Archives for July 2003 (33)

Buying the butter knife

Categories: Tanzania
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Published on: July 31, 2003

Brad bought a Masai knife (what he calls a butter knife) at the market. The guy selling them was making scabbards from leather as we watched, whilst a small child with a stall next to him did the same. They got through a few. The knives seemed to made from pangas that had been ground down with knife sharpeners to the “butter knife” shape. There were also smaller knives, which I was assured where for cutting vegetables – I think this might have been a challenge of manhood though… Is your knife big enough for meat?

A stack of translucent belts lay on the ground – I was told they were made from cow. I asked if they came from the tongue which caused lots of laughter after it was translated for the growing audience.

I got a picture, as we agreed it with the knife maker…

Ngaramtoni Market

Categories: Tanzania
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Published on: July 31, 2003

Brad at TechnoServe wanted to check out the real Masai market in Ngaramtoni, (or “Goddam Tony” as his grandmother apparently read it in an email he sent) so we headed down on Sunday to have an explore.

There are two Masai markets in Ngaramtoni – the goods market where people sell second hand clothes, kangas, flip-flops etc, and the cattle market. Now last week we had a fun time haggling loudly over kangas at the goods market, so we didn’t hang around there for very long this week. Besides, the cattle market is a bit more Masai. We headed there.

About 100 men stood around with cows and goats in a dusty clearing surrounded with ramshackle huts and shacks. A cow cost about TSh200,000/- about $200. Plus there is Tsh1,000/- tax per cow bought which lead to at least one fight we saw there between purchaser and tax man.

Most of the Masai stood around in less than traditional gear, though there were a few newly circumcised lads in their black kitenge with white dots painted on their faces hanging around in typical teenage lad groups. We also saw one guy whose big dangly pierced ear lobe was looped over the top of his ear..

The market was strangely quiet – I had expected it to be a lot more hectic, but people just shuffled around checking out the cows, and most deals seemed to be negotiated very quietly. I did see a few people squirt milk from an udder onto their finger then taste it – I don’t know if this was to ascertain the quality of the milk or merely to quench thirst…

Unfortunately we were unable to take many photos, since the Masai are legendary for not enjoying having their pictures taken – I can respect this, especially when being chased by 200 butter knife wielding Masai might be the result of casual snapping. I did try and take one picture of the market from a distance, but tried to look as if I was doing something else and the result is not that great.

Into the jaws of corruption

Categories: Tanzania
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Published on: July 31, 2003

Today I feel a bit dirty after handing over $200 to an immigration official along with my passport in order to get another three months of tourist visa. It seems that indeed, foreign women with jobs here are not legally able to bring husbands with them, despite contrary information on the Tanzanian national web site – seems spouse just means wife in Tanzanian English. Can this really be true? I am trying to obtain confirmation in writing.


Categories: Tanzania
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Published on: July 30, 2003

Did I mention that Shado was pregnant? Well, she had a couple of puppies over the weekend. She is not a great mother – still spends a lot of time running around and barking – a mere puppy herself really.

Who is the father – Droopy? We shall be keeping an eye open for genetic traits…

More fridge wonderment

Categories: Tanzania
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Published on: July 30, 2003

Yes, the fridge certainly is exciting. Here it is full of bottles of cold water. Refreshing!


Categories: Tanzania
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Published on: July 30, 2003

So here is a photo of our new fridge. Doesn’t seem that exciting, but we both spent a couple of days marvelling at the fact that we can get hold of ice now!

Illegal Alien

Categories: Tanzania
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Published on: July 30, 2003

Well, yesterday our tourist visas ran out, and Yuki got her residence permit – without me on it as a dependant. Now the immigration department is insisting that a woman cannot have a husband as a dependant, only the other way around. I can’t believe Tanzania is so backward.n Is it really that way, or is someone looking for a backhander?

