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.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The News on the New House

 I am still haunted by the house K2 and I rented two months before I came home, even though I am far away in America, luxuriating in 24-hour a day electricity and running water. Back in Arusha, we made an extensive search for a new house, after a bar opened just outside our bedroom window at the old house, following five months of no water. Various other things bothered me, too. Although most Tanzanians, including K2, would have barely noticed them, let alone been irritated enough to move.

We eventually moved into a new house.  We were the first occupants of this newly constructed house. It  looked pretty and upscale and like a comfortable place to live. But, of course, appearances are often deceiving.

I felt insecure in the house because, unlike most nicer houses in Arusha, this one does not have a block wall all the way around. It has an incomplete wall with a giant metal gate across the front of the compound, and just a wire fence down the long side. I remedied the insecurity by hiring KK Security.

We heard our first bit of gossip about the house one day when K2 was out in the garden. A passing neighbor, who could easily see everything happening inside our compound, stopped to chat. He told K2 that the owner did build a block wall. But it collapsed! That explains the piles of rubble and broken cinder blocks in the corners of the garden. Some neighbors carried off the gate, but it was huge and heavy, so they didn't get far, and the workers found it and brought it back.

Two weeks after we moved into the house, the kitchen sink and the dining room sink (customary in Tanzanian homes so you can wash your hands before you eat) both sprung leaks at the same moment. Lucky for me, at that moment, K2's friend Ali was out in the garden. He managed to stop the leaks by wrapping them with strips of plastic bags. Meanwhile, K2 brought a plumber. The plumber fixed both leaks. As long as he was in the house, I took the opportunity to list my many complaints about the house's  plumbing--which I still imagined might be repaired. His conclusion? All of the pipes in the house are in very poor condition, apparently salvaged from older houses. All of the plumbing is assembled incorrectly. The roof-top water tank would need to be elevated much higher in order to provide adequate water pressure into the house. Hmmm.... At least the sink and shower fittings are pretty.

After the plumber left, I wanted to make tea for Ali and K2. I carried the electric kettle from outlet to outlet. The two kitchen outlets just went, "bzzztt," and provided no electricity. The two outlets in the dining room and sitting room didn't say anything to me, neither did they provide electricity. Finally, the outlet in the hallway worked and I was able to serve tea. And when the refrigerator turns on, the ceiling light in the sitting room dims. So I need to be careful that I'm not standing in water from the leaking kitchen sink when I try to plug the kettle into the outlet that buzzes.

A couple of days after this, K2 was telling  Mama Q, the agent who helped us find the house, about our travails. She told him that our landlord, a married man living in Dar es Salaam with his wife, had sent the construction money to his mistress, who lives in our neighborhood. It was her job to buy supplies, hire workers, and supervise the construction. She skimmed money off the top, by buying used materials and hiring the cheapest workers. That explains why the house looks so pretty, with granite counter tops and shiny faucets and a big sink, but everything you don't see is crap. And why the builders made so many mistakes. So the owner can walk into his house, look around, and see that it's an expensive, modern house with all the amenities. And his mistress made a nice profit.

K2 wasn't expecting to spend many more nights at this house, because he was solidly booked for guiding Kilimanjaro treks until October. But two groups in a row cancelled their treks, and he found himself living in the house. And fixing more plumbing leaks. Then the water stopped flowing inside the house. It's not a supply problem, because the outside tap in the garden has water. The lower tank is full, but it seems that the water is not reaching the roof tank, even though the electric pump is running. And now the lower tank has started leaking.

Workers placed this tank and back-filled around it with very loose, wet dirt during heavy rains a couple of days before we took possession of the house. Before I came home, it was already settling and crooked. Maybe it's crooked enough that it's pulled connections loose. See that lump on the right rib on top of the tank?

It's a snail the size of an apple. Yecch! I don't blame that on the mistress, though.

I kind of wanted to call the landlord and tell him what the plumber said about the old, salvaged pipes and poor workmanship (hoping that he'd reach his own conclusion about his construction supervisor), but K2 wouldn't let me. Too much a breach of Tanzanian manners. 

For those of you reading this from America, you are no doubt wondering why we don't get the landlord to fix the place. For those of you reading this from Tanzania, you are no doubt thinking this man sounds a lot like your landlord. In Tanzania, it's customary for the tenant to pay 6 or 12 months' rent in advance, when you move in. The tenant bears responsibility and the expense of repairs needed during their tenancy. In our old house, we paid a few times to fix electrical problems and plumbing leaks, but it wasn't too expensive. In the new house, it's routine that we paid for the first two plumbing leaks. 

