Saturday 21st July

You know, I think my brain must have developed a new filter.  Most married couples will understand this concept of a filter – its where there is a background noise (like a conversation where your spouse is trying to tell you how important something is) and you are able to remain in a relaxed state unaware of this background noise, yet your spouse isn’t immediately aware that this is the case.  I think the same is happening now between me and rooster.  Didn’t hear him this morning, though I’m sure he was large as life.  There’s a positive to start off the weekend!

However the dogs in the compound are clearly Africa’s back up plan.  6:15am and there’s a riot going on outside my window – barking and growling.  I think this transpired from the oldest dog having a go at a hedgehog it found in a flower bed and two of the younger dogs playing.  Words are going to be had with these dogs and strict boundaries set – no playing and no investigating the resilience of hedgehogs outside of daylight hours!  There’s the lie-in gone.

Today was a rest day – though clearly not at 6:15am (its clear I’m still not over that!).  So we were heading into Dodoma town centre for a bit of shopping and generally seeing what a medium size African-town-that-has-recently-become-its-nations-capital-because-the-president-came-from-there is like.  On the way into town, you could gauge an answer to that question, but lets give it a chance anyway.

The centre of Dodoma looks pretty much like the run down areas of Dar Es Salaam (the nations largest city and centre of commerce), although some shiny new government buildings are springing up.  We headed for the towns market areas first.  Initially we came upon the technology market area (for want of a better name – car boot sale would be another) where you could buy everything from a transistor radio to the latest mobile phone and from solar panels to mid 90’s styled hifi systems, all for prices that would scare you they were so cheap.  We got a gift of a rechargeable radio for Rashid (from yesterday) which he could plug into one of their solar lamps to run during the day and charge up for evening.

We browsed through the rest of the market and then onto the food market.  This was essentially the scene of a James Bond or Jason Bourne chase scene.  Think rickety, very closely packed shop stalls all under  a large covered roof with no planned layout to the stall arrangement, no sanitation, little or no air, virtually no space between stalls and a load of people trying to get from one area to another – usually against the way you are trying to go.  Well that’s the food market in Dodoma.  While you might consider buying meal, or spices or fruit in here, it would be a brave man indeed who would venture near the meat section let alone buy anything from it.  WARNING – do not consume unless you have burnt the living daylights out of it.

With our nostrils truly savaged, we headed back out into the fresh air and were directed back to where we got into the food market, with Jackie – our kids4school host bringing up the rear this time rather than the front.  Given our directions, we proceeded, only to find that we missed her call to wait because she wanted to browse in a particular shop.  5 minutes later and we are Jackie-less and coming to a decision as to what to do next.  (We’re obviously going to take the wrong decision).  There ensues a bit of a comedy of errors where she finds us, half of us lose her again (which she and we only realise when she’s brought us back to the cars).  She goes looking for the missing members back in the market area, meanwhile they have decided to use their own wit to get themselves back to the cars and now we are all wondering how to find Jackie.  (You couldn’t make it up!).  Eventually we all meet up, the missing three who found their own way back tactfully had retired to the supermarket we were parked at while Jackie was explaining to everyone the importance of staying together.

We then headed to the non-food market where all manner of clothing can be purchased and in particular football shirts.  We were keen to get a local team shirt or a Tanzanian national shirt as a memento of our trip.  The main obstacle we find is size.  Even I’m XL in Tanzania!  But we eventually located shirts for Mr Parke as well as the rest of us and made the appropriate purchases.  Its amazing how Adidas can sell a Man Utd shirt for £4 in Tanzania that costs £60 or more back home.  Its also amazing how sometimes they misspell their name as Abibas… hmm!  Genuine mistake?

Shopping complete we then spent the afternoon at Fantasy Island Village Resort – a new resort style hotel complex near to where the kids4school lodge is.  The hotel/resort is similar to what you might expect in 1950’s America, with a central swimming pool, statues of zebra, giraffe, rhino on lush grassy lawns where you could sit at tables with your drinks; pool attendants to bring you drinks while you relax in loungers by the pool.  The hotel accommodation consisted of a number of cabanas behind the pool and playground area.  All this behind a large perimeter wall, on the other side of which is the bush and the houses of locals for whom this has to be a fantasy.

It was an enjoyable afternoon by the pool and the team enjoyed themselves with games in the pool and general messing around.  And maybe its not our place to point to the obvious disparity between those inside and those outside the resort – if this does bring in tourist cash it will help the economy and everyone.  Its just so out of place in its surroundings

Finally to dinner.  And while I do fancy a little Korean barbecue of my four four-legged hedgehog meddlers, its off to an Indian restaurant.  This was a nice evening and the food was very good – although maybe I reserve judgement on that until tomorrow – but a warm evening it was not.  Those with sweatshirts complained that they didn’t bring coats.  Those without sweatshirts complained that feeling had been lost in their fingers and that those with sweatshirts should stop complaining and sample life as the rest of us.  We also became aware at the restaurant that the little 5min I was asked to prepare was actually the sermon for the church service tomorrow – say again?  This will be an experience – for all.

We drove back in the dark from the restaurant to the lodge – definitely another experience.  There are no streetlights in Dodoma and not all vehicles have tail lights or sometimes headlights.   Bicycles typically have neither.  It is therefore hardly surprising that there are quite a lot of accidents on Tanzanias roads.  A black man dressed in dark clothes on an unlit bicycle is virtually impossible to spot until you have almost hit him.

 Upon returning from dinner, as well as the group going over our set list for tomorrows gig (service), I find myself looking for a sermon inspiration, which hopefully I’ve got.  Just have to write it up now…

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