Friday, 30 April 2010

Pink bags and staff

When Grannie and Grandad left they left behind a few surprises for a rainy day. This afternoon was bright and clear, but Friday afternoon is my easiest time to do something special with Kitty as she comes home at lunchtime and the Mancub sleeps for an hour or two after lunch.

So, we opened up a surprise package and got sticking and sewing. And the result?

Beatifully coordinating with her butterfly costume. She even did some of the sewing herself.....

The Mancub was somewhat less happy today, with a dodgy tummy and a very slight fever at one point. Nappies definitely back in action today... He seemed reasonably cheerful by tea time though so let's hope it passes soon.

On a completely different note, it was payday today, when I hand out brown envelopes stuffed with cash to our four staff. I know, anyone not living here must balk at those words. What, 4 staff, for 4 of you??! I felt the same at first. Seems ridiculous and bourgeois in the extreme. We have a house-help here Monday to Friday from 8.00 till 4.30, who does all the cleaning, laundry, washing up and occasional childminding and vegetable chopping too. (I have never lived in such a clean house before!!) and we have 3 askaris (guards); 2 full time and one part-time, so that there is always someone on site at any time. They double as gardeners and wash the cars too.

As I said, I struggled with this aspect of life here more than perhaps any other to begin with, and yet I am now almost fully reconciled to it. Why? Because we are providing an income, and a reasonable one by local standards, for 4 families in our neighbourhood, and because I have seen and heard what life is like when there is no income, which unfortunately is all too common. Walking the paths through the shambas (fields) and houses round about one can't avoid being invited in, having conversations, being offered avocados (definitely the season for those) etc. And yesterday I was invited in by a granny looking after a flotilla of small snotty nosed children. "Why are you crying?" I asked one. "Because she is hungry" was the reply. Mama J, our house-help, is a widow and was out of a job for a few months last year, after the family she had been working for moved to a different area. Some days there was nothing for breakfast and the kids went hungry to school, and then sometimes they came back and there was still nothing, or maybe she had found a banana or two ripe enough to pick and boil to make a sort of porridge for the 5 of them. Amazingly, most people, even children, grin and bear it and still find great joy in life. To my shame, I'm sure I would be a Moaning Myrtle after the lack of a meal or two. I'm constantly humbled by how people rejoice, smile, laugh and are friendly here, even when they have so little. I think back to some of the moany conversations we used to have at toddlers groups or in playgrounds over matters that seemed so difficult and unfair, and which I would be ashamed to mention here for their insignificance.

So, here is to having paid staff! (And having the dishes done too)

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Jumping in Muddy Puddles

Hmmmm, can't think of much to report from the last few days... Mr B has suggested that I record the Mancub's successes and failures with the potty and present them here in an interesting graphic form, but I suspect he just needs to get out a bit more....

Rain...we've had a LOT of that. A fairly consistent pattern of rain in the night, rain most of the morning, a brighter afternoon and then rain again by bedtime. Which does of course create many many muddy puddles to jump in. What with puddles outside and puddles inside, the other thing that has been happening very regularly is laundry...

My goodness, what an exciting blog this is turning into.

My other excitement has been starting a new swahili course - that is, not actually going anywhere but studying with new materials left by friends who have moved away. It has given me new enthusiasm for learning (which had definitely started to wane) and is much more sensibly structured for someone actually living here and using the language than the very comprehensive but rather theoretical book I have been using. I have now finally learnt to say things I could have done with knowing in the first week or two, like "I come from the UK"  and "may I have tea please" as opposed to things I have been learning with my original book such as "The farmers meeting with be held on tuesday to discuss the new agricultural plan" or "I shall not raise salaries this month because the workers are all lazy"

Okay, I will stop now. If we don't blog again for a while it may be that our internet connection issues are still ongoing or it may be that I am valiantly restraining myself from boring you with more mundane details of our daily life.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Bye bye Granny and Grandad

Just back from a 2 night safari to Kambi ya Tembo, West Kili, where we were the only group in the camp hence received fantastic service! While we were there we had to finally say goodbye to Granny and Grandad, who managed to get on a flight back home at the eleventh hour, so last night it was the four of us with six staff waiting on our every need.
The Mancub enjoying the welcome drink and peanuts

The verandah of our tent with Kili in the background

Mount Meru - a different angle to our normal view
Mama climbing the hill with Matio, our friendly Masaai guide, to scan for elephants
And here's a better shot of Matio, helping Kitty to stand with one foot in Kenya and the other in Tanzania
Bye bye Granny and Grandad - taking our leave before they head off to the airport to fly home.
Dung beetle busily manouvering his ball of dung
Finding tickling sticks on a short walking safari
And the best thing about the lodge? Lots of gravel to play with!

And while I'm in photo mania mode, here are a few other shots from the last 3 weeks...

