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My life under an African Mountain

Updated on July 14, 2011
Why there is a statue of an askari with Water for Life, Lord alone knows
Why there is a statue of an askari with Water for Life, Lord alone knows
People cycle up and down the roads every day carrying water
People cycle up and down the roads every day carrying water
My local supermarket
My local supermarket
Traditional healer selling his medicines on the street
Traditional healer selling his medicines on the street
One of the butchers at the market
One of the butchers at the market

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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    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      9 years ago from Cape Town

      AIDY, not sure about being a brave woman, but definitely a risk-taker!

    • profile image

      Am I dead, yet? 

      9 years ago


      I love how you keep us up to date on your travels. Battle of the insects! Gah, I would have been outta there in a heartbeat! You are indeed a brave woman!

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      9 years ago from Cape Town

      Hey Dolores! The pork was very fresh! On Saturday I went back to that market and while I was waiting, they wheeled the freshly slaughtered pig in on a wooden wheelbarrow!

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      9 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Cindy, thank you so much for answering my question! Your hub is so full of regular life stories of day to day activities! What an adventure! Thank God for your sense of humor. I was thinking about the pork - maybe they don't have to refrigerate it because it is so fresh!?

      Good luck with the bugs.

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      9 years ago from Cape Town

      Thanks Diana, those ants just keep on appearing, dead and alive! lol

    • dianacharles profile image


      9 years ago from India

      the ants gave me the shivers.....hope you find some permanent solution soon. a wonderful narrative. Looking forward to more pix.

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      9 years ago from Cape Town

      Amanda, Sarah and Erick, thanks for dropping by and commenting, watch out for my hub on a visit to a Masai Village!

    • profile image

      Erick Smart 

      9 years ago

      What an amazing life! I have lived in some slightly different places myself and I loved each and every one and want to go back to all of them.

    • Sarah_Callahan profile image


      9 years ago

      Wonderful article...


    • Amanda Severn profile image

      Amanda Severn 

      9 years ago from UK

      Sounds like the next chapter of a great adventure story. You certainly have an interesting life Cindy!

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      9 years ago from Cape Town

      Jaspal, will try and upload the pics this weekend. Visited a Masai village today which was a National Geographic moment.

      Mwaky, I'll have more, jambo bwana! Habari?

      USAPooltoy, thanks for commenting.

      Catherine, I did do a hub called Cindy Vine on Sausages! Get out your sausage machine and make that wors!

    • Catherine R profile image

      Catherine R 

      9 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      Nice to discover you. I too am a sausage making displaced Capetonian. I love the fact that your casings have travelled so far. I hope you will be writing something about your sausage making. My machine is gathering dust in a cupboard so maybe you will inspire me to get it out. In the meantime I am looking forward to reading some of your other hubs and making a Bobotie!

    • USAPoolToy profile image


      9 years ago from Florida

      Informative hub on Africa....


    • mwaky profile image


      9 years ago

      haha! nice lens i from Africa,Tanzania, Dar-Es-Salaam, You have nice stories there thats real Tanzanian life!!!

    • Jaspal profile image


      9 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Most enjoyable hub, Cindy. The narration is so lucid that one can well visualise all that you have written about. But I'd love to see the pics too.

      Take care, and keep having fun!

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      9 years ago from Cape Town

      BP, you better start planning your trip to visit!

      Teresa, have had no power at home the last two days, been pouring with rain all night, but I feel blessed as my house doesn't leak!

    • Teresa McGurk profile image


      9 years ago from The Other Bangor

      Glad you're all settled already and are having so much fun (ok, maybe not the insecticide stuff).

    • blondepoet profile image


      9 years ago from australia

      Wow Cindy what a great life over there you describe. I would love to be there have a break form my high heels and from putting my face on every day lol. Soon as I am up and running I look forward to reading your blog. Wow I am so excited for you. :)

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      9 years ago from Cape Town

      Yeah Shamel, maybe funny to read, but not funny when they're marching up your stairs carrying their eggs!

    • shamelabboush profile image


      9 years ago

      I enjoyed reading your little adventures in this african town. You seem to have much fun! I specially liked the ants episode :) so funny.

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      9 years ago from Cape Town

      Ginn, I have learned that if you don't laugh, then life will get you down.

      Princessa, am off to a Masai village with my class on Thursday, so will definitely write a hub about that!

      Dohn, you can't compare to Luang Prabang, two completely different cultures and way of life. Africa is poor but vibrant, Laos was poor but somehow peaceful in a meditative way.

