Craft, cuisine & creatures

Waiting, waiting …
Back to school

In complete contrast to yesterday, today we were tourists again. All week Katie has been promising to take us to the craft markets in Arusha, and today was the day. These markets were similar but different to the Masai craft market in Nairobi. Each trader had a separate little shop, and it was much smaller & less crowded. The wares were familiar, but the pressure selling, though ever-present, was not as bad. I have to say, it is quite difficult to leave these markets with empty hands and full pockets! The sales technique is very persuasive. And the jewellery, paintings, masks, carvings, fabrics and all manner of local crafts are really very attractive. And, when you translate the prices to Australian dollars, quite inexpensive. Needless to say, I bought one or two items.

Speaking of money, the Tanzanian currency is crazy. The exchange rate is approximately Tsh 1500 to $1.00 (Tsh=Tanzanian Shilling). So you might pay TSH 20-30,000 for something quite inexpensive. The biggest problem is that 10,000 is the largest note (worth about $6.70) so you find yourself carrying around huge wads of cash! And hardly anyone takes credit cards (even in the fancy shops). They ought to just lop a couple of zeros off.

Katie is obviously a regular visitor to the markets, as the stall holders all knew “Mama Samueli” (pronounced “Samwelli”). Samueli’s blond hair & general cuteness do make him stand out in the crowd.  And as she speaks Swahili they treat her more as a local than a tourist, so don’t jack up their prices quite so much. Probably. Everywhere we went we were told we were getting a very good deal because we were friends of Mama Samueli. And it was fun watching her bargain in Swahili. I imagine we paid more than we needed to, but we were happy with our purchases, and what we paid for them. There is an art to bargaining, and though we are getting better, we need to develop a ruthlessness to be really good at it. As soon as they realise you want something, you have lost!

All that bargaining was thirsty work, so we headed for the shopping centre. While Katie visited the supermarket, we had a bit of a snoop around. This shopping centre obviously caters mainly to tourists & expats. Lots of western-style shops, some quite upmarket, and a few very inviting cafes. And more white people than we saw in the whole 2 weeks in Kenya. The supermarket was large & appeared to have a huge range of products.  It was such a contrast to the roadside stalls we have become used to seeing. We had lunch at a nice shady outdoor cafe, which served particularly delicious salads, and fresh mango juice. In all the 3 course meals we had been served on safari there were very few salads, so this was a welcome treat.

We finished lunch just in time to pick Harry up from school, but there was yet another treat in store.  Mt Meru Safari Lodge is a classy hotel nearby. They have a lovely, large, shady garden and a park full of animal & birds. We found a comfy table, ordered sodas and sat watching zebra, ostrich, eland, monkeys, storks, peacocks & more. The eland even came right over to say hello. It was extremely pleasant sitting there, and fun to watch the kids enjoying the animals, and the soda treat.

We were keen to repay Mike & Katie’s kindness in putting us up & entertaining us for a week. Keith came up with the idea of giving them a dinner out & babysitting so they could have a real night off. And this was the night. It is a long time since we have looked after small children, so I admit I was a little nervous, but I guess it’s like riding a bike. We’ve been here long enough that the kids were quite relaxed with us, and we had no problems at all. (Mind you Katie had bathed & fed them, so all the hard work was done.)  Once they were asleep we spent the evening culling photos. Oh, that job is going to take a very long time!! Mike & Katie tried a restaurant they had heard was good, and they came back raving. And as a bonus brought dessert home so we were able to taste the fare. Mmmmm. A successful evening on all fronts I think.


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