Monday, August 15, 2016

Hi Tech Home

Late afternoon, Tokyo on a warm summer day.Nannie and the old guy are sitting on the couch in living room after a long flight, hauling the suitcases unto the apartment and spending a few minutes with Chris trying to figure out how to turn on the air conditioner. 

One might think that task not too difficult for a librarian and a teacher who specializes in helping students learn to read. Of course all the controls are labeled in Japanese and  It turns that the air conditioning system is also a heating system and when they old guy clicked the wrong button, cold air was reluctant to enter the apartment. With a little exploration, however, That mission  was soon accomplished and they get a brief overview of the rest of the apartment.  

"Here's the controls for the bathtub. You turn the system on, then click this button to fill the tub. The water will come in at the preset temperature and stay there. "

Later that evening Nannie went into the little room that was the "bathroom" ( and contained nothing but the bathtub and an adjacent handheld shower sizzle attachment. She click the buttons, took a bath and luxuriated in stepping into a hot bath and steeping the stress away.

The old guy found that a couple of glasses of water and the passage of some time were resulting in a need to relieve himself of extra liquids so he went into the "toilet" room (which contained nothing but the electronically controlled porcelain throne). He sat down to discover that the seat was warm and the control panel on the wall adjacent offered a number of interesting choices in Japanese again, but luckily these included helpful pictures :

As one might note from the picture above, a person can adjust the temperature of the seat as well as the temperature and force the water sprays in addition to the force of the flush (which happens automatically when you stand up ). Very interesting.

The stove controls are fairly simple : on and off for each burner and up and down arrows for the level of heat desired.

But the washing machine. Here's an interesting conundrum. Our Muzungus were given a brief exploration which included something about timed wash and etc. but they haven't quite figured this all out yet. They do greatly appreciate the two English words found there as quite appropriate "fuzzy control"

The exploration continues, as does the adventure ...

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Enjoying Michigan

Living in Michigan
Nannie and the old guy (aka the Mzungus) live in a great old house in a beautiful part of the US - Holland Michigan. Here are just few glimpses into why they enjoy Michigan so much ...


"Let's do something this weekend."
"Good idea. What do you wanna do ?"
"I don't know, but let's do something fun."
"Go for a bike ride ?"
"We could go back over by Rockford on that bike trail I like - what's it called again ?"
"The White Pine Trail. Fun. Let's do it!"

So the old guy put the bike rack on the car, Nannie filled her water bottle, they both changed into their very attractive biking shorts, and the Mzungus headed off to Comstock Park. Arriving at the trail head parking lot, (behind some stores and restaurants downtown), they slathered on the sun block, straddled their metal steeds, and peddled up the converted railroad bed.

It was a perfect day with a mix of sun and clouds, a light breeze, and very pleasant temperature for a nice ride.  The couple rode about 22 miles, stopped for a couple of refreshing and well deserved local brews and then finished with about 8 more miles back to the car.


"Hey Kate - wanna go Kayaking?"
"That sounds like fun. Is Nannie coming?"
"Of course"
So Kate, Nannie, and the old guy bundled into the car and headed down to Douglas and the kayak livery at Wades Bayou. All the kayaks were rented out so they decided to have a little lunch and come back a little later.

A couple of hours later, the kayaks were available and off they went.

It was a beautiful cloudy day and not too hot as they meandered around the lily pads and tall reeds.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Mzungu Mansion Celebrates 100 Years

Holland, Mi.

The Mzungu Mansion, located in Holland Michigan, and currently occupied by Nannie and the old guy, recently turned one hundred years old. The house is located in the Holland Historic District,  and the exterior is little changed from her original construction. The house has a clay tile roof, an Italian Marble fireplace, and an Art Deco stained glass window. While exact date of construction completion in 1916 is not known, a birthday party, attended by several dozen friends and neighbors, was held at the house on June 18 to celebrate the occasion. 

Showing only a few signs of her age, the house has had some recent minor cosmetic work done as well as some new landscaping to enhance her charm. She begins her second century in fine form, and family and friends anticipate many more happy years ahead for the house.  Nancy and Tim have been living in the house since 2003, with occasional breaks, including a two year absence while living in India and a 3 month adventure as Mzungus in Tanzania.

We congratulate the place for her fine years of service to her occupants and to the community.

