I met my mzungu friends from the Maasai Mara in the city center today. They are heading home on Wednesday, so they wanted to purchase some souvenirs before they leave. Upon meeting up with them, I took them to the Maasai Market that I had visited a week before. As soon as we approached the perimeter of the market, a swarm of vendors swarmed around us, each hoping to take us around the market. It is clear that the market motto is “divide and conquer,” because not even the two of them were allowed to stay together.
I picked out only a couple of things, which is incredibly tricky when every vendor you pass insists that you buy something or at the very least look at their handicrafts at length. The men who were walking me through the market were disappointed with the small number of items I selected, and they pointed out how much more successful my friends were, judging by their considerably fuller shopping bags. I pretended to spot something I liked near Jennifer so that our paths would intersect, and I commented that she should be careful how many things she selects because these vendors don’t want to let you go until you’ve purchased everything you touched.
Once I had made my way completely through the market, I began the arduous task of bargaining with the vendors. Buying souvenirs here can be an incredibly stressful ordeal because some people—including the vendors by whom I was unfortunate enough to be guided today—insist that their goods are unreasonably expensive to produce, that any price you have seen lower than theirs is a fluke, and that you are destroying the livelihoods of families by refusing to pay the ridiculously high prices they initially propose.
After about ten minutes(!), we finally agreed on a price, and I was guided out of the market, lest I threaten the livelihoods of additional families by helping Jennifer and Amish bargain. I was concerned that the two of them might not realize how highly negotiable the prices are, so I sent a quick message reminding them to bargain. When we left the market, we compared costs, though, and I think they got slightly better prices on the things they bought than I did. Jennifer decided it’s because they’re Asian, but whatever the reason, I’m just glad prices are almost all pre-established in America. Even though my bargaining experiences are usually not so negative, I will willingly pay a little more for items if it means I don’t have to argue about the prices.
We had a late lunch together in the city, and I was repaid the money I had loaned them to unexpectedly stay the night in Nairobi after we returned late from our safari. I’m sure some of the Grace Community staff members will be very surprised, considering the general mistrust of people here concerning money lending (though I think this mistrust is derived in the knowledge that many simply do not have the money to repay. I figured Amish and Jennifer were a safe bet.). Around 4, we found our respective buses and left the city center, as it takes the two of them a couple of hours to get back to their orphanage.
Although there are many advantages to being here on my own, I am glad to have had some contact with other foreigners with whom I could trade stories and impressions. From our conversations, it’s clear that we’re all going to be going home with a renewed appreciation for many facets of our own lifestyles and with a number of stories to tell.