Monthly Archives: December 2014

What A Year! 2014 (Part 1)

So ends a momentous year. As we gear up for our New Year’s Celebrations tonight and the start of 2015 it’s time to reflect on 2014 a year in which I (and my family) made the dramatic move to Tanzania. I thought I would summarise the year month by month.

January

The seeds were actually sown in the Summer of 2013 following my World Challenge Expedition to Vietnam Cambodia, but the began to germinate during January when I began to scan the Times Educational Supplement for jobs overseas. I had become jaded with education and educational policy in the UK. The final straw had been the decision to cut the ICT GCSE course at my old school after students had already begun to study it in Year 9. Initially I looked at and deliberated a job in Thailand myself, before raising the possibility of a move abroad with Anita, over a meal early in the New Year. We had long talked of moving overseas in our early married life, but somehow it never came to fruition. Although I decided against the Thailand job (there were riots iIMG_5046n the streets at the time!). I decided to start looking further and a week or so later a job came up in Tanzania in a town called Mwanza.Having already broached the subject with the children (to their horror!), I continued to deliberate on my own about applying. I had always wanted to teach in Africa, but was a little daunted by the prospect. In a sense life was settled and we were begining to make headway after years of money issues. In a sense it was madness to make a move (we were later told so by some – though not in so many words!). I went to the BETT show in late January and had a great conversation with my brother in which I talked around the subject without saying anything. It was “off the back of this” I told Anita of the job in Mwanza and I made the decision to apply in late January. By this time I had found some blogs about Tanzania and specifically in Mwanza – one of which turned out to be by the Bousies – a couple living here one of whom worked at the school. I watched a video of the town and found myself thinking that I would be living there (scary thoughts – God prod!).

February

On Monday 3rd February I filled out the application form for Isamilo International School in Mwanza. I also had an application form for a school in Malawi (Anita’s old stomping ground) but neither of us were as excited about Malawi as we were about Mwanza. Maybe it was the location on the shores of Lake Victoria, or perhaps it was the vision of the school with it’s Saturday School. The deadline for the application was the following day and I found out on the Tuesday that I was to be invited to interview. We informed the children of this interview as well as a shocked wider family. I was fully expecting this to come to nothing, but was indicating the intention to push a few doors. I liaised with my network manager to arrange a Skype Interview at 2pm on Thursday during my non-contact and informed my Head of the inverview as you do in education.

The interview went smoothly, though I was nervous and expected the worst. They told me that they had other people to see and that they would contact me the following week. On the Friday to my surprise I had an email to tell me I had been offered the post of Head of ICT. Then followed a frantic co-ordination process to make sure the right people knew first. Given that Anita and I had already discussed what would happen in view of success – I just needed to contact her to tell her the good news – she was unavailable at first. Then I needed  to inform my surprised Head. All this had happened in just 4 days. I needed to let my colleagues in the ICT Faculty know early in the process as they were going to be affected by this. I also wanted the children to know and then the wider family before going public. My poor mother-in-law phoning to ask about the interview was shocked to discover I had got the post so soon. To be truthful many people were shocked that after 26 years teaching in the UK and living in MK, after 19 years of marriage we were going to be leaving. The most common word used by those on hearing the news was Wow! which became the title of my first blog post on 14thFeb.

We had 6 months to move out of the UK and had to get started quickly on clearing out the house of almost 17 years of accumulated possessions. The house, the garden, the garage and the loft all needed sorting, clearing, dumping, selling or packing before we went overseas. Mum arrived for half term to help us with the start of our clearance – something which was going to take several more months to complete.20140217-123745.jpg

After half term life continued on much as normal but there was an ultimate goal and the date for the flight would soon be fixed in stone.

March

With the arrival of March the clearing, sorting and dumping continued apace. Mum and my parents in law mucked in and helped us with the house. At this stage we did not know whether we were going to rent or sell, but we knew there was work to be done in the house and garden to make it viewable. Anita’s parents helped us with the inside, whilst Mum helped in the Garden and particularly our deck which needed painting. In addition the loft needed clearing and we had Open House as well as Car Boot Sales, all with the aim of  purging our possessions.

The month ended with Mother’s Day in Lincoln and a dramatic decision with regard to the house.

