June 15, 2008

Off to the Market in Kenya's Capital

clipped from online.wsj.com
[Kikoi and handmade bag]
How to Find The Perfect Souvenir in Nairobi: At the Kariokor Market, located in the raffish Pangani neighborhood, visitors can see male artisans at work carving soapstone, tanning leather and cutting the treads off discarded tires to make the cheap, durable sandals nicknamed "African Reeboks". The women mainly string beads and sell the wares, but the older women can be seen sucking on the bark of balboa trees to soften strands that are then dyed and woven into handbags.

Haggling is expected at outdoor markets. Vendors generally quote non-residents a "Wazungu price," a Swahili word that roughly translates to European or tourist. So insist on the "real" price or the "resident" price and pretend you're a local.

Do you like to haggle? Are you an outdoor mercado type of person or do you prefer safe and restrained shopping malls? I'm all for buying art from a street vendor but when it comes to real shopping in another country, even after I have read the guidebook, I can't do it. I leave it to my significant other. My talent is strictly the good cop, not the bad cop. I cannot do math quickly in my head. Also, I am a visitor in another country so I am secretly trying to win over every person I meet along the way so that they have nothing but wonderful things to say about Americans.  Seriously.

Therefore, if like me you are unable to travel to Africa, I suggest stopping into the local Global Exchange or shop at the online store. They will have all the exotic items you are looking at a fair trade price. I have bought many items. And felt good about the price I paid as well.

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