Pleased to say feeling much better now, ended up spending a couple of days recuperating in Nungwi, Northern Unguja, Zanzibar, which was brilliant. Low season - a combination of holiday dates of countries which go there and the rainy season - makes it very quiet which was fabulous. My little camera ran out of charge, so a couple of pictures from my iPhone:
This is where my room was in Mrarani Beach Cottages. Mrarani means lighthouse, here it is:
Nungwi is a fishing vilage, turtles often get caught up in the nets and, being strictly controlled, are then put in aquaria before being released back in the wild:
In fact, Nungwi hit the international news back in April 2006 when 400 dolphins were washed up dead onto the shore, with no clear reason as to why this had happened. I look forward to returning when able to go fishing, cycling, visiting the local sights, etc., but on this occasion was pleased to be able to read my Kindle and listen to the roar of the ocean.
Anyway, back now. And driving is what's on my mind.
Very privileged to have the exclusive use of a car as part of my contract, and also a petrol allowance. Although, as with so many things, this is not as simple as it sounds. I'm provided with a credit sized card which enables the purchase of petrol from Puma petrol stations - pleased to say that the paperwork is now consistent, when I first received it the petrol stations said Puma but all paperwork and the card I was given said British Petroleum. I hope you agree with me that it is not obvious that these two are one and the same!
A few things I've learnt over the last year or so. When arriving at a Puma garage, do not be totally out of petrol as there is the possibility that they won't have any (about 20% of the time). Produce the card immediately, there is the possibility of being told to go to a different pump (don't question why, really, just don't) or that the system is down. Even if you get beyond this point and petrol is dispensed there is still the possibility that the card won't work, so - never go to buy petrol by card without enough cash to cover the purchase just in case.
Something else I've learnt. If stopped by the police - which happens very frequently - I immediately stall the engine, get out of the car, produce my driving licence and what I think of as the 'log book' (piece of laminated card which stays in the glove compartment) and then greet the police officer like a long lost friend. This normally ensures that I get waved on my way. Do not be in a rush, spend as long as necessary discussing any alleged misdemeanour.
Anyway, let me tell you about yesterday (Saturday). I've made friends at St Andrew's Anglican Church, Magomeni, on Morogoro Road. I'll tell you more about that in a future post, I've played as guest organist a few times and was playing this morning. Of course, everything in Swahili, English would be too simple.
Now, Morogoro Road is THE major thoroughfare out of Dar es Salaam, heading out westwards, Morogoro itself is about 4 hours' drive away. Go East and, of course, you get to the Indian Ocean. Go North and you get to Bagomoyo and the road peters out shortly after - so if heading to Arusha which is North from here, you would head out on the Morogoro Road in the first instance. Go South and you keep to the coastline eventually reaching Mozambique - so, again, to go to most places South you would firstly head out on the Morogoro Road. Not surprisingly, the major coach station, Ubungo, is on the Morogoro Road, which is where I set off from on the way to Iringa back in September.
As you might imagine, this makes the road near the city EXTREMELY busy. A lot of building work has been going on recently, which means in practice that with no warning you go from motorway standard of road to huge potholes. When I first went to St Andrew's I was taken by some Australian missionaries I've met, and was careful to note landmarks for any future trip there. The next time was a Saturday afternoon when I just crawled along for what seemed to be hours - but successfully got to the church. The next time was very early Sunday morning (the service starts at 7am.) when the road was almost clear - which meant that I overshot the turning, it all looked so different at high speed. So, estimating the amount of time it takes to get there is difficult, one needs to assess the importance of being there on time and make allowances accordingly....
I was playing this morning, so went down yesterday to practise at the normal crawl. Which was all fine, up to the point where I had got back to my apartment block, parked my car, gone up to my flat, started to relax - and the door bell rang. It was one of our askari (security guards) - there's a problem with your car, please come down. To get down and find a huge hole in the back window, apparently something had dropped (was thrown?) from one of the flats above. Soon decided it was undriveable except for very short distances when I closed the door and more glass fell out.
OK, need to get to church early tomorrow morning, my car is now out of action, order a taxi to come or just go and take pot luck? Decided on the latter, and sure enough fairly quickly found a taxi driver very keen to give me a ride. In my appalling Swahili told him where I wanted to go - Jui - I know, ie. I know where it is and can direct - shilingi ngapi? - how much? You say comes the reply.
I mean, really, do I have MUG tattooed across my forehead? That he assumes I'll name a higher price than he would? That he immediately agreed implies I was overpaying, ah well, bit of wealth redistribution a good thing, I suppose. So, we head off down, have a conversation in a mixture of my English / broken Swahili and his Swahili / broken English which more or less worked. So, he asks, when are you coming back? Sijui - I don't know, not clear how long the service will last, maybe an invitation for a cup of tea afterwards, which indeed there was. That's all right, he says, I'll wait for you, no extra charge.
Now, I've had this before. As far as I can make out, there are rather more taxi drivers in the city than are needed for the amount of work available. So, in this situation, the driver makes a judgement call that it is better to wait for me for the return fare, even if it is some considerable and indeterminate time, rather than to try to find work from somebody else. No, thank you, that's fine - also, I will have my keyboard with me (took it down on Saturday and left it securely overnight) not sure your car is big enough (saloons rather than hatchbacks are the norm here). I'll wait, I'll wait, no extra charge. Try as I might, I couldn't persuade him not do so - combination of lack of meeting of languages and, I suspect, a certain amount of wilful misunderstanding.
Service was great, my goodness, when friends at St Andrew's get singing the effect is just electrifying. So it came to the time to go back. And indeed, the taxi driver was there. And, try as we might, we couldn't get the keyboard into his car. In the circumstances felt I had to pay him anyway - which annoyed me on one level, after all, I had asked him not to wait! Still, one does what one has to do.
Kindly the vicar provided the church people carrier to take me back - although I was slightly perturbed to turn right onto Morogoro Road rather than left, then to realise that we were filling up with petrol, the van being nearly on empty.
The fact that my car belongs to work means that I'll report the smashed window tomorrow and admin colleagues will take over from there, liaising with the managers of the apartment block if necessary, CCTV shows nothing which implies that whatever caused the smash came from above.
Being here continues to be a huge privilege, this story does illustrate though, that something simple can easily become much more complicated when you're least expecting it. Hope to be writing regularly again, remember, any thoughts on what you'd like to read about gratefully received!