Not sure how we are going to deal with this. I might have to leave the country and come back in, but what will they say when get to immigration and I have over-stayed.


How to buy a computer

Categories: Articles
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Published on: July 26, 2003

I am regularly asked my advice about buying computers. Here are the issues I think are worth considering if you aren’t a computer whiz, but want a decent computer.

Why buy a computer

The first thing to consider is why you want a computer. This will help you set your budget and choose a specification and any extras to meet your needs. If you are not sure why you want to buy a computer, get one that matches some minimum specifications. It will be capable of many things and will set you on the road to learning more. Here are some minimum specifications for different purposes, and basic explanations of what the different specifications mean:

Basic Home/Office Computer
  • Pentium III 500Mhz Processor (This describes the model of processor and how fast it is)
  • 128Mb RAM (This is the computer’s memory, which indicates how many things it can do at one time)
  • 10Gb Hard Drive (This is the space you have for storing files and programmes)
  • 15 Inch Monitor (Any smaller than this is uncomfortable to look at)
  • CD-ROM drive
  • Floppy Disk Drive
  • Keyboard and Mouse
This is the absolute minimum when getting a new computer. A computer with these specifications will enable you to write documents, manage your accounts and run simple databases.
Graphic Design Workstation
  • Pentium 4 1GHz processor
  • 256Mb RAM
  • Graphics Card with 32Mb RAM built in
  • 30Gb Hard Drive
  • 17 Inch Monitor
This is a minimum specification for a computer that will be used for a lot of graphics work – designing business cards, touching up photos and designing web sites etc.
Games Machine
  • Pentium 4 1.5GHz Processor
  • 512Mb RAM
  • Graphics Card with 64Mb RAM built in
  • 50Gb Hard Drive
  • A sound card for playing music and hearing the baddies scream!
  • 17 Inch Monitor
Computer games are probably the most demanding programmes you will ever run. If you want to play the latest, most exciting games you will need a more powerful machine.

It is possible to buy the most basic computer and add more memory, a bigger hard drive or better graphics card if and when you need a higher specification. Changing the processor is more complicated, so if you really want the Games Machine you will probably have to buy that straight out!

How much should you spend?

The above specifications are all rough minimums. Selecting a computer from the above list will help you decide your budget, as will how much you can afford. Do not be tempted to spend much more or less than your budget- any computer is expensive, so don’t disappoint yourself to save a few shillings!

The Basic Home/Office Computer might cost $400-500. The Graphics Workstation might cost $700-800 and for the Games Machine you are looking at over $1000.

Do not stop just yet when it comes to your budget and specifications. A new and better model may be available for the same price. There are also extra’s you will almost certainly want.


You might consider upgrading to a bigger monitor – while you use your computer you look at the monitor the entire time. A bigger one is more comfortable to work with, and paying a little extra for even an extra 2 inches is well worthwhile.

Chances are you want to get online to read email, surf the web, and download all the nasties I always warn about. In that case you need a modem or another device for connecting.

You almost certainly need a printer, especially considering the hassle and huge cost of taking floppy disks into internet cafes in town to print.

Operating System

Another important consideration is which operating system to have installed. Windows comes in a number of flavours – 98, ME, 2000 and XP. Be warned that 98 and ME are rather old now. Microsoft will be phasing them out in the next few years – if you can afford to get 2000 or XP you are wise to spend a little more.

Useful Tips

Look at what is available on web sites like this will give you an idea of the prices people pay in America, and what specifications are currently available. Tanzania is not very far behind on price or the latest models!

Some shops add a lot of extras, some of which are nice, others you don’t need. If you will not be connecting to the internet by dial-up you don’t need a modem – ask to swap it for something else, like a wheel mouse.

Make sure that your computer comes with installation CDs for all the software and especially the operating system – you may need them to install things in future, or fix things if they start acting a little odd. You should at least get pirated CDs along with the pirated software. You are paying for it whether or not the money is going to the original programmers!

