I have been in Mwanza, Tanzania for three weeks of unofficial “cultural training” and I’m now getting ready to go on to Dodoma on Tuesday the 15th. That’s getting ready…it might actually be Tuesday or it might be Wednesday…or Thursday…after all it’s Africa.
Mwanza is an awesome town on the shores of Lake Victoria in the north central part of Tanzania. It is the second largest town in Tanzania. Those who live here call it rock city because it’s hills are covered with huge boulders. If you’re a climber that likes to boulder this place is awesome. I used to climb and boulder when I was a whole lot younger so looking at all of the great boulders is really tempting for me to try and work out a few routes. But don’t worry, every time I starting slipping over the edge into crazy The Lord reminds me of my age and the fact the I really don’t want to wind up in a hospital in Africa. That might be a case of, if the fall doesn’t kill me the hospital might!!!
I love the mornings here. It’s nice and cool and quiet before everybody’s day gets started. The air is fresh and clean, the birds are doing their things and even the people that are up are moving a little slower and making less noise. Africa in the mornings can be something that just makes you glad to be here.
If you’re ever out and about early in the morning, it’s really cool to watch the streets waking up for the start of a new day. Gradually venders arrive to set up their stalls in the market and then the streets begin to fill with people, and sounds, and smells. Like every place that I’ve been in Africa, Mwanza has its own sights, smells and sounds. Some are really awesome but some are not so good. Together they all make Africa, Africa.
There are sounds almost all the time in Africa and, at the market, it’s like everybody and everything is competing for attention all at once, which can be confusing at times. Just walking through a market is a great adventure all in itself, and if you stop to look at something, you’re in for a great shouting and tugging match for your attention as they all try to sell you something. If you’re not sure what you might want, don’t worry, there will be plenty of people to help you make up your mind. Sometimes you think that if you buy something maybe, just maybe, you might get to make an escape. Don’t count on it! The trick that seems to work the best for me, if there is a trick, is to just stay home!!! I’m just kidding. What seems to work is to not look at anything very long, just a quick glance and keep saying, “No, no, no, no, no…” with a lot of hand waving and head shaking thrown in.
The hustle and craziness of the markets take a little getting used to but I love them. You get to see more stuff in ten minutes in a market in Africa than you’ll see all day in a Wal-Mart in America!!! And one of the things that makes it an adventure is that there is no order, everything is just all mixed up; clothes and beans, locks and soap, shoes and fish. Everything that you can think of and a lot of stuff you have never thought of, all mixed up together in one place, and everybody trying to sell it to you!!!!!
The great challenge is to buy something, not just anything but something that, first you know what it is, second it’s something that you want or even need, and third you manage to talk the seller down to a price that is only double what an African would pay!!!!! Of course it helps to have some idea of what an African would pay for whatever it is that you’re trying to buy. Now don’t get all upset that you might be taking advantage of the poor African, trust me, if you’re not with an African friend you’re going to get the chance to bless the seller with more than he would normally sell whatever it is you’re buying. If you don’t take it all personally, it can be great fun!