Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Visitors from Autumn

A quick post to say that C, S, R and P arrived safely on Friday, after a very easy journey, and were promptly whisked away for a 2 night camping (is it camping when you have real chairs, mattresses and a coffee pot?!) trip by the shore of lake Nyumba Ya Mungu. Lots of birds, monkeys and Maasai people enthralled by the small fair people. It also included a wonderful dip in an irrigation channel - spot which family forgot to take their swimming costumes! The driving was a bit too long, hot and bumpy for some of the party but it was a wonderful experience.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

not for the squeamish

Kitty back at school today after a good nights sleep. Praise the Lord!

Here are some pictures of one of last week's school activities. They are learning all about their bodies this term - blood systems, bones, teeth etc. Today was healthy eating, with traditional cutting out of magazine pictures of foods and constructing a food pyramid on the classroom wall. But last tuesday they got to investigate the insides of a chicken!

Tuesday is the one day when the Tanzanian teacher, P, a lovely lady, runs the class together with another lady who comes to teach swahilli, and the English teacher, J, has a day off. When I arrived, J (who lives on site) called me into her house rather worriedly. P had that morning bought  a (live) chicken from the market, killed it, popped it in J's fridge and was planning to open it up and remove it's major organs in the classroom for the children to watch, examine and handle.

J, extremely squeamish and very English, wasn't at all sure how this would go down and explained that this wouldn't normally form a part of classroom activities for your average P1/2 combined class in the UK.... P was then herself horrified that she might have planned an activity considered 'innapropriate'. Given that the majority of 6 year old Tanzanian girls would be expected to be able to go out to the yard, choose and kill a chicken for supper, it hadn't occurred to her that this would be at all unusual. So I was called in to express my opinion as a parent and give the yay or nay. Well, you can see my choice...

Kitty says she liked seeing the bits but didn't want to touch them. She never did like getting her fingers sticky. It looks like not many of the others had the same inhibitions.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Keys, snot and God

Mr B flew off to Serengeti this afternoon, jammy thing, leaving me tired out, full of a cold and with one very snotty child and one hyperactive-hardly-left-the-house-in-days-child and a laptop (hurrah!) but without my house and car keys...

I have located a spare car key and a rather dodgy try-three-times-pray-and-if that-doesn't-work-curse-silently key for one of the house locks, so hopefully I will be able to leave the house tomorrow to take Kitty back to school. She's much better. No more fever, rash gone, more energetic and eating again (admittedly under duress and bribery). She is still very snotty and spent rather too much of last night waking up and wailing because she didn't like having a runny and rather sore nose. I'm praying that we don't have a repeat performance tonight.

Meanwhile the Mancub seems to have decided that he is God. This morning, after running around for a while with a scarf over his head "to keep da dunder and wain off", he announced that "I put dunder and litenin". "Where did you put them" I asked. "up in da sky".

Monday, 20 September 2010

Illness, recovery and jingle bells

Too busy and tired to post a blog for a few days. Mr B was in bed all weekend, when he wasn't crawling out to the toilet that is. Particularly nasty tummy bug that left him huddle in a foetal position for most of saturday and for which he has been taking two different antibiotics. He is now up and about and even managing some food again.

Kitty has been tired, rather miserable and not eating since Thursday night, developing a fluctuating fever over the weekend and then an impressive all-over rash today, along with a nose like Niagra Falls. Our wonderful doctor friend and neighbour came over twice over the weekend to inspect them both and prescribe for Mr B. And today I took Kitty to the paediatrician who prounounced Fifth dissease, otherwise known as Slapped Cheek virus. The good news is that this is a very common childhood ailment and will clear up by itself. Today I half persuaded and half insisted that she eat some dinner and I hope that soon she'll regain some strength and energy and be back at school.

On Saturday the Mancub managed to stand on a toy with a sharp edge and hurt his foot. So by saturday night he was on ibuprofen for pain relief, Kitty was on paracetamol to reduce fever, Mr B was on two sets of antibiotics, immodium and paracetamol and I was still taking some tablets for chronic mouth ulcers. What a family. A pharmacist's dream come true.

