Monday, January 12, 2009

Where to Buy Bungee Cords & Bras in Ouaga

Have you ever gone to look for something in a store and had trouble finding it because it wasn’t where you thought it would be, or might be? It could be a piece of hardware, a housewares item, or some kind of food thing. Take salsa for instance, the mild, medium, or hot kind you eat with tortilla chips or add to Mexican dishes. You might think that logically, this product would be located in the condiments section along with stuff like relish. Not in our local grocery store in Barrie. It’s in the snack food section along with bags of potato chips, cheesies, and (you guessed it)… tortilla chips.

One time back in Canada, Kathy was looking for some Cheez Whiz. She began by looking in the first logical place she thought it would be, namely the spread section, along with products like peanut butter, jam, and mayonnaise. Not finding it there, she remembered the salsa and tortilla chip example and searched in the area of the crackers. No luck. Finally, she found it in the refrigerated section near the dairy products, which is strange because Cheez Whiz doesn’t need to be refrigerated before it’s opened.

Another example is coconut milk. Kathy needed some to make a West Indian dish. She went looking for it in the ethnic food section of the grocery store. It wasn’t there. Guess where she finally found it? In the beverage section! The logic for placing it there? Probably because it’s used as an ingredient in various drink mixes like pina coladas.

We’ve run into the same thing here in Burkina, though not so much with food items. The other day, the bungee cord we use to help keep our screen door closed gave up the ghost. So I went looking for another one. It took me forever to find one! I tried a half dozen hardware places, all the way from the basic ones in our suburbs to the more specialized places downtown. Nothing. I examined the offerings of the traveling housewares vendors with their pushcarts piled high with all sorts of useful things. Nothing. I went into the fancier Lebanese stores downtown with their imported goods. Nothing. I even sent our faithful day guard, Benjamin, out to see if he could find one. Nada.

Guess where I finally found one after weeks of looking? In a bicycle parts shop downtown. One day, I asked Desiré, my downtown friend, if he knew where I could find a bungee cord. He didn’t, but he walked around with me, asking friends and people he knew until we were finally directed to the bicycle parts shop. I guess if such an item is used in Burkina at all, it’s to tie things down on the back of a bicycle!

Bras are an entirely different matter. No, I don’t need to buy one, but bear with me here cuz it’s interesting, okay? The main source of these in Ouaga appears to completely defy any form of logic. Bras are commonly sold by young men who walk the streets of the city carrying all colours, fashions, and sizes of them over their arm! Can you imagine, as a woman, stopping one of these guys, usually on a street crowded with other pedestrian traffic, to check through their selection? African women obviously have no hang-ups about this method of procuring such inner fashions. If they did, these guys would have given up on this particular form of earning a living long ago! Maybe my friend, Desiré, can tell me the reason for this particular form of salesmanship…

Come to think of it, I could probably have saved myself a lot of time and frustration if I’d just bought a bra to use as our screen door closer! As Kathy and I and a young lady visitor from Canada were walking downtown the other day, a young man with an armload of them came up to us. Hoping to make a sale, he enthusiastically demonstrated the stretchability of the straps. It was pretty impressive! And it would have made a much more fashionable door closer than an ordinary bungee cord! :)

5 comments:

Laura Dun said...

Just as a matter of interest Mike, could you have used one of the black strips from old tyres that are on sale in all the markets for the door? I'm sure you're right, that the others would usually be used to attach things to bikes etc.

Laura Dun said...

PS I won't comment on the bras! :-)

Mike Steinborn said...

Yeah, I thought of one of those rubber strips, and it would have worked just fine. But after the nice, new paint job, it would have looked as ugly as sin! That's why I thought of a bungee cord... or a bra :) We wanted to make a fashion statement! In the end, the bungee cord was cheaper :P

Allison Fontaine said...

We'd be willing to make a donation for a bra if you'd like :) We think it would add more character to your house...

Mike Steinborn said...

Haha, Allison, you are a card! Now, could you help me figure out how to claim it as a ministry expense? Those folks in finance have NO sense of humour at all... :)