Friday, December 17, 2010

This n That



Okay people, just a reeeeaaaal quick one in between packing and doing all those last minute things one does before going away. Aish. We're heading north - up up and away to the isle of England for a couple of weeks. And boy does it look COLD there! I have a real hard time packing for cold weather when I'm hot. And vice versa. I just cannot get my head around it.

News snippets. Fabulous very good very old friend, neighbour and all round sterling lass Janelle has started a blog that her, another friend and I will contribute pics to called Hometown Arusha. Check it out if you have the time or inclination.

We're busy rehearsing this new play (one play two casts) that will tour around the country fro six months from end of Jan. Did I tell you this already? So been frantically writing and directing and making props and generally being a contortionist. Been great fun. Still not finished but getting there.

Oh I'm sure there's lots more, but I really do have to go.....



Oh and we've bought a plot of land! Sooooo exciting! Its just down from where we live now. Here's the view on one side. On the other is Mt Meru and Kili on a clear day. When we build our house we'll have to have another picture window.



Speaking of which..... from last weekend, with Janelle's horses




So for two weeks we're off, leaving our little house on the hill to fight the elements




bayeeee, happy Christmas ya'll. xxx

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Shadows of windows




Oh it is so time for a new post. Of this I am fully aware. I have things piling up behind me though, things to do, piling up and piling up and slowly pushing me forwards like all this snow falling on our northern hemisphere friends. And soon it will have pushed me forwards, up against the wall, to a point where I have to deal with it, discard, bury, or do until I can rise to the top, dig myself out. Its not bad, its just, you know, there.

Instead I find myself every morning hopping on my motorbike and riding to work, through the fields that have - virtually overnight - transformed from dusty haze into clear-green. Dodging fresh aardkvark diggings (that make me whoop with joy) and seeing little mini stone bomas and cattle kraals that the little herdboys have made while they pass the time looking after their sheep and goats. I pass the sheep too, looking terribly gormless and doff. Heads all together looking at the same spot on the ground. Maybe they are much cleverer than I am giving them credit for. Maybe they are actually discussing world affairs. Of the human or the sheep variety - either would be impressive.

And as I ride I have been pondering all those big question life throws at us sometimes. You know the ones. About life. About death. About how things can change so drastically in just a millisecond. This post, for instance from an old university pal who is in a wheelchair. All the things we take for granted. The feeling of the sea on our toes. And this post, so well put.

I find myself clutching to life these days, remembering how tenuous it really is. Hugging my baby gal a bit tighter. Worrying when my man takes the motorbike on the big road. What was the last thing I said to him? What if it's the last thing I did ever say to him? I feel like I'm turning into neurotic worrier. But I get like this sometimes, it'll pass. I guess when someone close to you dies so suddenly you're bound to feel a bit tumble dried.

In other news: Our group in Zambia has just been invited to perform at a festival in Copenhagen! How cool is that! (More paperwork edging up behind me)
Rehearsals are going great. Am loving it. Its one play, 2 casts, that will tour around the country next year. Having fun. I'm doing what I love. And what I'm good at. (If I don't say so myself!)

oh and also the RAINS are here! This time of year makes me so nostalgic. The different bird calls. They sound so happy. The different weight of the air. Look, here, the first rains:



And now, so green!

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Red Thread

I hear the news. It explodes deep and red in my solar plexis and slowly seeps out, through my body, into my veins.

Out my eyes.

I imagine him looking down on us now, seeing a thread of red, winding here and there, linking together all the people who knew and loved him. Because really, as clich├ęd as it sounds, to know him was to love him. In some places the colour is deep, the thread is thick, in some, perhaps for those who didn't know him as well, it is faint. But it is there. The centre is in Lusaka and the threads come off from there, all the way to England, to South Africa, to here in Tanzania.

He didn’t make it, my friend.

And I am so so so very sad.

Maybe later I will write more. Tell you more about him. Maybe not.




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And on the other side of the spectrum my sister had her baby, which is just the best news in the world. I am an aunty and so so so happy!

How is it possible to be SO sad and SO happy, all at the same time?

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Picture Window





Ain't it beautiful out there?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Scars

I love scars and the tales they tell. 

