Notebook text

Helenas scribbled notes from the first meeting

Meeting at Uhuru Park Cafe, Moshi
September 24, 2015

People placed their orders and Jacob asked me to start. I explained about how we wanted to make the Stella Track company and treat our workers fair. That I was clear that what I thought was fair maybe was not the same thing as they thought was fair. Since they were the ones who might be working with it, we would be happy to hear their opinion.

I started by explaining about Scandinavians not being used to paying tip, we do not do that in Scandinavia, actually it sometimes could feel as something of an insult to pay someone for helping you. As they knew Scandinavians pay bad tip (quiet giggling around the table as they nodded) and it is because they don’t know much about tip. We had been thinking of a way to take away this problem, and would like to know how they would feel if the tip was included in their salary. Then the tourists would have to pay more for the trip, but no tip in the end. The crew would know from the beginning of the climb how much they could expect to get at the end, and would not have to worry about getting tip or not.

Everybody thought this sounded good, but they wanted to know how much it would all be.

I gave them the list with payment incl tip, pr day in dollars:

Porters 18, waiters 20, cook 23, Assistant guide 25 and Guide 30.

For a start they thought it sounded fair, but they wanted to hear about the people who were not on the list. Tent crew and toilet man? We agreed these should have the same as the waitors.  The cooks said if there were more than five groups assistant cookers were needed – and they could get the same salary as the waiter, tent crew and toiletporter. Everyone agreed.

The guides wanted to know about the pay for assistant guide. They thought the assistant guide was closer to the guide than to the cook, and this should be reflected in the payment. We settled on raising the payment for assistant guides to 27 dollars a day.

Then they talked about the summit porter. This is a tricky question as this person is not approved of by the KINAPA (Kilimanjaro national park authorities).

It is a porter who takes a tourist to the summit. A porter is not allowed to do this as you have to have a licens as guide or assistant guide to have this responsibility. According to the rules one tourist requires one guide, two tourists requires two guides – But two guides are allowed to take four tourists together, according to the KINAPA regulations. This is when they sometimes wants to take summit porters with them, as an extra back up if needed. An experienced Porter who know English, or the language of the tourists.

As mensioned, summit porters are not approved of by the national park. As a company we need to investigate this matter further, and make a clear company policy about it. But it was important for the crew to know what this person would be paid, so we took the discussion and kept it strictly on the salary level.

I asked if it was fair  if this person got the same as the cook. Most agreed but some said no. The cook work hard all the climb, but the summit worker only have one day of extra work. On the other hand the cook do not carry any luggage. They all started to discuss among themselves in Swahili. After a while I asked if it would be fair to put in another salary level. Waiters, tent crew and toiletporter 20, cook 23 and summitporter 21. People applauded.

Then the topic of Assistant guied came up. How would we decide what guide would be headguide and who would go as assistant guide if both had a licens as a guide? We agreed on a routating scedule as the most fair way of dealing with this.

We also talked about if a tourist had to go down. In this case one would take him/her to the hotel and a good nights sleep. And then take the tourist for an daytrip the next day. It could be Materuni. This was quickly agreed upon.

The payment system

The next thing I said was about how to pay. I explained that hings sometimes go wrong with cashpayments so we were considering mobilepayments. A big discussion started. People were talking back and forward, some with hand gestures others with bodylanguage of approval or disapproval. I sat quiet as everybody was talking Swahili, and let them finnish their talk. It was pretty clear in the start who was against and who was pro, but after a while it got more blurred. Then they all got quite and Jacob turned to me and said – ok, they agree.

I started to laugh and asked what their concerns where. It was mostly old habit thinking and worries about the technical stuff, transferring money from an office in dk. I explained the payment would be handled from the office in Moshi – and then the last one smiled too. One very valid point however was that mobile payments were all in Shillings, and we had just agreed on the salary in dollar. I had not thought about this. We will have to transfer the dollarvalue of the day for the payment in Tanzanian shillings. They would get their cash dollars exchanged too. We just need to make sure that we also send a text with the exchangerate used, when we transfer the payments.

I explained the idea with a list with names, responsibilities, phoneneumbers and phonecompanies sent to the office prior to the climb. And then at the end camp the headgudie would sms any changes in the set up – who was the waitor, anyone having to go down and so on – and then the office would mobiletransfer the correct wages to everyones phone.

They all agreed to this, saying this was good.

Our idea about the introduction.

At the starting gate the tourist would be presented to the crew. They would be presented with their name, and responsisiblity so the torusit would know who carried what, who made the food ans so on. People agreed to this, saying it would eliminate any shaddow workers – a shaddow worker is someone who is not there, the tourist are told there are fifteen workers when there are only ten. This would be an open and transparent company where you did not have to pretend. People smiled and nodded

We also talked about the possibility of eating together. It could be fixed with tourist having pasta, the crew ugali and then they would all have the same sauce – the problem was the mess tent. If everone should stay and eat together the mess wtent would be huge – and more proters would be needed to carry it. Instead they suggested people would eat seperatly like now, and then the tourist could come over and have their tea with the crew outdoor. They would also be welcome to visit the crew area and take pictures of the food being made, for instance. We all agreed this would be the way to do it.

One of the guides said it would be necessary to have a feedback paper to give the tourists where they could rate the guide, including his way of treeting the crew. This was noted.

Suggestions from the potential crew

I asked for any thing they wanted us to remember and take note of. Here is a list of their suggestions

  1. We need to have a written company policy for everyone to read and agree to.
  2. If it at one point will be possible it would be great if we could supply mountain gears, since this is very expensive. But if we can not, it is ok.
  3. What if a tourist is not feeling to good and has read a lot about things on the internet and insists on going down, even if it is not necessary? The opinion here was that the guide is educated and know the signs to be aware of. The tourists should listen to the guide. In case of a tourist scared beyond reasoning, the guides know how to deal with them, and help them. This is their responsibility.
  4. First aid training for all of the crew, not only the guides
  5. The toruists must fill in a health statement so the crew knows if anyone have special needs. Bad knees are not an issue of the crew knows it – they can take special precausions for this. And if a tourist lies, we have it on writing what they told us, and it is their responsibility if something goes wrong.
  6. We need to carry oxygen and oxymeter with us. If it is needed we should never be in a situation where we have to run to other groups or campanies and borrow. Never!
  7. When we have big groups – like in really big – we also need to have radios, so the guides can communicate in areas where there is no mobile cover.
  8. As we grow as company we should also have all the kitchengear, for a start the cook will bring his own, but eventually it would be great if we as a company had our own.
  9. Some food can not be stored, like meat and fruit. One guide asks if we could skip one or two porters in the start of the climb and have them join later with fresh supplies. Another guide says we should go with the amount of crew required and if we need fruit or meet at the end of the climb, then this should be sent by the company as addition
  10. One guide suggests we get ourself a minigasbottle with bulb. This can be used in the messtent both as light and as heater, making it nice for the tourists while they wait for food to be ready.
  11. We should also state on the website we will end the climb with the torusits and crew saying thank you and goodbye to each other and the crew singing an end song for the tourists – and this is just a song, not a plea for tip.

At the end I asked if they would write their names on a list for me, to get an overview of who they were, and they all did – including their competence and phonenumber. We take this as a sign of them being interested in future work.