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!
Today’s post is more reflective. Looking back on yesterday’s Car Boot Sale it was an interesting view of society and the cultural mix.
In my descriptions I refer to people’s nationality – some of this is guesswork based on voices or looks and in no way is meant to be disrespectful, but to reflect the cultural mix at the MK Bowl. In fact having got myself up before 5am on this occasion I admire the fortitude and perseverance of all those people seeking to better themselves through sacrifice on a regular basis, especially on a cold inhospitable morning as yesterday.
In the ’90s Blur released a single Parklife which was apparently about the people they saw in London parks on there way to recording studios.
Here I share my take on “Bootlife”
The car boot sale is held every Sunday at the MK bowl, a large circular arena with a long path surrounding it’s upon which stall holders are setting up.
We arrive at 4:45am and within seconds we are approached from out of the gloom by people who begin rooting through our goods as we unpack, many are silent and don’t really acknowledge us as we insist we’re not ready. One lady engages Anita in conversation and we discover she works night shift at Sainsbury and likes to come along to the car boot sale on her way home.
Just after 5:30am fellow traders begin to arrive – experienced booters who are looking for bargains from the amateurs like us. One guy buys our entire collection of Doctor Who characters – these are tough bargainers who won’t take no for an answer.
6:40am As the dawn comes and the torches are put away we start to see the early risers more clearly.
They come. Circling the bowl, tracking back and forth, doubling back at times.
It’s a multinational group. A Chinese lady approaches several times looking at many items and looking for a real bargain, rejects our offers. There are several folk with Eastern European accents, some look more middle eastern, possibly Iraqi or Kurdish, others more Romany looking. Some more Asians, some looking for DVDs (we don’t yet have any), others wanting phones and electrical goods (we have none for sale).
We greet all with cheery “hellos”, most smile back and reply in broken English. Is there a sense that we are seeing the bottom rung of society here? People are seeking to find things at low cost either to have or sell on. Very few Brits at this hour – is this a sign that these folk are more willing to get up and get out or simply people in need? Most are very cold as are we!!
7:00am we begin to see more African Nationals – mainly Ghanaian – Anita practicing her limited Ghanaian as she greets them with “ete-sen” (more than I knew). One lady shivering in the cold has open toe shoes and no socks – poor lady must be freezing (we see her later having bought some – she seems a lot happier)
By 8:00am there are more people about and we start to see more Brits. Many a bargain is struck but people are picky and it’s still cold – some taken aback by Anita’s cheery “Good Morning” , but it does help with sales.
One guy in a skirt desperately wanted the 60’s version of the Italian Job with Michael Caine (we have no DVD’s to sell at this point) , he eventually moves on.
The sun has risen higher and by 9:00am is peering round the trees. It’s still cold as someone walks by in Sari like material – beautiful but impractical in the ice.
By now my Stephen, Fiona, mum and the kids arrive with extra supplies including DVD’s and more kitchenware.
As if from nowhere we are descended upon by a hoard and a Polish lady snaps up 4 Disney DVDs much to the annoyance of our neighbouring trader who also wanted them and eventually buys the rest for a good price (for him!)
10:00am and the Brits arrive in force – a mix of middle class bargain hunters and the people with much less. Strange things sell whilst expected things don’t. The sun warms the place and then a brief rain shower – thankfully not for too long. Anita got talking to a lady from Tanzania (Arusha), excited about our move and keen to say much about her mother country. She bought our juicer!
Heather and Geoff arrive too and spend some time. We sell an iron
Pestle and Mortar and an Iron Fondue Set – the guy doesn’t want a Fondue cook book – I reckon he wanted the iron!
11:30am Lots gone, lots remain. Some people we see over and over, some have been here since six – still searching. The lady from Sainsbury returns thinking we’d be sold out by now. Heather and Geoff leave with Matthew, they to help with the house, he to cook Lasagna for 9!
Anita sells most of her Creative Memories to two customer. One lady in a wheelchair advises against selling her a Christmas Tigger – suggesting it would sell well on eBay.
12:15pm: Fellow traders are packing up even though this goes on ’till 2:00pm. We still have one or two customers, but then start packing – a lot has gone but plastic boxes don’t shrink so the car is still jammed to the gunnels. Time for one last sale as a guy looking for a cricket set sees, our croquet set. He doesn’t want it but is persuaded to give 25p for a beach golf set instead.
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