We are back from our safari (which means ‘journey’ in Swahili) and as promised I would like to share a bit about the people who made our Kili experience what it was.
Karibu is the Swahili word for ‘welcome’. ‘You are welcome’ – you hear this all the time in Tanzania. And you see it on signs – entering restaurants, hotels and even towns (incidentally, Mike thought this was actually the name of a town we passed through until he saw it again at the edge of the next town).
Our team on Kilimanjaro taught us what Tanzania hospitality is all about. They also showed us how it is possible to work so hard and to be so happy for a job even if paid so little by our standards.
Imagine, if you will, trekking up Kili each day for 5-7 hours in the elements and with the incline – as we did. But now consider doing it with a 15kg bag on your back and bundles of food, supplies, a container of kerosene, a gallon of vegetable oil, and a gas burner stacked on your head.
Imagine that you carry no gear or clothing for yourself beyond what you are wearing and a rolled up sleeping mat. Imagine that at each part of the ascent where the tourists huts are located that you would instead sleep in cramped quarters on concrete bunks.
Imagine that you would eat only ugali or uji (a thin, watery, sweet porridge made from millet) for meals while cooking/serving an abundance of food to your climbers.
Can you envision all of this? (It might be hard to unless you have seen it with your own eyes.)
Now imagine that for each day of your hard work, labour and sweat from 6:00am until 9:00pm, you earn $8 US.
Eight. Huit. Acht. Oito. 8.
We discovered this on our wonderful hikes filled with brilliant conversation*. The guides and cook often will get paid a bit higher than $40 US for a five-day trek. However, how much better is decidedly questionnable. Ilya, Mike and I spent a good two days and several discussions determining what we would tip each of our team. It weighed on us heavily. Particularly because we caught glimpses into the little our team had of creature comforts. For example, the food that we didn’t eat at meals, they wolfed down once we had left the dining hall. Where before I would have worried about wasting food, after I was actually happy to have lost my appetite as we ascended higher and higher.
*John and Freddy told us about everything. Every question we asked was answered. We learned about Kili. About the health care system in Tanzania. Schools. Music. Food. Animals. Etc…
Our total tip for each porter worked out to be 125% of their earnings. And although we feel good about how much we tipped, now having experienced the constant attempts by street kids to dupe us foreigners out of our hard earned money, I wish we had tipped them more. Because they worked so hard and they were happy to be working. Mike made an interesting observation shortly after our time with the Kili team which I will paraphrase by saying:
Most people here don’t want a hand-out, they want a livelihood.
Jobs not aid.