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shopping arusha style
By Arlene Batchelder 5 May 2005

We are staying at the 7 acre ADRA compound surrounded by a 10 foot wall and has Masai guards at night. All windows have bars and all doors are kept locked. It is in a small town called Usa River. On the post office are large letters saying "USA POST OFFICE". Since the town is small, there is usually some vehicle that goes out the gate to the "big" city of Arusha once a day. There is also a bus service which consists of mini busses called dala-dala. The ride to town cost $.40 and they are very crowded. Not quite as crowded as the busses in India. But we did see people standing on the runningboards with the doors open.

Getting to Arusha, about 20 kilometers away, was also an experience. The fact that they drive on the left side wasn't bad, it was the way they drive! Speed is controlled by speed bumps at seemingly odd places. There are people walking along the sides of the road and every house had a cow and a few goats grazing by the side of the road. Sometimes they are half in the road. I guess all the people walking means they can't fit in the busses. Some of the women walking had large bundles on their heads and it's a wonder they could see the traffic at all.

Arusha has some modern buildings and the UN high tribunal for investigating the war crimes in Rwanda is being held here. There are some modern banks and hotels. The rest of the city, other than the one paved road through town, consists of unkempt dirt roads lined with small shops built with any available material. There are some factories making building materials.

Nothing moves very fast and shops and businesses close for long lunches. So, when we went to Arusha, in the ADRA vehicle there were 9 of us packed in the 5 regular seats. Everyone had different errands but they all communicate with cell phones. Max, our driver, spent a lot of time driving people around and waiting. We, along with Davona and the girls, went to the tourist area.

Being a Wed. afternoon, it was not a very big shopping day for tourists. In fact, we were the only ones there. There were about 3 alleys of shops, all selling just about the same things, all having at least one person standing outside trying to get you to come inside and look.

So we started looking. We learned very quickly that way to shop is to bargain. You say, "how much is this wall hanging". They say "10 shillings". You say "that's too much". They say "how much Madam, you want to pay". You say "5 shillings". They say "9 shillings". You say "6 shillings". They say "8 shillings". So you walk away and in about 1 minute they come after you and say "OK 6 shillings". And you say "OK". Then comes the next part of making change. Since I only had a 10 shilling note I needed change which they said they had. After waiting about 5 minutes while they ran around looking for the other 4 shillings I finally got the wall hanging of the giraffe I really wanted

At another place the total amount I spent was 19 shillings and the person couldn't come up with the 1 shilling for change and wanted me to take something else. Then we had to start all over again bargaining for 1 shilling. Nothing has prices on it. I ended up with a hand made woven hot pad.

One person was trying to sell an old victrola. I asked if I could take a picture and he said OK. I took the picture and he wanted 2 shilling for a meal, when I said no, he wanted 1 shilling for a coke. I showed him the picture and he was happy and called his friend over to look.

It was an interesting afternoon and I got most of my shopping done. Today we are off to Nairobi, a much bigger city. Shopping might be different there.
shopping arusha style - tanzanina