Ticket please

We’ve lived here in Kenya now for almost 14 months.

I’ve been to the different markets here in Thika plenty.  So much so that the locals all know me and I’m old news.  Gone are the days when everyone would turn and stare, call Mazungu, or try to charge me insane prices for items.

But then last week I took the Centre girls out shopping for their babies with some money that was left over from Janet Fraser’s shoe project.

They suggested that we shop on Friday, which was open market day.

Why have I lived here for 14 months and yet no one has told me about “open market”????  

Open market is as close as Kenya can come to g-saling in the states.  While the regular market days boast permanent stalls housed in stone, wood or metal; open market day allows for people to lay out tarps on the ground on which they lay heaps of textile items.  Each vendor sets their own price.   They hawk their wares by yelling as loud as they can the prices of their items:  “Thirty bob, thirty bob, thirty bob!”  Music to my ears.  That’s 30 shillings, which is equivalent to just under 50 cents US.

So, I went with the pregnant girls, all of their babies and their house-mother to the open market.  Oh, and Ameena too.  Tied on African style, with a twist–carried on my front in a kanga.  The Kenyan women didn’t seem to appreciate my style.  Too many comments about Ameena’s head being “too low” or “too crooked”, or my kanga not being tight enough.  At least they’re concerned for Ameena.

So concerned, that once they realized there was a Mazungu baby in there, all mayhem broke loose.

You’d think they’d never seen a white baby before.

Oh wait, they hadn’t.

Here’s the visual picture:  Ameena wrapped up in a brightly colored cloth, as she lays prone across my front side.  She’s tight, like you’d find in an american sling.  She’s sleeping, happily.  

So, I was nice.  I let a few women peek inside the cloth at sleeping Ameena.  And then I turned back to looking at some shoes.  Then I turned around and saw a line of women and children and thought, “What are they waiting for?”

And then the light bulb turned on and I realized that all of those people were waiting for their “peeks” at Ameena.  So I indulged.  And more came. 

And more.

So many viewed Ameena that I seriously thought I should start selling tickets for viewing.  I might have made back what I spent in the market.

We must have made quite an impression because when I went back to the open market yesterday (um, yeh, I’ll probably go every week now) everyone asked “Where is the baby?”  

To which I answered, “With dad”. 

You can’t seriously shop with kids in tow can you???

The Ameena Project

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