A few hours in the market to make you feel out of your comfort zone !
Malawi — Uniterra
Remember when I said that I didn’t feel really out of my comfort zone since my arrival to Lilongwe? Well, I did feel out of my comfort zone this week-end when I hang out at the market place with the other volunteers. We were told in our training that it would happen and the awkwardness is a result of misconception/misunderstanding between two different cultures. In theory, this is understandable; but when you experience it, it is hard to remain friendly and to be comfortable like back home when people stare at you, whistle at you, and ask if you’re married. It is overwhelming and you should be constantly on guard when you go on a stroll in the market which it’s not simple for a Canadian and also for a female foreigner. It is hard to recall ourselves that this is only fruits to misconception/misunderstanding in this unfamiliar environment. We do get “where are you from?” but this question is expected as we do not look like the locals; at all.
I knew the answer by heart: Yes, I’m married; I’m Mrs Yourk; I’m from Canada. And I even received extra questions unlike the rest of the group: No, I’m not from India; Canada has people of every color, and so on and so on… I even had to lie to a vendor that I’m allergic to strawberries in order to get away from him and not buy from him. At the market place, you feel the difference of your skin color; vendors see you as an opportunity and will automatically assume that you’re rich, even if we’re only in Malawi for volunteering work.
Regardless of this experience, Malawians are friendly and a majority understand when we tell them kindly that we’re not interested in buying. This experience reminds me how much we are lucky, as Canadians, to be able to freely roam in any shopping mall or market place back home without feeling the constant pressure of buying – but eh, this is simply their way of doing business! My Asian background goes along and bargains with the Malawians in order to get a good price – I’m even surprise that I’m able to do that since I’m normally the type of person to buy the tagged price without even thinking of bargaining the price.
Even if the market was quite overwhelming, I’m satisfy with my purchase; I found some fabrics for my mother – I found a few patterns there were quite similar to Cambodian fabrics. If you ever get the chance to visit any market like this one in Lilongwe, I will definitely encourage you to visit, even if you’re a girl. Of course, you have to be smart and go with someone who’s familiar with the place; but the best way to understand what I’ve been through would be to personally experience it.
Time flies and less than a week remains before I head back home! I will try to post a few more time before leaving Malawi. To expect this week: a review of the Lilongwe Wildlife Center and my experience to the fields with COWLHA (finally!!)
**Sorry, there isn’t any picture of the market out of respect of the locals. If I wanted some, I would need their permission and this could have hinder us further plus what I’ve just described in this post. Thanks for your understanding!**