Wednesday, February 29, 2012

My first leap year... a blogger! I started blogging in October 2008 so I missed the last leap year.

I've not had much time for birding but last Sunday Grant and I drove through town and spotted a number of storks: Abdims and Black Storks as well as the resident Marabou Storks. The latter is a huge stork with a grey, blade-like bill, a naked head and a pendulous throat pouch.

The Marabou stork is resting with its head tucked in and pouch not visible. As I snapped away, it lifted its right leg and hooked it onto the left one

Thanks to Springman for hosting the World Bird Wednesday meme which you can see here

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

My new life in East Africa

I'm a bit late for Our World Tuesday because my Internet went out again (surprise, surprise) I went to market in Shinyanga (34km from Mwadui) on Tuesday and when I returned to camp,I had Internet connection again. Before it disappears, I'm posting these photos of people going to market along the main road. Men and women use bicycles to transport wood, charcoal, vegetables, fruit, chickens, goats. All tied to the back of their bikes while they pedal furiously uphill and down dale, or when the going gets tough, pushing them along the road.
Long lines of people transporting goods along the road to the market
A typical market scene in the middle of town

Thanks to everyone who continues to visit my blog and leave a comment. I firmly believe that soon (well, I DO believe this!) my Internet problems will be a dim memory!

For more of other people's worlds, click here

Monday, February 27, 2012

Fourth weekend in Mwadui

While I was in the city, Mwanza on Friday, I bought my first-ever hair clipper set. I know there are ladies in this world, who cut their husbands' and sons' hair, and many even cut their own hair while standing in front of the bathroom mirror. Well, I'm not one of them. Although I had three menfolk in my family, not once was I ever tempted to trim or style their hair. I cannot even cut my own bangs.

I'd bought the clippers because Grant, who's been growing his hair since last Easter, decided it was time to cut his hair again. There being no barber or hairdresser within a 1000km radius of the camp, Marnitz, the young production manager who started here the same time as Grant, said he would cut Grant's hair. He asked me to use a scissors and cut off the long locks at the back (first photo); afterwards he clipped, snipped, shaved away until Grant looked like a new pin!

Now that's better, dear!

Thanks for the comments about the cat-tree in our lounge. Once it had been brought in, I realised that the cats couldn't jump up from the floor into two of the boxes. So Grant sent Martin and one carpenter here to make suitable adjustments. They added a lower deck below the two "problem" boxes respectively.  On Sunday Grant glued strips of carpeting to the decks, the top of each box and added fitted carpets inside.
You have to live with cats to know how inquisitive they are! Here Shadow and Ambrose inspect the carpet while Grant cuts the pieces
Grant cuts the carpet to size on the deck/step below the box

Last week I posted about a hen and chicken in my garden. I also wrote about a hen who had ten chickens in the adult chicken run at the Guest House and how I'd brought her and the babies home as well. On Friday I was feeding some greens to the Guest House chickens when I noticed a newly-hatched chicken in the run. I called Kyemba, the gardener to help me catch the mother hen. Kyemba then carried the sqawking mama-hen over to my house with me, holding the chicken following behind. We placed the hen and chicken in our small overnight chicken house to acclimatise. When we let her out later on, she was soon clucking and encouring her baby to eat the lovely fresh grass and plentiful insects in the garden.

When I returned to the chicken run, I checked on the second hen sitting on eggs. As I put my hand under her, I felt a fluffy little body. I wondered why she'd already hatched one chicken when still sitting on seven or eight eggs. (The two hens had sat very close together and obviously she'd gathered the first one's eggs under herself!) I left the chicken right there as I imagined that the hen knew what she was doing!

On Sunday I was concerned that the chicken was still under its mother while she sat on her eggs. So  I called Kyemba and told him I wanted to remove all the eggs under that hen and take her and ONE chick over to my garden. Kyemba doesn't speak much English but told me I must not destroy the hen's eggs as they'd hatch soon. So I said I wanted her to get out and show her chick how to eat, when he said, "but this chicken's mother is at your house!"  So I put my hand under the hen who gave me a good peck for my trouble, pulled out the new chicken and together Kyemba and I walked over to my house! 

