you are all very much in our thoughts and prayers X.

  2. Sending you love and prayers. I admire/respect your honesty sharing what's on your heart/the bad as well as the good.