Tales & images from life as me…

TIA Tales – nothing ever only takes 5 minutes! – Part 1

Following on from the theme of the weekly shopping taking an unfeasibly long time here, I
began to think about the other jobs that don’t quite go to plan for bizarre and unforeseeable reasons and I realised I have any number of ideal TIA stories along this theme. You’ll notice the title is ‘part 1’, I have no idea what ‘part 2’ might consist of as yet, but I can pretty much guarantee that I will collect stories for it over the coming weeks and months, so it makes sense!

It was when I started in PR that I first heard the saying ‘there’s no such thing as five minute job’, and it was true. Everything always takes longer than you think it will, no matter where you live, especially if you need it done properly. But I never imagined how applicable this statement would be once I moved to Tanzania!

In just the past few weeks the following stories have occurred – rendering a simple task a mammoth mission…

Most recently, we were in Nairobi visiting Damien’s family for his birthday. After a lovely weekend we got up on the Monday morning at 4.30am to get to the airport and make our direct flight to Mwanza. Pretty straightforward, if a little early. When we got there things started to go pear-shaped though. ‘The flight has been cancelled’ we were told.
‘Okaaaaay, so what do we do instead?’
‘You can fly from Nairobi to Zanzibar, Zanzibar to Dar es Salaam, and Dar es Salaam to Mwanza,’ came the smiling reply!
So a three-flight, ten-hour journey to replace our one-flight two-hour journey?… Can we just stay here and catch the direct flight tomorrow?
‘Mmmm maybe, but there’s a good chance they’ll cancel that flight too!’
By the time we got home we could have slept in until 6am and driven home from Nairobi to Mwanza faster!

I invited a mate out for a drink the other night. She only lives down the road. ‘No problem’ she said ‘I’ll see you in five.’ I should have known better. It’s like in a horror film when a character says ‘I’ll just go and check, I’ll be back in a minute, don’t worry!’ – you know they’re doomed!

So I waited a good 20 minutes and then called to see what has happened. ‘Sorry, Mel… I got caught up as I was leaving. My dogs eyes were all red and puffy – I think she’s been spat at by a cobra so I had to get the vet out!” Well, as excuses go it was certainly original! Poor thing never did make it out, but the dog has happily recovered.

Talking of cobras… – we don’t get a lot of them around here, they prefer to stay away from humans, but this month I have two cobra stories. Another friend of mine is busy building a new house. She and her husband were very excited to have reached the stage of installing electrics and plumbing and the ‘fundi’ (see TIA Tales – building work if you aren’t sure what that is!) went up into the roof to get started. ‘I’ll just pop up to take a look’ – famous last words!

He popped back down again pretty fast when he came face to face with a large cobra who’d decided that this was an ideal spot to rest – nice and warm, plenty of bats to eat. The work was delayed for a week while the couple got fumigators in to clear the place! The good news is they’ve finally moved in now and it really is a stunning spot (congratulations guys!)

On the theme of fundis – I had to laugh when a Dar mate What’s App’ed me last week to complain that she had returned to her office, expecting to find the painting work to be almost completed, only to discover her fundi fast asleep on the office sofa!

Back on my own turf, I tried to do a friend – Mr Tito – a favour here in Mwanza a little while ago. My aunt had very generously sent over money to buy a local artist a mattress for his child’s bed and he and I had agreed to go shopping for it. Mr Tito is a lovely man and he was waiting for me when I arrived ten minutes late. We chose the mattress without too much difficulty and managed (with the help of two other guys) to fold it into the back of my tiny car, but part way to our destination my engine died. This has never happened to me before in Mwanza. Mr Tito knows everyone and I soon had a crowd of people around the car advising on different things that could be wrong. Everyone was so kind, they even went and found me water and insisted that I sit while they try to fix it. It was actually very heart-warming. But an hour later it was the MineSite guys who came to rescue me and actually managed to identify the problem – I think I might have been there all day, and then some, otherwise. In the end of course, my five minute favour took 2 hours!

It’s often the way on car trips actually. It’s not as though traffic is really a problem as I only potter in and out of town, but it’s the bizarre police stops (so far I’ve got out of being fined by A/crying B/ insisting that I have left my child at home and need to get back quickly and C/ telling the policeman that I got married last week! Goodness knows where the logic was on that one! It takes a few minutes but often it’s the most irrelevant or random thing that makes them smile and gets you off!); or the sudden riots (there are frequently problems with local vendors and changes in law, or with different religious groups upsetting each other); or having to stop for a huge herd of cows or goats that decide to cross just as you get there; roads destroyed by the rains; a huge lorry doing a 48 point turn – all these things can make a five minute trip take an hour.

Of course power outages don’t help. Especially when they happen just as you’re baking bread and so you have to start all over again, or just as you’ve completed an email or blog but have not clicked save and so you have to start again! You get the idea.

And as for posting these blogs – well they can often take literally hours to upload, especially if I’m including photos. I think the Galapagos one was a 12 hour process (loads of swearing involved in that one).

There really isn’t such a thing as a five minute job here. But, if I’m honest (and if I’m having a positive day!) it actually becomes part of the fun. I love gathering people’s tales of insane frustration over a drink by the lake at the end of the week – they really can be very entertaining! Feel free to share if you have any to add to my collection from 2013 so far!


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