Edwin, my gate guard,  helped us  catch the first hen and single chick; we placed her and with TWO chicks now, in the outhouse. I gave them a little mashed maize and shut the door.  A while later I peeked in and saw she was sitting on the floor with both her chicks under her! We'll let them out today and another bunch of happy chickens will enjoy my garden!  

The little chicken in the front was left under another broody hen when Kyemba and I brought its mum and sibling over to my garden!

I hope you all have a great week ahead. (We have two very special occassions this week,  but more about this later...)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Cat Tree

At last I'm able to do another post. My Internet connection is still erratic but to top it all, in between something went horribly wrong with my Upload Editor. It's only thanks to Diane of Adventure before Dementia that I managed to correct it. I also have another modem and hope that this ensures I have better and regular Internet. Thanks to all for still visiting me even though I've been so absent from your posts.

Now for some cat-news.

As many of you know, in Kenya Ginger had the run of Chebutie Camp. We inherited him there and he was known as the Boss Cat. Even after we'd given him a secure home and regular food and love, he'd often disappear for two days and return hungry as the proverbial horse. (He was left behind in Kenya when we departed as he'd gone on one of his "walkabouts" two days before!) When Ginger was home, he spent most of his time lying around in the garden, or if he was feeling energetic, he'd hare up a tree, turn around and slide down again.

Shadow, who lived indoors in Khartoum and later in South Africa, became a garden cat after I spent three months walking him on a leash. (More about this later)  Just before we left Kenya, I'd started teaching Ambrose how to behave on a leash.

Now we live in an enclosed garden which would be ideal for the three cats to roam around and relax in. BUT we have two dogs in the garden too. (I posted about Busta and Toffee recently) And these dogs would chase my cats up over the fence and they'd probably run all the way back to Kenya! Needless to say, all three boys are now indoor cats and seem quite happy.

And, because they are unable to go out and climb a few of the amazing trees in our garden, I asked Grant to  find a dry tree stump and prepare it for the cats. He did; this week the carpenters brought the paka mti/cat tree in to the lounge.
Martin and his carpenters carry the cat tree inside the house

I'd asked Grant to have three boxes attached to the branches. These have since been fitted with carpets inside and on top

The proud craftsmen pose with their masterpiece. Amazingly, they didn't even bat a collective eye at the reason for this project!
Ambrose was the first one up the tree and into a box! The cats were a little put off by the smell of varnish which has since disappeared
Finally later that first night, all three cats were on the tree and inspecting their new toy!
For more posts on pets around the world, click here

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Word verification free blog !

About a week ago a regular follower of my blog mentioned that she'd finally managed to comment after the fourth attempt. I'd just experienced the same problem on another blogger's post so I went into my settings and deactivated the word verification. I notice a little spam, but it is seperate form normal comments so I'm able to delete them. I hope all bloggers will follow suit and de-activate this irritating and frustrating feature that Blogger has deemed fit to add to our posts!

My blog is a word verification free blog!

Last week I made a trip to Shinyanga to buy fresh produce from the market. This town is a mere 30km from our camp and has three produce markets, various small shops opening up onto the street and two larger supermarkets.

Above is a typical street scene in Shinyanga with markets visible in the top two photos

Top left is a row of dukas (informal shops)  which open onto the street. Then you have a beauty salon, a motorcycle dealer and a general dealer

Last week I posted photos of the chickens, especially the handsome rooster in our garden. A few days later a hen emerged from the outhouse with nine chickens. The rooster is so proud of his offspring, is a hands-on father and can be seen strutting around the garden with mama-hen and babies.
The resident rooster in our garden shows his chickens how to scratch for food!

Meanwhile  at the Guest House I started feeding several chickens in a coop greens from the kitchen vegetables and bits of rice from the cooking pots . A few days later I went into the henhouse and saw a hen and very-newly hatched chicks inside the henhouse. The edge of the house was too high for the chickens to get out so mother hen was scratching in vain for food on the floor. I asked the gardener to bring me a cardboard box, placed the chickens inside (I counted ten) and managed to get the hen in with them and then closed the flaps. The gardener then carried the box carefully over to our house where we placed the [indignant] hen and terrified chickens in the outhouse to settle into their new surrounding. I gave them some maize mash and a shallow bowl of water. The hen concealed her babies under her belly for the rest of the day.

