activity burst, classic mzungu, great food, habit change, if you don't pay the bills and then cop out i'm not particularly fond of you, Lake Victoria, marabou stork, Mwanza, NIMR, pikipiki level: expert, shop cats, Soviet Tanzania, street food, Tanesco, Tanesco you suck, tanzania, thirdworldproblems, ugali, Villa Park
Living in Tanzania is a lot like my experiences when I’ve worked in GIS. Sometimes you’re sitting around reading and trying to improve your GIS skills for wont of something to do but with desire to be doing something practical for the job, and then, all of a sudden, your boss comes in with some insane request that you have to finish in exactly two seconds otherwise something horrible will happen. Total foreshadowing by the by.
Followed by this:
So after a relatively staid morning of speed walking to Airtel to get my modem sorted out (the modems here are mobile ‘broadband’). I paid 30000tsh (18.95$) for an “unlimited” plan yesterday. However, the woman who registered it (and gave me a new SIM so I now have a phone when I’m online! Yay!) forgot to put it as a ‘bundle’ which meant that while I got better speeds, they were charging me at a high tariff per megabyte, so I used it mostly up by the morning. So I went and argued with them a little bit and then they agreed to fix it – so they had to go outside, buy almost 30,000 ($18) in credits, charge the credits to the SIM card, and then make the bundle. So it cost them to make the mistake, but they claim to have fixed it. Though now after an initial surge in speeds, mine have dropped precipitously.
I walked all the way from Airtel to the office, lurked around for a bit, and then met for lunch at NIMR. I had mishikaki (meat grilled on a stick – everything is better on a stick), rice, beans and greens. So good. I also obviously had a fruit plate. There was some confusion at the end about payment and I ended up overpaying by about 300tsh (0.20$) but I was so full that I didn’t want to argue. So we walked home and ran into a woman who was selling the most orange and beautiful of carrots, which we plan to eat like rabbits but only after we have a ridiculous photoshoot with them tomorrow. How’s that for a slice of fried gold?
When we got home, we found out that the electric and water bills had to be paid by tomorrow or they’re going to come shut off the power. I feel like I’ve been fairly diplomatic about the whole apartment-being-left-in-a-mess-with-plumbing-issues-and-rotting-food thing (though I haven’t talked with the one responsible), but leaving us with bills of approximately 120,000tsh ($76.50) is not acceptable. It just isn’t. And not telling the people who are moving in, never apologising in person (email or on the phone), and then leading us to this situation or “burst of activity” of the afternoon, where after talking with our neighbour about what to do, I ran outside, hopped on a pikipiki, and drove furiously to Tanesco to pay the electric. Unfortunately the queue was stupidly long and it took forever, but the driver still waited outside. We drove really way too quickly to the water place (in fact we raced another pikipiki on the way), but it was too late. It was closed. I did receive information that you-know-who (i.e. the person who lived here before) has been contacted about the electric and water issue, and I was told not to pay the bills, but obviously I had to, otherwise we would be stuck without electricity or water. I know it would be fine for a few days (candles and bottled water), but it’s also expensive to pay them to reconnect the services as well.
So the next day. I had to wake up really, really early, hop on another pikipiki (I had asked the one from the day before but he wasn’t there early in the morning), and speed like a maniac to the water office before they sent a technician to shut off the water. Other exciting moments on the pikipiki (I found one with a helmet by the way, mum, if you’re reading this) include the moment when we decided driving along the sidewalk to the roundabout was more efficient than turning left, or when we gunned it through some huge bumps in the dirt parking lot, or when the driver was really nice and helped me put on the helmet. Another exciting part was when the pikipiki driver decided to have a race. The water was paid, and after I spent some time at NIMR faffing about, but then on my way home, we got a call that our power was out, but the neighbourhood’s wasn’t. I also received an email from the person who didn’t pay some of the bills instructing me on how to pay the bills. That made me feel a little irritated because the point of my writing and phoning to the administrators was to get this money back, not to know how to pay it.
Tanesco accidentally shut off our electric even though I’d gone and paid it the day before. So, as per my (now usual) routine, I hopped on another pikipiki and drove over there, queued up, went to about 8 different desks before meeting a man who said he’d come with us (though I’d have to pay the taxi – he was very surprised when I told him I had to pay and send away the pikipiki man (1000tsh/$0.63). Then we took a taxi (5000tsh/$3.20 return) and he looked at some stuff and then in the end the building’s fundi, Hamisi, fixed it by just sticking a fuse by our electric meter. I kept the Tanesco man’s number, though, in case I have to complain about something or other in the future.
After the Tanesco saga, we got ready and went out to Villa Park, a sort of restaurant/nightclub/entertainment complex which was a bit far out (I say it because it cost us about 5000tsh/$3.20 to get there). There we met some Germans: Sylvia, Loraine, and Jonas, who were all very nice. They were all studying to be doctors and were working at one of the hospitals here as part of their final studies. I thought it was pretty interesting that German medical students have to go abroad for around one year before returning to practice in Germany. We all ate sort of ‘barbeque food – I had a whole Tilapia, cooked in foil with vegetables (10,000tsh/$6.36) which was pretty nice but way too much food for one person. With it I ate ugali, which is a sort of weird porridgey thing, and a staple food here. Afterwards, we sat around for ages talking and drinking. Then at around 11, we all decided to go home, so we squeezed into a taxi (7 of us) and sped off into the night. Steph and I arrived home first, since we were on the way, and immediately went to sleep, because on Saturday morning, we were going to take the ferry to Ukerwere. I want to write about Ukerwere and show off some of my photos, but I feel like this post is already getting too long, so hopefully I’ll be able to post it tomorrow.
The day before yesterday, Shannan and I went shopping and I exercised my expert market skills and got most everything for under 300tsh ($0.20). For example, for that price I bought four decent sized tomatoes. I got 5-6 okra and 4 small aubergines for 200tsh ( for both! It went fairly well. Then at Protas Shop I used my perfect Swahili to ask where the cat was today (Wapi paka leo?), but it wasn’t there (Protas Shop has a shop-cat). Then yesterday, I did some of my interviews and took a daladala for the first time in Mwanza, which went surprisingly well (400tsh per leg/$0.25). I got some good data and I have those weird tremors you get when after interviews you see potential conflicts, because that makes for interesting analysis, then you feel kind of bad because it’s someone’s life you’re thinking about, and then you just think “As long as I get some data, I’m happy.”
In any case, on to part two of what I wanted to write about tonight. I wanted to write about habit changes. I find as I am here my habits are changing a little, but if I want to really get something done, I do have to push myself. We did end up joining the gym, yes, but with the heat and all of the walking, it becomes more difficult to motivate oneself to walk those two kilometres or so to the gym. But I do it, even though it hurts (though today I couldn’t due to the aforementioned activity burst wherein if I didn’t act, we’d be in the dark and waterless). I want to improve my Swahili so I put myself out there, even if I get some things wrong; I practice for at least an hour every night by doing exercises in the book and listening to the audio. I want to get better at writing, so I’ve started to write one page every day in a journal. I came here not just hoping to do my research and to help on the ground, but as well as a geographical exercise. I’m very fond of the idea of disruption in geography. I think that it’s necessary for any sort of change to be effected, at all scales of space and place. I am drafting a post on this very idea and hopefully some of you will find it interesting (if not I suppose you can skip it).
PS Since I haven’t posted for a while, an explanation: my Internet has become almost unusable so I have to go and shout at some people in bad Swahilenglish and cry a little bit inside. I’ve been trying to post this since last Wednesday or Thursday? #thirdworldproblems