So I may have left you, dear reader, in some suspense about future things that I wanted to write about. So a brief account of other things I’ve been up to will follow.
I went to the Hotel Tilapia on the weekend before this one, which is both beautiful and expensive, but it offers a place to relax as a mzungu, since it’s got gated entry, a guard, and a fee to use the (small but nice) swimming pool if you’re not a guest (the fee is 10,000tsh).
Finally was on the shore of Lake Victoria!
We swam and sat in the sun. I read the papers. I like reading newspapers on the weekend. The papers here are fairly cheap, usually around 1000-1700tsh for the English language ones. I think that The East African (once weekly, Sundays) is the better of the English papers. The Guardian has more Tanzanian news but the writing grates me the wrong way, and the articles are fairly long, meaning less variety. I just bought the Sunday News this weekend, but I haven’t managed to get around to reading it, since I got distracted reading Robinson Crusoe on my e-reader today.
I met a new contact at the pool too, who is doing very interesting work on parasites. She told me she would show me a bit around London, once I get there in September. It’s so nice to meet new people.
Another thing about Tilapia is that it probably has some of the best food in Mwanza, though it’s also the most expensive, for Tanzanian standards. I got a lamb curry and a beer, which cost me US$13. It was delicious, and there was enough for another meal.
I had to pay in US dollars because on our approximately 3 kilometre walk to the Hotel, none of the ATMs had any money left. It’s a vaguely Soviet situation, I think, in that the banks run out of money. The ATMs are not restocked on weekends, so going on a Sunday is a bit of a crapshoot. Another interesting thing (which I have yet to photograph) is that each ATM has at least one or two guards outside them, and usually one has a truncheon of some variety and the other has a shotgun or rifle (I don’t know a lot about guns..). It seems a pretty boring job to sit around as a deterrent, but I’m grateful for their presence. The only ATM that has worked for me so far is the Barclay’s on Miti Mirefu st, just past the roundabout.
I spent a lot of this past week in anticipation of meeting with an esteemed professor at NIMR. I did a trial run by walking to NIMR with Esther, and ate at the canteen there, which is cheap. And delicious. You can get a plate with rice, greens, and meat (either chicken or beef) for 1,500tsh ($1), or an amazing fresh fruit plate for 1,000tsh. The fruit plate has popo, watermelon, and avocado usually.
Canteen tree at NIMR
All and all it too is a relaxing place to stay because there is a total lack of people shouting mzungu. It could be because there’s a European project in a building on the same (gated) site, so the wazungu (mzungu plural) prevalence is high. There is a giant tree in the yard of the canteen. One other feature of the canteen is that THERE IS A MONKEY FAMILY LIVING BEHIND IT. I spent some time watching them play around in fascination, since I hadn’t seen any monkeys until that point, even in Dar at the hotel, which had many of them also. They almost look a bit like cats when they run on all fours, and I imagined what a cat would look like with such a long tail. They’re remarkable creatures. One stole a bit of banana and I saw it furtively eating it. Yes, it was furtive. It looked around, took a bite, and kept doing this until it was all gone.
As far as I can tell, NIMR has a fairly long history in Mwanza. There are conference photos dating back to the early sixties, such as this one:
Old meeting photo
NIMR has a very nice campus indeed. The large windows let in so much light.
After meeting with the professor, I headed home. The professor and I talked for several hours at length about a variety of topics, and all in all it was a rather successful meeting. We did discuss my planned work and he offered to help me with some of the critical data collection, since he figured that his presence may allow us more leeway in asking for (cartographic) data at least.
Walking home around that time is a bit hard in some respects because everyone is out for some reason, especially children, who, like the adults, shout MZUNGU or other cheeky things I don’t understand (cheeky because they giggle uproariously after). I just act like this bear:
I don’t mind the shouting as much but I get a little irritated with the cheeky sayings because I’m not sure if they’re laughing at my expense or not. Once my Swahili is better, I can practice my snappy comebacks.
On Friday we did the probiotic delivery to most of the kitchens, though again I missed out on delivering to the 2 to which I hadn’t been, so next week I will finally collect the cartographic data on them, and ask follow-up questions for Kate (my invisible best bosom birthday buddy friend forever). I brought bananas for everyone but realised later I didn’t bring any food for myself. I drank yoghurt at a few of the kitchens and drank my whole Nalgene bottle, but nearing the end of our journey I was starting to feel fairly fatigued, and the others too did notice and inquired as to my well-being. I knew though that we had one more kitchen to go to so I felt like I could keep on going.
