Putting your foot in it

My last exam was this morning. I’ve written a moody comment on a previous entry just now. So I can write a more civil entry here — about footwear!

I’m leaving on a bit of a trip this afternoon: going to see camel races in Maralal, via Nairobi and Nanyuki so there won’t be a lot of blogging till next week I imagine. Please don’t let that stop you putting your comments. I love seeing your comments. Evn when I dont answer them It really encourages me and supports me here to see you reading these entries. I want Everyone to feel welcome to add thoughts to these pages, and not to be put off by the fact that there are certain names that seem to crop up again and again. The way to change that is to write your own thoughts and see who reacts to them. You can get a list of recent comments from the link on the side-bar, so you can always tell where there’s life on this blog, even when I’m off traveling. And with that, I leave bitterjug.com in your hands for a few days. Karibu!.

Lat week I bought myself a pair of those red rubber flip-flops that are so popular here on account of them only costing 70 Bob (50p). They cost that much if you buy them from Nakumatt (huge Western-style supermarket chain) or from a vendor in Tala Market, as I did. I’m sure the vendor makes less profit as Nakumatt have Wall-Mart style buying power.

Another friend of mine who sells vegetables to make a living told me how much profit he makes. Like everyone else, he sells five potatoes for ten Bob. He buys them at six for ten, so his profit is one potatoe. There is a local custom of asking the vendor to “add something” at which point he or she might toss an extra spud in your bag. And there goes his profit. For avocados, he said, they go off in one or two days so, sometimes, he makes a loss because he has to discard unsold stock. Its bloody tough to make a living as a greengrocer in Kenya.

I was buying vegetables from the market salesman who befriended me on my first ever trip to Tala market and offered me some of his githeri to share. His friend emerged from the dark forrest of tree limbs that is the market interior — a sort of threatening hinterland of ramshackle stalls strewn wtih torn sacking to keep the sun at bay. I’d met him on a previous visit to my favourite vegetable stall and this time he wanted to show me where his own stall was so that I would come and visit him too. His was a shoe stall in the edge of the hinter land. He sold nice-looking imported leather shoes. I didn’t need any but was pleased to see them. On the way back to the safety of the road we passed a stall with flip-flops and I bought mine. While he helped me try them on and find the correct size (11!) he fetched a plastic-wrapped pair of navy blue, backless foam-and-nylon slippers from a nail driven into a bit cane above his head.

“What are these for?”, he asked incredulously, “We buy them, but we don’t know what they are for”.

The soft soles were covered in fabric, these shoes wouldn’t last a day in a rural African home. I coulod see why he really didn’t know what they were for. I told him that old people wear them, that those old people stay inside their homes much of the time and that those homes would have carpet on the floor — As I can’t remember the last time I saw carpet, he might not have had a clear idea what that meant. He shook my hand and thanked me sincerely for solving what had clearly been a real mystery.

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