August 30, 2016

cats i inherit with the house

with the lovely house [photos to come] i get three cats.  the momma kitty who is black and i want to keep for protection [because of the locals superstition] and two of her first litter cats.  

my friends were determined to have momma kitty spayed before they left to decrease the cat population in Moshi and had missed the first 'window of opportunity' before she was pregnant again.  so in the weeks before they left the kittens had to be taken away [rehomed] so the momma would stop nursing.  without going into a lot of detail about cat anatomy of which i am no expert let's say this was a challenge. 

momma kitty was starting to teach them life skills [like hunting at night] and they were put into the garage so they wouldn't run away but the window was left open so the momma could come and go as she wanted [window being too high for the kittens] then momma took the kittens one by one, we assume, through the window one night and hid them somewhere in the hedges.  proving, perhaps that cats are smarter than humans.  now my friend has to coax the momma to bring her kitties back and then has the new owners swoop by to pick up the kittens.  with the kittens gone momma will stop nursing and be prepared for her surgery, proving humans are at least as smart as momma cats.

i happened to stop by for some reason a few days after the kittens were gone and momma kitty was just screaming for her kittens.  poor thing had no idea they had gone someplace safe and was a bit uncomfortable as she was still producing milk.  now, we were down to the last few days before their departure from tanzania.  my friend was determined to get momma kitty to the vet [which is a 30 - 40 minute drive] where the surgery can be done.  since they need to keep her for at least a week, i need to go with her to the vet so i know where to pick her up.  

'cat carrier' 
my friend has planned this meticulously and her husband [somewhat conveniently is working or out of town] so i take off the afternoon and head to the house.  the first plan is to put the cat into this 'cat carrier' which, yes, is a cardboard box with airholes cut in.  i'm skeptical but all those years experience with guide dog puppies makes me feel confident.  

so, in goes momma cat - for about 2 seconds during which i try unsuccessfully to hold the top shut while my friend tries to secure with tape.  holy shit, i had know idea how sharp cat claws are and let's just say my blood still stains the spot of this adventure.

alternative or 'african' cat carrier
now, cat out of box [literally], we have to coax her back but i look around for an alternative 'carrier' and find a large plastic clothes hamper with a top and plenty of vision/circulation for the cat/monster.  so again, i hold down the top while my friend gets momma kitty into the new 'carrier'.  again, the monster cat is way stronger than me and jumps out before we can get the top sealed with the crappy stuff that passes for tape in africa.  i'm not saying i let her escape exactly, but i had some really deep bleeding cuts on my hand already, so you know...

we both take a deep breath because this cat is wicked smart and knows she does not want to go into this african cat carrier, no matter how deluxe it is [we put a nice, comfy towel in the bottom].  fortunately, my friend is like a cat whisperer or something [witch probably] and for the third time she has the cat in her hands. 

monster cat goes into the african cat carrier which used to be a clothes hamper but this time i suggest my friend use her 'powers' to hold her in and i'll do the driving.  so we arrive 40 minutes later at this vet/animal sanctuary/farm place with the cat and no further bloodshed.  we are greeted by a bizarre group of handicapped animals and there is no surprise or curious look from the vet staff when we present momma monster cat to them in a clothes hamper.  they just take a down payment and somehow we suggest they drop the monster kitty back at the house after the week recovery period AND THEY AGREE.  ha ha - good luck, right?

white kitty
the vet does, as promised, return momma kitty to me after a week and removed whatever demon monster possessed her when she left.  i suspect he used tranquilizers [or witchcraft] as she was calm and relaxed when she returned.  also, he had real duck tape to seal her into her 'carrier'.  anyways, he comes in for the balance due on account and poke [vaccinate] the other cats. in true african style he stays for an hour to talk about politics and stuff and have a cup of tea before he goes.

long post i know, so thanks for hanging in there.  this is the defining moment when i start to be invested in africa instead of just being a visitor.

stripe kitty

August 26, 2016

hello and goodbye

it seems i've only just arrived and met people when i've got to say goodbye.  it's really bittersweet - the expat community here is mostly transient [there are some hardcore colonialists here with 20 year leases] so you make connections quickly and share so much but it is sad when someone is moving on.  there is a common bond among people who choose to live outside the country where they are born [unlike refugees] so as a rule they have that which bonds them quickly.

there's a Scottish couple i've grown close with and we have a standing dinner at the El Rancho [you think it's mexican, right? it's not it's indian] every Friday.  we always laugh and end the week with a reminder of what's important and why we are here along with any relevant gossip.

it's particularly hard to say goodbye to my Scottish friends but they had a really nice house close to my offices and i wanted it.  so it's hard to say goodbye and i cry on the day i move in and they move out but i'm happy to finally be settled into a house that is comfortable.  a real internet connection.  a clothes washing machine - you take this for granted in the west but it is a life changing technology.  a full size fridge.  a quiet garden with a view of kilimanjaro.  no roosters or dogs fighting in the middle of the night.  i did inherit the three cats.... remember the momma that had kitties?  the kittens are gone but the momma and two other cats that still hang out.

