Live...laugh...love Life with 4 kids 6 and under. Our trip to pick up Tonito in China is: mid-March 2008 through April 12. Our trips to pick up Ricky in Ethiopia are in June and August of 2010.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Our last day: Merkato!

Our last day was a whirlwind: we decided to take a taxi to the Merkato. It is for sure the alrgest open air market in Ethiopia, and claims to be the largest in Africa (while our taxi driver insists it is the largest in the world). No matter who you believe, it is enormous and consists of thousands (literally) of open stalls and small shops that cover several square miles and sell everything. It isn't really open air, there are everything from people selling things on the streets, to stalls within shells of buildings, to large almost malls (or a very rough version of a mall) with vendors renting rooms/shops. It was so crowded when we went that cars couldn't really get through the streets due to throngs of people carrying their merchandise on their heads, in wheelbarrows, over poles on their shoulders, etc. The most outrageous thing I saw was a man with more than 35 thin mattresses balanced on his head (I was counting as fast as I could as he rushed by and got to 35 before he turned the corner. His floppy cushions seemed to be taller than the buildings hwe was passing. There was a lot of coffee, a block of spice vendors, a block of fabric vendors, furniture, clothing, cooking wares. When we parked, our taxi driver got us a local guide who would lead us to what we wanted to buy. The thing about the merkato is that it is so big, it's better to know more or less what you are looking for and then head for that huge section of the market. We had decided that we wanted a carved chair.
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He first took us to some newer looking furniture: "No... older." o he brought us to a high end antique booth, where chairs were about $1000. "No.... cheaper." He finally found this little store that resembled a skinny hallway (I could stand sideways and touch the wooden antiques on both sides with my arms stretched out). "Perfect!" We loved everything in the store, and the owner wanted to know if we were interested in seeing more variety in the "warehouse." We agreed, of course, and followed some kids he grabbed. The 4-5 teenagers led us through winding streets, with our taxi driver and local guide following us- until we reached a neighborhood of mud houses and corrugated metal roofs, with woven grasses as fences. Kids played soccer and waved to us as we walked down a rocky hill past donkeys and clotheslines. Someone opened a metal gate and let us through a small yard where girls were braiding their hair. We went through another door farther into the compound and came to a small house. "Here's the warehouse!" As chickens cackled in the background, he creaked open a door and we saw at least 100 chairs stacked into a 10x10 room. The teens started bringing out chairs, all wooden, all carved from one piece, and Tonio and I would sit on them and try to see if a small child wouldn't tip them over (our only caveat). The whole situation was unreal. We finally found 2 that we liked, and the teenagers carried them over their heads as we weaved back to the original store in our unlikely parade. Getting back at the store, Tonio and the owner closed themselves in the closet in the back, and the negotiating went on and on and on, while I admired the wooden goods piled on the floor and hanging on the walls up to the ceiling. I was in a dark cave of treasures and the stalagmites were carved wooden crosses, stools, yard posts, chairs, and figures of Solomon and St. George. The incense of past coffee ceremonies had permeated the wood- this was the smell I would always associate with Ethiopia, and wold greet me when I opened my suitcase at home. Tonio finally emerged from the back room, almost sweaty with the excitement: we got a chair and a "house post" (a carved piece of wood waist high that would stand outside a house to tell who lived there). The teens conveniently were waiting outside with cardboard and tape to wrap up the chair, and then lead the parade to carry it to our taxi. I sat in the back seat with the chair on its side, squished against the door. As we drove back to TDS, Tonio and I wondered how we would be able to get the chair on the plane... The taxi driver overheard us and asked us if he could take us to the airport to make sure it would be OK to check the chair as checked baggage. YES! We drove to the airport, and he and Tonio lugged the awkward package inside. We finally found a woman who worked for Lufthansa, who told us it would be fine as 1 piece of checked bags. Since we had brought over 2 boxes of donations, we only had the 3 suitcases left to check- so the chair was given the OK! We wrapped it in saran wrap at the airport, and lugged it back to the taxi. For dinner, Yoseph met us at the hotel to watch the World Cup game and say our good-bye. It was so sad to leave Ethiopia, but we are SO excited to see the kids again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We miss you guys!

1 comment:

Kim Foo said...

wow. what a neat story! id love to see a picture of the chair. also would you mind sharing what you paid for it? and were there any other items you bought? im a bit excited about getting my shopping on in addis. just saying. :)