Friday, November 12, 2010

Sokoni mwenyewe!

The title translates as at the market by myself! This was my first time going without a Tanzanian, so it was definitely an accomplishment. My Swahili is good enough I don't need a translator and I even managed to receive "African" prices, usually mzungus get ripped off. But let me explain the experience from start to finish.
For starters, Tanzanians are very friendly towards foreigners. Perhaps I'm optimistic, but I honestly feel they are genuinely just friendly not wanting more than that whether that means financially or sexually. Sure there are Africans who say how beautiful I am or ask for money, but in general, they just want to be helpful, especially once they realize you live here and aren't a tourist. On top of this innate friendliness, I was wearing a shirt for the Dar Rotary Marathon (I ran a 9k) so of course that sparked conversation with a guy in rainbow-colored toesocks no less. It had just rained so the streets were very muddy and my legs soon turned to match the muddy puddles my flip flops encountered and the black skirt I was wearing.
Once we got to the market, people came up to us left and right offering us this and that, but I had learned from past experiences that outside people rip you off hardcore and the mud and puddles further discouraged me. So we walk inside to the most beautiful, large tomatoes. But upon buying them (after haggling of course to almost half-price), they then pointed to carrots, green peppers, onions, etc etc etc. but when you buy things from the same seller you usually manage a "discount." I put this in quotation marks because sometimes they'll give you one free or as in the case of today, I received six " of the best beans" just random beans. A guy who spoke English began to ask us if we wanted this, that and the other thing, but after he let us try a passion fruit and then charged us 500 shillings, I realized he was going to try to give us a whole tour of the market and then charge us for it. So I said hapana asante (no thank you) and quickly strided off, returning to my normal place where I have gone with Saa Nane and Janet (the Tanzanians).
After being disappointed to find out red lettuce had gone out of season, we bought some "normal" lettuce and then began the store coming to us. Bananas? Avocados? Spices? etc etc. Soon a women doting bananas on her head and unripe avocados was headed towards us. We explained the avocadoes weren't ripe, but she had us hold the unripe avocado and quickly jettisoned to her stand to find ripe avocados for the mzungus. Eventually, I gave into a huge thing of bananas for less than $2.50 when I knew it shouldn't be more than $1.50, but she said she'd give us a "discount" and gave us a "free avocado." But when I handed her 3000 tsh instead of 3500 she got very demanding give me give me give me. Whoa lady I'm digging in my change purse, hold your horses or your bananas..sorry couldn't resist. Anyway, I successfully found black beans, 2 kilos of oranges for fresh-squeezed orange juice, zucchini with a "discount" of the smallest zucchini you have ever seen, two small cabbages, fresh rosemary (after buying some in a small packet for more at the spice house, oh well, now we have lots) and I'm sure there is more I can't remember.
A guy we met the first time we were there who introduced himself as Simba and is a hip-hop artist recognized us and showed us where we could find a good price on vegetable oil (the stuff is not cheap! 4 dollars for a liter (okay that's super expensive for here). On the way he tried to show us his rafiki (friends) who were selling spices, but I told him we already had spices at home (and I found oregano at a spice house on the way for less than 90 cents for a little packet). After telling us that the oil in Kilimanjaro water bottles was the same as Fresh Fry (the company here) just cheaper and then asking differences in prices and the Fresh Fry being a bit cheaper, I realized both were ripping us off and went to get change for Simba. At that store I saw oil cheaper than either that they had offered and bought it there. Granted this is not nearly as exciting in narrative form, but the chaos of two mzungus being attacked by ten sellers at once is indescribable. I wanted to take pictures so badly, but didn't want to risk my camera being stolen, though I have had not even suspicious activity, knock on wood. Nina carrying an unzipped backpack because the pineapple wouldn't fit, and me with three plastic bags, we decided it would be best to daladala back home (a minivan that serves as a bus here) instead of walk.
Seeing people with gallon-sized oil containers, a blind man, and huge bags, made the saying I heard an ISM teacher who is a Luther 2007 alum (talk about small world! She was in the first Projects for Peace group with Katy!) say earlier this week when I asked her "Why Africa?" (this is her third time living here). She responded as such, "Here the people are just so real. I lived in Europe right after I graduated and it was so cushy. Anything i wanted was available, but here you really have to make due." This illuminated everything I have seen this week in a new light and it made me realize how true that is. Granted I don't think she knows about the exorbitant-priced grocery store in Njiro that truly does have everything, but Tanzanians really do. Carrying pounds of you-name-it on the womens' heads usually with babies tied on their backs, the men pushing wheelbarrows or strapping it onto their bicycles, life here is really real.
I think I mentioned this in an earlier post of two instances when I would have probably just thrown an adaptor out after blew a fuse and buy another one for less than ten dollars. But Saa Nane clipped the wire where it had broken and somehow managed to retie it and voila, good as new. Or my hiking pants that I had duct-taped on a backcountry trip this summer when they ripped right down the butt. I finally decided I was going to fix them, but I'm embarrassed to say, the sewing was too complex. My Swahili teacher stopped over and not only mended them, but literally the seam was perfect and they are as good as new now. The fact that a man knows how to sew and well at that really surprised me! But here people regardless of sex have to know how to live and do things themselves. Plumbers, dry cleaners, menders, etc. don't exist, at least not commonly. I'm not saying one should or shouldn't live with or without these things. But it's just a new experience and teaching me so much. Anyway back to the market story...
I came back home and asked Janet (our house cleaner/laundress) for the prices on stuff, thinking I had been ripped off, but I hadn't! And some things I even got a bargain on, coming from a Tanzanian! I was very proud, I won't lie. And then the Italian in me came out and I made fresh bruschetta sans olive oil :( (we're out and I didn't know it, another very expensive thing here) on toasted fresh bread complimented with ripe watermelon. YUM! Okay time to teach and tomorrow I have my first choir practice, SO excited!! I have missed choir SOOO much and to direct it will be really cool!

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