Customer care

I am warning you before you start reading, I will whine.. April was not a good month for customer care.

First my washing machine broke down. I imported an expensive German machine many years ago and the thing has done a fine job for me for a decade. So with unstable electrical supply, and water from doubtful quality, that is rather good going. The first fundi (eletrician, in this case) I asked to come kept promising me to come and making appointments and only showed up after 3 attempts. After looking at the machine for 2 minutes he said I need to bring it to his workshop. The second fundi I wanted to call, moved away. The third fundi then finally solved it. With ‘solved’ I mean he defined the spare part I need to replace. Of course I cannot find the part in Arusha and I had to order it online to be sent to my brother’s house. How and when it will eventually be with me is still a big question mark and I am washing clothes by hand in bath the tub for now.

Then I needed a gas bottle for cooking. You would think that is pretty straightforward. So after work I drove to a shop with some bottles outside. Apparently, the guy that fills them and locks them away had already left for the day. So I made them a deal: I would leave the bottle behind and pick it up the next day. Since I am of the skeptical kind, I made her sign a paper for the empty bottle and I marked it. And I checked opening hours, promising I would return the day after.

The following day, my conversation at the store was something from an absurd, surreal film. First, the lady asked me why I was late (17.15). I told her I was there in the morning but she was not open (even though I had checked her opening times with her) so she shrugged: “this morning I was late”.

I asked about my bottle. She said I was so late that the guy had left again. So I reminded her the deal was she would fill it before I got there, she had all day, right? We agreed she would give me another bottle, same size. So she asks “what type of nozzle and connection does your bottle have?” I reminded her I had marked my bottle so she can check. The mark was gone, so even if she would have filled MY bottle as agreed, she had absolutely no idea which one it was, so why have a go at me in the first place? When I complained I knew this would happen, she blamed the askari, the guard outside, he had moved it after all. Yes, blame someone else. I love it when people do that – it is so mature.

I can already see some of you readers with a smirk, thinking: “you decided to make your bed in Africa, now you must lie in it”. Well, my worst experience this month was with Nespresso.

Maybe I just except too much from a brand that uses George Clooney as their face; and has a fancy branded boutique in the Louisalaan, and you need a membership because their products are not in the supermarket.. Ever since the day I became a member, I have been in customer service hell.

With the purchase of the machine, they forgot the Christmas discount. Nespresso said the shop made a mistake. So? Take it up with the shop, you work with them, I don’t.. Then they promised me I would get the discount but only deducted from an order so I had to order – a second time. But they had already made mistakes on order one.. While filling in my account on the website, I filled out I speak Flemish and my welcome letter arrived in French. Then with my first order of coffee, they forgot the welcome gift. Nespresso said: “We also cannot send it later because it is against the rules to send it separate”. When filling out the delivery address, I accidentally hacked my brother’s account since it is his address. We both could not access our account anymore. His is now fixed, but for mine the IT department still has not figured out how to solve it after 5 months (FIVE). Then I wanted to place the second order to solve the discount-issue but I can no longer get into my account.. So I ordered via customer service. When it arrived, I see they forgot to give me the discount. But the welcome gift came too. But separately..


So having a cup of coffee in the morning, putting on clean clothes and cooking a meal in the evening, has been an ordeal, let me tell you! Good thing my girls are back and life has some perspective again.



Opposite directions

Sometimes it happens that I am happily driving down the street and there are pedestrians on the street, walking in the other direction. Nothing weird so far. But when I come closer, they gesture to me, making clear they would like a lift. So I think: but I am driving North (for instance) and you are walking towards the South, so how would a lift from me be useful to you? I have thought about this more than once because it has happened more than once. Do they think I will turn around for them and bring them to their destination? (After all I own a car, the highest form of freedom) Or are they prepared to go anywhere at all, as long as it is not by foot?

I have contemplated stopping and asking them. But I never did because I am scared I might give them false hope in making them think I would make a detour to the other side of town for them and it would be cruel to shoo them out of my car after hearing this..

The weirdest thing is that when I do not stop and continue to drive to the North (for instance), they stop gesturing and they keep on walking to the South. I guess it will remain one of these things that I will never figure out. Anyway. Just had to get that of my chest.

Money talks

When I was little, my mum still used to write checks occasionally and even then I remember thinking checks were an outdated means. So imagine my surprise when I arrived in Tanzania and the most common thing to pay, even let’s say your monthly rent, are checks. Or no, correction: the most common thing for Tanzanians is to not have a bank account at all but that is another story.

