Tag Archives: life

Slipping Right Back In?

I am not sure what I expected upon our return visit to the UK this summer but I’m pleasantly surprised that for me at least it is very much a case of picking up where I left off in 2014. I imagined that there might be a greater discontinuity or even culture shock but it hasn’t as yet been manifest.

Perhaps the effects of Social Media, FaceTime, the BBC News App on my phone and a 4G has meant that a tenuous link to the UK remained even though I was well off the beaten track in Mwanza.
We are in the midst of a week long return to MK and yesterday had a great time catching up with old friends at St Mary’s Bletchley. Whilst much had changed in the Church Yard, it seemed to us that it was very much the same SMB we left in 2014. It was good to be part of that community again.  MK itself seems little different – a few new buildings in this ever changing new city but familiar nonetheless. 
We have all got older of course and the changes are most apparent in the friends of our children and in the older folk we have met. Even so most people are as they were. Here lies the most obvious difference. 

I suppose the past two years for us have opened us to a very different way of life and a plethora of experiences. Yet perhaps outwardly we have changed little too other than a slight tan and the use of a few expat colloquialisms. Yet sitting here in MK, we are visitors, curious onlookers no longer residents.

I wonder whether the longer we are away from Britain, the bigger the differences will become.

My Music: Power, Corruption & Lies

This is the first and possibly the last of a series reflecting on some of my music collection which may or may not resonate with life here.

Power, Corruption and Lies is one of the first albums I ever bought, on tape for my Walkman – the iPod of it’s day,  a portable music player which allowed you to insert a cassette tape giving you up to 45mins of unbroken music (whilst it’s batteries lasted).

The album by New Order was amazing and even today 33 years on I like to listen to it’s tracks. On the cassette version there were a number of extra tracks, the most famous track  is Blue Monday which is a classic. Mum used to hear the thumping intro (dum dum d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d dum dum) and call up the stairs to “turn that music down”. The song incidentally was the biggest selling 12″ of all time.

Sadly the tape eventually wore out and a Vinyl album was bought later to be replace by MP3 versions.

Why do I share these facts? In truth life here in Tanzania can often resonate with the title of this track. I mostly share the positive side of life here, to do otherwise would be depressing, but sometimes it seems like we’re living  in the title of this particular album – “nuff said”.

The gloss is wearing thin

There comes a point when the novelty of a new place begins to wear off. It’s true to say that life here in Mwanza has probably reached that point- it’s taken eight months but life here has definitely become more mundane. It’s also true to say that some of the things here are a little irksome.

The continual power cuts; the low level internet connectivity; the price of even the most basic of Western goods at our local supermarket (U-Turn); the continual requests for money and the expectation we’re made of it just because we’re white; the employment laws here which make it feel like it is impossible for Anita to secure work with any permanence; the close-nit expat community many who have known each other for years and some of whom, it seems, don’t really want to get to know us.  All combine to make life a little less rosy.

This may sound quite a negative post and  I suppose it is, but even now we’re not about to “jack it in”. In spite of the negs there is still a lot going for this place. 

We’ve made some good friends and have enjoyed some great experiences in East Africa, in spite of the technological frustrations, the students are great, they work hard, want to do well and are a pleasure to teach, we are probably better off than we would ever have been in the UK. True we don’t have a car, but we have not really needed one. It is true that western goods are expensive but there are alternatives and a lack of sugary processed food is good for us. There are some genuinely friendly Tanzanians who aren’t seeing us as a meal ticket. 

The grass is not always greener, but neither is it always a  browny-yellow, it’s just different and as we adjust to Tanzanian life we need to accept that truth.

If we were living at GMT

It’s strange to think that as I finish my afternoon at school, my erstwhile colleagues will just be starting their lunch break.  It is amazing to think that somewhere in the world some one is waking up at this moment, somewhere else at the exact same instant someone is going to bed. Someone eats breakfast at the same instant as another eats a midday snack, yet another has their evening meal. 

Currently (for the next two  to three weeks at least) there is a three-hour difference between UK time and Tanzanian time, before the UK lurches  forward into BST.  So here is my daily routine converted into GMT.

The alarm goes of at 2:50am and by 3:15am we are up and about. Sunrise is at 4am or there abouts.


After a shower and breakfast we leave the house by 4:30am at the latest. It’s a short walk to school which starts at 4:55am with Assembly or Tutor. Lessons start at 5:15am with a break from 7:45am to 8:05am – a time my old colleagues are getting into work in the UK. Lunch is at 9:45am and afternoon sessions begin at 10:30am. The school day ends at 12:15pm after wich there are meetings or clubs until 1:30pm. Then home and for me Language school (Tue-Thu) from 2pm to 3pm. We tend to eat our evening meal by 3:30pm and sun sets by 4pm.

