Shopping as entertainment

Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan --  Once a week, the base hosts this bazaar, featuring local vendors selling their wares. Even if I don’t care to buy anything, it provides a sense of normalcy to walk around and act like I’m shopping.
Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan —
Once a week, the base hosts this bazaar, featuring local vendors selling their wares.
Even if I don’t care to buy anything, it provides a sense of normalcy to walk around and act like I’m shopping.

If your family is like many others in America, whenever people come to visit from out of town, you’ll try to find ways to entertain them.

The list may vary by family, but usually it may include:
-Going to a sporting event,
-Going to an amusement park (if kids are involved,)
-Going to a nightclub (if young adults are involved,)
and, the good ol’ standby … Going shopping.

Only Americans consider the act of simply shopping as a form of entertainment.

I remember being a teenager. Where did I like to hang out? At the mall (whether I had any money or not.) In other countries, teenagers don’t hang out at the mall. For example, in Europe, the malls are simply places to buy the things you want/need. (This comment applies to the average, middle-class person … I assume rich people in ANY country shop for fun.)

Over the years, I’ve grown out of this habit … This habit of going to shopping just to be entertained by the act of shopping.

But I engaged in the activity today for the first time in years.

Once a week here at Bagram Air Field, they host a local bazaar. Vendors are allowed to come and showcase their goods, hoping to cash in from all of the servicemembers and civilians supporting the war effort. It’s basically a flea-market, except most of the customers are carrying guns.

With today being a day inside the wire, I snuck out of the office to check out the bazaar.

There were lots of unique things for sale … Afghan jewelry, bootleg DVDs/CDs, replica antique rifles, fur coats and rugs, and stone pottery. I wasn’t really looking for anything … I was just entertaining myself by being there.

I was also entertaining myself by haggling with the vendors … The fun part is trying to get them down to the lowest price. That’s part of the entertainment experience. With their broken english, (and my virtually non-existent Dari-speaking ability,) the conversation makes for an amusing exchange …

“Heeey, my friend! Come look! Good price I give you, brother,” a vendor will yell to me, hoping I will come over into their little tent to peer at their goods.

I think to myself: “Do I feel like playing the game with this guy?”

Sure, why not.

“How much for this?” I ask, picking up a small piece of jewelry. The game is on.

“You name price. You are friend,” the vendor will always reply. (He’ll want to see if I know how much it’s worth so he’ll know how much he can take me for.)

I always start (bid) low.

“Five dollars,” I say, knowing it’s worth at least $50. Doesn’t hurt to try.

“No five dollar. Seven five dollar, sir. Good price,” he’ll counter, trying to keep a smile. “This good quality. How much you pay?”

I display a lack of interest.

“I’m just looking anyway … I’m not really planning to buy anything. Tashakur.” (Tashakur means “thanks” in Dari.) I start to walk away.

“Wait! Wait! Give me fifty-five. You take now,” he says, thinking he has me sold.

“No thanks. Khod-afez (goodbye.)”

I leave, without purchasing anything.

You may be expecting me to tell you that I later went back and bought the item at a really cheap price. But that’s not the point of this story. I didn’t buy anything, and I never intended to.

What I did do was spend an enjoyable few hours shopping (or at least engaged in the act of shopping.) And I got to interact with someone and talk with them about something other than work. It sounds strange, but it felt kind of nice … kind of like being back home at the flea market in Denver.

Maybe next time, I’ll actually buy something.

darricklee Written by: