Monthly Archives: September 2014

Time for a Chat

In second  third fourth of a series highlighting our garden visitors ( I realise as I write I’ve mentioned Sparrows,  a Hamerkop as well as Sunbirds) I thought I would showcase another frequent sighting, the Cape Robin Chat,

This bird seems to my eye to take the role of a blackbird back in the UK as it hops around the garden. Of course it’s colouring is anything else but that and I have yet to capture the amazing flash of gold tail feathers as it flies through the air. Even so the bright red orange belly and striking black and white head are pretty amazing in themselves. For more birds click here

Weekly Photo Challenge: Night-time Campfire

A submission to this weeks photo challenge on the theme of night-time.

Taken this summer on our fabulous break in Somerset at Petruth Paddocks where campfires are provided for campers for a small fee. Well worth a visit if you’re in Cheddar

A Cat’s Tail

This morning there was a kitten up a tree at school. This was obviously a stray and very frightened. A work colleague expressed an interest in it (they have a cat already), but work prevailed. The day wore on and it was still up there late into the morning. So Anita took it home! Continue reading


A flash of yellow and green in the corner of my eye and there appeared one of our most frequent, but most camera shy visitors to our garden the Sunbird – I haven’t quite identified the exact type. I did manage to get some shots and will add some to the birds page too

Itchy Feet

I’ve been here just over 5 weeks and I’ve got itchy feet Continue reading

Weekly Photo Challenge: Night Time at the Colosseum

A submission to this weeks photo challenge on the theme of night-time. Taken on our trip to Rome in 2005

Back Running

This morning I went for my first run in Africa; my first run in over three months. To be honest a pulled calf muscle back in June was a main reason for the lack of running back in the UK – but since I’ve been here I think I have been daunted by the challenge.

The Altitude

As I have mentioned here before the town of Mwanza is higher than any place in England and Wales – just above that of Mount Snowdon. It’s not immensely high but in the early days you could feel it when you walked. I think I have got used to it (at walking pace at least).

The Terrain

It’s not particularly flat here – running involves the inevitable uphill part and unlike my runs in the UK these are prolonged (several minutes of uphill). I will get used to it – but the thought of a prolonged uphill run at the start was a little off-putting. A work colleague (Head of PE) takes the students here up an even steeper ascent – although we both went running this morning, this particular element will need to wait for another occasion.
Furthermore the roads aren’t particularly flat here – there are a lot of ruts in the road. This make running more tiring as you dodge potholes and avoid rocks in the road.


Part of the Route

Part of the Route

The Heat

Not surprisingly it’s hot here. The sun is baking and this saps your strength. Even the walk to school can leave you feeling sweaty. So the idea of running in the heat left me a little ‘cold’ :-).  The only way to contemplate running was to get up at the crack of dawn before the sun was really able to exert it’s furnace on the world. So it was up at 6:15am on a Saturday to meet up with a colleague and head out of the compound and uphill.

As usual I probably started out too fast but eventually got into a rhythm – the uphill bit wasn’t to bad – though at the end of it I was glad to turn onto a more level path. The only issue was that this meant leaving tarmac and heading over rough ground (the road). This road lead to the school around which we did a loop, before heading back along my familiar route to and from work.

All in all I felt OK given the length of time since my last run – but I know I can do a lot better.

I hope to run more often but it might only be possible at weekends.

The other barrier to running here is the daylight.


Sun rise here is about 6:30am all year. Sunset is about 6:30pm all year. This makes it tricky to fit tuns in during the working week as work is from 7:55am to 4:15pm (including meetings and clubs).  Given the heat of the afternoon, at least to begin with I am not going to find it easy to run after work and will have no time to run before work. Maybe this will change.

Today was a start and hopefully I will continue – I’d love to join with the school running around Kilimanjaro next year – they do 5K, 10K and a half marathon. The views of Kilimanjaro can be spectacular apparently – so it’s definitely something to aim for.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Night Time Moon

A submission to this weeks photo challenge on the theme of night time.

Here is my first offering- the Crescent Moon over Lake Victoria at Tunza Lodge near Mwanza, Tanzania just last month.



My second offerings are from Lyme Regis in Dorset, England – Taken in 2009. This time a Full Moon

01 Lyme Regis 105
01 Lyme Regis 106




Dust gets everywhere. A thin film coating every surface. As a teacher of ICT it has quickly become apparent that every item is dusty – who knows what is going on inside the machines?
Almost every path; every road is dust the walk to school and back leaves you covered. It’s dry here and the rain, when it comes, evaporates quickly. They do water some paths but dust pervades.
Soon the rains will come and dust will turn to mud. I’m not sure which I prefer less? Probably the mud!










Pterodactyl in our Garden

Sitting in the garden at our bench last night and eating dinner we heard an eerie laughing sound. It was manic and not unlike a hyena. It wasn’t but then through the gloom a creature landed on the branch of our tree. There in the gathering dusk it sat – peering up it looked almost as if a pterodactyl had just flown in from prehistory Continue reading


So far life here has been pleasant and the people friendly. We have enjoyed walking into town and chatting to the locals, visiting the market and exploring our new home. Anita has particularly enjoyed the experience of getting out and about.

We have now been here over a month but today things changed a little. Anita was robbed! Continue reading

Weekly Photo Challenge: Endurance (Through Time)

These pictures are examples of buildings that have endured the ravages of time and are a submission to this weeks photo challenge.


Monopoly Money

Buying anything here is a little like playing Monopoly. The largest note in Tanzania is the 10000 TzSh Note. Given that a bottle of beer costs between 2000 TzSh and 3000 TzSh and a meal out costs about 20000 TzSh per person and the fact that everything here is cash payment – there’s always a lot of notes.
The Tanzanian currency is such that 10000 TzSh is about £3.65.

Although many things are much cheaper than in the UK in general, imported goods are quite expensive. A local shop (U-Turn) sells British produce at inflated prices – but there some things you can’t get anywhere else. Other shops are a little cheaper or though the range is less. Even so the markets are good and sell fruit and veg at good prices – obviously the quality is variable and so you need to choose carefully. Mostly we send our house worker who gets better prices than us ‘Mzungus’ – even though I don’t have problem with paying a little more. We bought a whole tub of tomatoes on Sunday for 4000 TzSh, my shoes cost 2000 TzSh to repair (though I paid 6000 TzSh).

When pay day comes – as poor as my wages will be compared to the UK, I will still be a Tanzanian Millionaire  which means less than it would in the UK (£365 to be exact). Even so this is immense compared to the average citizen and so with this comes great responsibility as mentioned in an earlier blog.
One thing I do wonder though is why they don’t have a 20000 TzSh or 50000 TzSh notes?


Birds Page

This gallery contains 27 photos.

Mega Magpies

We have familiar birds here like sparrows.


Unusual birds (unlike anything in the UK) such as the Cape Robin Chat.


Then there are those familiar yet unfamiliar birds like the Pied Crow.


This bird looks like an enormous magpie at first glance. We have them around the school and they root through the rubbish seeking out morsels.

Thus far it is bird species more than any other group which have predominated in our sightings of wildlife. A birds page will be populated soon (if not already) on this blog.


Amphibians,Reptiles and Insects

As part of a plan to catalog all of the animals we see here in Africa – we are starting small with Amphibians , Reptiles and Insects

When I needed a neighbour ….

There was a hymn that we sang at school. If you are of a certain age you will probably remember it.

The chorus went …

When I needed a neighbour,

Were you there? Were you there?

When I needed a neighbour,

Were you there?

And the creed and the colour and the name don’t matter,

Were you there?

The song is a bit ’70s and maybe a bit twee but it is one which has come to mind a lot recently.

Tanzania and specifically Mwanza (since we have only visited this town) is a place of contrasts. There are some fabulous places – both natural (Dancing Rocks, Bismarck Rock, Lake Victoria) and man-made (Malaika Beach, Tunza Lodge). We live on a lovely compound in a nice house and work in a good school, but there is another side.

There is poverty here! Great poverty.

People scratching a living to make ends meet. People living on the streets because they have no home or the home they had was too unsafe to live in.

