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Eric: Late night shopping with my host brother

July 19, 2010

Tomorrow, I will be going onto a ALIF-sponsored excursion to the Sahara Desert. We had our orientation on Tuesday, in which the program director mentioned a couple of things that it’s best to have but I don’t have. So my roommate and I decided to go to the medina for what we needed. We also took one of our host-brothers with us, who turned out to be very very helpful. Even though he’s only 12, he knows how much things should cost. It was kind of funny to see the vendor’s reaction when he first offered a price, and our host-brother would tell us what he thought the price should be. Some of them looked at our host-brother first before offering a price.

For the desert trip, we were directed to wear sandals with straps (no flip-flops, as they are more than likely going to make walking on the sand difficult or just get lost in the sand), a headscarf, jeans (we will be riding camels, and they have long, rough, dirty hairs), and bring along swimsuit as both hotels we are staying at will have swimming pools.

It’s really interesting to observe the vendors’ behavior. They can obviously tell that we are not locals and by that standard should pay a higher price (as much as they tell us that they give the locals and tourists the same price). Not all of them speak English, but they all know how to say “I will give you a good price” in various broken forms (“I give you good price”, “good price, eh?”, to females: “you are a pretty flower, I have good price for you”). They also try very hard to get people’s attention, and when it comes to Asians, they yell out any Asian countries (or what they think is an Asian country). I have gotten so many “Japan? Japan?” it’s not even funny anymore.

My favorite quotes of the day, coming from the vendor I bought my Moroccan shirt from: “you don’t buy fish from the beach” in an attempt to explain that he is selling real cloth made in the Sahara. After I put on the shirt to see if it fit (I was wearing a collar shirt inside), he proceeded to tell me that I will look like a “Mohammed couscous” if I wear the shirt without my own shirt inside. I guess that’s a compliment (?). After some bargaining, I got the shirt for 90Dh. Just when we were about done with our purchases with the cloth seller, our host-dad walked by. A shop owner himself, I was pretty sure that he was thinking we were being ripped off. He later bargained a pair of sandals for me (or at least I think he did, as he had this conversation in Moroccan Arabic with the vendor, and both of them were kind of yelling at each other).

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