Thank you to all of you who have followed my adventures for the past year, especially to those who have stuck through from the start to the finish - I have greatly appreciated your feedback, comments and support.
Now I have signed a new two year contract and have no idea how much longer I’ll be in Dar, I’m saying a fond farewell to this blog. Instead I am going to try and do some proper writing and a series of short stories based on life in Tanzania.
I will not put these on the blog, but please just let me know if you want to read them and I can forward to you as and when I write them.
Below is the prologue to these stories.
Kwa heri rafiki wangu,
It was a hot day, but winter had bought with it a dry heat so even after walking to Mwenge market and haggling over vegetables for an hour we had not broken out in a sweat. Having spent a year in Dar es Salaam I now knew that this couple of months were the best. Come September we would start to slowly melt again.
We were on our way home, walking down one of the few tarmacked artery roads that led to the city centre, over-populated with dalladallas, cars and bajajs all hooting and vying for each other’s attention. Although it was a trip we frequently made, it was a rare sight to see two wazungu walking down the dusty track on the side of the road. Most would be in their 4x4s.
We stopped at a small shop on the side of the road so Roo could look at bags and argue over the fact that they were more expensive second hand than he could buy new in London. I wandered onto the nextdoor shop, which was full of sad looking second hand baby items. At the front were a row of pushchairs – the kind we old-fashioned kind that we used to play with as children with no padding or plastic. Each of the seats were ripped; some were missing almost entirely. Did Tanzanians know what these were supposed to be for? Pushchairs on the rough roads in Dar would be a pretty painful experience for both the baby in the chair and the person pushing it. They were probably seen more as a way of transporting logs or other big items.
Next to the pushchairs was a line of children’s wellies gathering dust. One pair in particular drew my attention. They would probably fit a three or four year old and underneath the layers of grime I think were black with big colourful spots on them. A marker pen signature on the top inside declared that ‘April’ owned these wellies. I wondered where they had come from before.
In my mind, April was a little English girl who used to line her wellies up at nursery when it rained. At home though she sometimes used to disregard them in the hallway, causing her mother to shout at her to put them away. She loved jumping in puddles and going for dog-walks in the rain. However, come one autumn her feet were too big for the wellies and her mother bought her some new ones: the same pink ones that Clare had at nursery and that April liked so much. The spotty wellies were now redundant and after sitting in the hallway for almost a year, her mother finally got round to bagging them up and dropping them in one of the clothes boxes at the end of the road (together with the party dress April had outgrown and had cried when it had split at the last party she had been to).
How old is April now? Wellies are difficult to age, especially those sat on the side of a busy road in Dar. I suspect April is probably still a child but is about to enter her ‘teenage’ years, which as her mother will repeatedly point out did not exist when she was younger, and no she cannot get her ears pierced or go on a date with Darren to the cinema.
Will April ever follow her wellies to Africa? Only time and imaginations will tell, but statistically speaking it is unlikely. In fact I am pretty sure in her gap year she will ‘do India’ but will never have a particular interest in the dark continent. I like to think she is not prejudiced, but it is difficult to tell as she will live in a town house in Belgravia with a huge rock on her finger, a husband in the stock-market and a little girl who will leave her own wellies strewn across the hallway (her mother will have warned April that white carpet was not a good move with children).
So April, these stories are the stories that your wellies would tell you if they could. Coming from wellies they may not be accurate in every way, they may be embellished or imagined, but they are all based on truth. Some of the stories will need to wait until you are older, but some might be ready for you in your new pink wellies like Clare’s.
 White people
This time last year I had just touched down in Zambia for a week’s fundraising conference, before heading to Dar es Salaam which was going to be my home for the next 12 months. The 12 months have both flown and dragged and have been full of adventures I have felt privileged to have (although often only after the adventure had been completed!) They have ranged from new friends and sun tans at one end of the spectrum to killer bees and floating dead rats (as you can imagine, this was not a welcome spectacle and involved me screaming and running up the beach) at the other.
And what is more, these 12 months now look like they might become 36 as both Roo and I have just signed new two year contracts. I am not sure how I feel about this but if the next 24 are as diverse, challenging, interesting and fun as the last 12, I think we’ll be OK.
Dead rats aside, I can’t think of a better way to celebrate my and Tanzania’s one year anniversary than a list of Top Ten highlights. I started doing these in order but it was too hard - so think of them more as joint:
Mbalamwezi is probably my favourite place in Dar. It is a beach bar about 3 minutes walk from our house and the perfect place to go and sit watching the sunset over the Indian ocean while catching up with friends (and mosquitoes) and drinking their wine (/vinegar, depending how long the bottle’s been open for).
9: Ninajifunza Kiswahili lakini pole pole
In February I FINALLY started taking regular Swahili classes. And I am learning. An hour twice a week isn’t enough to make headway as fast as I’d like, but I’m getting there slowly. And my teacher is brilliant: very patient of the fact I can’t really tell the time in English let alone when the numbers change and very willing to gang up against Roo in my pigeon Swahili.
8: ‘Say yes to the dress’
One of my favourite afternoon’s in Dar. I didn’t go to a single wedding dress shop in the UK, so it was luck that Megan and the girls organised this extravangza!