On a side note - I am also neurotically catious about making such a statement in case the gods say "oh she likes scars, lets give her one to remember - third degree burns on most of her face, perhaps?" It irritates me, gets in the way of a good story. Anyhow, throwing said caution to the wind. 

I love scars and the tales they tell.

As a kid I had a friend - well if I'm honest he was more of a slave really. I called him Wheelbarrow. See? I'm sure he actually had a name, but I didn't know it. I would climb into the cement crusted wheelbarrow like a princess royal, wave my grubby hand at Wheelbarrow and say "Wheelbarrow, lets go" And he, the poor fellow, would push me around for hours. And hours. It's a mystery really why he did it. Usually I'd sit in the wheelbarrow, but one day I chose to sit on the prow, if you will, and put my feet on that metal thingy that goes around the wheel. And on the wheel was a sharp metal tab that cut a perfect slice into my heel. To this day I have a pretty silver scar on my left heel. 

Moving up. Right calf. An extremely innocuous fall off a motorbike left me with an 8 inch long 3 inch wide burn on my leg - the shape of a good sized fish. The burn was pink and raw to begin with, then looked like a big Texan portion piece of steak glued to my calf. Slowly it faded away until all you can see now, if you look really closely, is a faint pattern of silvery lines. 

Then there are the other motorbike scars, etched about my body from a less innocuous fall. One of those falls that when you finally get your bearings back and dust yourself off you wonder how on earth you have bruises and grazes in so many different places. It must have been quite the tumble. Shortly thereafter my mother took some pictures of me for an art work she was doing, naked in an old crumbled overgrown building at the bottom of the garden. Covered in scabs. 

I had a biblical infestation of boils as a child. They were numerous and pustulous and just plain gross. At one time I had fifty something boils on my legs alone. Sis hey? The scars are mostly gone save for a neat little round scar on my left knee, that looks like a perfectly formed 22 bullet hole - complete with exit wound on the other side. 

Then on my right outer thigh is a little silver inch worm of a scar. James Schulz had a pet warthog who was mostly very friendly but would occasionally attack at random. When I was about 9 I used to go for French lesson's at James Shultz's house (he also had a baby monkey that thought it was a cat) and one day the warthog went for his son, who must have been about 5 at the time. I managed to rush in and grab the son, Daniel, before the warthog got him. And she tusked me instead, the bitch. I pretended to be very brave and said it didn't hurt at all, but it bloody did!  

I have a couple on my wrist, one from an air conditioning unit, and another from some scaffolding that was the set of a play I was in. Another on my head from an old school basketball injury. Heads bleed, huh?

Aaaaanyway, that's enough for now. 

Now your turn. What are your most interesting scars? 

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Picture window



It's pretty much all tree these days isn't it?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Just stuff

I’ve been all kinds of grumpy this week. The baby gal has discovered that she has a temper. Of epic proportions! She wakes up at about ten to five in the morning and then gets Seriously Pissed Off that she can’t get back to sleep again. And lets us aaaaallll know about it. It’s a whole new kind of torture. This morning, for instance, she woke up at four thirty, yelled for two hours and then fell asleep, juuust as it was time for me to get up and get ready for work. Nevertheless. We love her still.

Here she is ignoring the neighbour's calf that comes in and eats my herbs. 




And here, humouring her mother.



This morning (despite the early start) I woke up and everything was shiny and shimmery again. The mountain (who has been rather shy of late) has thrown off her cloak and is stupendous. I suddenly noticed that the jacarandas are flowering. Have they been doing this for long? Have I been so self absorbed so as not to notice? Or have they only just started?

 

Rehearsals are going great (we’re almost done – eek) and I just love the motorbike ride from home to where we’re rehearsing.

 

 

 

 

 

This is where we have lunch. 

It's called the Olasit Holiday Inn

The kitchen, through the door

A cow drinking just outside. But you can see that, can't you?

And why has the writing gone blue?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

...

Oooooh oooh look, a free moment to blog! 


You know that iconic picture of Einstein with the big white sticky up hair? Looking slightly crazed and bewildered? I feel a bit like that at the moment. 


Except not as clever.


