Being stuck in Cotonou for an extra day provided a surprise holiday with very little that needed to be accoplished. Put four women together in a city with nothing much that has to get done, and the same thing happens here as happens just about any other place: some quality shopping.

One of my favorite places as of late is a little hole in the wall store about a block from where I normally stay in Cotonou. I discovered it by asking about a little road-side stand that had some shirts made out of beautiful fabric. They said there was more and lead me behind the rusted metal gates, behind a building, and suddenly I found myself in a dirt courtyard where they were dying and hand printing their own fabric to make tablecloths, clothing, scarves, or whatever else you could dream up. No longer confined by the small offerings of a road-side store, I have been able to pick through their color and stamp samples to get what I want. So, a few weeks from now when we return to Cotonou my order will be waiting for me. In case you are not sold on this place, the boss, LS, RC, and SR will all have orders waiting for them as well. Maybe I will post a picture of the beauty when we get it all so that you can share in it.

Then we were off to the ‘Centre des Artisans’ to explore for a short while. Next to the fabric I buy in the market, this is where I do most of my barganning, and today was no exception. I found a necklase at a store that I return to every year… the owner and I have become friends of sorts over the years as we have talked over many a price of various items. Today it was a necklace I mostly liked….but I did not want the bronze pendant, wanted it a bit shorter, and a different clasp. We struck a deal, half the money is down, and I shall be back in June to pick it up. No wonder I often get frustrated jewlery shopping in the US of A. Then, being that it is LS’s second day in Benin, I gladly helped her get a reasonable price on a small, quilted map of Africa.

It is a beautiful thing that I can argue over the price of an item, its design, its utility, and then the price of the item again, and, through this process, gain respect for and respect of the shop owner. And then I insult no-one, but actually add to that respect and subseauent relationship as I repeat the process time and again with the same people.

Ponder this thought the next time you consider using the self-checkout lane at the superstores in town.

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