Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Just when you thought things were slowing down...

That cottage by the sea and lawn bowls at the club every Wednesday afternoon sounds more and more tempting by the day.  But knowing me, I'll be bored after the first week.  I've come to realise that my life has to be non-stop action and out of control for me to be truely happy. 
Our Grade 5 Exhibition was a huge success with students raising money for many causes.  When you see the Action they take, then you realise what a brilliant programme the PYP is.
This past weekend five staff took 27 little darlings down to Dar-es-Salaam for the big primary schools swimming gala and football tournament.  After a dubious start where the bus company delivered a bus that probably wouldn't have made it to the nearest fuel station in one piece (no seat belts and the seats were all loose and sliding everywhere) there was no way it would last the 10 hour bus trip to Dar.  But that was just typical of Tanzania.  And here I'd thought they'd think me anal retentive for phoning them twice a week for the last two months to confirm we'd be getting a new bus with seat belts!
The great hotel Siobhan and I had stayed in last year (Q Bar), granted it had been during the week, proved to be a bad recommendation for one of the parents.  Friday nights at the Q-Bar is obviously a no-no, with blaring loud music and prostitutes plying their trade in the rooms at night.  He said he couldn't sleep, and tried to think of a polite way to describe the sounds of sex penetrating through his walls.  I suggested 'Humpy Bumpy' and he fell in love with that, managing to include 'Humpy Bumpy' in every conversation from then on.  I'm not sure what his wife will think when he shares his new vocab with her when he gets back home.
The kids did so well, the seniors coming second out of nine schools in the swimming, and the girls placing third in the football.  They definitely did us proud and it was great to reward them with a day of fun at the water park.
The trip back was long, with one kids dropping bad smells for twenty minutes solid, so that as the smell spread up the bus the kids would scream as it hit them like a Mexican wave.  They all blamed one little boy who eventually burst into tears as he was blameless.  No one likes being blamed for something they never did.  The real culprit was the last off the bus at the toilet stop in the bushes along the side of the road.  When we asked if he'd been the one farting, he just gave a sick smile and nodded his head sadly.  He didn't even try and deny it, but the rest of the bus never knew it was him.
Now admin for next year, reports, all little bits and pieces, just enough to keep me from what I really want to do - write.
The power problems with Tanesco are getting worse.  I've decided I need to buy a woman-friendly generator that starts with a push of a button or a key.  No more of this pull-rope one that hits me in the face every time I try it after the fundi removed the safety cover to make it work better!  Work better?  I laugh in his general direction!  The blasted thing, brand new out the box, has never worked since I bought it in November!
I'm hoping to get the first draft of How to Say No to Sex and other Survival Tips for the Suddenly Single finished before the holidays start, but I'm not sure if that is realistic of me.
My book sales, especially on Kindle, are going crazy, and I've sold over 1000 in May for the first time.  If you've got a Kindle, an iPad, a Sony E-reader or a Nook, you need to check out my books which are available on all those formats, as well as on as Paperbacks.
I'm thinking, maybe after this week things will start to slow down for the holidays...

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Running around like a headless chicken

How is it, that everything always seems to happen at once?  You go to sleep on Sunday night and wake up on Friday morning wondering how the hell it arrived so quickly and what happened to the week in between.  It did happen.  You have a vague recollection that it did, so it must have, but how did the days pick up speed so that it all passed in a blur?  I reckon the aliens have landed on the top of Kilimanjaro and have some kind of technologically-advanced device which they are using to control time.  It has to be them.
With the P6 (Grade 5) Exhibition opening on this coming Monday night, all of us involved have spent the week running around like chickens with our heads chopped off.  To make matters worse, there's the final arrangements to be made for the huge inter-schools gala in Dar next Saturday.  When that's over it's time for proofing and printing off all the primary reports.  Six thousand things to do before school ends in mid-June.  If I have to judge how things are going to go by this past week, then I'd better find a special brace to attach my head onto my neck before I lose it completely!
And of course, to make matters more exciting, Tanesco, Tanzania's super-efficient power supply company (hold on while I wipe away the sarcasm that just dripped onto my chin) have just announced that they will be closing down TWO power stations to perform essential maintenance.  Nobody seems exactly quite sure when this will start, depending on whom you speak to at Tanesco, it will start on any day between the 16-23 May!  How long it will last for is another unknown with a time period being given for 9-30 days.  Tanesco have kindly consented to put the power on every night between 11pm and 8am, so that you can get up in the middle of the night to shower, pump water, wash clothes, cook, watch TV, things you'd normally do during the day.  Thank you Tanesco!
With all of this going on, it is hard to find a time to be able to work on my different book projects, and that is probably the most frustrating of all.  Roll on June!
Have a great week ahead!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Reality of living in Africa

