Saturday, October 31, 2009

Central Bazaar at Shanhay - The weekend, 17 - 18 October 2009

On Sunday we made plans to go with Valerie's fiance to a super-cheap market he had heard about. Her fiance is from Uzbekistan and speaks Russian and some Kazakh, so a perfect guide. Valerie was sick, but he still wanted to go, so Christie, Sophia & I met him at the bus stop. He had asked around and learned that bus 38 would take us. Bus 38 was incredibly crowded, and we had to stand, cramped. Sophia so badly wanted to sit down that she sat on the filthy ground, although there was barely room. The bus attendant saw her and asked a man to give up his seat for her. Yay! I sat down, too, with her on my lap, making more room for people.

The bus ride was long--about 45 minutes--and at every stop, it seemed like people were getting on instead of off. Finally we arrived, at Central Bazaar at Shanhay, or some such name. As we walked to the bazaar, Sophia got her first glimpse of beggars and I remarked how I don't see them in our neighborhood. One of the beggars was missing a leg, Sophia noticed that.

The market was open-air, full of rows and rows of booths. There were a lot of people, but it wasn't crowded. I didn't have to cling to Sophia; however, I did have to keep reminding her to stay near an adult!

The market was absolutely humongous. After several hours, we had yet to see the end of it, but we were exhausted! And Sophia had had enough.

Valerie's fiance, Bert (not his real name) was a real blessing to have along, as he knew more of what I was looking for (a winter coat... how do I know what I need?) And he could bargain in Russian. He told us not to say anything until he had asked for the price, because they raised the prices as soon as they heard us speak English. With Sophia around, it was hard not to say anything!

We looked for a winter coat for Sophia; Christie said coats filled with down were the warmest. We needed boots, but by the time we got to the aisles full of shoes, we were really too worn out to look much. I found an "autumn" coat, not for winter, yet thicker than any winter coat I've ever had! I got it for 6000 T, which equates to about $40, great deal! Most coats were selling for around 10,000 Tenge, about $67, still a great deal. Most of the coats we looked at for Sophia were in the 10 to 12 thousand Tenge range.

I bought gloves made from wool for 700 Tenge (less than $5) and 2 warm hats for Sophia and me for 1000 Tenge each (less than $7 each). I bought Sophia two pairs of tights--one from cotton, one wool--for 490 Tenge total (less than $4). And I even got a sandwich for just 80 Tenge--about 53 cents. Perhaps the only expensive things there were the toys, Sophia wanted a large toy pony or a talking parrot, but the parrot was 1500 Tenge ($10) and the pony was 2 or 3 thousand Tenge, so I talked her down to small toy pony (a bit smaller than a My Little Pony) for 490 Tenge. She was quite content with that toy, the pony pulls a carriage and when you pull the string, off it goes! (It's on wheels.) Just your generic Dollar-Store variety toy, but she was happy.

Bert was wonderful, since he carried Sophia on his back when she was tired. However, he did mention at the end that he had learned that he was not ready to have kids of his own!

We still had enough time to make it back to catch the bus to the 6pm English-language Mass; however we waited for almost an hour for the bus! Finally I texted Christie that we would not be able to make Mass. When we finally found Bus 38, it was so jam-packed we couldn't get on! So we took another bus and then switched to Bus 14 later on. A much smoother ride.

Can't wait to return!

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