Saturday, March 10, 2012
I spent 5 days in Kenya trying to market the ornaments. Joseph was my driver and we drove. The entry was smooth, but once again expensive, I had to pay $50.00 for a single entry visa, there went my hopes of coming back after Mark went back to Cananda. Now that I was in Kenya, I was certain to travel throughout Kenya while here. One thing was certain, I had to be careful of the funds I would be spending. I brought with me $800.00, I have no debit or credit cards, that is it. I am hoping that I sell many of the ornaments.
Nairobi is a big, crowded city with lots of traffic. The city center was like any other cosmopolitain city with many western amenities. Outside the city was another world.
I stayed in place called Hotel Connections, south of the city, it was a uneventful place with a lot of character.
Not being familiar with Nairobi, Joseph called some friends who knew people who would show us around. Has been greeted us and agreed to walk the streets of Nairobi with me. Nothing comes without a cost however. Over the next few days wherever we went we would have to pay whomever it was to spend the day with me.
It appears that selling ornaments in March would prove hopeless. It is a slow season, which leads into April and May which are the slowest months for tourism in Africa. Every shop is limited in funds, they don’t have any cash to buy our ornaments, although many are interested. Time and time again they tell me to come back in June. Instead I get their contact information and promise to be in touch. Nairobi is a bust. I sold twenty five ornaments…time to move on. Heading to the gift shops by the Masai Mara, hoping things change.
Nothing changed, the shops by the Masai Mara had the same problem. “They are Safi Sana” but we have no cash flow right now.” I received more contact information and promised to email them, we could always ship their order or they can come and pick it up in Arusha. It wasn’t until we got to an shop close to the Mara’s entry. ___________, this shop was the only one that appeared to have clients, there were 4 jeeps in the parking lot when we arrived.
The manager was a nice young man, who was very interested, however not the proper person to make the final decision. “Come back on Monday”, sorry, I can’t I replied, and once again took another business card. While I was showing the manager our ornaments, some of the tourist in the shop were interested. This is where things got interesting; almost scary.
The tourists came to my car to buy an orament or two and then more came to buy, it was shortly thereafter, that all these locals surrounded our car demanding 10% of our sales. It was ugly, all these simple minded Kenyans with no teeth yelling at me for selling on their property. It was not the manager, he however was quite impressed as to how they were selling, it was these others that are their on commission, waiting for their share as I was some rich Mzungu who was interfereing. There must of have been at least 10 of them. It was ugly. The tourists who were buying felt the pressure and I did as well. I got back in the car and told Joseph they wanted 10%, at first he said no, after listening to all these people he then changed his mind. He began yelling at me and the Kenyan’s advised us to get off their property or they would burn our car.
The next few hours were very stressful, Joseph was thinking like a safari driver, trying to get every last penny out of their Mzungu clients by siding with the drivers who wanted their 10%. I can’t work with someone who doesn’t think long term. Everyone here thinks of today. They think how much money can I get from these people, this is the way they earn a living. Safari drivers take you to certain shops in the hope that the tourists will buy many things and they will get anywhere from 10-25% in commission. I am learning that very few in Tanzania and Kenya do something nice for nothing. There is the underground world here, that is transparent to the tourists and only those that are here are aware of how things work.
I am not sure if I will contact that shop again. They could sell the ornaments and it could prove to be very lucrative for all involved, but I am not sure I want to give them the opportunity to make commission on our products. The entire event was bizarre, it led me into serous contemplation about Joseph’s long term assistance in this project. I was disappointed in his thinking. I don’t know.
We drove back to Nairobi where I spent the night. The next day we headed towards Tsavo National Park and then Mombassa.