So, I come up with this idea for our child sponsorship program and that is to get the kids to make a small gift for their sponsor. I was thinking of a bead bracelet of really nice handmade card. So now we have to find the materials.
Forget your local arts and crafts shop, think more like – it’s bigger than Ben Hur.
I know I will get ripped off because I’m a Mzungu (whitey) so I take my partner in crime and co-worker Joy with me.
Step one – get a matatu into town, but first you have to wait for it to fill up. We only waited for about 15 minutes so that’s pretty good.
Step two – walk for 5 hours around town visiting various touristy stores to see what they have on offer as well as several markets to see if we can bargain for a better price.
Our overall goal was to get some ideas for cards using local material to spruce them up and see where the beads come from.
At the Masai market (there’s stacks of them) no one was giving away their secrets, they just wanted us to buy something. I’m teaching some of our students on earth sciences and spotted a piece of pumice for around $1.50 which I thought was good. No way was Joy letting me spend that much, she reckons it’s only worth around 50c. No matter what I said she refused to let me buy it and said that I could get it for the same price at the local supermarket. For 2 days now I’ve looked at every shopping centre in the area and there is no pumice in sight. Hence as I am writing this Joy is going back into town to buy me a piece of pumice so I can talk to the students on volcanic rocks.
I’m glad I didn’t have much cash on me because there are some very cool things at these markets. You’ll see people making necklaces, carvings and trinkets. You didn’t get hassled like in other markets. It was quite relaced and orderly. Except there was one vendor who thought I was telling lies when I said I’d been here for 9 months because my skin wasn’t dark enough!
What we discovered in the end is that you can’t buy just plain white cards, you have to cut your own. Everyone at the markets buys their beads from some invisible person first thing in the morning, pulls apart the necklaces and then put them back together in a special design by the vendor.
After traipsing around for hours we headed to a bookstore in search of a book on volcanoes and what did we find – a bead shop. However we had to wait until 2pm because all the shops closed between 1 and 2 for lunch. When it did eventually opened we discovered a little Masai woman in their buying her beads to take back to the markets to sell. So this was their secret spot.
By 2.30pm we were absolutely starving and managed to find the one and only place to get something to eat in the whole of the area. I guess this is where everyone went for their lunch break while we meandered around the market. Beef stew, rice and a bottle of soda all for $5.
Of course as soon as we got back to the office (another matatu ride for 40c) someone announced that they knew of a place 2 hours drive from Nairobi that you can buy beads from.
Guess where my next adventure will be!