This morning I was told that our group’s plan was to visit a shop in the cultural center owned by a friend of a volunteer. This is the same friend who brought you such hits as “we’re going to the nonexistent jazz club” and “it’s OK to have 7 people in a 5 person car.” I guess that when I heard the phrase cultural center, I was imagining something almost like a museum.
When we arrived at the cultural center I was surprised to find that it was actually an open market with several stalls where vendors were selling goods. It looked very similar to some of the other markets, such as the Makola market that we visited a few times while we were here. At the Makola market, we were generally left alone to browse and shop at our own pace. The Makola market sells everyday things like housewares, kitchen accessories, electronics, colorful fabrics for dresses and school supplies.
Things were not this way at the cultural center. Firstly, the market stalls were filled to the brim with kitschy tourist knick-knacks. Not only that, but the second we stepped foot into the market we were bombarded by vendors demanding that we come to their shops. Some of them were extremely persistent and even followed us around for the duration of our stay. A few of the vendors were very friendly and funny, making it quite hard to say no to their sales pitch. There was one guy who called himself Colin Powell who could name every single capital of every single state or country. It was incredible! So incredible that I bought a wooden globe from him. I walked away with an overpriced wooden globe that was probably made in China, and a hard-learned lesson about the importance of a firm NO.