If we are out at night from 4:30pm until 7pm. If I am working of an evening over a similar time period or an hour later. I tend to go to bed about 9pm , sometimes 9:30pm (which means that sometimes I am blogging /posting from tomorrow as far as the UK is concerned).

Weekends, we get a lie in until 5am on a Saturday when I either head off to Prep (5:30am until 7am) and Saturday School (from 7am until 8am). Then we are often in town shopping until 11am. If the children are off to youth group then it runs from 12noon until 2pm.  We might watch a DVD if we are in  (from 5pm until 7pm). Even though we could watch some UK TV on iPlayer most of the good TV will be on after 11pm.

Sunday church runs from 6:45 am until 8am. Then home for lunch (10am), a phone call home can be as early as 1pm or as late as 6pm varying from week to week. We might go out for a walk from 12noon to 2pm. An evening meal and some TV (DVD’s or iPlayer downloads). Then it’s to bed by 8:30pm or 9pm ready for an early start!

So here is our life as lived as if at GMT. If you live elsewhere in the world what is yours?

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.

No Cable, No Car, No Worries

Almost three weeks in and we’re living without a car and without a cable TV.

To be honest we’re not missing either Continue reading

Life Without

T + 5

We are getting used to living without. Our house is great but Tanzanian life is laid back and even though water filters have been requested and chased up there are still none. Other things are missing; no broom or dust pan, no plug for the bath or sink; no waste bin; no bath mat; no laundry basket.
This afternoon we have been into Mwanza and raided the shop for some of these essentials. We carried back (we have no car) a number of items but need to return tomorrow for more Having said this, we have now got two extra desks for the kids to word at and the electric hot plate on the otherwise gas cooker is now wired in.
In spite of all of this we are surprisingly getting used to living without a number of things; no TV (for the moment); no car; a more limited diet (much less meat).
Many of these are quite healthy. Part of me wonders if we will need a TV package at all – we have a host of DVD’s and access to the internet ( I knew about MK Dons v Man U as it was happening courtesy of Facebook). As for a car, we are debating whether we need one – there is a lot to be said for the health benefits of walking and local transport seems good. We are going to see, certainly in the short term there is no reason and it’s helping us to explore the city.
Compared to the vast majority of our neighbours we are immensely well off and it is churlish to complain. We do really need those water filters though!

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Life Lived In Phases

T Minus 5

As we leave Lincoln I reflect that as awesome as the change we are about to make is; it is after all just another move, something I have done several times before.

I was not born here, but moved to Lincoln just before my 7th Birthday. At the time it was probably the most traumatic change, uprooting and moving half way across the country, settling into a new school, half way through the year, with a South East accent ‘Up North’. Nonetheless Lincoln became my home and though I lived here for less than 12 years I feel it is my home from home; partly due to the fact mum still lives in the house.
When I left Lincoln, it was for University and I didn’t move far. Nottingham became my home for the next phase. Another major upheaval as I was suddenly confronted by hundreds of people I didn’t know in a Hall of Residence. You make friends quickly in such circumstances! Nottingham in various rooms and flats and houses was my home for 4 years.
Leaving Nottingham to get a job brought me unknowingly to Milton Keynes, my home for almost 26 years. In that time I have rented and owned property; been single, in a relationship, engaged, married and had kids; worked in four different schools; attended two churches (one of those for virtually all of the 26 years!). As we speak Milton Keynes is the place we call home more than anywhere (Anita lived here a year longer than I although she lived in Canada, Jamaica and Malaŵi for 27 months).
Although this is a phase it has probably been several phases in reality, demarked by changes of job and circumstance.
I think that the longer your in a phase the more dramatic the change is when
it comes. We lived in the same house for 17 years, I have been in one job for 11 years and so the last 11 years has been a phase in itself. Getting up at 6:15am, out by 7:15am and on the road for the 50 min journey for start of work by 8:30am. Returning back home from between 4:00pm and 6:00 pm (7:30pm on Parent’s Evenings). Badminton for me on a Monday; Woburn Sands Band for the others Tuesday to Friday; Saturday Park Run and the Weekly Shop; Sunday Church at 11am. Life has been routine!
Currently we are between homes and have been touring the country, but this short phase is coming to a close and the next phase is about to begin!
Change is happening, more do than ever before but change has preceded it and in the end the new will become the new routine, a house will become home and a new life will ensue.