April

IMG_5620After over a month of deliberating and seeking financial advice we made the decision to put the house up for sale. More than any other decision this was the one which caused most concern amongst those close to us. However, there really was no other choice. Even though we had made some real headway in recent years in sorting out our finances the mortgage was going to be too high for a rental income to match.

We now had to continue the clearance whilst ensuring that the house stayed spick and span, in case of a viewing. We saw several people over the month and had many positive pieces of feedback. Even so no buyers were coming forward.

In amongst the business of clearing the house we took time out to enjoy our last English Spring and visited a number of National Trust Properties whilst we had the chance. We also took time out for a family wedding, a great chance to touch base with family near and far.

20140430-163958.jpgI sat on my last PCC meeting at church something I have been part of for most of the last 25 years and the first of many lasts to come.

As the month ended we finally had a reason for why our house was not selling and it was going to be a real ‘fly in the ointment’.On the last day of April we found out that our Solar Panels (fitted free to our roof by an energy company) were causing the banks to refuse mortgage applications by potential buyers. The only solution would be to buy out our contract with the Solar Panel Company and make them our own, this was not going to be cheap and we did not have the money – stale mate and a potential Ice Berg which would sink our plans,

May

On the first day of May – just 24 hours after our problem surfaced we had a solution. A friend offered to buy our panels from us and take the money back from the sale of the house. The obstacle had been cleared. Within a week we had sold and could finally start planning ahead unencumbered by our ties to the UK. Even so we did not anticipate quite how long the sale would take to go through. We knew our buyers (again friends) but even so the lawyers were going to have a field day and obstructions would arise.

20140529-174756-64076265.jpgIn many ways life was carrying on as normal outside of the clearing but we knew that this would soon end. We were enjoying the tale end of Spring in our garden and continuing with Church, band, badminton and all our other leisure activities, whilst at work they appointed my replacement.

As May proceeded  the house clearing became more frantic. In other areas we toyed with the idea of buying a property in Cornwall, which would make use of our limited equity. We travelled down in Half Term and had a mini-break but in the end it was fruitless and we decided against the idea for now.

June

June saw the start of my last term at my UK school and so began the major clear out of my office – much of the content had stayed from my predecessor but this was now very much out of date and the office was not going to continue to be used by ICT so it needed to go.

At home we started to move those things we wanted to keep out to relatives who would be looking after them for us. Long held possessions started to disappear and plans were drawn up to sell or dump much of what we had left.

We finally got a glimpse of our new home (via video), yet our old house had still not completed!

We celebrated Matthew’s birthday with the family as he also completed the last of his GCSE’s and left school, so ending an era. There were lots of lasts but more were to follow.

July

Time was rushing on and the house had still not completed. Our friend’s lawyer was being very obstructive and slow – given we were known to each other the sale should have bee!n simple but it was dragging on.

The final injections and preparations were now underway but with no house sale a major problem loomed. We had decided against shipping goods out to Mwanza, the costs being prohibitive. More stuff had to go and as the month wore on our house became more and more bare.

Term came to a close and I bid farewell to my colleagues having celebrated my departure punting on the Cherwell River in Oxford. A chapter lasting 11 years closed. Bex too finished school and said goodbyes. She also celebrated an early birthday with friends before she went.

IMG_7635We said our farewells to St Mary’s (my church of over 26 years and the place we were married) and had an open house on Saturday followed on Sunday by our last service followed by a fellowship lunch together.

The following week we travelled to Lincoln and met with family seeing my sister-in-law for the last time before we left. We also bid farewell to St George’s the church where I had become a Christian in 1982 and where mum still goes.

20140731-093426-34466432.jpgWe agreed with our buyers that we would leave at the beginning of August, even before we had officially completed – something we finally did at the end of the month – last obstacle cleared.

Our last few days in the house were frantic. We said goodbye to the Guinea Pigs (Saffron, Biscuit and Muffin) – given to a friend.

We boxed and dumped so much stuff but we needed help if we were going to finish on time.We had done well but there was still too much to do and Anita’s parents and sister came over to help. Three days of solid work and we had broken the back of it, but  we had not finished.

