Monthly Archives: January 2015

Pineapple Progress

In just a few days our Pineapple has rooted.

Sadly the Avocado seems unchanged – We may have to try with other stones.



Bra Alley and Beyond!

Bra Alley is the colloquial name used by expats to describe the alleyway leading to and from the market. On Sunday’s this whole area becomes the fruit and veg market but on Saturdays the area is transformed into the clothes market and the alleyway festooned with bras for sale – hence the name.










Zanzibar Retrospective: Reef Walk

One of the first things we did in Zanzibar was to take a walk out to the Coral Reef discovering numerous sea creatures hidden in the low tide rocks and pools. You can find out more here the gallery below includes camera photos to add to the phone pics first time around.

Hot Runnings

I must be mad and though I’m not a dog I’m definitely English, furthermore although it wasn’t the midday sun, here on the equator it was strong enough. So why did I go running?
Continue reading

Language Learner

Learning a new languages was always going to be a challenge. Three months on I have worked through the greetings, introductions, numbers and times. I have been introduced to the various noun classes (Ki-Vi, Ji -Ma, M-Mi and N class) which are used to indicate singular and plural and the various tenses (present, present irregular, present regular, relevant past, irrelevant past, sooner than expected, expected), negatives, Mahali class 1 and 2 (all about placement of objects), there’s a lot to learn.

The lessons are good but retention is hard especially with so many beginnings and endings to the verbs and nouns. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever get there.

Basic sentence structure consists of a subject prefix based on the noun class a tense marker and a verb, all very different to English.

Personal pronouns are indicated by a prefix ahead of the verb.

There is a logic to it all and unlike English all letters have a consistent meaning, of course teaching in a n English environment does not help. Even so it is right to get some understanding of Kiswahili and attempt to make some conversation with Tanzanians and understand something of their culture.

Most recently I have been looking at Mahali class which is all is out placement of objects (inside, on or in the vicinity of another object given a suffix of -ni)

So if you wanted to know where the cup was specifically (e.g in a cupboard) you might say

Kikombe kimo kabatini (the cup is in the cupboard)

alternatively you might say

Kabatini mna kikombe (the cupboard is where the cup is)

The mo / mna indicating inside

The plural (cups) would be

Vikombe vimo kabatini (Cups are are in the cupboard)


Kabatini mna vikombe (the Cupboard is where the cups are)

If you wanted a more general location e.g. The cup is somewhere in the house (indicated by ko / kuna)

Kikombe kiko nyumbani

or the house has a cup in it somewhere

Nyumbani kuna Kikombe

In plural

Vikombe viko nyumbani

Nyumbani kuna vikombe

If the cup where specifically on the table (indicated by po / pana)

Kikombe kipo mezani

Or the table is specifically where the cup is

Mezani pana kikombe


Vikombe vipo mezani

Mezani pana vikombe

The negative is indicated by the prefix ha-
Kabatini hamna vikombe
Nyumbani hakuna vikombe
Mezani hapana vikombe

mna become hamna

kuna becomes hakuna

pana becomes hapana

This phraseology is how you end up with the phrase Hakuna Matata (no worries – think Lion King). In other words in general there are no problems

It is also the origin of two words used for no in Swahili – hapana and hamna.

Hamna is considered polite e.g. Hamna pesa meaning “I have no money inside (my wallet /bag /pocket etc)”.

Hapana pesa would be very rude meaning something like “look here I have no money”

It’s all very interesting

Feelin’ Hot Hot Hot

As we reach the dog end of January – one thing is clear – the temperature is on the rise! Here in Mwanza the thermometer has risen from a pleasant 25-26°C to 30°-32°C which might not seem much but is making a difference. It is less cloudy too and a lot less rainy. Apparently it will continue until the Long Rains in March – April.

I do like the heat and appreciate it’s a lot hotter than those of you in the “cold north”, even so I was getting used to the mid-20s so I am wilting under the extra heat in long trousers day after day.
In honour of the new temperatures some of my Heat related iTunes – all on my iPod (honestly!)

Level 42 – Hot Water

Power Station – Some Like It Hot

Billy Idol – Hot In The City

The Cure – Hot! Hot! Hot!

Glen Frey – The Heat Is On

Style Council – Long Hot Summer

Katy Perry – Hot ‘n’ Cold

DJ Fresh ft Rita Ora – Hot Right Now

Arrow – Hot Hot Hot

Tanzania:More or Less!

Since moving out to Africa we have more of some things less of others.