August 10, 2016

i almost killed someone today

litterally, i almost killed someone today.  it was the end of the day and i was driving the beast into town for an end of the day delivery on my way to yoga class. 

as i turned into the parking area a boda [motorcycle] driver passing me at high speed on the wrong side hit my truck veered across oncoming traffic, hit a curb and flipped head over handlebars onto the pavement hitting hard enough that his helmet popped off.  i watched the whole thing in slow motion and sat horrified as the driver didn't move.  

the next 30 minutes were just a nightmare as it was just chaos with people shouting at each other and me.  eventually, the boda driver regains consciousness and has some people helping him.  a police/traffic officer arrives and stops a passing car to take the boy to the hospital.  [that's how it's done here since they don't have ambulance service] same officer starts drawing a sketch of the accident.  

fortunately for me, the boda driver landed on the pavement in front of an ATM machine which all have armed guards here [with basically nothing to do but watch traffic] as well as the parking lady [whose job it is to watch traffic and charge for parking] and one of my staff members who happened to be walking down the street were all witnesses and blamed the boda driver.

the beast, with a flat tire
so i never even spoke with the boda driver and the police don't even ask me for a statement.  we did have to go to the police station where they asked if i wanted to request payment for damages to the beast.  i said hell no,  i took my staff girl for wine instead of going to yoga.  i was really grateful for her help because when the 'mob' of locals started talking about how the white girl should pay regardless of whose fault it was she inserted herself into the conversation and broke up the group.  it could have gotten very ugly and a lot of expats have horror stories of dealing with accidents here.

the beast is the company truck which because it is a manual transmission i'm one of the only people who can drive it.  it's so dented and scratched I wouldn't be able to even tell if the boda driver had left a dent.  also, it's really filthy because no one ever cleans it.  not long ago, i wouldn't even date a guy who drove a truck like this.  my life is so different here.  that night i sent my boss a note about what happened he asked if the truck was okay - didn't even occur to  him to ask if i was okay.

August 8, 2016

love in Tanzania

being single i get asked about the men in my life.  i was warned early on by a fellow american expat to NOT fall in love with a native as it could only lead to heartbreak.  the concept of monogamy here is not widely understood or practiced.  i heeded this advice and when someone else mentioned they were on tinder i asked what was available in our little town.   this is what she sent me.  enjoy.

one of the staff told me a story from their village.  a girl presented a boy from another village to her father and said they wanted to be married.  the father pulls the girl aside and whispers - not this one he is your brother.  so another year goes by and the daughter comes once again to her father with a different boy from a neighboring village and again the father pulls her aside and whispers, not this one, he is your brother.  heartbroken, she goes to her mother and says, how can you put up with such a husband?   the mother replies, whatever do you mean?  and the daughter says, he's been sleeping with women in other villages and now there are no boys i can marry.  the mother then says, marry whomever you want, he's not your father.  

fortunately, i make myself laugh, alot, so even when i am alone i'm never lonely.  there are enough expats here that it is easy to ring someone up for chat or with friends spread around the world i always can find someone awake.  if all else fails, i blog :) 

August 4, 2016

nyoka - learn your swahili

i've got a swahili instructor that comes to the office once a week when i am in town for a 30 minute session.  she's a proper teacher so she wants me to learn verb conjugation and grammar.  fair enough, but i find it really, really hard to shut down the analytical management part of my brain and fire up the learning center so i usually just stare like a deer in headlights and we haven't gotten very far.  she suggests two or three classes per week.

also, i just need some basics to get around - like how much? where? when?  instead of learning 'hello sir, how are you today?' 'i like your carrots very much  ' 'how much will it cost me to purchase one bag?'  when i really just need to smile and say 'shillings ngpai?'

seriously world, a smile translates into every language.

so one day last week we had some staff cleaning a room that is used regularly but mostly for storage.  i hear a scream from the other side of the building.  then a westerner who was in my office space turns to a national and says 'nyoka - that means mouse, right?' and she replies, 'no, nyoka means snake'.  in about two seconds i am standing on top of my desk shouting 'INSIDE THE BUILDING - IS IT INSIDE THE BUILDING?' and thinking that somehow i'll be protected by standing on top of my desk - and even more ironically that the staff will understand me shouting in english.  appropriate measures were taken and after some time i was able to gracefully exit the building and go home.  but, think about it, when was the last time a snake showed up INSIDE your office?  [vets excluded] it's Africa and life is raw here.

i don't know what happened to that snake and i have no picture to share but the next time my swahili teacher shows up i get aggressive about learning vocabulary instead of grammar.

August 2, 2016

doing business in tanzania

like burma, where companies are reluctant to invest because of 'business regulation' aka corruption, tanzania also has it's challenges.  in the case of our business which involves vanilla and extracts, there isn't any other company doing what we are doing.  this means there are no existing standards for our products.  another company developing the local honey market spent 2 years trying to get the tanzanian board of standards to approve their product. 

another significant supply chain challenge is packaging - like these boxes called banana boxes because they are made from the leaves of the banana tree.  we try to use local sustainable packaging whenever possible and strive to eliminate any type of plastic packaging.   there just isn't any packaging manufactured in Africa.  the 30ml [4oz] bottles we use come from China.  that's a three month ship time and a one month allocated for trying to get through customs at the port in Dar.  the port authorities decided on the last shipment that we would have to pay duty on the PALLET the boxes were shipped in on.

in most countries when you need labels or business cards you just run by a kinkos.  here getting labels printed took 5 months and 3 trips to Nairobi.

these small but significant obstacles to doing business will really screw up your supply chain.  this month it's the 30ml bottles.  while the GM was in europe for a month no one was monitoring the business and inventories weren't stocked.  so although the sales and marketing team was exponentially increasing the sales, sadly august will become the month we had no bottle to fill our orders.