December 3, 2012

Things hawkers around the world have tried to sell to me

Many countries around the world are full of enterprising individuals who try to eke out a living by selling things to foreign visitors.  They can get downright pushy and aggressive in some places, which can be a tad shocking - that doesn’t exactly happen very often in ye olde U.S. of A.  They can also offer up some pretty strange items in exchange for cold hard cash. More than once, I’ve been stopped in my tracks and rendered speechless by an aggressive hawker bearing strange items that he is thoroughly convinced I can’t live without.  Below are the top 6 items that hawkers have tried to sell me at one point or another:

  1. A large whip (India).  Because my trip into Agra Fort would be incomplete without... a whip.
  2. Sticks (Guatemala).  Actually, the 5-yr old girl that scared the daylights out of me with said stick was on to something.  It would have been a rather useful while hiking back down from Volcan Pacaya.  Oh, well.
  3. Toy frogs (Thailand).  I don’t know about you, but when I think of Thailand, I immediately think, “Oh yeah, frogs! Awesome.” Ok, no.  No one thinks that. 
  4. Sunglasses (Vietnam).  Hey, sunglasses are useful.  If you’re not already wearing a pair.  Which I was.  I was offered sunglasses more times than I can remember in Vietnam.  And I was wearing my own sunglasses every single time.
  5. A large live lizard (Egypt).  I suppose I looked either lonely or hungry, and he thought I could use a pet - or dinner.
  6. Henna tattoos at a political protest (India).  Yes, I realize that the first issue here is that I was wandering around in the middle of a political protest.  But in my defense, it resembled a holiday celebration in a park more than a protest.  People were cooking out, talking and laughing, and there was a dude walking around selling stuffed unicorns.  In fact, the only aggression I encountered came from young women trying to force henna tattoos onto my hands.  On more than one occasion that evening, a woman would suddenly grab my hand, which I immediately yanked back.  She would then grab it again with much more force, and yell “Hennaaaaa!!” like some primeval war cry. With a death grip on my hand and a possessed look in her eyes, she would hold a henna pen up in the air with her other hand.  The pen would start to descend, gathering strength and force as it came closer and closer to my captive hand.  The deranged smile on the woman’s face would grow as the pen narrowed the distance. A split second before the pen would intercept my valued appendage, I would shriek and gather enough strength to wrestle my hand from the woman’s death grip and narrowly miss the stabbing.  And then I would run away, only to have my hand grabbed by the next violent henna tattoo artist.  Lather, rinse, repeat. I would have much rather been chased by the guy selling the unicorns.