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Run, Tanzania

Hearing his wife leave to go to work, the old man rolled over on the mattress on the floor, got to his knees and then to his feet, and then sat down again to pull on his running shorts and shirt. It was cool in the bedroom with the air conditioning on, and he could feel the outdoor warmth and humidity as he went downstairs. He made himself a little tea and checked his email briefly to allow his body to wake up a little. He picked up his keys from the table, let himself out the door, locking it behind him, and sat down once more to put on his running shoes.  The sun was shining today for the first time in more than a week and he felt the heat of it, even at 7:30, on his face.

Nodding to the guard, he went through the gate and then picked his way around the puddles on the path to the main road. It had been raining for days (it was the rainy season after all), and he decided he would run along the main road again. He had tried last week to run on the back roads and came back with squishy feet and shoes from sinking into unexpected mud-holes.

He walked to the corner, turning down the invitations from the bajaji and piki-piki with a couple of waves, and started jogging.  As usual the first few minutes were hard as he tried to get into the rhythm.  Running against traffic on the right side of the road, he saw mostly solid SUV type vehicles and a few bajaji's with one or two people inside heading toward town to go to work. The shoulder, like the road, was fairly smooth, with stretches of soft sand where the water had flowed across and left a track of fine sediment.
Bajaji - also known as Tuk-Tuk in other countries

As his breathing settled into its regular 3/2 rhythm, his mind started to wander back a year or so, comparing running here in the Bahari Beach area with running in Mumbai.  It was so much less crowded here in the almost country-side environment 45 minutes ride from downtown Dar Es Salaam,  than it had been in Kohinoor, also 45 minutes from downtown Mumbai.  He could run much more smoothly and evenly without having to dodge the holes and piles of debris in the roads. Sure, he sometimes had to wind around a muddy depression, but the edges were smooth and rounded, unlike the sharp lines of tilted, broken concrete in the big city. 

He turned the corner off of the main road and on to the side residential road.  He liked this route because of the lack of traffic and the shade. He was close to the ocean here, too, and often the cooling breeze felt good on his face, though he was sweated profusely after five minutes.  He waved at the car containing a parent and a couple of kids from the school - no doubt he would hear from his wife this evening that her students had seem him out running on their way to school.  He neared his favorite area where someone had planted a number of Baobab trees years ago, reached the end of the dirt road and turned around for the run back. He liked those trees - so different from other trees with their fat trunks and upside-down feel.

Picture from :
The first time he had come this far, more than a month ago, he had had to stop and walk several times, and he felt good that he could now simply keep putting one foot in front of the other now.  Back to the main road, he started to pick up the pace a little and pushed himself for the last few minutes.  Finishing his run in what, for him, felt like a sprint, he slowed to a walk, put his hands on his hips and caught his breath. He walked back to the compound, knocked five times for the guard, and walked to the back of the apartment, where Joyce, the housekeeper, had begun doing the laundry.  After exchanging greetings with her, he walked around to the other side of the apartment to sit in the shade and do his after-run stretches.  His sweat dripped from face and elbows to create small puddles, but the breeze in the shade was cooling. He felt good.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Safari - Zanzibar

One of the reasons we travel and accept jobs in other parts of the world is to go to interesting and exciting places. Zanzibar is one of those places that even sounds exotic.  With a unique history and ties to Oman (a country that I love dearly), Zanzibar provides a blend of Arab and African, and has long been a place I have wanted to visit.  So, with a long weekend available, Nancy and I headed off on our safari (the word simply means journey).  Here's some pictures:
View from our hotel on the beach - low tide.
Zanzibar is a group of islands (sometimes called the Spice Islands), so of course ocean related activities and historical sites are the two main tourist attractions.  We spent a couple of nights at a beach hotel and one in the old historic "Stone town".  If you look closely at the photo above, you might see people off in the distance - it's low tide and the women have walked out from shore in groups to surround and net the small fish.
Dhow ride - going by a fancy hotel on the beach.

We had to go for a sunset Dhow ride. We were anticipating a quiet cruise, but found we were sharing the boat with a diverse group of friends, living in Zambia, but from both Europe and Africa (Germany, Sweden, South Africa, Zambia, Tanzania) who brought along a group of drummers and danced much of the trip. Great fun.

We also spent some time in Stone Town, the old capital of Zanzibar, with winding alleys and old buildings. We loved the old doors.
gorgeous hours

great carving

Indian style

Slave dungeon- as many as 50-60 packed in these holding cells

Zanzibar also had a long history as a center of slave trade and we visited both a slave market area and the underground cells where they held the slaves.

