Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Tardis (the mysteries of a woman's handbag)

I have recently discovered the delights of a handbag. I never had one until a year or so ago and didn’t realise what I was missing. But a handbag doesn’t work so well on the bike, so I’m having to transfer everything into a wee backpack. Oh. My. God. The things I have found in there…If you are brave enough you are about to get an unchartered, unchanged, unadulterated look into the Handbag of Miranda. It’s not a pretty sight. Be warned.
Emptied out of my handbag today I have:

- A big pile of rubbish – this consists of old chewing gum wrappers (at least I don’t litter!), old parking tickets, old shopping lists and crumpled to do lists (with lots of not done things on them), a used bus ticket to Nairobi (that was MONTHS ago!)
- Two phones. One a hand-me-down of my sisters that I love coz its got a great camera but it takes 7 minutes to send a text message (I’ve timed it). The other is my old one that died (are you surprised with all the rubbish that’s in there?) but I haven’t transferred the numbers over yet so I occasionally have to open that one to get a number
- My wallet (with money in coz it’s the end of the month – woohoo!)
- 3 notebooks. One for general stuff, one for new Swahili words, one for new Maasai words (I should just give up on that one now)
- A small red ochre compacted lump of earth. Went to a horse place just outside of town a few weeks ago (who am I kidding it was when my mum was here – months ago!) and a group of Maasai women were digging it up. They eat it and decorate bodies with it. Took a piece its very very red and beautiful and not so tasty. All crumbled into the bottom of my bag now
- My ipod, a little scratched
- Asthma pump
- Sunblock
- Glasses and case
- Sunglasses and case
- Zambian Drivers Licence (that looks homemade. The cops are not convinced by it)
- Hair band and small butterfly shaped clips
- 4 pens and a pencil (that’s where all my pens have got to)
- 2 tampons (ahem)
- 2 chapsticks
- 2 pieces of grass (?)
- A corkscrew (you never know)
- A penknife (with back up corkscrew. Oh dear!)
- 5 cable ties
- A box of matches
- 2 paracetamol
- Some string
- Some chewing gum
- Stray and random coins

So there you have it. The secret's out. No more mystery.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Don't I know you from somewhere?

On the way back from Zanzibar the other day. The plane’s just landed and as I’m getting my bag out of the overhead locker a lady I’d noticed earlier says to me


“No,” I say, “I’m not Phillipa”

My husband is elbowing me in the ribs

“Ow, what are you doing? Huh? You’re muttering, I can’t hear you”

I turn back to the lady. “I’m not Phillipa. But I know her. Old family friend”

More elbowing

“What” I hiss to elbowing husband

“thnbgsd is pilajda” mutters husband (“that is Phillipa”)

“OH!” I say. “Shit”


So I go over to said lady (someone stop me!) and say “Were you asking if I was Phillipa or are you telling my that you're Phillipa?”

“I’m Phillipa” she says. She looks really embarrassed now. Shouldn’t that be ME that’s embarrassed?

“Oooooh I seeeee!” I say. “I’m Miranda.” I add futilely.

She nods “Yes I know”

Cue ground to open up…no? Okay so I’ll just sit next to you on the bus instead and jabber on endlessly. Try dig myself out.


“My mom was here recently, shame she missed you. She really wanted to see you. We only just found out you’d moved here”

“Yes, I saw her at Shoprite”


“Oh, Okay. Well that’s nice” Silence


“So umm, how are you enjoying Arusha”


I should not be let out in public


Reminds me of a story told by my uncle, Adrian.

He was in small town dusty Chipata and this guy comes up to him and says
“Hey, you’re Norman Carr’s son, right?”
“Yes” says Adrian.
“Ah, I don’t know you, but me and your brother Adrian, we’re like this” (crosses fingers to indicate being inseparable) “Very close. Good good friends”

*Name has been changed to protect me

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Craziness and eccentricity is something I embrace with the openest of hearts. So I am delighted to hear, from my aunt today, this:

The laughter and cheerfulness is an inheritance of your greatgrandfather Oscar Horn. He usually looked very sophisticated, with a stiff collar, but at formal dinner tables he could disappear and return with a carefully arranged string of sausages around his neck.

