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December, 2009:

A week alone

It feels like I’m going through the most chaotic week since we moved from Amsterdam to Dar es Salaam. It’s probably not true but one needs some exaggerating to impress people from time to time. Hein left last week Friday night for a course in the Netherlands. I’ve just spoken with him. He’s about ready to take off from Schiphol and he doesn’t sound half as hungover as he normally sounds before heading back to Dar.

Last week Saturday was fine, if a bit lonely. I’d worked hard the week before to finish everything in order not to have to work in the weekend. With hindsight I know that Tarek was then peaking in his I want my mum phase. I couldn’t turn around without him screaming out in frustration with not being held by me. That made it hard for us to do anything at all so the furthest out of the house we got was the garden, which right now is in a gorgeous phase. It’s remarkable what a few large showers can do. We can no longer see the whole compound from the veranda, there is too much green surrounding us. And the flame trees are a bright orangy red which sets that whole side of the garden in a beautiful orange and green shaded light.

Blooming flame tree
Finally, lots of green and many flowers

Sunday was much nicer as we visited Elmer, a tiny Danish baby that had just arrived from Nairobi where he was born the beginning of this month. As Elmers’ sister, Hannah is two years old she has many toys that interest Tarek greatly. This made him much easier to handle than at home, where he knows every corner of the house. And as we had no power all day we were happy that Elmers’ parents, Kristian and Christel, didn’t mind us using their internet connection so we could skype with papa Hein, oma in Amsterdam and auntie Dani.

Monday I was actually relieved to be able to go to work. I love holding Tarek but it makes me very nervous when he gets so needy. I know it’s just a phase and bla, it still makes me very nervous when he depends on me so much. Thank goodness he is absolutely in love with both Leonarda and Cecilia so he has much more fun when I am not around. Work started at seven in the morning, meaning I got up at 5:30 which to me is the middle of the night, no matter what time I go to bed. As Monday was the day all the teachers had to go through all the report comments and make changes, I had to stay in school for a long time. That meant that Leonarda had to work a very long day as well, coming here at 6:30 and leaving at five in the afternoon. Thank goodness Tarek is still never fussy when going to bed (knock on wood) and by the time seven o clock came around all I could do was wait. Wait for the guests arriving with the KLM flight which since recently arrives at **** one o clock at night. There are only so many episodes of West wing I can make it though on one evening. After a while all I could do is lie on the couch, drifting in and out of a slumber until I heard the plane flying in. That made me optimistic that our guests would arrive soon. None of that though. Lide, Jan Hein and their sons Jesse and Bram told me later that even though they were the first ones to hand in their visa papers they were the last ones out of the airport. It felt like 2:30 in the morning when I finally heard the car pull up the driveway. As a matter of fact, it probably was. Meaning my semi – waking hours on Monday amounted to 21, an amount I hope not to repeat too often.

Tarek likes suitcases
I love guests, especially their suitcases

Tuesday (up at my normal 6:15 – I didn’t feel well rested, why would that be?) was an easy working day so that was good. I was done so early I had time to drive our guests into town dropping them at the ferry to Zanzibar to buy tickets for the boat. Naturally there was a pretty bad traffic jam going home. If only that had been the worst part of the day – traffic jams here are such a big part of life, I sometimes notice they get talked about the way the Dutch tend to talk about the weather: a lot, while there is nothing substantial to be said or done about it. In the evening we ate at Dar Alive, formerly known as Malaika. It’s very close and nice to take guests to as it’s on the beach overlooking the Msasani Bay. Also there is always the nice story to tell about Hein drinking white wine at the beach there while Tarek was born in Amsterdam. Unfortunately I managed to lose my phone there though. I keep saying it was stolen, but if I am honest it probably dropped out of my pocket in the parking lot as I remember the Maasai looking at each other meaningfully as I was pulling out. They received a very large tip for guarding our car. By the time we got home and I noticed my phone was gone and I tried to phone it, it was already disconnected. It was probably over exhaustion combined with no power to cool the room I shared with Tarek that made me toss and turn and feel so sorry about losing my phone that it actually took me a long time to fall asleep that night.

Wednesday, before work I stopped at Heins’ office, to report my phone being lost yet again. The askari looks at me as if I’m a stranger and closes the door behind him when he comes to inquire what my business is. Why he’ll not simply let me in is beyond me. Without having been allowed in (‘this person is not there and neither is that person’) I turn the car around to drive to school. As I’m irritated by the askari I feel a nasty form of joy that he managed to lock himself out and now has to go around the gate trying to attract someone’s attention to make it back onto the office compound. Lack of sleep often makes me see things that may not be good as if they are life threateningly bad. Thank goodness I have a lovely colleague who gave me a good hug, by this time a good hug was the only thing that could pull me through the day. And this lovely colleague, Natalie, even offered to come around that evening bringing take away sushi. Natalie – in case you ever read this: that evening was the light of my week!

