Monday, June 30, 2008

Shop Art

Less words more pictures, I think.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Zambia and the Mutomboko Ceremony

I woke up this morning on the right side of bed. Oh I love it when that happens! I am overflowing with no-reason bubbling excitement for life. Hurrah! So I said I'd shut up about Zambia but feel like posting some more happy ceremony pictures. To celebrate the arrival of the books at my sister's.

These from the Mutomboko Ceremony in Zambia

Friday, June 27, 2008

And now my week in pictures

I'm (very happy to be) back in Arusha now even though it feels like snow drifts are blocking the door. I tell you if I didn't have to go and audition some actors now I would be under my duvet pretending to be sick. So since my fingers are numb with cold, not to mention my brain, I shall give you some pictures of my week in Zambia that I failed to download before. Or is it upload? Whatever. And after that I'll shut up about Zambia, for a bit okay?

On our cheerful way

Us gals' princely accommodation

A rather poor shot of the elephant (in the play knocking down a house and getting to the bag of maize

Strange and old petrol pump that we found in the middle of no-where.

The real house that the elephant knocked over to get at the maize stored inside

water for washing being heated up, oh and carried

My feet at the end of the day

Mfuwe shop art

And finally the one I forgot to download before - my mother with the (now dead) cobra that slithered past her head while she was asleep.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Lone reader wants more

Hey, my sole fan wants more details of the performance so here you are my dear.
The play went really well. We kept the story really simple coz there was so much info that needed to go in, and so much that needed to be discussed. Do I need to explain how this all works in case I have any shy quiet readers that I don’t know about? Yes lets. Right now we’re working on a programme looking at Human Wildlife Conflict, which is extremely political and a very difficult issue to tackle. Which is where we come in. We (as in a troupe of fabulously fabulous actors who are also researchers and all round good folk) go and live in the targeted village for a week (or more if necessary) and go and chat to people every day, finding out the burning issues in the area. We then analyse all this info and make a play (sometimes two) that specifically addresses these problems. The play itself is really interactive with the audience allowing for the audience to come up with their own solutions to their problems (duh). We get all the relevant government people, chiefs, headmen and so on together on the day of performance so that they can see what the audience has to say as well as be there to explain and clear up any issues there may be. Ah, I’m really not explaining it very well but its reeeaallyy effective and VERY rewarding coz we are able to bring out and discuss all these issues that people feel they can’t talk about.

The play basically followed the life of a family in Malama as they try to deal with baboons in their gardens, elephants knocking down their houses (this happened to someone just the night before we arrived) and general life in Malama. The two sons are forced to go poaching and they get caught. The family (as do most people in malama) realise the importance of wildlife and the benefits they get from tourism but are forced to go and poach – I prefer the word hunt – because they don’t have much other option. In Malama, where we were, it’s really in the middle of no-where. Right on the edge of Mfuwe – the last chiefdom before well, nothing. The road is terrible so there are no, like NO shops or market or anything. The nearest town is about 6 hours away (and that’s by car) and Mfuwe (hardly a town, but there are a few shops) is 3 hours away by car. Almost a full day’s cycle ride. It’s really in the middle of the bush so the elephants raid people’s gardens daily and all in all it’s a rather hazardous place to live. In order to combat this an organisation has supplied people with solar electric fences to put around their gardens and their villages so the elephants can’t get in. People are really happy with this, although a few elephants know how to tread on the poles to get in (without getting shocked) and can then destroy a family’s whole years supply of maize. If this happens the people will literally starve. And my favourites the baboons are also a real menace as they can get through the wire fences and chomp away on people’s crops as they fruitlessly try to chase them off. Since there are no shops and no money either really, people use bush meat to barter. A few brave people cycle down from Petauke with shoes, t-shirts, Vitenje (colourful cloth used as a wrap) and vegetables. The fences can only protect a small sized garden so people can only grow the staple maize and not vegetables. There are no veggies there. On our last days in Malama we ran out of the cabbage we brought with us so were eating chicken with fish as the veg “Now we are really in Malama” the actors said “Fish as veg!”. Since most people do not have money these goods are traded with game meat. People are literally forced to hunt, even though it is illegal.

Then there is the wildlife autghority's point of view. They are enforcing the government policy and as the police force here are NOT popular. The animals are protected and bring in revenue. The community (through the CRB – the Community Resource Board) gets quite a lot of money from tourism. Schools and clinics are built with these funds. This money pays for the solar fences. The problem here is that in most cases the money that comes in to the CRB gets to the executive committee and goes no further. There is NO accountability and the money just dis-a-ppears. Which was certainly the case in Malama. With the powerful chief as patron of the CRB and often very active in the pilfering people do not feel able to speak out.