Add to that all, it happens at the weekend when we have no house help, and in fact today she wasn't in either. So I found myself racing between patients while trying to do the washing up, boil the milk, wash and hang out Kitty's bedclothes after a nighttime accident, clean toilets and tubs and sterilise all the cups that Mr B has drunk out of, collect medicines and cook food and try to persuade someone, anyone, to share it with me. Praise the Lord for Peppa Pig and Charlie and Lola... I think the kids had about 2 weeks worth of viewing time over one weekend.

Mr B is heading into the Serengeti tomorrow afternoon till friday, so I really hope he keeps improving and I hope even more that I don't get his tummy bug and the Mancub doesn't get Kitty's virus.

Meanwhile, we have been listening to the (loud and penetrating) sounds of a very jolly funeral happening in a nearby house (a very old man with a large family). When the Mancub and I got out for some needed excercise and fresh air this morning we met crowds of very cheerful and well-dressed people heading to church and spotted hundreds of chairs arranged for the refreshments afterwards. And this afternoon we could clearly hear the accompanying music drowning out the normal sounds of cows lowing, cockerels crowing, dogs barking and pikipikis and trucks roaring up and down the road. We didn't recognise all of the numbers, but Jingle Bells, Joy o the World and Silent Night were familiar, if surprising.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Write Dance

Every thursday at Kitty's school they do "Write Dance". I had never 
heard of this but it looks great fun!
It is apparently "A creative handwriting programme which incorporates 
dance, movement and creative drawing to teach cursive script"

Friday, 10 September 2010

Manyara Ranch Birding

Another two nights and a few more birds for the list. Lots more fun too. It's getting very dry down there,

with the remaining waterholes very popular with the wildlife.

And birds too (not sure where this spur-winged plover was last time I was there...) - highlight this time was lesser jacana, a bird I've been keeping an eye out for for a long time. Very cute.

Some things are staying green though

And down by the river the wildlife is still prolific: from this vantage point I could see these elephants fighting, plus lesser kudu and loads of impala (see if you can spot them all...) with baboons to my right and zebra and wildebeeste behind me. A great place to sit and watch for a bit... I'm looking forward to taking everyone there next time - hurrah!

Monday, 6 September 2010

Posh paws

This is Posh paws, giving the Mancub his first ever horse-ride

His current owners, friends, deny any responsibility for her name. I presume she came with it. They live out of town on the west side in a beautiful, if rather dry area, along with several dogs, cats, horses, goats, cows, hens and lots of beautiful wild birds. Since Kitty's school is also on the west side of town, I invited the Mancub and myself over for a morning. Having done the 30 mins to the school (a newly discovered back route that misses the main traffic trouble spot has got it down to a fairly reliable half hour now) we then trekked another 40 mins onwards past quarries, masaai manyattas, korongos, cows, donkeys, tractors and goats, following directions such as 'turn right at the pile of soil', until we arrived at one of the most exciting locations in Arusha...if you're the Mancub. Not only a pony to ride ("bit worried Mama") but also, joy of joys....

a tractor to brumm, and a mini digger too. And a sandpit, climbing frame, ride-on toy tractor, hammock, swing, punch-bag and even books about tractors and Peppa Pig! Fantastic!! Funnily enough he didn't want to go home. Although said friends have a 2 year 10 month boy (and an adorable baby), the Mancub is still resolutely at the 'play with their toys but ignore the other children' stage, so we Mums enjoyed chatting while the boys did their own separate things.

Re lawyers etc, the message today was that, actually, we now need to wait another week before anything is likely to happen. And so we carry on waiting. We're getting quite practised at it at least.

