Saturday, October 17, 2009

Things we take for granted

Life moves on at a steady pace. You wake up, go to work, go home, cook, go to bed, you wake up...and so it continues, day in and day out. What breaks the tedium of daily life, are the little unexpected things that happen each day. Things you never planned on, or previously gave much thought to as you took them for granted. Things like power, the internet, water, services, directions. We are used to flicking a switch, turning on a tap, getting in a fundi (expert) and the problem is sorted. Things here are very different. Sometimes it's funny, other times just pure irritation.

Take for example, the problems with my oven. I like to cook, create in the kitchen. However, this has been a little bit of a problem as I haven't managed to get my oven working properly. The first time I tried to use it, we couldn't get the gas to stop making its shhhhhh noise as it continued to come through the pipe making the kitchen smell like a gas tank. When I fiddled with the knob, it came off in my hand and a big dollop of blue tack fell on the floor. Now, I might not be very technically minded, but I do know that blue tack is not a good choice of repair material for an oven that gets hot. The fundi came to repair it and I was promised that it would work properly. But, whereas before only the grill worked, now only the bottom oven worked. I called in the fundi again and it was supposed to work. The week before last, after a long day at school I decided to make pizza for dinner. I prepared the bases, grated the cheese, and thirteen matches later, the grill would still not let itself be lit. By that time I was seething. I was not in a happy place. When I turned the oven switch off, I heard the shhhhh sound. Gas was coming out after it had been turned of! Siobhan quickly lit a match, we opened the oven and moved the match around like a magic wand. The bottom oven ignited with the oven switched off. Desperately, we moved the oven switch around to try and turn off the gas. Another huge dollop of blue tack fell onto the floor and the knob remained in my hand, loose, no longer a part of the oven. I was so mad that all the fundi had done was just stick it on with more blue tack, that I went to bed at 7.30pm. The story doesn't end here. I wrote a long letter of complaint to the head of campus, the fundi got called in and he said that my oven was so old it was irrepairable and he had told them that many times, but the maintenance manager at school kept telling him to try and fix it anyway. Mister Chucky, the school purchasing man who is in charge of maintenance while the maintenance manager is on leave, appeared at my classroom door. "We have brand new ovens in the storeroom, so we'll take away your old one because the fundi says its dead." I gave him a grim smile of thanks. If they had a new one in the store, why the hell did they keep trying to resurrect my broken one? But, the story still does not end. My new oven is half electric, half gas which I much prefer. I hate baking with gas. It has two gas hobs, two electric hobs and an electric oven. The fundi installed the new oven, and connected the gas. However, he did not connect the electric part, so now I have gone from four gas hobs to only two, and still no oven! I happened to mention the fact that I still have no oven last week, and the maintenance manager said, "Oh, I must organise an electric fundi to go out to connect it." If I never mentioned it, it would probably have never happened. But, that was four days ago, and the electric fundi still hasn't come. So, I still don't have an oven. My gas ran out yesterday. Payday is only on Tuesday, so I guess we'll be having BBQs in the meantime. I guess, at least we have food, some people don't have that.

We have many power cuts and not having a generator does make it a challenge. Without power, there is no internet, Siobhan struggles to do her homework by candlelight, and I can't fill my sausage orders as I now have an electric sausage machine. So, the next time you flick on a switch and you have instant light, think of us. Actually, I'm thinking of buying a rechargable battery-powered light. We definitely need to do something, because usually when there's no power, we just go to bed and there is only so much sleep you can have. I have finally given in and invested in a small TV. There's no point in Siobhan having a Wii if she can't play it. Of course, one does rely on power for that to work. Which brings me to water. To get water into our tank so we can have water in the bathroom to shower with, we need to pump it. When there is no power, the gardener can't pump the water, and the result is, no shower when you are hot and sweaty. No power also means you can't turn on your hot water cylinder to heat up the water, so even if yu had water in the tank, it would be cold. To save on electricity charges, we turn on the hot water cylinder only an hour before we plan on having a shower or a bath. I am becoming quite frugal in my old age. It could be something to do with paying for a child to study at hotel school.