So our job was to bring the community’s point of view to the attention of the wildlife authority, the wildlife authority’s point of view to the community and everything in between. And find solutions. The son, in the play (whose caught poaching) asks the wildlife authority man in the audience – “Answer me honestly. Could you manage to live the whole year without eating any vegetables? Only the occasional dish of pumpkin leaves or wild ocre?” In our research almost everyone said that when someone was killed by an animal the wildlife authority took days, if not weeks to come and investigate and then usually only send one officer, but if someone kills and animal then they come with car loads of wildlife police officers, cars bristling with firearms. Sarah, in the form of the long-suffering mother said this and the audience broke into applause. She asked the audience if this was true and a lady stood up and explained that it took almost a week for someone to come and investigate the death of man named Harrison in March. He was killed by an elephant. A very heated debate followed, and the actors did a sterling job of facilitating this. Wildlife authority explained their point of view really well and gave a public apology for their slow reaction.

Also brought to light the CRB nicking the money (but done very tactfully coz we didn’t want to piss the chief off who could basically close us down). When Bernard, acting the part of a grumpy old father, said that the CRB was not working properly and was ‘eating’ all the money the audience broke into applause. Finally! The issue is out. The poor chairman got a really hard time and at one point looked like he wanted to hit someone but at least its being discussed and they are being brought to account.

Oh there was lots more. Audience suggested more wire on the fences to stop the baboons, to look at CRB’s budget so that people can get compensated (the government does not compensate for loss of life or property by wildlife) and so on and so on and so on. I feel like I’m droning on and on and not explaining myself very well so I’m going to stop now. Overall though I’m chuffed. A win win situation, we’re all singing from the same hymn sheet, we’ve levelled the playing field and we haven’t moved the goal posts.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

On my week in Zambia

I was going to give a day by day, blow by blow, boring by boring account of my week in Zambia, but that’ll be umm, well, mind numbing quite frankly. So some highlights:

Sunday arrived in Mfuwe, picked up at airport by Musa and a posse of actors. Fab to see everyone. Got home, shouted at the baboons (the tamarind tree outside my house is fruiting so they’ve taken up permanent residence. Bastards.) Danced with my crazy cat Clever Bollocks.

Next morning, surprise – the baboons woke me up and pissed me off. Usually I shout some more at them but R was asleep upstairs and didn’t want to wake her. Tried to switch on my computer quietly without waking her up. When I told her this her response was “You’re such a wanker! You really think that your computer is going to be louder than 40 bongwes (baboons) jumping on the roof?” The lady has a point.

Drove to Malama Village (3 hours drive out in the sticks) - cruiser loaded with shmeggy mattresses and grotty pots and pans, buckets for washing, grub for the week (dried fish, beans, mealie meal, squawky chickens), 9 actors. Met with the chief did all the bla protocol, got given a place to stay.

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday stayed in the village, headed out every day doing research, evening report backs. Late nights. Then writing play, rehearsing, bla bla bla. Snapshots. Driving through the long grass, passing through cold sweet smelling pockets of air. Salty water from the village well. Tying the basket of sleepy chickens up in the rafters so they don’t get eaten. Wood smoke tea in the morning, nothing like it. Day one of research we decide to take a packed lunch. We have no bags to put the soggy chips in so Kelvin gets the plastic from around the loo rolls, burns the edges on the fire so they stick together and make a bag, holds it up looking most proud of himself and says “initiative is never taught”. Sitting around one quiet evening and the actors get on to their favourite subject. George Bush and Osama Bin Laden. “Did you know that Osama Bin Laden and George Bush have built houses on a planet somewhere so that when there’s a big war here they can escape to the planet. I don’t know if its Saturn or Mars or Jupiter or Geneva”

