Saturday, 29 December 2007

Christmas in Africa

Different but great. When did it start? Maybe, making the Christmas cards was first – had to make sure I got all of those ready in time to send out! Then there was the Christmas music which a friend sent me to get me in the mood, and Christmas cards and parcels arriving through the post – the latter making an exciting pile filling me with anticipation for Christmas day.

There was the Christmas BBQ at a colleague’s home, where we all gathered for some delicious food (including antelope), while watching the black skies, lightning and rain.

Christmas Eve I went to Beth’s home (close colleague and friend), where we started off the Christmas celebrations by watching a classic Christmas film – ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’. Then I was transported home as I watched a DVD my brother had put together for me, with greetings from friends and family at church – I was laughing (and nearly crying) as I watched, it was so wonderful to see everyone’s faces and hear everyone’s voices.

Christmas Day, after opening stockings we had made each other, Beth and I joined a Tanzanian colleague and his wife for the day – going to church with them and then dining on traditional Tanzanian celebration food: pilau. Pilau is a spiced rice and meat dish (the closest I could compare it too would be risotto). This was accompanied by beef stew, a leafy green vegetable dish and beans, followed by fruit (and the inevitable soda). We had a lovely afternoon chatting together (with the rain pouring down outside) before heading on home before it got dark. The rest of the evening, back at Beth’s, we opened our presents and watched ‘The Snowman’.

Boxing Day, we went with some colleagues to a hotel to indulge in a swim and some good food, including Christmas pudding (a wonderful taste of home).

Thursday I joined other colleagues (colleagues being my main group of friends) on a trip to Matema, on the banks of Lake Nyasa (also known as Lake Malawi). Despite being cloudy, I really enjoyed the beauty of the place, swimming in the lake, snorkelling (getting sunburnt in the process) and the drive home through spectacular scenery, as the sun came out and everywhere shone fresh and green after the rains.

Friday I went on a trip down memory lane as I headed back to Iringa for the day (where I did language school). Went shopping, had a huge slab of hot chocolate fudge cake at our favourite cafĂ© (Neema Crafts) and picked up Karin, who has finally finished language school and has at last moved into our home. It’s lovely not to be living alone any more J

Hope all who read this little Christmas account also enjoyed a wonderful Christmas, and I wish you all a HAPPY NEW YEAR.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Adventures on (and off) the road!

Another two day trip – at least, that’s what we planned (Thursday – Friday last week). First stop Matamba. We reached this little town safely, met with the relevant people and dropped some things off for them, had lunch (in the VIP lounge resplendent with comfy chairs, posters and even a radio which we immediately turned down) and continued on our way. We knew the trip to the second town, Makete, might not be so easy, but the scenery was spectacular as we passed through Kitulo National Park (about 2600 metres above sea level, 8530 feet) – an area preserved particularly for its flowers which were evident all around as the rainy season has begun and turned everything a beautiful fresh green.

However, in the midst of these awesome surroundings we hit a terrible patch of road where we got stuck – grounded. We eventually got ourselves out (digging, jacking, stones etc.) but by then it was too late to continue so we decided to turn round and come back by a track running alongside that bad stretch of road. This went fine until we hit a patch of soft sandy soil where we just kept getting wheel spin and slipping. We tried everything that we could, but failed to proceed, so while waiting for help we kept ourselves warm in the car and watched an episode of ‘The Good Life’ on my laptop (which I had anticipated watching in a comfy guest house in Makete)! Eventually reinforcements arrived in the shape of 3 colleagues, by which time it was dark and cold. They had a go too but also failed and got it stuck even worse than we had! In the end we called it quits and abandoned the vehicle, getting home about 1am. Friday I then returned to the scene with folk from a garage who (after first getting their own car stuck) eventually managed to tow our Land Rover out. Our journey home took us down a road with 60 hairy hairpin bends, but we reached the main tarmac road safely. Surely nothing else could go wrong? Well, just a little hitch – we got a puncture. The garage guys whipped the wheel off and replaced it in no time and we finally reached the office in one piece, to my intense relief!

Monday, 10 December 2007

The travels continue

I spent the first week of December in another of the language areas, travelling around every day to visit different parts. Another beautiful region, very green, farms everywhere growing maize, potatoes, beans, bananas, avocadoes, tea… I drank gallons of tea (which was a challenge as I don’t like it) and soda and ate lots of good Tanzanian food (chapatti, rice or ugali, with beans, green leafy veg, cabbage and occasionally beef or goat meat) – people’s welcome was wonderful to behold. I also had a wonderful taste of home when, much to my surprise, we came across some blackberry brambles!
When using public transport it was scary to watch the conductors running alongside the minibus and jumping onboard, and jumping off again while it was still moving ready to persuade people to use their bus, to take their luggage and help them aboard.

During our travels, we were recording people telling stories in their mother tongue. Despite not being able to understand a word (except for the odd Swahili one that slipped in) it was fascinating to be involved in this and to meet with people of all ages, especially wazee (older people).

Off road

The last two days of November I went on a two day trip to one of the language areas that we work in. It was a beautiful region, very green from the frequent fogs, which also enables the people to farm all year round. I had great fun driving our project’s Land Rover over all kinds of terrain – dirt roads, paths barely wide enough for the vehicle to pass, fields and even a market with sellers hurriedly moving their merchandise out of the way.