Monday, June 4, 2012

My Friend is Banned from the Craft Market in Nairobi

Once a week craft dealers come to Nairobi and set up market. This market is a very orderly place. Men like  Richard (below on left) are hired by the market to help tourists make their purchases. Richard belongs to a tribe that practices witchcraft. 

Richard with our chauffeur Harron .
Richard was a very friendly fellow whoupon finding that I was in Kenya as a missionaryshowed me his bracelet, a gift from a Christian. This was a colour-coded beaded bracelet which tells the story of salvation. He asked me to explain the bracelet. 

I took his arm and did a poor job of explaining as I pointed to each coloured bead. I didn't know what the yellow bead represented, but I told him the black bead was sin, the red bead was the blood of Jesus, the white bead represented cleansing and the green bead new life. He accepted my explanation and we went through the market the greatest of friends. 

If I showed interest in something, this immediately fell into the "maybe bag" which Ricard carried. 

The market.
Every craft imaginable (including witchcraft)  makes its way into this market.
Toy animals made of corn husks.
Woven bags, carvings, beaded necklaces and clothes. 
At the end of our walk-about, Richard parked me under a tree while he went off on some business or other. 
Richard said we would be meeting with the others in our group (Della and Harron and Lydia) at the car. So, I followed him out of the market back to the car. No one there. 

Richard spread out my "maybe bag." He was delighted with my many chooses. These included two handbags, a shirt for my husband, corn husk toys, a jewelry box, carvings of Maasai warriors, and a chess board. 

Richard produced a notebook. He divided the page into two columns. In the first column he would be putting his value of an item. Then he would be putting my offer in the opposite column. With a bit of bartering we would be able to come to an agreement. This was his plan, but....

My friend Lydia had instructed me not to bargain without her. 

Where was Lydia? Richard was eager to start the process. I told him I couldn't barter because I didn't know values. He said he could help me. 

I refused to begin without Lydia. 

So, Richard went to find her, leaving me staring at the goods. 

I stared at the goods for almost an hour. 

Finally Richard came back with Lydia. She had spent a busy afternoon shifting her attentions between Della and myself, noting each item as it fell into our "maybe bags." She would then nonchalantly ask each stall holder how much they would charge her for a similar item.

Now at the bartering site, Lydia looked at my items and named the price of each, a value about one tenth of Richard's starting price. She asked me which items I wanted. I decided to purchase one of the handbags, and the Maasai warriors. 

"The shirt for your husband?" Richard insisted. "What about the chessboard?" 

I shook my head. "No, that's as far as my money goes." 

He pointed to the bank across the road. 

"No," I said.

Lydia and Richard dickered in Swahili. This did not sound friendly. I looked away. After about ten minutes the voices subsided and I handed over the required shillings which basically added up to the amounts Lydia had named. 

Richard walked away. He didn't say good-bye. He was one angry disappointed fellow. 

Meanwhile Lydia has been forever banned from that craft market. That's my friend. As a token of my appreciation, I gave her the handbag. 

Lydia bargaining with Richard for the handbag.

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