Tag Archives: Isamilo

Cinema Night on the Hill

NCLC, our church in Mwanza currently meets in one of the local hotels.

However, recently they have secured the purchase of sone land up in the hills overlooking Mwanza. An area where many of their local congregation live. In tine to cone they will start to build a church there. For now this plot of land serves as a venue for a Cinema night.

These periodic events provide an opportunity for the children to play football and then to watch a  film – tonight some cartoons followed by a dubbed version of the story of Jacob. It’s an outreach into the community and some much needed entertainment. Many adults come to watch too as darkness falls in the warm evening air.

We joined them this evening to see what happens.

Drive Home from Work

Now that we have a car we have begun to explore Mwanza on four wheels. It was particularly useful last week when my wife was admitted to hospital with Malaria.  Whilst we don’t always drive to and from work preferring to walk, there are  occasions when we do. Here is the route to and from work which is bumpy to say the least. Much of the ‘road’ gives an off-road experience and it is vital to have a four-wheel drive.

Snapshot 2 (20-06-2015 18-14)

Here is a video of our route home from work.

Bat on the Balcony

This afternoon at the end of lesson I noticed something tiny on the ground just outside my classroom door. I almost mistook it for a piece of rubbish. Then a student pointed out it was a bat. I thought the creature was dead but it wasn’t. I carefully picked it up by a leg and put it on a ledge fearing it would be crushed in the lesson changeover. 

I could see it’s chest beating but it lay motionless playing dead perhaps. It was on it’s back so I thought itmight be better on it’s front – you never know with bats?  

 After the lesson changeover and as I had no lesson myself,  I decided that it might be better on some foliage so using paper transferred it to a nearby tree. It remained motionless but breathing throughout.  When I looked two minutes later it was gone. Flown, dropped, alive, dead. I will never know but it was interesting to get up close to this unusual mammal if only for a few minutes.  

On Your Marks!

Today is the Isamilo International Swimming Gala. This annual event involves schools and swimming clubs from across from across Tanzania for two days. 

As staff many of us are involved in timekeeping. There are strict rules and there are three timekeepers per lane. The middle time is adjudged as the official time and as judges it’s important to be accurate especially in the shorter races. 
                It’s hot out here so plenty of sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat are a must in the baking Mwanzan sun.          


After six months here we have settled into church and attend NCLC which meets just up the road at Isamilo Lodge Hotel. The church is a plant of Newcastle  Christian Life Centre. This church is part of Hillsong family of churches worldwide,and the Assemblies of God locally, here in Tanzania.

The other church plants are based in the North East of England (Teeside, Newcastle and Newcastle North), so Mwanza is a a little off the beaten track!

The Pastor and his family are from the UK, and founded the plant back in 2011. This followed more informal links between NCLC and Mwanza for a number of year.

It was the first church we visited back in September and having tried another church for a few months we started going to NCLC regularly in November. We have felt very welcome there and enjoy the services week by week. Anita has joined the women’s group which meets fortnightly and my daughter has just started helping out with Kids Church. We are open to see in what ways be can be of service in the months and years ahead.

It is good to be part of a fellowship again, having left St Mary’s in the UK, our spiritual home for 0ver 20 years ( in my case 26 years to be precise).

The church consists of about 40 people with many children, there are a good mix of expatriates from UK, US, Canada, Kenya and Ethiopia as well as local Tanzanians.

The worship is lively and the sermons are always thought provoking and challenging ( in a good way). For those who know, is is similar to

Initially there was just one weekly service, jointly in English and Kiswahili, but recently the church has split it’s morning services so that one service is in English (at 9:45am) and the other in Kiswahili (at 11:15am).  For us, although it was good to worship in both languages, it is certainly easier to follow a sermon in English solely without the obvious pause for the translation.

Between the services there is Chai (Tea) and a chance to meet the other congregation. In addition once a month there is a joint Baptismal service in which the swimming pool is utilised as a Baptismal pool. Each month there has always been someone who has wanted to be baptised.

We are very happy to be part of this church and look forward to being so for our time in Mwanza.

12 Months Ago Today : Appointment

Little did I realise as I turned up for work 12 months ago that it was going to be a life changing day. The thought of teaching overseas had grown in my mind for several months – rekindling a fire which had burned low for the previous two decades.

