Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Home Sweet African Home

It was great to be able to experience first hand what day to day home life is for Julia, Viggo, and Daniel. The house they live in was shipped to Tanzania as a kit and assembled some time back by Baptist Missionaries. They are renting it. In the photo above they are standing in front of the entry. There is a covered porch, which will be especially important as the rainy season kicks in and the plentiful dust is turned into mud. There is an even larger covered back porch that also provides a place to cook outdoors when necessary and a place to dry some clothes.

The grounds are spacious (an acre?) and nicely landscaped. There are three "guards" who divide up the 24 x 7 week so that one of them is always on duty. In addition to discouraging burglars, they work on the landscaping and vegetable garden. The yard is surrounded by a fence and there is a large iron gate where the driveway enters.

Water is pumped from a well into a holding tank above the house. However, it has to be filtered before drinking: so no drinking from the tap! Julia and Viggo are on the Babati electric grid. The power went out about once a day at various times for reasons unknown. Usually it was back on within an hour or less. Cooking is done indoors now on a gas range and oven, in their spacious kitchen.

Grocery shopping is simple for some things and complicated for others. Grains (they eat a lot of rice),beans, and flour (they bake their own bread), plus fresh vegetables and fruit are easy to get in the local markets. Meat in the local markets is general of hacked from a carcass that is hanging at room temperature with flies crawling on it. It is an option, but Julia and Viggo choose to eat less meat than ever before. They buy some meat when they are in Arusha which is about a three hour drive from Babati. There is at least one big supermarket there. It is also a place to buy things like powdered milk, coffee, ready to eat cereal, etc. Speaking of milk, most of theirs is purchased fresh from their next door neighbor. A little too fresh, it has to be boiled and then refrigerated to prepare it for drinking.

Julia and Viggo have hired a local Mbugwe woman, Mama Elia, to help with the cooking, cleaning, and child care. That will free up more of their time to work as translators. Housekeeping and cooking are especially time consuming since there are very few "convenience foods" such as baked bread or canned beans. Another plus is that Mama Elia is helping Julia and Viggo with some rudimentary Mbugwe language lessons. She is a pastor's wife and has helped them involve some other Mbugwe people as well.

Foreigners are pretty much expected to hire some local help. Americans and Europeans are universally regarded as being very wealthy. With a minimum wage of about $2.50 per day, it would be seen as a bit rude and wrongheaded to refrain from putting anyone on the household payroll.

Shoes and clothes are readily available, and can even be custom tailored inexpensively in local shops.

Julia and Viggo have gradually added furniture. So far they have beds (with handsome mosquito net holders), a dining room table and chairs, and a sofa, love seat and armchair. There is also a small desk in a nook where they do their computer work.

The living room furniture was actually in progress while we visited. A couple of pictures above show the unfinished furniture in the carpenter's shop (he and his assistant are posed with Viggo).

The carpenter's shop is just as small as it probably seems in these pictures. The wood leaning against the wall is pretty typical. It is not in finished sizes. The carpenter uses no power tools at all. All the joints are crafted without the use of any hardware, not even screws or nails.

I wish I had gotten a photo of the finished living room furniture, but the cushion covers weren't quite completed. It is a very handsome mission style set. If someone was in a hurry and just wanted to buy finished furniture off a show room floor, there is nowhere within hours of driving that would provide much of a selection.

One last note about day to day stuff: heating and cooling. It is pretty much just a matter of opening or closing the windows and running fans or not. I was very pleased to find that the altitude in Babati causes the hot parts of the day to be quite tolerable and the evenings are cool.
The humidity is low. The rainy season will bring days that never really get very warm. Sweaters and jackets will be useful.
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