New Blog!

If you've enjoyed reading about my experiences in Tanzania here, check out the new blog I've started on Wordpress as of November, 2017. It's called "Back to Tanzania" and you can read it here. All new adventures in Tanzania from an older, wiser, more experienced expat.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Few Things to Be Happy About

I'm back to looking for ways to make myself comfortable here. It's not too hard in Arusha. The standard of living here is good for many people (not all) and there are so many foreigners living here that quite a few businesses provide the things we want. When I was a Peace Corps volunteer in 1982 in the Philippines, I felt searing scorn for expatriates who tried to duplicate their home-country standards of living. But now that I'm older, I'm OK with it. Young Peace Corps volunteers do tend to take themselves too seriously. Plus, they don't have enough money for satellite TV.

But I do! I bought a TV back in June or July and had four channels that come in from the rabbit ears on the set. Three of them broadcast mostly news and music videos. The fourth is a gospel channel. All four are primarily in Swahili, which I still don't understand well enough for TV-watching, even if I were interested in that content. Last week I snagged K2 on a rare day off and convinced him to help me get a satellite dish installed. I needed his help, because the customer has to pick up the fundi (technician), provide a ladder, and take the fundi back to the office after the installation. Usually, fundis don't speak much English, and in Tanzania, something is bound go wrong somewhere along the way.

Back in July, I'd asked our Maasai gate attendant if we had a ladder in the Nyumba Sita compound, and he showed me a homemade wooden one. As we drove out of the compound on TV day, K2 asked about the ladder and told him we were getting a satellite dish installed. The askari (guard) on duty wasn't the main Maasai, but one of his small group of Maasai friends that hang out and help him at the gate sometimes. He said yes, the ladder's still here. When we came back with the fundi, the main Maasai told us the ladder was broken. He tried to borrow one from the neighbors, but no luck. But it turned out we really didn't need to reach the roof.

The fundi mounted the dish on the ground in the back yard, and the signal turned out to be fine. The cable was already dangling from the outside corner of the roof, so he didn't have to climb up for that either. He drilled holes in a concrete slab, bolted in the stand, and attached the dish, then attached the cable.

I think this might be the cover of the septic tank. So of course I have to say...yes, the satellite dish is pulling in the same old crap here as at home. It costs $29/ month and I get about 25 channels. I'll probably watch about six of them, and K2 will probably watch about four of them. I get some American and British movies and TV series, news from CNN, BBC, and al Jazeera, and a smattering of reality shows, decorating and fashion shows, and nature shows. Also, some dramas from South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, and Tanzania. I get "Damages," "The Closer," and "Mad Men," all of which I've wanted to see, but they weren't' in my rock-bottom-cheap cable package at home. I watched an East Africa version of "American Idol" auditions that was hilarious. I didn't realize it until I watched this, but I'd been entertaining a stereotype of Africans as being more talented and cool than Americans. But no! East Africa has the same ratio of talented, undiscovered performers to delusional no-talent bums as we do. So I learned something already from watching TV! And it is really nice to relax and veg out and watch some TV in the evening.

It's still high season for climbing Kilimanjaro, so K2 has been really busy since I got back. I did get to spend five days with him between treks recently. Since then, only a day or two at a time. But that five-day break was nice!

He's gotta get his laundry cleaned up fast so it can dry in time for the next trek. Who knew you could wash Therma-rests, backpacks, and down coats (left to right) in a bucket of cold water on the back porch and hang them on the line. That red down coat is the one I found at the discount store in Idaho.

Tea is much more popular here than coffee. Most of the coffee served here is instant, so I'd been drinking instant coffee for weeks by the time I moved into this house. I bought a drip coffee maker and some ground coffee and used it for about two weeks. The instructions recommended using bottled water, but I decided that was too expensive and would add to the plastic bottle waste I'm already generating, so I used tap water. I recognized that the tap water here carries more  minerals than at home, but thought I'd still be able to clean the coffee maker with vinegar. It clogged after only about two weeks, and I tried the vinegar. About six times. It never did clear out the minerals inside the coffee maker. In fact, the whole thing was so extremely clogged, that a seam on the water tank burst when I was trying to run the vinegar through. So I've been drinking instant coffee for way too long. But no more....

It took a lot of wandering store-to-store, but I found a French press coffee maker and have been drinking wonderful brewed coffee every morning. For expats from the UK and Australia, this might not be important. But I'm American, dammit, and I need my coffee! I checked several stores that didn't carry this item, but found out it's called a "plunger" here. I found one that was cute, but tiny and would only make one cup. I found another that cost 139,000 T shillings. That's about $93! After a couple of weeks of looking, I found this one--three large mugs worth and about $30. Still kind of expensive, but I am so happy every morning with my coffee.  No more worries about clogging now, unless I get too many coffee grounds in the sink drain.

