Monday, September 7, 2009

September 7, 2009 - The Plot Thickens

We made a new arrangement with Charles that for a small increase in his salary he will go to the market to do the fruit and vegetable shopping for us now that Ida is gone and we haven't quite gotten ourselves ready to hire someone new. The reason I don't go is because they hike the prices up so much for white people and it is much easier to haggle in Swahili (also it can take a really long time!).

Today was his first day doing this so I gave him the list of what I wanted for the next few days. He asked me to write down the prices I thought he should be paying so that he didn't get ripped off. Now when Ida was doing the shopping she often complained about the prices going up all the time, so at one point I asked her to start recording everything she bought and how much she paid in a little notebook so I could see the price changes. I previously noted that when I asked her to start recording prices, she stopped complaining about them going and they seemed to stay the same. I went to the notebook today and wrote down the most recent prices Ida had recorded for everything. Charles took the list with him and then recorded what he paid for each item. He paid less than the prices Ida recorded in all but 3 cases and sometimes he paid half or two-thirds of what she wrote down. When he came home with all the food he said, "Madame...I am so sorry to tell you this but I think that Ida was stealing from you. Most of the food was a lot cheaper than she told you it was." The total bill he paid was exactly half of the money I gave him to spend. Hmmmm....

I suppose after how crazy she got last week I am not really that surprised...except I do wonder how we are supposed to trust anyone in this country when even people who come highly recommended to you turn out to be dishonest. Of course, maybe Ida was just bad at haggling or they give higher prices to women than to men at that market...I don't know. But the icky feeling in my stomach tells me that Ida really took advantage of our trust and generosity. Sigh.

Another funny addition to the story is that we found out from Charles that the guards on our compound call Ida "Ida Odinga"...this is funny because Odinga is the Prime Minister and she is from the same tribe as him. Both are reputed (we now know) to act superior to others :)


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