Oh pants. The baby has just woken up and that free moment I had? Poof! Gone. Ah well, I may as well post this anyway just to prove that I'm still alive, albeit with little to say. Or at least little time to say it in.  


Let me at least take a picture through the window.....



Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Costume shopping and mzungu prices

Today we went to Mitumba, the second hand clothes market, to buy costumes for our play. I have waxed lyrical about Mitumba many a time so shan't do so again. Save to say that I LOVE it. You can find all manner of marvelous things there. From Diesel jeans to skanky choopies (underwear) to silver cowboy boots. Its fab. ANyway I managed to not get distracted by these delights (not the choopies) and get all the stuff we needed for the play. We also went to the market to get materials for making props and I had to hide each time, wait for the actors to go and get the proper price and then appear to pay. "You need to hide with your white skin!"

Conducted an experiment. I said to one of the actresses. 
"How much would you buy these shoes for?" 
"6,000 shillings"
"How much do you think they'd charge me? 25,000 shillings?"
"Yes, about that"
So she went and asked. 6,000 shillings. I went and asked 25,000 shillings.

Feh. 

Forgive the brevity of my posts. I am ti-i-red! But really want to write more. So....

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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Work. Play.

I've started work again. 

Every day I ride the back way on my motorbike, along scraggly goat paths, getting dust on my takkies and snatched at by thorns. Under the wide blue sky, watched by the mountains. And I stand up most of the way and want to woop with joy. 


Hope it lasts!


We're rehearsing on a quiet plot under a big ol fever tree. Making  play. And props. And stuff. 
Its damn hard leaving the baby gal every morning but I guess I have to do it some time. And she cries a bit when I go but I think its mostly for show because she soon gets distracted by the cat and tries to sit on him. He doesn't seem to mind. 


Aaanyway. Off to bed.


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Outside looking in



Monday, August 30, 2010

Some France pics





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Picture window


Saturday, August 28, 2010

The bend in the road

So you plod along, living your life. You go to work, you hang out with your kids. Maybe you’re irritated that the power has gone off, or that you couldn’t find any cream in the shops.

 

And then you hear from your dad that your good friend has been shot. At close range by an AK47. In the shoulder and in the head. He tells you that he has been medicaved to Johannesburg but is stable. That he is in an induced coma but they do not yet know the extent of his head injury.

 

And your world spins away from you.

 

And your ex tells you “He was shot in the side of the head and has a shattered eye socket and no ear. But he will pull through. If you remember he was shot in the leg with shotgun SSG 10 years ago. Mark just put his fingers in the holes in his thigh and was taken to his father's house to be sewed up, so this is just another scratch!”

 

And you think, “Are you sure?” Because you are scared to hope.

 

And you try to keep positive. You try not to think about it too hard; not to let your imagination run riot. But then it catches you off guard when you’re chopping ginger and you find yourself sobbing on the kitchen floor.

 

And your husband says “One step at a time. That he was found on the side of the road in time before he bled too much. That he was able to be medicaved. That he is stable. Now we wait to see the rest. One thing at a time.” And he hugs me. And the baby laughs, thinking my sobs are laughs. And I hug them tight.

 

And what else can you do? But live your life. Try to plod a little less and live a little more. Because really, you never know what’s around that bend in the road.


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Picture window? It's dark, I'm writing this in bed. Next time.

 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The holiday part the third and final


If you got your atlas out and looked at the top part of Germany and then ran your finger over the map, all the way south, about as far south in France as you can go before you hit the Pyrenees you'll trace the journey we did. 

Ah, I started writing this days ago. And I kept thinking, I'll get back to it when I feel inspired, I want to give it the time and poetry this part of the trip deserves. I want to tell you about the beautiful old farm house tucked away in the woods, complete with summer vegetable patch and strawberries ripe for the picking.  Of visiting an old stain glassed windowed church - all echoey and old, and of the baby gal splashing about in the stone basin of holy water. Of driving into the Pyrenees and taking fleeting pictures out the back of a funky yellow car. That matched the fields of sunflowers. Of market day and fois gras and enough cheese to sink a galleon. Of medieval villages and old winding streets. Of family and laughter and comfort and reminiscing of old times. 


But...


I've started work you see. Rehearsal. And its just taking up all my brain and my energy. 


