And now for something completely different....
Trip Start Dec 02, 2007
9Trip End Dec 09, 2007
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This morning I slept in (I have my wakeup call at 10 so I don't miss
the free breakfast), then got dressed and went shopping. I hired
a car to take me to Village market, where the Masaai market was being
held. The Masaai market is the biggest market in Kenya, where the
predominantly Masaai tribe sell their goods. It moves around, and
on Fridays it is held at the Village Market, the largest shopping mall
in Eastern Africa.
Village Market was intense. It was three levels of extremely
expensive shops, akin to the most expensive malls I've been to in the
US. (Think Gucci, Prada, etc.) It had a massive food court with
table service, and the only black people there were working. The
clientele was mostly white and Indian Kenyans, and foreigners.
The thing that struck me the most about the market was the way people
did everything possible to avoid interacting with each other. It
was quite different from Mathare when everyone said hello, and openly
stared. Everyone in Mathare interacted with each other. The
weird thing is, most people at the mall probably knew of each other,
since the Indian and White Kenyan communities are so small...but you'd
never know it from the way they acted....
The Masaai market itself was super. I did a quick walk-through
once where the vendors tried to get me to stop at all their
booths. They're quite good - they want to shake your hand (it's a
very African thing), and they gently but firmly pull you to their
station. Quite effective, but they didn't really know who they
were dealing with. Vic had told me yesterday not to cut the price
to half when I bargained with them, since the VIllage Market was more
upscale. However, given the prices they were quoting me, I had to
bring out my best barganing skills. I think in a lot of ways I
quite surprised them. (My bargaining skills have been finely
honed, plus I'm inherently cheap, which means a good deal for me!) They
started quoting me prices that were truly astonishing. For
example, there was a beautiful soapstone vase, about a foot and a half
tall. I inquired to the price, and found out it was 3000 Kenya
Shillings. (about 60$US) I nearly fainted, I swear. (or at least gave
that impression). I started to walk away, and of course the lady wanted
to know what I would pay. I said I only had 1000 Shillings to
spend, and sorry for wasting her time. Then the bargaining
started. I actually ended up paying only 1500 for it, and really
felt like I got a good deal. Generally, my deals were better
earlier in the day when I wasn't tired. When I got tired, I got
sick of the whole thing and I got less good deals, but still deals non
the less. I was pretty pleased with myself for the whole
business. I ended up getting some earings, the vase, some presents,
salad thongs (ebony), and a bracelet, and never paid more than half of
what they had started off quoting me. Fun fun!
Then it was back to the hotel for some work and dinner. I'm
getting a bit sick of the food here, especially since after dark I have
to take a cab anywhere I want to go, and am therefore more inclined to
just eat here and relax. I'm also looking forward to going home
where I won't be a prisoner after dark.