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Shopping in Niamey

One of our main reasons for coming to Niamey once a month is so we can go grocery shopping. This always takes quite awhile, but I have it down to a fine art and can usually do it with a minimal amount of stress.

But while we were gone in the US, I seemed to have forgotten the art of stressless shopping in Niamey (don't laugh, Mike! You'll be stressed on your end of the equation!).

First of all I've been so exhausted from jet lag and from the stress of the trip. I've felt like a zombie wandering through a thick fog. I felt like I could neither focus nor function.

Secondly, it is impossible to buy everything in one store. While we were gone I had rather forgotten which store had what.

Thirdly, I went to my favorite store. When I left, I thought the guard/parking attendant seemed kind of mad at me. I thought, "Well, he's gotten grouchy lately." Then I got to the end of the street and was trying to turn left. A policeman came up to me and said, rather sternly, "Why did you come the wrong way down a one way street?" I said, "WHAT? I've been gone a year and it wasn't a one way street a year ago!" He said, "Well, there's a sign saying it's one way." I told him I was very sorry, but I didn't see it. He kindly say, "OK, but don't do it again."

Fourthly, I have to buy for a month and there is no food in the house at all. So that means I have to buy a lot of everything. Then when I got to the cash register and she said "110,000" that just seemed like a huge amount of money. Food really is more expensive here, but 110,000 isn't nearly as much as it sounds! And that was only at one store. I hate to imagine the grand total of all the stores I went to!

Fifthly, I decided to go into the market and get the meat myself. Now, folks, these pictures I've posted here (compliments of Mike Murphy) are not of the scratch and sniff variety. The meat market smelled very strongly of raw meat mixed with the smell of the mud all over the ground, combined with the smell of rotting vegetables in a heap nearby. While I was waiting for him to get my meat and cut it up, a nun came to buy meat. She ordered something with bone in it. He laid the meat on a huge chopping block made of a log. Then he proceeded to whack at it with his huge butcher knife. Flecks of meat and chunks of bone were flying everywhere, landing on both the nun and I. The sister decided to cover her mouth with her handbag and I just stood there, patiently flicking off the pieces that landed on me. Now, you would think that all of this would totally gross me out, but I knew what it would be like and was pretty well steeled for it all. But this leads us to the sixth thing.

Sixth, while waiting for my meat, a young man stood beside me talking non-stop in French. I kept trying to get him to switch to Songhai, but he just switched back to French. It was taking a fair bit of emotional energy to maintain an even keel at the butcher's table (who, by the way, did an amazingly beautiful job of cutting the meat into steaks and cubes), so I had no energy left to concentrate on somebody talking nonstop in French. I just kind of zoned him out, muttering something in reply once in awhile. Then a fight broke out just behind us and he said, "See! That's what I'm talking about!" I had no idea what he was talking about or what the fight had to do with it.

Anyway, I survived my first shopping trip, though it took me two days to get it done. From now on I hope my shopping trips will be non-events for me, just another part of the routine.


carol wilson said…
My deepest apologies to Suzanne. I hope she read to the end of my blog, where I said some of my smartest friends are blondes. She is indeed a beautiful blonde!

I love the way you write. I almost feel I've been there. The smells one never forgets!

My parents were missionaries on an out island of the Bahamas, just the two of them after we kids all left, and they had to shop for a few months at a time. But they did it in the States or Nassau, so it wasn't quite the adventure you've had.

Have a blessed month back in Tera. We pray for you daily, and for rain.
Amanda said…
Ahhh, yes, I know exactly what you're talking about only we weren't so brave. Short-termers seem to have less 'guts' when it comes to things like this and we only walked through the meat market a couple of times but we got the cook at the school to buy our meat for us!
Those pictures of the petite marche (sp?) bring back strong memories though.
Anonymous said…
Well the last time I got stopped for doing the one-way thing, I pointed out to the Officer (such as he was) that the sign was half way down the adjacent street and parallel to my street so as to not be visible like a properly placed sign would be. When that was ineffective, I asked if he would act so unjustly because he wanted a bribe. Finally, with resignation I told him that if he wanted to write me a ticket, he should do so because the Commissaire was my friend, and knew that if I HAD done something wrong I would simply come pay the fine rather than try to beg a favor. I almost told him that I knew where he was destined to spend eternity, but held my tongue. The Commissaire did let me off.