I am extra delighted coz I always knew the maternal side of my family is completely barmy but this. Ah, it makes my heart swell with pride.

There is hope for me yet.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Ncwala Ceremony

Musa and I arrive at the palace under a light shower of rain. There is a small flat-roofed, open storeroom nearby where a few dozen impis are sheltering, (and sweltering) jostling for space, bells jingling on their boots. Steam emanating from the sides of the hut. A few young men are standing about in the prickly rain, waiting. Of course the first thing you notice are the animal skins. Everyone has some kind of skin on them, whether in strips as a skirt, a headdress or something slung across shoulders. We start trying to identify all the different skins. A serval on someone’s back, a leopard, a baboon headdress, ooh, there’s a genet…. a civet there, a bushbuck. Musa is put out that he doesn’t have one. He spots a friend of his who comes over and gives him a headband made of genet skin. A spotty-stripy-furry headband. He looks just the part. Well, he is half Ngoni after all.

And suddenly its time. All sorts of vehicles have been trickling in; blue taxis, pickup trucks, a couple of busses. On cue the clouds suddenly part and the rain clears. Through the big crowd of people heading towards the palace, we spot a bunch of fresh, green millet stalks bobbing above the sea of heads. Some women (are carrying the first harvest – millet, pumpkin, maize, I couldn’t see the rest – to the palace for the chief to bless. There are knobkerries held to the sky and dancing, singing, jostling. The flash of a chrome knobkerrie belonging to an old old man. More leopard skins, another old man with a cow skin handbag, a couple of shields. And the chief comes sedately down the stairs. He is wearing a lion skin and the crowd parts as the women present him with the crops. These he ceremoniously touches and then takes into his palace. We wait. The people behind are muttering, wondering what exactly it is that happens in there.

And then we are off! The chief, wearing his lion skin, gets into one of the waiting cars and leads the procession through Chipata town to Mtenguleni – about 30km along the Great East Road - where the rest of the ceremony will take place. It’s muddy going at first, with cars slipping and sliding as if joining in the fun. More than twenty cars are in this procession. The atmosphere is bursting-at-the-seams-excitement. Knobkerries are tied to the front of cars, sticking out of windows, everywhere you look! There are trucks full of exuberant young impis, whooping and stomping. We pass a bus that looks like it has come from far – Malawi maybe, or Lusaka. The men and women inside are singing, the bus almost rocking with the buzz from within. An old man leans against the window, taking it all in – he looks like he’s come a long way; he looks tired. The whole road from the palace in Feni to the ceremony site in Mtenguleni is blocked off – the cars drive two by two, as if it’s a two-lane highway. Vehicles coming the other way have pulled over but the drivers’ smile and wave, getting into the spirit of things - they don’t seem grumpy that their journey is delayed. People line the side of the road and cheer as we go past. Musa is sticking out the sun roof brandishing his knobkerrie shouting “HAU” at everyone we pass! He’s in his element.

When the whole hooting, knobkerrie brandishing, mud spattered procession arrives at Mtenguleni, you can almost taste the spirit, the excitement. Everyone piles out of the trucks and mini-busses, taxis and pick-ups. And so the dancing begins. Musa and I walk around a little, mingling, greeting people, watching some of the dances; absorbing the atmosphere through our skin. Feeling the ground rumble with the stomping of feet.
The rain has cleared the air and all the colours seem so bright! Even in the fading evening light the colours seem to hum and vibrate, joining in the party. But the excitement has worn us out! We are tired and will leave the description of the dances to the next day.

Friday dawns and we head to Mtenguleni village, following the magnetic pull of the crowds. We can almost feel the buzz before we arrive. Throughout the next two days there is a frenzy of dancing. Old men, small boys and everyone in between. Everyone has an animal skin on them – even men in suits are carrying knobkerries and have some kind of fur on them. A bizarre mix of traditional and modern, and somehow it just seems right. There is so much going on its hard to know where to look, so we just amble in and out of the crowds allowing ourselves to be pulled this way and that.

