Saturday, January 16, 2010

A bit of History

Myself, husband (Jon) & our 2 daughters (Maddie, born 99, Scarlet born 02)moved here (Mafia Island, Tanzania) in August 2006 from Ramsgate in Kent where we had lived since 2002, prior to that we had lived in Sydenham, South East London for 7 years (we married in 1998). Since we became a couple we had been restoring properties (in addition to our careers in the Civil Service, and then in my case becoming a full time Mum), the fruits of our labours have been poured into building a Lodge here on Mafia. Currently Ras Mbisi Lodge has been open for just over 2 years.

Since being here we have had to; dig our own bore hole (and learn how to use the various pumps required), build a solar system for the house (no mains power here), restore the house we now live in, start a vegetable garden, employ over 40 people (for building the lodge then staffing it etc) thereby feeding over 250 mouths a month, set up a development programme for the local village – currently raising money for the school and clinic, set up a satellite internet connection and home school our daughters. Build a biomass gasifier to power the Lodge. Plus deal with both central government and local government paperwork. Learn how to live in isolation, in my case remember my long forgotten Swahili, in Jon’s case learn it from scratch. Not to mention learn ‘the swahili way’ – nowhere near understanding that yet!
When we moved to Mafia we spent 3 months living in an insect infested guest house (infested to us after the UK) whilst this house was renovated from a subsiding bat, rat and hornet infested pit into a semi-inhabitable hovel. We have been in this house for 3 years and two months during which time it has; poured in water during cyclones and the rainy season due to inadequate capping to the new roof, run out of water due to bad remedial work on the plumbing and the final straw, the NEW shelves in the kitchen fell down bringing all my herbs, spices, cereal etc with them. Why the final straw? Cereal has to be stored in glass jars, to keep the dreaded white ant out of them, Cheerios cost £6.92 for 750g, yes you read that right £6.92!!!!!! And i can’t feed my children cereal sweep off the floor with glass in can i? Olive oil costs £15.84 a litre, hmm can i mop it up and squeeze it into a bottle?!! WHY did that shelf come down? It was held up with ONE screw per bracket (3 in all) and NO BLOODY RAWLPLUGS which we bought and paid for and are nowhere to be found! Lesson in Tanzania, don’t believe that just because a team of builders from Dar has worked for Embassies and High Commissions that they know what they are doing, or rather they know what they are doing but cannot be trusted to get on with it for even as long as it takes you to drive to town for whatever they insist they need!

In addition to all that we run the lodge, I deal with food, bookings, invoicing, marketing, the kitchen & dining room, housekeeping, buying/ordering updating, Government permits etc. Jon deals with all things accounting, mechanical, building,electrical, plumbing, front of house, the grounds etc etc. Oh, and we had another baby 9 months ago, so we keep busy – if we couldn’t multi-task before, we can now.

At some point in the next few days I'll fill you in on how/why we ended up here, even if you aren't interested LOL :-)


  1. I found this most interesting so tell more when you have time with all the multi-tasking. I would love to buy/own a house on Mafi`a, but I don`t think I could face anything like you`ve been through. My home in Australia`s Blue Mountains was attacked by white ants and I had to rip it part of it out and rebuild. The pest inspection missed it....I don`t think I could face anything like it again. But who knows?

  2. hanging my head in lack of DIY skills shame - that's quite a list girl!

  3. Hi Christine, there aren't many real houses on Mafia, possibly in Utende or Kilindoni. We were lucky, we rent ours from an old childhood friend of mine, it was the farmhouse here at Ras Mbisi when the estates were fully functioning.