The previous months had seen me questioning the way British Education was going and despairing at the decisions of my school to downgrade ICT to an option at GCSE. I needed a change and having spoken with Anita in the New Year and having talked through the option with the children I embarked on a lot of research. The first post which came up was in Thailand – I thought long and hard but felt this was not right for now. I then saw two jobs both in Africa, one in Isamilo (Mwanza, Tanzania) the other in Malawi. Funnily enough it was the Tanzanian job which appealed more (given Anita’s previous experiences in Malawi this was a surprise to both of us). We looked at blogs written by ex-pats living there and did a lot of research. After nearly two weeks of investigation  I made the application to Isamilo in the early days of February (just four days earlier).

Everything was unreal even after the interview – as ever I second guessed myself, convinced I had ‘muffed up’ and ruined my chances. At the same time it was still unreal as no one had actually employed me and I was still safe in England – though increasingly unhappy with education there. Then it all changed…. Continue reading

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.










What A Year! 2014 (Part 2)

As the New Year begins  I continue to reflect on 2014 a year in which I (and my family) made the dramatic move to Tanzania, month by month. Part 1 is here.


As September we settled into our new house and I began so did my new teaching career. Lessons began on the 1st and it was time to get to know new students, new systems and a new environment. Teaching ICT in a land where power cuts can happen at short notice was never going to be easy but actually things weren’t too bad. A new projector was a helpful addition and within a week or two it felt like we had always been there. The kids settled in to the school too and Anita began to explore Mwanza and quickly signed up to language classes to improve her already impressive Swahili. I too got to know my new home town and having decided not to buy a car (yet!) we did a lot of walking which was no bad thing. Running was more of an issue with the heat and the hills!

Purple Grenadier

Purple Grenadier

We adapted to new routines and got to know the folk on the compound and flats both old an new colleagues. In all there had been six families who had moved out, along with four singles. This included two new heads of primary and secondary both settling into their new roles. Weekly events like Boy’s night and Bridge were part of the routine, possible because the smaller classes at school meant less marking and so a little more social time.

We began to look into churches and settled on two possibilities MIC and NCLC, based in different towns in the city. We also got to know some of the expat NGOs working in the community. The compound grounds were full of strange and exotic bird life and the odd familiar bird too (sparrows are common here!). The school also had it’s fair share of exotic visitors with monkeys jumping through the trees and raiding the bins.


The rains weren’t due until mid-November but we had had some heavy downpours throughout September and October was no exception with some immensely heavy downpours in the mornings turning roads into rivers and bringing down trees. The rain never lasted too long and soon it turned hot and humid.

One of the first things we did this month was to join the Borders on their Weekend Camping Trip up the coast. We had a great weekend by the lake and got to know some of our colleagues even better. The lake was stunning but sadly you could not swim in it as it was infested by Bilharzia, small snails which harbour disease.

Late in the month we also travelled a little bit further up the coast to Papa’s a restaurant on the lake recommended by many as a good place to visit. It was nice to leave the confines of Mwanza on both trips but we had seen very little of Tanzania.

The school week continued to rush on at a pace and before long it was nearly half term and our first Safari in the Serengeti and Ngorogoro Crater. This was an  amazing three days of wildlife including all the big 5, but sadly no Cheetah. Even so our sighting of a Leopard on the last day was a definite highlight.


The month began with birthday celebrations galore. Not only Anita and Bex, but many of the staff and their children had birthdays – so much celebrating to be done.Birthdays (1)

With so many celebrations at once a number of us booked a weekend at a secluded resort complex called Wag Hill, The place was close to Mwanza but a world away from the city, secluded and quiet, a group of  15 of us booked the cottage out and had a fab weekend, wallowing in the pool, wandering the hills and seeing new creatures Hyraxes and a Gennet, along with different bird life.

As November wore on the rains really began and we realised exactly how heavy and prolonged rain can be here. The roads were turning to mush and wearing away fast.

The school ran its annual Charity Fair in aid of Saturday school and it was a great chance to work together with my tutor group to run a stall. Anita and Bex both got ill which was less pleasant – they missed the Fair!

I paid my first visit to Saturday school as part of a hectic Saturday which saw me at a number of events and parties. Social life does get busy here and it is one of the great things about ex-pat living. Even so it was great to see what the school are doing to help the poor and underprivileged in Mwanza.

My tutor group produced what I think was the best assembly – a play they had written on the plight of girls in education – I am biased but it was good!

