Monday, 28 June 2010

Africa on demand

Young Ian Mayor demands an explanation to my through away comment about being in Tanzania.
In 2007 (I think that's when it was) I went to Tanzania for 5 months to teach in a tea-farm school in the mountains of Iringa. Whilst there I would teach English, Maths, Science, Music and Art to primary school kids.
My mother went to Sudan after she graduated, she taught in and around Sudan for about 5 years, she met my Dad in Turkey. My father is one of 14 children from my Yemeni/Tanzanian grandparents, he escaped Tanzania out of boredom by flying to Uganda and then working his way around the southern hemisphere of the world (more or less).
I always wanted to see the place my dad was from, I suppose that's a combination of never meeting him and hearing my mother tell stories about souks and alligators. I decided that post A-Level I'd give it a go, teach so I had some purpose and hopefully friends.
As it turned out, I met Daniel about a year and a half before I left, for a long while we planned to break up rather than do the whole long distance thing but stuff changes.
In preparation for the trip I'd sent letters to all of the addresses my dad had written from over the years, this includes Denmark, Tanzania, Yemen and a whole host of other places. In September I was leaving, in April I heard from my dad, he was in Denmark with his new wife and four kids. We developed a bit of a relationship with his trying to teach me Swahili and me trying to fill him in on the last 18 years.
These are my brothers and sisters in Denmark.

The plan was to be one of two girls in Muffindi but the other girl decided to go with a larger group to a town about 5 hours away from where I was so I was basically all alone. There was the promise of ex-pats and I was pretty confident (read- naive).

And so I whiled away some time with marginally racist ex-pats and some friendly Tanzanians. Getting a little homesick and looking forward to seeing Daniel in Prague at Christmas.

One day I'm teaching in the pre-school, when the school secretary comes in and says I have a visitor. Outside is a man in a thawb with a big bushy beard, beaming at me.
My dad had moved his entire family to Tanzania, they were waiting in Dar-es-Salaam because Mia (my youngest sister) had malaria. We sat on the ex-pats golf course and talked for hours (it didn't occur to me that it would seriously worry the other teachers and managers to hear I'd wandered off with an unidentified Muslim man). He stayed the night and I said I'd come visit him.
In due order I did, not until Janet could warn me that men claim custody of their children after the age of 7 in seperated marriages by law, that woman have no rights and that if I see my father pay anyone large amounts of money that I should take the $50 she's loaned me and run for the Kenyan border.
Time passes, I meet my granmother who looks a bit like a prune and can't understand a word I say. More cousins than I can count. Aunties who press the hijab on me. My brothers and sisters and eventually it's time for me to come home.

I have a thousand stories about Tz but I don't like to sound too poncy, or use the word experience. As in "Yah, it was such a great experience".

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Potter's nod

I have decided to go to Keswick to do some wood-firing, I understand that to many, this means nothing so i shall explain, very quickly.

At school we have gas and electric kilns This is fine, but if I wanted to salt glaze something I wouldn't be able to. In order to salt glaze something you fire it in a kiln and add salt when it's really hot so the salt decomposes and forms silica on the pot. If you've ever seen an old clay bottle that looks a bit like it has orange peel for skin, that's salt glaze. If I were to put salt into any kiln, it would not only glaze the pots, but the kiln, making every pot that was fired afterwards salt-glazed.

The course I'm going on in August has a specific salt-glazing kiln so I can finally do it again. Not only that, but I'm going to be using ash glazes with someone who has been doing it for years and so can help me understand the mysteries behind it.

Because the department I use only has gas and electric kilns playing with fire is something I don't get to do. It's sort of magical and earthy and exciting, as most of you are makers I'm sure you can understand my excitement.

When I was in Tanzania I didn't have a cooker, I had a fire and a hot plate. This meant that when I made a custard tart I had to use the fire, and in honesty, nothing I cook will ever make me as proud as that custard tart that I made on a harth, it's just like that.

Here's a photo of the wonderful Lois Maude Blacklock last time we were there (she has black hair now but is still a pyromaniac).