Robbery is an unfortunate part of life here in Arusha. I've written about it before in "Robbered" and in "Robbered: Part 2." Apparently robbers don't take a holiday for Christmas. A few weeks ago, our neighbors called a neighborhood meeting to discuss the "security situation." Neighborhood meetings are common here, used to discuss and resolve problems amongst neighbors, rather than calling in planning commissioners or police to fix the problem. We didn't make it to the meeting, nor did any of our neighbors in our six-house compound, Nyumba Sita. But our askari reported back to us a few days later that robbers had killed an askari, or security guard, not far up the road from us! I'd been feeling quite complacent in our neighborhood, because it's been peaceful and safe since I've lived here. Now, I'm not feeling so complacent.
Saitoti, our askari, was friends with the victim and told us that he'd be away from the gate at times, assisting the family of the victim. If I were him, I'd just be scared to do my job, unarmed and watching a gate up the road from a murder. Usually, when he's away, one of his posse of Maasai friends mans the gate for us. But for about two weeks, Saitoti came and went, with no substitute at the gate. Several times, one of us pulled up to the compound's outer gate late at night, only to find Saitoti nowhere in evidence and the gate left unlocked so we all could get inside. So, in the wake of a nearby violent robbery, our gate was left open. Any would-be robbers had only to observe us pulling up in our cars and getting out to open the gate from the outside. I was not feeling complacent at all! Safety measures still in effect included the wall with locked gate around my individual house, heavy wooden doors and steel security grates with deadbolts, and steel security grates over the windows. On Christmas Eve, lots of people go out and celebrate at clubs or bars and make a lot of noise. At midnight Christmas Eve, we heard several gunshots on the road near our compound. Well, at about 12:13, so that's midnight African Time! Even though we knew it was most likely just party noise, it scared us a bit, under the circumstances. We were starting to think we needed to call the landlord and arrange for a new askari, but were reluctant to do it because we like Saitoti and he'd done a great job before. But three days ago, he came back and has been manning the gate consistently, with about three of his posse assisting.
In Anna's neighborhood, a group of robbers had been stealing generators and cables from outside houses. The other night, a group of the neighborhood askaris trapped the robbers at around 9:00. Neighbors gathered outside and held the robbers captive all night. They yelled at them and beat them up a bit. They debated loudly whether they should call the police and turn the robbers over or kill the robbers right there. The next morning, the neighbors brought out their children to see the robbers and illustrate to them what happens to you if you become a robber. Then they called the police and turned the robbers over. Anna heard all this from safely inside her house, with her Tanzanian boyfriend translating for her. I've heard several stories, which I believe to be true, of people beating robbers to death when they catch them.
Okay, take a deep, cleansing breath. After telling you two scary stories, I'm going to move on to more light hearted fare partially set in a yoga studio. But I don't have a good segue, so just get ready to change gears...
My Dutch friend Martina is the manager of a rustic luxury lodge, Karama Lodge.
She asked me to teach an English class for some of the lodge employees. For about a month, I've been conducting twice-weekly English conversation practice sessions for groups of 5-10 students. The students work in reception, housekeeping, maintenance, the kitchen, and security. All of them are eager to attend because they get to take 90 minutes away from work and sit and chat about random topics. Just kidding! They really are eager to learn, because speaking English well is a key skill for good jobs in tourism here. This class is so much fun for me because these employees, even in a country full of nice people, are just so darn nice! The skill level varies a bit among them, and those that are more proficient always help the beginners. There's quite a bit of laughing, but it's always good natured. Some of it is at my attempts to speak Swahili. Three of them were very shy about speaking English in front of the group and in front of an American, but by the end of the second class, they were jumping out of their chairs to take the floor and take a turn speaking English. I love this class!
They're adding a pool. Workers dug the hole entirely by hand. Then they dropped in a metal tub with a vinyl liner. They're backfilling around the pool now.
Here's one of the guest rooms. I want to live here. Especially after the pool's finished!
...set in this beautiful garden.