Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Leaving for the UK

Guys, I smell a rat. Our yoomens are packing their fur into small boxes - are they leaving us again?
Don't even GO there, Shadow. It doesn't bear thinking about!

Aw no! See my quivering lip! What will I do without my mom?

Here we are on the eve of our long-awaited holiday in the UK. I intended to post a complete itinerary but I've run out of time! This morning we drive to Mwanza (160kms from the camp) where we catch a flight to Dar es Salaam. We sleep over in the city tomorrow night and early on Wednesday morning we catch the BA flight to Heathrow. From there we fly to Manchester where we'll be collected by a Kevin, a friend from the gold - mines in West Africa. We spend the night and next day at his home. On Friday we drive back to Manchester where we board a ferry to the Isle of Man.

At this time of the year, this island is home to the TT races which have been going for 105 years. I've never been and am quite looking forward to the week.

When we sail back to the UK a week later, we'll motor down to the Shires for a reunion with friends who were with us on the gold mines in West Africa as well. The next stop is London where we're spending three days. My sister who lived south of London for twelve years, left for Spain exactly one week ago!

 We fly back to East Africa on 14th June. I pray you all stay safe and well until I return to blogging in Mid-June.



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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Cat ornaments

 Ambrose puts his scent on one of the baskets displayed in my African corner!

Over the past months since arriving in Tanzania, I've collected a few African artifacts; some I was given as gifts and others I bought. As much as I promised myself I wouldn't create an African corner in my house (this used to be a fad in the seventies) I eventually set up a display on the veranda. The one reason was that I knew my cats would be into the baskets in no time at all. And they were...

A while later, Ginger climbed into a flat fruit bowl and posed for me. I love the dappled sunlight playing across Ginger and the floor. The cats love this veranda which catches the morning sun and  is basked in afternoon sun as the day progresses
Even later still, Shadow climbed into the fruit bowl and had a bath!

For more posts of pets around the world, click here

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Trip to Mwanza

The fitting room in the shop had no clothes hooks;  a pail of dirty water and a mop stood in the corner and several rods across one mirror cut my image in half! 

While in Mwanza this week, I popped into a boutique to buy a few items of clothing for my UK trip. I found quite a selection. I wanted to try a few on, so I was shown to a fitting room in the corner of the shop. Inside I couldn't find any hooks to hang my clothes and the new ones onto, so I piled them on the not-too-clean floor. In the corner behind me was a pail of dirty water with a mop inside. The mirror to my left had curtain (clothing?) rails across it so my reflection was non-too-uniform. However, I took almost everything, feeling very pleased that I managed to kit myself out in one shop!  

As William had been so patient while I shopped for myself, I treated him to a chai (breakfast) down the road.
 William waits for his tea and mandazi while I take photos (once again the mirror cuts my image in half, LOL!) 

 Tea and mandazi (doughnut) is a popular breakfast in East Africa

 A little girl in the market

As we entered the market, I noticed a little girl clutching a small piece of mandazi. She was eating and crying at the same time. Her mother was unpacking her wares nearby so I asked what was the matter. She told me she wanted something to drink but she had no money. I took out Tsh2000/US$1.20 and told her to get some milk. 

When I left the market about an hour later, the little girl was playing in the sand. As she saw me, she ran to me and grabbed me around the knees shouting : "Bibi, Bibi" (grandmother!) 
A typical market scene

 Thanks for your comments. I'm still snowed under with work and preparations but hope to visit you - all before I leave for the UK early next week. 

Here's hoping you're all having a wonderful weekend!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Sun setting over Mwadui

Last night as Grant and I walked from our house to the Guest House, he exclaimed at the beauty of the last rays of the sun on the baobab tree in our street. I did a swift about-turn, dashed back to our house and returned with my camera. (I could see him making a "mental note to self" not to mention anything blogworthy to wifey! LOL!) 
The setting sun on the baobab which towers against the blue sky of Mwadui

The actual reason why I'm doing this post, is for an English gentleman who contacted me once I started posting about Mwadui. He grew up here  in the sixties and has many fond memories of the town and enjoys posts I do about the area. 