That evening when Edward, our askari /gate guard shooed the first hen into the outhouse, she immediately attacked the new hen.  Edward made a barricade between the two hens and soon they all settled down to sleep.
The new mother-hen and her young chicks enjoy the wide-open space of my garden

The next day, the original resident hen and her chickens made a dash for the garden while the new hen had a good look around  first before coaxing her chickens outside. Three days later I'm enjoying the original chicken family, with a dad and siblings from a previous batch of chickens,  and the single mum and her ten fluffy chickens.  Life is so much better in a lush garden to scratch for insects and juicy greenery.
The chicken run at the Guest House which I cleaned out with the help of gardener, Kedia and from where I rescued the white hen and her ten new chicks

When I returned to the cage above, I noticed that two more hens were sitting on more than a dozen eggs each. I removed most of them leaving each hen with only four eggs. My brother , Phillip suggested I do this. Apparently if you take away all the eggs, the hens would become depressed. Now there's a thought: post-natal depression in hens...

And then I just had to add another aaaaawwwwe factor to my post...
A little cat I came across in a shop in Shinyanga. And no, even though it was difficult to resist, I didn't bring it home!

For more of other people's worlds, click here

Monday, February 20, 2012

The long and winding road

Some of you may know that for the past 18 months I've been writing articles and stories for various South African magazines. One such magazine I write for, recently forwarded me my first fan mail. I've copied and pasted the e-mail from the person in yellow here below .

"I was handed a South African magazine today by a friend who had spotted the article, "The long and winding road". He had noted the name "Eldoret" in the article, and knowing that I come from that area, thought that I might be interested. It sparked off many memories for me, as I know the road which Jo describes, one might say, intimately, as my sister, who still lives in Eldoret used to work at the mine in the valley (fluorite being the mineral mined), and, in fact met her husband there. We had a farm not far from the top of that road, and we could drive to a viewpoint a little farther along the same escarpment, and look straight down on the mine workings which are situated in a branch of the Kerio Valley. I still have old black and white photographs taken from that viewpoint, long before the mine started!

I would dearly love to know how you came by this article!! Call it sentimentality or what you will, it was a blast from the past looking at the lovely photographs in the article. Is there the remotest chance that you could maybe fill me in on how you came by the article? Better still, I would love to be able to contact Jo Hedges."
If you'd like to read my story, The long and winding road, as it appeared in the magazine, please contact me via e-mail; I'll send you the PDF. Although the magazine is accessible via the Internet, it takes a while before the latest articles appear online. One of my previous articles ("Au naturel or not?") which appeared in November, can been read here.

I replied to the person who wrote back immediately and said he has many stories and photos which he's offered to share with me. I've been trying to delve - rather unsuccessfully -  into the history of the South Africans who arrived in Eldoret in the early 1900's; I also searched in vain for material regarding the valley where we spent the best year of our expat lives.

In Kenya I came across a magazine called "Old Africa" which has stories and anecdotes about the first settlers (farmers, entrepreneurs, professionals, missionaries) in East Africa. I hope to be able to do something with my new online friends' stories and photos in due course. I will keep you updated.

BTW the man and his wife live in South Africa now. Ironically they stay in the same town where Grant and I grew up, went to  school, married and had our first son! When they moved from Kenya, East Africa to the Natal Midlands in South Africa in 1978, Grant and I had just moved east to the Zululand coast. They lived next door to Grant's parents and he remembers them well, especially as they all served together on the Anglican church council in town.

Have a wonderful week and stay safe and well.



Sunday, February 19, 2012

My new menagerie!

The first thing we noticed when we arrived at our home in Mwadui, was the two dogs in the garden. Karel told us that they belong to the askari (guards) and are very friendly. (These dogs are the reason why Ginger, Shadow and Ambrose are now house cats!) I also noticed that the dogs were very thin although the company supplies meat and ugali (maize porridge) which they're fed every evening. So out came the dog worm tablets which I brought from Kenya and within the first week, I'd dosed the dogs. I'll buy a tick/flea shampoo when next I'm in town and sort out this problem too.

