Saturday, 27 October 2012

A haircut and the seven times table

Saturday October 28th

Surprise surprise, seven weeks away from home and my hair has grown.  It’s by no means long, but it has grown to the extent where really I should use a mirror when brushing it, which, as mentioned earlier, I haven’t got.  So, it was a case of buying a mirror or having my hair cut and the latter was by far the cheaper alternative and seemed the more sensible.  Pangani it is then!

As Denis totally shaves his head, I decided I would avoid his barber, but Mama Gladness recommended ‘The Salon’ in the market place, so off I trotted to the end of the road to find some means of transport into Pangani.  I’d barely been there five minutes when a vehicle appeared out of the track next to me with a muzungu driving and presumably his wife sat next to him.  It had obviously come from either the tented lodge or one of the few houses down there and putting on a winning smile I nodded at the driver.  He, being equally friendly, raised his hand in a wave, turned towards Pangani and drove off.  I’m glad Mama Gladness wasn’t around because I’m sure my comment would have been enough for a life ban from the YMCA.

Dala dala, motorbike or basi; which would come first?  In fact, after only another five minutes, I sampled a new form of transport.  A Toyota pick-up truck hove into site and as it approached it flashed its lights, which I took as a friendly gesture and not a demand that I clear away from the road, so I waved it down. Its driver was a Tanzanian with what looked like his whole family in the back of the vehicle and they made room for me as I vaulted over the side of the truck and settled on the floor.  Possibly vaulted is too strong a word but I must defend myself and say that, for a man of my advanced years, my entry was reasonably athletic.  It transpired that he was going over the car ferry and on further south so I hopped out, a bit less athletically, when we reached the town and was left with the decision as to whether I would go to the stationers to print photos first or risk the barbers.  In the end it was to be neither, as I entered the stationers I found the fan motionless on the ceiling and the computers quiet, for lack of, you’ve guessed, electricity.  When I reached the market place, the barbers too was closed, for the same reason, so all that was left was to hop a Dala Dala and head home, only to find half an hour later that the power had been restored. T.I.A.

The previous evening a new guest had arrived in a Safari vehicle which he was using to transport a German couple down to Dar es Salaam.  They were staying a couple of days at the £50 a night tented lodge next door and he had come to join the less affluent of us at the £8 a night YMCA. As I sat outside my room, rueing my wasted journey, he came out from the next door room and informed me that he was going into Pangani so I hitched a ride with him to have a second go.  I had 50% success as the printer in the stationers had run out of coloured ink and the boy who runs it didn’t seem to have a replacement that worked, but at least, as I entered the market place, I saw The Salon had reopened for business.

Your local friendly barber spoke no English at all but luckily I still had a spare from the passport photos I’d had taken to open my Barclays account, so I pointed to my head, pointed to the snap and offered up a prayer.  He obviously thought it hilarious that a muzungu had come to his shop and my attempts at Swahili did nothing to assuage his mirth.  I took all this in good part until he came out with the only English he seemed to know which was one, two …………nine, ten.  I was on safer ground here so I showed off my numbers by counting to twenty, but this brought even more laughter from him as he obviously thought my accent was funny.  Right, this is war.  Numbers are my business, so I quickly rattled off the seven times table in Swahili up to 28 and pointed at him to add the next number.  After much thought and deliberation he came out with his answer ‘thelathini na nne’ (34).  ‘Hapana’, says I with a smirk on my face, “thelathini na tano”!  One up for the Brits, I thought, as I paid my 80p and left before he tested me again with “Anything for the weekend?”.

Dala dala home, where I had to parade round to have the crop assessed by Mama Gladness, Eva, Vicky, Lucy and Deo.  The general consensus was ‘nzuri sana’. 

Being spoiled last week in Dar has, I’m afraid, exposed again the culinary limitations of my abode, so I decided that with a new haircut and my best ‘bib and tucker’ I’d once again go and join the toffs next door for a meal.  I checked that their set menu for the evening was not fish, counted the money in my ‘pochi’ and set out across the woods, torch in hand, for my bit of luxury.

The Dining Room at the Tented Lodge

The meal was as I had hoped and I found myself sitting at a table with a couple of ex-pats from England who lived in Tanga and seemed to have spent their lives bringing up a family in Nepal, MonteNegro, Sri Lanka….. The list seemed to go on for ever.  They were a friendly couple and a pleasant evening concluded with a genuine offer to stop over anytime I wanted at their home in Tanga.  As this opens up the possibility of an early morning high speed luxury coach journey to Dar for my next blood test, I might well take them up on the offer.

Back through the woods, made no easier by the two large glasses of Merlot inside me, and, after the obligatory fumigation and ten minute wait for the air to clear, I climbed into bed a contented man.


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