How to sell mangoes

Tucked in behind the fish gutting plant, away from tourists, the market was made up of make-shift stalls and carpets where all the produce was lain out. I was on my gap year in the town of Malindi, Kenya, staying with the local nuns whilst I helped out at the disabled childrenís home and Sister Anna had taken me to buy food. I felt like the first mzungu (Swahili for a European) to step into this place, and there were certainly no tourists that I could see. It would have been impossible to find this place without local knowledge.

It was definitely hard not to feel out of place as we walked along, with the Kenyan sellers eyeing me with surprise and curiosity. I followed Sister Anna through the maze of produce, dodging the children
and stray cats, something that was hard to do in such cramped spaces. The scent of the mangoes filled my nose, masking the smell of rubbish that lined the floor.

I had stopped to stare in awe at some gigantic watermelons when Sister Anna spotted an old friend in the distance, and quickly disappeared into the crowd. Having lost her I started to panic until I saw a woman I recognised. She sat me down at her stall whilst she went off to find Sister Anna. However before I could compose myself, I began to get people coming up to the stall, believing I was selling mangoes. I soon became some sort of attraction, with more and more people coming to the stall. Soon some of them were trying to buy the produce from me. After five minutes there were at least twenty people crammed into the small space in front of the stall.

I hate speaking in front of an audience, but this experience was a hundred times worse. As I could only count up to five and say hello and goodbye in Swahili, I sat wide eyed as people tried to give me money for the mangoes. I sold three mangoes to one man, asking for ten Kenyan shillings as this was as many fingers as I could hold up before it got complicated. Even now I donít know if I underpriced or gave him an extortionate number, but he seemed pleased with it. Before I could serve anyone else, a kindly old woman on another stall took pity on me and started to help. At this point however I spotted Sister Anna further along with her bag full of mangoes chatting to the woman whose stall I was manning. They finally spotted me and burst into laughter, probably due to the look of horror that must have been on my face. I ran over to them, and pulled at Sister Annaís arm like a child, pleading her to take me away. As we left the market some of the children followed us and waved goodbye as I walked out red-faced, out into the quiet tourist street beyond.

G Davies

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