I sat there at the traffic lights waiting for red to become green.
All of a sudden he appeared by my car cloth in hand, two cups.
I started to say no thank you in Kiswahili but stopped. The boy pulled out the cloth and proceeded to wipe the window and the bonnet, patiently raising the wipers and dislodge the trapped twigs from the grating beneath.
I was first in the queue as the lights remained red, he obviously knew the timing well as he patiently worked his way across to the passenger side with a few seconds to spare. I gave him some coins. Not much by my standards but a token of appreciation.
I did not ask for my windows to be wiped, but this disheveled boy was doing something to earn something.
There are many street children in Mwanza. Most beg. “Give Me My Money”, grates on the ears far too often. I don’t give to these beggars, the local charities urge us not to as it discourages them to find real help and often monies given are stolen by older boys.
At least this boy was doing something, not just relying on handouts, from Mzungu.
It’s a hard life on the Mwanza streets. A physical life, a life living hand to mouth. The streets of Mwanza are populated by traders. Some sell food, everything from popcorn and peanuts to barbecued beef and bananas. Some sell Tanzanian Maps and Rat Killer. Others repair shoes, others carve and sell stamps. Still others make and sell bangles and other jewelry or pieces of Art work.
Vitumbua (African Donuts) – delicious
Corn on the Cob
Pop Corn and Peanuts
Barbecued Cassava Root – tastes like a cross between Chestnuts and Potato
Mishkaki – spiced skewered meat (goat or beef)
All of the above scrapping a living from their wares, day by day, week by week. We have got to know some of these guys (they are in the main male). Musa who repairs shoes near the Traffic Light is a really nice guy who is just trying to better himself. John is a street seller who makes bracelets. Both have in the past approached us for small loans (there is no shame in doing so here). They don’t take something for nothing indeed John sold me some bracelets for 8000TZS (about £3.20 the money from which he will use to buy small screw threads with which to connect necklaces. I had no qualms in doing so – I’d much rather give to something positive rather than to a beggar. For me 8000 was really nothing and I wouldn’t do that for anyone. Similarly Musa has asked for some money to repaIr his shoe repair stand. I paid extra for the repairs to my sandals – he charges only 20000TzS (80p) for repairs! I hope I’m not coming across as altruistic or naive, but giving examples of what happens here.
There are of course the beggars and the street children as well as those better off who beg for money – I am less likely to give to those and certainly in smaller quantity (a larger sum would probably be stolen off the weaker ones anyway. The prase “Give Me My Money” is often heard and is particularly grating. This is possibly s mistranslation on their part from Kiswahili into English, but it is not conducive to charitable giving, especially when associated with Mzungu!
Give me folk like Musa and John any day!