It’s one week until Christmas in the USA and for the last week the most we’ve had of Christmas decorations was this:
I always pack a small tin of Christmas when I move overseas and this time it came in handy. Why? Well, we were told that it wasn’t Christmas time yet so wait a week and then look for decorations. Oh, by the way, Ethiopian Christmas is January 7th.
So today B and I undertook an expedition, with the help of our friend Atkilt, to go to Merkato. Let me first explain there are no Wal-Marts here to pop into, buy the stuff, and get out. Merkato is basically what feels like a square mile of small bulk stores at low prices (if you’re not a foreigner).
So we hop in a taxi (small van) at 12pm and change taxis three times before we reach our destination. We hunt a little before we find the area that has Christmas decorations. Imagine a Publix size store (maybe slightly smaller) that is packed with stalls selling all kinds of stuff. Only some stalls have Christmas lights, garlands, trees, and ornaments. The others still sell their random yet set stuff for that area.
We start at the first one and get the foreigner price. When we try to negotiate lower the man gets mad so we leave. Another stall, then another is tried as we research what is the true price. Once we find consistency in price we then have to search for the style we like!
Eventually we buy lights from one place, garland from another, tree from another, and ornaments from another. (this took much longer than the time it’s taken you to read this!) All of this is done negotiating through signs and writing on our hands or in a book. Oh, I forgot to mention we’re always deaf when we go to Merkato!
We leave that area and pick up a few extra things while hunting for an oven thermometer (no luck so far). On our way to the bus/taxi area we pick up a towel we’ll cut down to make into hand towels. We stand a while waiting for a taxi, then eventually walk a couple streets over to a “major” road and finally find one going the direction we want.
Three and a half hours later (at least!) we make it home with our take:
It seems such a small amount bought for the time and energy we spent. But we were quite happy with the results and feeling like it’s Christmas: