From my notebooks then…

On the back of the bus are written the words…

A Friend in Need is a Friend in Debt
Polo Ralph Lauren                                                                                                                               Pure Light
Dirt Freak
So Much Trouble in the World
What about Slave Day?
Black My Story                                                                                                                                 Black Idea
No Permanent Situation
The dog Father
You’ll Never Walk Alone, Liverpool Football Club
Tracy Chapman (my favourite)                                                                                                        Obama
Power of Jesus
Rick Ro$$
Real Hip Hop
Ruben Hood                                                                                                                                      Smile for Me Outlaw                                                                                                                          Focus in Africa

Titles for some kiosques and small shops….

Hilary Clinton Shop (a somewhat bedraggle, tacked together kiosque by the roadside)
Camp David (a wee café, all cafés are wee)
Los Angeles Guest House
The Mushroom Café                                                                                                                          New Nice Café
Truthful Faithful Training Centre                                                                                                        Boy Guys Bar                                                                                                                                Welcome to Dream Time Quality Shop                                                                           Damasscuss Grocery                                                                                                                        New Improved Bull Washing Bar With Lemon Power

While walking to work..

When I asked what made Tanzanians so friendly, so well disposed, Abel said “Julius Nyerere”.

Julius Nyerere actually put these two words together “Peace and Love”.

I stopped to purchase a 400 shilling mango on the street but was missing a few shillings and a young man contributed to my purchase. I offered slices to those who saw my delight as I continued my way home. I think the annual arrival of this fruit from Kenya is welcome by everyone. Rightly so; it is delicious.

200 shillings worth of roasted peanuts sold on the street are wrapped in a newspaper cone.

I’ve pass a gravel pit where people are way up the mountainside shoveling gravel down towards waiting ‘dump’ trucks and it looks as the dump trucks are unloaded by hand as well.

Heading home from a field trip Hanga Nyerere sang a familiar hymn in Kiswahili.

A nation wearing cast off clothes and carrying them so well:
On two occasions men walked past wearing slightly small ‘ladies’ tailored jackets – trend setting.
I saw a lady wearing Auntie Aileen’s mink coat she kept all those years in our freezer. No lie. Or a second cousin.
Motorcycle taxis sporting ski jackets with fake fur trim, pink scarves, ski hats from Apex ‘n Aspen.
Tee shirts that read: Duluth, Minnie Mouse, “Born 00”, “I’m Bad my Tee Shirt is Good”, “The Vibrators”.  Sweat Shirts from McGill, ball caps from Alaska; jackets from Bean, SunIce, Patagonia.
Even Tim Horton has his say.
The thing is, whatever, they can pull it off, make it work.

A protected, nurtured, cultivated, expensive view within the bosom of the United Nations.

The sweet sour smell of bodies washed from a cold water bucket.

As I set out for work one busy morning three cows with humps were skillfully negotiating the roundabout guided by a man with a shuka and slim stick with which he lightly tapped these biddable animals.

Given the lack of defensive driving I am surprised at how few accidents I’ve seen, but the dogs don’t make it. Possibly the more rules the fewer wits.

Lovely baby grass-green preying mantis on my vegetable basket all day out on the balcony.

Chips (french fries) are hand-cut. Yes, hand-pealed, hand-cut, fried on an open charcoal fire.

Coca Cola (soda) and plastic chairs are everywhere, just as in some Amsterdam café or on every sundeck anywhereland.

Cellphones border on ridiclous.

Philippa, two little boys with their all wooden, miniature toy ‘bambulence’.

Joseph Israel, still a high school student studying biology, wants to leave Tanzania as soon as possible as he sees little future what with government corruption. I gave him Wangari Mathaii’s book that Toshi had left me. She won the Nobel Peace prize in 2004 for her work in reforestation. She was a Kenyan educated in the United States, during the Civil Rights movement and in Germany. She returned to fight for Kenya her entire life. She was a biologist so I gave him her book. I hope he reads it. He said he surely would. I watched him cycle off home, a long way from the Sunday afternoon soccer game where we met.

I pass a pile of largish rocks some women and children are turning into gravel, with hammers and without eye protection.

The librarian’s name is Godlove, and I’ve met Godlisten and Godwin.

The about grade six young boy skillfully practicing soccer moves with a homemade ball in the gravel by the roadside. He is wearing sandals made of spent tires and his clothes are in tatters and his every move is brilliant, lithe.

I saw some comment in some magazine about an accompanying photo of a rooster tied to book-rack on the back of some Afrikan bicycle, and how wasn’t this animal cruelty? No, it was a rooster tied upright on the back of a bike. Around here you don’t just stop at Mallmart for your average frozen bird.

I live beside the Impala Hotel. Big. For months I’ve watched people shoveling through the green slop that comes out the back door, feeling badly thinking this was their source of food. Finally I stopped one day to ask (I guess it took me all this time to work up the nerve +/or learn some of the words required to squeak out the question). Phew, it turns out the bags of slop are for their pigs. Made me feel so much better.

Goats walking, no, strolling down the street window shopping, stopping to peer through the door of the motorcycle shop.

On the the list of offerings on the window of a beautician’s shop the likes of: message and man cure. (Funny but keep in mind my Kiswahili.)

When I asked if Peter was Tanzanian his immediate response was “I’m Afrikan”. I could have hugged him for the strength in his reply, his pride.