We did call the landlord at one point and talk about the plumbing, and he promised to send over a plumber right away, but he would be the one to call the plumber, because he had somebody special in  mind, and he would pay for everything, don't worry. Of course, no plumber ever showed up. Our previous landlord did that to us, too. Repairs on the scale of those needed here would probably go to the landlord if we pressed it, but since he's already got our money, we've got no leverage. And K2 is not of a mind to spend more of his own time or money or energy on this house. 

So, K2 is abandoning ship. He's looking for another place to live, even as I enjoy the comfort of my American house. Not sure he'll find a place with room for our furniture. Anyone want to buy a tiger-striped sofa?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Saying Goodbye to Friends Among Friends

Living away from home for months at a  time has made me value some things at home that I didn't before. An unexpected one of these things is funerals. A few years ago, I would avoid funerals if at all socially possible. I didn't like to feel sad. My barometer was whether the family of the deceased would notice if I attended or I didn't. Only occasionally would the deceased be a friend of mine. Usually it was an older relative of a friend or an older coworker.

A few weeks after I came home this time, a lovely woman from my small church passed away. I missed my last chance to see her because I was visiting friends in Arizona on the day of the last church service she attended. I talked with her husband on the phone for over an hour. He talked about how beautiful she was, and what a good mother she had been. He told me that her memorial service would happen a few hours after I planned to fly back to Tanzania. I felt such regret. I wanted badly to attend, to be part of the group that would gather around him and offer comfort. The day before the service, I changed my travel plans, for other reasons. I was so happy to attend the memorial service. My old barometer question didn't even occur to me.

A few days ago a former coworker passed away after two years with terminal cancer. His wife was also my coworker. Both were a pleasure to work with. Competent and serious about doing a good job, and always respectful of those with whom they worked. And just fun and nice and down-to-earth people that you enjoy being around. When I originally got the news that he was ill, I got it by email in Tanzania. I felt empty to receive this news while so far from home. Last night I had the gift of attending his memorial service. There must have been more than 200 people there. Again, my old barometer question didn't occur to me. I wanted to see his wife and hug her and say I'm sorry. I wanted to sit surrounded by my former coworkers as we all honored the one we'd lost. During the service, his brother said that his favorite kind of weather had been summer thunderstorms and that, just as he passed away, a wild thunderstorm had erupted. I drove home over a mountain pass  just before sunset . Clouds boiled in the sky, streaks of virga reaching down. The clouds glowed yellow, then orange, then red as the sky darkened. As I topped the summit of the pass, the bright full moon appeared in a an opening. Bright, but blurred by wisps of wild clouds. You know it's there, but it's beyond your reach. I said, "Chip, is that you?" and imagined him bidding all 200+ friends good-bye.

Sometimes you miss stuff when you leave your home. I'm happy that I got to be part of these events here in my home.

Monday, July 11, 2011

South to Tucson and North to Driggs

South to Tucson, Arizona:  the old West, saguaro cactus, posh spas, fabulous Mexican food, and home of one of my most fun friends (and divorce mentor, but that's another story for another time), Tami. After a great visit to Phoenix, I drove the 90 miles south through the desert to Tucson.

Tami has an apartment that's close to her office, which she likes, and downtown, where lots of things are going on, which she also likes. But she doesn't need that settled feeling of being at home, just a place to sleep and store her things. So, eight months in this apartment, and she hasn't unpacked most of her boxes yet.

She suggested we abandon the apartment and check in for the Staycation Special at  Westward Look Resort,  nestled at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains on the edge of town.

Westward Look started as a 1900-era homestead and some of the original adobe buildings have been preserved in the resort center.

Here's the original sitting room...

...and a couple of shots of the original adobe buildings.

Here's the entry to our suite. 

We settled in and considered our entertainment options.

I was craving Mexican food as soon as I crossed the Arizona border. I'd had at least three Mexican meals in Phoenix, but I still wanted more. It's a staple of our diet in the Western U.S. But in Arusha, Tanzania, where I've been living, it's not really available. Arusha offers incredible Indian food, nice lattes and cappucinos, and a decent pizza. A couple of restaurants list Mexican dishes on their menus. The dishes are pretty tasty, but they in no way resemble actual Mexican food. 