November was full of Parents Evenings one or two per week at times, along with report writing this was taking up a lot of time but it had to be done.

The term was running out fast and before long it was the end of November.


The term here finishes earlier than in the UK so we only had a fortnight in school. Both kids had lead roles in the School Production – The Importance of Being Ernest. Rehearsals were taking their time but it was worth it in the end as they both did outstandingly.IMG_9735

IMG_9738The last week of term came and went with parties and gatherings of various sorts and then it was time for Zanzibar.

Our long-planned 8 day visit to the island was well worth it. Glorious white sand beaches, warm turquoise seas and amazing wildlife on land and in the water it was a fabulous time.


All too soon we were back in Mwanza for Christmas.

The Rains continued and brought flooding to Mwanza on Christmas Eve, our compound Christmas dinner relocated into our living room where 18 of us shared a meal and some games into the early evening.IMG_0731

As the year ended we again gathered for a New Year Celebration, 2014 was an amazing year I wonder what 2015 will hold?

The Show

Tonight is the final performance of this year’s school production, “the Importance of Being Earnest”. This comedy play, written by Oscar Wilde stars among many leading characters our two children. For my daughter it’s her first major role. For my son it follows on from a minor leading role in “The Hunchback of Notredame” at his last school.
The first night reviews were good and with both getting praise from colleagues.
We’re looking forward to seeing the show and will hopefully post some pictures after the performance (after 7:30pm GMT / 10:30pm local).




December Swim and a Compound Curry

Today, weirdly was a Bank Holiday in the last week of term. The weather was hot and sunny, much as it has been all week. So after a lazy morning, we went for a swim in the pool. A great way to spend an afternoon.

This evening a number of colleagues from across the compound gathered together for a Compound Curry. We each brought different dishes which we shared, including homemade Samosas, Naan and Chapattis. A great pre-Christmas evening before we all head out our separate ways in the holidays. For us it will be Zanzibar, for others Moshi and Arusha near Kilimanjaro, whilst others are travelling further afield into Rwanda. Even got to taste my first Mince Pie of the year.


Upper School

Since there is an extremely loud disco going on nearby and I’m highly unlikely to get any sleep soon another blog post.
Today has been a hectic day with a variety of social activities to fill up 12 hours from 10 ’til 10 of which more another time.
After Saturday School I did have an hour before the Border Patent’s Visiting Day Lunch. So I decided to do something Inhad never managed to do so far and explore the school grounds. In particular those parts on the hill. Our school is built on a hill and above the pool area there is a Cricket Area and above that a Netball Court. On the other side above the football pitch there are Tennis Courts and a Squash Court. Then a wild area of trees and scrub which lead up to a water tank on top of the hill. This wild area was remarkably peaceful and gave some great views of the Lake. Loads of butterflies too. A great place to sit for half an hour or so.





Saturday School

After over three months here Anita and I thought it about time we visited Saturday School.
This is a charitable outreach by the school into the local community providing free education to local children. Each Saturday Morning the school opens it’s gates for two hours to provide lessons in a range of subjects including English, ICT, Art as well as sports such as Swimming, Football, Basketball.
These activities are mostly run by students who plan and deliver the lessons assisted by a very few teachers. The students seem to enjoy the classes and most come back week by week to do things that otherwise they would possibly never get to do.IMG_9514.JPG






Charity Fair

Today was the date in the Calendar when the school holds it’s annual Charity Fair in aid of Saturday School. IMG_9472.JPG On Saturday mornings Isamilo opens up it’s facilities on to local children to provide free education, including computing and English as well as swimming. The Charity Fair is open to the whole community and each tutor group runs a stall. Other stalls are run by local artisans or by parents, The visitors pay s modest entry fee and then buy tokens which are used as tickets for the various stalls. Unfortunately, Anita (Malaria) and Bex (UTI and Amoeba infection) were both too poorly to come do it was just Matt and I who went. Matt was helping to run the “Sponge The Teacher” stall, of wich more below.

My tutor group ran a stall whereby people paid for water balloons which were then thrown at members of the group. A hit gave points which led to receiving a bookmark or sweets.

My role was to wander through the event making sure things were OK (which they were). Which gave me a good chance to see all the different activities. Other than this there was the “Sponge The Teacher” stall in which I participated. This was great fun but very wet. A token bought 3 wet sponges aimed at your head which peered through a hole in a board.