Living in the UK now again, he mentioned that summer had arrived there (thank goodness, as I cannot survive in the cold!) and I quote:
"at the moment I am looking at clear blue sky here, just like my memories of Mwadui". 

So when I saw the sun and sky around the baobab tree last evening, I just had to capture it for him.

 For more skies around the world, click here

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Lake Victoria

The above photo which I took from the moving car with my Smartphone, doesn't do the lake justice

It always fascinates me that when we enter Mwanza, a city 160kms from our camp, we ride along the shore of Lake Victoria, the largest lake in Africa and second largest freshwater lake in the world. The lake is shared between three countries: Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. More than half the lake is in Tanzania. 

For more information on Lake Victoria, Mwanza and even Mwadui, click here  

I hope you're all having a wonderful week and that in the Northern Hemisphere spring has definitely sprung! I feel as though I'm trying to clamber out of a mine pit full of quicksand. Time is marching on for us to leave for our holiday in the UK (more about that later) and I have so much to do. But I should hopefully get all done in time...

Monday, May 21, 2012

Off to Mwanza

As this post is aired this morning, I will be on my way to Mwanza to do the company Guest House shopping for the month. I took this photo of my driver, William on our last trip to the city. He seemed a little puzzled that I would want to photograph the sun rising over the African veld!

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Happy Birthday Elijah

Elijah looks straight into the camera lens

Today is  grandson, Elijah John Hedges' second birthday. Elijah is a quiet young man with a soft nature belied by his well-built little body. As we've been in North and East Africa since Elijah's birth in 2010, we haven't had a lot to do with him. However, we love him as much as all the other grandchildren and he's our favourite third grandson! 


Another lovely weekend in Mwadui

After seeing that my cats' comment (complaint) on Forever Pets, that they could be starving to death, I decided to post a photo of them taken yesterday afternoon. I've moved a bed from my spare room onto the enclosed veranda. The cats have taken to this piece of luxury without twitching a whisker. Above photo is proof of the [physical] well-being and happiness of the Hedges Cats! 

On Saturday evening, as normal, we took along some tasty snacks to share with the other South Africans while the men watched rugby. There are normally only three of us ladies: Ntsia, Amanda and myself. Nsia and husband, Rob, are in Arusha for a couple of weeks and Amanda sent me a chat to say that she has a cold and won't be coming to the club.  

I packed a separate plate of snacks and walked over to Amanda and Andre's house for a visit.  Although she was feeling ill, we talked non-stop while Andre watched the rugby game! (Not sure if he managed to catch it all with all our chatter behind him!)
Every Saturday night the men watch rugby on the big screen TV at the club. I always take a large tray of snacks in lieu of the meal we don't eat at the Guest House that night

When I got back to the club, some of the men were making pizzas in the special oven outside. I was touched when one of the young lads offered me a vegetarian pizza saying that they felt it was time to spoil me in return!
One lad built the pizzas...

...while another baked it in the oven

I hope you all have a wonderful week.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A new cat progeny

Amanda also loves animals, especially cats, which is why we probably get along so well! 

Last week Amanda came with me on my Shinyanga shopping trip. One of our last stops was at a shop which sells upmarket kitchen utensils, crockery, cutlery and small household appliances. It's the same shop where one of the assistants had a white cat which I helped her care for. When I returned from leave, the cat had been removed. The assistant told me she'd taken it home to earn its keep.  Apparently she had many rats and the cat was an excellent hunter.

A few weeks later, I visited the shop again to buy a new egg whisk and spatula, when the assistant showed me her new kitten. It was identical to the previous cat, and yes, it was also hungry. I dashed out to the supermarket around the corner and bought a small tin of fish. When the proprietor saw how the little cat gobbled the food, he said he would make sure the cat was fed properly.
When the kitten sees me, it wants food, not gifts from my cats!

Nevertheless, back home I went through our cats' grocery cupboard (they have a whole cabinet for their supplies!) and found eleven tins of cat food called Puddi-Kat. Before I'd managed to find the brand that my cats insist on, prefer, will eat, I'd bought this food in the hope that these lads would accept it. No way. I opened the first tin, filled each cat's bowl at which they turned their respective noses up.  Ginger actually turned his back on the food bowl - only cat owners can relate to this - so I gave the contents to the dogs in the garden. At least now I had a supply which I would take to the "duka ya paka"/cat shop as we've dubbed it, in single deliveries. 
The shop proprietor showed great interest and asked if he could feed the cat

Of  course, the first time I dished some food for the kitten, it dived in nose first and gobbled up everything on the plate. I explained to the owner and her boss that if sealed, this food would last in their refrigerator for several days. I also said the cat has to be fed regularly and must have a bowl of water nearby. (*Sigh* don't they remember that we went through the exact same procedure, not so long ago,  with the previous cat?) They promised faithfully that they'd continue to feed the cat. The proprietor even asked me where I'd bought the food and said he'd get some next time. However, not one to leave anything to chance, I took an extra tin of Puddi-Kat and a large tin of Whiskas which my cats also rejected,  and asked them to feed the cat until I return from leave in the middle of June. I sincerely hope they'll do this.
 This was the first square meal the kitten has ever had. Poor little mite! 

For more pet posts around the world, click here

Saturday, May 19, 2012

To market we go

Little girl at the market
 Every Wednesday I go to nearby Shinyanga town to buy fresh fruit, vegetables, eggs, and other items needed in the Guest House. As always there are many sights and sounds to take in. I always have my Nokia ready to take photos. Last week I snapped this little girl (above) and her brother (below). Their mother, a stall holder, had just made a lot of money from me (10 kg tomatoes, two green cabbages, two watermelons, 15 kg onions) which I hope goes towards caring for these tiny tots. I also gave her money to buy them a snack of mandazi (African donut) and milk.
Her young brother

A few minutes after this photo, these two children went off into the interior of the market.   I asked the mother if she was concerned about this, but she just shrugged and continued to tend her stall
Around the corner is a stall I support every week as well. I buy Chinese cabbage, green peppers, cucumber and carrots from this friendly mama
Last week my friend, Amanda came to Shinyanga with me. (More about this tomorrow) She was amazed at the large quantities of fruit and vegetables I buy every week.  She reckons I'm probably the market's best customer! I do remind the stall holders that I'm a regular and they're not to exploit me because I'm a Mzungu (foreigner/European) 
 I buy my potatoes from this lady every week: 20kg

 Above men package my bananas, mangoes and pawpaws. After I'd taken this photo, I had half a dozen other men clamoring around me asking to take their photo! I politely declined.

I have also "taught" the stall holders, especially the men, not to shout at me. For instance, while I'm buying two dozen apples, the other men would harangue me to buy their oranges/pineapples/avocado pears. They seem to understand now that I try to support every one of the fruit vendors as much as I can. 
Mwadui Shopping Centre!

Back  in Mwadui, William stopped at the "Shopping Mall" where I buy two dozen loaves of sliced bread from the bakery. 

I hope you're all having a wonderful weekend.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Doubly Divine Promise

Double rainbow over the club last week

Genesis 9:12-13

And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant (promise) that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth."

For more beautiful sky images, click here

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Mwadui and friends

On Tuesday I walked up to my friend, Amanda's house in the next compound. She was busy making toys for the local children. Amanda is artistic as well as practical and uses items in and around the house to fashion these items. Above is a collection of motorcars which she cuts out of wood and once painted, uses bottle tops for wheels. Below are her teddies which are too adorable. These she makes out of off-cuts of felt or other material and sews by hand while here as she has no sewing machine! 
 Aren't they just too adorable?
 The old diamond sorting house which is no longer in use apparently has a 300m tunnel leading from it to a large house to the left of the photo