Had grand plans of writing every day. Computer battery ran out on day one, so much for that! Only managed to write one sentence - “I am sitting outside on a mat hoping the battery of my computer lasts. The actors are just starting to wake up. Sticking their heads out the door, croaking a greeting, bursting into snippets of song. Every now and then peering over my shoulder to see what I’m writing. Telling everyone who will listen about their toilet plans.” Ah yes, the public toilet plans. How quickly things revert to the toilet. As soon as we arrived someone says “Kwa azimai ni uku, kwa azibambo ni uku” – the ladies is this side (of the tree) the gents is this side. Any time anyone goes to the loo we all have to know about it. From the simple “I’m going to the toilet” to the slightly more obscure “I’m going to read the newspaper” to the befuddling “I’m going to departures” – local and international depending on what you plan to do (because its important that we know?) Oh I’d forgotten all these funny quirks. Back in the old routine. I did this for three years and loved every minute of it. The camaraderie, the shared jokes. The shared shoes. It goes like this: If I’m the first one to wake up I may get to wear my own flip flops. Otherwise I just take the closest pair. The great flip flop swap. Simon takes Sarah’s who takes Musa’s who takes Bernard’s who takes mine who takes Monje’s. The system seems to work so long as you’re not overly attached to your shoes and no-ones got verucas.

Saturday. Day of performance. Big crowd. Great audience. Think we got the balance right between the community’s point of view and ZAWA, the wildlife enforcement people. Hard to do. Interaction with the audience. Solutions coming from them. Love this job, just love it.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Pics of Pics

A selection of pics for my mother's exhibition in Nairobi. Most of the black and white ones (which are tar on lime) were drawn blind and are Kunda initiation symbols which is waaay to complicated for my tired mind to go into.

Ancestor cypher sun moon eclipse

Zua cypher The gossip

Regeneration Bush and Bars The Gossip

Transformation Spirit Lion Orb in Progress

Transmutation Elephant Crossing Night scene with porcupine Flying fish in progress

aadvark softly treads

Monday, June 23, 2008

Of critters and paintings and such

I really want to tell you about my week in Malama village but need more time. I'll try on the morrow. In the meantime......flew from Luangwa today with my mother who is LADEN with paintings to take to her exhibition in Nairobi. Will try and take a picture to show you tomorrow of the rolls of paintings and bits of wood and wonky stretcher frames. Not entirely sure how she's going to get it all on the plane with her but, hey, she seems to have a plan. I say that but I’m actually not entirely convinced that she does. Have a plan. Coy looks and fluttering eyelids I think is the only way forward here. Here are a few photos (that don't do the pictures ANY justice) of her latest batch that she'll be exhibiting in Nairobi next month.

Also a picture of my mother and the (now very dead) cobra that slithered past her head the other night while she was sleeping. Aish.

So we're on the plane and about to take off from Mfuwe when the air hostess comes running down the aisle, arms flapping saying "Kill it Kill it!" really loudly. It was a moth fluttering about the plane. Geez. Everyone just stared blankly as she got more and more hysterical. Very funny! A couple of suggestions from the passengers – “use a glass” "blow on it"(I made that last one up - can't remember what the other suggestions were). In the end I got up, caught it and let it out the door. What a hero.

Ah bollocks, can't get the pictures to attach, will try tomorrow.

Also been mighty slack on my new things learned (early posts) but got bored of that game.....

Sunday, June 22, 2008

On my war with baboons

From afar baboons and I get on just fine. I can appreciate, along with the best of them, how cute the babies are, how clever their social structure is, how bloody cunning and sneaky they can be. Laugh at their public sexual exploits and say 'ah shaaaame' when they all pick on and fight the smallest one in the troop. I can coo along with the novice safari go-er at the big-sun-shining-through-their-ears babies as they cavort and play and summersault. Put me in close proximity, however, and its not a pretty sight. I am generally a very peaceable, calm and happy person. But bongwes (baboons) just. Make. Me. MAD.

There has been many a bewildered visitor, staying in our guest cottage, who has woken up at first light, not to the sound of happy twittering birds but to my blood curdling screams of “BLODDY F(*&^$#!@#$G BONGWE’S! GO ON! BUGGER OFF! YOU’RE NOT WELCOME HERE”. And they may peer nervously of out their window and see me running half naked (with whatever was the closest article of clothing hastily thrown on. One memorable time it was my hideous – I loved it – hyena puke coat as it was known. A big multi-coloured and in retrospect I must say strange, article of clothing) throwing ineffectual stones at the bongwes. And that’s really annoying, how they just watch you, bored expression on their faces and calmly step out the way of the stone before it gets to them and give you an ‘is that the best you could do’ look. These said guests would understandably be alarmed at seeing this crazy eyed person running half naked in the early morning sunlight. Over breakfast they may (or may not if they were the polite sort) mention this strange spectacle. All the while nervously holding hands under the table in case I did something scary. I would laugh and explain that just yesterday they broke into my house for the third time that week and stole all my sugar, threw my rice all across the house, as if at a wedding and rubbed shit in it for good measure (the rice being the wedding bit, not the shit!). They broke my few remaining plates and pissed on my hi-fi. I’d say that they then went into the bathroom and chewed on all my shampoo (not easy to come by in this part of the world) and smeared their shit on the walls. “Oh but they’re so CUTE!” our guests would say “and anyway, they were here first. You can’t chase them away” And I would grit my teeth and smile and say nothing more. I realise this of course, that they also live here and we need to live in harmony but I’ve tried to be nice, I really have and they just don’t keep their part of the bargain. You don’t shit in your neighbours house at every given opportunity do you?

