My life under an African Mountain
Read more Cindy Vine!
ants, aliens and shadows on the wall
This is definitely my kind of life. You don’t have to dress up here and totter around on stilettos and wear make-up plastered all over your face. The dust will destroy any look you are trying to go for, would stick to the make-up and stilettos will cause you to break a neck walking on the uneven dirt roads. So here, you dress for comfort which is what I’ve always done. It always seemed so out of place in societies where women dress up to the nines and are all out to impress. Me, I could never be bothered to impress anyone. This is me. Take it or leave it. But, when I went to Arusha this weekend, I didn’t only buy an electric mincer/sausage machine. I also bought a handy dandy mirror on a stand. Having no mirror in the house, I had resorted to brushing my hair in the morning by looking at my shadow on the wall. I figured out, if I turned the light on and stared at my shadow on the wall, I could easily see any stray tufts of hair sticking up in strange places at odd angles.
Back to my electric mincer. What an absolute pleasure, so much easier than a hand machine. I still have a big box of sausage casings I bought in China, that went by ship to Cape Town and then flew via KLM to Moshi, Tanzania. I think my sausage skins have travelled more than a lot of people in the world. Bright and early this morning, hardly able to contain my excitement, I headed to the market area on the Dar es salaam road, to track down some pork. I bought a little guide yesterday of Swahili phrases, and practised before hand how to ask for pork. Nyama ya nguruwe. I can do beef and goat as well in Swahili. As most of the little supermarkets in town are owned by Indians, none of them stock pork, and I really needed pork for my sausages. I found the area where they sold the meat. Nothing like most people had ever seen before. Tiny little dark rooms with a serving hatch, door and dead carcass hanging from a hook. No refrigeration at all, just blood splattered floors and walls from long ago kills, and a big wooden tree stump as the chopping board. No meat saws or sharp knives. No aprons or hair covered by a hat. Just a man with a machete, which he wielded with frightening force, splintering bone and sending shards of it in many different directions. I looked at the scene before me and debated whether or not to go ahead and buy the meat. People were queuing up to buy meat. They all looked healthy, so I thought, yeah, let’s give it a go. Be a risk-taker. I ordered 3 kg of pork and asked for it to be without bone, and used sign language and sound effects to explain that I was going to use it to make sausages. No problem, he slashed at the carcass with the machete, chopping it cleanly in half, the bottom half falling on the floor marked with year-old blood stains, and thankfully took down the remaining part still attached to the meat hook for me, which he chopped a huge chunk of boneless meat from. The scale was the old one with weights. I’m sure I’d seen one like that in a museum before. I first asked for mutton and he said I had to buy it from the butchery in town. Very pricey they are, as the mutton is imported from Kenya. He asked if goat would do and I said sure. So, he directed me to another stall that sold only goat meat. Same procedure there, and that guy directed me to another stall that sold beef. I was pleased I’d worn my trainers as I trudged up and down rocky sandy paths.
You’ll be pleased to note that I washed the meat thoroughly and got rid of all the bone fragments and other strange bits, before I minced it, added the boerewors spice and stuffed the casings. Siobhan and I had a BBQ and cooked a small piece of beef, pork and goat steak I’d put aside, as well as my boerewors sausage which was freshly made with all three kinds of meat in it. It was delicious, one of the best I’ve ever made. It’s now four hours later and we still feel healthy, so obviously the meat was okay. Will see how we are in the morning, before I offer any to other people.
