Saturday, August 15, 2009

The march of the army ants

First week of school over, and it’s been great. Some of the new teachers are still struggling to adjust to life in Africa, and they will get there in time. I can already see how they are changing, and beginning to understand that time is not a factor in life here. When the curtain lady says she’ll come measure your curtains at 3pm tomorrow, it might be at 3pm 3 tomorrows away. When the internet man says he’ll be at your house at a certain time on a certain day, it might be that time, that day but the following week. It’s amazing, I’ve lived out of Africa for 10 years, but have quickly adjusted back into African time. If you wait for things to happen, you might have to wait a long time, better to just make them happen yourself.
Last week we went to Arusha which is only about 70km away, to the other campus to meet our counterparts and do some planning. The trucks on the road move at a snail’s pace, and they have all these speed bumps, some quite huge, that even with a 4x4 you have to slow down and crawl over, so it took us over 2 hours to get there. It was much faster coming back, as there weren’t so many trucks. Arusha has far more shops, lots of restaurants, a South African Shoprite supermarket, and I suppose is a little like Shanghai compared to Nanjing. It’s going to be great to go there for a weekend, but I’m pleased I don’t stay there as I’d probably spend a fortune. When one of the American teachers was commenting on how much better Arusha was, so much more civilised, I said that I’m pleased that I live in Moshi as I have something to look forward to each month – a weekend in Arusha. If you live in Arusha, then what do you have to look forward to? Actually, Moshi is not too bad. It’s much smaller, but you can basically get anything you need here, more so than in China. Especially the western foods. So for me in that respect, it’s not a hardship post, as everything is available.
What does make it tough, however, is the lack of internet at home. Yeah, yeah, I’m still waiting for them to come and sort it out. I have a landline but it’s not connected, so it just means someone coming and flicking a switch or something like that. The school has internet only in the staff workroom and it’s so slow, a carrier pigeon will probably reach its destination faster than an email. As most of us are still waiting for the internet at home, it’s not always possible to get on the internet at school as there’s often a queue. So, for those emailing me requesting for personal emails on top of my blog, unfortunately it’s not going to happen until I eventually get internet at home.
Then of course, I have the ants. Large army ant types. The ones that march up your stairs to find a new home in your bathroom. Last Friday afternoon, when I got back from Arusha, my gardener, Kabelo, was waiting for me. “Little dog, little dog,” he said frantically, pulling my arm to follow him behind the house. I immediately thought that someone’s dog had escaped and he’d tied it up in my back yard. Unfortunately, it was not a dog, but a writhing mass of black army ants. “Spray all gone, spray all gone,” Kabelo said waving his arms wildly, “In bathroom, in bathroom!” This was my welcome back from Arusha. Streams of ants, carrying their eggs, all marching up my stairs to make a new nest in my bathroom. I quickly nipped down to the local supermarket a 3 minute drive away, and bought some cans of insect spray, went home and indulged in a spray frenzy, which has given me hayfever. I thought I killed them all. However, Thursday I went to the toilet and happened to glance at the wash basin, which looked like it was covered in black fur. It was totally covered in heaving ants, so that you couldn’t even see the white of the basin. I pulled out a can of spray and completely annihilated the enemy. When I managed to wash most of their dead lifeless bodies down the plug-hole, I noticed that they had succeeded in making their nest in the hole above the plug in the porcelain, so they were actually living inside the washbasin! Persistent little blighters! I sprayed directly into the hole, and like the serial killer that I was, watched them come out of the hole to die. I thought that was that. Ant problem sorted. Last night, Siobhan went into the bathroom, to find the wash basin looking like it was covered in black fur. More ants, more spary. Hope this will be the last for a while. Murder is not really my thing. Although I have absolutely loved watching Bones second series every night. I think it’s better than CSI, and I was devastated when I finished the last episode last night.
Although you can find places selling the pirate Chinese dvds here, you can’t buy the whole series like I did. I think I’ll be starting on Women’s murder Club series next. We still don’t have a TV. I’m not in a rush to get one either. We brought so many movies and TV series over from China, ones I bought ages ago, wanted to watch and never got round to watching, that I first want to catch up on those movies. The PYP Coordinator is from Fiji and a rugby fanatic like myself, so we watch all the rugby together at her house, making bowls of popcorn, and chomping them nervously as we shout at the players on the screen. As if they can really hear us!
