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M.I.S.S. Muses: Hustlers


One of the things I love seeing is resourceful people getting things done and taking care of things, even in the face of circumstance. A.K.A. I love witnessing hustlers. In Tanzania, I was really struck by this as I saw people in a growing economy and with limited resources make the most of what they have and create new systems for earning income. People harvest the land, they trade what they can make, they showcase what their homeland has to offer, and they create solutions for people, all while earning a shilling.

Since most people can’t afford and don’t consistently need cars to get around in Tanzania, private cars are generally seen with tourists or the wealthy (or both). But that doesn’t mean the streets are empty. Besides foot carts, bicycles, safari trucks, tour buses, and pedestrians, streets are busy with dala-dalas. A cross between public transportation and taxis, dala-dalas are modified minivans that carry as many people as can fit (even uncomfortably) along popular routes. The driver keeps an eye out for possible customers to pick up on the side of the road and by major centers. He works with a mpigadebe , who is often seen hanging out the side sliding door to entice customers to ride and is in charge of collecting the fare. Riders on the dala-dala are packed in, making each trip as economical and efficient as possible for the operators. I’ve never seen anything like the dala-dalas anywhere else, but found them endearing and occasionally fun, even with the crammed quarters and higher rate charged for non-locals.

My traveling companion for Tanzania with was very familiar with the dala-dalas having lived there and visiting since. But what was new to her were the “bike dala-dalas,” or motorbike taxis that had sprung up all over town since her last visit. Instead of waiting for a dala-dala to take us up a hill where we needed to go, including having to wait for it to be completely filled so the trip was worth it to the dala-dala operators, men on motorbikes waited at the bottom of this hill and at other main pickups to supplement dala-dala service and earn income. My friend was shocked at the amount of motorbikes now present and we talked about how one person got a motorbike and introduced it to the locals, thus starting a new wave of business and mode of transportation. We rode the bike dala-dalas everyday to get to main roads and transfer to a traditional minivan dala-dala. They were a part of everyday travel and almost a necessity for us when wanting to save time or after a tiring day. And not long ago, they didn’t exist! All it took was an idea, organizing, and willing workers.

People with less than I have figuring out a way to make things work always inspires me. Hustlers inspire me. If you can envision it and you’re willing to be in action, things can happen. Here’s to the hustlers of the world, and within each of us. Keep it going.

Image Layout: Kashmere

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