After a chat and a cup of tea, Amanda took me to the old, disused diamond sorting house. While we peered through the dusty windows, she told me that there was a tunnel running from the sort house to the main house 300meters behind us. Apparently after the diamonds had been sorted for transport, they'd be packaged, carried through this tunnel to the house. From there, under amid great secrecy and tight security, the parcel would be transported from the mine to the airport. The carrier would be responsible for these precious stones until they reached South Africa. Even though the sorting house is  elsewhere on the mine now, the safety precautions and mystery of the actual movements is still of paramount importance today. 
 The shady lanes running through the client's compound
Woodland Kingfisher which is common here on camp and can be heard calling chi-cherrrrrrr from early morning until late evening

I hope you're all having a wonderful day.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Happy Birthday Angus

Angus left, two weeks old and rights, 18 months old

Angus, our second son, was born in Empangeni, Kwa-Zulu Natal on 16 May 1979. Like his older brother, John, Angus was a blessing: an easy baby, an obedient child (even as a teenager) and a wonderful adult son to us. 

In 2006 Angus met local girl, Amanda, at our church, a few weeks later asked her for a date. The rest, as they say, is history.
The Hedges family before Angus' wedding in September 2007. John and Debbie, Grant's mum, Pam, Grant, moi and Angus
An hour later another member had joined the Hedges family: Amanda. We are truly blessed with two lovely daughters-in-law who not only nurture, raise and guide our precious grandchildren along the right path, but are wonderful wives to our two sons

Angus and Amanda have since had two children. While looking for photos to put up on this post today, I was amazed to see the likeness between Angus and the children. They have both inherited their dad's generous mouth, while Joel has his widow's peak and piercing eyes.

Joel, seven months in the above photos, is now two-and-a-half years old. If you compare the photo of 18 month-old Angus in the first image, you can see the family resemblance!

Abby Kate at two-and-a-half months, looks just like her daddy in the first photo on this post!

It always gives me joy to see how hands-on our sons are as fathers. This is not hereditary; during the seventies and eighties when they were babies, it was not the norm for men to be involved with their children from birth. No way would Grant have changed a nappy/diaper, fed the baby or done pyjama parade, which, as you can see, Angus is doing in the bottom left photo!

All that remains for me to say is 


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

No-name brands at a cost!

Regular readers of my blog may remember a post about my Reebok rebounder (trampoline) which I used daily in Kenya. When I left the valley, I sold it to Johan. During one of my first trips to Mwanza, I visited the local sports shop to replace my rebounder.The proprietor was insistent that the one on display (the only brand he stocked) was every bit as good as Reebok. I was desperate to start exercising again and bought it. Ironically, I wasn't able to start my regime as I'd become so involved in helping the company guest house staff to run the establishment.

In mid-April, I decided to make the time to get back into the swing spring of things. Every morning I followed my rebounder DVD for 45 minutes. Within a week I was feeling fitter and more energetic. However, as I entered week two, I began to doubt that I was using a reputable exercise rebounder; there just wasn't enough bounce and the springs creaked terrifyingly.  It was as though I was too heavy for it.  The thought popped into my head that it could be a kiddies trampoline. Then the penny dropped and I thought with smiley faces all around the edge, of COURSE it was meant for children to bounce on. 

I stopped using the rebounder but it was almost too late. I woke up the next morning and for the first time in my life, experienced excruciating back pain. As the week progressed, I struggled through the day,  limping around the house with a bent back! My friend Amanda came over for tea one morning and as she knew about my ailment, she'd brought a strip of over-the-counter muscle relaxants. She also showed me a couple of Pilates exercises which she suggested I do twice a day. Her theory (which I believe was correct) was that I'd pinched a nerve and with these "moves" I'd gently stretch the spine to release this. She also said I should rest my back often during the day else I'd not be going overseas at the end of this month! As she took her leave, she looked down at the rebounder and said: "Jo, how come you didn't see this was a kiddie's trampoline? The smiley faces are a dead give-away!"  Eek, how was that for adding insult to injury, LOL!

Over the next ten days I did my gentle stretching exercises twice a day, watched umpteen reality shows on telly with a hot-water-bottle at my back and took the pills when the pain was unbearable. 