Thursday, another early start. But the night before, with the guests in Zanzibar, I managed to make it to bed on time. I actually felt fairly rested on Thursday. During the day I had to rush back home as the day before I was struck by a case of digital nitwitism and forgot to attach some student letters that I had written from home. I shouldn’t have had to have written the letters in the first place! Meaning, my students shouldn’t have plagiarised part of their assignments. But having to rush home gave me the chance to also pick up my new sim card at Heins’ office. By the time I finished work, I actually felt sort of optimistic again. I was looking forward to a quiet evening, watching some episodes of West Wing before I would go to bed early. I did that, but not before I managed to get frustrated with the water dispenser leaking and me not being able to fix it. And then the screen door between the kitchen and the living room refused to close. My sense of drama made me grind my teeth in frustration. Finally a fundi had come to fix the shower, in such a way that it is now impossible to stand up straight under it, as he used too small a cord. But as often seems to be the case in this country, fix one thing badly and have another thing break.

Friday. School’s out. As I had no teaching obligations and really had finished all the work I decided not to go at all. No matter how often I told myself that I make many more hours than I get paid for, it still felt somewhat illegal not to join in the whole school assembly. I treated myself to a massage in a salon where I heard they do good massages. The Philippino women in another spa are better and more affordable, but this was nice nonetheless. Just a bit frustrating that now that I have lost my phone I’ve also lost the number of my favourite taxi driver. With our car being checked up for our big journey starting Monday, I had to negotiate with the taxi drivers at Sea Cliff village. They’re absolutely crazy, they wanted to charge way more than I paid on the way over and that was already an inflated price due to the impatience of your truly. As the taxi driver whose number I did have got stuck in traffic, the only solution was to start walking until a taxi stopped that would give me a better deal. That ended up being a bajaj that didn’t mind waiting at the clinic while I added yet some more stuff to our huge collection of medicines for the safari that starts on Monday. In the evening the guests made it back from Zanzibar safe and sound. They brought some take away sushi and we had a quiet evening of arranging things for their journey and me continuing my first attempts at setting stuff ready to pack in a house filled with people. I spend a fair amount of time trying to find the phone that I normally use in the Netherlands, as it had all my Nl phone numbers. I still don’t know where it’s gone, another bit of frustration added to the pile. The sushi, from Mayfair Plaza was ok though and it’s nice to know we can also get sushi close to home.

This morning I realised why the pressure pump for the water was working overtime during the night. And also how we could run out of water just when, fortunately, the water truck arrived. I might have to change my opinion of last nights’ sushi. Two of our four guests spend a large part of their night on the toilet. For Bram it was so bad that he couldn’t join his parents and brother in their journey to Iringa. They’ve set off without him, he is asleep in the guest bedroom and hopefully will be fit enough on Monday to join Tarek, Hein and me on our journey to Iringa where we hope to meet up with Bram’s family. Fortunately we can make use of both bathrooms again. Early in the morning one of us managed to close and lock one of the bathroom doors in such a way that we could not open it anymore. But, where I often complain about things being slow in Tanzania, this morning I phoned a guy who phoned another guy who came and looked and broke and then opened the door. Naturally, it is no problem to use only one bathroom, it is just that much nicer to be able to use two when we have guests. The main bathroom got a visit from a scorpion today. Thank goodness it was stupid enough to sit exactly where the door closes so it got killed.

Attempt at packing
Attempt at organised packing: failed miserably.

After three loads of laundry, a lot of sweeping up after the door fundi by Cecilia and some more uninteresting household chores, all that’s left to do is some more household chores and the taking apart of the bed. I was hoping Alfonsi, the gardener that normally works here on Saturday could assist with that. He just came to collect his salary in the morning though, in order for him to be able to bring his bike to a fundi and have its front wheel replaced. Fortunately the front wheel is the only thing that needs fixing up after a car driver yesterday changed his mind about yielding to Alfonsi. This fixing up the bike business leaves less and less time for Alfonsi to wash the car, take apart and put away the bed in storage, dig a big hole for a new plant and try to dig out and move a baby tree. O well. Things don’t always go as planned. I for example, did not plan to spend the whole morning typing away my frustration at the keyboard. And I definitely did not plan to write such a huge piece for the website. If you’ve made it this far: thank you for bearing with my long rant. You’ve been a great listener and it’s really helped me see that actually, things aren’t bad at all. Most of us here are healthy and getting ready to enjoy a few weeks with no other obligations than to enjoy each other’s company and the spectacular surroundings that this part of the world have to offer. We’re off to Ruaha (see August last year) and may celebrate Christmas in Malawi.

Mafia Island – Tareks 1st birthday

Yesterday we celebrated Tareks’ first birthday on the island of Mafia. A place he visited when he was -2 months young. We snorkelled, Hein did 2 dives, we ate a lot of lovely food and by the third night, Tarek only cried for a few seconds when he was put in his little tent/bed. Again, like last year, no whale sharks. Juvenile (3-8 m) whale sharks reside on the west side of the island during a certain period of the year. I’m still not sure how keen I am on seeing them but it is a bit of a shame that we’ve gone to the island twice now and have not seen them either time.
The flight was beautiful, like last year. One sees rivers that dump sediment in the ocean, little islets in front of the coast, blooming coral and an amazingly empty main land. Landing today was a bit woblly and Tarek pulled his ear a bit, but other than that we arrived in the heat of Dar safe and sound. Only to find out that the powdered milk Tarek drinks had been banned by the Tanzania Food and Drug Authority. They raided shops in Dar that sold it, as they had not been tested properly. Great. Why does the TFDA allow things to be sold if they have not yet properly tested them?