We LOVE reading your blog; it is SO full of the life we once knew.

notlwonK abuocaY
notlwonKmiJ said…
P.S. Look out for those market fights and distractions. They are often a front for thieves to rob you while you are distracted.

notlwonK abuocaY
Georgene said…
Oh, my! Here I am in America nearly ready to head to bed after what I envisioned as a not so great day. Well, my day went well but ended poorly in my estimation. But, then I read your post and feel the need to slap myself for being so 'soft'. Thank you for the reality check, Sister! It was much needed. I'll look forward to your posts in the days to come. May the Lord bless you AND keep you!
Chinglishman said…
What knotlwonk said. I can almost smell the market.
Maybe you should do what I always did in Niamey. Whenever the police whistled me over, I just cried. Never got a ticket.
Your brother, Chinglishman
Hall Chronicles said…
Hey, y'all, great blog. And you, Anonymous, we know who you are and we're comin' to get ya!
As for Chinglishman, why cry when he could, in his famous words, "have screamed like a girl"?
Anyhue, I recall my first visit to the meat market, in Kaduna, with Rudy Piepgrass, and I came home and told Betty, "I will never eat meat again." And I never did, not until our coo-coo brought a beautifully roasted pork loin to the table and my altogether-too-hasty promouncement was put to the test. I lost. Some of the best meals I've ever had have been in Africa. Right, Chinglishman? How about we go to the Cedar Tree?Um, Um, good. Gather 'round the good stuff!
Palmer said…
Great stories, Nancy. I'm enjoying seeing the world through your eyes!
Dave said…
Enjoyed reading your article again. Thanks for the comment on my blog. It certainly sounds like, looks like (and smells like?) the Philippines.
Dusty Penguin said…
The only thing worse than the meat market is the fish market. As I told you in an email, I eventually just started paying more for meat rather than go to the meat market! That was a good warning and reminder about the fights in the market being distractions for thieves. Well written post and obviously brought back of lot of memories for alot of us!
Jane Stutzman said…
I've caught up on all your Posts (and John's) this evening. As soon as I heard the report of the planned terrorist attack, my thoughts were of you and what you would endure before you reached Niger...I prayed for strength, stamina and safety. God knew when you booked your flight...and you turned it into a lovely tour of Paris with a great guide. I've loved seeing the pictures of all of you in the various places; and, along with others who have commented, I love your accounts... you host YOU ARE THERE (1953 TV show) very well. Is the rain continuing?--for this we pray.
wow! you will be in my prayers, how exciting!!
Anonymous said…
i don't know if u remember me but my name is mandie swinford and i met ur family in mississippi last december. i had lots of fun talking to ur husband in french and have kept u guys in my prayers for soo long. im happy that u have made it back to niger. and am happy to hear that u had a fun time in paris. i spent a month in europe this summer doing missions. id like to stay in touch with ur family if email is you guys are great and it just fills me with joy to see you off spreading Jesus's luv to the people of Niger, Africa. Lots of Luv
><> Mandie Swinford
Amanda said…
Aaaah, dustypenguin, the fish market, I think that's what I'm thinking of, I do recall a large tray of fish heads with flies all over them. Yep, that must have been it and yes, I reckon it's much worse!! LOL
Michelle said…
Wow, absoulutly amazing! This is norm, eh? Steely nerves indeed!
Hannatu said…
Thanks, Mandie, for your kind comments. I do remember you and I'll never forget Gulfport!

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