26th August Sheila
Today Oscar and I met up again with Mustafa, the assistant guide who walked with us to the “ambulance” from the camp on the mountain on the third day of the climb, and escorted us all the way to the Lodge where we are staying on the outskirts of Arusha, which has a population of about a million and a half.
After greeting him, we all walked the mile or so along the dirt track to get to the main road, where we hopped on to a public bus. I think we would regard it as a minibus with perhaps 14 seats. By the time we got into Arusha, I counted 20 passengers squeezed into it!
Mustafa took us to his own home, where he lives with his wife and children: Brian aged 5 and Brenda aged 2. I was immediately introduced to “Beebee” – grandmother – and was seated beside her in the yard. I get called Beebee too here. Beebee was apologetic about not having any food or drink to offer me: she said if I came back the next day she would have something. Of course I protested, saying that we had plenty to eat and drink at the Lodge. Mustafa interpreted for us: Beebee was speaking some sort of dialect – not Swahili.
Oscar was very pleased when Brian appeared with a football, and they, together with Mustafa and another couple of neighbouring boys, had a kick around.
I was told that Beebee owns the compound. She has her own “house” and lets out the other four or five shacks, including the one Mustafa and family live in. Mustafa said he was her foster child. Apparently he was born in Kilimanjaro village, but found himself alone in Arusha as quite a young child and she took him in, despite having six children of her own. He said he made the money to pay for his schooling by acting as a caddy on the nearby golf course and as a ball boy on the adjacent tennis courts. He actually walked us over to see the very lush golf course in a wealthy neighbourhood not far away.
I asked whether everyone had to pay to go to school and he said that they did. Apparently the government claims that education is free, but Mustafa says the reality is very different. For example each child has to pay for its own chair, which costs 35 US dollars. The schools all make other demands as well – sometimes for desks or for new buildings. If a parent hasn’t paid, the child will be told to go home to fetch the money. If the parent can’t pay, the child just doesn’t go back to school. Mustafa says many such children end up on the streets and involved in crime and drugs.
Brian goes to school, but is on holiday till the end of the month. Mustafa makes enough from guiding on Kilimanjaro to send him to a private school, where there are small classes of only 40 or 50 children. In the public schools, there are usually between 200 and 300 children in a class. Further, in the private schools, the children learn English all the way through, while the public schools only teach a little to the older children. It definitely seems to be the case that knowing English is the key to career progression here.
Eventually we walked on right to the centre of Arusha and to a little market – clearly aimed at tourists – selling crafts and curios. Oscar and I both bought a few souvenirs to bring back for our family there, but felt very harassed by the vendors each vying to get us into their “shops” – each just about big enough for two people to stand in.
We walked on through Arusha to a food market, which was lovely to see, where Oscar bought a couple of apples from a mate of Mustafa. One guy at that stall took a look at me and asked if I wanted to see fabric. How could I say no to that? So we followed him into a real shop, which did indeed have lovely cotton fabric – just perfect for patchwork. I chose a piece and agreed a price, then all hell seemed to break out!
The trouble wasn’t aimed at, but was caused by me. Mustafa explained afterwards that the guy who took me into the shop and agreed the price with me was nothing to do with the shop! The shop owner shouted that she couldn’t just have people coming in off the streets and doing deals, when she didn’t know what share of the money she was going to get!
After that, Oscar and I felt we’d done enough bartering for one day, so we stuffed into a bus again and Mustafa walked us the mile along the track back to the Lodge.
Quite a fun day, all in all. We shook dozens of hands and saw hundreds of faces, only one of which – a guy on the other side of the road – was white. I really am enjoying having the opportunity to see at first hand how the local Tanzanians live.