Monday, March 9, 2009

The challenges of life at SAUT

We were spoiled during the first days of our stay in Mwanza! We experienced water coming from the taps every day, and the electricity being on almost nonstop. Yes, we were warned that we might experience some problems with water and electricity, but those brief interruptions were nothing compared with what has become the norm in Jos, where we talked about the hours when we actually had power, and when water did flow. Well, that wonderful situation did not last. But by the second week of our stay here, the situation went increasingly downhill. First, it was a day or two without water, although still not bad when compared to Jos, where we got water once a week at most. The difference is that in Jos we had large storage tanks for water, while here we only have a few pails of water to tide us over. So three days without water was the limit. During the second week one night without power was not so bad, but this time the power didn’t come back until the end of the day. People at the university explained that only the phase coming to our house was affected; the other phases, which include the women’s hostels across the road from our place, continued to have power. But last weekend we experienced a severe thunderstorm, which seems to have taken down some poles and wires and damaged a transformer. Our phase went out again, this time for a day and a half. We can live with candles for a day or so, and even get warm food at the student cafeteria, but to keep the food in the refrigerator from spoiling we finally brought it to a neighboring house which was not affected. The residents were gracious in even providing hot water for our thermos, so we could make tea on those mornings when we were without power. Our stove is half electrical and half with gas burners, which is ideal for our situation. Unfortunately, the gas tank had not yet been provided, so we were still dependent on electricity for cooking. 

The water tower being installed, concrete was poured around posts

None of these problems are insurmountable. University officials promised to help solve both the water and electrical problems. Already in the first week a tower for the water tank was deposited in the back yard, but it stood up side down there for a few weeks. No water tank was available, we were told; and the gas tank did not materialize either—it was difficult to find the right kind, apparently. But one day, a little over a week ago, the plumber came (there is only one for the whole university), together with his assistant, and they started working on the tower. They put it in place, and a few days later poured concrete around the four legs. “Tomorrow we will bring a water tank,” they promised. And, indeed, they did. It still took several days, but finally this past Friday, March 6, the installation was complete and water started flowing into the tank. Now all the water for the house is routed through the tank, which holds 1000 liters, and we find that water flows in our house, even when the water has been turned off; and we should have enough to cover the emergencies.

That Friday really was a banner day! While the plumber was putting the final touches on the water tank, our Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic, Mfumbusa, came by to deliver a gas tank, with a regulator and hose. He did not have the necessary clips to fasten the hose, so we had to go into Mwanza for that. It was not easy to find the right ones — only one hardware store carried them. But Adrian managed, and that evening we celebrated—to think that our immediate water and cooking-gas problems had been solved on one and the same day! Around supper time the power went off for a while, but it did not bother us much that evening, we were able to prepare our meal at home. We have heard of major problems looming in Tanzania’s provision of electricity, because the demand is more than the available supply, and some transformers which are needed are not available. Thus we are grateful that we will not be so vulnerable now, at least for cooking our meals. 

The newly delivered gas tank that still needed to be installed

The assistant plumber resting after a job well done

We have not managed to overcome all the challenges we face. There are still problems with the working of our cell phones, which is a common problem in Tanzania, as in Nigeria, with the system often overloaded; also with the internet, since we have to walk about half a kilometer to go to a computer room, but again, not insurmountable, though it does limit the opportunity for us to do email. We generally go early in the morning, when there are only a few students online. Later on in the day with heavier use it gets very slow. 

A flower and a bird can brighten our days here

Thus we do have our share of challenges in living here. The university personnel have been very helpful in solving such problems, however, even if it did take a few weeks. We continue to experience a warm reception here, and our teaching seems to be appreciated greatly.

Wendy in front of Bismark Rock, a local attraction

A bird perched not far from Bismark Rock

No comments: