Tag Archives: street

Life on the Streets

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.

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.

Mwanza Streets (33)

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!

Street Food – Mwanza Style

I thought I’d post a little about the street food options in Mwanza. The photos below were taken surreptitiously and so are less composed but show some of what’s on offer here in town.

Popular foods include Chipsi Mayai (a Potato Chip Omlette), Mandazi & Vitumbua (types of donut), Popcorn, as well as barbecued foods of many kinds such as Cassava Root, Mishkaki (spiced skewers of goat or beef), corn on the cob, sausages and goat ribs.

Today we were in need of some lunch so stopped at one of the street barbecues – and ordered some goat ribs (delicious), we were shown to a table in the adjacent cafe and ate this with rice. We also had some Vitumbua later on (also delicious). In the local markets you can sit down to Chai (spiced tea) and Chapati (flat bread). I have also seen a guy selling crushed sugar cane juice (though this is much more common in Zanzibar).

When I needed a neighbour ….

There was a hymn that we sang at school. If you are of a certain age you will probably remember it.

The chorus went …

When I needed a neighbour,

Were you there? Were you there?

When I needed a neighbour,

Were you there?

And the creed and the colour and the name don’t matter,

Were you there?

The song is a bit ’70s and maybe a bit twee but it is one which has come to mind a lot recently.

Tanzania and specifically Mwanza (since we have only visited this town) is a place of contrasts. There are some fabulous places – both natural (Dancing Rocks, Bismarck Rock, Lake Victoria) and man-made (Malaika Beach, Tunza Lodge). We live on a lovely compound in a nice house and work in a good school, but there is another side.

There is poverty here! Great poverty.

People scratching a living to make ends meet. People living on the streets because they have no home or the home they had was too unsafe to live in.

Walking into town as we do we see both sides. We are immensely wealthy compared to many of the locals, and as Wazungu (white people) we stand out. We are often approached by people for money. It would be physically impossible to give money to everyone and indeed if we did we would very soon be poor ourselves. More importantly giving to an individual on the street may not be the best thing to do. Where it is an obvious disability and we have small enough change ( giving over a 10000 TSh note would lead to a stampede and would almost certainly be stolen from the one to whom it was given) we have given a 50TSh or 100TSh coin or 200TSh coin. Our criteria has been obvious disability (e.g. Elephantitis), or deprevation. In one case Anita bought a meal of Chips Mayai ( Chip Omelette) for an obviously hungry street child.


However, we could not possibly do this for everyone and it is a challenge. One way we have attempted to help is by buying goods from those who are trying to support themselves through making bracelets or necklaces – recently we bought three bracelets from a guy we have got to know so that the funds could allow him to buy more string for more bracelets. Even so we saw him yesterday and did not buy – another day we will.

Other places have been set up in town to support street children or else Forever Angels (a local charity for babies and young children). We have bought  art work to make our house nicer whilst helping others. The cynic in me would think that there are scams to make money – but I am convinced this is not the case and the people are sincere.

Yesterday on the way into town we passed a guy on the street who fixed shoes. He had obviously noticed my sandals and called out to offer repair (the soles were coming loose). We came back and he did a fabulous job by hand, fixing my footware. In conversation (he spoke good English) he mentioned that he had had no business that day. At the end he charged 2000 TSh (about 80p) – we decided to give 6000 TSh.


In the wider sense by frequenting the hotels and cafés, by buying from the markets or by hiring a house worker we are giving employment and spreading the wealth a little.IMG_8849

Even so it is hard to turn down a beggar and the song still haunts me a little – but hopefully we are doing something positive to help here.

World Cup Winners

T Minus 137

Unlike other blog entries this one is not about us at all. I don’t yet know the people concerned or the organisation other than what I have read. The link is purely one of geography. #iamsomebody

As someone about to move to Mwanza I have been keen to find out as much as I can about the city via other blogs, Facebook and Internet research. In so doing I have come across the work of the Tanzanian Street Child Sports Academy (TSC).

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