Thursday, August 30, 2012

Our Last Sunset over Mwadui...

... for the next three weeks

If anything, the sunsets seem to get more and more glorious here in Tanzania!

As this post is aired, we'll be winging our way to Dar Es Salaam on the first leg of our journey home. We sleep in Dar tonight and fly out to South Africa tomorrow morning. Home at about 3pm Saturday! 

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Employee of the Month

Once again it's time for me to honour the Employee of the Month at our company Guest House. I initiated this motivation to encourage all involved in their daily work here. Although I use the expression Guest House,  all the staff under my supervision don't only work at that establishment. Regina and Pendo, cleaners start their day by "doing" for me and then cleaning Marnitz' little cottage next door. Regina hangs our laundry out after I've washed it in the automatic machine and later in the afternoon she irons it with a new steam iron which I bought for her last month. 

At about 9.30, both these ladies walk over to the Guest House where they clean the single men's rooms and the relevant bathrooms. Later on in the morning, Regina prepares a garden salad for lunch and then makes a fruit salad for dessert. Pendo meanwhile, will help with drying dishes which Chefs Paul and James have used while making the lunch and which Armani has washed by hand (no dishwasher yet, *sigh*). After lunch Pendo goes into the garden and picks spinach-like greens called mboga boga which the locals love, adds it to the vegetables, meat/fish which I buy for the staff lunch and cooks their midday meal. She also cooks a pot of ugali/maize meal or rice to go with it.

Chefs Paul and James are going on so well together. Not only do they follow menu instructions and recipes and cook well; they've also assumed authority (which I encouraged them to do) in and around the Guest House. A month ago Grant sent me a new akari/gate guard, Armani. Within days I realized that this lad, who speaks perfect English, is young and eager to learn, is utterly wasted opening and shutting the garden gate for the expats vehicles. He still does a little gate duty at lunch time (which is rush hour in Mwadui, LOL) but at the same time, Grant has allowed me to start training him up in the kitchen. As soon as we can replace him as askari, he'll be transferred to the indoor staff.  BTW Armani has an identical twin brother who works in Grant's office as cleaner/tea boy.


Chef James

Chef Paul

Last month, Salome, cleaner and cook (ladies like to be known as cooks not chefs!) was our Employee of the Month. Salome is also seven months pregnant with her first child, so I don't let her do any heavy housework anymore. She sits and irons the expat clothes in the laundry; when she helps prepare baked goods (bread, rolls, chapati, donuts, samosas) which the chefs complete, she sits at the kitchen table to do the job.

Salome, cook and cleaner


The last (but not least) person I'm posting about today is Edward, my house and garden askari. Over the months since I arrived here, I've built up quite a strong relationship with Edward. He speaks a little English and understands much more. While sitting in his gate-house waiting to open gates, he cleans shoes, washes bedside mats for me. He feeds the two dogs and the chickens. He attends to the water supply (we have water tanks outside our house) and he also sweeps the leaves and generally keeps the garden clean. Edward also helps the Guest House by peeling a weekly 5kg bag of carrots and a monthly 10kg of green beans. Later the kitchen staff (Regina, Pendo, Armani and chefs) cut these vegetables into strip and freeze them as I've taught them to do. 

Edward is also available to buy provisions for me as I need them: fresh eggs - 8 dozen or more; fresh bread from the local bakery (I buy them in tens!) air time, and any item that we may have run out of and which can be procured here in Mwadui town. In short, Edward is a gem and this month I have chosen him as Employee of the Month. I 'm only doing the presentation this afternoon at a meeting with the staff. As this is secret until I actually call him up  it's a good thing none of the staff read my blog!
 Edward - askari - and much more! 

 The poster depicting all the staff with Employee of the Month in the center is displayed in the kitchen for that entire period

Apart from the holding the title for the month, the winner also receives a hamper of foodstuffs and an  envelope of shillingi which I collect from the Expats. So for the month of August, it's congratulations to Edward!

I must apologize for not visiting your blogs much this past week. We are going out on leave tomorrow (Friday) and will be home in South Africa on Saturday for a three-week break. So until I blog again from SA soil, you all keep well, safe and have a wonderful weekend. 



Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Mammoth Shopping in Mwanza

Following my post on a trip to Kahama to check out the newly-discovered supermarket in the town. However, for my monthly shopping, once again I traveled to Mwanza with driver, William last week. Here below are a few photos showing the supermarket we've been supporting there for years and the groceries I buy for the Guest House.

As usual though, we first stopped at an eating house for William to fuel up before the long day ahead. Dipen, the company procurement manager was going out on leave to India and caught a lift in our vehicle.
William waits patiently (Africans have immense patience!) for his cup of Chai / tea and donut
 Dipen had to settle for sweet, black tea although he'd asked for coffee. The waitress doesn't look as if this fact worries her! Dipen had a chapati with his tea
William was trying to take a photo of me with my Smartphone, but Dipen grabbed it from me and took the picture standing up. The result is my arms look like they're made of bubblegum stretched from thin tops to fat wrists! 
 The supermarket which I support every month

 Joy is one of the shop assistants and a great help when I shop there. While I'm busy filling my trolley with staples, she will go down my list of meat, seafood and fish, milk, oil, rice and flour and fill another trolley for me. A great time-saver! 

