Sunday, February 18, 2018
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Dar es Salaam Hawkers and their nuisance

Tanzania's hawkers

It was a Wednesday, a rather slow day for you. But suddenly a whatsapp message pops up on your mobile phone.

“Hello brother, happy new year,” the text reads. It was from Fred, an old buddy whom you have lost touch with for quite sometime.

Without much of interest, you reply plainly by just saying all was well. But then, immediately a thought flashes in your mind, and that’s a business idea.

“Where are you Fred, I was wondering if we can link up for lunch or something and discuss a few things,” you suggest to Fred.

Without much of a delay, Fred and you agree to meet at a certain point for lunch.

You then suddenly feel a bit elevated that now, at least you have something to look forward to. While at the back of your mind, you pretty well know that, besides having lunch with him, there’s also a business idea that you wanted to introduce to Fred.

In the next 30 minutes or so, you and Fred meet at this popular Joint at Mikocheni. For, those, who aren’t familiar with the city’s geography, Mikocheni is an high end for Dar es Salaam residents. It’s not as posh as Masaki and Oysterbay, but over the years, the area has claimed its prominence for being an official resident for several prominent personalities including the three former presidents.

After exchanging the normal pleasantries with Fred, you both venture into the restaurant.

“Karibu sana,” two people hastily approach you with broad smiles-from their uniform, you can tell, one is a waiter and the other one is a waitress.

“Where would you like to sit?” they pursue you further.

Without giving you time to respond, they usher you to a nearby, but rather excluded table.

And, you impressed with their hospitality, without any hesitation you oblige.

Then, the usual routine began.

“What do you have?” you quickly interject.

“Well. We have chicken, rice, roast meat, changamoto and…” it was a long but also confusing list of what they are offering.

You already knew in the first place what you will have, as whenever you go there, you have your menu set in mind.

But one item from the list that grabbed your attention was ‘changamoto’ a swahili word which literally means ‘challenge.’

t first you didn’t understand, how in the first place the word found it’s way in a menu, but then, you curiously ask, “What is changamoto?”

The waiter, who seems to be taking charge from the beginning tries to explain to you that it can be chicken or meat but normally with plenty of onions and lemon.

Then, you wonder, how was the name derived? Could it have come from one drunkard after his or her drinking spree he vomitted it out and the rest adopted it? Having failed to get the answers for that, you simply end up releasing that hypocritical smile and utter beneath your breath, “Changamoto.”

Now, you and Fred, your ‘potential client’ have settled into a good meal. You are still touching base on several issues, including work, family and life in general before you start introducing your business idea.

Suddenly one hawker pulls a trolley full of different titles of books towards your table. You have both noticed him coming but decided to ignore him. He goes away and within a few minutes comes back again. This time, you tell him to proceed as you are not interested.

Within the shortest spell again, another hawker emerges from a different direction. This one, this time, his hands are full of mobile phones cables and USBs. You will mistake him for a robot.

This one was a bit aggressive. “Vipi mzee, original cables na USB, bei poa,” he said it in loose Swahili, which literally means, “Old man, I’m selling original cables and USB at a good price.”

These boys are common in Dar and other cities. They sell every kind of commodities in that style. However, their quality, leaves a lot to be desired. Again, having known that, one can hardly get original product through those hawkers, we again told him to proceed to other tables.

You quickly start being impatient with these hawkers and their behaviour of interrupting people. You feel like it’s not appropriate for the restaurant’s adminstration to have allowed these hawkers being a nuisance to their customers.

As you are about to lay bare your plans now to Fred, you see someone approaching your table. You wonder who could he be. Could he be someone you might have met somewhere or someone who might have mistaken you for someone else?

“You must like this old music sir,” he played some old music- he’s obviously another hawker, trying to lure you into buying some USB full of old music.

You are now vividly irritated. Not sure how to contain your anger, you simply ask for the bill, you foot it as you set another appointment with Fred at another location.

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