Tag Archives: shopping

Price Per Pile

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The average market seller doesn’t have a scale and instead sells produce priced by the pile. The piles of dried beans in the photo above cost 100 cfa ($0.20) each. Each pile of limes and fried fish in the next two photos costs 100 cfa also.

 

Jen with Tailor

Jen with Tailor

Jen with her tailor near our host family’s house in Porto Novo. Here are the steps for having a custom outfit made:

  1. Buy fabric at the market. A dress or a boomba (matching pants/skirt and top) requires four meters. A shirt, pants or skirt only require two meters. Fabric prices depend on quality but the fabric we typically buy costs about 1500 cfa ($3) per meter.
  2. Go to the tailor’s shop and choose the style of outfit. Each shop has posters on the wall and/or catalogues showing different options for styles of outfits. The posters and catalogues (right side of photo) feature styles typical to West Africa. Many Peace Corps volunteers bring pictures from American clothing catalogues to have their clothing made in a more western style.
  3. Agree upon a price for the work. Most items in Benin, including labor, do not have set prices. Usually the seller starts by saying a high price, the buyer counters with a low price and the two meet somewhere in the middle. After living in Benin for a while we’ve learned the typical prices of many items, including tailoring labor. This makes the price arguing process MUCH easier. A typical outfit with no bells or whistles costs between $2 – $4 for the labor. Embroidery can easily double the price.
  4. The tailor takes your measurements and tells you when you can pick up your outfit.
  5. You return to pick up your outfit, try it on in the corner behind a piece of fabric providing a little privacy (white sheet in back left of picture), and tell them what alterations you want made. The sleeves are too tight, maybe, or the waist is too loose.
  6. You can go home and return another day to pick up the outfit post alterations, but many times the customer waiting in front of the tailor gets his or her attention. Thus, the best bet is to sit and wait for the alterations to be made. This can take from 20 minutes to two hours. Generally Jen and I have found that one to four alterations are necessary before an outfit fits reasonably well.

Done. Enjoy your bespoke outfit.

Grocery Shopping

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Our town has its market every fourth day. It’s a good market: pretty much anything that is available in our region is available at our local market, which most volunteers can’t say about their town. Here’s the haul from our last major shopping trip. And here’s the price breakdown:

batteries

300 CFA

$0.60
toilet paper

1000 CFA

$2.00

popcorn

1200 CFA

$2.40

greens

300 CFA

$0.60

yeast

100 CFA

$0.20

fabric (4 meters)

4300 CFA

$8.60

powdered milk

1600 CFA

$3.20

oil

1200 CFA

$2.40

tomatoes

200 CFA

$0.40

garlic

100 CFA

$0.20

ginger

50 CFA

$0.10

salt

100 CFA

$0.20

wheat flour

250 CFA

$0.50

manioc flour

100 CFA

$0.20

cheese

1000 CFA

$2.00

watermelon

250 CFA

$0.50

smoked fish (cat food)

200 CFA

$0.40

limes

100 CFA

$0.20

eggs

400 CFA

$0.80

bread with fish and tomato sauce

175 CFA

$0.35

fried dough

25 CFA

$0.05

crackers

100 CFA

$0.20

sweet potato

75 CFA

$0.15

TOTAL

13,075 CFA

$26.25

 

Signs

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Hi folks, It’s Jen, taking over the daily photo posts from Adam for a few weeks. I hope you enjoy seeing Benin from my perspective for a bit (although some of the photos are still Adam’s)!

Sign painting is a flourishing trade here in Benin. Street signs for businesses are all pretty similar—the store name in blue or red set above illustrations of the goods or services provided. You don’t often see logos, brand names, or abstract designs.

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Although the signs here are consistent in style, the illustrations are often creative and quirky. I really like all the little variations, as well as the downright weird stuff.

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Straightforward and accurate: you can rent speakers and hire a man in a hat to MC your party. I think he probably won’t hang out under the table, though.

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“Treatment of all your hair.” Apparently this place will style your shoulder hair, too.

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This place makes clothing for women and… hot dogs?

Sometimes businesses invest in murals that bring things to a whole new level.

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This bar is located on one of our regular running routes. At first glance, you might think this sign shows a guy bringing his girlfriend out for a drink, with the friendly waitress seated nearby.

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But no, that is Jesus. And he drinks La Beninoise.

French Vegetables

French Vegetables

All of the vegetables at this stand in Porto Novo (about 15 minutes away by motobike taxi) are considered foreign vegetables (they are referred to as ‘French’ vegetables) and are not widely eaten by locals. They are not available in most towns and are more expensive than the local staples of yams, manioc, tomatoes, greens, okra and onions. Luckily for us, Porto Novo is close enough that we go about once a week to stock up on cucumbers, cabbage, carrots, potatoes, and other veggies.

No Walmarts (yet)

Moto tire store

There are a handful of big-box style stores in Cotonou (one to two hours from our house depending on traffic), but the majority of shopping is done at small stalls along the side of the road. Most stalls specialize in one type of product – small electronics, plastic containers, or like the stall in the photo above, used scooter parts.The shop in the photo below breaks the mold and offers auto parts along with televisions, rakes and more. The inside portion of this store is the size of the bathroom in a Radisson hotel room.

God Auto Parts