June 26, 2014
#9 2014 We visit the Nairobi Market
Judy was sick this weekend, but has now recovered in time for us to visit the Maasai Market (MM) as planned. We had invited 2 friends, Joyce who sews the bags and Damaris who owns the African Bag Shop and who taught Joyce to sew some years ago. The night before I had left my car in the Rectory yard for Kebe to check out the tire pressure, oil, etc, so I wasn’t surprised to see him at my door early next morning to get the key. What did come as a surprise of the bummer variety, was his later announcement that not only were the brakes shot, but also it needed new plugs and something else I didn’t recognized. “But we’d hoped to leave for Nairobi in about an hour.” “The mechanic will come get the car and he is very fast.” He was right on that count. By 11 o’clock the car was back and I was $70 poorer, but the car was in great shape and we were on our way.
Lest you worry that I might be so foolish as to try to drive in Nairobi, something akin to driving in NYC, only w/o traffic lights, I will assure you that we had engaged Ben, a fabulous driver. As we drove along he asked me which market I wanted to go to. Hmmm, for all my planning I hadn’t thought about the fact that it’s not every day and the venue is different for different days. ACK! But not to worry, Ben knows everyone and before I could venture a guess, he was on his phone checking where. Bad news! No market on Wednesday. But not to worry, we could go to the jam of little shops where James Njorge plies his wares along with many others. It’s a rabbit warren of narrow passages and small shops, every one of whose proprietors is my sister, my best friend and has exactly what I want. “Just step in here, sister, sit here sister and I will show you.” It’s a trip!
But before we stopped there, we had to go to the fabric shop section, a crowded place where Judy and I each grabbed the hand of Damaris or Joyce while trying to cross streets teeming with conveyances of every description. Scramble across we did until we came to the shop Joyce and Damaris knew well. Oh, my what a variety of bag fabrics! Judy and I each had an agenda of what we needed, so we had the owner (actually owner’s son as I later learned), Quiresh, as well as Tom, the clerk, busily helping us. In the past, fabric shop owners (Indians have cornered that market here) had been curt, even surly at times, but Quiresh was courteous and very helpful, once he understood our needs. We bought A LOT of fabric, enough to keep Joyce and Damaris burning up their machines for a good long time. As I was leaving, I thanked Quiresh for his service and told him of my previous experiences. He will definitely get my future business.
Going back to where Ben had parked, we walked by the bus loading area, which I couldn’t resist taking a picture of the bus where I had observed a wheel barrow being hoisted on top of a bus already loaded with empty jerry cans and who knows what else.
Now off to the other shops, where I found Njorge, wait for us. It was he whom Ben had called for market information. Maya and I had met him last summer at the (MM) in the shopping center that was bombed not too long ago. That one has not yet re-opened. He had invited us to visit his farm/workshop to see how the nativities and other items are made. (see blog #13, 2013). We had a wonderful visit, meeting members of his extended family from a 6-month old to 95-year old grandmother, all living within the family compound or nearby. Knowing pretty much what I wanted, he and I got down to business in a hurry. He gives us fair prices and is a very nice man. We, on the other hand, have given him a lot of business, so it behooves him to treat us well. He didn’t have enough of the items I wanted, so will send a package by matatu, or possibly bring them himself. He apologized for the broken items that came before Christmas and promised to make restitution, so all was well and I found myself sucked into a shop opposite, run by 2 sisters. They had nicely carved wooden animals, and another thing I wanted, which is jewelry made from paper beads. Not only was she my sister and dearest friend, but also she was friends with Njorge and thus would give me very fair prices. Maybe they go to school to learn this patter—everyone uses the same line!
However, I ended up buying beads and animals from her and hope to get some earrings. I’ve written my house renter to take a picture of the ones I have b/c I stupidly didn’t bring them, thinking I’d get more here. I thought they would be easy to get, but without the whole market, I was limited. Too bad, b/c everyone loved them.
Our delay in getting away was now limiting our shopping time. I had to be back by 5 to get ready to speak at Rotary Naivasha in the evening, and if we tarried, we’d be caught in the unbelievable afternoon jam. But wait, on the way out I spot a shop carrying purses and clutches, both of which I wanted. Again, the proprietress does the decorative work. She doesn’t make the purses, but I could see half-finished decorations around, so I believed her. One does need to have ones doubts turned to a high frequency in this business. She is a young girl, very sweet and probably new in her shop. I ended up buying from her also, while the young woman in the shop opposite waited for what she hoped was her turn. Her disappointment was sadly evident when I told l her I had spent all my money—which was true. I felt very sorry, but actually she had nothing in her shop that I would have bought anyway.
So back we piled into the car and off we went, tired but pretty pleased. I know I will need to go to the market itself sometime during the summer, but I got a lot accomplished. Judy and I will go to Nakuru on Sunday and can browse the market there, although the hawkers there are so aggressive that it’s not a pleasant experience.
I had planned to treat Ben, Damaris and Joyce to lunch, but time was growing short and Ben wanted to clear Nairobi ASAP. He thought I had meant a place further into town, so when we passed the place I had actually meant, it was too late to turn in. Communication is always tricky here, even though Ben’s English is excellent. Sometimes words mean different things here. Oh well. I asked whether there weren’t other places on the way back, but he didn’t know any he would recommend. People here don’t stop for lunch like we do, (which may explain the enormous portions I see them eating for dinner). There are small eateries along the way, but not where he’d feel comfortable taking Judy and me. But as we approached Naivasha, now almost 4, my hunger was getting my attention and I began to notice signs for the Chicken Inn. “Would that be a place we could stop?” Maybe he was feeling the hunger too, because he turned into what was a very US-like fast food place, serving chicken and chips or pizza and for all the world I thought I must be back on the 5, running down the spine of California. We quickly chose our favorites, Judy a hamburger, which she thought was every bit as good as at home and the rest of us rotisserie chicken with chips, all very tasty to our hungry selves.