The day finished off with a raffle. I had bought a single ticket – Peach 66. I so wish I had got a strip as Peach 65, 67 and 69 all came out of the bucket. Even so it was a great afternoon and the rain held off until after 6 when we’d finished.

Birthday Brace

Today is the second of the two birthdays for the Tanzalongs. The turn of Anita. Unfortunately this was juxtaposed with a Sixth Form parents evening. Luckily they don’t last that long here so we were all able to gather at our local bar The Joint for a drink and a meal by 6pm (there are only 25 in the whole of the the two years).

A number of colleagues from the compound and the flats were able to join us so it was a great evening of fun.

It’s gonna be a bit strange tomorrow with no birthday to celebrate but it’s been a great few days.


Breaking Up Reflections!

It’s flown by! Eight weeks ago today we were departing Heathrow Airport and wishing family farewell. A week of induction and seven weeks of teaching have followed. In this time we have settled into our new home and made new friends; got to know Mwanza with all its delights and all its foibles , seen some amazing sights and begun to explore further afield. We have settled into the expatriate community at Isamilo and in the wider Christian expat community of Mwanza. We have begun to settle into a church.

The children have made some good school friends and settled into school life. Graham has settled into teaching and the unexpectedness that comes from teaching ICT in a land where connectivity and power are inconsistent. He has started running again and is enjoying the social side of weekly Boy’s Night. Anita has made friendships in the wider community (both Tanzanian and expat) and her Kiswahili has come on leaps and bounds.

We have been on a camping trip with the school.

In so many ways UK life is a distant memory already.

The constant heat (wet or dry) is a reminder we are far from home along with the exotic bird life, reptiles and mammals. So ends our first half term here and in the main it has been great.
The week ahead should prove very exciting as we head North East for a Safari in Serengeti and Ngorogoro. We are hoping for some amazing experiences and fabulous pictures. It will also be a time for rest ahead of the next seven weeks.

Thanks to all who continue to read, like and follow this blog.


Below are some pictorial highlights from our first eight weeks in Tanzania.

A Comprehensive Change

As we approach half term here (1 week today). I thought I’d reflect back on the first term and the differences between being here in a Tanzanian International School and a British Comprehensive.

Continue reading

Camping by the Lake

This weekend we have left Mwanza and travelled a short distance up the coast at a place called St Dominic’s Annex Beach. We are here with the school borders on a camping weekend. Given this morning’s weather this is either brave or foolhardy.
Having said that it’s nice to leave the town and experience a little bit of rural Tanzania.
Currently the borders sure help ping to prepare an evening meal (Spaghetti Bolognaise)

There are numerous bugs here attracted by the light, otherwise it’s a lovely spot and provided you keep away from the strip lights it’s fine.

There have been signs of a storm way out across the lake and I would really like to see one for real (rain free of course).

Some pics when the reception improves.


Living In Harmony

Isamilo is a school with a wide range of ethnicity and nationality.As I wandered around the playground on duty today I was struck by how harmonious things were. The playground was as noisy as any I’ve been in and the littlest ones were madly dashing about as per usual (the school runs from 5 to 18). What was interesting was to see the groups of children across the playground. Wazungu (White expatriate), Wahindi (Indian Tanzanian), Tanzanian and Arab (Omani Expatriate), all intermingled. In the UK my general experience was that students tended to segregate. It’s nice to see a more harmonious approach here. I think it is reflective of the general peace found in this part of the world. Tanzania seems to my early eyes a stable and peaceful country. Whether it is or not the peaceful co-existence of Hindu, Muslim and Christian is good news at Isamilo where the students seem quite comfortable with their differences and happy to be friends.

The Tree At The Back Of The Classroom

The tree at the back of the classroom provides shade and is a popular resting place for the monkeys and birds. Or rather it used to, for today it has gone.
Following heavy rain early this morning the tree (rotten through at its base) crashed on to the road outside – luckily no one was injured. It was a big tree and must have been there many years. The view from the windows has enlarged markedly, but it was a shame.IMG_8945.JPG
The whole road was blocked and as a result staff and students were delayed. Within half an hour or so half a dozen or so Askaris (watchmen) were at it with machetes and an axe and were carving at the wood.

By lunch the road was clear with the remaining trunk left leaning over the fence – to be cleared another day. All this without the aid of a chainsaw.

For those who might wonder, no students were harmed in the taking of these pics, snapped during a non-teaching lesson, at break and while students were engaged in research activities.


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.