bouéni dort2

           

In England or France, shopkeepers and shop assistants are always on their toes. And on yours, half of the time. They're always alert, they're always looking for something to offer you to make you stay a little longer and buy something else. They'll say hello, they'll ask you questions, they'll offer to take your things for you and they'll find stuff you can't. Then, when you've bought whatever it is and are ready to leave, they'll wish you a nice day and request that you come again, as your company is so agreeable.

Not so here. In Mayotte, local bit-of-everything shops are called doukas. The main policy of all doukas is for the shop assistants to do as little as possible, lest they become tired. When you come into a douka, you are often alone, as the shop lady is either outside or in the back. She is generally accompanied by her family, who is blocking the entryway, talking and preparing lunch or dinner. When you approach, you are therefore stared at by several pairs of eyes who do not seem to understand why you are disturbing their tranquillity. Assuming she sees you come in, she will grunt in response to your cheery hello. Then she will proceed to say and do absolutely nothing while you fetch whatever you need down from the shelves. If you can't find something, you ask her for it. You may or may not receive a reply. Depending on how she is feeling today, she may or may not wish to help. Generally, she does not wish to help. What she wishes for is for you to get out as quickly as possible so that she can go back to what she was doing before you came in. When you have found everything you want and it is time to pay, she will slowly move behind the cash desk so that you can pay her. In cash. Doukas don't have credit card machines. She will give you your change and grunt. This means goodbye.

           

bouéni dort

           

Far above the douka in terms of general hospitality is the indoor market. In the market, there are roughly one hundred and twenty boxes, basically garages, where roughly one hundred and twenty ladies have set up shop. Out of these one hundred and twenty, about fifteen will be sitting outside their stalls, chatting, sewing, looking after a child or generally doing nothing. The others will be fast asleep. The procedure is then as follows. You amble lazily through the corridors of the market, looking at the various wares - often clothes, beauty products and cooking utensils. The ladies who are awake will say hello and point to what they are selling, saying the names so that you may understand what you are being offered. They will offer to get things down for you or to find your size. Unfortunately, the pretty skirt or big pan you have seen is not being sold by the awake ladies. It is in the back of a stall with a lady snoring gaily, flat out on the floor, with her little boy or girl sleeping next to her. So you admire from a distance, then you take a couple of tentative steps into the stall in the hope that the lady will hear and wake up. She does not. If you just wanted a closer look, you can forget about it from that point. If, however, you really want to buy whatever it is, you must now wake the lady up. Which you do. She wakes up, you explain what it is you woke her up for and she will get the article for you. She tells you the price, you give her the money, she gives you your change and says goodbye. Then goes straight back to sleep.

             

bouéni dormeuse2

             

A curious journalist once asked the ladies why they spent so much time sleeping when they could be serving their customers. The answer went something like this: "There are not many customers in the indoor market. I pay rent for the space, expensive rent, but there are not enough customers. So I am bored, but I must stay all day just in case some customers come. Plus, my husband is not here, but I must keep the children with me. Therefore, I go to sleep. My children also sleep. But it isn't a problem, because when the customer comes, she wakes me up and I serve her in a normal fashion."

Indeed.

             

bouéni dormeuse

               

 (Not my photos - I can't remember the website they came from and will happily put the reference here when I find it.)