There's another dog, quite young and very playful, at the Guest House. She 's also been dewormed by yours truly and will be deticked and deflea-ed in due course. Africans don't normally hardly ever name their pets, but when I asked Edward, the askari the names of their dogs,  he said one was Busta and the other was Toffee. The dog at the Guest House had the terrible name of Takka-takka/rubbish, garbage. I 've renamed her Honey and say the name every time I give her a tidbit from the kitchen. I asked the staff to use this name. They rolled with laughter when I told them the reason why I changed her name, but good-naturedly accepted it. They also now refer to her as Honey. I'm hoping my brother, Phillip, who has a very interesting blog over here, visits my blog tomorrow; I just know he'll love Honey. (So will Kay and Lindy from Canada!)

Busta, already bright-eyed and bushy-tailed after being dosed for worms. Imagine how beautiful his coat will be once he's been deticked and deflea-ed!
Toffee, who was a little skittish (as was Busta) is beginning to trust me now. Busta normally gobbles his food and then chases her from her dish to eat hers. Now I stand by to ensure she gets enough to eat. She hasn't been spayed and I'm hoping to find a vet in Mwanza who can do the operation. I couldn't bear the thought of her having pups which will be given away to people who probably can't afford to look after an animal

And finally... meet Honey. Isn't she just the most adorable dog ever?

Apart from our own three cats and these dogs on the yard, I've also taken the chickens under my wing (pun intended, LOL!) I will post about them later.

For more posts on pets around the world, click here

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Tigers in Africa?

Yip! I found one here...

While doing the Guest House shopping in Shinyanga last Wednesday, I stopped at a supermarket on the way home. As I entered the store, I noticed a life-sized toy tiger on top of a display. (Couldn't miss it!)  A sticker on its left paw said "Press here" .  I pressed but nothing happened. I called the manager and asked him if it had batteries; were they perhaps flat? But, no matter how much we looked, we couldn't find a flap which normally holds batteries in a toy. I asked him how much discount he'd give me for a faulty item. We haggled to and fro,  eventually agreeing on a price. By this time,  the till operator, the shelf packer and half a dozen shoppers had gathered around us. As my driver, William,  hitched the tiger over his shoulder, a loud cheer went up from the crowd ! Africans will always crowd around an indaba (meeting) and love to share in your joy.
The tiger reclines on top of the shopping on the back seat of our vehicle

Now why would I have bought a toy tiger,  you ask? Well, firstly it belongs to the cat family and we love cats. Secondly the tiger is Grant's most favourite animal * in the whole world (he named our very first cat Tiger, later known as Tigger, way back in 1996. Tigger, who lives in our home in South Africa, is 16 years old this year). And finally,  I needed a birthday gift for for my husband. This was it!
Grant was at work when I arrived home, so I hid the tiger in the spare bedroom. It's so life-like that everytime I walked past and peeked into the room, my heart would skip a beat. The next morning, I crept through out through the bathroom from our bedroom which also leads into the spare room. I snuck back quietly and placed the tiger on the bed behind Grant.

I made tea, carried it through to the room and woke him. After wishing him, I said to look behind him. He squinted across the bed,  sat up suddenly, looked at the tiger, rubbed his eyes and looked again. To say he was surprised would be an understatement but later that day, while showing his gift to Dipen, he said it's the best birthday gift he's ever received!  
Isn't Tiger the awesomest, most laid-back guy you ever seen?

Tiger shares the double bed with the cats' toys. Here he holds Shawn the Sheep which was Shadow's favourie toy when he was a kitten in Khartoum. (Shadow is asleep under the blanket just outside the photo frame)

On Wednesday evening we went over to the club. There was no-one there; everything was shut. We waited for half-an-hour before we decided to go home. The club is open on Wednesday and Saturday evenings, but as there are so few expats between us and the client (mine owner), more often than not, the barman doesn't pitch.

