We have a restaurant open until late (read, past 7pm) serving close to a hundred different dishes (all of which are always available – a rarity in Tanzania), a bustling market selling everything I might need (real ales and The Sunday Telegraph being the sad exceptions), a few well-stocked supermarkets, buses going to pretty well anywhere in the country (and onto Malawi and Zambia), a tea shop that is run by the Greek community serving divine spinach and feta pies, and a pub.
After three months, I discovered that there were two very distinct and very separate expat groups here. There was the “colonial crowd” – mostly British families owning large farms of tobacco, tea or wattle, who all spoke fluent Swahili, call Tanzania truly home and largely keep themselves to themselves as they find it frustrating to invest their energies into the second group – the “transient crowd”: the volunteers, missionaries and travellers passing through on their sojourns to wherever they might eventually end up. My problem was that I didn’t know which one I belonged to as I am here for as long as I am happy, both at home and at work. I decided to keep my head up and talk to anyone who wants to talk to me, and let them decide where I was to be placed.
Six months into my stay, my landlord (a political bigwig living elsewhere in the country but seeming to own half of the properties in the town) visits to ask me how my bees are getting on.
Bees? He motions to what I had assumed was a disused shed in my front garden, and I follow to find three large wooden hives inside on a shelf. Opening them up we see brown pores that on touch melt into the sweetest honey imaginable. Non-stinging bees only produce this honey I am told. this is the best there is and I am in no doubt.
But all is not well. There is not a bee to be found. “Oh dear. this is very sad,” he says. Within minutes he is on the phone to the national bee keeping association and the cause of the problem has been found. the night watchman has been burning the rubbish in the front rather than the back garden. We need to rethink our waste disposal. these insects hate smoke and the hives’ queen bees have long gone. I am mortified at the prospect of being the cause.
The following day the hives are collected and taken to the villages in the hills. Within two weeks, three queens have set up home in my hives and I return to my house to find a healthy family (“swarm” sounds aggressive and surely shouldn’t apply if they’re non-stinging) busy at work.
Within a couple of months I have my first jars – and I can claim to be an apiarist.
As I come to the second year mark, I enjoy life here even more. Knowing what month it is by what fruit is in season (oranges have just left us and I am waiting for pomegranates), waiting after six months of no rain for the first drop to appear, and the satisfaction felt when I am greeted by the majority of passers-by as I walk around town. in fact, I worry about readjusting to life away from a town like Iringa.
Most of the jobs in the charity sector mean being based in the capital city. I can’t see myself there and I am not too sure what the future holds back in the UK. Family and friends are too big a draw for me to stay here forever and besides, as an Essex boy, I surely won’t ever fit the colonial-crowd mould.
I’m happy where I am, and, to be honest, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Honey, anyone?
This article was originally published in the Telegraph Weekly World Edition
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