19 February 2011


Front entrance of the grocery store.
This morning was spent grocery shopping.  Round 1 was at an actual grocery store for dry goods . . . round 2 in the open air petit marché . . . and round 3 back in the same grocery store for cold things like meat, cheese and cream.  The thing is though, after we stocked up on dry goods, we had to head to another part of town to confirm the pricing for the furniture I ordered and then negotiate the order for having the cushions made (for my couch and chairs, etc).

By the time we got back to the grocery store, our parking space was long gone.  As we waited at the parking entrance for another spot to open up, the truck was swarmed by fruit and vegetable vendors, teenage boys selling phone cards, and beggars.

It's easy to get rid of the veggie and phone card peddlers, but the beggars are hard.  Especially those with deformities and kids . . . it's heartbreaking!

A wheelchair bound woman with her three kids on their way to the market.
This style of chair is pretty common in Niger.
So while we were sitting there waiting, an old blind woman missing many fingers and toes, quiet possibly from leprosy, came to my window.  I rolled down my window and handed her a 'beggar bag' -- a neat invention by a NewZealander on our team at Galmi . . . it's a little plastic shopping bag with a tin of sardines and tomato purée, an article of clothing and a water bottle.  She thanked us and continued on her way.

The problem with giving to beggars in a situation like this is that once you've given to one your car is surrounded and there's just no way to fill all the needy hands.  Eventually, most give up and move on.  But today, there was a little boy of about 10 who just wouldn't take no for an answer.

He stood and tapped at my window until we pulled into the lot.  When we got to our spot and I opened the door, there he was, waiting and asking for money or food.  We walked across the street to the open air market to buy our fruit and veg and whole wheat, and he continued to follow me.  I told him to leave, but he wouldn't.  'Attends-moi, mon amour!' ('Wait for me, my love!') he cried out as I tried to lose him in the crowd.

When we made our first stop and I bought some fresh green beans, he grabbed the bag from the vendor and told him he would carry it for me.  At that point I realized there was no losing this kid and if he helped me, I could pay him for his 'work'.  Upon seeing this, another boy ran up and tried to take his job.  'Hey, he's with me.'  I told the newbie, so he decided he'd port for L.

As we wove through the market stalls looking for wheat, I felt a little hand grip the ring and pinky fingers of my right hand.  I asked L. if this was culturally appropriate.  She turned and saw that he was holding my hand as we walked and she started to laugh.  Apparently since he's a kid it's no big deal . . . but I'm pretty sure we got some funny looks from all those we passed by.

I bought him an orange, paid him 100cfa and thanked him for his hard work.


heidibelle said...

Let me just say I am craving your shopping trip right now. I need cheese and cream and things we cant find here. We are a days drive from Bamako where we can find that stuff. We have a man visiting outside right now that came in one of the three wheeled bikes. He has come by to visit Jeff every day this week... there are so many needy people and plenty ready to take advantage. It is so hard to know how and who to help. Good luck my friend...

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the update. always
nice to read what you are doing.
All is going well here in Speculator and we are looking foward to our stay at "The Villages". Take care and we are praying for you.

Frank and Bonnie

Anonymous said...

Deborah, you have beenin my mind all week and in my prayers. I've been in touch with your mom. Love, Gloria

Liz said...

I'm with you girl. It's hard because so many need so much help. Heidi, I'm thankful we can find cheese and cream here - all at a very high price, but at least they're available, I wish you could have them too.

Anonymous said...

Deborah, you have beenin my mind all week and in my prayers. I've been in touch with your mom. Love, Gloria