Nile Monitor by Lake Duluti

Why did the zebra cross the road?
And the giraffes?
Or the babbons for that matter?
None quite as impressive as this creature...

who crossed the main road, just in front of our car, and about 100 metres from the chaps busy fixing the lorry in the top left corner...we did warn them and they jumped back in pretty sharpish. This is NOT in a National Park, but along the best road in Tanzania...
A beautiful coffee lodge in Karatu
with lovely gardens
 And coffee of course

Driving through the Ngorogoro Conservation Area, the wildflowers were beautiful too

Some Hartebeest at Ndutu
 and some smaller wildlife at the Ngorongoro gate

A trip to Mount Meru Game Lodge provided a closer look at some birds and animals, like this saddle-billed stork
and a hungry Eland
and a trip to Arusha National Park gave lovely views of Kilimarjaro

and various wildlife too, such as Sykes monkeys
Black and white Colubus
and White-fronted bee-eaters
Right, that will do for now. Hope we've whetted your appetite to come and visit?! Mr B has just added up our total number of bird species seen in the last 2 days - 126 but probably many more there that we missed. Goodnight for now.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

More Elephants please

Well, internet is back on at home...just... it seems to stay on, veeeery slowly, when Mr B, Granny or Grandad are using the laptop and then mysteriously die when I get near. So far so good this morning though.

Granny and Grandad are still here and looking set to be here another 8 days probably. Grandad is getting twitchy and starting to pace the cage house, and our modest book collection is rather lacking in suitable science fiction, so we have decided on another safari! (if in doubt, go on safari, or so the old saying goes....) We are off to Kambi ya Tembo, about 2.5 hours west of here, in West Kili. Apparently they have some of the biggest bull elephants around with enormous tusks. We'll only be 1.5 hours from the airport, just in case a last minute cancellation comes up. We're off in an hour or so and back Monday afternoon.

Apologies to all those whom we are keeping Granny and Grandad from.... sorry Tia. It's a great bonus for us though, and I'm sure Granny is thrilled to have been here for  these early days of potty training... Grandad has managed to avoid most of that, and hid himself in the bedroom yesterday when a group of mums and tots arrived for Music Makers, but has been busy reading stories and playing hide and seek. Yesterday we headed out for a walk to explore the local paths through the shambas and managed to lose them both for 20 minutes or so.... they found their way back home though - there's nothing like a combined 100 years of guiding and scouting to help you out of a tight spot.

And last night, Mr B and I left them in charge of dinner, bath and bedtime and headed out for a fantastic "Evening of Sacred Music" put on by the current 15 students at the Music Department of nearby Makumira University. 'Sacred Music' included a 5 member drum team performing a traditional call to worship, traditional dances with new themes/lyrics and a range of world music from French sonatas for Cello, Recorder and Piano to gospel choruses and close harmony. Absolutely wonderful. And then an indian meal for two to complete the evening.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010


Chupis, pants, knickers, underwear... whatever you want to call them. That is what the Mancub is proudly sporting at the moment. In many different colours (often in quick succession at the moment....), favourites being bright green and yellow. Many colours, many puddles, quite a few successes and all household members, staff and visitors having to be shown chupis and listen to success stories.

Today Granny and Grandad have been informed that their flight (the one supposed to go last friday) has been rescheduled for 2 May..... apparently there is a vague possibility that they might go earlier if someone cancels.

So, they are making the most of their extended stay by spending the day in Arusha National Park with Mr B. If we ever get internet back on at home you may see some pictures! This connection in the cafe where I am now is far too slow for that and even sending and receiving emails is a challenge, so please bear with us if we don't get back to yours very promptly.

Oh, and I have signed Kitty up for "The Learning Space" next academic year. I went to visit on Monday and loved it. And she's very keen to just do mornings instead of the looooong days at the other schools.

p.s. no news on Mr B's immigratin issues. This time due to lawyers apparently not reading either their many texts or emails from us over the last 10 days and hence not doing anything.... terrific

Monday, 19 April 2010

No internet

Hello all. Sorry for radio silence. We've had no internet for days and have finally resorted to a veeery slow internet cafe.

We are all well. Kitty is back at school.  It keeps raining torrentially. Granny and Grandad are still here. Frustrated that they can't get on with work etc but generally healthy and happy! They've enjoyed some bonus colubus monkeys, visits to Kitty's school, thunder and cafes. No news on Mr B's immigration issues.

If we're not online for the next few days we're probably just stuck for a connection

Friday, 16 April 2010

Happy Birthday Mancub

Well, the Mancub's birthday was yesterday, extending into today, and, for a wonderful finale, ending with Granny and Grandad returning from the airport to spend another (or many more??) nights with us.

It started yesterday morning as we left Sopa lodge on the rim of Ngorongoro crater.

