Saturday, June 03, 2006

Maasai Market

Yesterday, James and Vivian took us to the Maasai Market. It was a crowded, colorful scene. There were people everywhere, selling their homemade goods from mats placed on the floor. James and Vivian had told us that the vendors will do just about anything to get us to buy from them, and they were right! The first time through, we just wanted to look and see what was available. They had everything: purses, bowls and masks and animals carved from wood, items made of jade, beaded everything as far as the eye could see, figures and wall hangings and boxes made from banana leaves, colorful art and clothing, bowls and boxes made of soapstone, and even spears and knives. As we walked through the narrow aisles, all I heard on every side were shouts of "Sista! Sista! Come and buy! Almost free!" When I would tell them we were just looking, they would reply, "Looking is free!" Some would come up to us, shake our hands, and then try to pull us over to their mats. We had to be polite, but firm. When we were ready to shop, Vivian took Nathan to a play yard while we shopped. It was expected that you haggle with the vendors over price. This was a bit intimadating at first, but I soon got used to it, and I found that I was pretty good at it. It was almost a game. They offer a very high price, you counter with a very low price, they act offended, yet come down in price, you come up a bit in price... you get the idea. One man actually took out a slip of paper and wrote the numbers 1 through 4 on it. He explained to us that he would write a price on #1, we would write ours on #2, and by #4 we should have a price we agree on. When I wrote my first price, he grabbed his chest and acted shocked, yet he was smiling. They enjoyed the back and forth banter. At the end of 2 hours, we were all so tired, but Matthew, Steve and I came away with some beautiful items for very good prices. We will try to go back next Friday, the day before we leave for the States, to look one more time. Now I know why they only have the Market once a week... it wears you out! We all went home that afternoon for long naps!

1 comment:

the dicocco gang said...

HA HA! This makes me laugh out loud!!

I am a terrible negotiator... but Billy is wonderful at it . When we were in Rwanda, he got into the pattern of negotiating grandly...working them down to nothing... and then paying them a price much higher than they had agreed on... because they really needed the money more than we did. When I asked him why he went through all the trouble of getting them to agree to $6 when he knew he was going to give them $10... he just laughed and said because it was too much fun to stop... and even better to surprise them when he handed them the $10.