Walking into town as we do we see both sides. We are immensely wealthy compared to many of the locals, and as Wazungu (white people) we stand out. We are often approached by people for money. It would be physically impossible to give money to everyone and indeed if we did we would very soon be poor ourselves. More importantly giving to an individual on the street may not be the best thing to do. Where it is an obvious disability and we have small enough change ( giving over a 10000 TSh note would lead to a stampede and would almost certainly be stolen from the one to whom it was given) we have given a 50TSh or 100TSh coin or 200TSh coin. Our criteria has been obvious disability (e.g. Elephantitis), or deprevation. In one case Anita bought a meal of Chips Mayai ( Chip Omelette) for an obviously hungry street child.


However, we could not possibly do this for everyone and it is a challenge. One way we have attempted to help is by buying goods from those who are trying to support themselves through making bracelets or necklaces – recently we bought three bracelets from a guy we have got to know so that the funds could allow him to buy more string for more bracelets. Even so we saw him yesterday and did not buy – another day we will.

Other places have been set up in town to support street children or else Forever Angels (a local charity for babies and young children). We have bought  art work to make our house nicer whilst helping others. The cynic in me would think that there are scams to make money – but I am convinced this is not the case and the people are sincere.

Yesterday on the way into town we passed a guy on the street who fixed shoes. He had obviously noticed my sandals and called out to offer repair (the soles were coming loose). We came back and he did a fabulous job by hand, fixing my footware. In conversation (he spoke good English) he mentioned that he had had no business that day. At the end he charged 2000 TSh (about 80p) – we decided to give 6000 TSh.


In the wider sense by frequenting the hotels and cafés, by buying from the markets or by hiring a house worker we are giving employment and spreading the wealth a little.IMG_8849

Even so it is hard to turn down a beggar and the song still haunts me a little – but hopefully we are doing something positive to help here.

Bismarck Rock

After a month here we had yet to visit Bismarck Rock, until today that was.

Bismarck Rock is probably Mwanza’s best known landmark. A place featured on all the posters for this town. It is an impressive rock formation with a seemingly impossible stone perched upon a slab on the shores of the lake.

The place is a magnet for married couples who go there for their wedding photos. There were at least three couples there this evening all getting there snaps done as sunset approached.

Earlier the place was filled with Maribu Storks – ugly birds but intriguing nonetheless. We got as close as we ever had this afternoon. We also took in a drink at You Long (Yum Long) Chinese Restaurant a place with great views of the lake.






British Bubble?

In many ways my weekly life is lived inside a “British Bubble”.

Here in Tanzania yet working in an International School; teaching Tanzanians but working with an English Curriculum (albeit an International one). My colleagues are mainly British; although I have Irish, French, Italian, Australian, Kenyan, Ugandan, Zimbabwean and Tanzanian colleagues too. It’s a friendly group and we have various social activities week by week and a regular “Boys Night” on Thursday evenings. Life is definitely different in school (monkeys in the playground is a sign we are most certainly abroad), but there is a familiarity in daily routines.

Our house on the compound is lovely

and in our garden the birds are as sign of our tropical clime.

And then there’s the heat!

The temperature here is like that of a permanent hot English Summer’s day. Nights are warm (we don’t need a duvet only a single sheet) – so absolutely not British in that sense.

Even so other than the walk to work, the weekends and an occasional foray into town in the week I don’t get to experience Tanzania proper.
Anita has a much different experience which I hope she will blog at some point. Her Kiswahili is coming on strongly and she is making almost daily trips into town, engaging with our new house worker (who is excellent by the way). In a sense she is having a much more authentic African experience.

None of the above is by way of complaint or even frustration, just a recognition of fact. As the weekend dawns I, for one am looking forward to a trip into town.

Further ahead the half term holiday  and a chance to leave Mwanza and explore another part of Tanzania. More on this when we have confirmed what we hope to go.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Endurance

A submission to this Week’s Photo Challenge on the subject of Endurance

These pictures taken on our trek through the Ratanakiri Rainforest in Cambodia last summer. This was the hottest, sweatiest, most exhausting two days of my life – definitely an endurance – but worth it.