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
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
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
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.
Copyright © Arlene Batchelder