      Ralwus, I'll make sure no snakes come up my pipe!

      Fastfreta, you are right, you can find out so much from reading hubs.

      Islandvoice, glad my hub brought back happy memories for you!

      Asalvani! Thank you!

      Paradise, I guess Tanzania is exotic in a way, but not exotic to live here lol! You can check out some of my China hubs as well.

      Maggs, the problem with the ants is that the ant spray gives me hayfever, but I guess I'd rather have hayfever than the ants crawling everywhere.

    • maggs224 profile image


      9 years ago from Sunny Spain

      Great hub, great writing and it sounds like a great country even with some of its drawbacks. I am in Spain and this time of year I am battling the ants as well though mine sound a lot smaller than yours.

    • Paradise7 profile image


      9 years ago from Upstate New York

      Cindyvine this is great. You share real experiences from exotic places. I love this. More--more--more! Thank you for taking the time to share, and I'm really looking forward to the pictures, too.

    • asalvani profile image


      9 years ago from London, UK

      Beautiful writing, and instant treat!

    • IslandVoice profile image

      Sylvia Van Velzer 

      9 years ago from Hawaii

      What an adventure! I enjoyed your very descriptive hub thoroughly! Reminded me of certain areas of the outskirt of old Manila, i was nostalgic.

    • fastfreta profile image

      Alfreta Sailor 

      9 years ago from Southern California

      I just love this. This is another stop on the virtual trip I'm taking around the world, vicariously through hubs. I will stop back by to see future photos.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Cindy, I thought maybe you were living with hobbits in the mountain as the title suggests, under. LOL Now you do well and don't let them ants get you at night. Any snakes come up the pipe through your toilet yet? hehe

    • dohn121 profile image


      9 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

      You are on quite a journey, Cindy! It's great to hear you adventures in darkest Africa! I feel like I'm peeking into your diary here! How do you like it in comparison to Luang Prabang? Thank you for sharing this.

    • Princessa profile image

      Wendy Iturrizaga 

      9 years ago from France

      it looks like you are having great fun there buying sausage machines and battling black ants. Not my type of fun i must admit but i love the adventure, it is priceless to be able to travel like that and get to know new cultures, places and food.

      All the best to you cindy, hoping to read more of your adventures!

    • Ginn Navarre profile image

      Ginn Navarre 

      9 years ago

      I love your writing because it is down-to-earth and just telling it like it is! also you have taken me to places that I can not go to. You also put humor into everyday life and I am a big fan of that.

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      9 years ago from Cape Town

      Jerilee, hubs on those topics would be great! The ants are a giant problem!

      Sufi, am giving up with the photos today, the internet is barely being able to send anything. Will try again tomorrow. Am going on a class trip to a Masai Village on Thursday, so will get some great photos then as well!

      Ralph, thanks so much for your comment. I always tell my students, when you read something you have to be able to see the picture in your head. I guess that makes me a very visual person.

      John, romance is always a bit frightening, isn't it?

    • John Chancellor profile image

      John Chancellor 

      9 years ago from Tennessee

      Your life there sounds romantic and a bit frightening. Not sure that most of us could cope with living away from all our comforts. You bring such life to your writings.

      Thanks for sharing your experiences so vividly.

    • Ralph Deeds profile image

      Ralph Deeds 

      9 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      Fascinating. You're writing is vivid. Reading it is almost like watching a movie.

    • Sufidreamer profile image


      9 years ago from Sparti, Greece

      Great stuff - my missus wants to see those - she has always wanted to visit Africa. Maybe one day :)

    • Jerilee Wei profile image

      Jerilee Wei 

      9 years ago from United States

      Enjoyed a peak into your new adventure in life. Will try to do a hub or two on what to do about your ants and other bugs along with how to lessen your risks with meat.

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      9 years ago from Cape Town

      Sufi, have some cool pics will try later today

    • Sufidreamer profile image


      9 years ago from Sparti, Greece

      Sounds like you are having great fun! Wherever you go in the world, there are always Irish, and they like a drink or three!

      Look forward to the pictures - I know what you mean about the slow internet - it is a pain in the arse :D

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      9 years ago from Cape Town

      FP, I miss my friends from China!

      Hmrjmr1 I love the almost lol!

    • Hmrjmr1 profile image


      9 years ago from Georgia, USA

      Ah the good life, Almost made me miss Iraq. (almost)

    • profile image

      Feline Prophet 

      9 years ago

      As engaging a description as ever Cindy! How different life must be from you miss it by the way?


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