Tony to co-worker Frida: “I’m beginning to feel old.”
Frida’s response: “What do you mean??? You are old.”

There’s a chronic shortage of dough in people’s pockets.

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10 Responses to From my notebooks then…

  1. Karen Timoshuk says:

    Through your wonderful writing, you teach beautifully Tony. Thank you.

  2. wadawson says:

    Thank you Karen. Kind words. I spent the whole day putting this together – slow ‘n steady- like the tortoise…so it means a lot your comment.

  3. loumdel says:

    the beginnings of something bigger…

  4. Russel Virginia says:

    Really looking forward to your book, Tony! Loved your notebook notes!
    G xox
    Was that a pic of D.J. with all your brothers? If he is with you, am happy for you both! Say “hi”

  5. wadawson says:

    Ginny, hi…yes, it is David but he is busy in Penticton trying to make it pay until the tourist season runs out, then we’ll see.
    Big thanks.
    Have a look at a wonderful short film “The Girl in the Café”.

  6. wadawson says:


    I really like how you are enjoying your experience in such a mindful way. I love the bus names and everything else.

    It is so good that you are keeping records. Your blog is a wonderful record in itself and you’ll enjoy the memories it evokes later on.

    The ?? are growing nicely.


  7. wadawson says:

    Mindful is a lovely word I’d not thought of. Thank you.
    Mine are growing well as well Susan out on my wee balcony.

  8. garratt88 says:

    Your observations are truly poetic. Thanks, Tony

  9. wadawson says:

    Comment from Maysie Mehling

    I’m sad to hear of the difficult life and low wages of the workers in Arusha. Is there a middle class and the wealthy class in Tanzania?? Is this a matter of distribution of wealth or can’t the
    country support their population? I imagine both. I read an obituary in the UBC Trek magazine of a man who graduated in the 50s as pedologist,(don’t know the word) soil research who from 1978 to 1985 co-ordinated the soil survey program for the Tanzania wheat farm project in East Africa for CIDA. He apparently enjoyed travelling in the area and Europe. I wonder if any of his work still exists. I hope you are able to continue to do active field work with the farmers. I guess it is indicative of my age but I get quite weary with the world. Also I made a mistake and let the water overflow my kitchen sink and thus into the suite below. So it is from the insurance agent to the claims dept. to the adjuster’s manager to the adjuster to the contractor and on and on. Remind me not to do that again or I’ll be out of here. better news– Vancouver has had a fairly long spell of warm summer weather but for me these past cooler days are more to my taste and enjoyment. For how long are you signed up? Does your term end at year’s end??? And no ,you are not old. I hope the climate is not wearing you down. What a difference. Few offer to carry my packsack but I was pleased to hear your friend saw you safely home. Is aids a problem in the area??? and do the villagers understand the spread of diseases?? Or is there even enough water to wash their hands??? Fortunately the hot sun kills a good part of the bacteria. Yes we’re all brothers and originated in Africa but apparently brotherly love doesn’t come naturally but for tonight Tony night , night and sleep safely and well. Maysie

  10. wadawson says:

    My compliments, you and Dorothy Haley must be out of the same pod.

    Your letter was full and interesting and I am tardy. Not on purpose.

    Your life is full too and if it is any consolation, which it isn’t,
    you are not the only one to overflow the sink.

    I have been here 8 months and really don’t have answers but I will try
    to give you my impressions. You bring up a lot of worthy topics.

    Yes there is a middle and upper class. I saw a BMW convertible sports
    car drive down the road once and there are some huge houses. I work
    with comfortable middle class because my desk mates work for the
    United Nations and have a higher salary than many. The non government
    organizations of which there must be hundreds pay more than the
    national government and there is I’d guess not a strong private sector
    sadly. I think the private sector is the key.
    The population is very high and most people are in the poor class, the
    vast majority. Meaning no running water, electricity, no cars, no
    bikes, second hand clothes from us, no toys, little schooling, lots of
    church. Corruption must play a part, how else could little kids go to
    schools empty of all but themselves, no books.
    I am not aware of Aids but I had two guest fellow volunteers who came
    to Arusha and saw what you and I wish weren’t. One of the drivers told
    me the condom has saved lives.
    People keep amazingly clean given the cold water bucket bathes most
    must take. Hand washing is way ahead of our approach; before every
    meal, at least when eating out (and not in fancy restaurants) people
    are provided with water to rinse before eating. This is important as
    people often eat with their right hands, not with knife and fork.
    Heat has not been a problem for me but talk to those living in Dar es
    Salaam where it both hot and humid. There I dripped. It is getting
    hotter but so far I am fine – somewhat like home.

    The trees are starting to flower again and one outside my residence
    hasn’t stopped since I arrived. Pretty deluxe.

    My contract is for one year and I will stop then. I haven’t been
    formally asked to stay on and I am not asking. I am not homesick as
    much as home means to me and I would like to stay on longer and I am
    exploring. I am interested in helping out at a girl’s school, one I
    sponsor from home. If accepted it would be for 6 months.

    There. Would it be acceptable to put some of your email letter to me
    into the comments section of the blog and then add my response Maysie?
    I value hearing from you and your comments and questions.

    You’re in for the best season in my opinion. Happy Thanksgiving,


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