Bartering for Chocolate: Negotiations at local bazaar create sweet deal for all parties
April 24, 2012
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (April 24, 2012) - I've walked through the local bazaar a few times since arriving at Kandahar seven months ago but I was never compelled to buy anything. Today was different for some reason. It could be that I haven't purchased anything to remind myself of my time spent here and the beauty that can be found in such a desolate place, or it could be that I never felt like testing my negotiation skills. As I walked through the aisles of the outdoor market, today something caught my eye.
The bright colors, visible out of the corner of my right eye, lit up the desert surroundings as if it were an illuminated patchwork quilt. The colorful handmade scarves shimmered in the sunlight and they were so captivating that I hardly noticed the man sitting in the middle of them. He slowly rose to his feet, stared at me for a second and then quickly began grabbing scarves.
"This one ma'am" he said as he held up a blue silk decorative scarf, "it match your eyes."
His English was broken and his words choppy but he wasted no time picking what he thought would be perfect for me. We looked at a lot of scarves, chatting about the material and the price for more than ten minutes when our negotiations took an interesting turn.
"This one ma'am, beautiful Silk," he said.
"Nah, I really like this one," I said, "but I want it for five dollars, not ten."
He looked me up and down, searching for items on my uniform that he could work into the deal.
"Mmmm" he said, thinking it over. He consulted his sales partner and then squinted his eyes, looking off into the distance for a brief moment.
"Five dollars and American chocolate bar," he said firmly, as if it were his final offer.
I laughed out loud at the simple request that made both of their eyes light up like children on Christmas morning. It was such a small treat to us but a rare delicacy to these two.
"Chocolate?" I said with a chuckle, "oh I will definitely bring you some chocolate!"
We shook on the deal and he packaged my new yellow scarf.
"I'll see you next week" I said as he handed me my new piece of Afghan culture, "and I'll have chocolate!"
"With peanuts," his sales partner chimes in as I turn to walk away.
I looked back at their smiling faces, "you got it," I said with a smile.
As promised, the following week I returned to my new friends to deliver a variety of American chocolate bars. In return they gifted me that blue scarf, the one that matched my eyes and I knew the importance of that gesture. Local villagers in Afghanistan have selflessness about them like no other; they will give their finest possessions to a guest or a friend, in extreme situations, even their lives.
In this desolate country where the fight for freedom has been fought, I was able to see something that the media often forgets to report. In this war torn country, in the eyes of it's villagers, things are changing for the better, and all thanks to a few great Americans with a desire to serve.