Saturday, June 14, 2014

Open Vegetable Market - Traveling With Kids in Kenya

Today we went to the open vegetable market.  It also happens to be the market that sells all the used stuff we discard.  No seriously, they box it up, the stuff that won't sell at places like Goodwill and ship it overseas where it is bought by someone middleman.  Then he distributes the stuff out.  One guy sells kids shoes, one guy does adults, one guy just had a bunch of polo fleece Columbia jackets.  I'm not really sure on the environmental impacts of this.  On the one hand there is the whole shipping of items and the fact that it seems to keep production of stuff here down...on the other hand it is reusing stuff and it does lead to a huge market.  I guess I need an economist to tell me if it is good or bad.  But today we walked down to this market.  It meant we walked almost the entire length of the downtown commercial area.  Dr. J told the kids he was looking for the kid who wanted to win the non complainer award.  They did amazing.  No one asked to be carried (although we carried Cheetah almost the whole time because she was just everywhere), no one cried, no one asked for a taxi, or said they were to tired.  Mom on the other hand was exhausted.  By the time we got to the market we'd be sucking in pretty serious exhaust fumes for probably twenty minutes.  There is one main road that goes through Eldoret and that road is the road that leads from Niarobi and Mombasa to the interior of the continent.  So anything dropped off at Mombasa is probably coming through our town on huge black smoke spewing trucks, driving on this two lane main road.  I seriously thought I was going to pass out.  But then we were in the market and sort of away from the road and it was better.  The vegetable market reminded me of other markets I've seen before.  Two things of note, it smells a lot nicer than the one in Amman, Jordan but it looks a lot worse.  The road isn't paved at all and we are in Monsoon season here so it was muck, muck city.  I saw some rain boots at one of the used shoes booths and seriously considered taking a look but the crowd was oppressive.  Almost as soon as we walked into the market people started pressing us on all sides and the call went out repeatedly, "Mzungu, Mzungu" which basically just means white people.  Can I tell you how weird it is for me to be called white person.  Seriously I wish I could take the town to Phoenix to give them a glimpse of how white people there think I am...oh well.  "Mother come and look at my wares", "Mother, are those all your children", "Mother, give me one of your babies."  This was the part we did not like the most.  There was this constant barrage of arms trying to take Cheetah out of our hands.  Most of it was done playful and with a smile but not all of it felt friendly and it was just so much touching that Cheetah froze up and pushed her head into our shoulder trying to keep her face away from prying arms and hands. Peach also got picked up a few times but she was able to laugh it off although when one guy held her a little too long she started to kick her legs until he put her down.  For her trouble he gave her handful of fish.  They looked sort of like sardines that had be left out to dry and were now sort of in a jerky state.  Peach had zero interest in eating one but she did really want to carrying one around as a pet and she did for pretty much the rest of the day until at lunch she put it down and Dr. J "accidentally" swept it up with the trash.  We did score some nice deals though.  For our trouble we got five large mango and probably ten oranges for 200 shillings, about two and half dollars.  Not bad when you consider we pay about 50 cents an orange in the regular store.  So it was sort of a toss up for us.  We loved the deals of the market and we liked being in the city with everyone, but we were a little uncomfortable with the scene our children caused.  I think if we return we will probably do so without the kids or return on a weekday when it is less crowded.  

Sorry there are no pictures of the market.  I'm sort of in a moral dilemma with pictures right now.  I love documenting our trip and loving getting shots of the kids but I also don't want people to feel like I think their lives are like some show for my entertainment so I'm never quite sure when is a good time and when isn't a good time to take a photo.  It is probably for the best though that I didn't have my camera out because seriously with the crush of people it took both me and Dr. J's four hands to keep all the kids together.   


  1. I'm glad you are aware of the tension between celebrating/capturing new experiences and turning a culture into a side show. As a member of a cultural group that has been exploited and misappropriated by the media and pop culture, it is upsetting how few people recognize what they are doing. Even the best intentions can still make someone feel like a circus act or a museum exhibit. I don't have a clear cut rule to follow, but it makes me feel better knowing it is something you are considering.

  2. Ah, you described things so well, I was totally picturing them in my head, and didn't even notice the lack of pictures until you mentioned that fact. Thanks for sharing about your experiences.

  3. Those markets are so ubiquitous. I always want to take pictures and show people that when they donate clothes to African children, some guy is actually selling them on the street. I too don't know what kind of economic or social impacts this has. I guess it gives the guy a job and he probably has kids too. I'm with you on the pictures things, still don't know what to do. Sometimes with a smart phone it can discreetly snap a photo without attracting attention.



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