Then at lunch we put food out on the table in the chitenje - our open air dining room - and I turn away to get some water, turn my back for a second, and the bongwe has jumped down from the tree behind us and in one clumsy but very effective swoosh he’s taken the deliciously roasted chicken off the table and up into the tree. This chicken was bought from Chipata - the nearest town and a hideous six-hour round trip on a knock-your-teeth-loose corrugated road. It was saved especially for these guests and when they laugh and say “ooohhh, aren’t they cheeky” you tilt your head sideways and smile and sigh and say “yes, aren’t they just!” And go off to the kitchen to see if there’s ANYTHING you can find for your guests to eat now.

The next day we plan to go early into the park for a game drive and when the guests ask if they can borrow an alarm clock you tell them they won’t need it. “Remember the baboons on your roof this morning at dawn? Don’t worry, that will happen again. Trust me, you won’t need an alarm”. And indeed at 5 that morning the baboons (who roost in the trees above our houses) jump onto the tin roof from a great height, to the spot JUST above your head, sending a shower of borer dust into your now wide awake eyes and giving your heart the biggest “what the fuck was THAT’ start. Every bloody time. I’ve lived with this for 20 years and I’m STILL not used to it! We used to live in a grass house when I was little and although we got elephants eating our walls at least we didn’t have this NOISE.

So you wake up early for the game drive, clean the baboon poo off the seats of your open landy, curse that they’ve broken your windscreen wipers again, tut at the new scratches they’ve made and off you go. When you get into the park and see a troupe of baboons you can happily sit and watch them for hours with no feeling of malice whatsoever. As I say, I love them from afar.

Day four of your guests’ stay and they have bags under their eyes from all the early mornings but they are getting good at not leaving food out and locking the door to their cottage scraping baboon poo off their shoes. Coz that’s the other thing. All that bloody poo. Elsewhere in this gorgeous Valley the first rains are the most divine smelling time of all. The parched cracked earth finally getting the first fat drops of rain. That clich├ęd first rain smell. Where I live, though. Oh-ho. On top of the normal every day baboon shit there’s 6 months of dry shit getting nice and wet and releasing all the lovely smell for us.
And just as I’m writing this I hear my mother shout next door. I go and see what it is and the baboons have taken her lemon squeezer thingy up the tree and is having a good old chew on it. She probably won’t see that again.
(the pots in the above picture used to have lovely flowers and plants in them before the baboons ripped them apart!)