Water from a large fountain cascades into the swimming pool. (This one's forBetsy; the only waterfall I've seen so far in Tanzania!) Marnitz took a photo of me and Grant in front of the featureWhile we waited, I wandered around the tropical garden, camera in hand.  The clubhouse, patio, garden, swimming pool and tennis courts are kept in excellent condition; only a pity there's no-one to use it. Apparently in its heyday, there'd be no less than 38 bikini-clad ladies lying around the pool on any given summer day!

The patio and entertainment area with built-in barbeque and the swimming pool in the background

* Note: My favourite animal in Africa is the hyena or wild dog and the giraffe. In the world? The panda! What is your favourite animal?

Have a great weekend everybody!



Friday, February 17, 2012

First Skywatch Friday of Tanzanian Skies

We left Keirio Valley, technically in the Northern Hemisphere, in mid-winter. (Not that it was cold, not at all, merely drier than summer) We arrived in Tanzania, Southern Hemisphere in mid-summe, also quite dry but expecting rain sometime soon.

 The summer sky as seen through the huge trees in my garden in Mwadui, Tanzania

The same sky seen from over the road outside our gates. A woolly collection of clouds promised rain

For more skies around the world, click here

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Happy Birthday Grant!

My darling husband and friend for almost four decades

While choosing the labels for this post, I wondered if Grant was family of mine; I didn't hesitate to add "friend" as he and I have known each other since 20 July 1968 and have been friends ever since!


Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Bishop spotted on the mine last Saturday

I've been trying to ID this bird and have come up with one possibility, a Black Bishop. It's locally common in Kenya and Northern Tanzania. I never saw bishops in Kenya; I'm still getting to know these here on the mine.
For  more birds around the world, click here 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Mwadui, my new world

Before I show you a small part of my new world in Tanzania, I'd like to thank everyone who sent such lovely birthday wishes my way via this blog, e-mail and with e-cards. I loved Gaelyn, Sylvia, Betsy and others' take on age: it's all a state of the mind. I also loved Kays comment that she was 29 and holding for many years. It reminded me of a joke I heard on the radio when I was a young lass: the longest five years in a woman's life is between 29 and 30! My brother, Phillip said that I was still young compared to him. I wonder if he remembers the day I was born. He was five years old. I must ask him. (hope I don't forget, lol!) It was wonderful to share my birthday with all of you, thanks!

On Saturday afternoon Grant took me on a tour of the mine . It felt good to be back in a really big mine with open pits and proper benches (steps) leading out of them and adhering to the stringent safety measures.

You can see the benches leading out of this open pit
The structure in the top two photos is called a scalp. It sieves all the small gravel into a shute which sends it to the plant. Anything too big falls to the ground and Grant's front-end loader scoops it up and takes it away. The next three photos shows earth being poured into the dump trucks which then drive it away. The Mwadui airstrip is shown in bottom right corner

The miniscule Mwadui air terminal building

On Saturday night Grant, as new Contracts manager of the mine,  organized a braai (South African BBQ) for the men who live in the Guest House Single Quarters. I made the salads with the help of the staff and three of the four Indians  grilled the meat on the fire.
Clockwise from left: seated is Grant;  Saravanan in red-striped shirt (workshop manager);  concealed behind him is Marnitz, production manager; seated, centre,  is Juba, a Serb who had us in stitches with his quaint accent. Juba is the engine-rebuild technician; standing in front of the grill, is Narinden, a mechanical technician and seated at table is Depin, the procurement manager

While we all chatted after supper, I noticed that Saravanan was sitting cross-legged on the chair. I asked him if he does yoga. He said yes, and within minutes was demonstrating many postures, several of which I'm familiar with and was getting the hang of back in Keirio Valley. It wasn't long and each man was showing off different exercise techniques and a few party tricks!
Juba started with this very difficult exercise! Narinden tries the stunt a the corner pole

Not to be outdone, Depin tries it next but not very successfully!
Finally Saravanan demonstrates how it's done! I was amazed at the size of his feet and want to ask him if he can walk on coals (he probably can!) Note Narinden still trying the trick in the corner!

We had a lovely evening which served as our introduction to the camp. Young Marnitz, fresh from South Africa, arrived on site with us; it was good to see how he fitted in with the hospitable group of men who are part of Grant's team.

For more worlds out there, click here

Monday, February 13, 2012

59 and holding...