Tami tried to reserve a table for dinner at the next new best Mexican restaurant in town, but it was Saturday, so the earliest reservation was 8:30 and I'm not fashionable enough to wait that late for dinner most evenings. She did all of our planning and reserving and cancelling reservations on her new smart phone. Smart phones have appeared everywhere since I left eight months ago. Of course, people were using them when I last was here, but they're expanding and taking over the universe!( Full sleeve tattoos, too--but that's another story for another time). I drove and Tami worked her smart phone and directed me up and down various streets. After one really good lane change, she said, "I can tell you've been driving in another country." That's probably not good! We ended up at Casa Molina, a long-time Tucson favorite. The food was satisfying straight-up Mexican,  nothing nouveau or southwest. Wonderful! Tami pulled out the smart phone again and posted on Facebook that we were there eating Mexican food.

Sunday morning, we reported for the Staycation-included breakfast buffet at Westward Look, but they told us we'd have to wait 20 minutes. Empty tables abounded and it was a buffet line, for crying out loud, but the surly hostess insisted they did not have enough waiters and we would have to wait. Disgruntled and hungry, we headed into town and ended up at the Organic Bakery, which was a great option. Although I was now noticing that restaurant meals cost a lot more back in the U.S. than I was paying in Tanzania. But it was such a treat to go out for Sunday breakfast with a friend because Tanzanians don't eat much breakfast. I have found two (expensive) Arusha restaurants that serve good breakfasts, but I always have to go alone.

Breakfast at the Organic Bakery with company! Yay! Tami struck a dramatic pose, because I'd been showing her Facebook photos of my Tanzanian friends and explaining that they favor dramatic photo poses.

Next stop--shopping at REI, my favorite outdoor gear store. The one in Tucson is really good. Except for this odd clerk that kept following customers around and engaging in way too much friendly conversation. I bought a buff, a stretchy, mosture-wicking,  fabric tube that you can put around your neck, around your forehead under your hat, use as a potholder or washcloth or towel, or...

...wear as a do-rag. This is a more typical exuberant Tami pose.

Back at the resort, we made a weak attempt to go swimming. But the pool was full of splashing kids. We ended up wandering the grounds and enjoying the desert-scape garden.

We saw lots of hummingbirds...

...and bees...

...and cottontails...

...and lizards. The little ones were too fast for me to get their picture, but this six-inch one stopped to glare at me.

The garden included a meditation labyrinth, but we couldn't settle down enough to walk it and be serene.

Monday morning, a friendlier hostess let me into the breakfast buffet. But I had to eat alone again because Tami didn't want breakfast as much as she wanted to sleep in. But I still had engrossing entertainment. I eavesdropped through my French toast and bacon on two men sitting at the next table. One was well-groomed and nicely dressed in casual desert hiker chic. The other had the look of a wannabe gold miner in from a shack in the desert. At first I thought he was trying to sell investments to the nicely dressed man. But it turned out he was the beneficiary of a trust and the beleaguered nicely dressed guy was the managing trustee. Mr. Beneficiary begged for more money. Mr. Trustee explained that he could not increase monthly payout without cutting into principle. Mr. Beneficiary said that if Mr. Trustee would just come and see the horrible apartment in which he's forced to live, he would understand. Mr. Trustee pointed out that he'd already seen the apartment. Mr. Beneficiary went into full manipulation mode and said he'd expected that having a caring relative manage his money would be easier and provide him a better living. Mr. Trustee just let him talk. He'd obviously heard this all many times and, painful as it was, was doing his duty for his crazy brother or cousin or whomever. Man! I felt sorry for Mr. Trustee. I love eavesdropping!

But it was Monday and time to check out. Our Staycation was over. I drove north, heading away from all the beautiful heat and sunshine of Arizona, fingers crossed that the rain had stopped and the temperature had risen back in Utah.

I made it all the way through Phoenix on I-10 and up to Flagstaff without driving like I was in another country. North of Flagstaff, I retraced my route back through the Navajo Reservation. This time, it was a clear sunny day with intermittent road construction.

It's the only place I've ever felt serene waiting for the flagger to let us all go. I rolled down my windows, shut off the engine, and basked in the 20 minutes of hot desert wind blowing through the car. I guess I'm only allergic to the pollen up in Utah.

And then the whole line of cars and trucks was off and up the road. There's so much room out here, that even on a two-lane highway, we all spread out after only a few minutes of driving.

And then I was driving forever through this astonishing landscape of expansive sky and sculpted sandstone soaked in brilliant late afternoon sunlight.

Okay, I really only drove for about two hours. Maybe I just wanted it to last forever. Or maybe it was the eternal nature of the landscape that made forever seem a possibility.

I stopped at this pull-out to take pictures, but I did not let myself go anywhere near those ladies selling jewelry (on the left) since I already have more Navajo jewelry than any one white woman can reasonably wear in a lifetime.

