You’ll often see travellers armed with their list of must sees, must eats and must do’s, but at the top of Laura Harman’s list is simply meeting local people. Laura believes thats learning about the local culture and experiencing everyday activities is the best way to turn your average trip into an amazing adventure…
“Tanzania is one of my most memorable travel experiences to date. I opted for a volunteer work term in Arusha, the hub of safari travel. I was able to travel to the Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro National Park and even down to Zanzibar, all spectacular memories. However, when I think of the actual country, I think back to the people I met and my interactions with them. One of the simplest experiences that I enjoyed frequently was taking the local transport (the dala dala) to the Maasai Craft Market with the other volunteers.
Waiting for the dala, we imagine what designs will be painted on the brightly decaled minibus, how many passengers will have managed to squish into the van and what other possible passengers would be on board, such as chickens and goats. One never knows, but that is all part of the fun! Dalas pass us, shouting their destination or hissing, a common form of getting attention from pedestrians, hoping to pick up as many people as possible. We decide to let a few go by, noticing the lack of standing room, let alone seats. Luckily they are conveniently frequent and a dala with a seat or two picks us up and we embrace the bumpy ride to town.
After the short ride we call out our destination, the conductor jingles the change in his hand to collect the mere 250 Tanzanian shillings we owe. We walk to the market that’s filled with amazing handcrafted souvenirs, offering a colourful and exciting atmosphere. We make our way to our favourite stalls, hearing the same friendly calls that we so often hear, “Rafiki, I give you cheapi price”, “It’s free to look”, “Pole, pole, there is no hurry in Africa.” I joke with the shop owners, enjoying their friendly charm. I look at all the wonderful souvenirs, we’re always amazed at the incredible woodwork, colourful paintings and beaded jewellery every time, the talent seems endless.
After weaving in and out I spot a colourful painting of a lion that I fall in love with, and prepare to start the bargaining process. The ability to bargain throughout your travels is a fun task, you feel so accomplished by lowering the price, but at the same time the realisation that this is how many people make a living keeps you from lowering the price too low, a fine balance.
I start by asking the price and immediately stating it’s too expensive, cutting the price in half hoping for a reaction. The debate begins, each time evening the price by 100 shillings. Finally, when the shop owner doesn’t seem to budge any further, I begin to leave, thus propelling the owner to start bargaining once again. “Okay, okay, give me your besti price.” I offer one last price, which is followed by a brief silence, then finally an acceptance, thus allowing me to walk away with a beautiful painting and the feeling I have won the battle. Of course I visit this shop many more times during my stay, as I have created a friendship with Gracie, the shop owner, but the bargaining process is always expected and it wouldn’t be the same without it!
We decide to walk home from the market, continually being greeted by people smiling at us and asking us how we are. “Mambo, jambo, habari!” We happily reply, feeling welcomed. “Poa, jambo, nzuri sana!” Just before reaching our house, we are greeted by a group of children who excitedly practice their English. “Hello! Good afternoon! How are you! Goodbye!” They ask for us to take their pictures and giggle as they gather around our cameras to view the photos, a memorable end to our journey into town.
As simple as this story is, it’s these experiences that stay freshest in my memory from my trip. Thinking about my journey to Tanzania, I realise the people are what I miss the most. Tanzanians are so warm, friendly and extremely welcoming, you will always be greeted as a friend or rafiki. Of course my visits on safari and to the beaches were amazing, but these small moments definitely created the largest memories and gave my adventure much more meaning!”
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* photo by Annina Gutmann – Intrepid Photography Competition