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When I was little, my mum still used to write checks occasionally and even then I remember thinking checks were an outdated means.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

Enduro Motorcross

I used to think (years ago!!) motorsports were not real sports since the engine is doing all the hard work. Little did I know that driving a bike over a rough road is hard work! And so it is not surprising that the fittest and most trained actually won.. And what do you know, I also discovered it is actually a pretty sexy sport.

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I do not go on safari quite as often as I wish but in November we had the operations manager of Peru visiting so I was sent to the bush to escort her. There are less pleasant things to do for work so off we went..

It is always nice to travel with a newby because their “ohhs” and “awws” rightfully remind you how breathtaking this country can be. One can get a bit blase about yet another impala, unfortunately. (My kids call impalas McDonalds, because they are everywhere and all predators eat them as fast food.)

I find Tarangire to be a highly undervalued park. The big baobabs and majestic elephants, it should be on everyone’s itinerary. On the other hand, there was hardly anyone else there and I loved it.


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After our night at Tarangire, we headed for the Ngorongoro crater. Although not added on our itinerary, I decided to stop at a gorgeous place for lunch.

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It had been years since I had been to the crater. When it is busy, it does become a bit of a Disney ride though. So being based in our own camp (superb location and view) we decided on an early start. And I love camping.. well, not that you can call it roughing it..

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