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Oh and the picture window! How remiss of me!


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Holiday - part the second (with some brief family history thrown in)


My grandmother used to be an author. She is 89 and pretty cool, in a laugh about farts sort of way. She was born in India, and raised partly in the UK and partly in Nyasaland, now Malawi. This is where she met my grandfather and where my mother and aunt were born.
 
She lives in Cornwall now and so we trekked down there for a couple of days to visit and be buffeted about by the wind. We stayed in a little B&B out in the magical woods. 


She stays in a lovely big old house right by the sea that is a care home or assisted living or whatever the euphemism is nowadays for God's waiting room. She's been there a few years but seems to think she's just arrived and seems to quite like it so....
 
We walked in the woods, ate seafood, got wet by waves crashing on rocks, told the same stories manymany times (she's a little forgetful now, my granny) and spoke about the past (she remembers all this perfectly). Oh and laughed. Lots. 




Then we hit the road proper. 


Drove from Worcester in the UK down to the coast, hopped on the ferry in Dover, arrived in Calais, reprogrammed our brains for driving on the other side of the road, dusted off my schoolgirl French and up up and away! 

Destination Shnakenburg, Northern Germany. Where my 90 year old grandfather lives.  That first day we started off in England, then drove through France, Belgium and Holland and the next day into Germany. Sheesh! 

My grandfather is 90 going on 70. Must be all the berries he eats. He is seriously fit - it's a bit freaky actually! He took us on a guided tour of his (and my dad's) hometown. His other son, my dad's brother, came to be there too. To help with the language and all. Because otherwise there would have been an awful lot of smiling and nodding. And awkward silences. This is a side of my family I don't really know, you see. My father left Germany for Africa when he was 20ish and I think this is only the third time I've met my grandfather; my uncle I'd only met once before. And their other sibling, Geli? Have I ever properly in real life met you?? Don't think so. So yes, I have German heritage but I don't speak the language nor do I really know much about this heritage. Time to redress that I reckon.

There he is striding forth, we could barely keep up with him!

Shnakenburg is tiny old town on the river Elbe halfway between Hamburg and Berlin. Surrounded by huge forests. You look across the river into what used to be east Germany and it looks so peaceful now you can't really imagine the patrol boats ready to shoot people on sight if they tried to swim across. 


He also took us to see an old section of the fence between east and west. Where a small village was demolished to make way for it, the residents given a few hours to move out. Gruelling to think, but again, such a weirdly peaceful spot.

The houses are all oldold with gaps in between them for the cows to walk through. Some have shrapnel pockmarks. They are beautiful, and mostly really well maintained, 



with a few old crumbling buildings, overgrown with ivy. 



We went inside one that a friend of theirs was renovating and its amazing to see how they were built, all straw and mud and beams. And to have survived all these years. The termites can't be as bad as the ones here, surely? 



And an 800 year old church that apparently no-one really attends. I found that odd, I'm not sure why.

Oh I could go on and on and on but I can feel you all shifting boredly in your seats, stifling a yawn. Lots of stories and pictures I have. But we still have France to get through! 

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Holiday - part the first



We thought it would be a good idea to visit Europe in the summer, since I'd only ever seen her in the dark dead of winter. Which I love. 

But the summer? 

Oh its all shiny and sparkly and covered in smartie flavoured flowers! And I can totally believe in fairies and talking trees and  jacket wearing rabbits in the English summer countryside!
Divine. 

Its always something getting used to driving a little car when we get to the developed world. The engine is so quiet. Sometimes you think its not on and try to restart it. And when you try and touch the clutch, you put your great big foot on all three pedals at once. And the breaks? You only need to use your big toe! Well, I say this as if I drive in England. Noooo. You wouldn't catch me dead driving in that scary traffic. Well, actually you would.  

Give me a big old landrover and scary African city driving any time. The driving here may be crazy with people overtaking overtaking cars and cutting in and basically driving into you if you're not on your toes and anticipating each driver's move within a 200 metre radius, but at least people expect you to make mistakes. In Europe or wherever everything goes so smoothly. If you did make a mistake you'd be the crumpled one on the side of the highway that causes the tailback and that everyone rubbernecks at as they go past. No no, not for me. Luckily (since we were doing a road trip through Europe) the husband loves to drive. 

