Wednesday, June 29, 2011


So my in-laws are coming on Friday. And guess what I'm doing today (aside from frantically trying to get the house in order before I leave!) - going to the Serengeti! Yay. Just for 3 nights, examining some poor souls for their safari guide exams. Fairly mind numbing but also sooooo nice to get out into the bush again. I'll be leaving the baby with her dad and grandparents. heh heh. 

SO. I'll try and post when I can. I'll try and take some pictures, at the very least.

There's STILL no electricity and I fear its something we'll have to get used to. Off for 24 hours yesterday, a few hours on in the middle of the night and off again by the time we woke up this morning. We'll be having a big meat feast soon for all our defrosted meat I reckon! 

Aaanyway, teeny bit of battery power left and oh I have to pack and then when I get back from Serengeti look forward to a trip to Zanzibar. yipeeeeeee

Sorry, am I gloating?


Thursday, June 23, 2011

The plot

So I think I told you that we have a plot of land? A wee dry windswept hilltop with stunted gnarly trees and dusty patches from decades of overgrazing by goats. And sweeping views of the maasai steppes and mount Meru. I love it. 

We've tried to plant a few acacia trees and, a bit ambitiously in a drought year, some other indigenous plants that require a bit more water than there is out there. We shall see how they fare. 

We've been having these power cuts. Mostly off all day every day and sometimes all day every day and all night too. There used to be a loose system - if its off in the day it'll be on at night and vice versa. But I believe there is very little water in the dam due to terribly bad rains so now its certainly more off than on. Which, as Lemon Gloria would say, is a very rich person's thing to complain about. So I'll try not to. Just sayin!

So the days that we have electricity I trawl the internet for house plans and ideas, and the days we don't I make these little cardboard models. Yes I have a bit of time on my hands at the moment!  

I'm not sure when we'll start building, but its all a very exciting process and I'll be sure to keep ya'll updated. And yes, we're looking into the solar/wind energy options!

And time for a picture window update, no? 

Not much to see these days...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


I had another dream about Mark J.


Last week my dad and Mark's family took his ashes down to Chibembe where I spent the first 6 or so years of my life and where, twenty years later Mark and I worked together. A special place.


So I guess he was on my mind or maybe he was out there flying high and flying free.


In my dream there were a whole lot of us, all sitting outside around a big table eating, drinking, on a happy sunny beautiful-light day. And in amongst us all was Mark, just sitting there normally, laughing and enjoying himself. And as I was leaving I went up to him and gave him a kiss on the cheek and said, “Why aren’t you telling anyone you’re alive?”


And then I suddenly realized that no-one could actually see him. But he was sitting there amongst us all and laughing and having a good time. 


There are no secrets with an almost-two-year-old in the house. 

The other day, on my way home from town, I was reallyreally hungry so stopped off and had some sushi. Mark was cooking supper that night. We got home and the first thing Lara said was "Mummy eating sushi" 


On a similar (but hopefully less true!) note, yesterday she kept saying 

"Daddy's got a lady"

I THINK what she was trying to say is "Daddy's getting ready". 

But it came out as  "Daddy's got a lady"

"Daddy's got a lady"

"Daddy's got a lady"

Ad nasueum!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Eclipses and other night time adventures

"I'm excited on the inside" my man says drily in response to my hopping around the house in excitement singing "eclipse, eclipse, lunar eclipse." He's feeling rotten and goes to bed. I manage to stay up and watch it. 

I put on the biggest warmest fleece I can find and slide out the front door with binos and camera. I sit in the dust wedged between two thorn trees, crook my neck up and marvel at the moon silently disappearing. Getting eaten up, being possessed. I should really be lounging on the day bed round the other side of the house, sipping a glass of wine pondering the mysteries of nature and life but frankly I can't be bothered.  I'm happy enough in the dust, gingerly moving the huge acacia thorns from my chosen spot.  Dashing in to the house every now and then when I get cold or bored. But each time I come inside I'm drawn back out there. Just one more look.

I am not a night owl. 9:30 is late for me.  The eclipse starts at 9:22. I manage to stay up though. Until she is swallowed whole and then she's completely gone, and its dark and the clouds come in and I feel bad that I'm not going to see her transformation back. I gingerly hang around a little nervous that that's it, she's gone forever. But the clouds have come in and its really really dark and now I'm tired. Just before I get into bed though, I peer out the window and see the acacias outside my window bathed in yellow moonlight again. Phew!

