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Wrapping up

In the past 2 weeks lots of people that work on the compound came to us to borrow money. Borrowing money is not unheard of but so many people was a bit odd. They all know we’re leaving, we said. They’re hoping we’ll forget, we said. One by one, each and every person is now coming to prove us wrong. Someone told me that we’re good people, we help them when they’re in need. Other wazungu say (and we have felt like saying that too): ‘I’m not a bank’.

All the stuff that hasn’t been sold or promised away and we don’t want to leave for the landlord has to go. We asked our ornithological friends to pick up the crow trap but they didn’t make it. As Mr Protasi, the old askari, built it for us, we gave it to him as a chicken shed. Along with an envelope. Today I gave some other people an envelope. I have to admit that wasn’t my idea as envelopes make rather impersonal gifts. Hein insisted and I’m happy he did. Two people told me that envelopes are the kind of gift that really help and that makes people feel we really thought of them. Mama Eliza was almost moved to tears. Which in turn almost moved me to tears. I quickly ran inside to prepare someone else an envelope.

Out of the frying pan

into the waning heat of a Dar es Salaam street.

I’d like to thank Leonarda and Cecilia for putting in more than their share of time to help me through this week. I’d like to thank Hein for moral and practical support. And of course I also want to thank many of you, readers, for your supportive e-mails, facebook posts and concerned comments. And the most important figure to thank is … The Mole:

Since all of you readers are most likely regulars (hoi Willempje!), I don’t have to mention that the weekend was pretty bad. And though it’s never fun if Hein goes off on work trips, this one was to be Monday to Friday only, Tarek was on the mend and the freezer was full of master chef Benedict’s goodies, things should have worked out fine. Except when on Monday we (Tarek, Miko, Leonarda and I) came back from what was to be the first of 4 trips to the clinic there was a bad smell on the compound.

Remember the cockroach entry? Well, that story didn’t end there. The fumigator had warned us more, and more thorough (as in whole compound) fumigation was needed as the infestation was particularly bad. So we suggested as much to the landlord who promptly responded by saying that ‘fumigation would take place in due course, normally once a year, occasionally more than that depending on the news from the compound’. To me it sounded like a typical ‘don’t call us we’ll call you’ kind of answer. So we sent an e-mail which stated ‘this mail contains news from the compound, please fumigate’. Little did we know what in due course meant. It meant: ‘we don’t care if there are 3 small children living on that compound and we don’t care that in the past all tenants have shown concern about the chemical substance that is used for fumigation and we definitely don’t care about what you think about anything at all’. The thing we smelled stepping out of the car was the work of the fumigators who were to spray the whole compound without any forewarning. Hein had already phoned Mr R, the man in the office we normally deal with (and who always seems sensible) but this was out of his hands. Then Hein tried to talk to Mr R’s boss and he got into a fight. Then Mr R tried to talk to the boss and was told off. Then Niko, the uber askari, tried to talk to the boss and was told off. Out neighbour tried to talk to the boss and had a very unpleasant experience. Then I tried to talk to the boss and hung up on him to prevent myself from becoming impolite.

It was time for evacuation. Back into the car we got, Tarek, Miko, Leonarda and I. We had lunch at Jackies, something I had promised Tarek a while ago. Unfortunately Tarek’s fever came back while we were there. I phoned a friend who lives around the corner from there. Unfortunately she wasn’t home. But that didn’t matter. She phoned the lady that works there, told her to crank up the AC and within 5 minutes we were comfy in Mike, Mara and toddler Morgans’ house. Mike was at work, Mara out to lunch and Morgan sound asleep. I breastfed Miko on the couch, Leonarda walked Tarek to sleep. Tarek, feverish as he was, slept for a few hours, which is normally unheard of in a strange house. Miko was her easy going self and I got to chat with Mara. Time flew. Morgan and Tarek, once they were both awake, enjoyed each others company. Before we knew it it was time for the dreaded injection after which we went home. Fortunately, Leonarda was spending the first night with us, that made it much easier to get everything done.

