An app for that

Men loading a pickup serving as a "bush taxi" plying a route between two cities. Burkina Faso, circa 1985

A colleague of mine was traveling in rural Africa by locally available public transportation, mostly small buses and pickup trucks with benches in the back. She had traveled part way on one vehicle and was at a “bus station” waiting for a vehicle going to her destination.

Small entrepreneurs set up booths selling food and other things useful for travelers. Others circulate with a tray of goods like candy or cigarettes. They are the equivalent of the shops in airports and the ones I saw at ferry terminals in British Columbia.

One vendor approached my colleague, a single woman. “I have medicine for your children”, she ventured. She might have meant an herbal cure, but it is more likely that she was selling the kind of charm, amulet or grigri which one sees hung round the necks or strung on the waists of small children in the belief that they ward off illness and evil spirits. Drugs sold at the pharmacy, natural cures prepared by a local herbalist, and “magic” charms are all equally referred to as “medicine”.

Man selling goods to travelers from his bicycle at a "bus station" in N'Djamena, Chad, 2009

My colleague replied, “I don’t have children”.

Undaunted, the vendor pursued the sale, “I have medicine for that too!” My colleague laughed. The vendor made a guess, “Do you have a husband?” When my colleague confirmed her singleness, the vendor proved her tenacity and sales skills with, “I have medicine for that too!”

Young men selling cosmetics from an umbrella-shaded roadside stand, Ouagadougou, circa 1990

2 thoughts on “An app for that

  1. Pingback: Tom Brown | Heart Language Observations

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