Now I’m not sure if I should tell this story for fear of animal lover retribution but what the hell. My sister and I, a few years back, were in Cape Town and went to Cape Point with another group of guests (geez). It was one of those dazzlingly fabulous sunny hot Cape Town summer days that make you want to move there instantly (though I’m told the winter is as terrible as the summer is perfect). So anyway, my sister and I are in the back of her boyfriends pick up enjoying the sun and fantasizing about ice cream. I had just come to visit from a long and hard season of safari guiding in the bush and could think of nothing better than an ice cream. This was an accumulated six moths of dreaming about this ice cream, you must understand. So we get to Cape Point and our visitors troop off to trudge up the hill to see where the two oceans meet and T and I dash off to buy an ice cream each. As soon as we are five steps away from the ice cream stand a group of about 5 baboons come straight for us. In slow motion, as the thieves in Lusaka used to do, two of them distract us and, while T moves her ice cream to the side, out of their grasp, there is another one waiting, at her side to oh so efficiently take it off her. Then they go for mine. At this point we are laughing really really hard and both trying to cram the rest of my ice cream into our mouths before they take that too. But needless to say one of them nonchalantly walks up, stands its full height and tries to snatch the rest from me. And this is where some ancient survival (okay, so it was only ice cream) something clicks in me and I started SCREAMING at the baboon. I’m told I started yelling “FUCK OFF!!” a lot and very loudly. There were some modest Muslim families covering their children’s ears and hustling them away, some horrified bunny huggers looking on wide eyed. The baboon then came at me teeth bared (they really do have the scariest massivest (is that a word?) teeth) and as it lunged at me I kicked it. Square in the chest. It flew back about a metre and then came at me again. I jumped toward it, arms wide shouting and shouting. It took one look at this and gapped it. Oh what a feeling that was! 30 years of pent up baboon rage taken out on this poor unsuspecting creature! In my defense I have learned that that’s the best way to deal a wild animal coming at you with teeth bared!
Just a few weeks before I had been on a walking safari with the legendary Rice Time. Rice was a legend. Really. A true life hero. He was an elephant control officer in the 30’s and worked with my grandfather. He was my mentor and I learned everything I know about the bush from him. And my grandfather. Another post another time. Rice saved the presidents life from a lion and got his treasured rifle as a gift from him. He wore a Russian wooly hat every day of the year, including 40 degree Celcius October heat. He was heading blind and deaf when I worked with him, but was the most experienced game scout out there. You felt so so safe with him. It was hilarious trying to tell him that there was an elephant up ahead that he hadn’t seen yet without the guests knowing that he hadn’t seen it. I kept stones in my pocket to throw at him to warn him coz he couldn’t hear my stage whispered “Rice! Elephant” And when I did point at the looming elephant he’d say in a loud voice “ah! Warthog!”. He was a man of few words and little English. But whenever we encountered a grumpy lioness or similar situation he would dance at them and shout a spectacular torrent of swear words. The point of this story? Oh yes, only a few weeks before this baboon incident I had been on a walk with Rice and we had come across a pride of very grumpy lions that had a kill AND cubs in a bush. Two of the lionesses kept coming at us, bursting forth with that blood chilling growl, and charging 5 metres, stopping, charging again. Rice just shouted and threw clods of earth at them. I think the guests were more horrified by Rice’s colourful language than by the lions! And afterward he said. “Pah! Lions are just like dogs” So the point of this story is that when the baboon came at me teeth bared I remembered all the baboons of my childhood stealing my sandwiches (when you’re a 4 year old that’s like something the size of a horse coming at you with MUCH bigger teeth!) and my training took over and I kicked it out of the way! There.

So the reason for this tirade is that I am back in Luangwa for a few days. Luangwa, my home that I love despite, or maybe even because of the baboons. And yes they jumped on my roof at 5 this morning and yes, I got the fright of my life and YES I cursed and shouted at them but its so good to be home. I’ve almost missed them. Almost.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Cold Dogs

Its damn cold in Lusaka. Got in last night. Hung out for 8 hours at Dar es Salaam airport. They only have 4 chairs in the check in area and nowhere else to go so sat on my comfy bag, reading Bill Bryson and laughing out loud all day. Could think of worse ways to spend a day.

Got in in the evening and went straight out for sundowners to some old friends house. Feel bad coz I snapped at everyone when I was offered a drink and I said I’d have a soda water. Knowing glances and ‘are you pregnant’ raised eyebrows. “STOP LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT I’M NOT PREGNANT!” Its obviously a big event when I say no to alcohol.

I fly home today, to Luangwa. Will be there for a week, starting the actors off on a new project. I’ll be sleeping in the village mostly but hopefully I’ll find time to blog once or twice while I’m there. Otherwise it’ll have to be a full comprehensive report when I get back!

Right now I’m at my dad’s place in Lusaka. His two dogs snuck into my bed last night. Now they’re under the covers looking sheepish. They were scratching on my door last night until I relented and let them in. Reminds me of when I was a kid and we had a pet porcupine called Mohawk. Ah he was a sweet thing. Used to stamp his foot when we were eating chocolate. Anyway, he decided to make his home under my parents’ bed. Which was a bit smelly and noisy so one day my dad decided to lock him out. No trouble for Mohawk. He just took a couple of minutes out of his schedule, gnawed a porcupine shaped hole in the door and was forever free to come and go as he pleased. A porcupine flap of sorts.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Lost in Translation

So I recently got married (oh the fresh new blushingness of it all) and I'm finally getting my paperwork sorted. I always vowed I would never change my surname (well, I always vowed I would never get married too. Look where that got me) but I think Rashid is better than Guhrs, no?