August

We were all due on holiday on Saturday but for Anita and I holiday would have to wait.The second day of August was our last day in Milton Keynes – alone Anita and I cleared the remaining items from the house. Our buyers were actually going to rent out the house to tenants and we agreed that some of the larger items would be sold to them which made the job easier. Finally at lunchtime on the 1st we left our house of 17 years – a bitter/sweet moment. We dropped in for breakfast at a local garden centre and to our surprise met a load of folk from SMB on their monthly “Getting to know you Breakfast” a way of welcoming new folk to the church. We said another set of goodbyes and drove away from MK!

Now homeless we travelled down for an extended family holiday in Newquay. This was a great time to relax and enjoy respite from all our activities of the previous months. Bex got to meet up with a church friend who was also holidaying nearby and we got to explore the Lost Gardens of Heligan and the beaches of Cornwall.

After a week in Newquay we travelled up to Cheddar for 4 days and stayed at Petruth Paddocks a camp site owned by Anita’s cousin. This was a great opportunity to touch base with family in the area and enjoy the region.

As part of a ‘Grand Tour’ our next stop was Lincoln and mum where we spent some time. We enjoyed visiting Clumber Parks and seeing my brother.  We also got to see my extended family at a Going Away Party.

On Sunday under the guise of Anita’s cousins birthday we were surprised by another Going Away Party this time by Anita’s family, then into the last week into the UK.

We spent the last week in Abingdon with Anita’s parents – the job here was to effectively pack the cases so that we were able to take everything we needed. We also had to sell our car which was also taking it’s time. Finally on the Tuesday before departure it sold and another hurdle was overcome. A hire car needed to be obtained for the last few days which was a story in itself!

On Thursday we returned once more to MK to pick up exam results for Matthew and to visit our house buyer friends. We left MK truly for the last time and returned to Abingdon for a Exam/ Birthday/ Going Away Meal.

Finally the day of departure dawned and laden with 17 cases in 3 cars we made our way to Heathrow and bid our last goodbyes to all the family on both sides who came to see us off.

The flight was good and we arrived in Mwanza late afternoon on the Saturday. It was hot and dusty as we were met by colleagues and squeezed everything into the two vehicles who met us. Dropped off at the compound we unloaded and went out for our first meal in Tanzania

Other colleagues arrived a day later and then it was straight into a week of induction ahead of the terms start. In that week we were introduced to our new home and the colleagues with whom we were going to be working. There were a number of newbies and several families all starting the term with us. After all our preparations we were finally here

Part 2 to follow tomorrow

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 49,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 18 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Warmth

This week’s photo challenge is an easy one, here near the equator. I thought I’d share some photos of the reptilian life here which harness the warmth of the Tanzanian sun.

Malaika Return

A return to Malaika Beach Resort was our Christmas treat yesterday. Having postponed this from Boxing Day, Having looked at the weather we headed out of town. Malaika is on the coast of Lake Victoria and we were looking forward to a day in the sun. To be honest our initial experience was none too promising as we arrived to thick grey cloud and spots of rain. Thankfully after an hour or so during which we had some lunch we were able to enjoy some good sunshine and fun in the pool.

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Mwanza is Rubbish!

….or more accurately there’s a lot of rubbish (garbage) in Mwanza. Continue reading

Living In the Slow Lane

Digital connectivity is an issue here. Noticeable following a Christmas when many of our gifts have been electronic downloads – something which has saved on postage. Also a problem when it comes to Skyping, but curiously less so with FaceTime.

There seem to be two basic choices to us

  1. A fixed landline with unlimited connection and fastish download speeds – costing a lot of cash each month in the range 300000 TZS (approximately £75) advertised as 4GB/s (it never reached this!)
  2. A wifi dongle with a data limit (the best being 45GB but most being 20GB) costing 30000 TZS (approximately £7.50). The speed crawling along a 3MB/s (it doesn’t reach this)

We have tried the landline but the costs are high and the reliability was not brilliant. We are trying the wifi but in truth we are consuming a lot of data, meaning a lot of top ups. In addition it seems a little hit and miss.

We are currently downloading my daughter’s Christmas present – the Sherlock Series 1-3 and it look like taking 12 hours per episode to download!

