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Friday, December 01, 2006

Thanks For…. (Nothing, Something, Everything)

I’ve had a lot of people write to ask me how we celebrated Thanksgiving here in Tanzania. But to tell you the truth, I’ve been kind of avoiding the topic. People expect me to tell them that it was oh so wonderful. But my answer last Thursday would have been that Thankgiving was pure crap.

I hate to sound ungrateful, but on Thanksgiving Thursday there was no Macys parade and no college football. (Not like I’ve EVER participated in either of these.) Instead, on the Thursday of Thanksgiving I worked nine hours. It wasn’t a holiday here. And except for a pleasant Indian dinner at a favorite restaurant with two wonderful friends, it was an oh so crappy day... fiscally, professionally, personally and medically.

Fiscally: Remember my car? The one I just got out of the port after it sat there for 5 months? Well… just one week after having it at home I let my driver, Paul, and a driver from T-MARC, Steven, “service” it in my driveway. Steven says he is a mechanic by training and services cars on the weekends. So… silly me, I said OK. By the time the servicing was over the car had a major problem – it could no longer go in reverse and there were other problems. I had Paul take it to the Toyota dealer. On Thursday Toyota called to say that the gear box needed to be replaced and it would cost upwards of $2000 and take 6 weeks to order the part from Japan.

Professionally: One of my colleagues – one of my favorites – is a Kenyan. They don’t like Kenyans here. It is part of Tanzanian’s inferiority complex with their richer, better educated neighbors (Kenya and Uganda). His work permit got denied. I was forced to fire him that morning.

Personally: OK… this isn’t really about me personally… but… At lunch time on Thursday I had Paul pick me up in the rental car (since remember, mine didn’t work) and take me to the brand new Game. Game is a South African chain a la Target. The very first one just opened here and I took advantage of having all the things I could possibly want in one space and spent quite a bit of money. After Paul dropped me off I asked him to go straight home with the new microwave, stereo, etc. Instead he decided to stop at the electricity company to get some umeme for his family and leave the car on the street. While he was in Tanesco (the electricity company), some thugs broke into the back window of the car and tried to steel the stuff. But Paul (I) was lucky. There must have been too many people around because they only stole a plastic bag containing toilet paper, tissues, and a bag of marshmallows. I guess they were pretty unlucky, nevertheless, I was stuck paying for a new window.

(Just a note, I’m not normally a marshmallow eater – but it was going to be Thanksgiving and I had designs on making a “traditional” sweat potato dish. I feel I need to clear that up.)

Medically: That same morning – before the ruckus with the cars and firing Nelson – I went to the doctor with Rowan so he would have one last look at her worms. While I was there the doctor heard me hacking away (I had a bad cough for over a week) and insisted that he listen to my chest. He was joking around before he listened to my lungs. But after listening he pulled away with a very serious face. “U hav zee nemonia,” he told me. “Zis es very serioz.” He brought me to another room, stuck me on a nebulizer for 30 minutes, prescribed 5 medicines, and gave me a lecture about how important it is for me, as a mother, to also seek help for myself. All with a fabulous French accent!

So as you can see… the Thursday of Thanksgiving sucked.

But as things are apt to do, they got better quickly.

Saturday night I had a big Thanksgiving potluck party to inaugurate the new roof deck. Forty-five people and children were there… everyone from the American filmmaker who grew up in India as the child of Missionaries but spent most of his life until recently in Zimbabwe, to the Tanzanian born but of Greek decent hotel owner married to my Dutch colleague. My nine months pregnant Tanzanian colleague got Secunda, Paul and all the rest of the staff dancing – and they had a great time, too. It was an amazing meal – replete with all the traditional foods, a few non traditional foods and even a giant turkey that had been alive in the morning and eaten by sunset. I hired a DJ and everyone danced the afternoon and evening away. We ate, we danced, we were merry. It was perfect.

And yet… I still wasn’t ready to write you to tell you about Thanksgiving. I wasn’t adequately thankful yet.

But that changed today.

Remember how I told you back in the beginning that there is a fundi for everything?

I guess Paul felt guilty about ruining my car and all. When I told him how much Toyota wanted to fix it, he nearly doubled over. Two thousand dollars is about nine months of his salary.

Paul with the car

On the Friday after Thanksgiving I took the car to another auto mechanic who told me that he might be able to get me a used gear box – but it would still cost me close to $2000 and take some time to locate an appropriate part.

The next day, Paul set out on a quest. He went to the crazy and huge downtown street market called Kariokoo. I should have told you about it before. It is Home Depot meets WalMart meets the Gap meets Whole Foods meets Best Buy meets G Street Fabric. Kariokoo is a vast market where you can find everything from plumbing fixtures, to microwaves to thong underwear to coconuts.

Kariokoo also has a fundi market - a place where you can go to find a specialist fundi for just about anything you might need done.

Paul went down there and found a fundi who specializes in gear boxes who said he could fix my car for $100.

When Paul first proposed the gear box fundi I didn’t agree. I was worried the car could end up in worse shape. But eventually I decided that it couldn’t get much worse considering I was now back to renting a car and was weeks away from getting mine fixed in a best case scenario. So I gave the go-ahead.

The fundi came and took out the gear box. He took it back to Kariokoo and fixed it. For two days his sub-fundi mechanics replaced the gear box in my driveway. (This was the most nerve-wracking part. It seemed like they would never be finished.)

But this evening at 5 PM, Paul came to get me from work, and he was driving my car. It worked perfectly! He even drove me around the T-MARC parking lot in reverse. Spectacular!

Who knew there was such a thing as a gear box fundi? Now I know better.

And really, it was a good lesson in life in general. You would never go to a family practitioner to treat a heart valve problem. Why go to the Toyota dealer – a generalist, when you can hire a gear box fundi – a specialist?

Today I believe in Tanzania again. And so I give thanks to the fundi of this country. And I wish for all of you that in the year to come that you will find the fundi to fulfill all your needs, as well. (Or at least a fundi who can save you $1900!)
P.S. I am also thankful for the upgraded version of Blogger which has allowed me for the first time in months to upload photos with my blog. Stay tunned... I think my blog entries will only get more interesting from here!


Blogger mrsgreen said...

I just wanted to drop you a line and let you know that I really enjoy reading your blog. I went to Tanzania on my honeymoon - of course, I went on a typical safari trip, and lounged around Zanzibar, with only 2 days in Dar Es Salaam. There is so much more to do, see, and absorb in order to have a more realistic idea of your home, and the true Tanzanian lifestyle. I think it is fantastic that you're experiencing what it is like to live abroad (this isn't your first time, right?), and even more wonderful for your children. My husband and I dream of living overseas, and hope that we can make this become a reality some day.
I have a link to your website on my own blog, and have been checking in regularly, but this is the first time I have 'delurked' (strange word).
Thank you for sharing your stories!

2:34 AM  
Anonymous becky said...

hey hally,
things went from really lousy to really great- you kept us all in suspense so you could share with us the happy ending!
45 people dancing on your rooftop or living room! what a great thanksgiving,
ps I know what kind of fundi i want but i will only say it anonynmously!

8:04 AM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Aw, a happy Thanksgiving ending after all. Fundi for all!

3:55 AM  

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