How do I describe Ngoma dancing? It is beautiful. Men in animal skins with bells around their ankles, throwing their legs in the air and stomping their feet down in unison – you can literally feel the ground vibrate and shudder with the force of it. Dangling breasted women in vibrant chitenjes clap their hands in accompaniment. Lishombe. Each woman claps her hands to slightly different timing making a beautiful echoing, rippling sound that compliments the jingling and stomping of the men’s feet. And everyone singing. Can you picture it? Can you hear it?

At lunch we sit under the Kachere tree where the Ngoni’s first settled when they came to this area. It is a truly magnificent tree – huge welcoming branches, twisted trunk – stories etched into every nook and gnarled fissure. Boy, what history this tree must have seen.

The day trots on and the sky begins to blacken around the edges, the dark colour seeping towards the centre. Rumbling, cracks of lightening. A spectacular backdrop for the frenzied dancing.

“Looks like rain”, I say.
Musa chuckles. “No, there are too many last born children in this village”
“There is powerful mankwala (medicine) here. This is an important event. No way it will rain.”
“What’s the last born children thing?”
“Well, I’m not sure exactly how it goes but if you get a last born child to sprinkle salt and put a katemo on the fire the rain will not come here. Hey you’re a last born – shall we offer your services?”

And sure enough, the rain – big, black, full-bellied clouds – circles the village. It threatens most of the day, but the mankwala is obviously stronger than the rain and it keeps away. It seems to be raining everywhere else except here. I’m impressed!

The days bleed into each other and after no time at all its all over. I think back over the days. Snapshots: The procession of impis – thousands strong - escorting the chief to the main arena, filling the road, shouting, stamping, thrusting their shields and knobkerries into the air. The same impis rushing into the main arena with a thundering war-cry. Musa and I weaving in and out of the different groups of dancers and spectators. Rustling animal skins, colourful chitenjes. A flash of bright orange against the browns of the animal skins. Beautiful trendy gal with black knee length boots, heavy eye make-up, hip sunglasses propped on her forehead, and bright orange waist length hair extensions. Stamping and dancing with soul! “From Lusaka” says someone behind me “She comes here every year, always with different type or colour of hair” She’s cool. Here a small boy – a five year old? He’s really pulling the crowds. I bet he’s most photographed person this whole ceremony. He dances with such a great earnestness. Heartfelt. It’s impossible not to fall in love with him. It seems we all have, judging by the un-shifting cooing crowd around him. And now a threadbare man comes over to me – booze fumes shimmering off his skin. He takes the grimy genet headband off his head and puts it on mine. “You must have one too” he says. It reeks! He staggers off leaving me looking bewildered and Musa in stitches laughing. The anticipating crowds waiting for the killing of the black bull. The killing, over in a moment, the chief drinks the blood.

And so we take these snapshot memories home with us. We leave the jolly, cavorting, intoxicated crowd to continue the revelry as we sneak off home with the scent, the resonance and the images of the three days buzzing in our bones and under our skin.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Enough about you lets talk about me

When uninspired resort to one of these:

Name someone with the same birthday as you.
Martin Luther King Jr. – my birthday is a public holiday in the States. Damnit – I’ve just checked and it’s not true. He’s two days before me. Hmmm. But Vidal Sassoon, Muhammad Ali and Anton Chekov apparently…

Where was your first kiss?
Ha! Deary me. On a coffee farm somewhere in Malawi. We were all chased out of boarding school when the Pope came to visit. Sent off on half term. I went to my friend’s house. She got malaria. The brother pounced. It was gross.

Have you ever seriously vandalized someone else's property?

