The attack of the vendors

The attack of the vendors
Oct 24

Today was a fun day.  Only a few business meetings and then we off to see some of the local sights of Iringa and do some important tasks…shopping!

Our first stop was the bank to get some local currency.  Tanzania money is the Tsh (Tanzanian shilling.)  The exchange rate is about 2040tsh to one American dollar.  So when a vendor quotes 20,000tsh for an item, one should not have a heart attack; that’s only around $10.  It was customer appreciation day and we received a letter of thanks from the bank manager and had our picture taken.

Now that we had money, we could shop! Miraji, our tour guide, took us to a narrow alleyway lined with booths of handmade Tanzanians crafts. While Charlie (Chaaalee to the Tanzanians) played with one of the children, Terry and Kathy went shopping.  We left with wallets definitely lighter, carrying our treasures of jewelry, woodcarvings, a painting, wraps, beaded bowls and stone-carved bowls.  Do you think we had fun?

For lunch, we decided to return to Neema crafts.  Miraji had arranged a tour of the facility. Neema crafts is a not-for-profit organization which helps train, employ and empower over 100 people with disabilities. The charity was started by the Diocese of Ruaha over 10 years ago with just a handful of deaf artisans.  Since then it has grown rapidly and now has 8 workshops, a conference center, a therapy unit and an award-winning café.  The cake and ice cream in the café is a meal in itself…so good.

On our tour, we visited many individual departments: weaving, screen printing, sewing, papermaking, woodworking, paper beads, a kiln for pottery and bead making. Everything had found a use: sawdust, paper and yes, even elephant dung!  The dung is used to make the paper for notebook sand scrapbooks; the sawdust is used to heat the kiln.

After lunch we visited Mkwawa University, a government run school. What a lovely campus though we still had to navigate the rocky roads we have come to associate with travel in Tanzania.

Our last stop was Magic Site. It is a small zoo of local animals. We saw baboons, crocodiles, turtle, geese and many varieties of monkeys.  We visited the inside of an authentic Masai hut and Kathy even got a hug from an African python.

For dinner tonight, it is back to Mama Iringa’s.  Last night we had pizza and tiramisu.  What a treat!  There were too many temptations on the menu so we are going back for round two.

Hii ni bei gani?  It was a phrase used frequently today.  How much is this?

Todays bios are of Juli and Bo Skillman, two Lutheran volunteers who have been coming to Tanzania for the last fourteen years.

Bo “Brent” Skillman is a graduate of University of North Dakota in business and aviation.  He describes himself as a “business owner, father of two and husband of one for thirty-one years.” He and his wife Julie are associated with Bega Kwa Bega, a parish-to-parish partnership.  Within Bega Kwa Bega, he has served as coordinator, executive committee member and chair of St. Paul partners water development.

Juli Skillman has a B.S. in nutrition/dietetics from the University of North Dakota.  She is a registered dietician consultant for Arc group homes and on call as a clinical dietician for a hospital, Health East Bethesda.  She too was a coordinator with Bega Kwa Bega.

They are a delightful couple, ready to lend a hand or provide useful information.