The next morning I got up to find Leonarda sweeping the floor?! Getting up around seven for her (she lives more than an hour away and starts at 7:30) is practically a lie in. The day past without anything outrageous happening. After Tarek’s nap we drove back to Mara and Morgan so the two toddlers could play together again before the dreaded injection. Leonarda went home afterwards, which due to traffic took forever. While I fixed (=heated) dinner Tarek watched television (hence my gratefulness to the mole). After dinner I managed to put to sleep Miko before Tarek so it was no problem to do my required time with both watoto (mtoto = child, watoto = children).
tv tarek
Tarek waiting for dinner

The final shot! In order to give Leonarda a break from the late homecomings Cecilia went with us. Yesterdays entry tells you all. All except… the fact that this night Miko refused to fall asleep before Tarek and Tarek refused to fall asleep without me by his side. This in effect meant that I had to sit on an uncomfortable chair holding a baby while reading Tarek a book and then singing a lullaby. After we finished and I wished him goodnight my back started killing me so I got up to walk around the room and was ordered to sit back down. And breaking your back in an uncomfortable chair might be manageable in milder climates. It is absolutely not doable when the temperature is around 30 degrees centigrade and the fan is pointed away from you.

Today. No visit to the clinic, hurray. 7 Trips in 5 days is more than enough. Time for some fun. Baby group for Miko, and as it was in the same apartment block as Hami lives, Tarek joined. And as 1 pair of eyes simply isn’t enough for 2 watoto, Cecilia went with us. Tarek played in Hami’s house while Miko slept all through baby group. Like she had done all morning, she slept from 9 until 2 in the afternoon, I had to wake her to feed her. She found her thumb, that’s why.
tha thumb
The best pacifier in the world!

Leaving the baby group I had to top up the power steering oil in the car. Driving away, steering became too heavy. I looked under the car and noticed a trail of power steering oil. At this point there are 4 people in the car: Tarek who thinks it’s time to go home and is telling me as much on the top of his lungs. Miko who generally doesn’t like being in a car that goes to slowly (and there are so many such bad traffic jams lately) and is letting me know at the top of her lungs. Cecilia who doesn’t like leaving her son alone and is already running late (she doesn’t need to let me know at the top of her lungs, thank goodness she realised that).  And then there is me. No matter how much time I spend in bed, I cannot seem to get enough sleep. No matter how straight I keep my back I cannot seem to get rid of the pain. No matter how often I tell myself I’m lucky having Leonarda and Cecilia helping me out I still sometimes feel overwhelmed. After the horrible weekend, the fumigation and the numerous trips to the clinic, a broken car on a busy road during rush hour with two wailing children …. this is one of those overwhelming moments. So like a true lady of leisure… I phoned my husband in Rwanda.  Also because I didn’t have the number of the fundi. In order to be rid of wailing Tarek (‘NAAR HUIS! NAAR HUIS!’) I put him and Ceci in a taxi, even negotiating the price, am I  becoming a Tanzanian or what? This made Tarek wail even more cause his idea of NAAR HUIS involved me joining him. The fundi found me and Miko and managed what I couldn’t: steer the car home. He did it single handedly. Tarek back to the Mole, Miko back to sleep and I back to the microwave. After dinner I couldn’t care less about what the literature tells me about opposite sex parental nudity in front of toddler: I had to get in the bath with Tarek and we had a great time playing with water.

And Miko?
Not only did she find her thumb, she also fell asleep as soon as we came home. So she slept. Like she did all morning. Like she did all week and during the weekend actually. Seems like all she does of late is sleep. Very handy I have to admit. And lovely at night too! And even if she doesn’t communicate much, the baby group is a great occasion for her to to show off her wardrobe. And who knows, maybe she does pick up things there? As I was typing up this looooong piece I heard some grunting sounds. Time for milk? No. Time for a nappy change? No. Time for another change. From back to front that is! Another milestone. All the sleeping and pushing with the legs was the prelude to something big. It is time to give my little strawberry her late night feed, lie her down on her back and go to sleep myself. When I wake, Hein will be here – hurray.

strawberry suit
My beautiful strawberry baby!

