Our van pulled up to the marketplace in Livingstone, Zambia. The air was hot and sticky. The air was always hot and sticky. It was the type of heat that makes you forget what it is like to be cold.
Within a few short days, the Zambians we had partnered with already felt like brothers. They promised to help us navigate the market place, but there were much more of us than them.
With big eyes and Kwacha (Zambian Currency) in hand, I took my first steps towards the market place.
Photo Credit: Michael Liedtke
They barter everything in the market place. I would eventually barter my hair tie for a nice hand carved wood bottle opener for my brother. Bartering is kind of intimidating to me in itself. I am not a demanding, forceful person. I could never work in sales.
So here I was trying to barter for my first time. Of course it would be with a foreign currency. Not that it really mattered since I had no idea how much any of this stuff would be worth in American money. Add to that the fact that my white skin screams I have money and no idea what I am doing. I was basically a moving target for disaster.
The marketplace vendors were indeed happy to see a van full of mzungas (white people) pull up. I wandered off on my own. True to their word, my Zambian brothers came to help me. They helped the marketplace vendors take me more seriously, but besides that they were mostly there for moral support.
If I played confidant, maybe the vendors wouldn’t catch on that I had no idea what I was doing. One thing I did have going for me, is that I can read people really well. I could tell which vendors were trying to take advantage of me.
The first thing on my list was a chitenge (a chitenge is a long colorful piece of fabric that the women wrap around themselves as skirts).
Photo Credit: Michael Liedtke
I know that I paid too much for it, but I also knew that I didn’t care. The woman was nice and I had talked down the price enough. Plus she needed the money more than me, and it felt greedy to pay any less.
I had bought my first chitenga. Oh I would buy others. In fact I cherish everything I bought in Zambia. But my first chitenga would always be special to me. It reminded me of a girl who was fearless, even when she had no idea what she was doing. It reminded me of the girl who wasn’t afraid to jump in and get her hands dirty.
It reminded me of my last night in Africa. When I stood barefoot in the orange African dirt looking up at the stars. The wind was gently whipping my chitenga around my legs. I scrunched my toes into the dirt and promised myself that this would not be the last time my feet touched African soil.
**** Michael Liedtke is a professional photography that went to Zambia with me. To see more of his amazing photos from Zambia, click here.
**** Thanks to everyone who stopped by to read my blog. If you have a cherished object you would like me to read about, please put in the comments below.