  • Heat
  • Sunshine
  • Showers
  • Walks
  • Holidays
  • Free Time
  • Social Life
  • Meals Out
  • Alcohol
  • Water
  • Sodas
  • Vegetarian meals
  • Swimming
  • Power Cuts
  • Loud Music
  • Lesson Cover
  • Exam Invigilation
  • Insect Bites
  • Wildlife
  • Bank Holidays
  • Thunder Storms
  • Shorts
  • Monkeys
  • Pot Holes
  • Litter
  • Poverty
  • Bureaucracy
  • Friendly Greetings
  • Marking
  • TV
  • Meat
  • Illness
  • Children
  • Unco-operative Children
  • Housework
  • Cooking
  • Running
  • Internet Connectivity
  • Baths
  • Long Trousers
  • Seagulls
  • Tarmac
  • Hygiene
  • Commodities
  • Quality Goods
  • Recycling
  • Post
  • Health and Safety
  • Chocolate


Weekly Photo Challenge: Express Yourself

Not an easy theme for me this week – not really into self-publicity so prefer to behind the lens. Even so my submission is one of my first profile pics out here. A Briton in Africa. A Teacher in Tanzania.

2015/01/img_0939.jpgThe t-shirt is a popular design in the local markets and comes in a variety of colours – this one being green (my favourite colour) is another expression of me.

Growing Pineapple

Leading on from our experiment into Avocado growing we are now experimenting with growing a pineapple.

For this you need a ripe pineapple with leaves. You slice off the top, twist off the leaves and then remove the lower leaves revealing the already forming rootlets.


Then it is the same as before. Three cocktail sticks piercing the pineapple top at equidistant intervals and suspend above water in a jar or a sliced open bottle.

Then leave the assembly in a sunny location and wait – the pineapple should root and can then be placed into a soil in a pot or else the directly into ground to grow. With luck we will have a pineapple plant growing before long. To make it germinate apparently you have to expose it to ethylene gas (the easiest way will be to slice an apple in half and put the halves and the plant in a black plastic bag overnight).


Decision Days

It’s amazing to think it’s about a year since the job advert at Isamilo, appeared in the TES.

Recently staff have been making decisions in both Primary and Secondary Schools, teachers had to decide whether to renew their contracts or to choose to leave. As such these days were the beginning of the end for Isamilo and the start of a process which will lead to a new staff team in September.

Soon jobs will be advertised, as vacancies will need to be filled. By indicating preferences now the school has time to advertise and make preparations for September 2015. There are always unknowns in this and much as others must have wondered what the new bunch of teachers would be like in 2014, we will wonder the same as the year wears on and familiar faces phase out.

For me the point is mute as I, like others, have a two year contract, but a year from now the decision will be mine which is scary as I am just 5 months in to my contract. Those choosing to move on this year will have many reasons for leaving. Some back to the UK others on to others to International Schools across the planet o many factors will dictate that final decision. We have always hinted that we would want to stay three years, maybe five, but on these decision days it is a time of reflection.

It is a scary decision as those indicating a move will not have secured their next post yet! In a sense it will be a jump into the unknown. much as mine was in Feb 2014 when I applied.

Street Food – Mwanza Style

I thought I’d post a little about the street food options in Mwanza. The photos below were taken surreptitiously and so are less composed but show some of what’s on offer here in town.

Popular foods include Chipsi Mayai (a Potato Chip Omlette), Mandazi & Vitumbua (types of donut), Popcorn, as well as barbecued foods of many kinds such as Cassava Root, Mishkaki (spiced skewers of goat or beef), corn on the cob, sausages and goat ribs.

Today we were in need of some lunch so stopped at one of the street barbecues – and ordered some goat ribs (delicious), we were shown to a table in the adjacent cafe and ate this with rice. We also had some Vitumbua later on (also delicious). In the local markets you can sit down to Chai (spiced tea) and Chapati (flat bread). I have also seen a guy selling crushed sugar cane juice (though this is much more common in Zanzibar).

Growing Avocado

You can get a lot of fresh fruit and veg in town, even though it’s cheap it would be even better if we could grow some of it our own. So following advice from Liz wife of Julian ( a colleague) on how to grow an avocado.
Firstly slice an avocado in half and remove the stone.2015/01/img_0922-0.jpg
Pierce with three cocktail sticks at equidistant points and suspend over water (a decapitated plastic bottle will do) flattish side down. We shall leave it to see what happens.


I’ll post how this goes over the next few weeks and months.
It will eventually grow into a tree although I will probably be long gone by then.

Here is a photo of next door’s tree.