Then of course, I have the ants. Large army ant types. The ones that march up your stairs to find a new home in your bathroom. Last Friday afternoon, when I got back from Arusha, my gardener, Kabelo, was waiting for me. “Little dog, little dog,” he said frantically, pulling my arm to follow him behind the house. I immediately thought that someone’s dog had escaped and he’d tied it up in my back yard. Unfortunately, it was not a dog, but a writhing mass of black army ants. “Spray all gone, spray all gone,” Kabelo said waving his arms wildly, “In bathroom, in bathroom!” This was my welcome back from Arusha. Streams of ants, carrying their eggs, all marching up my stairs to make a new nest in my bathroom. I quickly nipped down to the local supermarket a 3 minute drive away, and bought some cans of insect spray, went home and indulged in a spray frenzy, which has given me hayfever. I thought I killed them all. However, Thursday I went to the toilet and happened to glance at the wash basin, which looked like it was covered in black fur. It was totally covered in heaving ants, so that you couldn’t even see the white of the basin. I pulled out a can of spray and completely annihilated the enemy. When I managed to wash most of their dead lifeless bodies down the plug-hole, I noticed that they had succeeded in making their nest in the hole above the plug in the porcelain, so they were actually living inside the washbasin! Persistent little blighters! I sprayed directly into the hole, and like the serial killer that I was, watched them come out of the hole to die. I thought that was that. Ant problem sorted. Last night, Siobhan went into the bathroom, to find the wash basin looking like it was covered in black fur. More ants, more spary. Hope this will be the last for a while. Murder is not really my thing. Although I have absolutely loved watching Bones second series every night. I think it’s better than CSI, and I was devastated when I finished the last episode last night. There’s a great restaurant in the street next to us called El Rancho. Although the name seems to suggest that they sell Mexican food, they don’t. Strictly Indian, but the most delicious Indian food ever.
We had a bit of an alien invasion on Wednesday night. Siobhan went to her room and there were all these brown things hanging down from her window sill. Closer inspection showed that it was made of sand and white eggs, and fat worms were moving around, waving themselves like tentacles. Very creepy. It definitely looked like a scene from one of the alien movies. I took photos and showed the maintenance guy at school who thought they were some kind of termite trying to set up a colony, which means they must already be living in the wall. Our bedrooms are on the second floor, so tunnelling inside the wall was the only way they could have brought the sand up. Paulo, the maintenance man drilled little holes in the window sill and went crazy with the spray, resulting in Siobhan and I both waking up with chronic hay fever at 4am! I told him he should have put us up in a hotel, and he replied that the inside spray was only poisonous to the insects. The outside poison he’d used was the one very toxic for humans. Charming.
Saturday, I also bought more veggie seeds. We ate some home-grown spinach last week and again tonight and I’m really getting into this home-grown organic vegetable way of life. I’m beginning to feel like a farmer, and I love it! Had a bath this morning to scrub my feet. Unbelievable how filthy they were. Showers don’t clean them properly, especially when you have a shower like ours that gives a slow trickle of about 10 drops a time! We had no power Thursday and Friday night, so no hot water. Power cuts are a way of life here and you get used to it. We have candles handy, and I bought a flashlight in Arusha so that I can find my way to the front door if I get home and there’s no power. Nearly broke my ankle the other night as didn’t see a rock and completely missed the step. Life is definitely never boring.
Finally had my car fixed. It was doing this annoying thing of not starting reliably and sometimes being dead that you couldn’t start it at all. My guess was the starter motor which proved to be right and luckily just needed minor repairs. However, now that that is sorted, I’m struggling a bit to get the car going in the mornings. The engine turns no problems, but it seems to be struggling to make a spark. Eventually, after about 10 minutes if takes. So now I’m thinking, probably the points. Think the gap isn’t right. The poor gardener, Kabelo, washes my car several times a week but it is all in vain. I live down a very bumpy dusty road, and the minute I drive 10m from my gate, the car is already covered in fine red dust.
I’m really loving working at the school, it’s very laid-back and the kids are great. The management here are terrific. The internet is a bit sporadic, and I’m waiting to ‘hopefully’ get internet at home the coming week. The guy who installs things is in no rush, and I might have to fetch him from town. Did I tell you that we live just out of town in the supposedly upmarket area called ShantyTown? Haven’t seen any shanties, so not sure why it’s called that! Oh, and even the local little supermarket down the road has a huge selection of South African wines and bottles of apple cider, so I am in my element! Friday night I went to an Aloha Party run by the student PE teachers from Ireland. I went with the intention of showing my face and staying for half an hour tops, as I needed to be up bright and early to drive the hour and a half to Arusha the next morning. Big mistake. They persuaded me to try their punch which was delicious but lethal. More alcohol in there than anything else. So I tried the sangria which was even better, but made the mistake of eating the fruit. Five big plastic cups of sangria and one of the punch, and I regretted not sticking to coke all the way to Arusha the next day when I drove with a pounding hangover.
Photos will still be added, internet is too slow today to upload all the photos, so please be patient and visit back here!
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