Buying shoes in the market before school each year is kind of an All Things New tradition now for Lener, myself and the older kids. If you want to read the stories from the past 2 years, just click here and click here. We used to have sponsors send down shoes, but then we realized how important it was to us, as we got older, to pick out our own shoes for school and we wanted our kids to have that same experience. The experience is, of course, very different in that we pile 16 people into a truck and go shopping at an outdoor market where you pretty much negotiate prices for everything you purchase. This presents some challenges, but it also makes for a wonderful experience and I learn a lot about our kids each year. Just as a side note, even though the market is outside, it is definitely made for smaller people and where most people can just walk through and under certain areas of the market, I definitely could not. I was almost crawling from place to place underneath the tarps that act as shade for the sellers, and I somehow felt closed in and crammed even in a huge outdoor space.
To set the scene, we had 14 kids come with us this year to buy shoes (a few of our kids were not feeling well and could not make the trip with us but chose others to pick their shoes for them). It was Herbison, Dada, Apolon, Kervinson, Apolon, Misthafa, Tony, Shinaider, Fransline, Guerline, Zalex, BiGuedy, Dinna, and Son Son. They were given a set amount of money to spend and they could choose how to spend it as long as it was used for school shoes (Lener and I were holding the money and keeping a tally of how much each kid had spent). I could go down the list to share something that happened with each kid, but instead I will just hit the highlights. The first thing that is important to note is that, for a couple of our kids, they were exactly the same purchasing shoes as they are every other day. Son Son was just Son Son. If you know him, then you know exactly what I mean. Zalex was 100% himself the whole time as well. He was just laughing and smiling throughout the day and he got exactly what he wanted. Apolon acted as “cool” as possible during the outing and Herbison hardly spoke to anyone and never negotiated, but still ended up with really nice and different looking shoes. Misthafa was the funniest one out of everyone. She clearly thought there was a limit on how much she could spend on one pair of shoes, and the pair of shoes she wanted was higher than that limit. She then saw Tony spend more than that on one pair and realized that as long as she stayed under the set amount she could get one really nice pair and another not as nice pair. When she realized she could have the pair she had her eyes on, she did a little leap in the air and pumped her fist in excitement. It was great.
Tony is by far the best one to watch shopping in the market. He clearly forms a plan, finds the exact pair of shoes he wants, and then is absolutely relentless in negotiating until he gets what he wants. He actually found a pair of slightly used black Timberland boots. They were initially priced at $90 and Tony waited the guy out and got them for around $20. He then got a second pair that were decent as well. Shinaider and Yolmenda, on the other hand, decided they would shop until they could find 3 pairs of shoes that they could afford. Yolmenda had gotten the first 2 pairs, but the pair she really wanted was a little out of her price range. So she convinced Misthafa to buy her second pair from the same seller and the seller gave her a discount for bringing her more business. Shinaider found 3 pairs as well. Kervinson negotiated for a pair of white Adidas shoes down to a very good price, but he is not allowed to wear white shoes to school. He argued a little bit, but luckily one of his professors was there and helped us convince him that he would get sent home from school if he tried to wear them. In the end, Kervinson did well, but he did not get the Adidas he wanted.
I could go on and on about each of the kids. Like how Dinna and Fransline pretty much let the other girls choose their shoes or how we would have left almost 30 minutes earlier but Apolon and Zalex took forever to choose their second pair. We stopped by a “convenient store” on the way home and I let each of them have a set amount again to purchase some cookies and a drink and I am pretty sure they tried to negotiate more with me on this than with the sellers in the market for their shoes. It was really funny watching them try to use the exact amount they were given to get the most (they did not care if it was the best as long as it was the most) cookies they could possibly get. From start to finish it was about a 5 hour event and it was really a lot of fun. It was really hot and more people laughed at me during this trip than I am used to (especially when I accidentally knocked down a wheelbarrow full of vegetables or when I slipped down a muddy hill and barely caught myself before hitting the ground), but I would not want to trade this experience with the kids.