Have you ever hit someone of the opposite sex?
It’s a little blurry. First time I went to check out where I’d like to go to university there was An Incident. I was an impressionable young lass of 17, trying to decide if this was the right place for me. Sitting with my sister and her mates in a pub. Group of bigots upstairs start harassing us. Calling us a bunch of dykes and the like. Man comes down the stairs and touches T on the shoulder (or maybe it was her boob? I forget). Jn pulls herself up to her full height and says “you touch my girlfriend again and I’ll hit you” He touches T again. She hits him. With her arm in a plaster cast. We are all asked to leave. The bigot boys are waiting for us outside. A fight ensues. The boys say ‘calm down ladies’. Paraffin on the fire. Punches and slaps and torn shirts. I don’t think I hit anyone, but I forget. The next day it is in the newspapers. “Girls Win Battle with Boys” or some such thing. I become best friends with Jn and T and enroll at the university the very next day. Bring. It. On.

Have you ever sung in front of a large number of people?
Socially? Solo? Sober? No.
For work? Yes.

What's the first thing you notice about the preferred sex?
Ummm, not sure. Just them, you know. Their attitude, I guess.

What is your biggest mistake?
I try not to see things as mistakes. Cheesy I know. But true.

Have you ever hurt yourself on purpose?
Ummm, not really. I used to bite my big sister when I was about 4, little brat that I was. I made her bleed once and was HORRIFIED so stopped biting her and started biting myself instead. The skin on my knees. Doesn’t hurt. Try it.

Say something totally random about yourself.
I used to want to be a boy. I was jealous how they could wee. Among other things. Now I’m reeeeally pleased I’m a girl.
I wrote a song as a kid
“I wish I was a boy but I’m not one really
I act like a boy but I’m not one really
I dress like a boy but I’m not one really
I talk like a boy but I’m not one really
I……” ad infinatum

Has anyone ever said you looked like a celebrity?
Ha ha. No. But I do a mean Lady Di smile.

Do you still watch kiddy movies or tv shows?
Sure. But don’t have a tele right now.

Did you have braces?

Are you comfortable with your height?
Yes. But I’m tall and sometimes have shitty posture. OccasionallyI tape my shoulders back for a day. It helps!

What is the most romantic thing someone of the opposite sex has done for you?
No comment, not here, if it’s all the same to you

When do you know it's love?
When you can shut up

Do you speak any other languages?
Yes. Chinyanja (of Zambia). Learning Swahili. Schoolgirl French is is embedded somewhere in the recesses

Have you ever been to a tanning salon?
A what? No

What magazines do you read?
Ah, whatever. Usually 8 years out of date whatever I can get my hands on. I like travel magazines

Have you ever ridden in a limo?

Has anyone you were really close to passed away?

Do you watch MTV?
Don’t have a tele

What's something that really annoys you?
When people say “I hate people who…..” instead of “I hate it when people….” Think what you’re saying, people. I hate people who say that. Ha ha.

What's something you really like?

Can you dance?
Hmmmm. Depends on the viewpoint.

What's the latest you have ever stayed up?
Until about 9 the following night, I guess.

Have you ever been rushed by an ambulance into the emergency room?

Anyone else want to have a go? Tam, J?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Behind the scenes

I will not drink sake again. I will not drink sake again. I will not drink sake again....

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A wealth of information

I’ve just got back from a few days in the bush helping out with the examining for some trainee safari guides.

Man, I wish I could divulge some of the corkers that were said, but I hardly think that’s ethical (or fair). I have done this on and off for – oh my god, really? – almost 10 years now, examining potential safari guides. And I always feel massively inadequate. My knowledge isn’t up to scratch. I’m so rusty. Am I the right person for this? Who am I to put these poor guys through this etc etc. Of course if I’m totally honest I also feel secretly important and full of myself, but that usually only lasts the first two candidates and then my ego goes to sleep and the rest of me just glazes over.