I'm happy to say that today (two weeks after I first experienced the back-ache) I finally feel as though I've turned the corner, praise God. My back still gets tired and then the muscles become tense. When this happens, I down tools, sit on the settee with my hottie at my back and flick on the telly! 

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, while I was in Dar last week (yes, I made the flight feeling quite strained!) I bought a good rebounder in Game.  Trojan is a well-known brand name in South Africa and I'll be able to use this rebounder once I am fully recovered. 

And the kiddie's trampoline? Well, I gave it to my house lady for her children to use under adult supervision. 

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Monday, May 14, 2012

A flying visit to Dar es Salaam

 Shinyanga airport (30 km from camp) formed the first leg of my trip to Dar. A young technician was on his first leave in 180 days and accompanied me

At the beginning of this month I was sent to Dar es Salaam to collect our passports which contained the necessary visas for South Africans to enter the UK.  It was a totally unscheduled trip as we'd made arrangements for a third party to collect the documents on our behalf. When he arrived at the Embassy, he was told he had no authority to collect our passports. The message was relayed back to Grant, who asked me to "pop over" to Dar to do the necessary!

Rajamani, one of the young mechanical technicians, was due out on leave after 180 days on site and very excited to be accompanying me. He, like I, had also never flown from Shinyanga airport and was fascinated by the very basic layout. He took dozens of photos to show to his family back in India.

It's always great to be going out on break! 

We touched down in Dar es Salaam at 10.30 and were duly met by the company driver, Mohamed. I asked him to take me across town to the Embassy. I wanted to collect our passports and know that all was in order. 
Getting across the city of Dar is easier said than done. No sooner had we extricated ourselves from this gridlock...
...than we were snarled up in another one! 

I kept busy by taking photos! 

No thought for human safety in this scene! 

We arrived at the Embassy qt 11.35. While Mohamed and Rajamani waited in the car, I went into the building to collect our passports. (I'd told the men I would only be a few minutes)  However, I was stopped at the door with the query of what my business was. When stated that I'd come to collect passports, the security guard told me that on Thursdays the collections are done between 2.30 and 4.15. Eewgh!

I dashed back to the car and had to tell the guys that the trip had been in vain. Not only that, I had to return later that day! I could see they weren't too pleased. Next we had to go back across to the company head office where Rajamani had to collect his passport. We seemed to make a quicker way back. After the call to HO, I asked Mohamed to take us to one of the large shopping mall. 

I've said this before and I reiterate: Dar es Salaam is the most advanced city I've ever been to in Africa. The malls have upmarket retail shops, many of which are South African: Game, Shoprite, Mr Price and many more. I wanted to buy a new rebounder as I'd left mine in Kenya due to luggage constraints, *sigh* .
 The entrance to the Mlimani City Mall in Dar is equal to anything in South Africa

 Ditto the interior

 Not even Nairobi, Kenya delivered such upmarket shopping malls! 

 Once I'd bought my new rebounder (more about that tomorrow), I took Rajamani into Shoprite Supermarket where he bought a large selection of chocolates for his mother and sisters back home. While walking past the many and varied businesses, he remarked that he wished we had more time to really look around! And that coming from a man! LOL! 

Next we tried to make a dash back across town to the British High Commission. Again, not so easy. We left the mall at 1.30pm and after several traffic jams and detours, we finally arrived at 2.40! Once again I left my mobile phones and camera in Mohamed's care (not permitted in the Embassy) and dashed back into the building. The British visa counter and hall was deserted, so I went forward and handed in my receipt. The lady behind the thick [bullet-proof?] glass, punched the receipt number into the computer and to my relief I saw her make a tick against our names on the tab. (Does anyone else, apart from South Africans, have this angst  trying to enter foreign countries?)  She walked to the rear of her cubicle, flipped across a well-marked filing system to "H" and extracted to brown envelopes.