Typical of local supermarkets, the shelves are filled with dozens of the same products leaving little or no space for [large] upright display fridges at the bottom end of the shop 
 Along with Joy, there are two to three men who help pack my order. I don't pass through the check-out counter at the front of the shop. Instead these men call out the products to Nataniel (pictured against the window) who writes each item down in longhand. This takes the best part of an hour.  Later it is transferred to a computerized invoice which is then sent to our company financial manager. I take a cheque and pay the account when I go in again the next month

 Outside William loads many of the staples on the roof rack of our car. Joy and three men bring the boxes and coolers out to the vehicle and help him pack. This takes at least another 45 minutes! 

And as I've posted this type of scene before, once again, our vehicle was loaded to the hilt

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Monday, August 27, 2012

First Spring Rains in East Africa

Returning to Madui after our trip to the UK, we were greeted by very dry conditions. Apparently the first rains which are classed as "small" arrive late in September. Then at the end of October the "big" rains arrive and last for about a month and a half. 

But yesterday after lunch a storm brewed and we were blessed with a good shower of rain. Afterwards the sun appeared. Early this morning we had another heavy rain shower. The sun is out as I type this post but everything feels refreshed and clean. 

Here's wishing you all a great day with whatever weather you enjoy!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Hedges War Zone

 This is me, Ambrose, staying out of the way of the fighting uncles

Hi Bozo, this is Ambrose doing the post today. Why... 
Because my Uncle Ginger and Uncle Shadow are in the middle of a dispute. They've been fighting (with kitty growls, snorting, spitting and sometimes, fur flying) since the middle of last week. What should I do?
I wish Shadow would realize that Ginger is the big boss ...

Oh, and I must say: they've no quarrel with me; they're just on at each other!

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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Hospital Visiting Hours

Last week when Amanda and I visited the children in the hospital, she had a packet of lollipops as treats and I had a selection of balls for them. The little boy in the [second] photo below, who has been lying here for about five weeks, was the excited recipient of a real soccer ball made of leather. He is going to take this new toy home to the village when he is up and about again. 

The other little boy received a smaller soccer ball and the babies all got very small, soft balls. I didn't take any photos that day but I'm sure you can imagine the joy these children feel receiving one of the most desired toys imaginable to an African child. 

To understand why these children love a real shop-bought ball, many people reading this post may recall seeing television documentaries of children in African, South American and Indian villages playing with a shopping bag tied up with twine. This is normally what these children use to play "serious" ball games - mainly soccer. 

I also had two tins of [three-in-a-pack] tennis balls which Amanda and I handed out to the children along the streets. I didn't get photos this time but will the next time we distribute balls and/ or sweets.

Yesterday we visited the ward again. Last Saturday in our "newly discovered" supermarket in Kahama, Amanda bought a few packets of toys with battery-operated toys in them. Even though these inexpensive items may not last as long as the penlight batteries which we inserted, once again, the little patients were ecstatic when they saw them.
 A real toy - probably the first time this child has received something like this

 The little lad who's been in this bed for five weeks now, was more interested in the Smarties (candy-coated chocolate beans) while his grandmother tests the solar-powered calculator

Here the young mother tests the battery-operated fan, while her little boy takes out two of the toys from the packet which Amanda had opened for him

Is this a cell phone like my mom's?
This mother was lying in bed with her little girl when I first arrived at her side. Later she changed the baby and asked me to take a picha / photo. I gave mom a tube of Smarties to enjoy

Outside I spotted one of our askari with his wife and little daughter. They were waiting to see the clinic sister to treat the child for malaria. Here she holds up a lollipop while the mother is holding soft toy made by Amanda

Amanda also had a large box of hand-made toys which she handed out. Since arriving here, I've learnt to keep all my empty talc powder boxes, moisturizer tubs, medicine holders and even plastic herb containers from the kitchen for Amanda's Toy Factory. She is absolutely ingenious the way in which she makes toys out of old items. 

 [Empty] talc powder container becomes...
... a leonine character from The Lion King. (The powder box is filled with smaller items and becomes a rattle!)
I hope you're all having a wonderful weekend.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Another tough day... Africa!

Sunset over New Alhamisi Dam just outside Mwadui.

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Some bird photos

Once again on Sunday afternoon, we traveled a short distance outside the mine to spot birds. I've only posted two of several we saw and will post about the others later on.
We stopped to watch this Grey-headed Kingfisher for quite a while. It was hunting and kept swooping down to the ground and returning with something in its beak
Although we saw [D'Aunard's] barbet regularly  in Kenya, this is the first time I've seen this particular bird.As far as I can make out from my bird book, it's a distinct species called the Usambiro Barbet

I trust you're all having a wonderful week.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Shopping in Kahama

The road to Kahama on our Saturday shopping trip, was very different to the one we drive when going to Mwanza every month

Last Saturday a few of us drove to Kahama to look at a supermarket we'd heard about. To anyone out there in a first world country. this may seem like a strange way to spend a Saturday. However, if you live where we do, you'll know that you're always on the lookout for a shop that sells everything most things that you're used to. 