I always try really really hard to make the poor wreck feel comfortable, but I fear that I actually make them waay more nervous. In a different way. I guess it takes their mind off the exam and they start frantically thinking on which tree to climb if I turn really weird. The lunatic on board. I offer them water of they have a dry mouth, grin manically at them. Nod emphatically at their stories about the white browed sparrow weaver (its only the 180th time I’ve heard it), laugh hysterically at their stupid stupid stupid jokes (that I’ve ALSO heard 180 times). The monkey sitting on the branch “ah look, a branch manager” ha ha ha. The zebra crossing the road “ah, zebra crossing” or “Is a zebra black and white or white and black” That bird calling is saying ‘work ha-arder’ in the day and ‘drink laa-ager’ after 6. The buffalo weaver is one of the small five. We also have the rhino beetle, the leopard tortoise, the ant lion and the elephant shrew” Ha ha ha ha ha. HA!

Ah, I am too harsh. Of course there are lots of fabulous ones too, who take you on a fantastic and exciting journey and infect you with their enthusiasm, and when they come along they are a joy. Frankly when you hear about the same baobab tree for the 10th time in 2 days you kindov loose the will. And then BAM you get a sparkling gem and it makes it all worth while.

I have chucked away most of my notebooks from past practical exams over the years but they are littered with things like:

“No, I can’t see the zebra coz you’ve parked us BEHIND A TREE”
“WHAT! A squirrel doesn’t eat MICE!”
“Oh my god! Those are CUBS, not a mating pair!”
“there’s nothing wrong with those binoculars, I tested them myself”
“you have GOT to be joking”
“that is NOT a male warthog”
drive us into the ditch why don’t you?
or just plain


When I did my exams, geez, more than 10 years ago I was a nervous wreck. The paper was fine, but the practical was a nightmare. Since it was a really small community I knew all the examiners really well and they all kept saying to me “Oh, you’ll be FINE! You’ve lived here all your life. You know everything already”. Which was my problem exactly. What if I DO do really badly, then you’re REALLY gonna think I’m an idiot!” But it went without a hitch (aside from a misidentified kingfisher – give me a break!). The next year I did my walking exam (you have be a driver guide for a year before you can take your walking safari guide exam) and the examiners thought that I was one of them, which caused a bit of confusion! I wonder if I’d just carried on, pretending to be an examiner, would they have noticed? Anyway. Bla bla bla.

Had a great few days. So fab to be back in the bush again, hear lions and hyenas at night. Wake up at dawn with the first birdsong.

In the past few days we saw:
A dead elephant, lots of living elephants (plus babies), frisky giraffe, frisky waterbuck, frisky doves, some dik dik, a hippo. Ah man I could go on and on and on! Let me give them to you in collective nouns. I love collective nouns. We saw:

A wake of vultures
A tower of giraffes
A stand of flamingos
A patch of flowers
Drove of cattle (Maasai cattle just outside the national park – one about to give birth)
A herd, a memory or a parade of elephants
A covey of grouse
A deceit of lapwings
A pride, sault, sowse or troop of lions
A tribe or a troupe of monkeys
A company of parrots
A sounder of pigs (warthogs) with their babies (a waltz of piglets) – that make me squeal
A herd, a zeal or a dazzle of zebras
A congress of baboons
A filibuster of buffalo
A prettying of doves
A steal of magpies

And much much more! All in 5 days…

The joy of it all

And there were some sparkling gems too......

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

...and George Dub-ya

I'm off tomorrow for a few days again (work this time. But fun work.) More next week. Have a good un.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Motorbike Blog

Aish, so I just got back from the long weekend, spent in Zanzibar. Heh heh.  I dashed off the below blog just before I left but then the power went off and didn’t come back before I had to leave for the airport, the spiteful thing, so here is what should have been on your screens on Thursday. Agh. Zanzibar gloating coming up next blog…..


I have new wheels! No more ‘school run’ having to drop M off at work every morning and pick him up every evening. Whoopie!! I am soooooo lucky.