When she returned to the counter, she asked me why the messenger which we'd appointed had never collected the passports on the due date. I told her he had come in but was turned away. She then disappeared through a door at the back and down a passage. Soon she was back and told me that the other clerks who'd manned her counter that day as she was off, said no-one had come in! I told her that he had been, but not allowed to collect our passports which now had cost us US$600 for me to come and collect them personally.  She was most apologetic (pole sana) and with this, passed the two envelopes through the metal tray under the glass! Phew! We now have a UK visas in our passports.

Once back in Mohamed's car, I asked him to take me to the Southern Suns hotel where I was meeting my friend, Sonja for coffee. He would drop me, take Rajamani to his hotel in town and then return to collect me from where he'd take me to my hotel. 

Twice before I've posted about Sonja. She and I met way back in March 2001. We were neighbours, two of only three ladies on a remote gold mine camp in Northern Guinea, West Africa.  She was there with her husband, the project manager, (the position which Grant holds here now and is called contracts manager) Karel, her young daughter and his two young sons. One of these boys, the now 24- year- old  Marnitz,  is a production manager here on Grant's project and lives in a little cottage directly behind our house. Small world, is mining! 

Even though Sonja was (and still is, ha-ha) years younger than I, we immediately clicked and have been friends all these years. Since 2007, we've lived in different countries: I was back in South Africa while she was here in Tanzania, living on another mine. But we kept in touch by e-mail. 

In October last year, Karel was trying to convince Grant to take up this position here in Tanzania. I didn't want to move as I have never been as happy as I was in Keirio Valley, Great Rift Valley, Kenya. However, I agreed to a meeting at the hotel Grant and I were staying at in Johannesburg on our way back to Kenya, when Karel said he's bringing Sonja along! We were thrilled to see each other again and talked non-stop, catching up on the newest grandchildren (she has two granddaughters) while the men talked shop.  (Little did I know that Karel would contact Grant again in January and we would make the move from one East African country to another!) 

When we met in Dar last week, Sonja had just arrived from South Africa. Marnitz gave me her Tanzanian mobile number and I contacted her, hence the arrangement to meet at the hotel near her apartment.
Me and Sonja, my young and beautiful friend of many years. (Photo by hotel waiter)

All too soon our visit was over but Sonja will probably be coming with Karel on his next visit to Mwadui so we'll  be getting together in fine style!  

Mohamed was outside the hotel waiting to take me to my hotel: The Sea Cliff. I've posted about this hotel on the seaside before and how we enjoy staying there, so Grant booked me in here again. Once I'd been to my room, I popped down to the Village Supermarket to stock up on - you guessed it - Cat Food! I bought four packets of Go-cat kibbles. My cats love this brand which was readily available in Kenya but which I'd only recently found again at this supermarket. As I was alone with no man to say: "what do you want to buy now?" I wandered around the shop and checked out the other products, picking up various items: creamed mushrooms in cans, sun dried tomatoes and a bottle of Vegemite! 
Vegemite, one of my favourite vegetarian spreads which hails from Australia! 

Back at the hotel, I wandered around with my camera and took photos!  
 The foyer outside my hotel room

The next morning while I waited in the hotel reception area  for Mohamed to take me to the airport, I took photos! 
 The beautiful reception area of the Sea Cliff Hotel

Mohamed, my trusty driver in Dar
 One of the many beautiful homes lining the esplanade as we travel (fast - hence the blur!) from the Sea Cliff to the airport
Rajamani and I waited at the Julius Nyerere International Airport for the check-in counters to open
 The waiting area looks more like a train station than an airport! 

At 8.30 am I said goodbye to Rajamani and checked in.  
 The boarding lounge in the airport

By mid-morning I'd arrived in Shinyanga where William, my trusty Mwadui driver was waiting to bring me back to camp.  A real flying visit to the city! 

PS. Re yesterdays post about Pets Forever featuring two of my cats and paw prints on the furniture. I had the windowsill on the enclosed veranda painted. Ambrose, who loves to sit there and watch the chickens, birds and dogs, didn't know about the maintenance. He found out soon enough though!  
Hope you all have a wonderful week.