For starting an account, you pay. For being a customer (even when not using any services), you pay. For every transaction, you pay. For the much-needed check book, you pay. For internet banking, you pay (although it took me ages to get them to provide me with a username and password). For international transactions, you have to work with a telegraphic transfer, which will only be processed between 9am and 10am every working day and takes time – and you guessed it – extra money. And actually using all the money in your account and going to zero, not possible.

So try to explain to over a 100 employees you want to start a bank account  for each and every one of them because it is not safe for you to drive around with cash salaries every month. That means you also have to explain to them all the extra costs, and the fact they have to stand in line at an ATM in town (extra bus fare, and extra charge for using the ATM) to get their own money and they can never use all of it..

But my last experience at the bank, convinced me I am living in the twilight zone. To start my account, I had to show my residence permit and provide a letter signed by my employer saying I actually do work for him. A residence permit is the same as a work permit in this country because without a job, you are kindly requested to leave. So the address on my permit would then be the address of my employer, that is how it works. But the bank asked me to provide a physical address also. Since the streets here do not have a name and I was reluctant to write “the street between the 2 big trees”, I wrote a letter stating in which area I lived. Not good enough, apparently. Could I please give them my contract to my rental house? Or a letter from the landlord, stating I live in his house? I refused to do both. So in the end we settled on a copy of my electricity bill.

(And no, I am not with an African bank, I am with a British bank that owns a branch here, I was with them when I lived in the UK also.)

So money might talk but the banks here speak jibberish.

The stages to integration

They say that people who go live abroad, go through different stages before they integrate.

First there is the honeymoon, the stage where you feel as if you are on holiday and everything is a great experience. Finally, you see those landmarks you know from pictures..

Then the frustration sets in and you realize that if you will be sticking around, some daily things will make you angry. Culture-shock sets in.

After that, understanding comes, you integrate. You settle, you make friends, you adapt.

Obviously, complete integration for me in this society is virtually impossible. There have been times when I jokingly said “I wish I could put shoe polish on my face so people would treat me equally when I go to town.” Of course I never did – and thus I am never treated equally. Better or worse, but never equally. So I guess you could say my current state is still in between frustration and integration and I can safely say I will not ever escape this.

So I end up having these moments were I am amazed because for a brief moment I see the situation from both perspectives, and usually – fortunately in most cases – it makes me laugh.

Yesterday, I went to the gym. Outside the gym, there was an audience.


Immediately, I thought: watch other people work out? What a weird thing to do.

But seriously, it must be really strange for them that we drive to a certain place, pay membership to this place and then start using weird looking shiny equipment to sweat. When you have to walk to the well to get water every morning and then walk another hour to get to school, we must seem deranged.



I keep thinking it is really weird when people have their farewell and they arrived here later than I did. I remember the first time it happened (more than ten years ago) and after a decade I still seem to receive every invitation to a farewell with a heartfelt “..but you just got here??”

On the other hand, I sometimes listen to stories from people that have been here so long that I enjoy their stories of the olden days and then realize we have been here equally long, and I can actually finish their story for them because I was there.

A third of my life I have lived here. I don’t mean to get all philosophical on you but that is a confronting fraction: 1/3.

So Saturday I went to a farewell – and it was actually someone I will really miss. And then Sunday I had coffee with someone that I regard as ‘a lifer’ and he arrived here when I did.

I might be a sucker for punishment since my bags are not packed yet but I am reading books and blogs about another continent already. Better prepare well :-)





Although the rainy season is in sight, usually I try and go swimming with the girls once per weekend. With all the hotels with swimming pools in Arusha we are spoiled for choice anyway and it beats hanging at home.

This Saturday, he had another idea. He was planning to go bike riding in Moshi and he felt we should come along. Which turned out to be a great idea because the surroundings were beautiful, and we had a fun day.

Relaxed Saturday at the Polo club



Lazy Sunday at Machweo LodgeP1100053


A fun day at Vasso in Moshi

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Long rains

After posting about the enduro cross at Monduli, my safari in the Serengeti and my safari in Tarangire and Ngorongoro, you might think I do nothing but travel around the country. Believe me, I don’t. It makes for the best pictures and stories (and thus posts) but I definitely spend more time between work-shool-home than in the bush..

January was extremely hot, as it is every year. But it appears the long rains already started now, normally we have them in March-April. So rescuing guests and re-supply trucks that are stuck in the mud, wondering if the girls’ swimming classes are still happening.. those are my daily routine these days.

And then once in a while, we break the routine with a fake Christmas party, the opening of a new restaurant by friends, and yet another farewell party from someone leaving the country for good..



nieuw zwembadje 11 januari (8)





tue 18 - rains