So yesterday went to pick up the bike. Ah. It is a gorgeous creature. Also saw 12 tiny tiny eyes-just-opening-ears still-stuck-to-their-heads tiny baby ridgebacks. And managed to resist pulling one - its warm puppy smelling softness  - off its mothers teet and slipping it into my jacket. Ah. Sweeeeet. I love baby things. My cat, Clever Bollocks started her new life this way. A bunch of kids, in Zambia, were dismantling an old brick kiln and out exploded a riot of little kittens, running in all different directions. And a teeny tiny little black one headed straight for me. “I don’t want a kitten” I said (as a child, living in the bush, I had an array of different pets and a love/hate relationship with Fang the cunning and street smart, bush wise cat. Fang was Houdini and managed to spirit any number of mice, birds, squirrel pets out of their cages and into his tummy. So I used to keep the mice, genets, squirrels in my tucked in t-shirt. And he’d STILL get them. Only the elephant, porcupine, civet and other bigger creatures were safe.) Anyway, so I looked at this little kitten and said, “I don’t want a kitten”, picked her up, tickled her under the chin and said “I don’t want a kitten” Tucked my t-shirt in, popped her saying “I don’t want a kitten”. Jumped on my motorbike, all the while saying “I don’t want a kitten”. Who was I kidding? So I took her home and called her Clever Bollocks. Until we realised that she was a girl cat, not a boy cat, but what the heck. Clever Bollocks has stuck.

So back to my new bike. I haven’t got many pics yet but J took some yesterday Ernest, still haven’t got the linking thing…It’s not you, its me!). I said to the lady I picked the bike up from “I’m going to go the back way to Janelle’s” “Do you know the way” she asked. “Oh, I’m sure I’ll figure it out.” She looked seriously dubious and I soon realised why. Its basically just a veined mass of cattle paths and karongas (big old rocky gashes in the earth) and you think oh this is the way, no that’s the way, etc. So got pretty lost but it was FUN and found all sorts of new places to explore. Can’t wait. Half of the problem was that my mother was in the car and I zoomed off, waited for her, realised she wasn’t behind me, went back saw that she’d taken a different road, went off looking her her, while she was looking for me. Very comical, really! Eventually got up the hill to J’s in time for tea and choccy cake. What more could one ask for?

Ah, I was going to write a whole post on bikes but I realise that I have too many stories for one blog. Aish. Okay, a few quick tales, I’ll try not to get sidetracked:

I first learned to ride a motorbike when I was about 12. (see terrible 

white trash 1980's picture of whole family on bikes) I inherited my mothers old Suzuki 185 (when she got a bigger bike) which I looked after and tended to like it was a living creature. It was held together with bits of wire and leggen (inner tube – magic stuff) but ran like a dream. Bloody noisy though. My mother had previously painted the tank with gold hippy flowers. I painted the tank black with lumo pink stripes down the sides (oh dear. It was the 80’s okay?). Then one night I had a dream that I worked in a library to earn enough money to buy myself a new bike. I told my dream over breakfast in the morning (a family tradition, dream telling at breakfast). A year or so later my father had a good year and sold a massive painting. A series of them actually (he’s an artist too). Now we’ve never really done presents massively in our family and this one was enough to last for six lifetimes. Its Christmas and my birthday (they’re close together) or thereabouts and my dad hands me an envelope. In it are some instructions to go to my sister’s pottery shed and sort all the books in alphabetical order. In the last book, on page 115 will be my next instructions. So I sort through all the books. The last one is Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (I am still clueless). Page 115. Go to the kitchen and look in the drawer. In the kitchen drawer is a key. Find which house this key fits (we live in a ‘village’ type set up where there are lots of small houses scattered about). I try each door carefully. Ah ha! It fits the guest cottage. I open the door and inside is a brand spanking new Honda xr 200. “Wow!” I say “Nice BIKE” and start looking under the bed for my present. Ha ha!! “No, that’s it”, says my dad. “The bike. It's yours”. Am I not the luckiest girl alive? Seriously? I am 16 and from that moment on cannot be parted from it.

When I think back now of the things I used to do on that bike and the places I used to go, I’m surprised I’m still alive.I'm serious.  Okay, there are more elephants around these days than when I was a teenager but still. Now I would NEVER go the short cut across the island to Flatdogs or the Croc Farm. I just wouldn’t. Its too bloody dangerous. But I did this almost every day as a kid. Bloody hell. The croc farm had ice cream then. Maybe that’s why. What a treat. This was when Luangwa was really really really bush and I have no idea how they managed to get ice cream at the croc farm but they did. Ah. Happy memories! Getting sidetracked….


