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.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Robbered: Part 3, And Other Less Weighty Matters

Just a bit of housekeeping before we dive into Tanzania stories. A couple of posts back, I got a message from Blogspot urging me to turn on formatting for mobile devices. I did it, but apparently I somehow blanked out my list of ten readers who receive new posts by email from Blogspot. I've gone in and tried to remember who those ten of you were. So if you've suddenly received this by email and didn't expect to, I guess I didn't remember right. Ditto if you've suddenly been dropped from the emails. Just drop me an email if you want me to change it! And now, onto Tanzania stories.

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!

Some of my wonderful Karama students in the yoga studio where we hold our class.

And on top of the fun of spending 90 minutes with these fun people, I also get a free lunch every time I teach. The food is fabulous. Three of the chefs are studying English, so sometimes one of them cooks for me and then attends class. The setting is even more fabulous than the food. I try to arrive good and early so I have plenty of time to lounge around eating lunch, reading my Kindle, and enjoying the view.

 Here's the restaurant and bar.

 Here's where I sit for lunch.

And here's the view.

 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!

It takes a lot of work to keep a nice place like this running smoothly, so Martina is very busy with work. That gave me and Anna the chance to go house hunting when Martina recently needed to find a place to rent, but couldn't break away from work. We called Jerry, the agent that I used to find my house (read about that house hunting experience here). He showed us a pretty nice two-bedroom apartment. I took pictures and Anna took notes.

Upstairs apartment with a balcony.

It was a possibility. Until we saw the next place...

...this perfect little house...

...with rooms full of light...

...set in this beautiful garden.

Just as we walked out of the gate, Martina texted us asking if we'd found her dream house. We immediately called and told her that yes, as a matter of fact, we had. It was a little out of her price range, but she had to take it! Some things are the same in every country, I guess. She's settled into the house now. Anna and I were pleased at our success, but a little disappointed that we only got to see two houses. When you're not looking for your own place to live, the pressure's off and it's all fun.

Maasai man wearing a straw fedora with his traditional shuka. Sometimes I see Maasai wearing dark ankle-high socks and dressy business shoes with their shuka. It just cracks me up.

I'm including this picture because it's New Year's Eve tomorrow, and they say that whatever you're doing on New Year's is what you'll do for the next year. In 2011, I want to keep seeing the beauty of Tanzania. And a serious New Year's Resolution: In 2011, I resolve to be more consistent with my Swahili study.


  1. Barbara, been reading your blog....Holy cow, woman, you live the most adventuresome life of any 50+ year old I know! A little too scarey for me. Please be ever so careful. I really appreciate you keeping us up on your current events, tho! Sad news I heard, Jean Kruglewisc passed away with his cancer battle. Kathy tarr told me. Take care, and we'll follow more, I'm sure!! Marsha Fryer

  2. Happy New Year to you Barbara and do be careful! Hope the New Year brings you more great adventures! Eric V.

  3. So glad I was able catch up on your adventures, they just keep coming. Hope you have a great New Year. Stay safe and keep laughing. Kris R.