Generally when we shop at general dealers (lol!) in Shinyanga and Mwanza, the items are rather limited. You can buy some meat, poultry and fish; butter, margarine, cooking oils, flours and rice. A selection of tinned foods (we use mushrooms, peas, beans, baked beans, chick peas etc on the Guest House menu) and a selection of jams, syrups and honey. You have a selection of household products, bath essentials and other cleaning materials. However, unlike the supermarkets we have in South Africa, here you cannot walk across to the appliance department; the linen department; the clothing section or the deli and well-displayed meat, poultry and fish.

For the household appliances, linen and clothing, I have to weave my way in and out of small shops and leanto's in the fresh produce markets. Often the stall owners can't understand what I need. Ever tried to someone who hasn't lived/eaten the Western way, what a gravy boat is? Or what a pair of oven gloves looks like? Or a duvet inner? Or that you're looking for a casserole dish (reasonably large) which keeps warm on the serving counter with candles underneath? Mmm? Of course, they're desperate for a sale and try to press something else on you instead.

Also along this road, we were thrilled to see groves of mango trees and indigenous trees and shrubs left intact. A pleasant change from the desert-like surroundings of Shinyanga
Kahama town with one of the many good hotels in the bottom right - hand photo

Our driver turned into a narrow, rutted side road, driving between open market stalls and derelict buildings which housed small shops. Suddenly he stopped in front of a tall building with a mirrored facade and told us this was it. No large car-park or entrance. Just the supermarket. However, as we entered, we were thrilled to see the hundreds of products on the shelves, the bright lights and a sign  announcing a shopping mecca up a flight of stairs.

Whether it was the South African [women's] manner of talking loudly when excited, or that we were the only Mzungus in the supermarket, I'm not sure; but upstairs, we were suddenly surrounded by eager clerks offering baskets and answering our queries of items we were looking for. The kitchen/household area on the top floor was certainly a treat and Amanda and I kept exclaiming that we'd found exactly what we'd been looking for at last. The displays of glasses, coffee mugs, tea sets, dinner services, casseroles, salad servers and cutlery was mind-boggling. There was also a decent selection of stationery, sports goods (even tread-mills, exercise mats, soccer balls etc) and a large baby and toy section.
The view of the ground floor of the supermarket
Another angle of the grocery department
I know, I know! I'm waxing lyrical about a supermarket! But don't you think this is a great improvement on this...

The little shop in between the mattresses on the left and the bananas and shoes on the right, is where I buy my supply of cooking oil  (approximately 50 liters  per month!) in Shinyanga
The shop with a pink bucket (and man with bicycle) visible outside, is where I buy my white cake flour/unga; large buckets of soap powder with names like Toss, Fluff and Safi (the last means clean in Swahili) and paper table napkins. In between I buy boxes of cheap pens for the kitchen and my office and lollipops for the children I come across in the market

The shop in the middle of the picture is a Muslim shop and I can normally get Apricot jam (tinned) here. I also buy sliced brown bread and Chicken Vienna Sauaages from her. However, if I ask for Magado/sour milk, I have to wait while the shop assistant dashes next door and brings me a dozen cartons. Of course, the price is then hiked by Tsh300/1/2 US$. I've since learnt that if I go the the shop next door, I can buy my own Magando. This shop also has Dheegu flour/chickpea flour which Chef Paul uses to make Bhagia/chillie bites 

Back to the supermarket in Kahama: it didn't have any meat other than a few packets of frozen Beef Vienna sausages and whole chickens. I spoke to the store manager and said if he could bring in items like legs of lamb, beef fillets and rolls, flavored yoghurt and a selection of cheeses, then not only would I be buying from him on a regular basis, but the client would also move their shopping to this supermarket instead of using Shinyanga shops and Mwanza one and only supermarket.  He has promised to see what can be done.

After all the excitement and retail therapy, we headed for a Mzungu/expat hotel that we'd  heard about on the outskirts of town. As a band of hungry and tired shoppers we were in dire need of a rest and sustenance.
 On recommendation we headed for Hotel Golden Valley where we relaxed and shared a variety of light meals 
 The recently opened Barrick Goldmine  has created many job opportunities for locals and injected life into the nearby town of Kahama. This is also the mine where Johan, our friend from Kenya, works as financial manager 

As the distance between Mwadui (our mining camp) and Kahama is the same as Mwadui to Mwanza, as soon as the manager brings in the supplies I requested, I'll be making regular trips to the former. Meanwhile it's time to stock up the Guest House larder so I'm off to Mwanza tomorrow morning to do the monthly shopping.

Here's wishing you all a wonderful week.    

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