Then there’s the time that my two friends from school and I went off into the bush on the bikes for a picnic (our picnics only ever consisted of a tin of condensed milk each. These days I’ll pack other things too but in my mind no picnic is ever complete without a tin of condensed milk. Doncha think?). Poor Nicky dropped the bike on her foot (she was on my sister’s bike) and split her toe open. So I had to put her on the back of my bike (and drive her the 30km thru the bush to get her toe sewn by the nurse in camp) and leave poor old Laura in the middle of the bush with her tin of condensed milk and the two bikes with elephants in the distance. 


The first time I went to Zanzibar, with M, we hired a bike for a couple of weeks and zoomed around the island checking out all the fab places to hang out. Great trip. Now I am a ditzy person at times (remember the post about my passport? I won’t link it, I’m bored of that game) and I dropped the key in the sand. We had just walked about 10km along the beach and when we got back to the bike I said to M, “Do you have the key?” “Why would I have the key? You’re the driver” Oh. So we walked ALL the way back to the furthest point we’d reached (in mad dog and Englishman time of day), and then ALL the way back again. No key. Just as we got back to the bike a nice old man came out with the key and said, “are you looking for this? I just found it on the beach” Haha!!


Which brings me smoothly to my next point. M and I are going to Zanzibar (sans bike) today for the long weekend. WHOOPIE. I told you I was the luckiest girl alive.


Oh dear, I hope I haven’t turned into a nostalgic When-We telling stories that are only interesting to me? Ah well, no matter! Be that as it may, I’m still the luckiest person alive….


Have a good weekend. I know I will. 

Monday, August 4, 2008

Happy Snippets

I took my new router to the internet place to get configured. We now have wireless internet at home. Hurrah!

I bump into a Robert Mugabe look-alike on my way in. Spooky. Maybe it was him....

I hand over the router to the fundi (expert bloke) and he points out that I’ve forgotten to bring the adapter. I slap my forehead and say “ah, I’m so stupid”. He scurries off to look for a spare one. An old man who is in the office when I say this comes over to me, touches me on the shoulder and says “you just forgot, you’re not stupid”.

Aint that nice?

It wasn’t the Bob Mugabe look-alike.


Oh and I also met a fellow Zambian today who I can talk Chinyanja to! Ah! I am a parched desert receiving spring rain. After all this Swahili spluttering. We moaned about the state of groundnuts in Tanzania (Zambia has the best in the world – honestly), swapped names of other Zambians in Arusha and generally giggled and jumped up and down. She asked me to bring her some mopane worms/caterpillars to eat next time I go to Zambia. And I shall…

Saturday, August 2, 2008

On men and machines and mechanical terms

What is it about men and machinery, mechanics and being macho? Is it just Africa? I realise that I am generalising massively here but some examples to illustrate my point:

Example one:
Yesterday we had a puncture. Now I am perfectly capable of changing a tyre. I have changed more tyres than I care to remember. I am minding my own business, starting to undo the nuts and jack up the Landrover, when two men push me out the way and start doing it for me. Now I don’t have a problem with this either. If someone else can do it for me cool – I aint complaining. But it soon became very apparent that they had never in fact changed a tyre before. And one of the men was very very old and very very wheezy. Like oh-my-God-this-man-is-going-to-fall-over-in-a-heap-any-moment kind of old and wheezy. So I tried to show them how to do it, but they were having nothing of it. Nothing of it. The clock is ticking, I am already late for picking up Husband and his boss from the airport. I have jacked up the car and the wheezy fellow and his helper are trying to put the new tyre on. Its really rather comical. They can’t get the holes to line up with the bolty things on the wheel drum (see, I know what I’m talking about). And 10 minutes tick by and they still can’t. And I try to step in to do it and they push me out the way. I don’t want to be rude and they are really really determined so I stand back and cross fingers that the old guy doesn’t fall over in a heap of asthmatic bones. And text Husband to say get a taxi, we aint gonna get there on time. 15 minutes pass and the holes are still not lining up. Eventually I get firm, worm my way into the knot of gnarled hands, under smelly armpits, plumbing pipes (for now they have employed all sorts of props) and do it myself. It takes about 8 seconds. Ra ra.