Faithful People

Lately in the evenings we have started to hear church bells. Rather tinny more akin to door chimes and definitely electronic but certainly church bells. These have obviously been installed in a local church building nearby (or maybe not so near but with loud speakers). This is in addition to the calls to prayer of the Imam from the local mosque which sound out near to sunset and the chanting which I assume come from the Hindu Temple in town.

Mwanza has several mosques, at least three Hindu Temples and a Sikh one, several Seventh Day Adventist Congregations and numerous churches scattered across the town. As we walk to town we often hear choral singing.

Three faiths co-existing in this town and from my perspective peacefully co-existing in a tolerant fashion. Mwanza is a place of faith however you look at it!

As a Christian it is a strange experience. Having a faith is not unusual here, indeed quite the opposite people expect it. Growing up in the UK where religion is increasingly something of a dirty word it is actually quite refreshing. Back home it seems like you have to defend yourself or else can face incredulity or even mockery. Religious faith is often viewed as quaint or old fashioned, misguided or intolerant (it is in truth none of these!)

In the West, many think they have outgrown religion (not the same as faith by the way) and have cast religious faith in the same bucket as the tooth fairy and Santa Claus. Perhaps people here are viewed as unsophisticated and ignorant of the worldly truth. I would argue that while people here may lack wealth and formal education, they are not lacking wisdom or intelligence. Their faith is shaped by their poverty and their experience, many live hard lives ‘on the edge’ but faith remains strong. Maybe our wealth, our technology, our so-called worldly wisdom has hidden something from view. Our  Western news tends to focus on religious hatred and bigotry whereas here they are more tolerant. I am not saying all faiths are the same (quite the reverse), I don’t think all of those with faith get it right either but where we disagree we can still respect one another. I sometimes wonder why some of those with no faith are  disrespectful of those who do.


Zanzibar Retrospective: Jozani Forest

This is the first of a look back at our trip to Zanzibar before Christmas. Largely photographic these posts use photos taken on the camera as opposed to the iPhone.

Jozani Forest is in the south of the island and is home to Red Colobus Monkeys who seem completely at ease with  human visitors. We got some great close-ups.

For more details of the day we visited Jozani Forest click here


Weekly Photo Challenge: Serengeti Serenity

Giraffe’s are some of the most Serene animals – walking slowly above it all or so it seems.Day 3 Ngorogoro  (53)This giraffe was one of a herd of over a dozen we encountered meandering slowly across the plain in the Serengeti on the road toward s Ngorogoro Crater.

For unknown reasons I can’t get these to appear on the Weekly Photo Challenge site – so here I am trying again!


What’s Changed?

Life here is certainly different as this blog has recounted over the months but I thought that I might summarise the big differences of life as an expat teacher as we approach the end of our 5th Month in Tanzania. Continue reading

Weekly Photo Challenge: Serenity

A submission to this week’s photo challenge on serenity

2015/01/img_9781.jpg Serene Sunrise in Zanzibar


Prep is a concept I hadn’t really heard of before I came out here. It’s a term associated with the independent Sector of Education and here refers to the time given over to Homework for the Boarding Students. Each day (Monday to Thursday) there is a Prep session after school. On a Saturday Morning there is a Prep session for 90mins. Teaching staff here are expected to assist with such duties at some point in the year. As I don’t have a car and as weekday prep finishes after dark the options were limited and so I have volunteered to help out on Saturdays once a fortnight.
This morning was my first Prep session which commenced at 8:30am. Arriving at the Boarding House at 8:25am I met with the Boarding Matron and collected the key to the Library. The students were just finishing up breakfast and then I walked the younger ones to the school a few metres away. The older ones made their own way.
The students settled quietly to task, reading, doing homework, using the computers and in a calm atmosphere with low level chat they got on. It really was a very pleasant atmosphere and enabled me to get on with exam marking in relative peace – so different to cover or homework clubs in the UK! In no time the session finished and so I walked the students back to the Boarding House, before returning to school to assist in Saturday School.

Village Visit: Return Journey

Having spent a whole day in Nkome village, it was time to return to Mwanza.  The bus leaves at 5am, so as it is still dark at that time, we took a motorbike ride from our host’s home to the centre of Nkome at 4:30 am – as it’s not safe to walk at night.  We arrived in good time and took the 5am bus hoping to catch the 9am ferry to Mwanza.  However, the trip was not that straight forward.

I’ve put a video together to show what happened…..


Weekly Photo Challenge: Shadowed Guests

A submission to this week’s photo challenge on the theme of shadowed. Monkeys at the Stafroom Windows at School. Shadowed against the bright windows and the trees behind, in search of food; a quick snack at lunchtime.