Since I moved into my new house last week I’ve been exploring cooking again. It’s been a few months since I cooked last, instead I’ve been opting to eat out or make simple things like toast with peanut butter. It was fine with me because I eat something healthy like yogurt with granola before work, then a good, hearty meal at ILRI’s cafeteria every day — meals at home were more of a casual “tide myself over until lunch tomorrow” thing. All other reasons aside, I guess it really boils down to not feeling “at home” in my old apartment. The stove was only 1/4 functional, the pots and pans were funny, the sink was dinky, and there were always people coming and going.
Yelling at Poor People
Tactics for dealing with beggars range the ethical gamut. Certain kinds of people just fork over the cash at the first sight of a quivering lower lip. A handful of others like the silent treatment (easy but not immediately effective). In Bombay I noticed that Indians would actually hit street kids with rolled up newspapers — a bit hardcore, but immediately effective. Luckily, I’m white and I live in Kenya, so I have plenty of opportunities to try various methods almost daily! For example, I felt terrible after this exchange with an eight-year-old girl last week:
Beggar girl: “Uncle please, I’m hungry…”
Me: “Go to school”
Beggar girl: “Please buy for me some food”
Me: “Kwenda huko, uliza huyu. Hata mwafrika anapesa!” (Get out of here, go ask him. Even African people have money)
Beggar girl: “(mumbling)… enda nchi yenu” (go back to your country)
Me: “Mimi ni mkenya” (I’m Kenyan)
The “Walk Away” Tactic
I never liked using the “I’m gonna walk away” tactic when you’re haggling on prices — it seems so cheesy and fake. Can’t we just skip the pretense and talk serious business? You know, business where you name a fair price and I counter with another fair price? Maybe you give me a price which is so fair I just take it without any contention. I guess those days are over, or it’s just all about getting lucky and ripping people off these days. In any case, I’ve found the “walk away” is a relevant and useful tactic to use in small business transactions. This is especially true in situations when there is one consumer and many suppliers: getting a taxi.
For instance: I know the price of a taxi from Westlands (around The Mall or Sarit Center) to my house on Church Road should be around 200 Kenyan shillings (three US dollars?). They don’t know I know that, so they always inflate the price a few hundred shillings. Because I know the price is 200 I just walk away and all the other taxi drivers start yelling at me to get in theirs. Of course this maneuver scares the crap out of the original guy, who immediately comes running after me yelling, “Kuja twende!” (come, we go!). I never meant to scare the guy out of a sale, I just figure that any of these guys can offer me the same product so why should I waste my time telling the guy, “Wee, si mbali. Church Road ni hapo tu!” (man, it’s not far. Church Road is just there).
This is even funnier because I hate taking taxis and I think haggling is ridiculous! Sometimes you just can’t avoid it, though, and I think I might actually be getting better at it.