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More Christmas activities

“Tell us Tarek, what did you do in the weekend?”
“Mum and dad took us to the National Park where they cut down a tree. They put it on top of the car and secured it with ropes.”
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“We took it home and decorated it. So now we also have Christmas tree. A real tannenbaum my mum said. Scots pine they called it.”
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Into the sun

We were wide awake at 4, so we left by the time we had planned to get up. The reason for the early departure was the expectation of sleeping children.
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But no sleep until we entered France just before 9. We got stuck in Paris when the navigator tried to avoid traffic. After that we treated ourselves to a long picknick in the sun.
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A few more hours of jip and janneke, the gruffalo and we managed to drive almost 800 km and camp in St Aout. Built the tent, made pasta, borrowed a swimming pool from the neighbours and got some cold beer from the fridge. What a day.
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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:
molletje

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.

Monday
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.

Tuesday
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).
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Tarek waiting for dinner

Wednesday
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.

Thursday
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!

Back to work

Today is the last day of my jobless existence. Tomorrow morning at 8 I’m expected at the secondary school campus. As the three days are introduction for new teachers and the week following that are in-service days where teachers work when the students aren’t in the school my first day of actual teaching will not be until the 10th of August. I am getting a little nervous. The main worry: Will there be a working car here tomorrow morning?

PS: Two of the 3 tomatoes have been eaten by a monkey. It didn’t care that it wasn’t even remotely red yet. Hopefully we’ll have more tomatoes than the monkeys can manage but I doubt it.

Hey dude, where’s my car?

In the entry below did you by any chance notice that I mentioned the car being in the garage? It feels like the Harry Potter books or a thriller movie sequel: Toyota Prado in car killers’ conditions. There is always a little difference with the previous episode. This time it started off with something old reappearing. The brake light stayed on after the engine was turned off. And if you don’t notice that soon enough, the next time you try to start the car, the battery could be flat. Which it was last Friday. Not so empty that 2 guys and me pushing it a little couldn’t do the job. I drove and drove, to Masaki and then to Mwenge. By the time I got back, the driver of Heins’ office that helped start the car had convinced Hein that we needed to see a fundi. Despite me telling all involved it could wait as it was not the alternator –whatever that may be- but the fairly new battery (no need for a new battery thank you very much) that needed charging because of the stupid brake light that yes, we need to get fixed, but no thank you, not by some fundi I don’t know. I had to admit though, that there were more than a few things that needed looking at. That’s how the car ended up in Joe’s Garage last week. Actually in Josephs’ garage but I couldn’t resist a little Zappaesque joke there.
Car free car park
The car park has been car free for app a week now. Gives a good view of the pumpkin, bananas and tomatoes.

Josephs’ garage is located smack in the middle of dirt road Magomeni. I’ve been there 3 times now and still I don’t think I could find it. The garage does well, it shows. I saw at least 3 diplomatic license plates as I walked in. This means that embassy people (read: people who can afford to care more about a job well done than about the cost of it) take their car to Joseph.
Joseph is a man who has done well for himself – it shows. In subtle ways, a small gold chain, a crisp ironed quality shirt. He’s not at all like some Tanzanians that made it big and feel the need to show it through a heavy load of golden jewellery and huge flat screen television in their office with gold coloured edges to the table. Hmm. I have to admit to not having seen Josephs’ office. All in all, I liked him. Until he phoned me to tell me that he needed to get a spare part that would cost $400,-. Not for the battery, the alternator or the brake light. This is for the steering. He seemed honest when he said it was a decent deal. He seemed to like my silly Swahili. He went to great lengths to answer my questions on how it all worked, what needed replacement and why. So I still kind of liked him. That is, until Hein went to collect the car yesterday, a day later than agreed, and found the car bado tayari (not yet ready). Labda baadaye (maybe later). But when I phoned around 5 Joseph told me the car was ready but the garage closed. At 5 in the afternoon? What kind of Tanzanian garage closes at 5?!
This morning I phoned bwana Joseph, to ask if the gari was tayari. Kusubiri kidogo (wait a little) I will phone you in half an hour. Now I’ve been waiting for a call from Joseph for 2 hours. I really want to collect the car before Cecilia finishes work. It would mean she can be with Tarek while I do some shopping. The endless waiting for the car means we ran out of essentials such as drinking water, rice and washing powder. All things that I can buy around the corner but prefer to buy in bulk. Especially the washing powder. Tareks’ poo still has not returned to a non spilling consistency, but that’s probably a detail you didn’t care to know about.