There’s a great restaurant in the street next to us called El Rancho. Although the name seems to suggest that they sell Mexican food, they don’t. Strictly Indian, but the most delicious Indian food ever. Siobhan had two girls staying over last night, so we went there. Our 4th visit in two weeks. She’s settled in so well here and appears to be loving it. Usually such a girl when it comes to insects and creepy crawlies, she’s not fussed by the ants, just picks up the can of spray and lets them have it. I have a feeling her American twang is soon going to change to a Princess Diana accent, as her best friend here, who’s mum is with the UN, sounds very Princess Dianaish. The school is putting on a whole school production – Early Childhood to Grade12 diploma, of the musical Cats. It’ll be in the beginning of December, so while I see heaps of work ahead, Siobhan is very excited. She’s practising a few songs for the audition on Wednesday.
Tried to make some sausages yesterday with some beef mince I bought with a little hand machine, but it was quite hard work. It really does need a little bit of pork mince to work properly. Whereas in China, beef was expensive and hard to come by, here it is pork. I still haven’t found pork. Beef is so cheap. 1 kg Beef fillet costs $9. I saw an electric sausage machine in Arusha which I think I’m going to buy. We get a good discount because the owner has kids in our school. I already have people asking me for sausages, and the butchery in Moshi, where I bought my fillet, asked me if I can bring in samples of my sausages as she’d read in my biography on the school website that I make sausages as a hobby. Of course, my scale, vacuum sealer and bags are all in the box sitting in storage that I didn’t send, as the shippers had covered up the M for Moshi with packing tape! I’m still trying to figure out what to do about that, as I am missing the boxes with our linen, summer clothes and kitchen stuff. Oh well, seeing as we’re only going back there next year December, will probably just have to start from scratch again.
I bought a barbecue grid in Arusha and am going to build myself a block barbecue in my back garden. Eventually, I want to build a lapa as well, as it’ll be lovely sitting outside in the garden. I can’t believe how fertile the soil is here. Spinach we planted two weeks ago is already so big! It’s hard to understand how people are starving here, when the soil is so fertile. I think though, that maybe it is just the area where we are. I’m not sure. But everywhere there is an abundance of avocado trees, and the locals don’t eat them! Gosh, if I think how much they charged for a puny little avocado in Nanjing! Here, they virtually give them away as they say it’s animal food. I think that avocado has far more nutritional value than corn, which is a staple here, but I don’t know if that’s true. Just my opinion.
The kids in my class are lovely, and come from the UK, US, Netherlands, India, Saudi Arabia, Tanzania, Kenya and Ghana. The team I’m working with are very collaborative and lots of fun. Despite internet and ant woes, this has been a good move for us, and I can see why people stay here for years. It’s such a pity Tony has already finished school, as he would have thrived in this sort of set-up. I get one sentence emails from him every few days. The last one saying, “Momsy, am officially out of money, think I did well lasting 2 and a half weeks on R500, so feel proud.” No love Tony or anything. He’s working at The Peninsula Hotel in Sea Point which is 4 or 5 star, and very busy. He’s in the kitchen, and has been doing a few 20 hour shifts, so that’s probably why his money lasted as long as it did. He was too busy working to spend any! He doesn’t get paid for his work though, it’s all part of his training. He just has a few more weeks to go, then he has a two week break, then he starts a ten week theory block. This is definitely making him grow up quickly. He’s met the US rugby team and Springboks, all who stayed at the hotel and he cooked their eggs for breakfast, and one of the Springboks gave him a rugby shirt which he was delighted about.
Have a great week! I’m going to get dressed now, head off to school and hopefully get onto a computer to send this, after which I’m going out exploring with some fellow teachers, checking out some of the markets. Which reminds me. Had better study the town map. For a small town, it’s easy to get lost. As we discovered last weekend when my gas ran out and I had to try and find the gas shop. Thank goodness I have a 4x4, as the roads are well, not really roads! And the view of Mount Kili from Moshi – magical. That old mountain rises above the clouds so majestically, it’s breathtaking.
Luvya all!
Cindy xxx


bobbatess said...

you are one amazing person and i am honored to be called your "old" friend

Cindy Vine said...

Hey Tess, you are not so old!

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