My grandfather was really into his stars. We'd often go and drive one of the game drive vehicles up the road to a clear spot and lie on the seats and look up at the stars. And he's show us how to find south from the Southern Cross and thats Scorpio and there are the Seven Sisters. And I have a memory, a bit blurry around the edges, but clear in the middle. Maybe six years old, sitting up behind our house on camp chairs at three in the morning with my mother and grandfather and his bashed up green and silver Coleman flask of hot milky tea. 

And seeing Hayley's Comet. Waking up in the night needing a wee. Lying in bed listening out for elephants and hippos. We're not really allowed to go outside for a wee in the night (we live in the bush and don't have ensuite loos - the toilet is faaar away). I try and keep in in but its no good. I quietly sneak outside, squat down for a wee and look up and... Holy shit look at that! And sneaking back into bed feeling smug and somewhat richer. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Grandfather Diaries III

Some more experts from my grandfather's diary:

Monday 27/8/45

.... Have just shot a rhino in front of camp. When I arrived the chief complained that there was a rhino which kept chasing the people in the gardens and the women were afraid to go to the stream to draw water. I was rather skeptical, having heard this kind of story too often before: it is usually dished up every time an official comes round on tour in the hope of his shooting some meat for them... But as I was camped in the gardens I told the chief I'd see if it really was as bad as he said when it came round. The millet crop has now been reaped and all the tall stalks cut to the ground, so there is a nice cleared open space al around camp, except for a patch of tall reeds about half an acre in extent. Whilst I was having tea, the carriers saw the rhino come out of the reed patch. I went over to investigate but as he went back again into cover I left him and detailed a guard to keep watch and tell us when he came out again, which he did in about and hours time. He was very thin and walked with a heavy limp as if his rear hind leg were injured. we gave him every opportunity to clear off and after watching him for about a quarter of an hour deliberately walked up to him in the open. He charged but I gave him time in case it was bluff but his intentions were obvious. I fired when he was 15 yards away as did the two fundis with me. I was not being foolishly heroic or anything, but merely wanted to give him a chance to clear off if he wanted to. There was very little risk with three rifles. He was very emaciated and his body covered in suppurating sores and he was obviously a very sick animal which probably accounts for his behaviour.

Tuesday 28/8/45

Did not strike camp as I have to get in a stock of meal for the forward journey xcountry to Luangwa as there are no villages for several days after we leave here. Had a party last night. All the youths and maidens (sic?) came and gave a dance around the camp fire to show their gratitude for dispersing of the village monster. One Akunda native (not a local who are Awisa), obviously a professional, gave a most amazing performance and held his audience with the confidence which would make a London stage comedian envious. For his act he wanted a song accompaniment unknown by the locals so he proceeded to teach them, singing a few lines which he made them repeat after him. He had a most attractive voice.  In no time at all the crowd were singing it for him - something about a 'chipembere' and he did a most realistic 'rhino dance'. Then he gave a gruesome exhibition of fire eating and various other self maiming feats which were rather horrid, but what impressed me was his marvelous stage techniques. In fact he was a double of Maruice Chevallier (straw hat and all).

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Things I love about this town

- The mountain, in all her moods. Astonishing from every angle

- The weddings. Full brass bands, all dressed the same, in the back of open, ribbon-laced pickups, heading the wedding precession, stopping the traffic and entertaining the crowds on a Saturday.

- The rotating chefs. The restaurants don’t matter, the chefs have a following. A restaurant closes down and the chef moves somewhere else ‘Mary works at such-and-such-place now’

- The mix. Mosque sits next to church; the fancy two-story house glances down at a humble duka* selling biscuits that smell of washing powder and decanted bottles of paraffin; the factory squats next to cattle boma (no, the effing factory is not a thing I love about this town); the mud and cow dung house with shiny tractor outside.

- The sunflowers by the airport

- The random giraffe patterned bench that someone made a couple of weeks ago at the TGT junction

- The grasscutters at the airport. Every month or so, when the grass at the airport gets too long a bevy of grasscutter come and swarm the area near the runway, cutting the grass for their cows

- Grotty grubby downtown Mbauda with occasional scrawny trees that sometimes and surprisingly burst into yellow flower.

- The industry. Everyone busy. All the time. Making things, painting things, crafting things, stealing things, returning things, breaking things, fixing things, adapting things.

- The shop art. Storefronts with elaborately painted murals of their wares. From nuts and bolts to tractors to unidentifiable bike parts to cooking oil, cows and bars of soap.

- The daladala** signs. Like fortune cookies, giving you your message for the day. The Long Wait; Cupcake; One Day Yes; Life; Snakeboy; The Long Way; Passion; Painkiller; Faith; Trust; The Lord is our Shepherd; God is Great; Insh’allah and so on. One to suit every mood.

**minibus taxi

For more pics of this town see janelle and my website Hometown Arusha