Yesterday, I finally went to Konyo Konyo market in Juba to buy some fabric to make curtains for my house. I like going to the markets – there is a wild array of things being sold from tacky (REALLY tacky) Made in China items, to food, clothes and fabric. And going to the market it makes you feel that you are supporting the local economy – well trying to anyway. It is sometimes difficult.
A couple of weeks ago, when I was in Mudri, I tried to buy some roasted maize from a street vendor (FYI: roasted maize = best street food ever). I stood by the stand, looking for the street vendor and waving my one pound note around, indicating I wanted to give the street vendor business. But, alas, no one came. After a while, my colleague broke the sad fact to me that I would not be able to have any maize that day. Why? The vendor was too shy to come out and sell to me.
I think my experience yesterday, however, topped this. As I said, I was out to buy fabric in Konyo Konyo. The first vendor I went to, had the colour fabric I was looking for. So I went about explaining and drawing out little windows to indicate I wanted to make curtains. There were three different width measurements but the length was all the same. However, me speaking no Arabic and the vendor speaking no English, this was difficult to explain. Many small drawings later, I felt we were on the same page. Which we were. BUT when he went to get the fabric, he showed me that the width was smaller than what I had requested. After having spent so long explaining to him what I wanted, wanting to give him the business and really, at this point I just wanted to buy the fabric, I pointed to his tailor, sitting there with his sewing machine and suggested that he just sew two pieces of fabric together. “No, not possible.” Definition of exasperation: standing 30mins in the scorching heat, explaining measurements, finding the perfect fabric, really, really wanting to give the vendor some business, even giving him an out by showing him how this is possible, and then having him refuse to sell you fabric.
Defeated with this vendor, I went to another vendor, where I also found some nice fabric. And this one (I checked) had a wider width. So I started from square one again, with measurements and small pictures of windows. He spoke a little English and so we were on the same page a lot quicker. Great, I thought, and asked him to start cutting me the pieces. “No” he said. “Why” I asked. “Because, for trousers” You read right: He would not sell me the material because they were actually meant to make trousers and not curtains. A friend of mine suggested afterwards, when I was relating my frustrations, that I should have just told him that I was making uniform trousers for my 12 children. But unfortunately, standing in 30+ degree heat, my creative juices were not flowing that quickly.
Oh well, 1.5 hours and a couple of vendors later, I finally managed to buy my fabric for my curtains.
A positive story from my shopping expedition yesterday:
My watch stopped ticking two nights ago. A sad moment as I depend a lot on my watch (yes, even after more than year of being on African time, I still like to at least make an attempt of being on time). I didn’t thinking I would be able to find a new watch battery in Juba. But guess what, you can! I went into Juba’s Lebanese supermarket, after receiving a tip-off from a friend, and lo and behold, they sold three different sizes of watch batteries.
You know there must be a catch, right? Well, the watch batteries are sold in packs of 12 (I don’t think I have even changed my watch battery that many times in my whole life). Perhaps you have to change these batteries every hour? Who knows, but once I manage to get my old battery out and the new one in, I will let you know. If they are just normal batteries – well then, you know who to come to when your watch stops ticking.