January 28, 2010


Toys in Tanzania are rare. With per capita income coming in well under the equivalent of $1USD/ day for most Tanzanians, the lack of toys available to children is not altogether surprising. Yet, kids can be kids. Fanciful imaginations combined with a bout of boredom yields impressively creative results. As the picture below shows, kids here make use of “scrap” materials such as milk cartons and bottle caps, otherwise known as trash in our world, to fashion toy cars that they race up and down our street.


The other day a loud knock on the metal gate across the street grabbed my attention. It was a street peddler touting a cumbersome handful of push toys, basically a metal bicycle covered in a cloth-like material with a handle to push along the ground. The man disappeared inside only to emerge a few moments later with his still cumbersome stack of toys. I commented to Andrei – seriously, how do these guys make a living around here? We were both surprised when a few moments later a little boy burst through the very same gate with one of those bicycles in tow. He rushed over to the neighbor’s house to show off his brand new toy to his friend. The excitement was palatable. All evening, they pushed the bicycle up and down the street. The next morning Andrei spotted the kid first thing in the morning returning to the neighbor’s house to collect his friend to begin anew. We were quick to surmise he had yet to part ways with the toy and had maybe even slept with it.

Later in the week, the kid’s older brother appeared with a child-sized mountain bike and had great, albeit reckless, fun test driving his new bike. Perhaps not coincidentally, these shiny new toys only seemed to appear following the funeral of someone who lived in their household described here (http://lindsaydispatches.blogspot.com/2009/12/funeral.html) by my former roommate Lindsay who is also blogging about her time in Tanzania. I don’t want to speculate, but the timing is curious.


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