On our way to said kitchen, we ran into a little trouble. A school-dala scraped the side of our van and caused a bit of damage in the most inconvenient place possible (a chokepoint intersection). The children were very excited by Kate and I in the van, but at this point I was rather hot and tired and fed up of being in the van, so I didn’t react accordingly. We ended up pulling up the road a little and had to wait for some time for Cele to sort things out with the other driver. I don’t grudge him for it, it was no one’s fault. A drunk man harassed us a little bit, but Stella put up the window when he came back so he didn’t bother us.
The street itself was very mucky, though it had rained heavily earlier that day and the prior evening. There seemed to be a great variety of produce on offer, more so than at the local market (in that it’s all available on one street). There were dried goods like beans and rice as well as fresh vegetables and fruit. We did eventually get going and sort things out at the last kitchen. On the drive back to the main road I flagged quite a bit, and probably looked rather pale once we finally reached the Nyerere road
Muddy market street where we had to wait
I got home and my first thought was that I should:
So I did. And tea revived me a bit, so I went out to buy some meat to cook on the weekend. I ended up seeing Jane, the taxi driver, and her friend, so they took me to a different butcher, which was dirtier and not particularly wholesome looking. I asked for one kilo of beef fillet, though I found what they gave me to be of poor quality indeed – despite having put it in the fridge overnight, most of it was grey when I went to use it on Saturday evening, and much of it was fat and gristle, which I wouldn’t normally protest, but it was covered in odd brown flecks which came from inside the bone – marrow gone bad? I did wash it several times, but it did nothing to reduce the greyness, so I had to cut off what was salvegeable and throw out much of it because I didn’t want to get sick. But then I burnt it, so I didn’t end up eating any.
How beef is sold
I went to sleep shortly after dark on Friday, and slept in until almost noon on Saturday. I made breakfast: green tea ‘latte’ (i.e. green tea leaves and a bit of sugar heated up in milk) and matcha pancakes which didn’t taste at all of matcha but looked pretty cool.
Green tea pancakes, green tea `latte`
Later, I wandered around Mwanza for a bit, going on new streets and vaguely familiar ones. I went to a new supermarket that has better organisation and more selection (which I’ll frequent more often, since the prices aren’t so bad) and bought new bread at the bakery by the Gold Crest hotel. It was a marble bread and quite nice. I also bought a sausage roll to quell my sausage-roll craving. It was quite nice.
As the night fell, the power went out. And it didn’t come back on within a few minutes. In a bit of a panic I ran downstairs and across the street to buy more candles because I’m not good at being prepared. I ended up buying more water, matches, and some candles, then set to putting the candles out in an efficient and cosy way. Thankfully, whoever was here before left many wine bottles. I actually quite like candlelit home, since it reminds me a bit of childhood – the power seemed to go out more frequently back then at home, and I loved doing things by candle. As a child, I almost relished the power going out and I hoped for it, even if it did mean that we had no water.
It gets so dark here at night – there isn’t really any street lighting here apart from what private building owners put up. Now I strain to remember how it is downtown, but I think that there still aren’t really any streetlights but there is more private lighting. It must be dangerous to drive, and it’s probably also one of the reasons we shouldn’t go out after dark – risk of being run over.
Cosy and messy deskspace
I have to admit I did also bring an LED torch/lantern that proved helpful. I decided to check my email. Only in Tanzania can you have a decent (mobile) broadband internet connection while the power is out. Though interestingly, most of the shops and so forth have backup generators (they have them at NIMR too, and they kicked in at least two or three times when the professor and I were talking, and the generators there are absolutely necessary to preserve scientific samples). The generators appear to kick in automatically, though I’ve no idea how.
I had resolved myself to return to the pool at Tilapia, but I felt poorly on Sunday morning so lay in again. I left the house only to fetch more water and some vegetables. Tonight I cooked something out of dried fish. First I fried the fish a bit in oil, and then I made a sauce, which I tossed the fish in over the heat. Then I stir-fried some vegetables with a bit of soy. Finally, I scrambled a bit of egg with paprika, and put the lot on a big pile of rice. Probably too much food, to be honest, but it was pretty good, even if the eyes were a bit disconcerting.
The sauce was made of a minced garlic clove, about 20g of unprocessed cane sugar, soy to cover that, green pilipili (chili) sauce (a fair squeeze), a few drops of fish sauce, and a big spoon of mango chutney (I know, not the proper use for chutney). It was pretty good. I wish I’d have had some sesame to put in it, but I haven’t seen any yet at the shops.
It’s bedtime for me, so I’m going to bid you farewell and promise another Los Angeles post soon.