   I can remember years ago Nelson Mandela giving a speech saying that "All Africa is one."  In some respects I think he was right.  Despite the cosmopolitan appearance of some African cities, like my favourite city Cape Town, there are some frustrations which still raise their annoying heads.  It doesn't matter if you live in the wop-wops or in a modern city, there are just some things that you will experience.
Like African Time.  I have lived and traveled in many African countries and this seems to be a consistent feature.  You might be in a hurry but that will mean nothing to the person you are dealing with.  This was brought home to me yesterday when I was buying internet data for my dongle.  The assistant took my dongle and removed my simcard, then proceded to help a few other people who jumped the queue and brought him their phones.  Then he stopped working while he flirted with a female customer waiting in another queue.  The flirting ended when his mobile phone rang and he took a call which must have been entertaining as he laughed a lot while talking.  Another assistant came to him and perched on the edge of his desk for a quick chat that took up his attention for about 10 minutes.  Before you know it an hour has gone by for something which should only take 5 minutes tops. 
My new kitchen is another example of the wonders of African time.  A one week job tops took 2 months to complete.  Instead of arriving with all the toold that would be needed, they come to look at the job to see what tools they will need.  You wait about 5 days for them to return with the tools.  They start the job and then they say they are going off for a tea break.  They return a week later and all that time you are having to keep the contents of your kitchen on the floor as they've removed the cupboards.
It doesn't help voicing your frustration as that will make them go slower.
Then you get the queue.  We are taught to wait patiently in a queue for your turn to come.  While some do this, others saunter nonchalantly to the front of the queue and ask a question.  Then before you know it the assistant is helping them.  What gets me is that everybody accepts this and nobody complains  That idiot has pushed to the front of the queue and nobody seems to mind!  Yesterday I spoke up.  "Excuse me, I was here first."  The culprit smiled, nodded his head and then moved in behind me in front of the others who had been waiting patiently.
Driving is another frustration.  Mini bus taxis stop wherever and whenever without indicating and the onus is on you to take quick action to avoid a collision. 
And then of course there's the corruption.  Anybody who finds themself in a position of power or authority must do a Bribing 101 course.  In Tanzania you give someone money and you get a driving licence.  You don't even have to do a test.  You need a safety sticker for your car?  Give someone some money and they'll pick up the sticker for you.  Your car doesn't have to be present for the roadworthy check. 
Despotic leaders and civil unrest seem to dominate the news.  Child soldiers, AIDS epidemics, it all seems quite scary. 
But the most amazing reality of living in Africa for me is the people's ingenuity and disregard of danger.  If they need electricty they think nothing of climbing up an electricity pylon and with very limited tools, connecting wires from the box up there to their house.  The fact they are working with thousands of volts doesn't phase them at all.  And if water is needed, they'll spend the weekend digging up a pipeline so they can attach a diversion onto it that feeds water to their house.  Need extra cash?  Remove 500m of power cable to sell.  I can't believe more people aren't killed playing around with electricity like they do.
All over Africa you find people living under the most dire of conditions in absolute poverty.  What you see will often bring you to the point of tears.  You will hear the most unbelievable stories that will break your heart.  But you will have to accept that there is no way you can help everyone.  There are just too many in need.
And we can't forget to mention the crime.  But with so many 'have-nots', can you expect it to be any differen?  Let's face it, you experience crime all around the world, in every major city.  Africa is not unique in this.
What you will find all over Africa is the most vibrant and friendly people on the planet.  Beautiful beaches and landscapes, a continent of so much potential it will blow your mind.  When some of the frustrations get you down, this is what you need to focus on.  Clear blue skies, great weather, a wealth of animal life, lovely people, a lifestyle that lacks the frenetic activity you get living in a place like London or New York.  There is much to be said for living in Africa.  Maybe we just need to learn to go with the flow and not get frustrated so easily.