Zanzibar also has the distinction of being the site of the Anglo-Zanzibar War, known as the shortest war in history - 38 minutes.
Fort in Stone Town

We even went to a small island called prison island ( real name - Changuu)  that had served as a quarantine site as well as the home of some giant land tortoises.
Great beaches - this one on Changuu

Nancy and I even went snorkeling !
in the boat on the way to the reef for snorkeling.

More adventures await ...

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Buying Electricity

My friend Laurel often says "there are lots of different ways to do things."  I found the truth of that statement here in Tanzania when were running short of electricity at home.

Here's how it works: each house has a "LUKU" meter that shows how much electrical credit, in Kilowatt hours, that you have remaining. You can purchase electrical credit at any of hundreds of little kiosks / shops along the road that have a little wireless device  - you give the clerk your LUKU number and some cash, and they enter it into the system and give you a receipt with a code number. You go home and enter that code into your meter and the credit gets registered. Pretty slick little system really.

LUKU meter - you will see the we had less than 1 KW hour of electricity left - don't tell Nancy !

When the meter gets down to zero, the electricity stops working. We had already experienced that once, our second night here when we didn't know anything about the electrical and the power just went off on us. Then we had to call the school and the principal came, explained how the system works, took us to one of the little shops and got us some electrical credit.

Anyway, since then I had tried to keep an eye on the meter to make sure we did not run out again, and when I checked mid-afternoon,  I noticed that we were down to about 12 K left, so I walked to the little shop by our house to buy some "LUKU".

Yup - you can buy your electricity here !
When I got there, the proprietor informed me that the network was down and his system couldn't connect to get me the credit. I could understand that, so I walked down the street to another shop and the situation was the same.  I wasn't too worried as the first clerk, who spoke fairly good English, told me it would probably come up again soon and I should try back in a few hours. When Nancy came home from work, I explained the situation and told her that we would have to conserve on our air conditioners, (which use a lot of electricity), just in case. I went back to the shops after supper and found the network was still down. Another gentleman at one of the shops, which is also an Internet cafe, explained that you can also buy credit through your phone- so he kindly tried to do that for me, but that also did not work.  So with our electric credit down to 8, we spent the night with the air conditioners off.

In the morning, with the meter reading about 5 (the refrigerator, you know), I walked over to the shop expecting the network to be back up, and planning to buy some "LUKU".  Nope - the network was still down. "I am going to run out of electricity - how can I get some ?"  He thought for a minute and suggested that there is a regional office a few kilometers away in Tegeta - I could take a bajaj (auto rickshaw) or a piki-piki to the office and should be able to pay there.  I decided the piki-piki would be cheaper and so he waved at one of the local piki-piki guys, and explained where to go - the guy looked a little bit confused, but seemed to get it, so I climbed on behind.
Now I need to explain that a piki-piki (also know in some areas as boda-boda) is a motorcycle taxi and you rent the back seat.  Unfortunately, those seats are not really designed for a big old guy like me, and my knees have tendency to bump against the forearms of the driver. 

Piki-Piki - from wikimedia.

Anyway,the guy didn't really understand where to take me, so after stopping to ask a few people along the way, we found ourselves at a regional maintenance headquarters for the power company, where I spent a few minutes trying to find someone who could speak a little English and who could help me get some "LUKU".  Eventually, communication happened and my motorcycle driver was directed to a shop down the way where I should be able to get my "LUKU". As we approached the area, I noticed one of the shops had a fairly long line out front.  Sure enough, that was the regional electrical purchasing place with a hardwired connection.  Since the network had been down for two days in much of the surrounding area, lots of people were there, like me, to buy some power.  The line was about 40 people long when I got there.  After about an hour I got to the front of the line and was able to get my credit slip - now all I had to do was go home and enter the 20-digit number into the meter and we would have power.  Cool.

Back on the piki-piki and the ride home.  Stepped into the house and realized that the refrigerator was off and the lights were not working - hmm, must have run out of power while I was gone. So, I confidently headed behind the house to the meter with my credit slip.  Where I soon found that the power in the whole neighborhood was out, so of course the meter would not work, I could not the credit. 

So I gave it up and decided to walk to school to get Nancy. On the way there I passed a group of lineman fixing the power lines on the poles. Good. On the way home, the workers were all gone, but when we got home the power was still off.  No problem, we headed to the resort to enjoy a couple of beers at the end of the week.  (Why sit at home where it is hot and humid as well as dark ? )

When we got back home, the power was back on, I successfully entered the credit number and we turned on the air con.

Now I just need to remember to go buy electricity every week or so.  And of course to stop at the other little store to buy credit for my phone.