So while I’m at it with the paperwork I have at last decided to re-apply for my German passport. I had a German passport as a kid (my dad is German) which I had a great knack for leaving at boarding school in Malawi. We'd get to leave on the early bus the day that school broke up as we had furthest to travel. We'd get on the bus, all fresh and excited, drive 4 hours or whatever it was to Lilongwe, where our parents would pick us up. We'd then pile into our little brown short-wheel-base land cruiser that sucked in dust like it was a competition and we'd head to Zambia - another hour and half to the border and anywhere between 3 to 6 hours from there to home depending on the state of the road, our car, tyres etc. So we'd get to the border and my dad would say: "Okay, passports please". And I would rummage around in my bag and then say "Oh. Umm, da-a-ad, I think I left mine at school". So (after much sighing and “WHAT? AGAIN”) we'd have to drive all the way back to Lilongwe and wait for the kids on the afternoon bus to bring my passport. I think I did this THREE times, can you believe it? Geeez. Anyway, keep reading, you'll see that I haven't got much better.

When my passport expired and I had to go to the German Embassy to get a new one, the staff at the embassy started talking to me in German. I was terrified! The only thing I can say in German is "I am a ballpoint pen" which doesn't really get you very far in the embassy or anywhere else for that matter (maybe a quick straight jacketed ride to ‘your lovely new home’, but that’s about it). My dad luckily was with me and bailed me out. So the next time my passport expired I didn't bother to renew it and got a South African one instead and as I was at university in SA I thought it would be easier all round. And of course I was scared to go to the Germans in case they started talking to me again. In fact its only just this month that I have finally plucked up the courage to re-apply. I’m making dad go with me though in case they do it again. Pathetic, I'm 32!

At 20 I traveled to Europe, my first time out of Africa and something of a culture shock. Another post another time. On my German passport. No problem. So last year when my (then) boyfriend and I decided to go skiing I didn't even THINK it would be a problem. I've been to Europe before.....We made all the plans. We'll fly in to Germany, hire a car, drive to Austria. All goes according to plan. Until...we arrive at the German border, in Munich, me clutching my South African passport. They stamp my passport and then say. "Ah. Vere is de visa."
"Oh! I need one of those?" (Duh!! See told you I haven't got any better).
"Please step zis vay madam"
So they put me in this little room while they put a big cross through the stamp in my passport and fill out all these forms in quadruplicate.
"Ve von't put this down as a criminal record, I'm sure it was a genuine mistake"
Gee thanks (although they were probably thinking, but really? How can you be so STUPID?)
I say to boyfriend "Why have all these immigration guys got guns"
To which he replies, "Well, they're not immigration guys. They're actually the police. And I suppose you're sort of under arrest".
"Oh!" I say "Cool!"
“But I'm actually half German” I tell the gun wielding fellows. “But I don't speak German”, I add quickly.
“So why don't you have a German passport?”
“Oh coz I was born in South Africa”.
“Do you speak Afrikaans?”
“So your dad is German and you don’t speak German, you were born in South Africa but you don’t speak Afrikaans” Shakes his head, puzzled.
“Oh. But I've lived in Zambia all my life. I speak Chinyanja!” I say proudly.
He gives me a confused look. Like, so? I speak German and English and Polish and French and Dutch. Big deal. Chinyanja. Is that a made up language?
So they put me in a small white walled room, and I shift about, trying not to need a wee so badly, looking around for hidden cameras, wondering if they are watching me through the two way mirror while they try to figure out what to do with me. They are looking for the superior who goes to look for his superior. Boyfriend is canceling hire car and looking for baggage. Eventually they figure it out and after much form filling and signing and promises that I won't do it again (coz I get a kick out of this sort of thing?) and frowning (on their part) they put us on the next plane back to the UK. Thankfully, not Zambia. As one epauletted (is that how you spell it?) tight trousered policeman is escorting us to the plane I say "Don’t worry, you don’t have to take us all the way there, we can go, don’t want to hassle you"
“No madam, I need to escort you all the way to your seats” He says with raised eyebrows, clutching the butt of his gun. I'm glad I didn't tell him I am a ballpoint pen. Boy they must have been glad to get rid of us country bumpkins.
At Heathrow my poor soon-to-be brother in law picks us up (he only dropped us off a couple of hours ago!) and we’re at his flat in London trying to make a cunning plan. We are not in the slightest put out or disgruntled. However applying for a visa will take weeks and you have to do it in South Africa. Okaaaay. The only places that will have me without a visa (in the whole of Europe) are Britain, Switzerland (of course) Iceland and Lichtenstein. So Switzerland it is. Oh but first we have to wait for our bags which are still in Munich or somewhere over the sea or maybe actually en route to South Korea. We have a FANTASTIC time skiing (I’ve never SEEN so much snow) and I don’t even break a limb or ANYthing. Incredible.