So the tyre is now on, but - possibly to regain some lost pride - they insist on putting the wheel nuts on themselves. Fine. Easy. Enter the plumbing pipe again. They put it onto the wheel spanner for better leverage and start jumping on it. Just to ensure that the nuts are so tight that I’d need a man machine (and a strong one at that) to undo them. Ah ha! You see what they do? It’s clever isn’t it? Do it up so tight that I’ll need a man to undo it. Like so tight they’re gonna shear off the bolts. I had that happen to me before. That classic overtaken-by-your-tyre story. Put on so tight it sheared the nuts off as we were driving. Uh huh. I learn by other people’s mistakes. Haha.

Example two:
When I was last in Zambia, in the village doing a week of action research and awareness performances ( the men all decided - just as it was time to start work for the day – that they needed to fix the battery carrier. So all the actors got in there. All the men anyway. The women just sat there straight legged on the mat looking amused. So there they all are, under the hood of the land cruiser with their bums sticking out feeling really important but without a clue as to what they were doing. Same story. Tried to peep in, just to see what they were doing and I was unceremoniously elbowed out the way. Only one of these men could drive (ish) and none of them have any mechanical experience. Except Simon who makes fantastic props and wire bicycles – if that counts. So after an hour or so of huffing and jiggling and puffing they emerge from under the bonnet as one, grinning and looking AWFULLY proud of themselves. Now I’m allowed in to look at their handiwork. And I see immediately that when they put the bonnet down, the sticky up metal bit will touch the underneath of the bonnet, shorting the battery and probably bursting into flames - a la Janelle last week ( I am no mechanic but this, too has happened to me before. Or should I say I am no mechanic SO this too has happened to me before. In my dear landy. In this case I learn from my mistakes.

Example three:
My mother rides on her motorbike from Zambia to South Africa quite frequently and her and her girlfriend (as in friend who is a girl…..) did a month long motorbike trip through the Kalahari many years ago. Another post another time. So they are cool chicks and know what they are doing. You can imagine the dropped jaws of passersby at the sight of two gorgeous (unbutch) girls on big bikes travelling through the desert. In the 1980’s when it was still very bush. Anyway, I digress.

So on one of these occasions that my mom was riding to SA - through Botswana - her throttle cable snapped. This had happened to her before and she had just the solution. A filed down socket plug copper-sticky-outy-thing where you join the wires together with a screw. You can see that I do not have the mechanical terms down so no wonder men jump to the rescue…Anyway. It was a plan that she devised (and a cunning one at that) that had worked before. So she was driving through Bots and this happened. Now picture the scene if you will; the ‘girl factor’ compounded by the fact that not only is my mother a woman, but a pretty one at that (this seems to make a difference) coupled with the fact that the average Botswana safari type male is bred with extra misogynist genes. Anyway, bla bla bla. The long and short of it is that they would NOT let her near the bike to try and fix it. She knew the solution and kept trying to tell them but no, no. They knew what to do. They tried. After 3 hours of trying they finally listened to my mothers plan. And it worked a dream.

Girl power.

Friday, August 1, 2008

I am Rupert the Bear

No really. I bought a pair of pants (of the trouser variety!) at Mitumba (the second hand clothes market for those of you not in the know. Come on, keep up). For 5 bucks. And this is what I look like. They’re Abercrobie and Fitch so surely they can’t be all that bad…hmmm. Or maybe that means they ARE bad – I’m a little out of touch. Anyway. I will try them for the day.

And let you know.

How many people whisper and laugh.

And if they do.

I’ll keep wearing them.