Haraka haraka haina baraka

Yesterday afternoon we ventured into Kariakoo in Dar city centre. I had expected to find some kind of organization/co-ordination in the bustling city, but instead it seems to be just a mass of shops and street traders randomly placed and occupying every corner of space. There was so much going on I found it hard to concentrate on anything.

On the way we stopped at the bank to change money. That in itself took an hour and a half to queue up and get service. It seemed that the bank staff had absolutely no sense of urgency or professionalism in the sense that we are accustomed to in the UK (reflective of the old Swahili proverb ‘haraka haraka haina baraka’ meaning ‘haste makes waste’). They were using only one out of three available counters and the queue was stretching outside of the bank doors. When I finally reached the front of the queue I had to watch the banker fiddle on his phone for two minutes before he was willing to make eye contact with me and exchange currency.

The original plan was to go into the city to purchase resources for the school with the funds we raised prior to the trip. But after the 90 minute stop at the bank we only had time for a few purchases. We bought a handful of basic English books for teachers at the school from an Oxford book store (no resemblance whatsoever to the Oxford book stores I know in the UK) whilst Maggie and Robbie bought 200 pairs of new shoes for the kids.

At one point I was almost pick pocketed by a couple of locals when one guy grabbed hold of my arm and tried to attract my attention, making way for his friend to retrieve the contents of my pockets. But I managed to get away in the moment of confusion by spinning around and walking off in another direction. That said, we weren’t ever in any immediate danger as long as we stayed in a group and with Grace and Nelly (Swahili speaking teachers from the school). But I did have to keep a constant eye on the camera in my pocket and my money belt.

Today has been a mad, mad day. School went as usual this morning, but this afternoon myself, Jenny, Robbie and Maggie skipped afternoon class and Mapunda (another of our drivers) drove us to a clothes market a short distance away called Rafiki (more popularly known as Big Brother so I’m told). We were accompanied by Nelly to necessitate the Swahili translation. The purpose of the trip was to purchase new clothes for the kids to be handed out at the school tomorrow.

Rafiki, a used clothes market

Rafiki, a used clothes market

The market was craziness on another level to that of the wood market in Mwenge and Dar yesterday afternoon. Nelly explained that the used clothes are donated from the world over and sold to the Tanzanian merchants at a low price. We were able to get a price of 1000 T.shs per T-shirt/skirt/pair of shorts (in bulk); around 55p. The market consisted mostly of piles, or perhaps more appropriately mountains, of used clothes. I felt extremely inconspicuous in our team of 4 muzungos (white people) walking through the market and surrounded by merchants trying to flog clothes to us. We moved from stand to stand shifting through the mountains of clothes looking for appropriate items that weren’t ripped or stained and had complete buttons/working zips. We would scour the piles, throwing rejected clothes to the back while merchants would stand on the tables churning over the clothes, throwing t-shirts casually in our direction with exclamations of ‘this good one.’ Eventually, the merchants that were competing for our attention became so aggravating we moved outside of the market where we formed a much more effective production chain style process. The merchants would send 10 or so other people to go and find the clothes we were looking for from their stands and bring them back for us to choose which ones we wanted.

It was a long, long afternoon but we eventually hit our target of 200 shirts and shorts. We were all on sensory overload and I had to constantly keep a close eye on my pockets and our purchases. The merchants would sometimes try to trick us by sneaking extra clothes into our piles or by skipping numbers when counting up the items. At one point we took a short breather by locking ourselves in the minibus for a brief moment.

Our purchases for the day

Our purchases for the day

The journey back took an age. All that nonsense I wrote in my first entry about the chaotic traffic system that some how seems to flow ‘seamlessly’… scrap that! This was utter chaos. And it wasn’t seamless. It was stop-start the whole way, and here a traffic jam takes on a whole different meaning. Cars came at us from all different angles (literally all angles) fighting for road space. I watched one dalla dalla (bus) drive right across the right hand lane in the face of oncoming traffic just to use the hard shoulder on the right hand side of the road in order to overtake traffic. It then proceeded to cross the oncoming traffic a second time to return to the left lane. I am thankful that Mapunda is a good driver and that we escaped any accidents. We thanked him by buying him a shirt at the market and later an ice lolly that we bought from a bike seller on the way home. He was pretty happy! There was a moment of amusement as we shouted to the ice cream seller out of the window of the bus while we were moving along that we wanted 5 ice creams and he had to run alongside the bus to make the exchange.

Having left the house at 3:30 this afternoon, we finally returned from our expedition at 7:45. Tomorrow the madness will continue at school when we hand out the stuff to the kids. We have a mountain of shoes, balls, shorts, skirts, t-shirts, dresses and a load of other resources that has amassed in the house this last week. I can’t wait to see the kids faces when we give each kid a new outfit tomorrow. But it sure is going to take some heavy handed co-ordination. Normal school is out tomorrow. Tomorrow Christmas comes early!!

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