Then last month on our way back form the UK we got stuck in Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam for 24 hours because our flight got cancelled and they say “You can go and have a night out in Amserdam, that’ll be fun! Oh you have a South African passport? No sorry. Here’s a meal voucher for 3 euros and you can stay at the crummy hotel in the airport but, sorry you can only check in a 7 tonight. I know its only 7 in the morning now but it’s the best we can do. Oh and you have to buy your own toothbrush coz you can’t have access to your bags ” So I’m getting my German passport renewed. Next time we'll have a night on the town to match no other.

This whole rambling came from the fact that I’m trying to fill in the forms for my new passport (forms are in German), with not a German in sight. I googled a translation for one section and this is what came up:

In choice auslandischen to the right: Based on the gewahlten to the right arises and/or determine mean we following Namensfuhrung. ....?

What the bollocks does THAT mean???

Give me "I am a ballpoint pen" any day.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Driving Miss Crazy

So the photos in that last post took such a long time to download that I had time to write a whole 'nother blog. About driving in Arusha, as promised.

If you’re in a good mood.
Get into car. Take a deep breath. Put seat belt on. Head on down the very bumpy very rocky road towards the tar. Giggle at the sound of your teeth rattling in your head. Smile at the children who are running beside your car shouting “Mzungu, Mzungu” (white person, white person). Grin inanely at them and wave. Shikamoo (respectful greeting) the old Maasai man who always blocks the road with his cows and goats. Wait for him to hobble past, as well as the cows and goats (aah, sweeeet, look at that little baby one) and carry on. Get to the clog of minibus taxis (daladalas) blocking the bottom of the road. Wait patiently for them to clear. Look out for madman whose always there. He waves crazily at the tyres of your car.

Indicate to turn onto tar road into town. But first wait for very slow very unsure learner driver to decide if they’re going, stalling, stopping or turning. Then just as a clearing opens for you to turn, a pedestrian walks in front of you. Stops. Has a chat with his mate, leans on the bonnet of your car. You toot politely and wave, ask them to please chat just over there, smile at them as they scowl at you.

Its rush hour, but that’s okay, you’ve got time. You shake your head good naturedly at the daladala that overtakes you and then immediately stops in front of you, to pick up some passengers (he’s just doing business, you say). And as he pulls in front of you again just as you’re about to overtake you smile.

When you come across two men pushing their wooden cart up the hill weighed down with a whole three piece lounge suite you shout ‘pole’ out the window (and they say ‘asante!’ - thanks) (pole - sorry, or expression of sympathy - see dear friend J’s blog for more on what pole means) You look at them struggling up the hill and think ‘Geez that is really hard work. I am so glad I don’t have to do that. I will always be nice to these guys and let them cross the road when they need to. It can’t be fun, having everyone in the traffic shouting at you when you’re trying to cross the road. All the fumes and the sweat. Its hard bloody work. Hats off to them. Pole. So you swerve calmly around them and continue on your way.

When a car overtakes you on a blind corner and a daladala overtakes the overtaking car, causing you to have to pull over, narrowly missing oncoming traffic, you think “oh dear, well, maybe they have an emergency. No need to get cross” Chuckle at the slogans on the back of the daladalas. "Get Rich or Die Trying", "Not Me Its God"

As the traffic starts slowing right down and choking up the streets, you turn the radio on to Kiss FM and listen to DJ John Karani, JK telling his funny ‘did you know’ stories, (did you know that your thigh bones are harder than concrete and a 5 minute kiss burns a hundred calories) or his crazy true life tales (like the one about the man who found a lizard in his egg. Really! They thought it crawled in there before the egg had formed properly – or is that just me being gullible?) or his jokes (there was a very pregnant lady sitting at home, when suddenly she started going in to labour. She was home alone, except for her three year old son, so she called the fire brigade (now why would she do that? I’m sure that’s what he said, and not 911) anyway, the paramedics come and suddenly the power goes off so they get the son to hold the torch while they deliver the baby. After much pushing and panting, the baby pops out and the paramedics give it a slap on the back to make it breathe or whatever it is that they do. They say to the young boy, so what do you think of that? To which the boy replies. “He shouldn’t have crawled up there in the first place, spank him again!” That may have been one of the true life stories, I forget!) So you’re listening to the radio, chucking at JK’s stories when a cyclist cuts right in front of you and nearly smacks straight into you. He starts shouting and cussing like its your fault, but you say samhani and pole again because the only reason he’s angry is because he nearly got knocked down by a ton of landrover and he’s just got a big fright and it can’t be fun trying to cycle to places when there’s no proper cycle paths or anything. You get to the shops, have to drive around the block three times (which takes 45 minutes) coz there is no parking but that’s okay, the radio is on and a space is bound to come up some time.

