Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Haiti's Malls!

Saturday, November 14
I maneuver the pathfinder through the busy traffic as I chat with Dana who's sitting beside me in the passenger seat. Dana and I have gotten to be good friends and almost every Saturday we get together. This Saturday afternoon we decide to hit the "Haiti mall" since we both like shopping. Although I've been to the mall (aka Market) more often, this is the second time we've gone there together and we are excited! There is just something fun about "Haiti's mall" and if you have a good sense of humor, are not afraid of getting dirty and don't mind bartering, this is THE BEST place to shop!
I turn onto Rue Frere and then slow to a crawl. The street leading up to the market is busy since Saturday is a big shopping day! Parking lots in Haiti are almost nonexistent, especially by the market, so I pull the pathfinder up onto the sidewalk where it sits at a somewhat strange angle. "As long as it's off the road, it should be fine" I say to Dana, as we lock the doors.
The "mall" entrance is, well no need to describe, just look for yourself!

As we enter the market our feet are sucked down by the gooey, sticky mud; a mixture of dirt, rotting vegetables and animal feces. There is a reason I don't wear flip flops here!

We walk through the mud until we reach a steep cobblestone street. It's easier to get into the market this way, so we carefully make our way down.

I can hear the people around me say "blan, blan" (white, white), but I just turn and smile at them. White people are a rarity at the market and the Haitian people like to make observations out loud. I remember shopping with Denise when she was expecting and the people all around us called her "gwo vant" (big stomach)! So, like I said, anything unusual or different will be commented on.

As we reach the bottom of the steep street we turn a corner and are completely surrounded. Vendors are all around us, proudly displaying their wares. The paths between the vendors are narrow and full of people. When in Haiti, do as the Haitians, so we push our way through the crowds while making sure we don't step on anyone's wares.

Minutes later we reach the top of the concrete stairs that bring us to the clothing department.

It doesn't take long for us to find clothes we like and we start to shop.

No dressing rooms available, so we try the clothing on over top of whatever we are wearing.

I used to just look at the items and buy it if I thought it fit, but then would be disappointed later when it didn't. So now we decide to just do what everyone else does and just try it on in public! Dana and I can't help but laugh as we struggle to try the clothes on, especially when we notice the many eyes watching us. When we find clothes we like and that fit we start to barter. Bartering, all though foreign and frightening at first, can be a lot of fun. I know that all new shirts should sell for about 300 Gds (7.50 USD) and skirts for about 350 Gds (8.75 USD), so that really helps. However, the Haitian vendors don't know that we know this, and tell us everything is closer to 1,000 Gds (25 USD). After explaining that we buy clothes at the market more often and that we know the shirt is really worth only about 300 Gds, we put it back and walk on. Not even a second later, I feel a hand on my arm and hear the vendor shout, "Vini" (come) and the bartering process goes on. She then goes on to tell me that if she sells it for that she won't make any money on it and it would actually be a loss. This isn't true, since they would never sell anything without making a profit, but it's all part of the game. We just shake our heads and start leaving again until she finally lets out a dramatic sigh, acts as if she is doing us a big favour and accepts 300 Gds for the shirt. After the deal she smiles happily, she still made a good profit, and we walk on.

Now that we've purchased something, everyone wants us to come look at their setup. Each vendor has their own specific style of clothing and we soon find out that if there is one thing we like from the vendors selection of about 35 items, chances are there are more things we like as well! Dana and I also find out that we have a similar style in clothes and often find ourselves trying on the same things!

Before we go home we spend a little time looking at other things the market vendors have for sale.



Even Christmas decorations!

Since the clothing department is on the second floor we also have a good view of the rest of the market from above.

At the end of our two and half hour shopping spree we have a total of six clothing articles and spent about 22 USD each. As we drive home we share with each other what we heard the Haitian people say about us. The funniest thing, we thought, was that they thought we were from the Dominican Republic. I guess seeing two North American girls bartering and shopping in the "Mache" (market) is rather uncommon and since we both had dark hair they decided we must be from the Dominican. We had to laugh when they tried to speak Spanish to us and it was even funnier to see their expressions when we replied in Creole! We really had a great time!


  1. Wow...the market seems BUSY! But it looks like a lot of fun!
    We bartered in South America this summer and found it to be really neat! But we forgot about it sometimes since we are not used to it!

    Love Henrietta :)

  2. :) Hi! This so reminds me of the markets in Uganda where I stayed for 3 months last year I was working in a orphanage. I found your blog because my husband Devin Roos is friends with Jason. I heard alot about you all from him, but when I found your blog I was so surprised! My sister Rebecca used to be your friend and I remember going to your house once. Do you remember that? :) Anyways I love reading your blog! Have a wonderful day! :)

    -Racheal (Elgersma) Roos

  3. Fun!!! Who says you need big fancy stores to have fun shopping with girl friends hey? Love to be a fly on the wall while you are bartering LOL!

    Love Ang

  4. Looking for the food court!

  5. You captured the whole scene perfectly with your photos and descriptions. It was such a blast! Seriously the best shopping i've ever done. Love you Will!

  6. sounds like fun! but I must admit you are probably two rather brave North Americans, to be out market bartering like that! It looks like you have lots of selection to choose from! Did you buy the red skirt? It's really cute! Thanks for sharing!

  7. Sounds great! Can't remember the last shopping I did... maybe when Esther comes over Xmas.

    I didn't know Devin Roos was married, is this the same Devin that worked for Ron? He seems too young!

    Talk to you later! Love Anita, Ron, Gemma and Carlye!

    We are looking forward to going back to BC at the end of Jan already!!!

  8. That's quite the mall. I was expecting something a lot different. It was great reading, I love your stories and pictures, but cannot imagine living like that.

  9. wow i just left there last week i actually went to the places in the pictures. i stayed ther for 9 weeks
    (:Deez Nutz Hoe:)