Now that I am on my bike and romping around town quite unlike the typical expat (who usually drives a Toyota 4WD), I am seeing and experiencing a little bit more of the face-to-face street issues.
Apart from the battles with cars, 4WDs and potholes, one confronts a little bit more of the street-level issues. Absolutely no-one is immune to the phone card boys. The major street commerce item for sale is the pre-pay mobile phone top-up card. Clearly, this is the first port of call for anyone (male only it would seem) seeking income. The lads stake out their spot and visually present their wares (a handful of phone cards) and thrust them in your direction. Five different guys will be doing the same thing. And no matter how much disdain one presents in response, the cards remain thrust in your face.
Saying no once is not good enough – 5 times and you might be getting somewhere.
I know most of these guys are pretty poor, but I only need a phone card when I “need” one. And having a handful of phone cards thrust in my face is just not going to encourage me to make the purchase. After that, there is not much hassle at all. There is the odd guy (yes, it is always a guy) trying to sell his souvenirs, but for some reason, they don’t get up my skin like the phone card boys. I think it’s because selling phone cards involves no work from the seller. At least the souvenir sellers have to source the stuff and actually tell you what it is they are selling.
There is a reasonable number of hand-pushed wagons parked by the side of the road. They sell a pretty standard set of stuff from soft drinks to cigarettes, sweets and to my delight, cold beer. Funny how they adopt a completely passive attitude to their sales compared to the phone card boys. I’d prefer to buy my phone cards from these guys if only they offered them.
There is surprisingly little else on the streets available for sale (ie of the kerb hustler variety). Yes, there is the street fish “markets” but that is 20 metres back from the main esplanade. There is the occasional footpath food seller but it is not that common. The rest is in the markets or your typical shop.
But the phone card boys are everywhere – like flies around a carcass.