Hailing a taxi in Tanzania can be a bit tricky, mainly for two reasons: when you are trying to flag down a taxi, ninety-five percent of the time there is no sign on the car to show it is a taxi. Most of the time you are taking a chance hailing the cars that are driving past you. There are two kinds of cars in Bukoba: personal cars and cars being used as taxis. Four door economy size cars are most common in Bukoba. There is no certain color or sign on any car letting you know the car is a taxi–even if the taxi is in use there is still no way to tell! The only way you know for sure is if the car drives past you–then it probably wasn’t a taxi.
The other reason hailing a taxi is tricky is because you must negotiate the price. It is a game you play with the driver, and the game goes something like this: You approach a group of men standing outside their cars. Usually the men are socializing or reading newspapers. As you get closer, the men start to whistle and yell, “Taxi! you need a taxi?” The drivers never argue with each other, so you pick one man and start the negotiations:
Driver: “Mambo” (How’s it going>)
Me: “Poa, Ninakwenda Posta” (Good, I must go to the post office.)
Driver: “Twende” (Let’s go!)
Me: “Shilingi ngapi” (How many shillings?)
Driver: Elfu mbili” (Two thousand shillings–that’s about $1.33)
Me: “Mia tano” (One thousand shillings–that’s about $0.66)
Driver: “Sawasawa” (Okay!)
Most of the time you and the driver agree on a price, but sometimes you don’t. When you don’t agree on a price it is important, as you would with any haggling, to be prepared to walk away. A few times I have had to walk back and agree to the price that the driver proposed, and that’s a little embarrassing.
But it is also important to have a regular, trusted taxi driver for safety reasons. We don’t have to worry about this issue because we have Godfrey. Godfrey was a driver that was introduced to us by Fr. Spyridon. When we first met Godfrey he was wearing a fez. This is a hat usually wore by men of the Muslim faith. When we asked Godfrey about his faith, he said he was a Lutheran. Confused, we asked him why he wears a hat that is usually worn by only Muslim men. He said he just liked to wear the hat for fashion purposes. Godfrey is one of our best friends in Tanzania. He is always looking out for our best interests. When he saw me riding on motorcycle-taxis, he lovingly scolded me and reminded me that, while motorcycle taxis are cheaper, they are very also dangerous. When Godfrey arrives at our house, he always greets us with a jolly “Furaha na Amani.” You cannot help but smile and feel happy when you are riding with Godfrey–and you don’t have to negotiate the price.