Sunday, 2 December 2012


Saturday December 1st

December already, it will soon be midsummer’s day but I won’t be here to see it. 

As I said yesterday, today was the time for another Tanga run, which still seems to offer up new pleasures and experiences. Today, as I sat waiting for Shillingi VIP to pull out of Pangani, I looked down from my perch on the bus and saw another example of the ‘black economy’ of Tanzania.  Once again a photo did not seem appropriate so you will have to rely upon my descriptive skills. Outside the barbers was the type of table and benches that you might find in a picnic area in the UK.  At the end sat a lady on a single chair and at her side was a bucket of water.  By bucket I mean an empty maize flour container, as these seem to be reused for all manner of purposes, but certainly as water carriers.  On the table were six or eight small handle-less teacups and a very large thermos flask.  As her customers sat themselves down at her table, she reached down beside her and washed one of the cups, took the top off the flask and poured the newcomer a cup of coffee.  The payment , as far as I could see, was a Tsh 200 coin (about 8p).  This picture was repeated at most of the major pick-up points along the route and there is also a similar set up on the Boza road.  I mention it not only because it was an interesting scene in its own right but also because it set me thinking about the economy in Tanzania.  I know there is VAT as it is itemised on my receipt every week for my board at the YM, I also know that there is Income tax for anyone in a ‘proper’ job, but, as I have said before, there seem to be so many people who earn a living in what could roughly be described as the service industry, I wondered how they contribute to the National ‘pot’.  My flip flop was mended by a man sitting in the street outside a house, my tyre was mended by a boy in the Boza village, my water for a bus journey is provided by a seller who appears next to the bus window, the list is endless.  I asked Mama Gladness and she informs me that these people pay ‘Ushuru’ which appears to be an ‘on the spot’ contribution whose size is determined by the collector, who is hopefully a trustworthy and honest government employee.  The cost for my lady this morning could be as little as Tsh 50 but it is her contribution to the National Economy.

Thankfully there is only one week to go, because I have misplaced my swimming goggles.  I think I must have left them on the beach on Wednesday.  Anyway, as I had already searched and found a shop in Tanga that sold me a pair for Deo, I decided it was worth my while to replace them, only to find that they had none available.  I know swimming is not everybody’s sport but you would think that a major city (250 000 population), on the sea, regional capital for over one and a half million people might just have one more shop that would sell goggles.  Tanga doesn’t, so my searching along the sea bed for shells will have to cease.  The shop that had run out of goggles is also the shop where I bought my flask and is one of these places that seems to sell a little of everything.  I decided to treat the YMCA kitchen to a hand mincer as I happened to notice that when she was making ‘spag bol’ for me last time, Vicky used a pestle and mortar to break the beef up.  The mincer has the dreaded words ‘Made in China’ on the side of the box, so I don’t know how long it will last but certainly until I have benefited for one of my remaining meals.

China seems to manufacture a lot of goods aimed at the East African market and, from my experience, produced to a much lower standard than would be acceptable in the west.  I bought a corkscrew in Kenya six years ago and as I pulled down on the arms, the cheap cast alloy just snapped in half.  Cliff had some nails last year that needed ultimate precision or they simply bent in half, and a disposable razor I bought in Pangani last year fell apart during my first attempt at a shave. ( I know I have a tough stubble but Desperate Dan I ain’t!) But they are cheap and fill a need, I suppose.  It is also interesting how many of the multinationals seem to be able to sell their products at Tanzanian prices and still turn a profit.  It makes you wonder how much money they actually make in thedeveloped countries.  Vodacom (Vodafone) charge Tsh 33 for a text (just over 1p), and Coca cola in the original shaped bottles is on sale at the YM for 28p.  There are many other examples and it certainly makes you think.

Upon my return from the vibrant city, I received a call from Lisa, the American who owns the ‘Tented Lodge’ next door.  A boat was taking two Dutch girls that were staying there, on a snorkelling trip to an off shore island and as I had expressed interest earlier she wondered if I wanted to go.  In the end I went over for a meal there so that we could make arrangements and I could have one last break from the YM before my departure.

The only guests were the Dutch girls so we all sat together and had a pleasant evening.  I was talking about my reliance on Karim when I went to Dar and Ulric, Lisa’s Danish husband, told me of an incident that happened to him a couple of years previously.  He arrived at Ubungo and got off the bus and into a waiting taxi.  He was immediately joined on the back seat by a person on either side of him, driven away, beaten up and then taken to an ATM to draw up to the limit for the cards he had.  A salutary lesson and one that makes my reliance on Karim even more understandable.  At the end of the evening I left for the short walk along the beach back to the YM and who should escort me to the gate but Malele and yes, when I looked at his mobile phone it said 9:55 pm.  I tell you, it is all a con to confuse mzungus.

I leave you with a picture.  You will have to imagine me having a siesta break in the chair in the middle as I have quietly got up to take the photo.  These are my ever present companions.  At least someone will miss me when I go.


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