Last Friday, my gardener, Kabelo, called me over to the garage when I got home. "Look Cindy, ducky, ducky," he said pointing at the garage. He opened the door and there was a large black duck with a red thingie above his beak, pooping. "No want ducky," I said in my best Swahili. Kabelo laughed and said, "No, ducky not for you, ducky for me." "But I don't want a ducky by my house," I replied, wrinkling up my nose in distaste. Kabelo smiled and I had a feeling I knew what was coming. "My ducky, my house. Friend give me ducky, but no money. My mother dead last week so no work. Want ducky. Friend give me ducky, but I give friend TSH 15 000. Cindy give me TSH 15 000." I sighed. Kabelo loves tapping me and my neighbour, Patricia, for money. He always has a valid reason. She's started to write down the dates and the amounts we give him in a little book. Lord knows why, as we'll never see the money again. By the way, TSH 15 000 is the same as US$15. I'm such a walk over. Like, I can really afford to just give away $15. So, I bought my gardener a duck.

We're coming to the end of our week's holiday. Most staff have gone to the coast or on safaris somewhere. We elected to stay at home and just veg out. Actually, I've managed to get quite a lot done in my latest book, The Case of Billy B. We also managed to download (well, the school principal downloaded for me as he has unlimited internet) and watch the whole of Season 5 of Grey's Anatomy. Oh my God, it was so emotional, I reckon I cried in every episode. Last weekend they had the rugby sevens here, with teams from all over Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda competing. Kenyan teams came frst and second. I sold homemade boerewors rolls. The rugby was quite good, although the guys playing were quite small and light. I hear that the kenyan sevens side is supposed to be quite good.

On Wednesday, Siobhan and I decided to treat ourselves with a day out. About 40km from Moshi is a hot springs called Chemke. The Swahili for hot springs is 'maji ya moto'. Yeah, it does sound a bit Japanese, doesn't it? Of course, when people give you directions, they are never as simple as they sound. The diploma English teacher, Alistair, said, "Drive on the Arusha road to Boma, turn onto the dirt road next to Mr Price and go straight." For the South Africans who read my blog, Mr Price is not that fantastic clothing chain, but rather a chain of seedy supermarkets selling items way past their sell-by dates. Well, we found Boma, we found Mr Price, the dirt road was harder to find as it is literally, a dirt road, easy to not see. Thereafter we became explorers of the ilk of David Livingstone. The road was not straight. It branched every couple of 100 metres or so, and we had to make conscious decisions about which branch to take. Something a bit, like the road less traveled. Can't remember offhand who wrote that poem, was it Robert Frost? Often, we took the road with the most tyre tread marks, thinking that as it was a popular choice, it must be the right way, but it wasn't. Sometimes the flat straight road, easy to navigate was the wrong road. The right way was the one where you had to drive over boulders and trenches so that your car was at a dangerous angle. We asked for help all along the route, and I became very good with my 'maji ya moto.' Eventually, we came to an oasis of palm trees after driving through a dry landscape dotted with boaobab trees, thorn trees, tiny cement houses, cows, goats, and Masai herdsmen. When we saw the hot springs, all the frustrations of the past week vanished instantly. The peace of the place hit you instantly. The pool, with it's warm water was so clear, you could see the bottom even though it was so deep you couldn't dive down there. As we floated and swam around in the pool, it was like years dropped off. I swear it is the fountain of youth. It was truly a magical place, worth all the hassle to get there. Strangely enough, not many locals in Moshi know about the pool. It doesn't feature in either the Lonely Planet or Rough Guide. It's a secret place, magical, mysterious. And then we came home and picked huge bunches of baby carrots from the garden, which were delicious.

So yeah, despite some of the frustrations, life is good. My blood pressure has gone to its normal 110/80, despite running out of the blood pressure meds a few weeks after getting here. I think that China didn't agree with me, health-wise, and Tanzania is so much better for me. Mind you, been struggling with chronic hayfever the last few days. All the greenery and pollen! But at the end of the day, we have to be satisfied with the small things, and not take it all for granted!


Anonymous said...

hey Cindy, you do have the life. Blue tack for cooker repairs, got some here somewhere, must just give it a go.

Would love t visit the springs, sounds truly relaxing.

Speak soon

Cindy Vine said...

Sometimes, life does sound more glamorous than it actually is!