okahandja woodcarvers market
Here we are back on the bus after a stop at the woodcarvers market all of us laughing our heads off. About 70km North of Windhoek we stopped at the woodcarvers market. In my mind I had a vision of a sedate little market where Namibian men were sitting and carving interesting wooden masks and bowls. What ensued was the first "holy shit" comment of the day from one of our co-travellers. While Jane went across the road to the market, I went to the coffee shop to get some coffee. As Josh and I crossed the road I was approached my a young man who said "I have your wife" A swarm of young men descended on us, come to my shop, come to my shop, the next 20 minutes were pure chaos of bargaining in both US$ and Namibian $.
Now that the dust has settled a bit it appears that the best strategy is to offer somewhere less than half of what they first tell you is the price and work your way up as slowly as you can. However, we all learned that the hard way. Our first purchase of this manic shopping spree was a marble bowl. The asking price was N$650, we countered with N$400 and settled at N$500. Way to high. As Jane was literally pulled out of that shop and on to another shop I saw an elephant hair bracelet. I didn't have any Namibian dollars left so I told him I would buy it with US$. He said $70 US for the bracelet. I told him no way; but by then the bracelet was already on my arm. So I told him the leather bracelet I had cost less than $20 he said make me an offer, so I told him $10. But its made from Elephant hair!! With that he wrote $50 on his arm. No way, I said so I came up to $15. Eventually we settled at $20. I really do this is one of the best deals I've ever made.
As all of this was taking place young men were trying to lure Mary (Ethan's mom) to the outskirts of their little woodcarving village. Mary resisted with the help of her sister Carol who exclaimed, "I'm not letting you get sold into white slavery" Mary was the smartest among us as all she purchased was a single woven basket.
Meanwhile, Jane was embroiled in making a bargain for a couple of giraffes. We were rapidly running out of cash, and she was desperately trying to get back to the first stall where she had found a bowl she really liked. We ended up with the giraffes and two bowls. Now this young man grabbed the bowls and told us he'd wrap them for us. As he was wrapping them he insisted that Jane look at the Salad tongs in his stall. He proceeded to hold our bowls hostage until Jane finally bought two sets for US$10. Meanwhile Josh was standing outside the stall saying Mom, we have to go, the bus is going to leave. Apparently this is a common ploy as one young man was stuffing marble candle holders into Jerry's backpack. Ann had to pull them out and pull Jerry out of the stall in order to escape.
Jane is now trying to sell two of the salad tongs she bought to Josh Martin. She told him she'd sell him the one pair for $20 US. Just think of your mother she said! If you brought these home to her she'd know you were thinking about her. So, Karen, if you want some Namibian salad tongs just let us know, we'll make you a really good deal!
I think at the end of the session we had spent about $100 US, or 800 Namibian dollars. Even if we overpaid for every item it was well worth the price just for the experience. Plus we figure we are helping these guys make their living and propping up the economy of Okahandja. Josh Miller and Josh Martin were the only two people who didn't spend any money. Josh had 20 people approach him, and he just kept telling them, I don't have any money. I don't have any money.