Going to the market can be an overwhelming experience. As vezaha (foreigners with white/light skin) entering the market you are immediately persued by sellers showing you the best they have to offer. If you happen to indicate the slightest interest in any particular item, then you are immediately shown a plethora of similar items, usually with the promise of a “good price.” The market is set up in such a way that generally several sellers with similar items are in the same area, much like modern antique malls in the US. As a result, you can easily have 6-8 enterprising sellers all hovering, watching you, and offering you their goods. It’s the Nordstrom experience to the nth degree.
After returning to Tana having spent the morning at Lemurs Park, Tony drove us to a large market in the northwest part of Tana. We had read that this particular market had a good selection of games - so of course we were eager to check it out. Patrick helped us locate the section of the market we wanted, thankfully. There were about 8 rooms all off the same hallway that focused on handicrafts, including games. As we started looking at the items, we were asked to name our price. Simple enough in theory, however you are dealing in completely different currency and trying to remember how much a given value in “ariary” (pronounced “r-e-r-e”) is in US dollars as well as trying to figure out how the major differences in US and Malagasy economies factor in. All while a dozen or so people are looking at you intently waiting for an answer. Like I said a bit overwhelming.
As we entered this particular market, we passed what I thought was the jewelry area (turned out it was the precious stones area.) I innocently inquired of one seller if she had any celestine, a semi-precious stone that is only found in Madagascar and had been specially requested as something I try to bring back. No sooner did I turn around then was I offered all sorts of celestine options - large uncut crystals, polished egg shaped pieces, and so forth. When I tried to explain that I was looking for something smaller, smaller pieces were instantly produced by a number nearby sellers. None of the offerings were what I was really after and so I declined. That wasn't the end of the matter, however. We had to pass the same area on our way back to the car and I was once again offered many different cut stone options along the way.
The trip to the market was a success, at any rate, as we did find a beautiful fanorona game board and are looking forward to learning this Malagasy two-player strategy game soon.