It makes a gorgeous sound. It was bartered for with a ferocity I am sure was unknown in Zambia, nay, AFRICA, until that day!
I had been looking for a drum to bring home from Africa. I wanted a musician’s drum. One that was made to be played. All I came across were “tourist quality” drums. They sounded okay, but lacked the rich, resounding tones of a REAL drum. They were painted with cliche and naive designs. Not something that a real Zambian would play in church or anywhere else. We had not had much chance to look for souvenirs, and I had pretty much given up the notion of finding the drum I sought.
Until…there it was! On the side of the road. Tall and slender and the color of honey. The skin on the top worn and bearing the grime of many hands. This was a drummer’s drum. It sat next to a slightly less tall and somewhat more round “tourist quality” drum. I made a bee line to this honey drum and asked the price. “Eighty thousand kwatcha” was the reply. In bartering language, that means that at least half the price should be the final price. I started there, fully willing to pay 60,000 in the end as I REALLY WANTED this drum. “Forty thousand”, I countered. “Eighty.” I laughed. I jokingly instructed him on “how to barter”. He laughed, too, and said “Okay, for you, 75,000.” At this point, Ryeon (the mad Korean bartering crazy boy on my team who had his arms tightly filled with all manner of local souvenirs already obtained) entered the picture. “How much for that drum?” he queried, pointing to the other large drum. “Eighty thousand”. They bartered for a moment, and Ryeon took out 45,000 kwatcha and said “I’m giving you 45,000 for it, and that’s all”. And he was handed the drum and off he took! So, with THAT, I returned to MY bartering. I again offered sixty. And was again rejected. “Seventy five thousand.” I pointed out that the other drum, which I conceded was not as good a drum, was given for 45,000, I wondered what the logic was of holding out for a much higher sale on the drum I wanted. He just looked at me and shrugged and said, “Seventy five thousand.” Soooooooo, I decided to call his obvious bluff and said, “well that’s just too much” and walked away. Generally this results in the seller following you and coming to some sort of deal with the prospective buyer. As I got further away, my heart sank.
He was not following me! He had no intention of trying to sell that drum to me. And I desperately wanted that drum. But how did I go back and still try to make a deal???? How????
I put my very best “pretty please help the poor pathetic female” look on my face and approached Abner.
Abner is a filipino. Well versed in barter management and the art of the roadside deal. He had already gone before us in many areas and warned the vendors that if they tried to take advantage of these american kids, that not a kwatcha would they be receiving from them! Abner agreed to accept the challenge of acquiring that drum for me. I gave him 75,000 kwatcha and told him not to come back without that drum, even if it meant paying the actual asking price!
Abner was gone for a lonnnnnng time. I started to worry about him since his head inury had just occured the night before. (Watch for “Abner Loses His Mind” to be posted in the very near future!) I started to wonder if he didn’t forget where he was and wander off. He ended up being gone over an hour! And I cheered when I saw him coming down the road with MY DRUM slung up on his shoulder! Yay! Success!
And he was laughing as he approached me. He was laughing so hard that I started to laugh. I wasn’t sure exactly why I was laughing, but when Abner laughs, you laugh! (You can’t help it.) And then he got down to telling me the story. As he approached he saw that the previous seller had been replaced by a woman. And he thought he had things well in hand. As he is a very handsome and charming man, he didn’t think that getting the drum for 40,000 was going to be a problem….”Seventy five thousand”. That’s what she kept saying. Just like the other guy! What’s the deal about that drum????
Abner accepted the challenge, and although it took him an hour, he finally got that drum for me for 46,550 kwatcha, a nearly dry ball point pen (a pen, it turns out, that he’d “stolen” from me!), a freebie Citibank calculator, and a handful of balloons he had in his pocket! Strong work!
I managed to get this very lovely and very heavy drum home in my duffel protected by layers of chitenges. I think it’s just about my favorite thing I’ve ever picked up on my travels!