Reality Bubble

T Minus 15

I have to admit something.

I am a bit of a Star Trek fan. I watched in the 70’s on BBC (when my Dad let me). Then later on the movies leading into the Next Generation on Sky followed by DS9, Voyager and Enterprise in the ’80s , ’90s and 00’s.

One of my favourite episodes is an Episode of Next Gen involving Dr Crusher. In the Episode she is caught up in a Bubble Universe which keeps shrinking. As it does so people disappear around her yet the immediate environment remains the same until in the end she is on her own and at the last minute she is dragged back into reality.

There is a point to this….

As I sit here, bowl of cereal at hand on this sunny Cornwall morning, the world seems real enough but the reality bubble is closing in on us. Some people have disappeared in a sense (work colleagues, church friends, MK neighbours, even family members) as we will not see them again before we go.
Soon the bubble will close in on us completely leaving just the four of us. Then we will be pulled into a new reality (here the analogy breaks down a little)

At the moment it seems completely unreal that in just over two weeks we will be in Tanzania starting our new life.

For now beaches, ice cream, supermarket shopping, the things we take for granted in modern UK life are our reality but soon, very soon this will be gone, to be replaced by a different reality in a developing country. New sights, smells and sounds await. The bubble is almost gone.IMG_8313.JPG

A Fair Exchange!

T Minus 54
When I look at our new house in Mwanza, I am excited and intrigued and have genuine anticipation. I think it looks fab. A number of others have told us that we’re “brave” – that word again! I think everyone has their own opinion as to what makes a good home and what they want from life. As someone brought up in the UK, I have generally followed the conventional pattern.

Finish education, get a job, get married, have kids, get promotion, move to a bigger house….etc.

There have been subtle differences though – 13 years ago I gave up Science Teaching full time for a short while and looked to becoming a web designer (which didn’t work out), retrained and re-entered teaching as an ICT teacher at a lower grade. This proved to be a good move and took me into my present job in my present school.

After 11 years, a couple of promotions and some fabulous experiences through school in Gambia and the Far East, I have felt it’s time to leave.
I am stepping off this particular “hamster wheel” and changing direction – this time it’s not the subject I’m changing but country and culture. As far as the UK way “I’ve been there, bought the T-shirt”, it’s time for something new. I know Anita feels the same.

For us this is the chance to explore and experience a new way of living. We are not exchanging a UK life for an equivalent one in Mwanza, we don’t expect things to be the same, that’s the point. We have no doubts there will be a lot we’ll miss in Mwanza, but we think we’ll be gaining so much more. There will be frustrations (life has frustrations built in) but we believe also so much more rewarding- look at the ‘Bucket List‘ for more of what we’d like to do when we’re out. We’ve not lived in a detached house since we both left home so this will be a first. The tropical garden with it’s trees and wildlife are a bonus. The life we are leaving behind is different to the one we’re going to but that’s the whole point and we’re both up for it. 🙂 🙂

An Ode to Milton Keynes : Of Concrete Cows and Roundabouts

T Minus 107

Of concrete cows and roundabouts
A life lived here or hereabouts

Do you know what life here means?
Milton Keynes, Milton Keynes

When I declare I’m from MK
I wonder what it is you say?

If I reveal I’m from this city
Do you look on me with pity?

Or do you look upon me down?
If I say I’m from this town.

A place of Tarmac, steel and glazing
Where cows stand still but never grazing

Where roads run straight, past new estates.
To  roundabouts that everyone hates.

These are popular misconceptions.
The myths of Britain’s general perceptions.

When I moved here in ’88
I thought it was a place I’d hate.

But over the years I have grown to enjoy
This city, despised when I was a boy.

What people afar will often mistake
Is a town full of greenery, park and lake.

Here in this city you’ll find if you look
Woodland and meadow and canal and brook.

A modern city, yes it’s true!
But places to rest and relax too.

Fast roads which get you from place to place.
With minimum traffic to slow down your pace.

Yet near to the streets, all hustle and bustle.
You can walk through the woods and hear the leaves rustle.

Milton Keynes, Milton Keynes
Do you know what life here means?

A life lived here or hereabouts
Of concrete cows and roundabouts.

© Graham Long May 2014

This came to me on the road home tonight and I wrote it down in half an hour. It comes from conversations with people who don’t know Milton Keynes.

All pictures below taken in Milton Keynes





Canal Long Walk (9)










MK plus 9340 (T minus 150)

I first came to Milton Keynes in the summer of 1988, though in truth I did so reluctantly.

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