While I waited in the wings to enter the Big Four, I had a key-ring which said: "39 and holding". Grant and I worked for a diamond mine in Namibia and lived in a mining town called Oranjemund. Our older son, John was swotting for his exams to enter the merchant navy. Angus, 13, attended a SACHS,  private school in Cape Town. I clearly remember my thirties and early forties. I didn't ever look for wrinkles or grey hairs. Life was great! 

Today, Monday 13 Feb, I 'm 59 and holding ! Career-wise we have come a full circle. Grant is working for a diamond mine, this time in East Africa and we live in a town very similar to Oranjemund. I don't do my make-up in harsh lighting and I couldn't bothered to look for grey hair! Life is still great!   

There are very few photos of me in my archives, simply because I'm always behind the camera. However, my good friend, Sue, from Keirio Valley took several photos of me, normally while I was taking photos! (As you can see, the above photo was taken early in 2011 while I was still only 58!)

Over the whole of last year, Sue and I spent many enjoyable hours birding and taking photos. Occassionally catch each other on film, normally in a compromising pose. Sue caught me more times than I caught her! I really miss Sue and all the lovely times we had together in the valley!
Sue snapped me in this pose while I was taking macro shots of snowdrops on the school sports field!

You're all invited to my birthay party today at House No 2, Mwadui Camp, Tanzania!

Photo credits: Sue Spangenberg, Keirio Valley, Kenya

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Cats are settled in Tanzania

Hard day at the office, Ginger?

Shadow checking out the bag of cat cookies

Like father, like son! Ginger and Ambrose found the perfect spot to have a catnap

For more posts on pets, click here

Saturday, February 11, 2012

First week in Mwadui

My Internet problems seem have halted or disappeared altogether, praise God! Finally I can share this beautiful new setting with my readers. Thanks to everyone who continues to visit and comment on my posts. I hope to reciprocate very soon!

Our garden is completely enclosed with reeds and barbed wire on top of that. We have two dogs who hang around the askari who look after our property day and night. They (the dogs, not the askari) are VERY interested in our cats who glare at them from  behind the strongly- guarded and  -gauzed windows.

We also have two hens and a rooster walking around the garden. Yesterday while picking lemons from a tree behind our house, I passed a small room. As I looked inside I saw two hens sitting in nesting boxes. So soon there will be more chickens!
This very handsome fellow was rearing his head up (hence the blur) ... tell me he is the king of the heap, the cock of the walk!

 I've managed to capture a few of the birds in our garden. Top: Blue-capped Cordonbleu (males); bottom left: male African Paradise Flycatcher; bottom right Ruppels Starling

As I mentioned earlier this week, before I fell of Planet Earth, I had to buy vegetables and supplies for the Guest House. A driver, Andrew took me to nearby Shinyonga, 30kms from Mwadui.
Entering Shinyonga. The freestanding building on the right, with a satellite dish on the roof, is the bank: my first stop in town
The fresh market is a back street and behind a line of shops opening up onto the sidewalk
Note the plasticware, mattresses and material being displayed outside the shops. I bought two foam pillows for TZS20000/US$12   
I didn't take photos of the vegetable stalls/vedors but hope to be able to do so next week. It was very similar to the souqs we used to visit in Khartoum. A market is is called a soko in Swahili!
Jambo Supermarket was one of two supermarkets that I shopped at on my first trip to Shinyonga

In Kenya, I only once saw a lady riding a bicycle. Here in Tanzania it's a common sight: a lady pedalling along the road wearing a long skirt, often with a baby tied to her back

We popped over the the social club on Wednesday evening;  Grant wanted to introduce me to the mine's general manager . Not only did I meet this friendly man who lives outside Bloemfontein (the city near our home in SA), but he also told me there were TWO more woman in town. As he told me this, one lady arrived and he introduced her to me. I will take a walk to her house some time next week and she has promised to introduce me to the other lady. Whoo-hoo. Life is looking up in Mwadui!

Once again, I didn't take my camera along but ironically the general manager said to Grant that he recognized us from somewhere; it turned out he'd seen us in a magazine! He has read all my articles in the outdoor adventure magazine!

Have a great weekend.