Tomorrow Mr B heads off to Manyara Ranch for another few days of adding to their bird list. Hardship indeed. And the Mancub and I host playgroup at our house. Might have to fit some baking in before they come.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Camping at Magara

Lovely weekend camping at Magara, about 3 hours from here to the west. A shady village-run campsite under huge trees and with a view of a cascading waterfall. We went on friday and had two nights there, and on saturday we were joined by friends.

Firstly, having survived the roads, the dust, the police (surviving but 20,000 shillings poorer), and finally found the right road to Magara, we had to ford the river.

Here's the view from the campsite

When you run down the path from the campsite to the giant sandbowl at the bottom of the hill and cross this to reach the river, this is what you find

Perfect for throwing stones in...for hours...

or for having a serious head massage

or washing your hair...

 or being a mermaid in front of

The Mancub was interested, but tentative

There was also sand to play with, some in more sophisticated ways than others

And of course we wandered about and saw lots of birds. Mr B had a new one - green-headed sunbird - which sadly I missed. Lead-coloured flycatcher was also quite special, and we saw 5 different species of Kingfisher, all considerably less than 1km from camp - Pied, Striped, Grey-headed, Giant and Pygmy. The Mancub was more interested in getting a close view of the Black-faced vervet monkeys, particularly the males.....  "want see monkey blue teticles Daddy!", and both children needed plenty of snack distraction to keep them on the march.

One of our friends enjoyed the benefits of birding from one's sleeping bag

and "The Gruffalo" and "The Gruffalo's Child" were read, and read, and read

I have found myself having to explain some of the unfamiliar pictures in these books to the Mancub "yes, that's a wild boar...ummm it's a bit like a warthog. Oh yes, that's a deer. A deer? Well, it's like an Impala"

And now we are home, washed and ready for an early night after two very early wakings and fitful nights. Last night I repeatedly woke up to remove Kitty from my feet and return her to her part of the tent, and Mr B kept dreaming he was being dragged off only to wake and find the Mancub fast asleep cuddling Daddy's feet close to his chest. Maybe we need to borrow a larger tent next time....

Friday, 3 September 2010

Garden birding and off camping...

It's been a quiet few days - lawyers succeeding in confusing me completely as to what is currently going on, but not willing to discuss on the phone (insecure) and not managing to fight through the traffic to our meeting in a quiet corner of Arusha to tell me in person. So we keep waiting there. And I keep finding small things wrong with the car that have been achieved in the process of correcting the rather large problem that appeared from having the engine overhauled - at first they thought it was just the oil switch playing up. So we replaced that. No, still problematic. No ideas. So I took it to another fundi, who opened the sump and found a number of twisted metal items that had once been part of the fuel pump and an oil nozzle. Great! Happily, it seems they hadn't passed completely through the engine, so I got fundi 1 to make the repair on his own cost (a first for consumer relations in Tanzania I suspect), being supervised by fundi two. And it now seem to be working - this weekend will let us know for sure - but in the process they seem to have severed the pipe from the windscreen water to the windscreen, pulled the mirror off the windscreen (huh?) and lost the nozzle from the fire extinguisher in the back. What they were doing in these other places I have no idea. But I'll not be going back there again... And wonder what else remains to be found...

Anyway, did have fun yesterday as I dropped Kitty off at her new school and a friend and I took a little walk around the forest there that belongs to friends of ours. Given the 8.30 start it was impressive that we clocked up about 50 species in their 'garden', including one I'd not seen in Tanzania before (Little Rush Warbler, very nice) and four completely new for said friend. We even managed to add one to the garden list - number 450 something I'm told - in the form of Northern Brownbul (both of these birds could be described as, well, birders birds I'm afraid). (Rather better than out garden list which stands at a rather paltry 49 so far...) But we had loads of fun and decided to make a regular drop-off for Kitty! When the migrants start arriving we'll have to get out with a mistnet or two in the swamp I think - lots of fun to be had!

Anyway, now Mama is singing songs and silly things with her regular bunch of mothers and small people, and I've packed the car ready for heading off camping after picking Kitty up from school. A new campsite south of Lake Manyara, so hope we find it OK. Full report to follow...