Friday, March 2, 2012

A crescent moon and life in East Africa

Last Friday night I walked to the Guest House across the road from our house and as I looked up between the tree branches I noticed the most amazing crescent of the waxing moon. Apparently there was something significant about the moon this month, but I can't find anything relevant on Google. Anyone out there know?
A crescent of the waxing moon on 24 February 2012

At the beginning of the week I posted about - among other weekend activities - Grant's haircut. He's had so many positive comments and compliments at work, at the club and from you, my readers here on Blogger; not least from my sister-in-law, Shelley, who always helps me with bird identification. Shelley doesn't comment on my posts in the normal way but via Skype. Yesterday she mentioned how glad she was that Grant had cut his mullet off but that she wished he's left the hair a little longer. Now, Shelley still has children at home, and more often than not many of her childrens' friends so she sometimes doesn't back to Skype. However, she does read my blog so I'll elaborate here what a mullet is. 
 Compliments of Mr Google: THIS is a mullet

Secondly, Grant had a short haircut because when you live  on a remote mine site, you take what you get, be it entertainment, sporting facilities, socializing or grooming availability. The hair clipper that I bought has from one to four settings. Marnitz (not a professional hairdresser or barber by any means, just a kind young man who did his boss a favour by cutting his hair) used the "longest": number four. You don't ask for a layered cut, a specific colour or any type of treatment when you have a haircut on a remote African mine site. Expats who live in large African cities (Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, Kampala, Uganda, Nairobi, Kenya) do not face the same challenges as expats who live in rural areas. In fact, the only difference between living in modern African cities, as opposed to living in your own country, is that you can say  your're an Englishman living in Dar, an American living in Khartoum or a South African living in Nairobi.

Last week my new friend, Amanda told me how fascinated her driver was when she told him that in South Africa you can buy virtually commodity in one centre: from a tin of baked beans to a television set, from a lady's headscarf to a lawnmower or washing machine.

In Kenya we were fortunate to live an hour-and-a-half's drive up the mountain to Eldoret which housed one of the largest retail centres in East Africa, Nakumatt. When we did our monthly shopping we bought our foodstuffs, fresh produce, meat, dairy, bread, eggs and gardening requirements downstairs. If I needed a yoga mat, blank CD's or a birthday gift for someone on camp, I'd get it upstairs.

Here in Tanzania, we do a monthly shop in Mwanza, the second largest city in Tanzania situated on the shores of Lake Victoria, the largest lake in Africa. But that's where the modernity stops. Last Friday William and I left camp at 5.30am in order to make the large market in the city centre by the time the stalls opened at 8.
A small town / suburb called Junction just before Mwanza bustles with taxis, cyclists and pedestrians 

When we arrived at the market, the vendors had opened their stalls and were hanging and arranging their wares on display. We entered the enclosure where I bought goods I don't find on my weekly trips to Shinyanga: cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, butternut squash, grapes, plums etc. After this we trundled through the muddy lane to a stall where I bought plastic storage containers,  a wall clock for the Guest House kitchen; two grass mats for Marnitz' newly renovated cottage in our garden (more about this later) half a dozen plastic mixing bowls and a wall hanging. 

We returned to the vehicle, loaded our purchases and drove three streets up to a computer shop. Here I bought a set of speakers for a CD player which I'm setting up for have music in the dining room and kitchen. On my way to the computer shop, I passed a hairdresser. I popped my head inside and asked the young lady where I could find hairclippers. She said the only place I'd get this item was in the Dubai Bazar.

When I returned to the car where William was waiting, I told him I needed to go to Dubai Bazar. He said he would take me there but we'd have to walk about 2kms as there is no parking in that area. Which we did. William leading the way, we ducked down a side street, through an alleyway, along a rutted and muddy lane lined with rows of market stalls displaying shoes, ornaments, traditional cloth, toys,  disposable nappies, artificial flowers, CD's and much, much more. I didn't have my camera with me, but next time I will capture the scenes and share them here on Blogger.

Arriving at the fresh produce market in Mwanza city centre early on Friday morning

Just as I began to have serious doubts about the existence of Dubai Bazar, we emerged from the squalor of the backstreets, crossed over a main tarred road and entered the shop. What a lovely surprise: this business had many of the items I was looking for. First and foremost was the hairclipper. I also found bread pans, a lemon squeezer, fitted bedsheets, a framed picture, an oven glove and tea cosy (the local tailor on camp turned the latter into a second oven glove for me), bedside lamps and a strip of carpeting for the decks on the cat-tree.

Our parcels were too heavy to carry so I hailed a taxi;  for Tsh3000/US$4 we were taking right back to our vehicle.

Next on my list of requirements was a lounge suite for Marnitz' house. In Africa you can see lounge suites and other furniture being manufacture and then exhibited on the side of the road. These are beautifully made and a third of the price of the same article sold in a regular furniture shop.

While I shopped for a lounge suite on the roadside, these young school girls posed for a photo

Because of the large amount of money involved in buying the furniture, I had to first ask for a Proforma Invoice, bring it back to the procurement manager and William would return later in the week and buy the lounge suite. Well, that was easier said than done. When I asked the group of enthusiastic young men for said document, they didn't have a clue what I was talking about. I had to have the invoice, so I opened my small shopping book, tore out a blank page, headed it with the business name and date, added the amount and asked the owner to sign it! Fortunately the company accepted the makeshift arrangement from me!

 William and I chose the middle suite for Marnitz. It is actually a rich golden colour although it looks pinkish/red in the sunlight

Later on this morning I'll have some very exciting news. I'll add a "Stop Press" and share it here. For more posts on skies, click here


  1. Oh, Jo, you're teasing us about the very exciting news, and then probably you won't have a decent internet connection and I'll be agog with curiosity.
    Don't mention "curiosity killed the cat" in your house, however.
    Luv, K

  2. It is so convenient to have a lot of different things under one roof isn't it? When I was in Nairobi I often did my shopping at Tusky's or Nakumatt whichever was closest to the hotels I was at. In Nakuru, I did my shopping at Woolmatt where I become a known customer, lol

    I understand why you got a look of puzzlement over a requisition. In many of those mom and pop places, they don't bother with receipts either. That is how the prices are kept low. BTW, what did those lovely sofas/loungers cost.

    I did see the photos of Grant's new hair cut and I think Marnitz will soon become the resident barber. He did a great job!

  3. Your shopping trips are more complex than mine, even during the summers.

    Like the furniture.

  4. Going shopping with you is a real adventure !! Fortunately you are used to that, I think I would get crazy !!
    I am enjoying my holidays with Claudie, the weather is wonderful and the landscape too. They live in the hills with Palm trees and all kind of plants which only grow in the South.
    We had been one day without Internet and that was a catastrophe ! It's really at these moments that you realize how important it has become to us !

  5. Love that moon. Now I am in suspense waiting for the stop press. Diane

  6. JO, your shopping trips are like an adventure in themselves. Love the crescent moon shot. This past week we saw the planets Venus and Jupiter lined up with the moon. Maybe that is what you were thinking of? Great post and as always I enjoyed the photos from your new home. Have a great weekend!

  7. Oh what fun it is for me to ride along on these trips with you. It's impossible for many (should I say most?) to conceive all the steps one must take just to accomplish a simple task like shopping. Thank you so much for sharing your live with your blogger friends!


Thank you for visiting my blog and taking the time to leave a comment. I appreciate your feedback. Jo