7: Daily Life
Having been terrified by local transport when I first arrived, I am now a mean negotiater with the bajaj drivers and pretty expert on the dalladallas. I can handle cockroaches scurrying out the cupboard and have improved reflexes from mosquito killings. I am hardly ever seen in clothing that doesn’t come down to my knees and have lived without a mirror the the last couple of months (with unflattering results). Africa has changed me.
5 months in and just when I was really starting to miss home, Rach and Dan arrived. Scary bus journey aside we had a brilliant trip hiking in Lushoto, and wine and old friends were just what I needed to get through til Christmas.
5: Delivery of Dolly Mix
In February Mum and Dad made their first trip ever to Africa. They were both excited and nervous before coming, but had a really good time (confirmed by the fact Mum is planning a trip for next year already!) They had managed to cram many goodies into their suitcases, including dolly mix, which I hadn’t realised I had missed but turns out is amazing!
4: Book Club
Books. Wine. Friends. No need to say more.
3: Beach Life
When I came back from the UK in May I was told by my colleagues: ‘your skin has changed colour’. And it had. It has taken two months and a few dedicated beach days to lose the anaemic glow I got from being in the UK for two weeks. Whenever we move on from Dar, the tropical beaches on our doorstep will be something I will sorely miss.
'Homes' really. Both my first one with Ben, with Mwasu our dada (cleaner) who rearranged our belongings on a weekly basis, chick flick nights with Ben whooping at the TV and the long list of problems starting with the water pump… and the second one with just me and Roo, with our Soviet Union bathroom, a gate-crashing Jack Russell puppy and a throbbing music venue. Home is where the heart is, and mine is mainly in Tanzania at the moment (although all of you back home have a little bit with you as well).
1: Jinja Town
And the obvious number one highlight is the fact Roo can’t shake me now. I have four rings to prove it, and rumours are that even the Archbishop has said yes.
So I’m sat here thinking about killing time at the office before heading out to choir practice (after almost 9 months absence I’ve started going again - well, I’ve been again once) and have decided to show a little more love to my neglected blog and a little less love to my micro-managed work to do list.
And as I am about to head off to choir, it seemed an appropriate time to give some random musings on music (musical musings if you will)…:
- On nights out you will hear the same song played ad nauseum. Often again and again in a row. One of the particular favourites (I’ve just tried to find a link on youtube but can’t as I don’t know the name of the song) has a dance that accompanies it, not unlike the macarena. People love this dance. They will continue to dance the dance for the next five songs that follow, irrespective of what the beat or music is.
- Our new place is behind a hall that they let out for weddings and ‘send-off’ parties (pre-weddings that sound pretty identical to weddings). It is JUST behind, and we are only too aware of that on nights (/early mornings) where the music is cranked up so high that it sounds like we are inside a snare drum (due to rattling metal roof of venue). Up until a couple of weeks ago this happened up to 3 or 4 nights a week. Now, thankfully, after complaining it seems to be somewhat improved.
- I once listened to a Celine Dion CD for four hours in a row on a bus ride.
- A sample song for you - this is HUGE in Tanzania (sadly this is an Ethiopian version, but pretty much the same!). Guaranteed to get everyone on the dance floor: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j5DkJz6VK7Q&feature=related
I feel there are many more musical musings, but now must go and actually sing music so will leave it there and add to at later date if struck by inspiration…
So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye…
Its not every day you turn 30, and its not every weekend that is your last weekend of being 29. To celebrate I informed Roo that I was in charge of the weekend and he was to make no plans.
He managed to remain delightfully ignorant of all that was happening behind his back and I have decided is probably the easiest person to plan a surprise weekend for in the world. Had it been a surprise weekend for me I’m sure I would have known where we were going, what we were doing and who was involved long in advance - it was much more satisfying this way!
Thinking that no-one else was involved in the weekend, Roo decided he wanted a few close friends round for a BBQ on his actual birthday. On hearing this I texted said friends and asked them to make excuses for Tuesday as Roo hadn’t realised he would be spending all weekend with them and I would quite like some time just the two of us!
The first sense of what might be going on was at 9am on Saturday. I told him that we were going to have to leave a bit later than planned as a friend was coming over to return my kindle before we left. He bought this hook, line and sinker and trotted off to open the gate for said friend, only to be very surprised to see Frank and Loveness there complete with tent and sleeping bags. ‘FRANK! What are you doing here?!’ Frank then asked Johan whether he should put his things in the car at which Roo exlaims, ‘JOHAN! Are you coming too?!’
With tents, sleeping bags and an absurd amount of bagels (which Roo had been informed we were buying for Johan not us) we left Dar es Salaam heading to a destination unknown to Roo: Pugu Hills. Pugu Hills is a campsite/nature reserve on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam where we had been meaning to go for a while but had not yet made it (it is pretty difficult to get there other than by car). Unfortunately just as we rained the heavens opened, but it soon turned into a beautiful day for splashing around in their natural swimming pool (very like a lake).
Mid-way through the afternoon another car-load of friends turned up (‘BEN! You’re here!’) and it was a perfectly relaxing weekend of swimming, sunning, camping, eating and drinking. The perfect way to leave your 20s behind you (although, as he repeatedly informed anyone who would listen, he was not 30 yet.