Kitty presented him with her birthday card and we sang Happy Birthday....and then we packed and left on the car journey home. He enjoyed helping with the luggage.

And then we drove......after a while he asked quizzically "where Mancub birthday gone?" and we all felt a little guilty and promised that there would be more birthday later and even Happy Cake tomorrow...

So when we got home some more birthday had to be found... and guess what? It was hiding in an orange bag all along! The Mancub peered in and his face lit up "Mancub birthday!"

The birthday included a new Thomas the Tank Engine DVD...
and a wibbly wobbly pull-along crocodile
and some snap cards featuring 8 different sorts of trucks, tractors and diggers. Auntie T had sent an excellent tractor book, and Uncle G and Auntie Y another different and equally excellent tractor book! All in all an excellent haul and all of them inspected and played with immediately and with great concentration.

This morning the birthday continued, firstly with presents and a card from Mama and Daddy, and more from friends R and P.
and later with friends, balloons and Happy Cake! Complete with two candles and a flame-thrower indoor firework, as requested.

Happy Birthday Mancub! And welcome back Granny and Grandad!

Thursday, 15 April 2010

safari time by Granny

The landrover was fully loaded with extra supplies of water, boots and emergency snacks, as well as the shovel and suntan cream - not to mention insect repellant. All bookings made in advance and off we set for a five day adventure, all superbly planned by Mr B - one of the very few people entitled to act as driver into the Ngorogoro crater.

We had planned to do a lot of animal spotting but the highlight of our adventure came before we had even entered any park, just on the main road and very close to a small family waiting for a bus, as well as a broken down lorry, we encounteres two lionesses. After a hasty photoshoot we backtracked to warn the local people before setting off once more up the long hill towards the crater.

Our first stop was at Ngorogoro Farm Lodge - set in a coffee farm, with beautiful gardens and a plentiful supply of weaver birds as well as a superb swimming pool. The afternoon included a tour of the plantation tour and the evening included local music and dancing - Mrs B contributing to the entertainment. Next day we were up and off in good time for the drive alomng the crater rim, and down towards the Oldupai gorge where we had a picnic lunch whilst exploring the little museum overlooking the gorge itself. Bumping along rough roads all the way we headed into Ndutu, a wonderful Safari Lodge on the border of the Serengeti, to find lovely cabin accommodation and a central dining area where the highlight for the children and many visiting adults are the Gennets ( Known to Kitty and the mancub as the "Gennetmiaows")

Lots of wonderful food, friendly staff and the ability to drive wherever you want in order to find the animals you are looking for gave us two days of ani mal hunting -looking for all sorts - elephants, zebra, giraffes, as well as plenty of birds including vultures who gave us the location of possible kills - all very exciting.
 The smaller wildlife also took us by surprise one day:

Ourdeparture was delayed one morning by the discovery of a flat tyre  quickly replaced by Mr B with the assistance of the mancub, so we were soon back on the road again

 Plenty of wildlife - just a small selection:

Off next day for the final destination - Ngorogoro crater. We stayed at the Sopa Lodge - by far the grandest, but equally friendly. The rooms all overlook the crater , and with an interconnecting door between our two rooms, there was lots of visiting to and fro, with communal use of the rocking
chairs to entertain in quieter moments. Granny, Grandad and our personal driver, Mr B set off for a day in the crater with enormous packed lunched supplied by the lodge, and spent 8 hours exploring the vast area of forest, grassland and lakes which are totallty unspoilt and occupied by thousands of animals and birds. Getting out of your vehicle can incur a penalty, but not when you are helping others out of a fix. Our intrepid driver assisted in towing out another vehicle which had got stuck in a mudhole - and his navigation skills throughout the trip were amazing - no signposts, just a good memory for landmarks and sense of direction saw us through We saw 8 rhino, hippo, elephants, jackals and hyena, as well as countless Correy Bustards and Guineafowl as well as this beautiful Crowned Crane.
Just another friendly local inhabitant

Our lunch stop was overlooking a hippo pool, and another lake was pink rimmed with flamingoes - far too much to take in in just one day. It was amazing that we had completed out whole trip with dry weather -as we climbed out of the crater, the first raindrops began to fall but even that shower cleared up in time for Granny to take the children for a final swim in what must be the coldest pool in Tanzania. the hot showers afterwards and the excellent cocktails before dinner made up for that!

Today started very early with the mancub awaking to the realisation that he was two today. Birthday extended until we returned safely home when presents could be opened, and cake and party is promised for tomorrow - what a brilliant end to a fantastic holiday. Only the news that we may not be able to get back to the UK has surpassed the challenges we have faced over the past few days - many thanks to Mr and Mrs B and mancub and kitty for giving us such a great time. We need to come back to find that elusive leopard!