I’m such a small guy and the truck is so big

This was going to be a girlie entry about me doing girlie stuff. Boring, I think, but this a blog about our life and very occasionally doing a girlie thing is part of my life. And as there is nothing else to report I was going to write about the Filipino lady I spoke with. Just chitchat. Boring – but like I said, such is life. On the way home from doing girlie stuff, something happened that changed this entry completely.

While I drove home a whole bunch of cops were stopping as many cars as they could manage. As I pulled off the road I remembered someone telling me: Act as if you’re polite, stupid and cannot speak Swahili. And so I said: ‘Hello sir’ rather than the ‘Shikamoo bwana’ I would normally have addressed him with. While Mr Julius from Oyster Bay (as I later found out) waited for my driving license he checked the mass of stickers on the car and could apparently not find a single one that had expired (phew). But then there was the business of my driving license. My Tanzanian one got stolen and I never managed to replace it so I drive around with my Dutch one. ‘How long have you been here?’ asked Mr Julius in his ever so friendly tone. I took a gamble and said ‘Less than a year’. Ha! He was onto something. ‘You’re supposed to have a Tanzanian one after you have been here for half a year’. I explained the stolen license and he said I should have gotten it replaced. I mumbled a bit about it being hard, red tape and such. After some more back and forth talking he demanded Tsh10.000 (app. 5 euro). This was my opportunity. Doing girlie stuff had cost me a lot more than I had expected so I could truthfully say I didn’t have it. Some more back and forth talking and then there was his slip of the tongue ‘If you have been here for a year you should have a Tanzanian license’. Ha! A year. We both knew the conversation was a waste of his time, he could be making money from other unsuspecting drivers. We said our goodbyes, me going ‘haya’. Luckily my slip of the tongue was at the end of our encounter.

When I got to the compound the takataka truck, garbage truck, was there.  ‘How do they fit so many people in the truck?’ I wondered. ‘And why is it not moving?’ And then I noticed, there were not just a bunch of guys on top of and beside the truck, there was also a guy underneath the truck. It had broken down right in front of the gate. So they pushed the truck further down the road for me to get into the gate.

taka truck

Attracting wildlife to your garden

A few days ago in the bookshop I saw a book called ‘attracting wildlife to your garden in Southern Africa’. Had it been called ‘attracting birds other than crows to your garden’ I would probably immediately have bought it. Between the monkeys, the mongoose and the snakes I feel we have plenty of wildlife in our garden thank you very much.

Yesterday I heard a lot of noise by the back door. I walked out to find Alfons fighting off Mr Blue Balls with a bamboo stick. Mr Blue Balls is my nickname for the main man of the troop of vervet monkeys that frequent the compound. I think you can guess why he has this particular nickname. A baby monkey had been wounded and couldn’t hold on to his mother any longer. It fell from the cashew tree into one of our flower beds and died. Alfons disposed of the body, to the dismay of the troop. They spent the rest of the day hanging around the area. In the evening I saw the mother in the tree with engorged breasts, no baby to empty them.

There is a pair of Heuglin’s Robins that live in our garden. They seem to like the edges of Tarek’s sandpit, I imagine there are a lot of termites to be found in the decaying wood. This afternoon Leonarda found a small bird, obviously the robin’s have built a nest somewhere. She showed Tarek the little bird. He almost killed it from excitement. I told him to set the bird free but of course then the monkeys came to check out the little snack. But papa and mama Robin weren’t having any of that. Those two tiny birds chased off Mr Blue Balls. I am not sure if the little bird survived. The last time I spotted it it was just sitting around in our back yard with its parents hovering over it. Between the monkeys, the mongoose and the snakes it doesn’t stand much of a chance.

boy and bird boy carrying bird
setting free bird boy inspecting bird

The world is my playground

If you have visited us before the following picture night be impressive. The building by the gate is being renovated:

Don’t ask me why the askari house (previously known as shed) at the gate needs separate bathroom and toilet when for years the landlord deemed a leaky tap good enough for his employers. These renovations mean trucks come onto the compound to deliver goods. This in turn means fun for Tarek and his neighbour friend Trudpert. Yesterday they wore themselves out by climbing up and sliding down Mount Kilimanjaro repeatedly.
belly down
The men on the mountain