I had the wonderful experience of shopping at Shola this week. Shola is a large outdoor market area here in the middle of Addis. I am just guessing, but I would estimate the market covers about 4 square blocks. It is row upon row of tents and make-shift shops selling almost anything you can imagine. Cookware, kitchen goods, fabric, rugs, cleaning supplies, spices, jewelry. People and donkeys are everywhere! You have to weave your way in and out of the tiny storefronts, all the while carefully watching where you step. Jessie took me to experience Shola because she said it was the smaller of the two marketplaces here. I can’t imagine how large the other one is!
We parked on the street and payed a “parking attendant” to watch the van while we shopped. As soon as we stepped between the tents, a young boy of about 11 or 12 materialized by our side. Petros was smiling and insistent that he would follow us around while we shopped, carry all of our bags, help us find what we needed, and expect very little payment at the end of the trip. He was such a sweet boy! With such a sweet smile!
We started in the spice section of the marketplace. Oh my, the air was pungent! Almost immediately, my eyes started watering and I started sneezing. All of the spices are in large burlap bags, just waiting to be scooped out and weighed.
There were also piles of dried peppers, onions, garlic, and something we couldn’t quite identify all piled high on top of large tarps.
I bought some spices to bring home with me so I can attempt to make some Ethiopian food for my children. Something to make them feel a little less homesick!
After the spices, we moved to the fabric/clothing section. The shopkeepers have cleverly hung the dresses to form a sort of wall between the shops. There is a small “doorway” between the dresses into each store. I literally had to turn sideways to squeeze inside. When we entered the store, the shopkeeper immediately produced two padded stools and insisted that Jessie and I sit down and make ourselves comfortable. He offered us coffee and tea and then proceeded to pull out one beautiful thing after another. This shop had an array of colorful scarves to choose from. I had to buy one or two.
Our next stop was the tailor’s. He had an upscale, permanent shop as compared to others in this marketplace.
For less than a dollar he can alter anything you need altered. He also had several clothing items displayed. You could choose your dress style, choose your fabric, he would take your measurements, and within days you have a custom-made outfit. I thought I should probably go ahead and do that.
And then, one last stop on our way out of Shola. Levi and Jessie have a cat. But there is no cat litter here. So Jessie brought along a large bucket which she filled up with a special kind of oat. They use this oat in place of the cat litter.
All along the way, Petros patiently carried our bags. Anytime I turned around to check his progress, he smiled sweetly at me. He insisted on carrying Jessie’s full (and very heavy) bucket of oats to the car. And he was so thankful for the small payment we gave him as we left. Can you imagine? A 12 year old boy who spends his days wandering the marketplace, hoping to be able to make some money by carrying bags for people. And yet, he has a grateful heart and a sweet spirit.
If Petros can find it in his heart to be content, then so must we all.
“…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” Phillipians 4:11-12