As many of you know, before school starts each year, we let our older kids go into the outdoor market in Leogane to buy their school shoes for the year. They are each allowed to pick out 2 pairs of shoes (within reason) and this usually takes them about 3-4 hours to complete. This year was our 3rd trip into the market, and it was the most interesting by far. The kids are a little bolder and a lot pickier about what they want and they are not afraid to bargain with the sellers. This year, I am pretty sure the boys actually took a longer time than the girls to pick out there shoes. The first year we went, I remember every single boy having 2 pairs of shoes picked out and purchased within 30 minutes of arrival, and this year the girls were finished while some of the boys were still shopping. It was a funny turn of events. There is, however, 1 kid who completely stands out above the rest as the best at bargaining for a good price on the shoes that he wants. If you have been down before and have gotten to know our kids, this is going to be a real surprise for you, so before I type his name, think through all of our older kids and their personalities to see if you can guess it. I will give you a hint, it is one of our boys.
You probably thought it was Chinaider because he is the oldest, maybe Herbison because he is the best athlete, or Woodly because he has the most confidence. Maybe those answers were too obvious and you thought it was Kervinson because he is the biggest or Woodlerxe because he is the funniest or Son Son because he is probably our smartest or maybe Apolon because he is not afraid to talk to anyone. Guess what, the kid who is our best negotiator is also one of our nicest and meekest kids…Tony! If you would have told me he would be the best at getting his price I would have never believed you, but after thinking about it, it makes sense. He is really smart (he is in 7th grade) and he always knows exactly what he wants and is not shy about letting you know. He also does not really care what other people think about him and he is definitely not a follower. He is really nice and is content to be in the background most of the time, but he is also very assertive when he needs to be. He is just a good kid and I was really glad to see that side of him. This year, Tony picked his shoes out pretty early on, but then he told the sellers that he was going to look at some other shoes to see if he could find them cheaper. He then proceeded to go to the booths right next to where his shoes were and talked loud enough for the sellers to hear him bargaining. He then made sure that the sellers saw me so they would know he was a serious buyer, and repeatedly told the sellers the same story, that he had a spending limit and if they could not meet his price he could not buy their shoes. He then walked away down the road to look at some other shoes so they would know he was ok walking without those particular shoes. I have to say I was impressed because in the end the sellers were basically begging him to buy the shoes at the price he wanted to start with and it was a better price for nicer shoes than any other kids got.
The kids really enjoy going into the market and I think they have a great time. We buy little waters while they are there, the kids are allowed to walk around with a friend without me, I tell them I am going to hide from the sellers so they get the good prices, and at the end of the day we stop by a local shop for a treat. I, on the other hand, am not as fond of market day as the kids are. It is fun because they like it, but this outdoor market is definitely not made for tall people, it is not conducive for Americans, and there are way too many motos for the size of the roads. I say that the market is not made for tall people because I am a good deal taller than most Haitians, and the sellers in the market setup tarps over their areas. The problem with these tarps is that if you are over 5.5 feet tall then you have to duck everywhere you go and I am too old to walk around hunched over for 3 hours. It is not conducive for Americans because when the sellers see me they go from “charmingly” aggressive to a level of aggression usually reserved for the athletic field. They do anything they can to get my attention and try to make sure that I know they have things for sale even though we are in a market where everyone has things for sale. Finally, about the motos, I have no idea how more people are not seriously injured at this place because of how many motos there are and how fast they go down really narrow, crowded streets. These realities make up the negative side of the market, and they are also one of the reasons that Lener is such valuable employee. He came with me while Jess stayed home with the kids, and his value grows even more every time I have to step foot in the market. The sellers raise the prices so much for Americans that it is hard to estimate how much money we save just because Lener buys things rather than us.
The day was very successful. Each kid got the shoes they were hoping to get, and they really had a pretty good time getting them and I had a pretty good time being with them as well. It is also funny to see them change from year to year and to see them grow and mature even in this aspect of life. The truth is that they are going to have to learn how to survive market trips like this one and bargain for the things they want as they get older living here in Haiti. It is just a reality and one that I think these kids are pretty much ready for.