Also make sure you check out special offers in the shops – many bundle together a computer, printer, speakers and other goodies for a very attractive price.

Make sure you know how to get the computer set up! The shop assistant should be able to show you how to get it up and running.

Once it is up and running, don’t forget to enjoy your new toy! Explore, and don’t forget – it is just a very fancy calculator.

Originally published in Arusha Times 280

So where was I

Categories: Tanzania
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Published on: July 23, 2003

Oh, yes – I was trying to relate how much of our excitement has faded as things become more familiar. Mind you – that could be an excuse for laziness when it comes to updating the site. Or just adding photos on the run…

Kim didn’t have any trouble at the bus station – which doesn’t really make for a very exciting story. She didn’t even have any nasty parasitic wounds like Frank did.

Once again I am sitting on the balcony at TechnoServe’s Arusha offices on Themi Hill – traffic thuds into the potholes and speed bumps on the road beyond, with the occasional crunch and tinkle of bottles as a truck leaves with its consignment from the nearby Pepsi bottling plant. Birds tweet in the trees and there is a light breeze. A beautiful sunny day.

But I am sitting amidst dust which is kicked up by the road and turns my bogeys black and grey.

Where was I…

We have moved into Mary’s…servant’s quarters I guess you would call it. Picture attached. That is me in the hammock – gift from The Prostate Cancer Charity which I am finally using! Some fundis knocked together that frame for it.

Four rooms – Bedroom, Front, Kitchen and Bathroom. The bathroom and toilet open directly onto the kitchen… For this we pay $150 a month.

On Saturday we bit the bullet and bought a fridge. Swallowed up all the money I have earned so far in Tanzania – but Mary will get to keep it when we leave, so there is a month’s rent in the fridge. How much does one pay for a fridge in Tanzania? We paid $340 for the fridge then an extra $25 for a voltage regulator to stop it blowing up or something. Eek.

After that spend we are still on the lookout for a car. Jongo has found us a couple of cars to look at – one of which he assures us is a racing car that seats six. Not sure about that. The other is a more respectable sounding Toyota Mark II. Then the folk up at Uru have tracked down a Startlet, but it is a bit chinese whispers, in that I haven’t yet been given the phone number of the person selling it, and have instead had lots of instructions of calling various chaggas. May be seeing this elusive and tiny car on Friday – surely the dik-dik of the automotive world. Yuki found a Landrover 109 ex British Army Ambulance on sale which we will check out tomorrow – it has beds in the back – may be the safari vehicle of our dreams… Or just another step closer to bankruptcy and feeding ourselves to the hyenas… Having seen a picture of one of those on the website linked to above – I must have!

Slapping of wrists, but not enough time…

Categories: Tanzania
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Published on: July 21, 2003


Frank slapped my wrist for not writing enough on this web site… Thing is we have been here for just long enough to forget that most things we see are strange and interesting. It has all become a bit normal so the urge to rush and get online to share has faded (not that Yuki has come up with what she wants on her website at all yet…)

So what is going on. And what is interesting at the moment.

I write this sitting on the balcony at TechnoServe. I decided it was better to work outside than in the incredibly dusty offices of this particular NGO. Set up Yuki’s computer with the wireless card and a regular network connection, so I could probably go and sit in the garden. Mind you, something is burning in the garden, and it doesn’t smell particularly legal to me, so I don’t know how much I would get done if I did that.

Right now I am trying to get rid of the dodgy spyware that has somehow made it onto the computer I wiped clean about a month ago. Someone has been visiting web sites of a dubious nature and installed XXX_Action phone dialers and web cam stuff. Naughty NGO employees…

I also shuffled around the computers, as it seemed that Yuki and I were squatting someone’s office, but they were to polite to say anything. Madness.

Anyway, slapped wrists aside, I have to go right now – Kim is at the bus station in town. Not the sort of place you really want to find yourself on your own. Den of theives that…

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