So we landed at Heathrow and picked up our wee car. And the other thing? How can you tell which car is yours in a crowded parking lot? They all look the same. (Yes yes, I'm a girl I know). Okay, so the time difference is only two hours but having woken up at four that morning, and having been on an all day flight with a squirming one year old we thought it would be a great idea to go and spend the night at a mate's house in London and have a party. I mean why not, right? The gathering of the clans. And the last time we'd seen most of them we were being crazy, climbing trees and drinking copious amounts of beer on an elephant dung infested dry river bed in the middle of a national park. And now we see them and most of us are all familied up. Kids. Cars full of broken plastic dinosours and armbands. But not above drinking copious amounts of beer. And climbing trees and playing cricket with said elephant dung if there was any around. Right? Or at least taking about it.  So in with a bang and it was great. 

Part of our mission on this trip was to go and visit all the rellies. Many of whom I've only met a couple of times - most of whom are pushing a hundred but we thought it would be fun to go and see them all, introduce them to the baby gal. A victory lap of sorts. 

But first stop middle of England somewhere, spent a week with my parents-in-law. Shop. Eat. Shop. Eat.

Next stop Cornwall to visit my 89 year old grandmother. 


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Honey, I'm home! (but shhhh, don't tell anyone)


I am back from holiday. Well fed and dragging my heels. 

Where to start, where to start? 

Can I just pretend I'm on holiday a bit longer? Lay my head on my pillow and deal with everything tomorrow? Or the next day?

Maybe Monday.

I think I'll keep my Out of Office Reply on just a little bit longer.... 


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Picture Window

with drier grass and taller trees

Friday, July 9, 2010

Computer Sabatical

I am going away today for a month and leaving my computer behind! Gulp! 

So.

Bye bye and see you on the other side. Saturated with stories of good food good wine, a European summer (I've never seen one of those) and many other tales. 

Will try and blog.

Maybe.

We'll see.

Who am I kidding!

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Picture window



Winter window. You think it doesn't get cold in Africa? Think again!
 


Bayeeeeeeee. Miss you already!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Dreaming of mistaken Idols

An old faded colonial house with a dusty threadbare garden and flame trees. Squeaky gauze fly screens with holes in. Inside is a man and a woman, greying hair, sitting next to a radio and crooked piles of dusty paper, smelling of old maps. 

I somehow find myself in this room having been chosen (from a poor rendition of 'Summertime') to be one of the top three finalists in American Idol. 

I assure the two lovely judges that there has been a terrible mistake. I cannot sing. They tell me I am being modest. I say no really. I really really cannot sing. 

The other two contestants are waiting in the dusty car park, under the molting flame trees near the servant's quarters. I feel sorry for them. I know that they can sing and it would be a terrible travesty if I got picked by mistake.

No please, I say, I really can't sing. I don't know how this happened. 

I get given another song to sing. A French song. I sing it. The woman says 
Oh yes I see, you're right. Now I hear it in French, I understand. You really can't sing

Phew!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Invigilatinzzzzzzzzzzz

 
Yesterday I found myself invigilating an exam with no time limit. Sitting under a clutch of yellow Fever Trees keeping my beady eyes on 8 poor souls writing their safari guides exam. I started out very keen. Head tracking back and forth like I was watching a tennis match. Then, after about two hours I started to get booooored. So when faced with a looong string of hours stretching off neverending into the distance what does one do? Except stifle yawns. Walk around a bit. 
And after 5 hours? Well... I seemed to spend a lot of time playing with a big two prong acacia thorn.
Things you can do with acacia thorns:
1) clean your fingernails
2) clean your watch, rings and various other pieces of jewelery
3) see how many raisins and dried cranberrys you can fit onto one (17)
4) draw circles in the sand with it, compass style
5) Fancy dress - fangs. Horns
6) Scratch 'I woz ere' into the soft flaky bark of one of the fever trees
7) Use them to prop your eyes open, matchstick style
etc etc etc etc

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Picture Window on this winter morning

Monday, June 21, 2010

This glass is half full


That's all.


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Picture Window, with sunlight