And then there in all their white and day-glo glowing splendour are the cops. They pick you out of the traffic. Saunter up as you pull over. You smile, give a round of Shikamoos. "Drivers licence" The cop says. "Sure!" you smile. Hand it over. Its your Zambian one, a little worse for wear. He looks at it for a very very long time. "Is this real?" He asks. "Sure it is!" "You should have a Tanzanian licence now. How long have you lived here?" "Ummm 3 months?" Not true you've lived here 6 months but you know that after three months you're supposed to get a Tz licence. He confirms this "No, after three months you need to get a Tanzanian licence. Three months is the cut off" "Okay" you grin "I've lived here two months and two weeks then" He scowls. Lets you go. "Thanks, Bayeeee" you say in an irritating singsong voice. Still in a good mood. Amazing

Eventually you find a parking space, get what you need and head home. On your way back home, you let all the daladalas in in front of you, giving them a gracious posh voiced ‘Please, DO’ movement of your hand. They grin and give a thumbs up. And you do likewise. When 6 other cars and daladalas take advantage and push in front, hey that’s okay. You’re alive. Look at the gorgeous mountain. Life is good.

You head home with the shopping and have a nice cup of tea. Coz its always a NICE cup of tea isn’t it?

If you’re in a bad mood
Get in the car. Take a deep breath. Put your seat belt on. Start driving down the road and curse. Why can’t they bloody fix this road? How hard can it bloody be? Scowl at the children who are running beside your car shouting “Mzungu, Mzungu” Roll down your window and spit “Mimi si mzungu, mimi ni mtu kama wewe” (I am not a white person I am a person just like you). Briefly wonder if your Swahili is correct, then realise you don’t give a toss. Scowl at the smug smart churchgoers, clutching their well worn bibles. They are on their way to the church right behind your house and they are LOUD! Every day. They start WAY too early. Crazy crazy preaching. A man with a microphone set to the loudest level SCREECHING (I’m amazed he hasn’t lost his voice yet. I wish he would). “You will BURN in HELL” type of preaching, serious radical stuff. That is why you’re in a bad mood in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with living next door to a church, but this particular one? Well. It is too much. 5 o’clock on a Saturday and Sunday morning they start. I once counted the HALLELUYA’s - 24 all in a row until he reached his crescendo. Getting louder and louder and LOUDER. Anyway, so you get to the bottom of the road, curse and shout at the daladalas blocking the access to the tar. “Just fucking MOVE over. You think you’re the ONLY ones here, huh? Have some F*&^$#*G consideration”. Weave your way through them, nearly knocking over some school children in the process. Curse some more. Get onto the tar.

Oh look at that, you didn't even NOTICE the annoying speed humps when you were in a good mood. Sump damaging, vicious things that are preeceeded by teeth juddering rumble strips (not so funny now) placed every 100 metres or so.

Turn on the radio. It’s the screechy breathy IRRITATING Brown Sugar as the DJ today. With her fake charm and her fake voice. Bitch. Switch her off. Go up the hill, hooting and flashing and saying “GET OUT THE WAY. CAN’T YOU *&^%$#@ DRIVE?” Get off the road, you in your wooden cart. I don’t CARE if you’re carrying the whole of Manhattan on there, I need to get THROUGH. Traffic crazy. Too much. Too claustrophobic. No way out. Bicycles and wooden cart pushers weaving in and out of the traffic. Selfish drivers not letting anyone in. Blocking the way for everyone. Now NO-ONE can move. Shit, shit, can’t breathe. Bicycle gets too close. Scream at him out the window. Make it to the shops (past the cops, don’t make eye contact). No &#$^%&*()_ parking. That’s, it I’m going home” Back though the traffic, the way you came, can't breathe, can't breathe. Dodge and weave and curse and swear. Nearly there, up the road, bumpity bump, more cussing. MOVE YOUR COWS AND GOATS. Get in the gate, tumble out the car, stub your toe, tread in dog shit.

Bollocks, writing this post has put me in a bad mood and I need to go into town to have the lock fixed on my car. Now look what you’ve done!

I’d better go later. And breathe IN.......and.....out.....

New something I've learned today: Your thigh bones are harder than concrete and a five minute kiss burns 100 calories (do you think thats true?)

Over and out