Saturday, 3 November 2012

I spy

Saturday November 3rd

I don’t imagine for a minute, in this day of Ipods and Nintendos, that they are still printed, but when I was young there was a series of books called ‘I Spy’.  There was ‘I Spy British Birds’, ‘I Spy Cars’, ‘I Spy Trees’ and many many more.  It was a bit like train spotting, where the book contained all the likely varieties of the object in the title and you ticked them off as you managed to see them.  A great way to fill time on a long car journey.  If they are still in print I am going to write a new one called ‘I Spy Passenger Vehicles in Pangani’. 

Knowing by now that Saturday morning is cleaning day, I strolled down to the end of the track at 9:30 to hopefully get a lift into town.  So far in my book I have ticked off ‘Daladala’, ‘Pikipiki’ (motorbike), Big Basi, Medium Basi, Pick-up truck and then today I saw for the first time, what could rapidly become my favourite.  As can happen anywhere, it was the old story, you wait for twenty minutes and then two come at once.  In the distance I could see what looked like the Shillingi VIP Basi just behind a Daladala.  As the latter stopped further down the road to drop somebody off I was pleased at the thought that the basi would arrive first and, even if I had to stand, I at least wouldn’t be bent double for the journey to town.  In the event the basi driver smiled and drove past so I was left with the only alternative and waved down the smaller vehicle.  What a surprise, I thought, as a folding door, in the middle of the side facing me, opened up and I boarded to find a spacious twenty seater with spare seats.  I mentally ticked it off on my list next to the page I still hope to fill when a car actually stops.

Civilised Travel

In Pangani I shrugged off the helpers, bought a bottle of ‘maji baridee’, and set off towards the stationers to see if his printer was back in business.  I’m becoming more used to the avenues and alleyways of Pangani so managed to reach my destination by close to the shortest route, only to find that there must have been a lot of cleaning to do today, as it was 10:20 and it was still padlocked up.  There is a seat built into the wall next to the shop so I decided to rest and drink some of my cold water whilst waiting for opening time.  Three little boys appeared from the next door and started jabbering away in Swahili, so I had to stop them and explain with, accompanying hand signals, that my Swahili was ‘ndogo’ (little).  They disappeared inside again, where there must have been someone who understood more English, and when they reappeared, the one with the cheekiest grin said, “What you want?”  I replied “Stationers”, which is what it said over the door, and he giggled and shot back into the house.  The next door was open and obviously whoever was inside could hear our conversation and, as I have said, knew a little English. The conversation continued as, in a mixture of the two languages, I ascertained that it was shut, which I had noticed; that he wouldn’t be long (TIA?); that it was hot etc etc. All this from a little mite who must have been 5 or 6 but whose infectious smile and flashing eyes certainly brought a smile to my face and filled the time well under the proprietor finally arrived.

My little interpreter is the one on the right

When the owner arrived and started to unlock the shop he informed me that, yes the printer was able to print in colour again but – alas, there was no electricity.  As this was a repeat of my previous visit I took his number and said that I would check with him before returning as we didn’t know the extent of the area without ‘umeme’.  I then set off up the dusty road back to the market where I was hoping to buy some vegetables.

I wandered through the market, an experience in itself and one I must pluck up the courage to photograph for you, until I found a stall that seemed to cover all my needs.  I had bought a kuku, some peas, ginger and garlic in Tanga yesterday and Halima, the housekeeper at Cliff’s friends, where Denis lives and works, had agreed to cook the pair of us a meal.  All I needed was some potatoes, tomatoes and onions.  I asked the price of mbatata(potatoes) and was told that it was Tsh 1200 per kilo but, never being good at estimating weights, I asked for the scale pan to select the amount we would need.  This I did and passed it back to the stallholder, but, when she put it on the old style balance, she only seemed to possess two weights and as neither of these balanced my selection, she took one of the potatoes off and threw it back onto the pile.  This seemed to defeat the whole idea so, with a wrist flick that Michael Jordan would have been proud of, I picked the potato up and threw it back into the pan.  This produced laughs all round but we finally agreed a price for all my purchases.

I left the market and walked into the square past the scene of my previous embarrassment, that still makes me squirm, and I noticed that the barber was open for business.  Even with my limited Swahili I was able to question my new found friend for life and found out that the electricity had come on five minutes previously and when a phone call to the shop confirmed this, I retraced my steps across town and got my print outs, closely watched by my little band of interpreters.

A slight detour to give the sewing machine operators their 'picha' and it was back to the market place where I decided to negotiate with a 'pikipiki' rider for a lift back to the YM. Although he came down from his original Tsh 3000, he stuck at two and as I was only offering Tsh 1500, I decided to board a Daladala for Tsh 500 to show I meant business when I haggle.

In the afternoon my students from Boza turned up again, in larger numbers, for some more volleyball.  This time though it was much more organised as Hillaly took them through a series of exercises to practise basic skills before they actually played a game.  My involvement was limited this time as I had to get a shower and get changed for my meal out, but they were still obviously enjoying it as I shouted goodbye and set off, with my box of wine (also purchased in Tanga), my trusty torch and some beers for Denis.

I’d planned to arrive early so that I could see Halima before she left to go home at 6:00, so she showed me what the meal was and left instructions to warm it up and I settled with my Kindle and a glass of the red stuff on the veranda with a view over the ocean. Bliss.

The meal, pea and ginger soup followed by chicken with roasted tomatoes and jacket potatoes, was well worth the shopping trip and Denis and I spent a very pleasant evening discussing, would you believe, the British parliamentary and honours system.  I had decided to return through the woods as the steps to the beach from Denis’ are a challenge in daylight and in the moonless night, with a couple of large glasses of Penasol  Rouge, a possible death trap, but Denis insisted on giving me a lift back on the his motorbike, so a good day ended safely.


1 comment:

  1. Great blog, great photos Stuart. It sounds like you are having a fantastic time. Best regards, Mark Las Palmas