Tired of Touts

“I remember when the whales had wings, she said. Whatever happened? I said. It got to be too noisy with all the airplanes & other stuff, so they flew into the ocean & never came back. Some days, she added, I think about going too.” – StoryPeople

Matt and I never knew how many siblings and friends we had until we arrived in Tanzania! Walking through the market: “My friend, my friend, I give you good price! Local price, not tourist price.” Walking on the beach: “My sister, you want jewelry?” There was no escaping it. Friends and brothers who found us on the streets would also inevitably ask what our names were and where we were from. Harmless enough, right? But as an introverted person, there were days when the interaction was just too much, too overwhelming and exhausting, and I just wanted to disappear.

Wikipedia defines a tout as “any person who solicits business or employment in a persistent and annoying manner”. Tourist areas in Tanzania were full of touts who introduced us to a new intensity of persistent and annoying. From the moment you arrive in a city and step off the bus, they swarm around you, offering their services. The bus driver pulls your luggage out from beneath the bus and throws it on his buddy’s dolly. “No thank you. I’ll take that,” you say as you grab your bag before they can charge you for moving your luggage. “Taxi?!” Men yell in your face. “You have hotel?!”

We tried ignoring one persistent man: “How are you my friends? Silence. “What, you don’t talk to Tanzanians?” Guilt sets in. “You want safari?”Just what we expected! UGH. Leave us alone!

In Cairo, Egypt, it has been no better. Yesterday we went to the pyramids….

The moment we stepped off the metro I noticed a man sitting in the station who zeroed in on us. Sure enough, he raced to catch up with us, explaining that he knew what bus we should take and that he needed to take it too. How interesting, you seemed to be lounging quite comfortably a moment ago. Why do you all of a sudden have someplace to go? He said he was a high school teacher in a school next to the pyramids. “Oh,” I asked. “Is today a holiday?” There must be some reason why he wasn’t teaching in the middle of the day. The man got very pushy and irritated when we explained that we would be taking a taxi. “Why?” he wondered. “Taxis are not safe!” Goodbye sir, thanks for the help.

Safely in the taxi, or so we thought, we took off for the pyramids. As we got closer, touts began to run alongside the taxi. Our driver would slow down and they would stick their heads in the window to convince us to ride a camel or a horse with their company. “Keep driving!” we yelled. And then he crossed the line. One of his tout friends got in the car with us. What the heck?! Matt thanked the new passenger and explained that he would be paying for the rest of the taxi fee to the pyramids. Enraged by this, the passenger got out and we finally made it to the pyramids. Of course, we weren’t at peace there, either. While trying to revel in the magnificent ancient wonders of the world, we were continuously approached by men and their camels and horses, annoyingly trying to convince us to ride their animals. I don’t suppose it helped that tourism has been very slow in light of the recent violence in Cairo so there were fewer people for the men to pester.

Matt is an extrovert and is thriving with all of our new friends and siblings. I am thankful for his patience and kindness with these souls, who, as annoying as they are, are just trying to make a living. As for me, some days I am ready to join those whales in the ocean!

4 Comments

fr0x

December 7th, 2011

Matt….I’m dissapointed in the reply layouts rendering in IE8. I expect better from you!

Don’t you need to come back and make money yet?

Nik

December 8th, 2011

Kate, I am going with you on this one, the quite serenity of the ocean sounds like a wonderful place to be right now. While not nearly as annoying as the street vendors you describe, the mall vendors around here have certainly become more aggressive. “Sir, would you like to try this helicopter?” No; thank you. “Sir, this creame will make your hands silky smooth.” No, that’s fine, I like my calluses. “Sir, these suade trousers will really accentuate your buttox.” Ok, that last one didn’t really happen. If it had, I would own a pair of suade trousers right now.

I hope the touts didn’t completely ruin your time at the pyramids. I also hope the sand hasn’t ruined any of Matt’s camera equipment. That would just make me cry.

Nik

December 8th, 2011

I need to learn to not type emails and blog comments in the same notepad document and then copy and paste the entire thing. Arg

recklesswonder

December 8th, 2011

Nik,

No problem! All taken care of. And yes, a little sand may have worked its way into the 50mm. But I’m hopeful it won’t do any real damage. I can always open it up again, right?

I really wish you owned a pair of suede trousers right now. That would be hilarious!

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