Another thing that I continue to enjoy here is a blog called "Food, Fun & Farm Life in East Africa."  ( ) The author is a woman from Zimbabwe who's lived here, raising a family, for 12 years. She writes about family activities and life in Tanzania. I love it because she's very upbeat, which helps me stay upbeat as I learn to live in Arusha. The other day I was in my favorite little super market and saw a woman who looked so familiar. I couldn't place her for a  moment, but then recognized from her profile photo that she was the author of "Food, Fun & Farm Life." I hesitated for a few minutes, because I didn't want to seem like a stalker. But I introduced myself and we had a nice chat. It was fun to meet one my blogger heroes. (The other one lives in Oklahoma on a ranch, so I'm not likely to run into her (

And I know I already posted jacaranda pictures and waxed poetic about how beautiful these trees are. But they're still blooming, and I still love looking at them, so here are a few gratuitous jacaranda pictures.

 During dry season, the drainage ditches run with jacaranda blossoms.
And one thing not to be happy about: I have pneumonia again. I brought it home to America with me in July, then fought it off over a few weeks at home. I thought it was totally cleared up in August. But within five days of returning to Arusha, and breathing dust from dirt roads and smoke from burning trash and respiratory viruses on crowded dala-dala rides, I came down with a cold, which has since progressed back to pneumonia. I went to the big Lutheran hospital today and a doctor confirmed that it's pneumonia again (or still?). So back to the antibiotics and inhalers. The doctor said don't worry, so all of my friends, don't worry!

The hospital visit was an experience. I had gone to a small clinic a few months ago where there was no wait and only one doctor. But I heard the Lutheran Hospital provides better care, so I went there this time. When I checked in at the reception desk, the receptionist set up a file for me and gave me a little scrap of cardboard with the number 99 handwritten in ballpoint pen. Off to the large waiting room, crammed full in late afternoon, where the nurse was calling for number 67. Here was the long hospital wait I'd been hearing about. Two and a half hours later, she called 99, in Swahili. I'd been sitting near the doorway and really concentrating on the numbers so I wouldn't miss my turn because of bad understanding of Swahili. The doctor was a young Tanzanian woman. I commented how happy I was to see a Tanzanian woman doctor. She was very pleased, but made sure to point out she was an intern. I said, "Oh, that's why you're working the night shift." (By this time, it was 7:00 pm). She said, "We are the donkeys of the hospital." She also assured me there are many more young Tanzanian women coming soon into the ranks of doctors here. I got my meds and paid the cashier: about $2 U.S. for setting up a new patient file, $3.50 for the doctor's visit, and $20 for antibiotics and an asthma inhaler. 

And then, driving home in the dark, I hit a cow! But just a little tap. I had reached my part of town, Njiro, which is on the outskirts and usually quiet. Along the main road, a group of several Maasai were herding big cows with high, lyre-shaped horns and shoulder humps. I slowed and was working my way past when one flung itself in front of my car. I tapped him on the shoulder before I could stop, but he didn't appear to be hurt. A Maasai dashed in front of my car with his stick to round up the cow. I yelled, "Pole" (sorry) out the window, but didn't stop. The cow was fine and I didn't want to take a chance on having to buy it. Also, I feared becoming a robbery target if I got out of the car in the dark amidst so much confusion. When I got home and looked at the car, I couldn't really see any new dents or scratches-a good thing about driving a 1992 model.

Tomorrow, Anna (my Scottish friend) and I are off on a road trip near Kilimanjaro. I'm so excited!


  1. Glad you are back into the swing of things. Take care of yourself, and be sure to get the rest your body needs to fight the pneumonia. I'm glad you are back on antibiotics and getting the care you need. With all of the stress you've been through lately, your immune system has probably paid a price. My hope is that it will imrpove now that things have settled down some. Have fun, but don't push too hard.

  2. Thanks, Shanna, I'll take it easy. Hopefully, this overnight trip with Anna will take me up out of the dust and smoke and other pollution down here and let my lungs have some clean air while I'm starting antibiotics and albuterol. This is why I didn't answer your email awhile back. I was still thinking it would clear up and I could respond and say I was healthy! Oh well...

  3. HIT A COW!!!!

    mmmmm cheeseburgers for lunch