Saturday, August 14, 2010

Time flies when you're having fun!

It’s hard to believe that it was only just over a fortnight ago that we were still travelling back from Cape Town! The past two weeks have flown by, with there hardly being time to catch a breath. It seems like nothing can top our arrest in Zimbabwe, but there always has to be one kind of drama or other, or just some small thing to liven up a day.

In Malawi my ATM card packed up, leaving us stranded without money, but luckily with help from some kind folks we made our way back home. We stayed at a sugar plantation in Dwangwa in Malawi and then drove to Nkatha Bay where we'd initially wanted to stay.  What an amazing place right on Lake Malawi!  Absolutely magical and I think we'll return to holiday on the lake during the Easter holidays.  We had a rest day in Mbeya holed up in a hotel while we waited for the school to send money with the cellphone.  Amazing how they do that.  You get a text message saying go to Vodacom to collect your cash.  It's a big problem when the magnetic strip on your ATM card gives up the ghost.  The money from the school should have been enough to get home, but by the time I had travelled 20km from Mbeya, I had already picked up 2 spot speeding fines, so we crawled the rest of the way knowing we couldn't afford to pay out more money to corrupt policemen.  But still, we were about 200km from Moshi when the car hit empty.  Amazingly enough, we managed to drive 100km with my fuel light on.  I had to leave my camera as security at Same, 100km from Moshi so that I could get enough petrol to get home, but that just makes life a lot fuller, and our adventures more interesting.
Once again we travelled through Mikumi National Park, and this time had to stop while a lion crossed the road.  Of course I couldn't get the camera aimed in time and with Siobhan swearing in my ear as the lion was on my side of the road, tracked it through the grass while snapping away merrily.  Some other travellers stopped and started shouting at the lion so that it would look at them while they hang out of the window with their camera phone.  Crazy people!
One has to look on these little adventures as good material for my book. Driving the 100km to Same a couple of days later to pay our debt and retrieve my camera was a bit of a pain as just between you and me, I was a little tired of driving! The whole trip from Kilimanjaro to Table Mountain and back again was a whopping 11980km! But I have to say, I have caught the bug and I want to do more driving trips in the future! I quite fancy driving to Lake Victoria and the southern coast of Tanzania. There are some interesting ruins on the Mafia islands I’d like to see.

I didn’t have much time to reflect on the trip before I was back into the swing of things at school, meeting the new teachers, helping with their orientation and getting everything sorted for the first week of school. So far I am absolutely loving my new role in management, even though one of the kids asked me, “Miss Cindy, have you dyed your hair grey?” I ask you, would anybody intentionally do that? I decided over the holiday to stop fighting the grey hairs that sporadically appear, as when you colour your hair they quickly reappear at the temples making me look like a poor imitation of a Siberian hamster. But now, my daughter has instructed me to colour my hair as the salt and pepper grey look ‘doesn’t suit’ me. Of course, easier said than done as my dark blonde dye is not so easily available in Moshi! I could go red I guess. Our English teacher let his daughters colour his grey hair red and it came out shocking pink! Poor blighter even let them colour his beard. Luckily for him, it was virtually all washed out in time for the start of school on Monday.

Sometimes, you meet interesting people who you immediately know you are going to use as characters in a book. I met one like that, a lawyer whom I had to see to stamp his commissioner of oaths stamp on a document I have to send off. A small man, probably pushing eighty, with a full head of snow white hair, and a booming voice that seemed to come from a far more imposing figure than him. I was solemnly ushered into his office, a dead leopard’s head mounted on the wall behind the chair I was shown to, and was amazed to see him reclining back in a large black leather swivel chair that seemed to swallow his tiny frame up. What was more amazing to me, was that his waistband button and zipper was undone and he didn’t seem concerned about that at all. He looked up at me and smiled, and kept his sunglasses on even though he was inside his office. All very bizarre. He wouldn’t look at the form he had to certify until he’d heard about where I’d come from and my trip down to Cape Town. Then his phone rang, he politely asked my forgiveness while he took the call, and I listened to his booming voice alternating between Swahili and a delightful very upper class English accent when he repeated interesting parts of the conversation in English, obviously for my benefit. So I heard about corrupt politicians who were little more than thieves who were trying to set up a casino with prostitutes flown in, in the central part of Tanzania in a game park somewhere. The way his lips moved as he enunciated his words was quite fascinating, like a cartoon character. In fact, he was like a real life cartoon. I eventually managed to escape from his office with the form duly stamped, about an hour and a half later.

We arrived back home from our trip to find that termites had taken over in Siobhan’s room. Although they were living in the room, they were starting to eat through her ceiling and holes were beginning to form. In fact, if you banged on her wall you could hear them scuttling, and if you stood still you could hear the steady sound of them chomping. It seemed like it would be only a few days before her ceiling collapsed on her. Of course, being terrified of anything with more than four legs, Siobhan moved herself and all her possessions into my bedroom. So began my nights of interrupted sleep, as I desperately clung to the edge of the bed while she spread out like a starfish, and grabbed all my blankets, leaving me shivering in the cold. It’s been quite cold at night since we got back, and on overcast days it’s been decidedly chilly. We’re glad we brought our winter stuff back with us. Anyway, they fumigated her room and roof, removed part of the ceiling, and as is here took ten days to get round to putting in new ceiling panels. They still haven’t painted, so madam is still in my bedroom.

As happens here, simple jobs become more complicated. We were unable to shower, with only one continuous drip coming from the left side of the shower head. Strangely enough I never connected the lack of water in the shower to termites in the ceiling. One puts in the maintenance request and then you have to wait until they find the time. By that time, Siobhan has washed her hair in cold water in the basin and my hair looks like I’ve been working part-time in a grease factory. Five days later and they discovered that when they fumigated, they accidentally disconnected the water pipe in the roof that goes to the shower. At least now we can shower.

I’m setting aside weekends to work on The Great Mountain to Mountain Safari. It is just way too hectic during the week. Hopefully, the initial huge workload will lessen in time, but I have my doubts. The trick is going to be managing to juggle time, so that I can still keep up with my writing. At the moment I get home between 6.30pm and 7.15pm, eat dinner, watch CSI and then am ready for bed at 8.30pm-9pm. Just been feeling so shattered at night. But last night I managed to stay awake until 9.30pm, so I think I’ll start to build up stamina again.

Otherwise, it’s good to be back. I love life here and have good friends. But the way time is flying, before I know it it’ll be time to fly to Cape Town for the Christmas holidays. Yes, we’re flying not driving this time!

Have an awesome week ahead!



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