I spent the night in Page, Arizona, a small town that sprang up in 1959 to house all the engineers and construction workers who built the Glen Canyon Dam and created Lake Powell. This is a huge recreation mecca for my fellow Utahns, but I just ate at the Chinese buffet and slept in the Best Western hotel and moved on the next morning without renting a houseboat or going water skiing.

Glen Canyon Dam

A bend of the Colorado River just downstream from the dam.

The view from Page.

The road heading north. I love it out here!

Back in Utah, I took the slow road, US 89, because it's so much prettier than the freeway.

 I've driven past Moqui Cave north of Kanab dozens of times without stopping. It's a cheesy-looking roadside tourist attraction. Every time I passed, I promised myself I would stop next time. This day, I finally did. I'd say it was on my bucket list, but it doesn't seem ambitious enough for that.

 It used to be more cheesy-looking when they had a big fiberglass dinosaur roaring over the doorway. A few years  ago they took down the dinosaur and built this ersatz Anasazi pueblo around the door.

Inside, it's still cheesy, though, so I quite enjoyed it!

During Prohibition, 1920-1933, when it was illegal to sell alcohol in the U.S., the cave hid this bar. They also featured live bands and dancing in a bigger room in the cave. Although the cave is surrounded by small Mormon towns, they still had plenty of customers.

The cave houses a small museum of native artifacts, fossils, rocks and whatever else the owner collected over the years. Some of it would be illegal to collect now, but things were different back in the old days

From the 1930's clear up until the 1990's, many western movies and TV series were filmed around Kanab. Some of the actors were customers at Moqui Cave, and the cave's owner played a few bit parts.

Anasazi, or Ancestral Puebloan pottery.

 Part of the rock collection, polished and sliced and set into glass.

Fossilized dinosaur tracks.

And if you ever find yourself driving around over near Panguitch, Utah, don't stop for lunch there...go a little further to Hatch and eat at the Adobe Cafe. It was fabulous.

I'm sad to say that, although it had stopped raining, it was still quite chilly back in Northern Utah, even if we were fast approaching the summer solstice. I stayed at home for only two days, then headed north to Idaho. At this point, I still planned to return to Tanzania in only a few days, so I was rushing around to visit as many friends as possible as fast as possible. First, up to Driggs, in the cold shadow of the Teton Mountain Range, to visit another friend from the Forest Service, Megan, and her husband Jack.

Megan took me to a scrapbooking party, where I told the hostess/saleswoman that I wanted to make a digital scrapbook of my blog. This particular scrapbook company didn't have anything like that. So I just enjoyed wandering around seeing what everybody else was doing with their low-tech paper scrapbooks.

Here's the view of the Tetons from the front porch of Megan and Jack's beautiful log house out in the country.

See how cold it looked?

In a good year, Megan gets only 60 frost-free days in which to frantically grow vegetables. This year, spring was really late and really cold and really wet. The bare dirt in the mid-ground is her garden at summer solstice. Even the kale died in a late frost. But help is on the way! Jack bought her a greenhouse for her birthday, and as soon as it's warm enough to work outside, they'll put it up on those wooden railroad ties in the foreground.

 The wet, cold, late spring left rivers and creeks running very high, including the one that crosses their access road. A big log had lodged against their bridge. Jack dropped a cable under it, then pulled it up with a grappling hook to make a secure loop.

 Megan directed Jack to creek's edge with one of his several tractors. It's nice to see trust in a marriage!

They hooked the cable over the teeth of the tractor shovel.

Jack raised the shovel and backed the tractor away, dragging the log out of the creek.

Here's the lone sign of summer I saw in Driggs, Idaho--a robin nesting under the eaves of the log house.

I headed to my hometown, Idaho Falls, next, to see my brother and to consult my tax accountant. 

  Idaho Falls is always cold, although not quite as cold as Driggs.

 And Idaho Falls is always windy. My contact lenses were full of dust all the way through high school in this town. I was happy to see that they've found some use for all that wind.

While my brother and I were driving around to see the wind mills, we came across this golden eagle. 

I'm happy to report that the weather is warmer now in both Idaho and Utah. My cousin tells me it's topped 115 degrees F (46 C!) a few times down in Arizona. Yikes! 

A final note: For those of you who are regular readers, I apologize for the long delay between posts and for shutting down the whole blog for a few days, and for accidentally re-publishing a bunch a old posts. I was converting to the new Blogger template and format, and it took me a bit of trial and error (mostly error) to figure everything out. I believe I have figured it out now and Tanzania 5.0 is back in commission.