At work the internet connectivity is patchy, and the network is likely to be down for all or part of the day. Speeds are slow enough to make internet research a challenge. Even gmail won’t work at times.

Such are the frustrations of living in a developing country with so little infrastructure – though I here i is better than it used to be.

Some things are better, here 3G seems almost universal and in town at least uploading is quick and easy.

Even so I long for the  days of reliable cheap connectivity we had in the UK – 75MB/s -a distant dream,

Christmas In A Foreign Land

Our first Christmas Overseas was strange to begin with but ultimately great. Usually Christmas Day is spent with either Anita’s family or Graham’s. So this first Christmas in Tanzania was always going to be different. The weather added to the unusualness of the day with high temperatures throughout.

We tried to keep up as many traditions as possible. The day started with stockings for the kids – though the lack of Satsumas and the limited range of little gifts made for depleted stockings overall. Then it was breakfast, as usual we indulged in our Christmas Breakfast of Kidneys and Bacon. The former Beef Kidney from the local butcher and the latter expensively purchased from the nearby supermarket at price of 11000 TZS (over £3). We also added in Oyster Mushrooms (somewhat cheaper at 5000 TZS), our first fresh mushrooms since our arrival.

After Breakfast we opened our presents. Many of these were vouchers for electronic downloads, these were a welcome addition to the physical presents which we had for each other and thanks to my Sister-in-Law. Whether real or virtual we thank all our relatives for their kindness – thank you emails / letters will follow in due course. We are looking forward to choosing and downloading our Books, Music and / or Videos in the coming days.

One major frustration was the internet. Our WiFi contract ran out at 10am, as we had used all our data. Not only did this prevent us from immediately downloading anything from our Christmas Gifts, but also destroyed any chance of a FaceTime chat with my family scheduled for noon. As we scrambled around to sort out an update the remaining 3G connection was too slow to support either video or audio and we gave up. Meanwhile Anita managed to source a top up from the local duka (shop), then embarked on the process of adding credit to the modem (not a straight forward process).

Then began the process of peeling, chopping and preparing vegetables for our shared compound Christmas Dinner.

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Four families were going to gather together for a meal, along with relatives from the UK. We created some of our traditional family favorites including Mulled Red Cabbage (courtesy of a smuggled in red cabbage, locally sourced beetroot an apples and red wine with Zanzibar spices!) and Carrots with Orange and Coriander as well as Roast potatoes, ratatouille and peas. Others brought pork and Chicken together with stuffing, sausage meat, parsnips etc. We were also on puddings, the planned Compote of Oranges morphed into Spiced Orange and Plums due to the variability and poor quality Oranges we had. Even so it was delicious as was the Ginger and Mango upside down cake! Others brough Christmas Pud and Ice Cream as well as Chocolate Hedgehog. All in all a great feast  by 18 people in our living room (the largest on the compound ).  A power cut and heavy rain did nothing to spoil a great meal.

After dinner  (and washing up!) we embarked on an afternoon / evening of games including Wink Murder, the Elephant Game, the Chocolate Game and the the Cereal Box Challenge. These were all great silly fun helped by some wine, Kantagi and Amarula to liven up proceedings (in moderation of course!). All in all it was a fabulous party and for all of us made being far from home and loved ones a little less difficult, also creating closer bonds between the different family groups.

After everyone had gone home it was a chance to watch Doctor Who on iPlayer at 9:15pm local time. Sadly although we had restored our WiFi there was so little bandwidth that it kept buffering resulting in an unwatchable program. We resorted to downloading overnight for watching on Boxing Day. A Christmas tradition delayed!

There was however enough Bandwidth to allow us the chance to FaceTime my family again (Anita’s were sadly unreachable on Christmas Day, being away and out of reach of any form of broadband). It was great to speak properly and see everyone at home.

In the end Christmas here was a bit different to usual, but with a sprinkling of tradition and some new experiences to make the day better for all. We certainly miss our families but the ability to contact them using video chat makes things a lot easier.

We hope that all who read this blog wherever you are in the world have had a great Christmas and we wish you all (not for the last time) a Happy New Year!

A Zanzibar Nativity

A Zanzibar Nativity